This past weekend was my son’s cub scout pinewood derby race. I was point person on the committee that organized the event. My main task happened to be running the score board which was written in Excel.
I found it quite interesting to be in a position where I was very dependent on the computer and the excel based “application” that we used to run the scores. The thing that surprised me was how nervous I was about the score board working right.
The race was a points race with a specially organized set of pairings that rotated the races in such a way that each car raced in each of the 3 lanes. And, each car raced against every other car.
I inherited the spreadsheet from another person in the pack, who got it from someone online. I was amazed at what they had done in Excel with formulas and a couple simple macros. It was pretty cool.
However, I was really worried that something could go wrong, leaving me with a bunch of angry participants. What if the computer died? What if I fat fingered the info and accidentally erased a key formula? What if the formulas weren’t right?
As a developer, I need to remember that the people who use my stuff are really putting a lot of trust in me. I better treat that trust carefully. Just like I would if they were a passenger in my car.
I’m not sure how best to do this, but transparency and features that help the user feel safe are a good start.
I think an example of this is Word’s auto-save feature that keeps a backup copy in case word crashes. It makes me feel a little safer.