We had a heck of a day yesterday! A reddit user samspot, linked to our series, The Lotus Notes Tribunal, during an AMA with a group of IBM developers (none of whom, as an aside, had anything to do with Notes). The site enjoyed a 2,000% increase in page views for the day; more than doubling my previous record!
The whole thing made me nostalgic, so I ran through the company ticketing system to review some of my old support claims for Notes. One instance, in particular, caught my eye. Apparently my resistance to Notes was at an all time low because, in the field that asked for the problem to be described, I entered:
Lotus Notes is a stillborn larva shat from the multi-dimensional sphincter of a tentacled elder-god. Still writhing from the putrescence feasting upon its corpse it was placed on Earth to inject pain and insanity directly into the skulls of the children of man.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the support team closed the ticket as “Unable to Address Concern”. For my part I’m just thrilled that the terrible stain that is Lotus Notes continues to bring people together!
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-N we see that Notes knows more than it’s telling.
Every once in a while you’ll open an email. Like you do. Most of the time Notes does this as it normally does: it takes too long, mangles the formatting and destroys attachments; all absolutely normal for Notes. But sometimes you’ll be interrupted with a message like this:
As I’ve written before: TiVo sucks. In that first article I lamented the lack of innovation and features for this premium product. The worse thing I can say is that now, over a year later, every single one of my issues still exist. In fact there hasn’t been a single truly significant upgrade. Nothing that screams, “you can only get this here!” The service today is, for all intents, the same service I challenged as not advanced enough for premium pricing then. Hell, it’s been two years and they still haven’t completed the HD interface.
Now that my contract has ended I’m considering dropping Tivo and reverting to the stock offering from Comcast. I went to the Tivo site to allow it to convince me not to. I got the following “10 reasons you’ll love Tivo”.
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-M we see that Notes simply can’t meet even the simplest requirements of community.
Notes, like any business software, has a straightforward responsibility to at least attempt to play nicely with others. One of the more fundamental courtesies is to honor the formatting of common business software – or at least to try. Notes, however, is so pathologically anti-social that it features multiple distinct ways to completely ignore what you need.
To the right is a relatively simple form created in Word (click to enlarge). It features some basic border options, comfortable text spacing and some cosmetic coloring choices. Although tastes vary most would agree it’s a fairly attractive template.
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-L we see that Notes will stand quietly by while you suffer.
I tried to open a memo. I’ve done it before. I’ve even had errors before… but as cryptic as they normally are can anything be more cryptic than nothing? At best we might consider this some kind of tough-love – like a heartless father throwing his terrified child into the deep end to teach them how to swim. At worst it’s outright passive-aggressive.
I feel strongly however that it’s just simple apathy. Notes doesn’t care about you or your pain.
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-K we see how it’s unpredictability is a danger to children and pets.
There’s an “Actions” menu in Notes. In it there’s a promising option called “Fax Address Helper”. I like help. With Notes I often need help. So I click on it.
Whoa! What the hell is that? A mostly blank window with an off-centered blob of red text? Some serious sh*t must have gone down, eh? This error message must be especially important for Notes to make such a spectacular departure from all user-interface guidelines, right? Right?! Wrong.
The message clearly states that “You must be in a mail memo to use this feature…..” (the five periods must be for extra-special, super-duper emphasis). A normal application would have simply greyed out or removed the “Fax Address Helper” from the actions menu when you were not in a memo. Not our defendant however: Notes would prefer to deceive.
The rest of the content gets even better. We get an “OK” button (already highlighted as the default) but are instructed not to click on it. If we do so, we’re told, our highlighted item will be marked “unread”. This means a developer spent time adding a note to this message rather than spending the time fixing the problem. That makes sense. Lots and lots of sense… if you’re evil.
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-I we see evidence that perhaps Notes maliciousness may in fact be the result of psychosis.
Notes loves to mix-metaphors. It loves it so much that it will often mix them multiple times on the same element. Consider the folder tree. This is the most fundamental, most basic navigation tool provided by Notes. And it gets things horribly wrong.
Note that most items represent a physical metaphor: folders, toolbox, trash can, etc. Many of these items carry that metaphor forward into the usage of the element. Click on “Tools” item and the little toolbox opens. Click on a folder and the folder opens? Well, most of the time. Notes confuses and distracts us in this case by only “opening” folders which contain other folders. Folders that contain only memos are left closed even when clicked. Why?
Furthermore note that the icon for “Views” represents a windows preferences dialog. Note also that when selected it opens like a folder Dialog boxes don’t open like folders in the real world, do they? However other physical items like the trash can never open.
The only logical excuse for getting something so basic so fundamentally wrong is pure malicious intent or mental illness.
My premise is simple: TiVo sucks. I will defend it, but I do want to make one thing clear: TiVo sucks, but having used TiVo, Comcast and DirectTV DVRs I feel confident in saying “so does everything else.” This will not be an exhortation to switch brands of DVR but rather a lamentation of the state of an industry so dominated by what’s become a mediocre product.
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-I we see how Notes wastes your time by managing your time.
Try this in your Notes calendar: click an entry. That entry will be highlighted as expected. Now click it again. Fun game: what do you think will happen? Good software will do nothing – a single click is “highlight” and as the item is already highlighted there’s nothing more to do. Poor software might (wrongly, but at least somewhat sensically) actually take action on the item – open it, present a context menu, etc. Notes says “Nuts to that!” When you click on an item already highlighted Notes assumes that you want to edit the item. But it doesn’t let you. Instead you get the following confirmation message:
Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-H we see how Notes tells you that’s something wrong by telling you nothing.
You know when you do something that you’re not supposed to do? Or when the application encounters a problem? You get an error message. In a good application you get information that will help you to fix the problem. In a poor application you might get something less than useful. However as applications age and become more mature this aspect tends to improve (being something that most developers don’t give much attention to in initial versions).