Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Complicators

I was under the impression that computing was meant to make our life easier, but it seems there's a bunch of people out there who want to make my life more difficult through poorly thought out APIs or badly designed user interfaces. I call them the complicators.

There are three types of complicators.

Dumb Complicators - These are the developers who aren't really too hot at programming. They copy and paste and generally fumble around in the dark until they have a solution that seems to work, then quickly move onto the next problem, not thinking too much about how the UI or API they've just produced will be used in the outside world. This may be down to inexperience, the need to get something out there ASAP or just a lack of interest in producing quality software.

Evil Complicators - The second group of complicators are a cynical bunch who complicate things to make themselves indispensable to their company. Depending on how cynical I'm feeling, I may confuse either of the other two groups as being members of this lot. 

Clever Complicators - The third group are generally incredibly intelligent but have no way of empathising with the poor people who are going to have to use their software. They understand the complexity and can't understand why anybody else wouldn't be able to. I worked with a very clever guy whose API consisted of a programming language using XML to build the function calls, parameters and the graph used to join all these bits together. Yes, he was a big fan of XSLT. Yes, what he produced was incredibly powerful and clever. Actually trying to use his API from another programming language was an absolute nightmare. On the other hand, I worked with another very bright chap whose API was also based on XML. The difference being that his API simply described data and a few parameters. The actual implementation details of how it all worked under the hood was completely hidden from the API, except where necessary. The wonderful thing about that API was that the simplicity of it made me look good, since I was able to write my code on top of it in super quick time.

This third group of complicators interest me. It seems like there are plenty of clever people in the IT industry but a very select few who can actually take complicated problems and abstract them into something simple for the rest of us to understand. And doing that is the only thing that can drive technology forward. As Einstein said "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like your blog, but I think that this subject is the most interesting of your last posts (for me). Bye, Lucy Relatos.