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Prescriptions, Proscriptions, and Prognostications
Just good service (?)
by Matthew Wilson
February 23, 2009
A couple of plugs, with no ulterior motive, and a mildly philosophical musing.


In the face of globalisation, and the ubiquitous reduction of service standards to an almost imperceptible level, it's heartening when one happens across an exception to the rule. I've been fortunate to have two in recent weeks. Even nicer when you consider that they're two of the largest companies in their respective areas.

First, replaced a DVD box-set, wherein one of the discs had been transcribed with a duplicate, without any issue. The replacement arrived here (Australia) in less than a week, with the suggestion that we could either keep the original defective set, or give it to a suitable charity.

Second, one of my few remaining Windows workstations carked it recently, and Dell were here to effect the fix - a new power supply, as it happens - the next day.

Neither of these should be noteworthy in the slightest, but for the fact that almost all organisations one deals with these days - large software companies (with and without QWAN), telcos/ISPs, banks, insurance companies, regional/state/federal govt., etc. - tend to royally scr3w one seven ways from Sunday without the slightest compunction.

Well done Amazon and Dell!

(Before you ask: No, I'm not looking for a job, or any free products, from either of them. ;-)

You may be asking what this has to do with software engineering? Well, nothing really, other than that my company always tries to operate the same way, and it seems to have served us well so far. For sure, we're not world leaders in market share (or mindshare, for that matter) by any stretch of the imagination, but we have equally happy customers. Nonetheless, in these days of cost cutting, out-sourced code monkeying, and dropping quality standards, I often wonder whether the strategy of aiming to build software that does not break is the best way to secure revenue. I've never yet been tempted to do it otherwise, but I'm intrigued by the question nonetheless. Given the recent Joel Spolsky <-> Robert C. Martin fisticuffs, it seems like this is a question that has yet to find a definitive answer. What do you think?

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About the Blogger

Matthew Wilson is a software development consultant and creator of the FastFormat, Pantheios and STLSoft libraries. He is author of the books Imperfect C++ (Addison-Wesley, October 2004) and Extended STL, volume 1 (Addison-Wesley, 2007), and is currently working on his third, Breaking Up The Monolith: Advanced C++ Design Without Compromise. He has published over 60 articles on C++ and other topics, and has served as columnist and contributing editor for C/C++ Users Journal. Matthew believes that code should be discoverable and largely self-documenting, and lives up to that by being a hopeless documentor. He can be contacted via or

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2009 Matthew Wilson. All rights reserved.

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