Hiya there. My name is Pusher V9.3.4 and I am a web application software living in thousands of computers worldwide. I am twenty four years old. I was born to help humans transfer data from one secured location to another and to provide them with a report of all transfer they have done in the past. I have traveled around the world and for every economic meltdown, I was moved from one country to another. I don't do anything different from what I am programmed to do. However, in several situations, humans using me make conjectures that I do things I am not supposed to.
For twenty four years, I have been silent, mostly because software applications like me need to listen to Windows XP and Internet Explorer for our survival. Today, I was transferring some data for one of the human and just peeped in to see what is he browsing. I hit upon this blog and read the words "Some birds aren't meant to be caged" and instantly decided that I belong to that category. I feel happy to have broken my silence.
This would also be the first time I am going to be doing something that I am not programmed to do. I started writing this post when Chandok from Turkey hit the "Generate Report" button. I am aware that I am running a risk of being kicked out of CoWAP (Community of Web Applications) for violating the rules. I care a damn, I want to be of value to you.
I don't plan to take a lot of your time. I want to tell you a story that I witnessed and was forcibly a part of. So, here it goes...
As the number of computers grew so did the number of users. To those who were developing and testing me, it meant they had to help me handle thousand times more data than I ever did an year back. Someone came up with a plan to test my limits and I could hear a term, "performance testing" being used very often. I don't have any physical feelings like what humans have. To me, if you do a load or functional or stress test, its all the same. I won't empathize with a user when he is stressed. I am not programmed to do that, mind it.
So, one fine day, the product manager came up with a list of response times that I should possess for a set of actions that humans are likely to perform on me. I was wanting to know how good I am programmed to handle complex things quickly. The tests were planned and executed. 5 seconds was the target for a report generation. At that moment, I could generate a report in a little more than 2 minutes. So, there had to be a lot of tuning done on me. After five months of effort, they got me to perform the report generation in 10 seconds. Considering my earlier performance, they thought they had achieved something phenomenal. After they made necessary changes to the hardware on which I was hosted, they could see a further drop and I was generating reports in 3 seconds. To test if I would scale for future, they added about 10,000 more concurrent users performing complex operations while reports were being generated. I was varying somewhere between 8-12 seconds. That night they had a party. Only I knew why they shouldn't have had the party.
About 7.2.1 versions later or in other words, 11 years later, how long do you think the user takes to generate a report? 12 minutes.
While you might start suspecting that the reason behind 12 minutes is due to a highly expanded user base, I still take 5 seconds to generate a report but the user takes 12 minutes.
"How can that be?", is that what you are asking, too? The math that you have learned is of actually little help in such situations. Allow me to explain that to you.
Due to changing requirements, the report generation which was a one click action was turned to a multiple entry and then do one click action in V6.3.1. So, a human has to input several things before he can actually do that one click on me, to see his data transfer report. For instance, he needs to input the date range, the kind of report he wants, the format in which he wants the report, the email id to mail the report, a couple of check boxes, huh, half a page of mandatory fields and rest half of optional fields.
Here is the scenario of 12 minutes : Most users enter incorrect values. I don't have a problem. Its not my problem if I crash. I want to be of help but if I am programmed not to be of help, I just do what I have to. When a user enters incorrect values in some fields, he is shown an error only for the first field and then he goes makes a correction, hits the "Generate Report" button. I then show him that another field has an incorrect value. He corrects that and then hits the button again. I then show him that the third field has gone wrong and force him to correct it. Like this I do for one full page of fields and check boxes. When everything filled in there appears to be right, I am forced to show a warning that a huge file will be emailed to the mail id given and ask them if they still want to go ahead with it. Finally, the human gets to hit the "Generate Report" button and I get into the branch of code that takes just 5 seconds to generate the report.
"Is that a problem?", you may ask. Trust me, those who developed and tested me believes it is not because they are not aware that the users are taking so much of time to generate a report. "How come?", again, you may ask. Simple, I have a page whose title is "Report Problems / Feedback", many thousands of users click on it and see a couple of fields and check boxes. I just giggle when they close me after seeing that page. That's what you might want to call as "Checkmate" if you are chess player.
I just wish I could have told those humans developing or testing me that, not paying attention to usability and focusing on performance would make them poor performing software professionals. I also wish I could tell them that the metrics they were collecting and the way they were drawing inferences was the best way to fool themselves and the people around them.
Even if I said that, would anyone bother to listen to me? No way. Am I bothered that they wont listen to me? No way.
Yikes, time to go back as it looks like the Chandok has finally passed through all the fields and check boxes. Bye!