Did Pythagoras Code Software?

by David Scott on January 21, 2013

Years ago, a man named Pythagoras discovered some amazing things about proving the congruency of triangles.  Obviously there were no good ball games on, so he set out to prove that two triangles were of equal size and shape.  Interesting theory, especially since laying them on top of each other might not work.  The end result is a formula that even I can use: a2 + b2 = c2 where if the triangle had a right angle (90°) and you made a square on each of the three sides, then the biggest square had the exact same area as the other two squares put together!  That is the Pythagorean theory.  My question is, once he was done with triangles, did he become a developer?

Thanks to Mrs. Boxwell’s Geometry class, I learned more than I needed to know about congruent triangles.  To this day, I always remember her little saying that you could prove congruent triangles using SAS (side-angle-side), or SSS (side-side-side), or AAS (angle-angle-side), but you could never use angle-side-side because there was no *SS in geometry.  How prophetic, especially since I have not used that ….well,  EVER!

My point is, I loved math, but basic math.  At some point, it just plain got too complex for me.  Somewhere I think these guys all turned into developers because the same thing happens with every application I seem to touch.  When simple is a fairly common denominator for the majority of the population, complex is where we tend to drive it.  Sooner or later, “too complex” means “bye bye”.  ERP has fought this label for years.  Now those of us in the ERP world can postulate for hours about the trade-off of collecting data and “single source of the truth”, and then spend equal time describing how easy it is to use.

Even Facebook is now joining the ranks of the Pythagorean development team.  The latest developments have pushed beyond my desire to comprehend.  When I first started with Facebook, it was fairly simple.  I like you and you like me.  The wow factor came from finding people I had not heard from in years.  From there, we share stuff.  I pontificate on the wisdom of life and share that with my friends – people who like me.  As I got savvy, I added pictures.  Well, it did not take long for permissions, and lists and groups, and more to add an infinite level of complexity.  Now we have “algorithms” being applied.  Why can’t I just tell my friends I voted?  Now I have to make sure they are on the right list, or being properly promoted?

We need a new theory that measures the point where something gets too complex and we just walk away.  It happens all the time, yet we don’t know what to call it.  Seriously, DVR?  Oh sure, I can record and play.  The remote control?  On and off, volume, and channel – they all work but please help me with the rest.  Home security from my smartphone?  Are you serious?  I can barely unlock the code from the kitchen.

For me, Facebook is teetering on the verge.  I just mastered sharing pictures of the kids with my mother.  Please don’t push me any further.  Don’t make me reset my permissions, and don’t add things without telling me.  Or worse yet, tell me knowing I have no idea what you are talking about, therefore I leave it alone which is exactly what you wanted.  And who translated me into a timeline?  Did I do that?

Turns out that I am not the only one who feels this way.  In a world where technology is supposed to make our lives easier, why do we continue to add features complexity to the point of no return?  In business class in college, I learned about the Peter Principle, which essentially states that over a course of time, everyone in an organization will be promoted beyond their capability.

That’s exactly how I feel about most software these days: eventually, it ‘evolves’ well past the state of being friendly and truly useful to the end user.  All I need now is a name and I’ve got the next software management book. You heard it here first.

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