On Simplicity

As a pretty simple-minded person, I am a big fan of simplicity. The world is filled with too much complexity and too much detail. Many often feel the detail is necessary for particular outcomes or to solve particular problems. The lesson I have learned as I have gotten older though is that while the skill is in matching the level of detail to the mind of the observer, the real elegance is in delivering the same level of detail but in a way that feels simpler than expected to the observer. This results in delightful experiences.

Ross Gardler recently quoted Einstein who said “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler“. This so beautifully summarizes my view of the world; life should be as simple as we can make it, but we should not compromise in our goals merely to make things simple. In other words, if we can boil our projects, processes, interfaces, and ideas down into simpler parts that still let us be productive, they become more enjoyable to engage with and thus more successful. Of course, making complex things simple is…complex. It is though, worthwhile, and for many (myself included), a fun challenge. I am sure I am not alone.

As we step into our Ubuntu Developer Summit this week I would like to encourage everyone to think about ways in which we can simplify all aspects of how create and deliver Ubuntu to others as a means to further the project and experience. This doesn’t just apply to user interface design though. How do we make our teams easier to navigate and participate in? How do we make it easier to create your first app, charm, bug fix, translation, document, mailing list post, question, answer, or otherwise? If we can make in-roads this week in simplicity, I am confident it will continue the bold stride Ubuntu is making into the future of devices and the cloud.

  • Hilton Gibson

    “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/leonardoda107812.html

  • Hilton Gibson
  • http://gkn.me.uk Greg K Nicholson

    My old geography teacher always used to say “keep it suitably simple”.

  • http://twitter.com/Sweetshark1 Bjoern Michaelsen

    Yep, given that Einstein himself said:

    “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

    the (mis-)quote has to be assumed to be considered an invalid oversimplification by Einstein — which in itself is a beautiful irony ;)

  • John Meinel

    I think this sentence got over simplified: “in which we can simplify all aspects of how create and deliver Ubuntu to others” (should be “how we create and deliver”). Otherwise, very nice read, and something to certainly consider in general. (Is it worth adding this special case, or can you generalize and simplify things.)

  • http://hude.blogfa.com/ Ali Najafi

    I love you for this simplicity of yours. :)