Monday, August 31, 2009

Worse is better, Less is more

1.The Economist (When less is more 14.08.09) and Wired Magazine (The good enough revolution: when cheap and simple is just fine 24.08.09) have recent articles showing consumers preferring less to more - where less means less function and lower price, rather than high price and high quality.

Wired cites MP3, Skype, Google text ads and Flip handycams as examples.

The Economist cites the Eee PC, and Flip cam corder.

A Value interpretation: - do more for less $$: get 80% function at 20% price. New value dimensions offer new value elements, superseding old.
- Wikipedia: (new) 24/7 convenience, good enough > (old) big, leather, reliability
- iPhone apps: (new) small, cheap, portable, easy, good enough > heavy, big, feature laden laptops, desktops
Summary: Power, price, potential, convenience > size, weight, function, brand.

2.The Economist also cites a 1991 paper on Lisp programming which focuses on simplicity from the MIT/Stanford style of design: simplicity, correctness, consistency, completeness.

A great quote, which could have something to say about PhD complexity....

The big complex system scenario goes like this:

First, the right thing needs to be designed. Then its implementation needs to be designed. Finally it is implemented. Because it is the right thing, it has nearly 100% of desired functionality, and implementation simplicity was never a concern so it takes a long time to implement. It is large and complex. It requires complex tools to use properly. The last 20% takes 80% of the effort, and so the right thing takes a long time to get out, and it only runs satisfactorily on the most sophisticated hardware.

The diamond-like jewel scenario goes like this:

The right thing takes forever to design, but it is quite small at every point along the way. To implement it to run fast is either impossible or beyond the capabilities of most implementors.

The right thing is frequently a monolithic piece of software, but for no reason other than that the right thing is often designed monolithically. That is, this characteristic is a happenstance.

The lesson to be learned from this is that it is often undesirable to go for the right thing first. It is better to get half of the right thing available so that it spreads like a virus. Once people are hooked on it, take the time to improve it to 90% of the right thing.

Gabriel, R.P. 1991 Lisp: Good News, Bad News, How to Win Big,, viewed 01.09.09

Substitute PhD for software, and you have an indictment of the high quality, but very slow.... PhD process. ouch!


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