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Summary: Choose Boring Technology by Dan McKinley
Technology for its own sake is snake oil.
Original article: Choose Boring Technology by Dan McKinley
Motivation: spend your innovation tokens wisely and consider tradeoffs before you advocate for a new tool in your organization.
Every non-tech company gets a certain amount of innovation tokens. “You can spend these however you want, but the supply is fixed for a long while. You might get more after you achieve a certain level of stability and maturity.”
Why? If you’re not a tech company, devoting your limited resources to shiny new innovations is “an excellent way to fail” or delay success. Many technology choices are boring and good, a.o., Postgres, Python, Memcached, Cron, etc.
Boring means constrained but well-understood, including failure modes such as unknown unknowns (failures such as: “it didn’t occur to us that X may even cause Y”).
“For shiny new technology, the magnitude of unknown unknowns is significantly larger”.
Technology choices don’t happen in isolation:
in a world where choices are cheap: you "pick the best tool for the job"
in a world where operations are a serious concern (i.e., "reality"), you pick a tool that long-term occupies the “least worst” position for your organization and team — the operations and cognitive overhead must be taken into account.
The “long-term costs of keeping a system working reliably vastly exceed any inconveniences” of not being the best tool for the job.
Choose New Technology, Sometimes
Acknowledge that this is a process with company-wide effects. First, consider how you would solve your issue without adding any new tools. Write down why solving the problem with the current stack would be prohibitively expensive and difficult. If this is about replacing some existing tool, rather than just adding a new one, propose a timeline and a plan for migration. Finally, try to reach a consensus with other stakeholders to avoid proliferating locally-optimal solutions.
Core message & CTA
“Mindful choice of technology gives engineering minds real freedom: the freedom to contemplate bigger questions.“
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