What Monty Python Taught Me About the Software Industry

A great blog post by David “Lefty” Schlesinger on what Monty Python can teach us about the software industry.

If you’re not in this industry, you might not get it all… but he nails it pretty well. The part that really struck a chord with me is Mr. Creosote:

“More” is Not the Same As “Better:” For years, the mobile phone industry — as typified by OEMs like Nokia and Motorola — marched along to the beat of the carriers’ collective “standards and requirements,” which essentially amounted to an extremely lengthy checklist of mostly extreme minor features, quibbles, and quid pro quos. In the case of one major carrier, the requirements specifications stretched to some 1,800 pages.

Apple turned that all upside down with its introduction of the iPhone, which failed to implement even such commonplace features as MMS messaging. Predictions of imminent doom for the device and for AT&T (the carrier foolish enough to go for an unproven phone from an inexperienced manufacturer) were rife (and I admit to being among the misguided doomsayers, initially).

It turned out that consumers didn’t care about the carriers’ checklists, and they pretty much didn’t care about niceties like MMS messaging, either. What they did care about was nice design and thoughtfully constructed — both surprising and consistent — user experience.

Adding features aimlessly guarantees that none of those features will be thoughtfully implemented; it reduces the likelihood that any of them are well-integrated. Worse, just-one-more-feature considerably increases the chances of the unexpected happening to your project (see point 1).

Product marketers love to try to squeeze just one more tiny feature — really, it’s wafer thin! — into everything they work on. It’s a bad idea.

Emphasis added… because I’ve dealt with this for so long.

Writing good software is a craft, which most people don’t get. It’s hard to do, it takes time. It takes iterations, revisions, even throwing everything out and starting over. We can add 1800 pages worth of features if you really want it, but the old saying stands: good, fast, or cheap — pick 2. Unfortunately they usually want it fast and cheap… with more features, and oh, can you just add this?

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