As someone who spends time programming, I of course find myself in conversations with people who aren’t as familiar with it. It doesn’t happen all the time, but these discussions can lead to people coming up with some pretty wild misconceptions about what programming is and what programmers do.

  • I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences. So, I thought it would be interesting to ask.
  • mox@lemmy.sdf.org
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    180
    ·
    5 months ago

    The notion that creating a half-decent application is quick and easy enough that I would be willing to transform their idea into reality for free.

    • Lung@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      72
      ·
      5 months ago

      I’m pretty sure that government software always blows because they think software can be written according to a fixed schedule and budget

      It’s tempting to think it’s like building a house, and if you have the blueprints & wood, it’ll just be fast and easy. Everything will go on schedule

      But no, in software, the “wood” is always shape shifting, the land you’re building on is shape shifting, some dude in Romania is tryna break in, and the blueprints forgot that you also need plumbing and electric lines

      • astrsk@kbin.social
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        40
        ·
        edit-2
        5 months ago

        Well, that’s probably true for the most part but by far the reality is that it comes down to lowest bidder 9/10 times. Unrealistic budgets and unrealistic time frames with as cheap labor they can find gets you a large amount of government funded projects throughout all the years.

        • Treczoks@kbin.social
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          15
          ·
          5 months ago

          One of the most common problems of government or other big organisation software is that they don’t scale, either “not well” or “not at all”.

          Some guy hacks up a demo that looks nice and seems to do what customer wants, but then it turns out a) that it only allows for (number of open ports on one machine) users at the same time, and b) it only works if everything runs on one machine. Or worse, one core.

      • mathemachristian@lemm.ee
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        19
        arrow-down
        2
        ·
        5 months ago

        It’s tempting to think it’s like building a house, and if you have the blueprints & wood, it’ll just be fast and easy. Everything will go on schedule

        it never goes according to schedule eve if there is blueprint & wood

      • jjjalljs@ttrpg.network
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        9
        ·
        5 months ago

        I have a hypothesis that a factor is that government needs to work for everyone.

        A private company can be like “we only really support chrome”, but even people running ie6 at a tiny resolution need to renew their license.

        • Lith@lemmy.sdf.org
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          5
          ·
          5 months ago

          I believe this is usually covered by the fact that you can do just about anything you need to do over mail. I once ran into a government site that only worked on Edge.

    • cadekat@pawb.social
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      51
      ·
      5 months ago

      That’s absolutely true. What’s hard and what’s easy in programming is so completely foreign to non-programmers.

      Wait, you can guess my password in under a week but you can’t figure out how to pack a knapsack?

  • popcar2@programming.dev
    link
    fedilink
    English
    arrow-up
    129
    arrow-down
    2
    ·
    edit-2
    5 months ago

    That just because I’m a programmer that must mean I’m a master of anything technology related and can totally help out with their niche problems.

    “Hey computer guy, how do I search for new channels on my receiver?”

    “Hey computer guy, my excel spreadsheet is acting weird”

    “My mobile data isn’t working. Fix this.”

    My friend was a programmer and served in the army, people ordered him to go fix a sattelite. He said he has no idea how but they made him try anyways. It didn’t work and everyone was disappointed.

    • Treczoks@kbin.social
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      36
      ·
      5 months ago

      He said he has no idea how but they made him try anyways.

      Uh, I’ve been present when such a thing happened. Not in the military, though. Guy should install driver on a telephone system, despite not being a software guy (he was the guy running the wires). Result: About as bad as expected. The company then sent two specialists on Saturday/Sunday to re-install everything.

    • AwkwardLookMonkeyPuppet@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      11
      ·
      5 months ago

      Ironically, most of those things are true, but only with effort. We are better than most people at solving technical problems, or even problems in general, because being a programmer requires the person to be good at research, reading documentation, creative problem solving, and following instructions. Apparently those aren’t traits that are common among average people, which is baffling to me.

