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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Details matter and you're responsible for them! But not at Verizon.

Details and quality matter.  If you don't pay attention to them you'll build terrible software.   It's your job as a team lead to drive quality.  If you think that modern software developers will not commit obvious mistakes, I beg to differ.

Here's an example of what I mean.  Verizon reports my data usage as 1024 MB/month.  This is clearly wrong because there's no way I use exactly 2^10 MB (or 1GB) every month.  What's more, they report my allowance in MB as (2) when it's actually 2GB. 

This table is wrong because:
  • The data are wrong.
  • The scales are wrong - not out of scale, but literally wrong.
  • They have duplicated data (repeating total data used) for no clear reason.
  • The alignment of the numbers is off - you put the ".00" on the right, so that people can compare big numbers by length.
  • There's too much precision.  Do I really need six significant digits on my data usage?  No.  Remove the decimals at least.
  • All of the fonts are bold (save for the repeated data, which shouldn't be there) for no clear reason.

I'm not sure who's responsible for shipping this - but it clearly should never have been released.  It's functionally broken and broken at a design level.

The Verizon Wireless Account Analysis chart is no better:

This chart is a disaster and an example of how you should NOT build a chart if you wish to communicate clearly.
  • The month label has exactly the same font treatment as the months - so it reads as "January month,"  rather than a label.   
  • Rather than putting the scale on the left, by Data (in MB) they put it in big bold font on the RHS.
  • They put the title in a Tab, when there's clearly no other tab to select. 
  • They've left huge amounts of whitespace by putting the legend on the bottom instead of top right, like most legends.  That's a nit, but still.
  • Why is this weird window size like this, so that there's a huge gray border and also tons of whitespace beside the chart?
  • Why did you capitalize megabytes?  They are not a proper noun, they are a unit of measure, like inches.
I suppose I should not expect much from a company to which I pay only $xxx per month - but a reasonable team lead could identify and fix these problems in just a few minutes.

Things like this make me want to short Verizon, but I think their fiber, wireless, and cable operations are better aligned than their competitors, so I suppose I have to forgive these painful mistakes.

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