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Monday, January 31, 2011

KISS and seal the deal

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Some people revel in complicating simple things. But keeping it simple is not so simple either!!

EASY WAY: Sometimes difficult situations call for a casual approach. 
How do refrigerators work? Bulbs light? How do the batteries work?
Eyeglasses function? Why do we breathe? What makes the seasons? How do we hear the sounds? How do airplanes fly? Why is the ice slippery? Why and how do we get sick? What is plastic?
How many of these questions can you answer in a simple sentence without much complication? Try and you will find it very difficult to communicate, though you know the correct answer in detail. There are two ways of conceiving and conveying a thought. One is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.
KISS factor
The first method is far more difficult. Believe that every time when you have to choose between "making things right" and "making things simple", the simple path is much better for you. It is called `KISS' principle, Keep It Simple and Straightforward.
When to complicate
Arriving at a simple answer does not mean that you should not think about the complicated alternatives. How do you weigh a cat? According to Edward De Bono, known for his concept of lateral thinking, there are many choices. Tie the cat in a plastic bag and weigh. Or you can also keep a biscuit on the platform and find the weight while it is eating. Or drug the cat and weigh. But the best thing is to hold it with you and stand on the scale. Deduct your weight from the total.
We don't find better solutions and alternatives if we are satisfied with the first thing that comes into our mind. "Think of how many names your parents would have considered before selecting the best for you. Would you really like to have been called by the very first name that came to your parents' minds?" says De Bono.

There is no such thing as the best programming language. Different languages are best suited for different tasks. Good designer is the one who can select (and use) a good tool for the job at hand.
The alternatives
A student's intelligence depends on analysing all the complications of the problem, but putting across the final answer in the simplest way. For a question in physics at the University of Copenhagen to describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with the help of a barometer, a student replied, "Tie a string and lower it. The length of the string is the height of the building".
The highly original and simple answer irritated the examiner and the student was failed. In an appeal, the arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but wanted the student to give another alternative with the `basic principles of physics'. He was given five minutes time. The student was in deep thought. On being reminded that the time is running out, the student said he could not select from a bunch of extremely relevant answers, of course all based on `physics'.
While asked to hurry up he said, "Drop the barometer from the top and measure the time. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g multiplied by `t' squared" he continued, "Or you can swing the barometer first at the ground and then on the roof. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T=2 pi sq root (1/g)"

To the stunned examiner the student further explained, "Or if the sun is shining, calculate the shadows of the both and it's a simple proportional arithmetic computation." And the student finally said, "If you want the orthodox answer, measure the air pressure with the barometer at the roof and at the ground level and convert the difference in millibars into feet to arrive at the height of the building".
The student was Niels Bohr, the only scientist from Denmark to win the Nobel Prize for Physics. 



  1. So that's what KISS stands for. My teacher once said it was "keep it simple, stupid!" Hmp.