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Is Over-enginnering Part of a Software Developer's DNA?

· Java Zone

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You've probably read the recent BBC interview with Donald Ferguson, CTO of CA Technologies. Donald was responsible for bringing Websphere into being during his time at IBM, and states that it was the biggest technology mistake of his life. 

Because I had come from working on big mission-critical systems, I thought it needs to be scalable, reliable, have a single point of control ... I tried to build something like a mainframe, a system that was capable of doing anything, that would be able to do what might be needed in five years.

I call it the endgame fallacy. It was too complex for people to master. I overdesigned it.

I haven't worked with Websphere, but anyone I know who has worked with it has found it frustrating, to say the least. 

But Websphere isn't the only over-engineered product in software. It happens every day, and is a symptom that software development has a long way to go before it can be considered mature (and that we don't really get agile). Most developers will try and predict future uses and outcomes of their system rather than just get a simpler product out faster. 

When I'm developing I do tend to attempt to predict how the system will be used, and what the customer might like. Of course I do my best to balance this with reality. 

I'm not sure where we get this over-engineering mentality from though? Is overengineering more exciting and interesting? What ever happened to getting just enough done to get acceptance from your customers?

I'd like to get a list of what we consider to be over-engineered software from you, in the comments section.

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