Friday, January 14, 2005

Ward Cunningham on Simplicity

by Asim Jalis

Here is an excerpt from an interview of Ward Cunningham, on the nature of complexity and simplicity: I actually enjoy complexity that's empowering. If it challenges me, the complexity is very pleasant. But sometimes I must deal with complexity that's disempowering. The effort I invest to understand that complexity is tedious work. It doesn't add anything to my abilities. A friend of mine once said that there are problems and there are difficulties. A problem is something you savor. You say, "Well that's an interesting problem. Let me think about that problem a while." You enjoy thinking about it, because when you find the solution to the problem, it's enlightening. And then there are difficulties. Computers are famous for difficulties. A difficulty is just a blockage from progress. You have to try a lot of things. When you finally find what works, it doesn't tell you a thing. It won't be the same tomorrow. Getting the computer to work is so often dealing with difficulties. The complexity that we despise is the complexity that leads to difficulty. It isn't the complexity that raises problems. There is a lot of complexity in the world. The world is complex. That complexity is beautiful. I love trying to understand how things work. But that's because there's something to be learned from mastering that complexity. Martin Fowler alluded to this in his post about enabling versus directing attitudes.