Saturday, 21 December 2013

Spreadsheet Evolution, Flared Trousers, and Colour in the Depths of Winter

This post wasn't going to be about spreadsheets, and then I realised that it would be. This is the first time I've created a blog in Blogger, so I was pleased to remember that there's a Blogger blog that I like, and could use as a guide to designing my own blog and arranging its layout "gadgets".

The blog in question is called Saaibestrijding, written by Paul Tieman from Maastricht. His blog's name is a Dutch coinage meaning "struggle against boredom", and his blog is mainly photos showing unusual and colourful ways for men to dress. I like it because I like colour, especially in the depths of a British winter when everyone is wearing brown, beige, grey, and black. I also like comfort, and some of his clothes look very comfortable.

So Paul's blog helped me lay out my own, but surely it has nothing to do with spreadsheets. Then I remembered that I once cited it in an essay called "Dress Code", which I wrote for the Dr Dobbs computer magazine after the 2009 European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group conference in Paris. It had been very hot, and yet some of the people at the conference didn't like me wearing shorts, because it didn't convey a professional image. In  "Dress Code", I was commenting on ergonomics versus business.

And I was also writing about an earlier EuSpRIG conference, the 2002 one in Cardiff. Now, the first modern spreadsheet was created in 1979. Since then, technology has made spreadsheets look much nicer, but it is still hard to build reliable software with them. As you can tell from this blog and my Indiegogo campaign, that's one of my research interests, and it's also the problem that EuSpRIG was founded to attack.

So in the 2002 conference, to emphasise how bad spreadsheets still are, I wandered around Cardiff's arcades until I found a retro clothing shop, bought a pair of extremely flared 1970s bellbottoms, and with marker pens and fluorescent yellow card given me by the shop's owner, made a lapel badge reading Spreadsheets have not evolved since flares were last in fashion. The "last" was hastily inserted when I looked around and realised that flares were now in fashion for the second time.

I wore this badge to the rest of the conference. And I could still wear it today, because although Microsoft have made Excel bigger, they still haven't equipped it with the features that programmers of other languages expect to use for building reliable programs.

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