The Cost of Complexity

In reading this very nice post from Manoel Pimentel Medeiros, I am reminded of another value I ascribe to simplicity — “quick-and-dirty” can be a valuable technique.

Many times, when faced with some very complex issues in my projects (usually surrounding integration with bizarro other systems), I strive to have developers take a very simple approach at first. Sometimes these approaches seem like hacks, inelegant, and the exact opposite of what I normally practice. Sometimes I can tell it is hard for the developers to do this “ugly” work. (Maybe they fear I will leave the ugly hack in place .)

However, this is a technique I use when the route is not clear, or when there are viable alternatives from which to choose. Or if we are probing for the right solution and are not confident if the chosen solution will work. So, instead of designing a more complex and elegant “correct” solution, I do the simplest thing. Maybe it means dummying up the data to achieve the effect. Maybe dummying up some objects. Hard coding. Passing in a fixed XML file to test the new format versus changing the code to generate it that way.

By choosing a simple solution *now*, the value is that we can get to evaluating the results and downstream impact of our ideas sooner rather than later. Once we determine that our solution will work, then we go about implementing it correctly. At times, though, we discover that the idea didn’t work as expected. So off we go to look for another solution.

So, simplicity can also be very useful when trying to quickly and cheaply determine the best course of action in creating a viable solution to some aspect of a problem you face.

2 thoughts on “The Cost of Complexity”

  1. Jon:

    The things that you mentioned are what led to my entry into code generation and generative software development. I was Getting to know what doesn’t work, or determining the best of several alternative approaches, can be extremely beneficial when working with complex applications or in complex environments.

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