Friday, 1 July 2011

The Battle {For | Against} Complexity

Rod Johnson:

"I probably shouldn’t say this in a Java community website, but I think that the Java community has almost a pathological desire for complexity at times."

Testify, brother! Although I must add that I suspect this is not exclusively a Java-specific syndrome.


I think it's more to do with the average experience level of developers on a given platform. I would expect the typical Rails developer to be more experienced than a Java dev (I have nothing to back this up, but a cursory inspection of the type of questions being asked on Stack Overflow would tend to confirm this). I have observed a distinct correlation between development experience and desire for over-engineered, complex solutions; it looks like this (pardon my ASCII):


D(comp)
|
|               C C C
|             C C C C
|           C C C C C C
|         C C C C C C C C
|       C C C C C C C C C C 
|     C C C C C C C C C C C C
|   C C C C C C C C C C C C C C 
| C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C C
|------------------------------------------- Exp
0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10            

The initial "I'm so green" fear of complicated stuff quite quickly is replaced by a desire to flex one's "architect" muscles, typically culminating in an extravaganza of ornate (often distributed) designs at the 4-5 year mark. Shortly afterwards, the folly of one's ways is realised. Ornate designs require ornate maintenance, and that doesn't go down too well with anyone, least of all the prima-donna who came up with the design and now is saddled with babysitting it. The enthusiasm for system diagrams with many, many boxes quickly subsides. A pragmatic programmer emerges at the 8-year mark. DRY, YAGNI and anti-NIH are the order of the day.


And that seems to be the difference between the Typical Java Dev, who is probably sitting on top of the above mountain, and the grizzled Typical Rails Dev, who has scaled it and is coasting down the other side :-)

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