HN Gopher Feed (2017-11-30) - page 1 of 10
Finance Pros Say You'll Have to Pry Excel Out of Their Cold, Dead
66 points by tripleehttps://www.wsj.com/articles/finance-pros-say-youll-have-to-pry-...
natural219 - 14 minutes ago
Wasn't http://witheve.com/ supposed to solve this? I love Chris
Granger and his team, but at this point he seems inclined to pivot
ideas every 2-3 years, instead of following through with an
industry-workable solution to some of these programming
j_s - 13 minutes ago
One interesting aspect of Excel is how a sheet can be shared in a
way that a compiled executable can not.Even with all the various
viruses floating around, opening a spreadsheet is a common and
allowed task as opposed to downloading, installing, and running
saagarjha - 9 minutes ago
Well, Excel is interpreted, so a better comparison would be made
against interpreted languages?
djtriptych - 8 minutes ago
Watch some youtube vids of Excel pros moving around the UI quickly.
There's no other UI I can think of where so much is being done so
quickly except maybe a bash pro.America's favorite villain Martin
Shkreli was pretty amazing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFSf5YhY
osullivj - 1 hours ago
Yes - Excel is deeply embedded in actuarial modelling.
triplee - 1 hours ago
Modeling yes, which makes sense given that it's a tabular math
tool.Using it to handle all the pricing structure for a few
thousand clients on the other hand is another issue by having
underwriters plug in values that they got from an online
application, though, not so much.
firefoxd - 6 minutes ago
Excel is sort of like PHP. The people who want it dead are very
vocal. But those who use it, use it to get the job done.
siruncledrew - 1 hours ago
Aside from macros, keyboard shortcuts, and .xlsx files, why else
would someone be compelled to stick with Excel?Seems like the rest
of the tabular data stuff could be done in Google Sheets or some
other product and yield the same results.
En_gr_Student - 21 minutes ago
It is called "technical debt" and "organizational momentum".
What do you do to stop a few million person-years of investment
in a toolset without loss of value? ... usually, nothing much.
This is one reason that new OS and new Office versions also raise
substantial ire in those same folks.There are semiconductor fabs
running most of their machinery on Windows XP for the foreseeable
noobhacker - 47 minutes ago
People are wedded to Excel because they've spent a lot of time
learning it and don't want their skills to become obsolete.The
resistance is rooted in psychological / political reasons, not
sevensor - 21 minutes ago
I disagree. For users who aren't going to make the leap to
"real" programming, spreadsheets are a huge boon. Excel is the
only thing many domain experts can use to turn their knowledge
into a computational model. Sure, there are tons of problems
compared to models implemented in general-purpose programming
languages, and we love to complain about the atrocities
committed in Excel, but nobody's yet managed to devise an
alternative with the same low barrier to entry.
itomato - 2 minutes ago
Spreadsheets are a huge risk to everyone, especially those
who haven't made the leap to "real" programming.Excel, 1-2-3,
Visicalc are, taxonomically speaking, in the same class.We
have a new order of tools. While they have their own inherent
risks, they reflect literally decades of thinking about the
risks and limitations of tools whose lineage traces back to
Visicalc.Macro management and security, versioning,
distributed access, multidimensionality; all are addressed in
a handful of ways with Alpha, Tableau, Looker and other
progressive tools.Excel, floppies, line printers; relics.
kinkrtyavimoodh - 18 minutes ago
Have you ever been a power user of Microsoft Excel? And then
tried to replicate that functionality in Google Sheets?Or is
your aversion mostly to the M- word?I find it funny that when
it comes to vi vs emacs (or any such similarly geek-approved
thing), fans of each will jump up in arms about the precise
reason their platform is better, but the same kind of people
would not want to take hundreds of thousands of business
professionals at their word about why they like using a
particular piece of software.
michaelmrose - 11 minutes ago
Probably because the geeks can consider the virtues of making
a spreadsheet vs an application while the office workers are
incapable of understanding more than half the equation.Also
office workers can't always be trusted to even plug things in
let alone properly assess what an optimal solution looks
throwaway2048 - 32 minutes ago
Google sheets has a vastly inferior performance and feature
set, trying to chalk that up as "psychological / political
reasons" is pure spin.
kgwgk - 15 minutes ago
VBA, forms, integration with data sources..."All right, but apart
from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order,
irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what
have the Romans ever done for us?"
JumpCrisscross - 44 minutes ago
> Aside from macros, keyboard shortcuts, and .xlsx filesThose
things. I literally run and pay for Parallels on my Mac for the
Windows version of Excel. (Mostly for the keyboard shortcuts.)
allenz - 11 minutes ago
The main reason is that Excel has features for professionals, but
another reason is that some companies don't want Google to have
access to their data.
