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Scalable Complexity vs Delivered Simplicity

June 22, 2012

A chat I was having with @lukescheybeler yesterday has been niggling away at me a bit.

I think we’re approaching the topic from different points of view (Mr S. being a designer, me being (mostly) a programmer and sysadmin).

However, it occurred to me that there’s something of a paralell between my point of view and my oft tweeted opinion on the Moleskine.  The Moleskine, as I’ve said ad nauseam, is a nice looking, premium priced product that works splendidly if all you want to do with it is write in ir with pencil or ballpoint[1], and you want the cachet of the brand.  There are other products that work as well for those media, but will also handle fountain pen ink &c, which Moleskine’s paper struggles with.

If you never use anything other than pencil and ballpoint in a Moleskine, and don’t mind the premium price, its a fine product. Is it objectively better than a similarly priced (or cheaper) product that can handle more?  

My problem with the article we were discussing was that it seemed to laud a system that could only offer simplicity.  That’s fine if that’s what you want (and evidently, a lot of people do want that, coupled with the cachet of the brand, of course).  My argument is that a system offering a scalable level of complexity (simple if you, or the manufacturer setting it up wants it to be, shading to greater degrees of complexity as you/they desire) is better, as it can satisfy more end users.  Is that the programmer in me favouring a technically more elegant/capable solution? Maybe.

[1] The Moleskine Sketchbook, and Watercolour book are different kettles of fish, using heavier paper that handles a wider range of media.  Again, cheaper options with as good/better paper are available.


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