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Reblogged:There Is Such a Thing as Finished Software

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A software developer laments the experience of getting into hot water with Apple's App Store for the sin of not "updating" her finished, future-compatible app for three years:
I opened the message and was greeted with the "App Store Improvement Notice". I was essentially told that I hadn't updated my app in three years and now it counts as outdated. I needed to update the app within 90 days or it would get automatically taken down.

Never mind the fact that my app has a 5-star rating and was still being downloaded, with no complaints from any of my users. Also disregard the fact that I had other highly-rated apps up on the App Store, some of which had been updated much more recently than July 2019, clearly showing that I have not abandoned these apps entirely. If there had been an actual reviewer who checked my outdated app, they would have discovered that I architected the app from the beginning to dynamically scale the UI so it resizes to fit the latest iPhone devices
. All these could be signals that indicate to Apple that this is not a garbage-filled scam app that is lowering the quality of their App Store. [bold added]
This is a simple game for kids -- who will presumably outgrow it -- written in such a way as to account for whatever tweaking Apple might do to its hardware. And it's by an active developer who should get credit for knowing when a major change for future compatibility might actually be necessary.

This is, of course, Apple's call to make, and it might well be more economical for it to rely on algorithmic criteria to get the ball rolling with developers. But there is a tinge of cultural criticism I agree with (or wish to see) here, and that regards the common obsession with the new and shiny, such as that manifested basically every time a new phone (or operating system version) is released.

An article titled "How to Customize Your Lock Screen and 9 Other iOS 16 Tricks" is illustrative. Scattered among the various small improvements are such items as, "Change the Clock Font Back," "Make Notifications Into a List Again," "Get Rid of the Search Button." Call these First World problems or accuse me of having a Get off my lawn! moment if you will, but how come every damned time there's an incremental improvement to something, it has to break things that were fine to begin with?

Part of the reason I am a huge fan of open source software is that I can set something up the way I like and still have it work unless there is a major substantive change or I switch to different software altogether. It is really annoying to waste time jumping through hoops just because I, say, liked a clock font and a total stranger decided to choose a new one for everyone. Am I wrong for not wanting to screw around with a clock font somebody else likes?

Yes. Most people don't care about these things, and software companies, like mechanics, make it easy for people who don't know much about a technology to use it. But still: Why are so few people bothered when those they hire to make their lives easier do the opposite? And what would be so hard about making a reversion to previous defaults or settings easier on initial use? It drives me crazy that -- for a supposedly "intuitive" OS -- there is a ritual proliferation of how-to articles and pro-tip lists for such trivia with Every. Damned. Release.

(And although these articles are both about Apple products, I am not talking about just them. I quit Windows for Linux decades ago and plan to leave Android as soon as i find a viable, non-Apple alternative.)

Some software can indeed be finished. Some changes might well indeed be forced by other changes. And some changes are real improvements. It is ridiculous to assume that the first case is broken, the second deserves more than perfunctory attention, and that the third is anything other than the annoyance that it is. Real innovation is worth learning about. Everything else is just a waste of time.

-- CAV

P.S. Not only am I not picking on Apple, I'm not picking on just software, as witness a moronic gear shifting mechanism I once encountered in a rental car.

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