Bad Software

Dianne rants about software, documentation, and technical support

Recently, I’ve been working on a couple of projects where I’ve had to select software for a customer to purchase (for a fairly routine task, IMO). I’m finding myself on the “other” side of the documentation and software, and I’m not liking it, not one little bit.

The software is crap. The documentation is crap. The tech support is crap.

I encouraged the customer to purchase tech support (as I typically do). Most of the answers I’ve gotten are that our questions are out of the scope of tech support, and that we would have to purchase custom software services in order to get a solution (or an answer).

So, let’s see. They write software that does about 70% of what people need it to do and their documentation describes ways to get to the other 30%, but we can’t actually DO it unless we pay for custom services on top of the software. Sorry, guys, but if it’s advertised as being IN the software, it should be documented. And if it’s NOT documented, then you shouldn’t be charging your customers to tell them how to use your software! If that’s the case, don’t document that capability at all, and tout it as an “add-on” service.

Ugh, and let’s just say that the tech support guy who told me that adding “custom perl” to configure their software was an “advanced technique” got an earful from me. Sure, he’s not used to dealing with programmers, but come on! Turns out, he couldn’t do what I was trying to do either (the software was supposed to be able to do it, but couldn’t), and so he just told me it was “outside of the scope” of their support. Grrr. And the answer I seem to get most often is, “We rarely get questions about that feature”, as if that’s a reason not to document it.

Sigh. I just want to talk to the developers (not tech support, not sales). I want to know if THEY sanction this crap. If I thought that this was an isolated incident, I wouldn’t even blog about it, but I think it’s fairly widespread in the industry and it annoys me.