Legacy Software

I thought that Mark Headd had an interesting tweet yesterday:

This tweet gave me a few thoughts from my own experience that I shared:

After a couple legacy app rewrites (not from mainframes but old Python Django —> Rails) you quickly learn how tough it can be when the best you can do is “match” what was there before. Apple still has whiplash from Apple Maps and that was years ago…

Things I’ve discovered about legacy software:

  1. Undocumented functionality is discovered by users. Turns into an “important feature”
  2. Users map their own abstractions into the existing system as the real world system changes but software stays stagnant.

Also after writing software on a rather stressful deadline for a City of Boston project I expected it to get junked after. Instead they opted not to rewrite. It’s not the best code I’ve written, but it was battle tested. Never realized how important that was until gov’t.

Ultimately rewriting legacy software often “feels” like the right thing to do but the distance of the rewrite feels like it is less than it actually ends up being once you attempt to do it. It is not that it is never worth doing a rewrite, but the value of the rewrite often is less than you initially think it will be.

Apple is Rebuilding Apple Maps from the Ground Up

Interesting to see Apple’s deep focus on updating maps:

It’s doing this by using first-party data gathered by iPhones with a privacy-first methodology and its own fleet of cars packed with sensors and cameras. The new product will launch in San Francisco and the Bay Area with the next iOS 12 beta and will cover Northern California by fall.

The Magic of the Stars

One of the tricks I have recently learned for Slack, the chat program, is that they have a star system for messages. The star is a feature I have seen but I did not understand how to use it that well. After reading a page in the Slack documentation I learned stars are a todo list. It is not to be thought of as a bookmark but as a way to keep track of posts that you have to take action on. Suddenly the stream of overwhelming stuff is tamable.

Once I learned that trick, the stars in Gmail suddenly made a lot more sense to me as well. Now I use Gmail stars as an indicator of things I need to take action on or am waiting for others to take action on. No longer do those messages sit in my inbox. Stars no longer indicate random emails I thought were important. Instead they are this special place where I go to get things done.

The lesson of this is that sometimes the purpose of a feature in software is not obvious. While many software developers have done a great job of designing their software to be usable without a manual, sometimes reading good documentation can make a big difference in making the most of my tools. The best part is when different developers follow the same patterns or trends, learning something in one software program like Slack then easily transfers to Gmail. Everyone wins.

(Also if you need keyboard shortcuts for a web application try hitting “Shift+?” on a website. You will often get a reference card with keyboard shortcuts.)

The Sleep Experiment Part 2

After spending a week trying to increase the amount of sleep I get I have been unable to push myself to be in my bed for than seven and a half hours. However the difference between under and over seven hours feels like the world. Yesterday waking up with nearly six and a half hours was a bit of a struggle for the day. This morning I woke up with seven hours and twenty minutes and I feel great. I am not sure if I will ever successfully push eight hours, but today writing this blog post was easy, while yesterday I missed it.

Running with Champions

Tomorrow is the BAA 10K, the second in the BAA Distance Medley. I am excited as the weather is supposed to be nice and my friend Marco is coming up from Connecticut to run it with me. It is also one of the fastest 10K courses in the country. So I should be able to make a good time on it. My hope is that I will beat the time that I made in my Salem 10K last summer. Given that this race occurs earlier in the season that may be tough, however.

As a part of this race series the BAA held a pre-race clinic at their Boston Marathon Runbase. It was a great experience to see Boston Marathon winners Meb and Des. The thing I love so much about this sport is that we are running in the same exact race as the most elite athletes in the world. I probably won’t be hitting the basketball court with Michael Jordan or play baseball against Big Papi or football with Tom Brady, but in running we all get to be in the same race.

Follow Zagaja.com posts: RSS Feed
This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.