Les ordinateurs ne marchent pas

The computers aren’t working. This is a recurring theme at the bank, where our account is not fully open after more than 5 weeks. We also see reboots of the Metro once in a while (every few weeks).

One of the things that amazed me when we first arrived was that it seems like there’s an app for everything; every mall has an app so you can see events and sales and a map of the mall. The city of Lyon has an app that covers events, holidays, and parks, and has an alarm feature that will wake you up with a list of cool things that are happening today. TCL, the operator of the rail and bus system in this region has an app that is really useful. The app for our bank is really fantastic; Simple isn’t really needed here. It seems like everyone has a smartphone app, and they’re usually well-crafted and generally worth installing.

However, things break.

Real-time things are the most noticeable, like banking and trains. We don’t think about it in the US, but our banking system is intentionally not real-time (for consumers, anyway), so we don’t notice small outages and the banks rarely allow small outages to to become large enough to be noticed. The majority of Americans don’t ride trains, and when we do they are not likely to be dependent on computer systems minute to minute, like the European city rail systems.

We might think that more automation would be better, because automation is efficient. We conveniently ignore the fact that efficiency is usually brittle. It’s impossible to ignore that detail here in France.