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97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know by Richard Monson-Haefel

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Chapter 18. Simplicity Before Generality, Use Before Reuse

Kevlin Henney is an independent consultant and trainer. His work focuses on patterns and architecture, programming techniques and languages, and development process and practice. He is coauthor of A Pattern Language for Distributed Computing and On Patterns and Pattern Languages (both from Wiley).

Kevlin Henney
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A COMMON PROBLEM IN COMPONENT FRAMEWORKS, class libraries, foundation services, and other infrastructure code is that many are designed to be general purpose without reference to concrete applications. This leads to a dizzying array of options and possibilities that are often unused, misused, or just not useful. Most developers work on specific systems: the quest for unbounded generality rarely serves them well (if at all). The best route to generality is through understanding known, specific examples and focusing on their essence to find an essential common solution. Simplicity through experience rather than generality through guesswork.

Favoring simplicity before generality acts as a tiebreaker between otherwise equally viable design alternatives. When there are two possible solutions, favor the one that is simpler and based on concrete need rather than the more intricate one that boasts of generality. Of course, it is entirely possible (and more than a little likely) that the simpler solution will turn out to be the ...

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