Boring Solutions Revisited: Choose Boring Technology by Dan McKinley

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Dan McKinley‘s article on choosing boring solutions, although not exactly new anymore, has been a welcome reminder for me to revisit the topic of of using boring solutions and keeping things simple.

Dan makes the point that “adding technology to your company comes with a cost” or as I stated in my own article on this subject: “The elephant in the room is: There’s an opportunity cost to everything.”

Most choices come with a trade-off.

If you decide to use a technology for the sake of it or just because it’s popular you incur a cost without sufficient benefit to justify that cost.

Hardly anybody ever does that, of course. However, it’s easy to fall for a novel, interesting technology and subsequently seeing it as a superior solution for a problem at hand while tried-and-true technologies might’ve been the better choice.

This is especially true when indulging in what I’ve termed “nerdy non-problems”: Instead of working on the actual product and most importantly that product’s market fit engineers are often prone to spending a lot of time and energy on first implementing a perfect, “scalable” deployment infrastructure or framework for implementing said actual product.

As Dan says, “Boring” should not be conflated with “bad”, however. There’s a wide range of technologies that are not only perfectly adequate but even superior in their respective segment but typically don’t attract a whole lot of attention or hype around them. They just work and that’s a good thing.

Dan has a few useful guidelines to consider:

  • Consider how you would solve your immediate problem without adding anything new.
  • Write down exactly what it is about the current stack that makes solving the problem prohibitively expensive and difficult.
  • Set clear expectations about migrating old functionality to the new system.

Sometimes, preferring a novel solution over a proven one indeed is the approppriate choice.

Using guidelines like these and asking yourself the question: “Do we really need this or do I just think we need this?” can help you with making an informed decision about when to opt for a new technology and when to draw upon proven ones.

About the author: Bjoern
Independent IT consultant, entrepreneur

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