Sorry, swine farmers, you have arrived at an un-helpful site. I hope my use of the term “swine” won’t be construed as a communistic attempt to disrupt the livestock industry, and that my asking that question won’t serve as proof that I did it deliberately.

Where were we?

Oh yes.

SWINE. In the late 1990’s I worked for a technology firm called Moore Data Management Services (MDMS) in Minneapolis. In those go-go years, when people were suddenly getting rich selling software, MDMS decided that they should get rich, too, and they bought an “up and coming” software company based in Chicago named “On-Line Software” (believe it or not). In his book Real Estate Confronts the E-Consumer¬†author¬†Stefan Swanepoe describes the products made by On-Line Software. You can find the book in Google Books and it provides a mind-blowing description of the products offered by these guys.

It’s mind-blowing because, if you sit down and think about it, they almost had the market cornered on software for real estate offices and agents. Let me say that again–they were, by far, the mostly firmly established software company in the business of making products for real estate brokers, agents, and real estate offices. They had exclusive contracts to provide sofware to REMAX, Century 21, and Real Estate Executives.

They were also a breath-takingly mismanaged, two-bit operation. A disaster going somewhere to happen. Real estate people all over the world depended on them, and they consisted of a few programmers, a handful of “tech support” people (like me) and not much else. They badly needed to grow their operation into a larger, stronger, healthier company but they did not do this. Instead, they let MDMS buy them out, with the promise that “key personnel” would stick around to manage the “transition.”

This served to set up the gradual and painful death of the company. In two years, On-Line Software became sicker and sicker as nobody at MDMS understood software (it was a printing company, they printed the real estate Multiple Listing Service books) and none of the people who ran On-Line Software cared what happened.

I had a job for two years where I listened to customers telling me how much they liked and needed the product, and how willing they were to spend THOUSANDS of dollars to get an improved version, to attend classes, to make the program (which DID work–by the way) work better. I heard about the bugs, the training difficulties, the terrible struggle to use something so “high tech” in a world where a personal computer was still considered a luxury.

Did my employer step up to the plate and hit it out of the park? Did they invest the time and money needed to make it into the very successful product it surely should have been?

Hell no. They behaved like swine. They wrecked the product, destroyed any trust the customers had in them and created such havoc that MDMS (wisely) sold the disaster to an outfit called VistaInfo. I do believe that VistaInfo was bought up by a stronger rival and the whole thing–all of it–ended up in dumpster.

Attending this disaster, like a firefighter watching the Cutty Sark burn, was a life-altering event. A group of dim-witted charlatans in snazzy outfits pretended to “manage” the company during the two years that I tried to work for them. It was a mess. It forever altered my perception of people and society in general.

How? Why? How could ordinary people become such concentration camp guards and do such horrible work, all the while mouthing platitudes about “performance” and “quality?”

How?

Maybe you can tell me. Right now, I’m thinking about a company called Under Armor, Inc. I’m thinking about my guru Shamus Young and his on-going recollections of terrible nonsense in the software business. I am also thinking of Michael O. Church, who has been treated horribly by software “barons” who are, apparently, swine.

I have known people who were nerdy enough to build software, and smart enough to build software companies, but I never saw in them the seeds of swinish behavior, but I now believe it is there.

About all I can say is that we, as a species, had better figure out why intelligent, sensitive, capable people turn into swine or we’re doomed as doomed can be.

 

 

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