12 Apr 2003 Bram   » (Master)

Bram's Law

I realized this the other day, and dub it Bram's Law

The easier a piece of software is to write, the worse it's implemented in practice.

Why? Easy software projects can be done by almost any random person, so they are. It's possible to try to nudge your way into being the standard for an easy thing based on technical merit, but that's rather like trying to become a hollywood star based on talent and hard work. You're much better off trading it all in for a good dose of luck.

This is why HTTP is a mess while transaction engines are rock solid. Almost any programmer can do a mediocre but workable job of extending HTTP, (and boy, have they,) but most people can't write a transaction engine which even functions. The result is that very few transaction engines are written, almost all of them by very good programmers, and the few which aren't up to par tend to be really bad and hardly get used. HTTP, on the other hand, has all kinds of random people hacking on it, as a result of which Python has a 'fully http 1.1 compliant' http library which raises assertion failures during normal operation.

Remember this next time you're cursing some ubiquitous but awful third party library and thinking of writing a replacement. With enough coal, even a large diamond is unlikely to be the first thing picked up. Save your efforts for more difficult problems where you can make a difference. The simple problems will continue to be dealt with incompetently. It sucks, but we'll waste a lot less time if we learn to accept this fact.

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