Smart Computing Via Traditional Chinese Medicine

Hua Tou, revered Chinese doctor

In dynastic China, one did not pay the doctor when ill, for a quick cure. Rather, the doctor worked to maintain a balance of health, fostering harmony with the world. The doctor was paid only in times of well-being, not sickness.

The lesson for effective software projects: If you manage only from crisis to crisis, there is no incentive for balance. Reward a stable, working, harmonious system. Do not pay for an endless set of quick fixes and foolish ventures.

Technology Can Be A Real Waste Of Time

We should strive to avoid “overusing” technology. Using software can be complicated enough; don’t add needless steps. Sometimes the solution is worse than the problem.

Example: sending plain text in an e-mail is preferable to composing and attaching a separate Word document. Why? You’re trying to get information across. Do it efficiently.

If your recipient has already opened an e-mail message, why make her scan and download an attachment, then launch a separate program (that she may not even own), just to read a 20-word memo, meeting agenda, or announcement?

(You’d be surprised how much time is wasted by this kind of complexity.)

“Simplify, simplify...” especially applies to software.

Keep Data On Computers, Not Dead Trees

One evergreen promise of the Age of Computing: free us from using so much “short-term” paper.

Saving paper and paper-handling cost is always a goal for good business software.

Charred logs in clearcut forest.

Weren’t computers supposed
to save paper?

Printed information is stuck on a piece of dead tree.

Tomorrow, when your customer changes her mind or your supplier changes his schedule, your paper is useless (worse than useless... someone could pick it up and take the wrong action based on outdated information).

We don’t need to pulp trees to preserve data for a few days, nor should we maintain file cabinets full of useless paper. Moving business data online is a good way to start reducing paper waste.

Let’s save paper forests for books and art, menus and invitations, diplomas and fingerpainting. Not your old e-mail... leave that on computers, where it belongs.