IT Entering the Dark Ages (Again)

Historians have described the period following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire (400 to 1400 AD) as the “Dark Ages.” Existing knowledge was lost and society regressed to a more primitive organization and technology.

In IT, we do not learn from history. We routinely throw away existing knowledge to start over, constantly emerging from each dark age only to enter a new one.

I was just reminded of this unfortunate tendency when I opened The Economist on my iPad. I used to read the magazine in traditional form on dead trees (aka paper) but moved to their iPad app to get my magazine on the publication date and not two days later. Their first iPad app reproduced the magazine layout with several narrow columns of text, re-using centuries of typographical knowledge. But in the new version, the clueless digital natives have decided to make the text one wide column with the lines way too close together, which makes it much harder to read.

Next time you get the bright idea to change something that has worked well (a page layout, a business process, or an IT framework), reflect on whether the change will really make it easier for the system to fulfill its promise.