Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"In my second professional programming job, I had a really interesting boss. When we had a design meeting, we would all sit around a whiteboard, and as Roger (my boss) threw out things we needed to accomplish, the other programmers and I would propose solutions, and Roger would say, 'Really? What if you just did X?', where X was some absurdly, ridiculously, jaw-droppingly simple thing.

Of course, X wouldn't always work; oftentimes one of us would find a hole in his idea. We'd all then try to fix the hole, but at some point the idea started to become too complicated for Roger's taste. 'How about Y?' Still ridiculously simple, and tantalizingly close to working.

Oftentimes, he 'cheated', by redefining the problem itself to make it a simpler problem to solve, or forcing the problem to fit some existing available solution. We would continue in this vein until the solution was so simple it hardly seemed like any work to actually implement, or it became absolutely clear that the problem would not yield to simplicity. In which case we simply packed it in for the day on trying to solve that problem, and we'd hit it again on another day."
The article continues, wonderfully, in this vein. I don't know that I'm as good as his boss, but I certainly recognize myself. Its reassuring to find there are others out there ...

Roger, by the way, was not a programmer by trade. He was a teacher, mostly of learning disabled children.