Simplest Thing

An *agile-biased* blog would just not be complete with at least *one* article on TheSimplestThing… so here goes:

I has occurred to me [and no doubt, countless others] that after all that has been said about TheSimplestThing; there is no simple definition. The irony does not escape my sometimes blindingly slow wit, but simply put, simplest thing has not [yet] been defined with the simplest definition that can be agreed on. If simply defining a concept is not clear, how can it even be implemented?

Fortunately it seems that TheSimplestThing technicality is mostly a debate of semantic correctness but when pursued it becomes a philosophical fisticuff. You can start by asserting TheSimplestThing is X and find yourself arguing, moments later, that Such-And-Such is not TheSimplestThing because it isn’t Y.

In an attempt to capture the essence of TheSimplestThing, we use:
a) dictionary definitions
b) authoritative quotes
c) classic one-liners
d) Occam’s Razor

The dictionary definitions are the most controversial because they mix complexity and complicated [and in fact use them as direct synonyms] in order to define what is simple: ie. that which is not complex/complicated. In software, however, complicated and complex have very distinct meanings.

In fact, the two can never be used synonymously because their differences are big enough to create more potential chaos than a power-crazy nuclear arms dealer on crack. So, we can choose our words carefully with these two, unless we agree to use them synonymously but then to be specific about which one we are talking about. Or just keep the definitions distinct: surely that’s the simplest thing? 😉

Personally, i maintain that TheSimplestThing is a bit of misnomer- a red-herring- a goose chase- a magic mushroom. I prefer TheLeastComplicatedThing. That way, the solution can still be intuitively *complex* [if need be becos, well, the requirement is complex] but at least, and most important, simply understood.

Further Reading:
Simple Ain’t Easy
A Field Guide To Simplicity
complex vs complicated, + xaos
No ! Your software is complicated, not complex.