Coding matters: Between outdated and bleeding edge

Photo of an outdated laptop computer

The fashion industry isn't the only industry where it is hard to keep up with trends. Sometimes technology leaves us confused: stuck somewhere between outdated and bleeding edge. Is this new tech just another bright shiny object? Or are we already late to the party?

The bleeding edge

The Miriam-Webster dictionary describes “bleeding edge” as “the newest and most advanced part or position especially in technology : the extreme cutting edge”. Wiktionary suggests it comes from the concept of a double-edged sword.

New technology is always a double-edged sword. There will be less help and fewer tools. More bugs and fewer search results for your problem. And you never know if it is going to stay around long enough to justify your investment.

Using bleeding edge technology means that you are going to bleed - blood, sweat and tears. That was my personal experience on a long-ago project.

The tech on everybody's mind right now is AI. I've lost track of the number of emails in my inbox about ways to use ChatGPT and the like.

Good is better than shiny

Big companies are slow to move to new technology. That's understandable. If it isn't broken, don't break it. But that doesn't mean that systems should be outdated and unfriendly. We want robust systems, happy users, and some code refactoring along the way.

Naturally, the SA government has made speeches and reports on the topic of AI. (Most of us are sceptical, especially when the power is out for 8 hours a day.) But what annoys me is how outdated so many government systems are.

Outdated and flawed

I've tried not to complain about government systems for a while. But April and May are bad months for this, and my patience has run out. Here are examples from the last few weeks:

Compensation Fund

I had to submit our annual return for the Compensation Fund. It's a legal requirement, and someone might drop a monitor on their toes. The website at still refers to IE6. I have no words for this.

CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission)

This is another required annual annoyance. In the past 8 years, I've only once succeeded on my first try. I have plenty of words for this, all of them unprintable.

The irritations of the past years are still there. But this year it rejects an ID number as invalid, even though it's the same ID that the system retrieved from its database. I logged a ticket. The call centre closed it because I described the error but didn't attach a screen shot.


Last year I found the solution to my usual annual e@syfile problem. I spin up a clean Windows Sandbox with nothing else installed. But I had to call the contact centre for a different problem. The recorded message still refers to us being in Covid lockdown.

Government systems should be better

I believe government systems have an obligation to be better, not worse, than commercial systems. If I don't like your app, I can try some other app. But if I struggle with a government system, I have no alternatives. This is why other countries have made accessibility a legal requirement for government systems.

I don't care about the government's policy on AI and 4IR. I just want to be able to submit the forms. It shouldn't be this difficult.

What do you think?

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