Quote of the Month September 2021 – Software Complexity

Complexity isn’t caused by a single catastrophic error; it accumulates in lots of small chunks. A single dependency or obscurity, by itself, is unlikely to affect significantly the maintainability of a software system. Complexity comes about because hundreds or thousands of small dependencies and obscurities build up over time. Eventually, there are so many of these small issues that every possible change to the system is affected by several of them.

The incremental nature of complexity makes it hard to control. It’s easy to convince yourself that a little bit of complexity introduced by your current change is no big deal. However, if every developer takes this approach for every change, complexity accumulates rapidly. Once complexity has accumulated, it is hard to eliminate, since fixing a single dependency or obscurity will not, by itself, make a big difference.

Source: A Philosophy of Software Design, John Ousterhout, Yaknyam Press