I was reading a very interesting post this morning: http://codebetter.com/blogs/james.kovacs/archive/2008/03/13/using-yagni-responsibly.aspx
and I want to start by saying that I whole-heartedly agree with James at the heart of the matter. YAGNI, when intelligently applied, is not just an excuse to do stupid simplistic things. But that got me thinking (again) that YAGNI itself is probably an inadequte piece-of-jargon-turned-tool that encourages some people to use it "unintelligently". My motto is that if something isn't providing consistently good results, then there's probably something wrong with it, so here's the gist of my thoughts:
I think the problem with YAGNI is that as a concept, it works more like a binary switch. It encourages people to think in Yes or No options and concentrate on a single vector of a multi-dimentional problem. By "intelligently" applying YAGNI, the focus should really be on providing the most effective and efficient (i.e. simplist) solution that can solve the problem given all the goals that must be met. This is not a "yes I need it", or "no I don't" question - it's a question that begs us to consider a range of alternatives and evaluate them based on (not just complexity) but R.O.I, maintainability, and likelyhood of change and stability, among other factors. At this point, some agilists might argue that we're trying to do too much design upfront by taking all this into account, but most of these factors can be very quickly assessed in a matter of minutes on a "good enough" basis, which is really in keeping with the spirit of Agile, IMO. YAGNI is just a simple(istic) way of terming it, but perhaps it's too simplistic and encourages us to evaluate only one vector (complexity) of the problem that really has other dimensions that need attention. I honestly think it hurts the process to give jargon undo weight. A person who uses YAGNI intelligently is actually taking those other factors into account, so perhaps YAGNI as a concept is just putting too much focus in one area for those who are more prone to simply use the jargon at face value as opposed to "intelligently" applying a tool, which is starting to make me wonder if it's actually a good tool to begin with.
posted @ Thursday, March 13, 2008 1:53 PM