Tag Archives: Engineering

Tools Abuse

Watching people using complex software is often rather entertaining. As engineers we have a vast number of extremely powerful tools at our disposal, such as EDA systems, version control and IDEs, to name but a few. In most cases they come with a relatively low barrier to entry and a lot of flexibility to adapt to the way you work. On the face of it this should be a good thing, it gets supposedly grown-up enterprises out of the dark ages (Excel is not a bug tracker!!) and using real grown-up tools.
The problems arise when you take advantage of the low barriers and dive straight in without taking time to learn how to use the tools correctly and what the recommended/standard approaches are, so that your skills are transferable. For students this is a known problem: students are graduating without skills (soft or hard) that accurately match what the industry need, and end up learning bad/lacking habits at University. The seasoned engineers and managers however, should know better, and be able to mentor the students back on to the straight and narrow. These engineers tend to either have made it up as they went back in the early days, or read half the book and concluded they knew enough. Combine this with years of finding DIY solutions to little quirks and the blind leading the blind ensues.
Its little things like “You have to close down the IDE in order to change project” when a quick empirical test shows you don’t or “If I’ve committed to the SVN repository you need to undo all your changes, update and then redo them”, ever heard of the merge tool? Or even the little things like doing 10 copy-paste operations by selecting and going up to Edit->Copy and Edit->Paste even after being told about the perfectly good keyboard shortcuts, which is infuriating when you have to sit and watch it.
This kind of abuse of tools, and the perpetrators’ stubborn refusal to do anything about it, leads to the existence of sites such as TDWTF, which on the flip side does make for some very entertaining (if sometimes slightly scary) reading.