Software, like all great works, needs to be criticized

Software needs to be criticized

We already know what we think, the interesting bit is hearing what other people think. Discussion is important. Challenging conceptions is important. Whether we ultimately end up changing or simply reaffirming our opinions, the process we go through, the validation, the testing, the consideration, is what separates the ignorant from the informed, the dumb from the deliberate. Matthew Bischoff, formerly of the New York Times, now of Tumblr, tackles this beautifully on Medium:

I care a lot. Software needs to be criticized to get better. 90% of it is crap, and very few people are willing to explain why. My blog is a place where I can express my opinion, and I have a strong opinion about this "new" product. I share my thoughts with the hope that they'll make people think and encourage discussion, which is exactly what happened.

Our current culture is terrible at this. We watch only the extremist news that agrees with us, we attack not only choices that aren't ours, but the people who make them. We withdraw into what makes us feel comfortable and reaffirms our egos rather than what makes us uncomfortable and enables us to grow.

Being told we're great all the time, in all things, is not only meaningless, it's harmful. Finding vapid intellectual rationalizations or empty, logical validations are likewise worthless and delusion-inducing. The only criticism that helps, that leads to being better, is criticism that challenges, that breaks down, that forces improvement. And that's as true of software as it is of movies, of works of art, of music, and any other craft.

It's what makes all art - and all artists - better.

Source: Medium

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Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Software, like all great works, needs to be criticized

12 Comments

I agree with his statement. It is harmful to always say something is great. Provide constructive criticism is important for growth and to help improve the product.

Sent from the iMore App

Um...I know you can be slightly critical, occasionally, with Apple, but come on, who are we kidding? You run an Apple blog. You guys are the MSNBC/FOX of tech blogs.

Are you implying that you guys need to change or grow? Or that we as your audience need to call you out more?

+100000 seems strange they talk about this when they are never really critical of anything apple related.

Sent from the iMore App

I whole heartedly agree that constructive criticism is a necessary ingredient for improvement - for any and everything anyone does. That is the exact reason why I contact Apple and other developers to express gratitude and relay how I use their software and request modifications about how their software might be better. In doing so I try to validate my requests with comparisons of what their software currently does and how this might help.
Half the problem is too many people think it's their mandate to overly express their opinions and that is almost never constructive.
All my other critiques are usually phrased in the form of, "you cockamamie piece of $&@!! Why the *^$@ do you keep doing that?! Eat @&%#!!!"
... Them I restart the software so I can keep working.

Sent from the iMore App

Considering that the ONLY reason Rene Ritchie is on MacBreak is to be the Apple dog that blindly defends master and attacks all innocent passer-by's, then it's odd that he would write an article about the importance of being critical regarding the products we love.

Just sample any MBW episode and there he is slamming MS or Google while simultaneously over-defending Apple whenever the slightest sign of Apple criticism is present. I actually like(d) Rene's writing years ago, but he's gotten far too defensive regarding all things Apple and it taints his writing and his integrity. So articles like this just sound like a heaping load of hypocrisy.

Software needs to play a little catch up with how rapid smartphones' hardware is improving these past few years. I don't think there's a lot of software available that's even capable of utilizing the full capabilities of the current hardware of smartphones today.

I also concur completely. Given there are now over one million applications available through the Apple App Store, there are so many that duplicate functionality. I.e., Japanese dictionaries for one, default camera app alternatives for another. Whenever I find a new application which is more intuitive, easy-to-use, or satisfies some functional need that I I let the old fall out and introduce the new. There is a famous saying from a man that existed from centuries ago. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".

Rene,

It's an interesting topic that raises many questions. With the audience that you have at iMore you could have a weekly article dissecting some piece of software, whether it be apples or some other application. Maybe replace one of the How To articles? Considering some of them are a repeat of an Apple KB.

You guys do have a tendency to go overboard recommending your friends applications without much criticism of the applications themselves. So, I can understand where some of the other comments are coming from.

Ha Ha!! Rene the big apple fanboy who is as biased as the Apple Zealots come posts this article, thanks for providing a good laugh to many people.

I'm not sure this is as necessary as we think it is - I go to the store and out of 150 shampoos which can all be grouped into three or four different categories, all of them have just about the same ingredients, with mostly minor differences. The same is true with all kinds of things that we buy every day that we don't spend much time critiquing. We just take advantage of the choices. Giving our opinion on everything is maybe not quite as important as we think it is. Certainly nothing wrong with it though.

Wrong--for the most part, Rene and Co. are reasonably objective and open about their preferences and biases. These blogs for respective platforms are self-reflective and aware of each platform's pros and cons. To the contrary, critics above et al. are reflectsively dismissive and boring in their superficial attacks. Rene isn't perfect (who is?!) but seems sincere and informed and provides a useful and entertaining forum for those of us tech geeks compelled to regularly check in and check out what's going on in each respective platform etc.

Get a grip and contribute to the collective obsession rather than just indulge your amygdala without executive oversight (read: adolescent lack of impulse control).

Good night.