Mr. Lott has been involved in over 70 software development projects in a career that spans 30 years. He has worked in the capacity of internet strategist, software architect, project leader, DBA, programmer. Since 1993 he has been focused on data warehousing and the associated e-business architectures that make the right data available to the right people to support their business decision-making. Steven is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 144 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile
Software developers get so used to their Culture of Complexity, they
hardly notice it.
Development for more thoughts on this. The comments add lots and
lots of examples of dysfunctional development. Many of these are
additional examples of complexity run amok.
personal addition is Next Year's Dollars are Cheaper (NYDC): next year's
dollars are less valuable than this year's dollars. So technical debt
can be accrued without any long-term consequences. Dumb, bad design can
be forced into production because maintenance is cheaper than getting
something done by a fantasy-based deadline date. Never mind the fact
that maintenance goes on -- effectively -- forever, and technical debt
accrues real cost at an exponential rate. Complexity is free?
Recently I heard of the "DIMY"
development. DIMY is Do It My Way. The specific war story was a PL/SQL
stored procedure that was somehow "too complex" because all it did was
call 7 other stored procedures. The business process had 7 steps; the
parallelism between procedure and use case was an important part of the
design. Yet, since some folks would prefer a Monolithic Stored
Procedure (MSP), they saw fit to complain.
that a MSP is "less complex" is a mirror image our normal understanding
of complexity creating cost. It's a mirror-image because the debits
and credits are reversed. In the DIMY world, measurable complexity is
valued as an asset and real simplicity is viewed as a cost.
Based in the war story, we can
identify several aspects of this working definition of complexity.
it appears that a monolithic piece of software (no matter how poorly it
matches the use case) is "less complex" than a relatively simple piece
of software that better matches the use case. So software that
actually matches the use case is "complex".
also appears that a simple count of stored procedure names is a measure
of complexity. So any effort at doing any meaningful, "high-level" chunking
of meaning is accused of creating complexity. So chunking is
[I am forced to agree that "more
names" is a larger number; I can't agree that more names is more
complex, because I find that chunking works. Note that refusing to
engage in mental chunking is absurd. Claiming that multiple named
stored procedures "obscures the details" is silly. Why stop at named
procedures? Why not claim that PL/SQL -- by it's very nature --
obscures the details? Why not claim that an RDBMS obscures the details?
Why not claim that the OS API's obscure details? Why not claim that
compiled languages obscure the details? Chunking is essential.]
it appears that real measure of complexity, like Cyclomatic
Complexity are irrelevant. So a monolith, with lots of loops and
ifs is somehow less "complex" and more desirable.
Clearly, then, for some folks, high
quality code involves (1) no match against the use case, (2) a single
name, and (3) no limit on the loops and if-statements. In order to
achieve this, we need a very simple use case (real simplicity -- low
cyclomatic complexity -- a sequence of decision-free steps) for which we
can write an immense, possibly irrelevant pile of code.
wrong with the MSP?
Given a monolithic piece
of code that doesn't match the use case sequence of steps, how could we
construct unit tests? I don't see how. Since we can't decompose the
problem into meaningful chunks, we can't test the thing in pieces. All
we can do is write overall end-to-end functional tests. And hope.
this MSP, how would we debug problems? I don't see how. We'd be
confronted with "it's broken" almost every time something went wrong.
Pin-pointing the root cause seems like it would be impossible.
development -- and the associated complexity -- does mean one thing.
It means job security: no one will ever be able to understand, maintain
or adapt this software. Write once, maintain forever. If you're
patient, you have a job for life. At some point, managers will realize
it's too expensive to maintain and -- because you're the only expert --
you can rewrite it, continuing the cycle of complexity.