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by adam mathes
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Subtractive vs. Additive

If you want to increase engagement on the web don’t think about features to add, think about removing cruft and decreasing latency.

Organizations tend to credit people for additive launches over subtractive refinements, so the incentives are for bloat in software.

It’s difficult to find ways to incentivize this sort of thing and stop bloat and cruft.

It seems obvious how to address:

  • set quantitive metrics related to latency, usability, and simplicity
  • judge changes by those metrics
  • stop changes that negatively impact those metrics
  • reward people that improve those metrics
  • stop rewarding people who are good at self-promoting changes that don’t improve them

But rarely is anything ever so simple.

Finding and quantifying anti-bloat metrics like that is non-trivial. Latency and page size may be easy to measure, but complexity and simplicity and usability of common actions are not.

Things are further complicated since often teams are often responsible for measuring and reporting on their performance and are far from impartial.

It’s best to find a more neutral party to assess.

And if you are serious about it, give them the resources to create ways to programmatically monitor and report on it.

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