The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, Debtember 29, 2021

Software can just never be done it seems

I released the Text::Template module several years ago, and it was immediately very successful. It's small, simple, fast, and it does a lot of things well. At the time, there were not yet 29 templating systems available on CPAN.

Anyway, the module quickly stabilized. I would get bug reports, and they would turn out to be bugs in the module's users, not in the module; I would get feature requests, and usually it turned out that what the requester wanted was possible, or even easy, without any changes to the module. Since the module was perfect, there was no need to upload new versions of it to CPAN.

But then I started to get disturbing emails. “Hi, I notice you have not updated Text::Template for nine months. Are you still maintaining it?” “Hi, I notice you seem to have stopped work on Text::Template. Have you decided to abandon this approach?” “Hi, I was thinking of using Text::Template, but I saw it wasn't being maintained any more, so I decided to use Junk::CrappyTemplate, because I need wanted to be sure of getting support for it.”

I started wondering if maybe the thing to do was to release a new version of Text::Template every month, with no changes, but with an incremented version number. Of course, that's ridiculous. But it seems that people assume that if you don't update the module every month, it must be dead. People seem to think that all software requires new features or frequent bug fixes. Apparently, the idea of software that doesn't get updated because it's finished is inconceivable.

I blame Microsoft.

Twelve Views of Mark Jason Dominus

I can't say I haven't myself wished that the industry as a whole just said, “Enough! Let us spend the next year on nothing but bug fixes!” But that's just not going to happen. Why? Because no one will pay for bug fixes, as stated by Bill Gates himself: “There are no significant bugs in our released software that any significant number of users want fixed. … I'm saying we don't do a new version to fix bugs. We don't. Not enough people would buy it. You can take a hundred people using Microsoft Word. Call them up and say ‘Would you buy a new version because of bugs?’ You won't get a single person to say they'd buy a new version because of bugs. We'd never be able to sell a release on that basis.”

But the idea of just arbitrarily increasing the version number every so often does seem silly, but hey—the industry as a whole has this idea that a project that hasn't changed in some period of time is dead and not worth using. It's silly ideas like this that has lead me, over the past five years, to do at least one release per year of mod_blog just because!

(Yes, I actually had enough changes this Debtember to cut two releases to inadvertantly make up for the one I missed in 2019)

I found the above quote from Mark Dominus via a comment to Chris Siebenmann, which itself was linked from a more recent post from Chris Siebenmann. Both posts are worth reading as they go into some depth as to why the industry as a whole wants constant upgrades over stable software.

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