When you build an irrelevant system

When your questions are irrelevant.

The night is the perfect time for me to work. The phone doesn't ring, there are less updates on social networks, and myself I can't distract anybody either. The problem is, in the morning I have to interact with people, usually early in the morning. Spending the nights in front of the computer writing code leaves me with very little time left to sleep.

Coffee is something I rarely think about, I am in no way addicted. But I usually like to be alert and focused when I'm working with people. So before heading to work, I stop at Coffee Bean ™ to get some coffee. That's where I get the weirdest question of the day.

The customers end up arranged in a single file waiting for their turn to order coffee. We don't talk among each other because our brains just want to shutdown or get a stimulant. By the time it's my turn, I order the plainest $3.00 coffee I can find. Then the cashier, or barista as they say, asks:

Is your coffee for here or to go?

The first time I was asked this question, I thought it was someone making a clever pun. I cheerfully replied, "to go!" But overtime, I realize that ever single time, whether I am getting coffee, or a cookie, or a cup of water, I get asked the same question. So I decided to ask the barista, "Do you have to ask that question?" and he answered, "Yes, I know it's stupid but it is part of our training program."

Maybe, there is a coffee place where this question is relevant. Maybe in that coffee bean, if you answer “for here”, you are given a table and your drink will be served to you by a waiter when ready. If you answer “to go”, you are accommodated differently. It will make sense in this case. But they have so many locations that the current system in place is too hard to modify to cater to different specific locations. So they settle for using one script for every single location, even where it makes no sense at all.

The same can be seen in the online world. If you were online in the 90s or early 2000s, every single website would ask "what is your favorite color?" when filling up a form. It might have made sense if you were using ICQ, they'd use this info to set your default background color. But the others just collected that information because everyone else was collecting it.

The favorite color may be trivial, but the amount of information collected to create a simple account on most websites is ridiculous. Sometimes no accounts are needed at all but still you are presented with a form that asks you un-skippable questions just so you can view an article, even though they have no use of this data.

Websites that force you to download their app may have decreased by now in 2016, but if you try to understand why they wanted users to download an app in the first place, you will see the same pattern. Someone made a nice game, and added code to his website to download the app, and suddenly he got lots of people downloading. Other website owners only focused on the part that says "got lots of downloads", so they did the same.

It doesn't matter that they are just a blog, a news outlet, or an online pamphlet, they think making you download their pamphlet app is what is going to make them successful.

Making changes is always difficult. I certainly believe in the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". But there are somethings that become irrelevant with time. They may have been crucial at some point, but when their time has passed, they may end up becoming a burden. Horses can still run very fast, and you can certainly use them for transportation. But now that you are driving a car, you are not gonna use a saddle just because it used to be relevant.


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