Bad tools are a major happiness drain

Before I left my old job, my manager's manager called me into his office to understand why seemingly so many engineers are leaving. He asked if I had trouble with the people or with growth opportunities or the technology we're using—"Aren't we doing cool things with AWS, machine learning?"

One of my biggest complaints is how horrible all the tools were. Our CI/CD pipeline is fickle—rerunning a pipeline multiple times often fixes some of the common issues, looking at logs means you have to log in 5 different times, we use Microsoft office. Losing access to everything is one request away while getting access is millions.

The thing about bad tools is that it not only hurts your productivity in the short term. It insidiously hurts your long-term happiness. The frustration of using bad tools amalgamates into a deep distaste for whatever you're doing. The burden of the task weighs on you even before you start!

If a tool isn't frustrating enough, you learn to live with it. However, it's surprising to see important, everyday tools being unreliable and slow.

Dexcom is a company whose stock is trading at $544 at the time of this writing. Their main product— the continuous glucose monitor— works kind of most of the time— a bar that isn't high enough for something so vital to people's health. Why are social media products more reliable today than medical products?

And the worst thing? The lowest it retails for is $314.97. To their credit, their customer support is pretty good when you inevitably have to contact them for "Signal loss" errors or untrustworthy numbers.

I suspect this is the cause for so much inefficiency today. We hire people to deal with bad software that is supposed to help people to do their jobs.

So, what are we going to do about this?

Well, to make your life better, you could invest in quality hardware and software. I've personally seen a significant uptick in willingness to code, write, and generally use my computer once I upgraded to a better one.

On a larger scale, the answer is simple—Just don't make bad tools— but not easy. Every organization must continuously invest in improving outdated software and staying close to the users. As consumers, we must constantly investigate how our lives are made worse by our tools and report these findings to the organizations that built these tools. And most importantly, organizations must care.

The world has become more efficient because of our tools. It's easy for me to sit here and lament the awful state of our technology without having made any real change. However, this is something on my mind that I wanted to express.