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Sep 19th, 2013 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Second System Effect

One of our fellow Heretic tribe members asked: “At what point should an entrepreneur consider splitting a single product into different products (because of too many functions being added)?”

Wonderful question. And it ties beautifully into the often discussed Second System Effect: “The second-system effect (also known as second-system syndrome) refers to the tendency of small, elegant, and successful systems to have elephantine, feature-laden monstrosities as their successors due to inflated expectations.”

In other words: Adding features is the reason why Microsoft Word is such a clusterfuck and why I love Google Docs. It’s the reason why I write every Heretic post in iA Writer, a software which is essentially featureless — but does what it is supposed to do complete flawless and in a beautiful way.

Here’s my point of view: I would reframe the whole discussion. Instead of adding feature after feature and eventually coming to the point of “how do I unfuck the fuck?” I would rather measure the use of each feature in my product and carefully remove unused features when adding new features. Resist the urge to add features for the sake of adding features and instead spend your time polishing your product until it becomes a wonderful shining gem. Or take the time you save on writing features which lead to bloated software and talk to your customers, providing world-class customer support. Or spend the time selling your by then wonderfully polished, does-just-what-it-needs-to-do product.

P.S. Also read the Manifesto for Minimalist Software Engineers.

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