Monthly Archives: March 2008

Most people prefer Safety to Efficiency

In proof either of my amazing prescience, or total lack of original insight, almost immediately after I’d made my previous post I attended an excellent talk by Giles Colborne at QCon on simlicity in user interfaces where he expressed the difference between the likes of me and  the vast majority, who don’t appreciate that Vim is the best way to edit text, by saying that most people are more interested in getting from A to B without crashing, than in doing so efficiently.  Not sure that he realised how literal some of us are in our favouring the risk of crashing.

I’ll shut up about it now before insurance companies start adding Vim usage as a risk to add to your premium.

Premature Optimisation Strikes Again

I was always a software developer, it just took me till I was 18 to realise it.

I had always strived for that peculiar blend of abstract beauty and optimisation of tasks that make software geeks peculiarly excited.  As a teenager, I used to attempt to balance out, symmetrically, the movements from one half of my body with the other.  The process of designing and writing software, as well as a way of paying the bills, is a way of getting that kind of need out of my system and allowing myself to be a little less odd.

However, I still can’t just walk from one place to another without trying to optimise the route, by shaving corners off wherever possible, in an attempt to minimise the distance.  When crossing a road, the passage of cars down the road, which might run me over if I try and take the most direct route and hence stay on the road longer, just adds some more variables into the equation, making it a little more interesting.

However, software development has taught us that optimising at a low level, if you don’t know you need to, can be costly.  Catching a train, instead of walking,  is normally worth  doing without any additional information.   Running for a train is only really worthwhile if you know that otherwise you would miss it.

On Sunday I tried to optimise my route to a parking space at the supermarket by nipping through a gap next to a big concrete pillar.  The pillar now has a rather fetching bit of red paint which used to be attatched to my car.