Blog Archives

Complex for whom?

From Out of the Tar Pit: … the type of complexity we are discussing in this paper is that which makes large systems hard to understand. It is this that causes us to expend huge resources in creating and maintaining

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Simplicity is hard to sell

People say they want simple things, but they don’t. Not always. Donald Norman argues in Living with Complexity that people really want things that are easy to use, not things that are simple. They want things that are familiar, even

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Simple versus easy

Rich Hickey argued in a recent talk that simplicity is objective but easiness is subjective. Something is simple if it is singular: it does one thing, it is made of one thing, etc. Something is easy if it is close

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How has math changed your view of the world?

Several people have asked me whether studying math changed my view of the world, and if so how. I see applications of math everywhere. But more fundamentally, studying math has led me to believe that complex problems often have simple

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Third-system effect

The third-system effect describes a simple system rising like a phoenix out of the ashes of a system that collapsed under its own complexity. A notorious ‘second-system effect’ often afflicts the successors of small experimental prototypes. The urge to add

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Posted in Creativity, Software development

Forced to be simple

From Paul Graham: When you’re forced to be simple, you’re forced to face the real problem. When you can’t deliver ornament, you have to deliver substance. Related posts: Confusing familiar with simple Rewarding complexity A little simplicity goes a long

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Demand for simplicity?

From Donald Norman’s latest book Living with Complexity: … the so-called demand for simplicity is a myth whose time has passed, if it ever existed. Make it simple and people won’t buy. Given a choice, they will take the item

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A dozen posts on simplicity and complexity

Here are a dozen previous posts on simplicity and complexity. Obscuring complexity Three quotes on simplicity Complexity and unity A little simplicity goes a long way Simple legacy Simplicity in old age Software that gets used Conservation of complexity Confusing

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Is helpful software really helpful?

In his new book The Shallows, Nicholas Carr relates an experiment by Christof van Nimwegen on computer-human interaction. Users were asked to solve a puzzle using software. Some users were given software designed to be very helpful, highlighting permissible moves

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Posted in Software development

Defining minimalism

I stirred up some controversy yesterday with an article critical of extreme minimalism. Some people took my article as an attack on minimalism in general. I wanted to clarify a few thoughts on minimalism. I’m attracted to the general idea

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Stupidity scales

I’m fed up with conversations that end something like this. Yes, that would be the smart thing to do, but it won’t scale. The stupid approach is better because it scales. We can’t use common sense because it doesn’t fit

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Rewarding complexity

Clay Shirky wrote an insightful article recently entitled The Collapse of Complex Business Models. The last line of the article contains the observation … when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work

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Confusing familiar with simple

Is Spanish simpler than Chinese? Most English speakers would think so, though that may not be true. Spanish is more familiar than Chinese if you’re an English speaker, but that does not mean the language is objectively simpler. In fact,

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A dozen posts on simplicity

Here are a dozen posts I’ve written about simplicity. Adding simplicity Simplicity in old age Three quotes on simplicity Simple legacy Software that gets used Conservation of complexity Perlis on complexity Abstractions are never perfect Conflicting ideas of simplicity Manual

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Four mechanical devices better than their newer counterparts

Here are four mechanical devices I prefer to their modern counterparts. French press. It makes better coffee than a typical coffee machine. Also, a French press work without electricity. Next time a hurricane comes through Houston and knocks out our

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