Friday, August 24, 2007

When will technology serve us?

So, I have to get something off my chest. When I started my new job I was told that we use Groupwise for our corporate e-mail. No problem - I was peripherally involved in the creation of Groupwise many years ago (at WordPerfect, before Novell bought them), and I really liked it.

The problem is that I have been maintaining a personal folder in Outlook for several years. This is very important to me, as it contains all of my personal notes, e-mails, etc, and I refer to them on a regular basis.

OK - so this is not a problem, or so I thought. I would just use Outlook for my personal e-mail, and have Groupwise handle my corporate stuff. A rather simple solution, since technology should serve our needs - this will work just fine.

Little did I know that Outlook would automatically detect that I had Groupwise on my machine, and connect to it for me. Not only that, but as soon as I installed it, I could no longer send e-mails from either Groupwise or Outlook. So, I decided to uninstall both, and install and configure Outlook first. Having successfully accomplished this, I then re-installed Groupwise. Of course, Groupwise automatically detected that I had Outlook on the machine, and re-configured it to read my Groupwise e-mail - in the process, of course, removing all of the other settings I had set up. After all, these programs know better than I how they should work.

I spent several hours over the course of the next few weeks trying to find a configuration that would work for me. I am sure that there are some e-mail aficionados who would have been able to figure it out faster, just as I am sure that some would have given up long ago. At any rate, I finally have a configuration that doesn't cause havoc - albeit with some strange side-effects. Of course, I lost over 200 e-mail messages in the process, as Outlook kindly retrieved them, and then sent them into oblivion because it couldn't figure out how to route them to my personal folders with Groupwise on the box. I finally figured out how to get Outlook to ignore Groupwise, with the exception of the startup - Outlook continues to ask me for my Groupwise password, even though it doesn't handle any of my Groupwise messages now.

Why do we still have consumer applications that require a CS degree to configure the way we want? When will technology be truly intuitive, and truly serve us, rather than making us jump through hoops just to end up with a semi-acceptable solution, rather than a great solution?

I guess the answer is "when we stop accepting the mediocre solution, and demand intuitive software that does exactly what we want". In other words, probably not in my lifetime...

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