Tuesday, February 28, 2006


One of the things I was dreaming about last night was the concept of precision. I know it sounds a bit strange to be dreaming about a concept, but there you go.

When the plane I was flying into Heathrow on descended through the clouds, I was, as always, relieved to find that right there, directly below us was an airport runway. And it dawned on me that the pilot was probably a little bit relieved too, despite the fact that he knew it would be there. Because when you are landing a giant aeroplane, precision is absolutely critical. You can't be "Close Enough", or even "Pretty Good" - try explaining that to the people who's houses you've just landed on:

"Come on, it's pretty close to the airport! I'd like to see you fly a giant hunk of metal for 10,000 miles and get it absolutely perfect..."
No, precision is one of those things that humans really, really, care about. And it's something that we usually do really well. That's why people say things like "It's not Rocket Science", or "It's not Brain Surgery". That's why they say "You're missing the point".

I recently read a great quote that went something like:

"When designing software, there are two approaches you can take. You can make it so simple that there are no visible mistakes, or you can make it so complicated that there are no visible mistakes"
And I got to thinking that in my industry, software development teams often cover up their imprecision with features, or other technicalities, which are really just excuses. But, it gets worse - Customers often accept these excuses, because it's easier than admitting their own imprecision when it comes to understanding the way that the product works. The lack of precision by both parties leads to a moderate compromise, where nobody's completely happy.

What sort of things do you do that require 100% precision?

Do you always get them right, every-time?

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