TimPC - 40 minutes ago
That's a pretty big aside. Like big enough to be a valid reason
in and of itself. The other part is performance and interface lag
which still tends to be an issue on any reasonable amount of
DanBC - 9 minutes ago
I love other spreadsheets. I use a few of them. My first was
Lotus 123.But Excel is used because it's very very good. Many of
the people use it need this one small weird thing, and Excel has
it and none of the others do yet. And that one small weird thing
is different for everyone.It's a bit scary to see how much stuff
is kept going with scary hairballs of VBA and macros and god-
knows-what.The EUSPRIG has more information. For example, this
about spreadsheets in clinical medicine:
berberous - 39 minutes ago
Why use VIM, emacs or Sublime Text, when some online cloud coding
platform can probably do the same thing?In addition to the things
you mentioned, Excel is an offline, native app, with much more
speed and efficiency when dealing with complex or large
rb808 - 38 minutes ago
Excel is a proper gui, Sheets is remarkable achievement in
editing a few cells in Google Sheets is fiddly.
therealidiot - 1 hours ago
Google Sheets kinda sucks performance-wise though
triplee - 1 hours ago
It's on everyone's computer in the office, and doesn't require
internet or training outside of your non-tech specialty.Also,
there's a TON of .xlsx files in the wild with years of business
knowledge and processing. Everyone uses about the same 50% or so
of Excel, which is captured in Google Sheets and any other
spreadsheet. It's the extra 20% that everyone else uses -- and
it's a different 20% for everyone -- that causes the issue of
throwaway613834 - 3 minutes ago
How do finance folks deal with decimals? Doesn't Excel use binary?
Do they switch to integer?
frgtpsswrdlame - moments ago
What? Excel handles decimals just fine.
bitL - 1 minutes ago
With arrogance to irrelevance!
a_imho - moments ago
Well, if they don't want to get on with the times and really insist
(figuratively)Web link does not work, and clicking 'subscribe'
greets me with Error code: ssl_error_no_cypher_overlap
rabboRubble - 29 minutes ago
The issue in finance is the speed of change in demands. No
formalized system platform with proper change control can keep up.
The ability to play with data, the ability to break your work is
valuable in end user computing and the type of thing that is hard
to recreate a formal financial system that must pass internal and
rapht - 11 minutes ago
This - exactly
justboxing - 28 minutes ago
One huge reason why Finance pros in general, and Fund Managers,
Brokers, Traders in particular, love Microsoft Excel is because all
your formulas and calculations update almost instantly (unless you
explicitly disable this feature).So they can apply their business
and process knowledge to create tables and formulas, pull data from
various sources, and create something that is self-contained,
stored locally (inside the lan, security reasons) and is blazing
fast.I've seen very sophisticated OMSs (Order Management Systems)
built completely using excel workbooks, with 1 sheet containing
orders and formula's to pull realtime pricing from bloomberg,
reuters, another sheet for pre-trade analysis, another for the
actual trades, and a summary sheet with pivot tables and charts to
show the trade progress and summary.As and when the last_price
changes, the formulas update, so the trader is looking at a real-
time view of his situation.The same excel workbook that let's the
traders do their job would take months / years to convert to a web
app, and even then, the speed may not match up.
alecco - 16 minutes ago
> The same excel workbook that let's the traders do their job
would take months / years to convert to a web app, and even then,
the speed may not match up.Sorry but I have to call nonsense on
that part. I've seen recently a whole trading operation converted
to a system very close to a web app within 6 months. The hard
part of the job was untangling the mess they created. And
knowledgeable quants who actually program told us it's
typical.The financial pros have horrible, horrible stuff in their
spreadsheets. They are used to it and they want (perhaps
unconsciously) to keep their dirty hacks out of sight. Lest they
fall from heaven.
EpicEng - 14 minutes ago
Except excel is a generic solution. If you have to build a
specific solution for each process your costs skyrocket and
people lose the ability to quickly implement something on their
own. Everything takes forever to get done because you're
constantly haggling with development and writing requirements
instead of just opening excel and getting work done.
osrec - 12 minutes ago
Not really. In the long term, reg fines and dev costs balance
philipov - 6 minutes ago
osrec - 13 minutes ago
As someone who works with these guys daily, you're 100%
correct! The only thing that makes them change is new
regulations telling them they have to.
bischofs - 6 minutes ago
I work with engineers (mostly mechanical) who are in the same
boat. We built a quick python app to do in ~30 seconds what
their excel/VBA shit fest did in 45 minutes.Excel and the like
are better than nothing and for most non programmer numbers
people probably fine - but if you need some real heavy lifting
I would bring in the bug guns.
