Why Is Worse Than How

When we use software, we operate in a binary tree. At the root, we could be in success or failure mode, where we are either doing whatever we meant to do, or distracted by some idiosyncrasy of our tool. In success mode, our productivity flows. We could be CTRL+Spacing to auto-complete or ESC, colon, w, q-ing to save and exit, and doing what we meant to do.

In failure mode, we have another couple of options:

  1. Why does this suck?
  2. Where is the option to make a zero-based list in WordPress?

I want a zero-based list because it appeals to my binary metaphor. The first item, zero, equals bad software. It is the tool that you wish you could will into nonexistence. You imagine the deepest levels of hell holding those who inflicted this impediment on you.

While you use them, you usually do not think about good tools. Your drill lets you swap bits without thinking about the drill. You only wonder whether this bit will work for that material and do you want 5/16 or 1/4?

Sometimes your tool cannot meet the challenge. You want to bore a new dryer vent through your cinder block or put drywall around the entirely bare laundry room and your minuscule battery-powered appliance will fight valiantly and fail. This is where you leave the text editor and open the IDE, but it is not a failure mode; you have simply exceeded your tool’s capability, and you need to go get that spiffy hammer drill.

You encounter tool failure mode when you do not immediately know how to accomplish your immediate task with the tool you are using, and you do not immediately have another tool that does it. You now find yourself in one of two camps, but you have no idea  which:

  1. Your tool cannot do it
  2. You do not know that ESC, y, y copies a line

So you have to feel your way through, based on your prior experience with that package. In the good programs, you, like the Little Engine, believe that you can.

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