“If you choose to sail upon the seas of [ecommerce], build your [ecommerce website] as you would your boat, with the strength to sail safely through any storm.”
– J. Safra Sarasin (sort of)
Once upon a time, some shipwrights came together and said, “we’ve had enough of these old ships. Let’s make the best ship ever– it’ll be really sturdy, and really fast, and it’ll carry an unlimited number of passengers–and let’s make the ship standardized and configurable, so if someone wants to change out boards on the ship or put in new parts, they don’t need to muck around in the bowels of the ship.” Because these guys have seen lots of other ship designs that have different issues and inefficiencies and they have the solution to all the problems other ships have.
So they intrepidly design their ship, and their design is a piece of ****. No one likes it except for them and the people they market it to: people who don’t know anything about maintaining ships but who want fast sturdy boats and believe the guys who’ve come up with the designs when they tell them that this is the best type of ship and the new way to build a ship and if they don’t use this design they’ll be left in the dust.
You work for a company that has adopted this new type of ship and you’re in charge of maintaining it. God help you.
So welcome to the new ship and congratulations it’s a piece of ****. Any time anyone wants to change a board out, they for some reason need special nails. You can get the nails at any hardware store, but they’re a kind that no one really uses anymore, they require a special hammer, and you get weird looks from the clerk every time you buy them.
Taking a board out of the ship reveals extremely complex inner workings that look more like a clock than a ship and are virtually incomprehensible without reading the entire ship’s blueprint. Except the blueprint is crudely drawn, missing entire parts of the ship, and random pages are in a foreign language you can’t identify. The shipwrights who designed the ship won’t help you unless you pay them large sums of money.
You figure, there are other people using this ship design and they must have answers for how to work on a single board on the ship. This isn’t even an important board, this is, like, one floorboard in one of the cabins that someone asked you to paint, and yet, for some reason you can’t use a paintbrush and you can’t figure out how to remove the board and you’re getting mysterious headaches you’ve never had before.
So, anyway, you go to some people who are also using this type of ship for answers and they say, “you’re an idiot for not understanding how this ship works, and if you think this ship is poorly designed it’s because you haven’t spent enough time learning how it works, and also **** you,” but there’s a louder contingent that says, “yeah this type of ship is a piece of **** and you should be using a different type of ship instead.”
That wasn’t very helpful and you still don’t know how to paint this board so you got to the library and go to the overflowing stacks of books about ship building and you find a book someone wrote about this type of ship and for some reason painting this board requires buying ten thousand of the special nails and driving them into seemingly unrelated parts of the ship, and then you can paint the board, except don’t use regular paint, use this special paint designed for this boat because regular paint doesn’t work on this ship and it also might make the ship explode.
It’s taken you a bafflingly long time to get this stupid board painted, and the person who asked you to paint it is now pissed off and doesn’t understand why this ship they bought isn’t working like the ship designer’s said it would, and they assume it’s your fault. But you got the board painted and now it’s time to leave port and ferry some passengers.
So you take 100 passengers onto the ship and it immediately sinks.
So once you get the army corps of engineers to pull your piece of **** boat out of the water, you get flotation devices and attach them to the sides of the boat, and this is fine–most ships have stabilizers. But you take 100 passengers on the boat again and now it doesn’t sink but it can only go one knot per hour and it’s going to take 12 hours to make a nine minute ferry trip.
So you go to a boating supply store and buy an engine that’s 12 times bigger than the one you’re using now, and it’s weird that this is necessary because you’ve never needed an engine this large to ferry this few people, and it’s much more expensive than other engines you’ve used and, in the first place, the promise of this ship’s design was that it would scale well with many passengers on it.
But whatever, you buy the engine and oh **** your boat is still slow. It’s faster than it was, but it’s still taking much longer than it should to get to its destination and the passengers are complaining and the owners of the ship aren’t happy.
You go back to the group of other people using the same type of ship and they say “yeah the ship is just slow and sinks a lot that’s just how it is,” and you wonder why anyone is using this, but apparently a lot of people are because they’re masochists or something or the ship’s designers are really good at marketing.
It’s probably the latter, because these ship designers have a reputation for building good cars and everyone would just assume that if they can build good cars they can build good boats (their car company is slowly developing a shady reputation, but it hasn’t affected their business yet).
Fine, your ship is now slow but functional and no one is especially happy, but you’re ferrying passengers on a daily basis. And you look off the railing of the ship and see that there are other boats of different designs that are also having problems, and one really popular design is for some reason entirely made out of bicycle parts, and you feel somewhat better about all the work it’s taken to get your boat to this level of stability, and then the steering wheel of the ship falls off and a passenger falls through a large hole in the floor that was never considered by the ship’s designers somehow.
Okay, you re-attach the steering wheel and fish the passenger out of the water, but it’s insane that basic features like the steering wheel not falling off and passengers not falling through gaping holes weren’t considered by the designers, and seemingly, there’s no momentum to fix those problems.
But then you do hear from the ship’s designers! And they say, “we just discovered that someone has figured out a way to drive the boat without having the keys, so they can steal it pretty easily. We’ve updated the blueprints of the ship to fix that problem, and also we’ve added disco lights to the cargo hold, but we’re still not fixing the gaping hole thing.”
So you say, okay, we’ll update the ship with their new blueprints and get back to business and keep fishing passengers out of the water, but you update the ship and now all of the cabins have water leaking into them and your custom paint has completely vanished and it’s going to cost a lot of money to fix all the problems the ship designer’s updates caused but thank god you have the disco lights in the cargo hold.
Meanwhile, you look out onto the water again and see a different ship–this one is managed by a ship building company, and it costs money to lease from them and you can’t make a lot of very custom modifications, but the ship runs very smoothly and it is very fast and most people operating it actually seem to like it and at the end of the day the customers that you’re ferrying really don’t care what ship they’re on as long as it doesn’t take them hours to get to their destination, and as you see the leased ship go by you wonder how many customers you’ve lost using this asinine ship design.
But then you see a bicycle-ship floundering around half under water with the captain standing on the bicycle seat yelling, “Well done, lads! We’ve finally gotten half the ship to ride above the water line! Steady as she goes men!”
You hear a sea shanty as they gargle off into the sunset.
All commentary on this blog is my own and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else. This post is satire.