Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

Unnecessary Complexity and Dubious Results: McCain Is an Asshole

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I just read the following on Talking Points Memo:

“[Obama is] claiming putting air in your tires is the equivalent of new offshore drilling,” McCain said. “That’s not an energy plan, my friends – that’s a public service announcement.” The problem is that keeping your tires well-inflated is at least the equivalent of new offshore drilling in terms of how much money you’ll spend on gas. In fact, as Time reported the other day, it could potentially be better than new drilling – if everyone did it we’d consume three percent less gasoline, while drilling would only meet one percent of our overall oil needs. “In other words,” Time said, “Obama is right.”

A common problem I notice in software development is the desire to build the most complex solution to any given problem. You know the type: software products that solve every need you could ever have, and many you never will. These products are typified by over-run schedules, blown budgets, terrible performance, tons of bugs, and total dissatisfaction on the part of its users.

In response to this inexorable shuffle towards awful, stove-piped systems came the creation of so-called agile development methodologies, like Extreme Programming and Scrum. Regardless of which agile methodology you choose, it will be strongly recommended to you that you Do the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work. As described by Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the Wiki:

[Implement] a new capability in the simplest way you can think of that “could possibly work”. Don’t build a lot of amazing superstructure, don’t do anything fancy, just put it in. Use an if statement, even. Make the code pass the [Unit Tests] for the new feature (and all features, as always).

To bring this back full circle, why should we give free leases to oil companies who rake in billions of dollars in profit every month so that they may, some day, provide us with cheaper oil? Neither Exxon-Mobil or any other oil firm is guaranteeing us that they will provide us with cheaper oil. We won’t even know for years!

Americans’ pocketbooks are suffering now, and McCain wants us to give his oil oligopolist friends the equivalent of corporate welfare so that they might help us eventually

Obama’s proposal (echoed by NASCAR and the AAA) would help us today. For free. Without corporate welfare. It would yield 3x the benefits that McCain’s plan may eventually give us. Yet, John McCain continues to mock it because it doesn’t seem sufficiently complex. What an asshole.