Software and Shoes?

Why is your favorite piece of software like an old pair of shoes?

Think about it …

Do you have one piece of software that you’ve been using for ages? It may not have all the latest bells and whistles, but you know most of the keyboard shortcuts by heart and can navigate the menus with your eyes closed.

I’ll bet you have an old favorite pair of shoes, too. They may not be the latest in footwear chic, but they’re comfortable. You can wear them all day without the fear of those new shoe slave to fashion blisters.

Do rumors of a new version of your favorite software send chills up and down your spine? Not with the anticipation of new features, but with the fear that the developer will foul up the interface and bring your operating efficiency level down to its knees?

I’ve long admitted to using older versions of software … not because I didn’t want to shell out the bucks for the new version, but because I was so completely comfortable with the old version. The software industry may have planned obsolescence at its core for quarterly earnings success, but when it gets right down to it from the users perspective, may fluctuations in share price be damned.

I first developed the old software = comfortable shoes theory way back in 2000 when I was out on the road in San Francisco. In my haste to pack, I forgot to bring an extra pair of shoes. I ended up wearing the same pair of brand new Rockport boots for the entire trip. (“Hey,” I thought. “They’re Rockports … they’ll be comfortable right out of the box.”)

Not quite. By the second day, my feet were killing me. My dogs were prisoners of the Marquis de torturous shoes.

As I walked from my hotel to the Moscone Center, I tried to stay focused on the presentation I was about to give, rather than on the rapidly developing blisters on my feet. I thought about how the software training and support industry — the publishers, schools, and individual consultants — exist based upon the needs of the user base at each and every upgrade. Whether they’re providing Photoshop training or running MCSE boot camps, their success is based on getting you up to speed.

Alas, if I had remembered to bring a pair of old comfortable shoes, I wouldn’t have come up with the theory.

Fast forward to five years later.

The piece of software on which I gave that presentation? It’s not just obsolete, it’s discontinued. But I still use it, warts and all.

And those boots? They’re finally broken in.

(But if Adidas wants to send me a pair of way cool Adidas_1 computerized shoes, I’ll be sure to give ’em a workout … )