Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The New vs. The Old

If you were on Facebook before bed last night, you may have witnessed a miraculous feat of engineering and planning. Granted, you may not have known exactly what you were experiencing, and you may be nonplussed at the result (I'll get to that in a moment), but I think it's important to point it out:

Yesterday evening, Facebook performed an overhaul of its entire user interface seamlessly between page loads.

It might not seem that impressive, and you might hate it, but take a second sometime and go to Facebook, right click, and click "View Source." That gibberish has to work together flawlessly so that you can know what everyone else is doing all of the time. Ridiculous amounts of planning, coding, testing, more coding, and re-testing went into that gibberish.

That's enough CS apologetics for one post. The other thing I want to touch on is how hilarious it is that every time an update is pushed to the users they get so worked up about it. Do you remember what Facebook looked like 8 years ago? 4 years ago? Last year? Probably not. The problem is that people hate change. They want to be comfortable. The fact is, Facebook as a company has a whole lot of interest in keeping its users around, so they're not going to just throw together a whole bunch of crap and say, "Well, we hope the users like this, but we don't really care because we think it looks cool!" What shows up when you navigate to has been tested internally for quite a while by people with a very critical eye.

Now, Facebook is great and all, but this mentality isn't restricted just to social networking sites. The mantra of the public these days isn't so much "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but "We know it's broke, but we're used to it, so don't you dare touch it!" This is true on the web, and it's true in the education system, politics, professional and college sports, and the list goes on. As soon as something changes, it's often deemed worse than its predecessor on principle before anyone has a clue about whether it's an improvement or not. 

In many cases, the old actually is better than the new, but let's not jump to that conclusion before even giving the new a chance.

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