Crapplications / Applications

by Brian Katz on November 29, 2011 · 8 comments

This is a post I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and that I am going to split in to two parts. I have so many conversations every day about applications and specifically mobile applications. I find that most people have a very difficult time defining what an application really is. So today’s post is going to discuss crapplications while tomorrow’s is going to focus on the App.

So let’s get right down to it. We are going to start with a term near and dear to my heart, which is crapplication. Although I’ve been using it for years, my good friend Christian Reilly claims to be the owner of said term. Rather than argue about it why don’t we define it. A crapplication is really just a term for a bloated desktop application. The term has been around for at least 10 years and I first used it to describe Microsoft Word. This wasn’t because I disliked Word, I have actually been using it for more than 20 years now, but realize that the origin of Word was on a 3 ½” floppy disk to be used with a Mac. I wrote my thesis using it a little more than 20 years ago and truth be told I use almost the exact same functions on it now that I did then. In reality I probably use less than 10% of the available features to manipulate data in Word and just Word itself wouldn’t even fit on my original 20MB hard drive for my Mac Plus. This makes the first part of the definition of a crapplication an application that is bloated with many useless features for the majority of users. Now before you get in a tizzy – that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few of you out there who need all those functions, but for most they are never touched.

What else makes an application a crapplication? How about it makes it difficult to figure out how to manipulate your data, whether it is a word processing document, an excel spreadsheet or a just the floor plan to your new house. How many times have you had a spreadsheet of numbers and just wanted to switch columns and rows, good luck figuring out how to do that quickly. Why do I need to use Visio to draw a diagram? Have you ever tried to put a simple diagram into Powerpoint? Let’s not just pick on Microsoft though. How many of you have an easy to use expense system? SAP certainly doesn’t get away scott free. We could look at Documentum or eRoom, how about SharePoint? Have you ever looked at all the functions within Google Docs? Imagine if these systems didn’t come with a help feature (not the Clippy was ever very helpful).

To be honest, most desktop applications really qualify as craplications. This becomes easily true once you get into the enterprise. What starts out as a great idea starts to exhibit scope creep and before you know it what you started with has no resemblance to what you finished with. You know you wanted to be able to manipulate a pivot table in word didn’t you?

Lest you think it is solely an enterprise phenomenon it happens all the time at home as well. I can’t tell you the number of times my mother-in-law, an amateur genealogist has complained when the latest version of her treasured family tree application has arrived. At one point she kept 3 different computers around just so she could use older versions of the application before it became a crapplication.

You say Po- Tay – Toe and I say Po – Tah – Toe, you say Application and I say Crapplication.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when we talk about Apps

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