Chasing the New Shiny

20 May 2015. comments

There have been a few conference talks and blog posts recently that have touched on this idea that using simple, well-understood technology is preferable to using unproven new shiny tech. I couldn’t agree more.

“Standard is better than better.”

John Hyland

There are lots of reasons to use well-understood tech including:

  • Stability
  • Talent pool
  • Integration options
  • Abundant Resources

With well-understood technology the rough edges and bugs have already been worked out which saves you from having to invest time/money running up against those things first. Others have already payed the cost and smoothed the way ahead.

On the other hand if you use the New Shiny then the downsides haven’t been explored, the rough edges will be yours to figure out, and the best practices don’t really exist yet. And if you add too much of this new tech you might start to feel like Bilbo Baggins:

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” - Bilbo Baggins

New tech is expensive and distracts you from what you really need to be doing which is solving your business problem instead of solving technology problems (unless that is your business). The alternative is to not ship and possibly never get your idea of the ground while you constantly chase the new shiny tech.

One community that seems to struggle the most with this is javascript. New frameworks pop up daily and often with only marginal improvements or differences on whats already out there (if any at all). The number of web frameworks in javascript has erupted so vigorously that there is an entire site dedicated to sifting through the different options. This explosion of code is creating mountains of code that ultimately must be maintained and I wonder about the cost to the industry as a whole. Perhaps we will look back on this era of software development with amusement (and shame?) years from now.

If the idea of using simple well-understood tech resonates with you then you may be interested in John Hyland’s talk from Cascadia Ruby last year: Be Awesome By Being Boring. And more recently, Dan McKinley wrote about this topic as well in his post ‘Choose Boring Technology’.

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Tagged: architecture complexity maintainability software engineering yagni

2017 Ben Lakey

The words here do not reflect those of my employer.