Innovation is a word that seems to have emanated from the tech world and entered mainstream discourse. It’s a term that has stuck to contemporary notions of progress and improvement. But is innovation and change really that great? Are we in danger of valorizing novelty at the expense of reliability, security and functionality? The “Boring Software” Manifesto, published on tqdev.com yesterday (18 June 2018) says yes.
Written by software architect Maurits van der Schee, the “Boring Software” manifesto argues “as software developers we are tired of the false claims made by evangelists of the latest and greatest technology.” Just days after we revealed data on developer attitudes to ‘ninjas’ and ‘rockstars’ the manifesto is further evidence of tension within the tech world. The tension is perhaps not so much one between ‘innovators’ and those concerned with ideals of security and reliability, but more about those actively selling innovation, speed, and efficiency and those with a more pragmatic approach to software engineering.
Boring software vs. hyped and volatile technologies
Schee’s manifesto takes aim at what he calls ‘hyped and volatile technologies’. He also appears to suggest that the demands of industry actually conflict with these ‘hyped’ technologies. Implicit in the piece is the idea is that there is a counter-industry of hype and evangelism that undermines how software can best serve industry today. ‘In pursuit of “agility and craftsmanship”, Schee writes, ‘we have found “boring software” to be indispensable.’
The most intriguing part of the manifesto features a number of examples that demonstrate the tension in the software world really clearly. For example:
- 3-tier applications are tried, tested and reliable; microservices, meanwhile, are hyped and volatile.
- Relational databases are ‘simple and proven’, while NoSQL is not, in Schee’s view.
- Page reloads – also proven, whereas SPAs remain hyped.
Unsurprisingly, reaction to the Boring Software manifesto is split. Many people have welcomed the intervention:
The world needs more boring software!
— Matt McDonald (@overstood) June 19, 2018
Others, however, were more cautious. Innovation and invention only opens up new options, they argued:
What is the harm in trying out new technologies? Having options to choose from is not a bad thing.
— Priyanka Madiraju (@priyaprincess20) June 19, 2018
One Twitter user summed up the situation by suggesting the truth is probably somewhere between the two:
The technology industry moves too fast and adopts too many dumb new things, except when it doesn't, and moves too slowly, clinging to dumb old things.
— David Falkner (@ardave2002) June 19, 2018
This is likely to be a debate without a conclusion. However, the manifesto is a useful intervention in a discussion about how we should build software and what we should value most.
What do you think about “boring software”? Is Maurits van der Schee correct? Or do we need to be open to new and emerging technologies and trends, even if they pose new challenges?