inessential by Brent Simmons

Lesson on Clarity

It was back in my UserLand days, back in the ’90s, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the exact context.

I might have been working on some code — trying to take two similar things and create one generic solution for both.

Or it might have been some UI work (more likely) where I was trying to do something similar: make two similar things appear to the user as the same kind of thing.

This is what developers do, right? Collapse the differences, find the essence.

But Dave saw that I was struggling and had some advice for me.

The issue was clarity, he said, which is not helped by making different things the same. In fact, things that are truly different should be treated as different, and the differences themselves should be made clear. If you’re struggling, it’s a good sign that the things are truly different.