      • zygo_histo_morpheus@programming.dev
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        3
        ·
        5 months ago

        Sometimes I’ll solve a computer problem for someone in an area that I know nothing about by just googling it. After telling them that all I had to do was google the problem and follow the instructions they’ll respond by saying that they wouldn’t know what to google.

        Just being experienced at searching the web and having the basic vocabulary to express your problems can get you far in many situations, and a fair bit of people don’t have that.

    • Fribbtastic@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      8
      ·
      5 months ago

      My neighbour asked me to take a look at her refrigerator because it wasn’t working. I am a software developer.

    • danc4498@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      English
      arrow-up
      7
      ·
      5 months ago

      I used to get a lot of people asking for help with their printer. No, just because I am a software developer doesn’t mean I know how why your printer isn’t working. But, yes, I can probably help you…

    • BustinJiber@lemmy.world
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      1
      ·
      5 months ago

      “Sometimes when somebody called it shows up up here but normally it covers the screen and I can see the name.” Like I have no idea how those businesses fix people’s phones, when they hear this kind of instructions. Makes me tear my hair out.

    • KeenFlame@feddit.nu
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      4
      arrow-down
      13
      ·
      5 months ago

      Don’t pretend you suck at these things. You know very well you are fucking equipped to fix this kind of thing when you work with programming. Unless you’re, like a web developer or something ofc

  • KISSmyOS@feddit.de
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    123
    ·
    5 months ago

    The worst and most common misconception is that I can fix their Windows issues from a vague description they give me at a party.

      • huquad@lemmy.ml
        link
        fedilink
        English
        arrow-up
        1
        ·
        5 months ago

        At least that’s an easy one, you just convince them to delete their account. \s

    • monotremata@kbin.social
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      21
      ·
      5 months ago

      My favorite is “and there was some kind of error message.” There was? What did it say? Did it occur to you that an error message might help someone trying to diagnose your error?

      • KISSmyOS@feddit.de
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        21
        arrow-down
        1
        ·
        edit-2
        5 months ago

        What did it say?

        I’ve had users who legitimately did not understand this question.
        “What do you mean, what did it say? I clicked on it but it still didn’t work.”

        Then you set up an appointment to remote in, ask them to show you what they tried to do, and when the error message appears, they instantly close it and say “See, it still doesn’t work. What do we even pay you for?”
        I’ve had remote sessions where this was repeated multiple times, even after telling them specifically not to close the message. It’s an instinctive reflex.

        • monotremata@kbin.social
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          16
          ·
          5 months ago

          Or it won’t happen when you’re watching, because then they’re thinking about what they’re doing and they don’t make the same unconscious mistake they did that brought up the error message. Then they get mad that “it never happens when you’re around. Why do you have to see the problem anyway? I described it to you.”

          • KISSmyOS@feddit.de
            link
            fedilink
            arrow-up
            8
            arrow-down
            1
            ·
            5 months ago

            When that happens, I’m happy. Cause there is no error when the task is done right.
            I mail them a quick step-by-step manual with what they just did while I watched.
            When the error happens the next time I can tell them to RTFM and get back to me if that doesn’t solve the issue.

    • Eq0@literature.cafe
      link
      fedilink
      arrow-up
      14
      ·
      5 months ago

      Lol! My mum still asks both me and my husband (“techy” jobs according to her) to solve all her problems with computers/printers/ the internet at large/ any app that doesn’t work… the list is endless. I take it as a statement of how proud she is of me that she would still ask us first, even if we haven’t succeeded in fixing a single issue since the time the problem was an old cartridge in the printer some 5-6 years ago.

  • Fudoshin ️🏳️‍🌈@feddit.uk
    link
    fedilink
    arrow-up
    101
    ·
    5 months ago

    “Just”

    That one word has done a fuck ton of lifting over my career.

    “Can’t you just make it do this”

    I can’t “just” do anything you fuck head! It takes time and lots of effort!

      • Ogeon@programming.dev
        link
        fedilink
        arrow-up
        13
        ·
        5 months ago

        Simple features are often complex to make, and complex features are often way too simple to make.

