Flutterby™! : Quality

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2004-11-18 18:07:53.888031+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

A short break from dealing with the hell of Windows[Wiki](oh, I will be so glad when I get the Linux[Wiki] layer written for this code) and the challenge of understanding code written by a very smart programmer with a different vision of organization and structure than I've got, to muse for a moment on quality.

Over at Simple Weblog there were some essay topic suggestions that were followed up with a simpler call for thoughts on "Money vs. Quality" and trying to optimize for time in that. This struck a chord for me, and I thought maybe crasch would chime in.

The simplest answer is that if money is an indicator of system optimization, then money is quality. But money isn't an indicator of system optimization, there's an awful lot of friction and whim in the economy, so the question is harder. Here's a specific example:

With the recent move, we got rid of literally a truckload of stuff. A good portion was kitchen stuff, over the years the functions of the food processor got replaced with a hand grater and a good blender, that sort of thing. So I'm extremely loathe to take on any more kitchen stuff.

But I've long thought it'd be nice to have a good mandoline. A long board with an adjustable blade and a pusher on rails for consistent cuts of veggies.

Now it happens that I'm pretty damned good with a standard chef's knife. I can whip through things with reasonable consistency, and I could probably turn out, say, 1/8" slices of potato with +-1/16" accuracy. Unfortunately, that's not always good enough. Close, but not quite. But I'm also not sure how often I'd use it, the sorts of casseroles where that's necessary for the right texture aren't normally in my repertoire.

I should also note that I'm on my third pasta maker in 14 years. Beefy hand cranked steel things. I've worn out the bearings on two, the second while Charlene was in my life, and she's not much of a pasta eater. Admittedly, this second one wasn't a Marcato Atlas[Wiki], but it wasn't cheap, and I got it from Home Chef, which gets rather snooty about quality (although frankly I now believe that most of their opinions and products are crap).

So I was reading March/April 2003 Cooks Illustrated article on "Weekday Scalloped Potatoes", and noticed that they had a side-bar talking about mandolines. And their winners were < $10 plastic things, with a $100 stainless steel one that came recommended with the caveats that:

With some practice, all testers were able to produce perfect slices...


requires less effor to operate once the user becomes familiar with it (emphasis mine)

So I look at that, and I wonder, if I'm going to get 10 years out of the more expensive one, will I go through 10 of the cheap ones in that time? And is all of that effort really better than a good chef's knife (which, admittedly, costs me nearly as much as the expensive one)? And they talk about taller testers having problems with all of the stainless steel models, does this mean I'm the only one in the kitchen who will be able to use this tool? What does quality mean in this context?

It sounds like it might not necessarily go to the stronger materials or the longer lasting design.

And, to drop back to the software I'm working on, at what point should we be building code that'll be useful for two decades (and, yes, I have worked on code that still had embedded comments 20 years old), and at what point is "one person can understand it until the demo is complete" sufficient?

[ related topics: Weblogs Food Software Engineering Writing Work, productivity and environment Economics Archival ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-18 20:47:03.205258+00 by: dexev

Don't forget that TCO is more than purchase price:


#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-18 21:09:12.290062+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, the replacement costs were part of my consideration, but in thinking about replacement costs you've also got to consider that $100 spent today is more than $10 spent each year for the next 10 years.

Disposal costs: This can be a big hidden gotcha, and will only catch up as our waste stream starts to catch up with the real costs of disposal, rather than using government privelege to hide and transfer someof those costs.

Cost of use: The odd thing in this case is that that's likely favoring the cheaper part. In fact, I've seen that uite often, where I'd love it if I could get the cheaper version with a better build quality, rather than the overdesigned more expensive version.

But build quality and reputation are a whole other can o' worms.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-19 16:07:34.382398+00 by: TC

The battle between Microsoft and Linux is getting serious ^^

The Ballmer Offensive http://www.keralanext.com/news/?id=66606

#Comment Re: made: 2004-11-19 21:05:54.502383+00 by: Shawn

Hmmm... The title says "Ballmer Sets Off Skirmish Among Linux Crowd", but the story is actually about the fighting in Fallujah. Oops.