Design and Organizational Maxims

This group of pages has my contributions to the Internet community.

Design Maxims

  • We haven't got time to do it over: we have to do it right the first time.
  • Keep simple things simple. It's ok for complicated things to stay complicated, but don't make simple things complicated.
  • It's ok to make new mistakes, just don't repeat old ones.
  • If I have the same data item in two places, one will be wrong.
  • Data is not an asset, it's a liability. So don't keep any data unless their benefits are greater than their costs.
  • A network should be either too simple to fail or smart enough to say that it failed.

Organization Maxims

As I help organizations grow, I keep a list of "philosophical points" in mind. I use these points as landmarks to help keep the evolution on a steady course.

The main and sub-points aren't meant to be in any real order.

Finally, these points are written for a public service provider. Some may not apply to other organzations.

  • We must be accountable for the prudent use of resources (cash and people time).
    • Part of our charge is the provision of basic service to all who need it.
    • This basic service should be consistent: i.e., the same for all users.
    • We must be fair in our allocation of resources.
  • On the other hand, we must accomodate bona fide needs on the part of customers for higher performance and/or specialized services.
    • Of course, they may have to pay for extra expenses.
  • When making cost / benefit tradeoffs, we always do the analysis from the point of view of the organization as a whole.
    • We always do full life-cycle costing.
    • We consider all resources used (central, people time, space, etc.) as well as direct, out-of-pocket costs.
    • Mindful of the above, we also realize that customers have a different view of expenses.
  • Our "information power" is based on sharing, not hiding. We operate by spreading information as widely as possible. People should feel that after hearing from us, there aren't other points (that we know about).
  • We have a vigorous stance to protect the users' privacy. Where we retain data that identifies individuals, we have a clear statement of what the data is that we retain and the purpose for which it is retained and we abide by that statement.
  • We start by assuming that problems are caused by ignorance or honest mistakes rather than malice. Keeps the politics down (:-).
  • We try to walk well on the "white" side of any gray areas. When (about to) take possibly controversial actions, we use the "paper" test: would we be bothered if a (fair) description of the actions were printed on the front page of the local paper?
  • Above all, we try to be the (hopefully not only) organization with a heart. Regardless of any rules, regulations, policies, or other factors we ask: is the final result truly the "right" one?
    • This doesn't mean we'll never say "no" (:-)

The Google Philosophy

When I tripped across this set of maxims, I felt that they expressed much better than I how I have run my professional life.

  • Work on things that matter.
  • Affect everyone in the world.
  • Solve problems with algorithms if possible.
  • Hire bright people and give them lots of freedom.
  • Don't be afraid to try new things.

Clarke's Laws

Clarke's Three Laws are three "laws" of prediction formulated by the British writer Arthur C. Clarke. They are:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Creative Contributions

Others' Contributions


Internet FAQs






I am Craig A. Finseth.

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Last modified Saturday, 2013-11-23T15:22:58-06:00.