        • Skvlp@lemm.ee
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          8
          ·
          5 months ago

          I believe that it’s not for nothing that simplicity is considered more sophisticated. Many, many cycles of refinement.

        • Skvlp@lemm.ee
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          18
          ·
          5 months ago

          I worked in a post office once. I once had a customer demand some package delivery option, if I remember correctly. He was adamant that it was “only a few lines of code”, that I was difficult for not obliging, and that anyone in the postal service should make code changes like that on the whims of customers. It felt like I could have more luck explaining “wallpaper” to the currents in the ocean…

          • catch22@startrek.website
            link
            fedilink
            arrow-up
            8
            ·
            5 months ago

            explaining “wallpaper” to the currents in the ocean…

            If this isn’t just a saying I haven’t heard of, I’m doing my best to make it a common place phrase, absolutely perfect in this context!

        • Daedskin@lemm.ee
          link
          fedilink
          arrow-up
          12
          ·
          5 months ago

          I used to work on printer firmware; we were implementing a feature for a text box for if you scanned a certain number of pages on a collated, multi-page copy job. The text box told you it would print the pages it had stored to free up memory for more pages; after those pages had printed, another text box would come up asking if you wanted to keep scanning pages, or just finish the job.
          The consensus was that it would be a relatively simple change; 3 months and 80 files changed — with somewhere in the ballpark of 10000-20000 lines changed, — proved that wrong.

          • Feathercrown@lemmy.world
            link
            fedilink
            English
            arrow-up
            7
            ·
            5 months ago

            printer firmware is tens of thousands of lines long

            I’m starting to understand why printers are so horrible

            • Daedskin@lemm.ee
              link
              fedilink
              arrow-up
              8
              ·
              5 months ago

              Just what was in the main repo (at least one other repo was used for the more secure parts of the code) was a little over 4 million lines. But yeah there’s a lot of complexity behind printers that I didn’t think about until I had worked on them. Of course that doesn’t mean they have to be terrible, it’s just easier to fall into without a good plan (spoiler alert: the specific firmware I was working in didn’t have a good plan)

              • Feathercrown@lemmy.world
                link
                fedilink
                English
                arrow-up
                5
                ·
                5 months ago

                Out of curiosity do you have any good examples of this hidden complexity? I’ve always kinda wondered how printers work behind the scenes.

                • Daedskin@lemm.ee
                  link
                  fedilink
                  arrow-up
                  10
                  ·
                  5 months ago

                  A lot of the complexity came from around various scenarios you could be in; my goto whenever people would ask me “Why can’t someone just make printer firmware simple?” is that you could, if you only wanted to copy in one size with one paper type, no margin changes, and never do anything else.

                  There’s just so many different control paths that need to act differently; many of the bugs I worked on involved scaling and margins. Trying to make sure the image ended up in a proper form before it made it to hardware (which as more complexity, ran on a different processor and OS than the backend so that it could run realtime) when dealing with different input types (flatbed scanner vs a document feeder, which could be a everyday size, or like 3 feet long) different paper sizes, scaling, and output paper. I mainly worked on the copy pipeline, but that also was very complex, involving up to, something like, 7 different pieces in the pipe to transform the image.

                  Each piece in the pipeline was decently complex, with a few having their own team dedicated to them. In theory, any piece that wasn’t an image provider or consumer could go in any order — although in practice that didn’t happen — so it had to be designed around different types of image containers that could come in.

                  All of that was also working alongside the job framework, which communicated with the hardware, and made sure what state jobs were in, when different pieces of the pipeline could be available to different jobs, locking out jobs when someone is using the UI in certain states so that they don’t think what’s printing is their job, and handling jobs through any of other interface (like network or web.)

                  That’s the big stuff that I touched; but there was also localization; the UI and web interfaces as a whole; the more OS side of the printer like logging in, networking, or configuration; and internal pages — any page that the printer generates itself, like a report or test page. I’m sure there’s a lot more than that, and this is just what I’m aware of.