Sunday, December 19, 2010

How To Avoid the Fear of Overkill

Something I read today in a Javascript forum gave me pause to think about broader attitudes in developer tools and libraries.
I love jQuery, but if this is all you want to do, jQuery is overkill. 

Javascript libraries are great if you want to do a lot of things, or one really complicated thing, but if you're just doing something small and simple, just write the javascript code. arandomgeek
I respectfully disagree.

Of course, people say this about a lot of other libraries and I defend against this stance in, more or less, all of these cases. I have heard it about Python and things in the standard library, about jQuery, about Django and Twisted, and about any language that isn't C. The common thread here is someone feeling that, as they are not using every or many parts of a tool, they should not use it for the one or two things it could be useful for. These people suffer from the Fear of Overkill.

I can summarize the argument against this very simply.

It would be overkill for you to write the entire tool for the one or two uses you have. It would also be overkill for you to write a bad version of the one or two uses, when you could use what already exists. It is not overkill to simply use what has already been provided to you.

3 comments:

Tucanae Services said...

Two cases to your argument -

1) Using the libraries saves time and improves quality. As a general approach, if I felt the need, I would rather strip down an existing library than build up a new one. The pieces I do keep have been field tested.

2) From a JQuery perspective, I am better off using its library. It, like most of the libraries, have been tuned for cross browser comparability. Those few functions that aren't, are well documented. I would not what to face the task of testing and validating 6-7 browsers for XHR calls I wrote. Or the use cases for the return states.

Rafe Kettler said...

Especially when you're dealing with something open source, where you could remove unnecessary pieces (with the right license) if space were a concern. And especially when languages like Python (dunno about JS) allow you to selectively import (e.g. from x import y). DIY attitudes make no sense to me.

Brandon Craig Rhodes said...

And another argument in favor of jQuery in your case: consistency. By choosing the “big enough” library for a large chunk of your needs, your web site JavaScript code, from the smallest site up to your larger sites, all “looks the same” and can follow whatever set of idioms you use when writing jQuery code. If you forced yourself to step down into raw JavaScript for the smallest projects, then you would have an additional dialect of your own code to deal with.

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I am happily employed by the excellent Caktus Group, located in beautiful and friendly Carrboro, NC, where I work with Python, Django, and Javascript.

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