Packaging, or branding, is all the rage. We live in an interconnected world. Nowhere is that more abundantly clear than when we encounter a common catastrophe, a single point of failure. Latest case in point: the “voluntary” recall by a food producer of 358 products that are marketed and sold under 42 different brand names.
People tend to feel smug about their choice of a brand because of its perceived value, purported quality, and sometimes plain old price. It is only when a problem that appears to be contained becomes unmanageable do we realize how at risk we all are.
Complexity is the Enemy
When you have that many combinations of brands and products, it becomes exponentially difficult to tease out the root cause of any pattern that may be discovered. Further considering that the problems are more than 2 years in the making, you don’t have to be a scientist to imagine the work that will be required to resolve this issue.
Of course, we can’t expect government, nor would it be probably legal, to step in and mandate that food producers simplify their marketing strategies, so that this problem doesn’t happen again in the future. That doesn’t stop us as consumers to choose to purchase products where the sourcing is clearer.
To be fair, similar issues plague car part recalls, such as when numerous brands are affected. The fallout included about 2 dozen brands, from the humble Fords and Chevys, to the pricier Lexus, Mercedes Benz and Audi standouts.
The Technical Angle
As anyone who knows me or my work would know, I’m a big fan of streamlining systems and processes. Some people seem to find their glory in creating complex structures. They bask in the respect the apparent respect and amazement of their peers to keep such complex things in the air. The problem is, when it all comes tumbling down, it’s a huge mess. Gone is the pretty packaging.
Of course we live in a complex world, full of varied scenarios and nuances. Why then do we make the complex even more so, in an attempt to make ourselves appear indispensable?
From the code we write, all the way to the environments where applications live, we often find crazy patterns of people doing what they want, and how they want. Presumably, we allow all these approaches in order to be agile, and respond to customer and market demand. But, oh, don’t worry. We have very smart engineers keeping all these balls up in the air, and we don’t really have anything to fear.
The result is that we get spaghetti code. We get brittle components that are not easy to test, much less do so in a repeatable fashion. We find ourselves deploying different applications in different ways, even when they will live in the same environments. We get environments that are so dissimilar that we are limited in our attempts to duplicate and resolve bugs.
But it’s only Code, not Listeria
I reiterate my point about living in a connected world. Technology is the underpinning of many things we take for granted these days. Even laymen take connected devices (IoT-Internet of Things) advancements for granted. They also take for granted that those of us who are involved at some point in the technology food chain will take their well-being and best interests into consideration.
Ultimately, any bad practices that we minimize and tolerate will make their way into what end users experience. It’s not about our own ego. It’s not about what’s convenient for us. It’s not about packaging things in such a way that we get accolades, but underneath there’s no there there. It is about taking the pride of ownership to create good products and about respecting our customers’ trust.