trakter - moments ago
I like that -- Programming should be called a bug gun more
often. How can we get more bugs in here, lets bring out the
cloakandswagger - 1 minutes ago
And now that it's a proper application they have to worry about
authentication, down time, security, documentation,
maintenance, and the customization and changes they could once
do in an instant now requires filing a feature request, waiting
for it to be implemented and deployed...Even as a software
developer I will freely admit that Excel is the right tool for
many jobs. We shouldn't be so eager to transform workbooks into
formal apps unless there is a really good reason to.
sgt101 - 10 minutes ago
Errm, I've seen spreadsheets that take an hour to open and
"overnight" to update.
threatofrain - 6 minutes ago
What I don't understand is when shops start stressing the
scalability of Excel, such as accountancy shops that share their
spreadsheets around through primitive systems of locking (even
some of the big 10 accountancies do this), why they never
considered anything like Access.The jump is straight from Excel
to full-on DB backend, with no transition in the middle.
turc1656 - 4 minutes ago
Yes. I use Excel every day and while there are some serious cons
(like a large data sets eating up tons of memory, crashing as a
result, etc.) it is still an extraordinarily powerful tool. It
is also extremely intuitive for the basic user and insanely
powerful for the super user who really knows how to take
advantage of the more advanced features. And with VBA
integrated, it gets even more powerful.I've seen some pretty
amazing sheets/templates put together in a few days that would
take programmers weeks or months to put together. And since you
don't have to know how to program at all to use it, it's easy to
see why it remains around.
toomuchtodo - 25 minutes ago
Someone on HN said this once, and I found it profound and have
stolen it:Excel is the most powerful REPL in the finance
industry, and it's ubiquitous.
sheetjs - 21 minutes ago
> Spreadsheets are the most intuitive programming environment
known to man.https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14039059
maxxxxx - 23 minutes ago
I can see this in my company. IT has for some reason decided to
put some data into Hadoop. Now the users need to write spec
documents for each little thing and every trivial report takes
months to get done. Before they had Excel and could create
whatever they needed in minutes. Us programmers don't always make
life easier for end users. Often we create a level of
adambard - 17 minutes ago
If you're putting Excel-sized data in Hadoop, something has
gone seriously wrong in your IT department's decision-making
process. It does make for a nice parable about the dangers of
maxxxxx - 11 minutes ago
Yep. this is going on everywhere. How many solid but boring
Java applications have been replaced by a microservice,
cloud, NoSQL, NoieJS monster?
jordanb - 8 minutes ago
Not really. They could be trying to build a company-wide data
lake. Some files in the lake will be very small, others will
be very large. Because it's in HDFS it won't matter if the
very small ones suddenly become very large.End users groan
because people groan every time anything changes and they
have to learn something new.
ghostly_s - 4 minutes ago
If users were previously empowered to do a task themselves,
and now need to request another team do that task on their
behalf, that's a very valid reason to be groaning IMO.
sokoloff - 5 minutes ago
RDD - "R?sum? Driven Development"
sgt101 - 3 minutes ago
Well, if you are taking many hours to process said data on a
single processor machine (say eight cores) then throwing it
into an environment where you can crunch it with many cores
(say 1440) then this does make some kind of sense. Also
putting the data into a secured multi user environment with
redundancy and also business continuity.as opposed to fecking
michaelmrose - 15 minutes ago
Anything that can be done in minutes with Excel could be done
in relatively short order via an actual programming language.
cafard - 14 minutes ago
By accountants and financial analysts?
maxxxxx - 13 minutes ago
With Excel any reasonably capable business analyst can do
sophisticated calculations quickly without needing anything
else. With a web app, SQL database and whatever the ramp up
cost is huge in comparison.
michaelmrose - 8 minutes ago
The ramp up cost isn't months vs minutes. That is just pure
barrkel - 9 minutes ago
Adding a new screen to capture information? With a nice graph
to display for output? Does it conform to your UI style
guide? Does it have passing unit tests? Is it integration
tested? Is it code reviewed? Any migrations necessary? Any
business continuity ramifications? Etc.Engineering has
overhead otherwise it's just a bunch of cowboys that are no
better than Excel hackers - and probably worse, because they
have a lot more rope to hang themselves.
seanmcdirmid - 9 minutes ago
Erm, they would also need a programmer at that point. More to
the point, excel is more of a thinking tool that allows for
lots of tinkering with real time feedback. Programming
languages require lots of thinking up front and are not meant
for thinking without significant augmentation (REPL, Jypiter
michaelmrose - 6 minutes ago
Excel is a garbage environment and its pretty trivial to
find environments that provide both a capable environment
AND immediate feedback.
watwut - 7 minutes ago
It might take a time till coder has time for it. And coder
may misunderstand requirements and needs time to get them.