This was around the time that the term Ajax was coined, and it might have been a timely presentation. Alas, I missed that train and I let the outline languish.
So, since I now have a blog infrastructure that supports comments – though I suppose a Wiki might make more sense – I’ve decided to post the outline as it looked last June, and solicit updates and comments for it. I may end up doing a presentation on it some day, but I don’t mind if someone else runs with it or uses it as a base for their own work, so here it is:
I first heard about this concept a couple of months ago and thought it was a clever observation about human nature. In the past few weeks however, I’ve come to realize that it is, in fact, human nature in a nutshell. I have been subject to it more than a few times recently and find myself doing it to others.
At its heart, the bike shed meme – detailed in a book by C. Northcote Parkinson – encapsulates the idea that when one proposes a simple solution to a simple business problem, regardless of its merits, that solution will be critically analyzed and subject to eternal debate about how the problem can be better solved.
On the other hand, when one suggests a solution to a more complicated problem, the audience tends to accept the proposal because they have nothing to add or because they assume you are indeed correct.
Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.
Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far.
A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is here.
The moral of the story is this: Don’t be a hater.
Like Jeffrey Zeldman, I was hesitant at first, but since I’m no longer primarily a front-end Web developer I’ve got no qualms.
Anyway, if something’s broken, please let me know. Though I suppose that would require a working contact form. Doh.
Anyone who posts or sends me one more article about Conan O’Brien and Finland is dead to me.