Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Complexity is the hobgoblin of time

The entropy, or disorder, of the universe is constantly increasing.  Entropy is the measure of possible arrangements within a system.  In an isolated system, entropy never decreases.  This means the older something gets, the more disordered it gets and ultimately less work it can do.  (This is why perpetual motion machines don't work and a pendulum will eventually stop swinging.)

To fight entropy, you must constantly reduce disorder.

Entropy is primarily used in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, but it applies to businesses and software too.

As time wears on, complexity and disorder increase.  You have to fight to keep things simple and organized. 

We've all seen companies that grow too big too fast and lose control over their internal entropy.  This results in a less productive and ultimately less profitable company.  If the system is not corrected, it will eventually stop.

Websites and software are the same way.  They start out clean and organized, but as time passes, they get cluttered with content, widgets, bells and whistles.  This clutter isn't all bad.  It's basically the equivalent of adding weight to the end of a pendulum.  The extra weight makes the pendulum swing faster, but it also makes it stop faster, and makes it harder to get moving again.  

When creating or revamping a website, the trick is to find the weight (level of complexity) that produces the speed (business results) that you can handle, and that doesn't require too much work to keep it moving.