I didn’t have time to make a simple program, so I made a complicated one instead

I've always like the quote from Mark Twain "I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead". At first it didn't seem to make sense. Then I realised it's an observation that the better you understand something, the more succinctly you can express it. So unless you take the time to think about the contents before you write a letter it's liable to be a long meandering letter. It also implies that the short letter is superior to the long one. Except of course he said it much more concisely than I have.

This applies to software too, possibly even more so, there's a great article by Andriy Solovey applying it to software development. I believe it applies just as much to software's functionality.

I've spent years working on traditional Enterprise CRM & ERP packages, huge, immensely powerful software suites with a staggering range of functionality. But their very size and complexity is also their biggest hurdle to adoption in that they're difficult to implement and maintain, and their flexibility makes it hard to realise their potential benefits. This syndrome doesn't only apply to big business software, I've recently given rein to my inner geek and replaced my PVR, DVD, CD et al with an HTPC where I run some wonderful software called Media Portal to drive all my TV and audio. This should be digital nirvana, and to me it is as it keeps me entertained for hours. But this is because I'm busy tweaking it, installing plugins, and otherwise trying to get it to work as I think it should, and for some reason the rest of my family don't find this entertaining at all, they don't want all the bells and whistles they just want to watch the telly.

What's this got to do with Social CRM? Well I think it offers an interesting perspective when applied to sucessful social networking sites. The sucessful ones aren't normally the biggest most feature-rich web sites around, they're more focussed on doing a smaller number of things but doing them well. When they do seem to offer wide functionality it's normally though some form of add-in such as the plethora of facebook apps rather then core functionality (and it's interesting to see how facebook's recent redesign put the core social functions to the fore at the expense of those other apps). The most extreme example must be Twitter which does nothing more than allow users to post 140 character updates to anyone interested, yet seems to be taking over the world.

Socialising is part of our everyday existance. Social networking software needs to make it easier for us to do this if it's to have any value. Complex processes don't help this they hinder it. It's always tempting to add new functionality, and techies always like more options to play with. But with software, and perhaps especiallty with Web 2.0 software,we always need to keep focussed on making the core functionality just right. For me this means not being afraid to stop doing and spend more time thinking.

But this blog's probably far too long already, so there's just room to mention a delicious update to Mark Twain's message you can find at XKCD which says it better than I ever could - and with much fewer words ;)

Comments:

Your idea it’s written before Web 2.0 hype. Well done.

Posted by D.Mario sontar on December 17, 2009 at 06:41 PM PST #

I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short (Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte)~Blaise Pascal, Lettres Provinciales (1656-1657), no. 16. Mark Twain such a copy cat ;)

Posted by Tez on November 16, 2010 at 12:05 AM PST #

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