Increasing Complexity Over Time

In Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard mentions:

Only things which are poorly known become more complex the longer one works upon them.

Have you ever seen that happen with a software project? It just becomes more complex, and more complex, and more complex, and eventually it’s just a huge mass of complexity that nobody can maintain anymore?

I think it might be interesting to think about that in the context of the above quote. Perhaps there’s actually something more that could be known about the system. Maybe your users don’t actually need or want all those features. Maybe there’s more research that could be done on different areas of the system. Anything, really–just know more about it. Maybe there’s even some fundamental missing data about life or programming that’s hampering the project.

Whatever it is, I think it’s pretty interesting to think that knowledge could defeat complexity!

-Max

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2 Comments on “Increasing Complexity Over Time”

  1. Grahame says:

    That quote is so right. Last year I took over the development of a system that has been “evolving” over a ten year period. You look at the code and your head spins! It is so darn complex. Then you talk to the people in the company who set the requirements and you see why. They don’t really know what they want.

    The way the application “evolved” was: they came up with a “requirement” but it wasn’t quite right or not fully defined, so once it was built it had to have changes made. The earlier programmers were not very skilled themselves (the tools and language they used were “poorly known” to them) so they didn’t code in a way that was easy to refactor or modify. The result is that today we have a monster.

    And now I have the joy of gradually upgrading this monstrosity bit-by-bit because they can’t afford a complete re-write. Oh well, I guess it keeps me on my toe trying to figure out how to turn the Bride of Frankenstein into a beauty queen 🙂

    • Max Kanat-Alexander says:

      Hahahaha. Wow, that is so interesting! Yeah, sometimes I think that us people who understand these things are constantly being put into that sort of position, where we have to use our knowledge to fix the complexities of people who didn’t know! 🙂 I’ve been doing that with Bugzilla for about three years now. It finally does all come out the other end being a beauty queen who can sing and dance and do backflips, but it really does take some work that all could have been avoided in the first place if the original authors just fully understood what they were doing and stuck to their guns on having actual good requirements!

      -Max


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