I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.
As I said, I left SAP on 3/2005 to pursue a dream of traveling, and travel I have — I’ve been to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and the United States. It’s been quite an experience, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I probably fill a year’s worth of blog posts with stories from this trip, but this is after all SDN, not Blogger, so I won’t fill it up with completely irrelevant stories (unless you really want me too, in which case I’d be happy to :-))
Luckily when it was time for me to find a job again I learned the team I used to work for is looking for someone, so I jumped back to (almost) the same chair I had when I left. Some things did change — I’m sitting in a different office in a different building (SAP Labs in Israel is growing like there’s no tomorrow; when I left we were around 550-600, and we’re up to 750 now, and still counting), the team’s name changed, and we’re working with more SAP products (we used to be very NetWeaver-centric, now we do a bit more). But, all in all, I feel at home.
The first day at work I wore a t-shirt which said: “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. I didn’t even realize it said that until my boss mentioned it’s quite a sentence to wear on yourself on the first day of the job. It was probably just a sarcastic remark, but I gave some thought to it.
The first effect of thinking about that sentence was having U2‘s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” stuck in my hand in an infinite loop (which is still running, for almost 36 hours; what a great song). With the song playing in my head I came to realize how true it is — I really still haven’t found what I’m looking for in the IT world — simple computing.
I’m no ordinary user. I’m one of those people who installed Gentoo just for the heck of it three years ago, knowing that my network adapter was poorly supported (that was part of the fun!). I’m one of those people who reads slashdot, who likes to learn read about new programming languages. I can deal with complex computing, because I see it as challenging computing, and challenge is fun. I liked using Linux for example because it was new for me. I spent days just trying to get a dual-head video adapter working. But at some point I couldn’t do it anymore. It was fun when it was new and bleeding-edge, however at some point I just wanted some things to work. Websites, for example — so many of them (especially Israeli websites) depend on IE’s “special” feature to work properly, they became useless for me. Until not so recently getting a Linux workstation working with a proper desktop environment took too long, and was too hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love Linux, I’d use it on my SAP laptop if I could. But it was taking too much of my time back then just to keep my workstation running smoothly.
I know I’m not the only person who thinks things were too complex, because of Ubuntu. The slogan says it all: “Linux for human beings”. An Ubuntu workstation has everything you could possibly want from a Linux desktop, and it installed easily and painlessly. It’s desktop is clutter free. It’s a treat. It’s simple, which makes it more powerful. Ubuntu is now the most popular distribution according to DistroWatch’s statistics page — because it’s simpler to use.
But this is not a Linux-oriented post (even though it somehow became one) — my point is that simple computing is better computing. Sure, some systems are complex by nature, but you can usually simplify their usage for the users, and not only end-users, which for some reason are usually the only ones people think should get it easy — also for developers and, god-forbid, system administrators. It’s also possible to keep things simple without losing functionality. Usually all it takes is to figure out the right way to do or display things.
Keep It Simple, Stupid.
And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for — and what I’m looking for is simple computing. I took a big step towards it when I bought my Apple iBook. It can almost be called an appliance, not a laptop — something that “just works”. After using it exclusively for about 2-3 months using my ThinkPad with Windows at work makes me feel sorry for everyone else who have to use the same kind of system at home too. Macs are simple, but powerful — OS X is FreeBSD with eye-candy and some extras. I love having a bash terminal when I want it, and I love having things work so simply and elegantly as if the word “pipe” for me is only related to plumbing when I feel like it.
Rays of Lights
I’m excited to see the business world is thinking “simple is better” too. I loved Visual Composer when I saw it running from one of the developer’s machine two years ago, and it’s great to see how it makes something like SAP Analytics come to life — a step towards simpler computing for business users. GMail quickly became a prominent player in the web-based email arena — because it’s so simple and intuitive to use, and it’s great to see how AJAX makes web applications simpler.
It’s a Mission Statement
So now you know — I want thing to be simpler — GUIs should be more intuitive, processes should as simple as possible, the right features should be available when they’re needed (like a spell-checker and rich-text editing in a blogging system…. hint-hint SDN), and information should be accessible (too many a time have I tried to find something on help.sap.com, and could get to anything but the piece of information I was really looking for).
In the movie Jerry Maguire the main character keeps correcting people that his document is not a “memo” — it’s a “mission statement”. The only time he lets someone call it a memo is at the end, when he feels his mission was accomplished. So here’s my mission statement for this blog — besides writing purposeless entries such as this one, this blog will be here in order to provide information about what needs to be changed, how to change it, where to find information, give ideas and criticize (and give kudos, of course) — anything that can help you, me, them, everybody – have simpler computing, anywhere.
And a happy new yearto everyone.
P.S — to anyone writing dictionaries for spell checkers — isn’t it time to add the words “blog” and the verb “blogging”?