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Don't Be Clever

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I was recently watching a talk by Dan North. At one point he briefly talks about a project he worked on. For this project, the Ant build script was generated with an XSLT transform, producing a build script about 2 million lines long. Even though that is clearly horrible, my first fleeting thought was, Huh, I would have never thought to do that. That's pretty clever..


Dan North's Simplicity, the Way of the Unusual Architect, at the time of the story

That's pretty clever, is absolutely the wrong thought to have. I cannot fathom the monumental, wasted effort maintaining such a system. But I am also sure it started as someone's clever idea. There would be plenty out there who would say, Well, that project went wrong, but the idea itself isn't bad. It's pretty darn clever, really.

"Cleverness" like that always seems promising at first. It is a novel view of a problem at hand. Because clever ideas are novel in completely unexpected ways, they have unexpected…