While checking Google to make sure that they were finding my website okay, I came across an archive of old mailing lists from about five and a half years ago. I had made some posts to that mailing list – and it was interesting to read back over some of the stuff I was writing back then. I’m still as opinionated as ever !
Thought I’d include the text of one such email I sent to the list – since it was one of the more interesting ponderings at the time. The list was the gnuotes list – where some people were discussing the idea of creating an open-source collaboration system as a Lotus Notes replacement. Back then, Lotus Notes was all I did – I had been programming with Notes for a couple of years at this point, and was very interested in this type of development. I’m not sure what happened to the project, but now working for IBM, it’s interesting to look back on things from a time when I was not quite so well informed.
[quote][b][url=http://lists.samba.org/listproc/gnuotes/1998-June/000165.html]Power versus Complexity (off-topic)[/url][/b]
[i]Wed, 10 Jun 1998 08:40:32 +950[/i]
Sorry, this is a little off topic, but I have a question that I would like to pose.
In one particular thread, we have been discussing the shortfalls of Notes in regards to workflow.
Despite being an avid Notes evangelist, I will concede that making workflow work in Notes is quite a chore. It seems that there are much more powerful solutions that allow so much more, and are supposedly “easier” to implement.
My question is:
“If solution XYZ has many more features than solution ABC, allowing XYZ to do much more of what it does best, does this added power also imply added complexity.”
Last Friday we had some people from Lotus come around and give us a demo of Notes 5.0 (pre-release Beta).
Sure, we’ve got a lot more power to do fancy stuff in Notes now, but at what price ?? All these extra features are great, but when does the system start to collapse under it’s own weight ??
I suppose another way of stating the question would be:
“If we use some metaphor for workflow such as the “Agent / Space” option proposed by Stu which gives us tremedous power and flexibility, at what point does this extreme flexibility come back and bite us on the behind due to the sheer amount of work (programming) involved in making something happen”
Sure, Java gives me so much more power than the Notes environment as far as development. But I can write a fully functional Notes application in a couple of hours (low complexity though). To do the same task in Java, even though we all agree it’s much more powerful, would take weeks or months. Where do we draw the line ??
I’ve talked to many managers who have stated that the reason they love Notes in their business is that it is consistent. That is, all Notes applications look and behave in fundamentally the same way. This is probably more due to the limitations of the UI in Notes than a design feature, but it has become exactly that – a feature – for many people. The downside is that you can’t do all the really Neato_Stuff(TM) that you can do in other environments. The upside is that you essentially only have to train your people once… teach them how to use the “Notes Environment” and they should be able to pick up each new Notes application with minimal extra instruction.
Now that we can actually reprogram the Notes UI using Java, the possibilities are essentially limitless. But where does that leave us. People write applications that look Really_Cool(TM), but there is no consistency, and a lot of extra training involved.
Fourth example (dangerous territory):
I like Linux and FreeBSD. I think they’ve got a LOT of power and flexibility. The reason I don’t use them myself is that it would take me too long to learn how to use and maintain a system, and gather together all the tools that are suitable for use in my day-to-day work. This is the same reason I stopped using OS/2. I have been an OS/2 bigot for may years, but it just got too hard for me to do my JOB. It was so difficult to merge my preferred environment into my work environment that I just gave up.
My office where I do all my work is really simple: I have a laptop running Win95 (yech !!) with Office97, Notes 4.6.1 and Netscape 3.01p. This is my office. It goes with me where ever I go. I can read my email, send faxes, access databases on any of our servers, communicate directly with my colleagues and clients and do any part of my job from anywhere in the world, (as long as I can get a connection to the ‘net !!). Despite running Win95, my system works. I keep it simple and it doesn’t fall over. I don’t run Netscape Communicator yet because I’ve seen it fall over too many times for my liking… 3.01p is very stable so I’ll stick with that for the time being.
My point is that I have a job to do (Notes Development). I keep my work environment simple so that I can do my job more effectively and not have to spend time every day keeping my system heathly. (btw. this probably wouldn’t matter to me so much if I wasn’t being paid by the hour ;-)
To me… I look at Linux and FreeBSD, and I see the space shuttle. Sure, extremenly powerful, but so much complexity !!!
My final question is this: at what point do all the Neato_Features(TM) of Yoga make it too cumbersome to program and use ??
It’s interesting to read the responses my email generated – especially in the context of the technology developments that have happened in the five years or so since they were written. Netscape 3.01p ? ewwww !