Tuesday 15 June 2021

The parable of the silent electric milkfloat.

I work in software, and one of the things that I designed and wrote gets a lot of fault reports and feature requests. It's too slow, it doesn't do what we want, it set the database on fire, these results don't make any sense, etc. I won't bore you with the details of the software, instead imagine that I had designed a vehicle. I designed a very specialised vehicle that was quiet enough not to wake people up when it drove past their houses in the night, that ran on electricity, and that could carry a good number of milk bottles.

The problem with my creation was that it started getting used. It was easy to understand, it shipped as standard with our product offering and my friend did an excellent job on the manual. All the fault reports I get involve people using it for things that I never foresaw or intended. There are silent-electric-milkfloat race series, silent-electric-milkfloat taxi services, fleets of them getting used for heavy haulage, people commute in them, people are building cranes and ambulances out of them.

I'm sure there's a profound lesson about specialisation, generalisation and availability here, but I haven't quite learned it yet.

Richard "There's nothing like the right tool for the job" B

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