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

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Chapter 80. Don't Be Clever

Eben Hewitt is a principal on the architecture team at a multibillion-dollar national retail company, where he is currently focused on designing and implementing its service-oriented architecture. He is the author of the upcoming Java SOA Cookbook from O'Reilly.

Eben Hewitt
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GENERAL INTELLIGENCE, RESOURCEFULNESS, thoughtfulness, a breadth and depth of knowledge, and an affinity for precision are laudable qualities in anyone, and particularly prized in architects.

Cleverness, however, carries a certain additional connotation. It implies an ability to quickly conceive of a solution that may get you out of a jam, but that ultimately rests on a gimmick, a shell game, or a switcharoo. We remember clever debaters from high school—always able to play semantics or work the logical fallacies to win the point.

Clever software is expensive, hard to maintain, and brittle. Don't be clever. Be as dumb as you possibly can and still create the appropriate design. The appropriate design will never be clever. If cleverness appears absolutely required, the problem is incorrectly framed; reset the problem. Reframe it until you can be dumb again. Work in rough chalk sketches; stay general. Let go of the flavor of the day. It takes a smart architect to be dumb.

It is our cleverness that allows us to trick software into working. Don't be the attorney who gets your software off on ...

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