Archive for February 1, 2022

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Software Paper Cuts

Matthew Bischoff (tweet):

When software isn’t polished, when it’s full of things that feel like paper cuts, it becomes less joyful and more frustrating. It sucks all the opportunity for delight out of the room.

The more insidious thing about these bugs is that they’re rarely reported by users or caught by automated testing tools because they’re too small to complain about or too obscure to write tests for. Great QA testers can find and file these types of bugs, but they usually flounder at the end of a long backlog of new features. This means that if you’re an engineer on a piece of software, you’re the person who’s best able to notice and fix these bugs. Yes, you might have to convince your boss or your product manager to set aside some time every so often to do so, but I promise your users will be grateful, and your product will improve in meaningful ways if you do.

Nathan Lawrence:

The most frustrating part of these issues is that they always look small, but they’re so often downstream reflections of a significant architectural decision that will have to someday be reversed if the problem is to be corrected.

Jordan Morgan:

The issue with these kinds of things is that they start as paper cuts, sure. But they don’t end that way. A few here and there will inevitably add up over the years to something much worse. You go from paper cuts to a laceration, and then a straight gaping hole in your app.

What follows? The refactor. The ground up rewrite.

The New York Times Buys Wordle

Marc Tracy (Josh Wardle, Hacker News, MacRumors, Jason Kottke):

The sudden hit Wordle, in which once a day players get six chances to guess a five-letter word, has been acquired by The New York Times Company.

The purchase, announced by The Times on Monday, reflects the growing importance of games, like crosswords and Spelling Bee, in the company’s quest to increase digital subscriptions to 10 million by 2025.

Wordle was acquired from its creator, Josh Wardle, a software engineer in Brooklyn, for a price “in the low seven figures,” The Times said. The company said the game would initially remain free to new and existing players.

Thomas Karpiniec:

It’s a legitimately delightful story. A programmer built a deceptively simple game and executed it well. It grew organically through the power of the web since anybody can access a webpage, unhindered by app stores, operating systems or gatekeepers. Many people (including me) have enjoyed playing the same puzzles with their friends and comparing results. Ultimately the programmer had a nice payday for his efforts. Great stuff. Most likely it will die a slow death under the auspices of the NYT, relegated to some sort of games subscription.


But the phenomenon wasn’t really about the sheer human joy of finding five letter words, was it? The masterful thing is how it stoked and took advantage of the dark patterns of social media without having to get its own hands dirty. Ninety percent of the brilliance is in the “Share” copy-paste.


Sunsetting Stack Overflow Jobs

Stack Overflow:

On March 31, 2022, we will discontinue Stack Overflow Jobs and Developer Story. This includes all job listings, saved searches, applications, messages, recommended job matches, job ads, developer story, saved resumes, and the salary calculator.


The problem is often finding the right opportunity and job boards and sourcing are ineffective solutions. The effort it would take us to truly differentiate in this space is not one we could justify.

Exiting this space allows us to refocus on products that build on our core strengths: knowledge reuse and building communities at scale.

Tom Wright (via Hacker News):

The Jobs section of Stack Overflow launched in 2011 and was, at its heart, a jobs board – albeit one that was barely recognisable compared to its peers. Employers could post high-quality job ads linked to helpful company profiles. Candidates could maintain a “developer story” linked to their Stack Overflow profile, indicate their status (active or passive), and could of course browse through the job ads. As well as candidates responding to ads, hiring managers could use a powerful search to identify and message candidates that would likely be a good fit.

The genius of Stack Overflow Jobs was that it was a pure value add, which did not detract at all from the core user experience of the main Stack Overflow Q&A site. It was never forced on anyone and the service on the main site was not degraded for those who opted not to engage with it. On the other hand, Jobs benefited massively from the close integration with the main site. Linked profiles, for example, added a degree of transparency for both parties – candidates could easily demonstrate their communication and technical skills via their interactions on the main site, whilst employers could showcase their team by linking their company profiles to those of their current employees.


Update (2022-04-26): Ruffin Bailey:

But then, today, a reason for the change finally hit me: They were already cutting off the small fish in Jobs (see another rant here where StackOverflow Jobs basically told my current medium-sized company to shove it). What might the big companies complain about with the old job listings?

The old StackOverflow Jobs listings required companies to compete on salary. The new “branding-only” listings don’t.

Should You Ever Repair Permissions?

Howard Oakley:

One of the less-recognised benefits of SIP was that it effectively prevented this from happening, although improvements in system installers undoubtedly played their part as well. The signed and sealed System volume in Big Sur and Monterey is an even better guarantee that everything on that volume must now be in perfect condition.


El Capitan provided a short break from repairing permissions. Once Sierra had been released, Apple quietly posted a support note (long since removed, and not archived) recommending a new procedure, which could fix a long list of problems[…]


In March 2020, Apple changed the procedure again, to running a new tool repairHomePermissions in Recovery mode, then reinstalling macOS. By June 2020, Apple had removed its support note, silently erasing all trace of these procedures.


The problems that Apple originally attributed to damaged permissions on preference files often arose without any mishandling on the part of the user, nor by apps. The only explanation which fits the facts is that those problems were attributable to bugs in cfprefsd which became prominent in Sierra, and lingered for a couple of years.

I continue to get lots of customer support requests due to messed up file permissions, ownership, and ACLs. Many of these seem to be caused by incorrect manual migrations or restorations from backup. I’m not sure whether these could have been fixed using the Repair Home app, as I had forgotten it existed.


Update (2022-11-30): Howard Oakley:

The big mystery is the repairHomePermissions tool. While this is present in Ventura, it has no man page, no usage information, and proves to be a launcher for an app that doesn’t even exist outside Recovery mode. Neither can I find an Apple Support article that mentions it any more.