Software Metaphor: Chop Sticks versus Formal Cutlery

Consider the simplicity of chopsticks versus the complexity and elegance of formal cutlery as demanded by a formal table setting.

In the past cutlery was far more complex yielding exceptionally specialized tools for every dining situation. The complexity of formal dining utensils is just plain daunting to the neophyte. A different fork for every function. A different spoon for every food. A knife for butter, a knife for bread, a knife for fish and on goes the list.

Now, consider the chopsticks. Every food imaginable can be eaten with the chopsticks. Need to cut? Scissor your chopsticks to slice. Need to stab your food to get a hold of it? Stab the item of food with a single stick. Need to scoop food? Form a wedge with your sticks and scoop away. There is no need to learn a proliferation of tools, just one tool. Use this one tool well and all of life's dining problems are solved. Or, just avoid the problem entirely and lift the soup bowl to your mouth... have the chef slice the food smaller... if all else fails... don't eat that.

In Software Engineering we face the battle between chop sticks and cutlery every time we start a new project. Should I use a specialized technology? Should I use the chop sticks I know so well? The happiest Software Engineers learn to use chop sticks, and when problems get sufficiently messy, the learn to put down the sticks and pick up the right utensil. They keep the utensils down to knife, fork, and spoon if possible to avoid the over-head of having too many tools.

Don't fall into the "hammer" problem where in you see every thing as a nail needing to be hammered, yet keep away from the Victorian table setting if at all possible.