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Is "Good Enough" the Future of Technology? 350

Posted by Soulskill
from the seems-to-work-for-the-movie-industry dept.
himitsu writes "In an article titled 'The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine,' Wired claims that the future of technology, warfare and medicine will be filled with 'good enough' solutions; situations where feature-rich and expensive products are replaced with bare-bones infrastructures and solutions. 'We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. These changes run so deep and wide, they're actually altering what we mean when we describe a product as "high-quality."'"
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Is "Good Enough" the Future of Technology?

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  • already the case (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hellswaters (824112) * on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:09AM (#29240161)
    Look at a large amount of government systems. Everything is to the cheapest bidder. But the cheapest bidder isn't always the best or product, and contains issues. Also known as 'good enough.'
    • by minsk (805035) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:20AM (#29240215)

      Look at a large amount of government systems. Everything is to the cheapest bidder. But the cheapest bidder isn't always the best or product, and contains issues. Also known as 'good enough.'

      No, that's just the cheapest. You don't know about 'good enough' without careful planning and quality evaluation.

      Or, taking the more common approach, you purchase it and deployed it. Then you discover why it was cheapest. Because it wasn't good enough.

      • If. (Score:4, Funny)

        by buswolley (591500) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:28AM (#29240267) Journal
        If this post is not good enough now...It will be tomorrow.
        • If this post is not good enough now...It will be tomorrow.

          Funny as your intent may be I think it is also spot on target.

          On the one hand, I'm one of those folks who would rather buy a pint of high quality ice cream than a gallon of cheap stuff (who wants to eat a gallon of cheap stuff) but on the other hand technology is different.

          How many of us get a tinge of depression a year after a new technology purchase only to find newer technology that does more than what we bought for cheaper? Chasing the high end tech game is expensive. Chasing the low end tech game is a

      • Well, sad to disappoint some people, but the whole history of humanity is filled with using the thing that was only 80% as good, but cost a tenth as much as the best-of-the-best.

        E.g., in WW2 it meant losing IIRC 4 Shermans to kill a Tiger... but here's the funny stuff: it cost the USA less to replace the 4 Shermans than it cost the Germans to replace the Tiger. Guess who won that war?

        E.g., other than the English virtually nobody used the superior longbow. Why? Because longbowmen had to be well trained, they

    • by reporter (666905) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:23AM (#29240235) Homepage
      The most well-known example of technology overkill is Windows XP and its successors. Think about it for a minute. How many of the functions in these operating systems do you actually use?

      I myself use maybe 10%. There are parts (of Windows Vista) that I have never explored and will never explore. I just do not need all that functionality.

      I bet that the majority of non-technical users are just like me. Suppose that Microsoft created a "good enough" operating system called "Windows Minimum" (WM). It has 10% of the functions of Windows Vista and 10% of its size. WM would also likely be 10 times more reliable since it is small and easy to verify to be correct. Best of it, WM would likely be 10% of the price of Windows Vista. $20 is just about right for most people.

      • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:38AM (#29240319) Journal

        Um, it probably would cost about the same as XP/Vista/7, assuming most end-users would get this 'WinMin' OS instead of WinXP/Vista/7, as the market has shown that people are willing to pay that much for the OS, even if they don't use all the features of it.

        And somehow I doubt Microsoft would devote all that extra money into making the OS more secure/reliable/easy to use. They probably would blow it trying to diversify into some other markets, such as a licensable OS for routers (so Cisco can make the hardware, and MS would provide the software!).

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Sir_Sri (199544)

        that applies to cars too. The tata nano is essentailly that. No seat belts, most of the time people don't need those. Rear view mirrors, got by for 60 years without em. Airconditioning? Open a window. Air bags? If something goes wrong they can hurt you, even without an serious accident. Anti lock breaks, well with some practice a good driver can do better than ABS, and you aren't going fast most of the time anwyay. Radio, distracting. Cost: 2500 bucks US (or thereabouts).

        The reason you can't sell

        • by phoenix321 (734987) * on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:43AM (#29240805)

          "Hooray for mediocrity" is not an excuse for doing crappy things the wrong way. Neither is "The Simpsons did it".

          The Tata Nano car was not rejected because of consumerism or market protection, but because it is a low quality, highly dangerous piece of technology. Coupled with its cheapness and almost limitless availability, we all would've had a quagmire on the roads pretty quickly.

          Just a few examples: seatbelts, the car safety feature that has saved more lives than the alcohol prohibition or the traffic light. A hard braking without actual impact can send you smashing on the steering wheel or knocking your teeth out - while with a seatbelt you and your car would've had no damage whatsoever. People not wearing seatbelts are very hesitating in applying full brake power in an emergency situation because of this and that would've cost lives of passengers, pedestrians and other drivers. That's why they're mandatory and why you're fined for not wearing them.

          ABS: Drivers can do better than ABS but only if they're really experienced. We're talking about "half a million mile" or "NASCAR experience". Beginners cause the most crashes and one out of three drivers will have a situation where having ABS will mean the difference between sweating and loss of money, limb or life. Even if one is an experienced driver, I bet you hope the other guy is also experienced or has ABS. I hope on both.

          The Nano is destined for markets where it is the only mobility alternative for much of the population and better than the ubiquitous scooter everyone has now. There, the Nano can decrease total road deaths simply because four wheels and a windshield are much safer in the downpouring rain that parts of India and Asia seasonally experience.

          In Western markets, the Nano would increase road deaths, possibly up to terrible levels from the Fifties. I'm with you when you say we COULD omit air conditions, power windows, central locking, electric mirrors, electric hatches. But safety features like seatbelts (pennies), ABS (a few hundred bucks) or ESP (another few hundred bucks) will cost more if they're missing. You could not save more than 1500 bucks (at most) on manufacturing the car but the first accident will cost more than you'd ever saved in property damage alone. Or worse.

          Extremely cold-heartedly saying: it costs about 150'000 bucks to raise and educate one kid to be an average adult in our society. Because of that, even if we all were the most heartless, profit-oriented bastards on earth, we'd equip our cars with all affordable safety features.

          In doubt, drive to an empty street somewhere and practice maximum emergency braking, with and without wearing the seatbelt. Hesitated smashing your teeth on the steering wheel, even for a fraction of a second?. Wear a seatbelt, dude.

          Obligatory wiki links:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusory_superiority [wikipedia.org]
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusion_of_control [wikipedia.org]

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Runaway1956 (1322357)

            It would be terrible to grow up in a world where there are real consequences for our actions, wouldn't it? It's just wonderful that we have a nanny state to mandate the use of seatbelts, airbags, ABS, etc ad nauseum, all designed to protect us from our own idiocy.

            I have a couple of better ideas. First, let's get about 2/3 of the people off of the roads. We don't NEED the millions of automobiles that are out there. Second, let's have real driver's education. It was silently dropped sometime after I got

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Jeremy Erwin (2054)

            Airbags killed the AM radio star. [speedsportlife.com]

            The author argues that any savings associated with manual windows are eaten up by the costs of training assemblers to install the cheaper part. designing the door assembly to support both automatic and manual parts, and so on. I'm not sure that the site its hosted on adds much credibility, though.

      • by IkeTo (27776)

        Look at the competition. They are (1) Linux, and (2) BSD (including Mac OSX). Both are very generic OS, serving a wide variety of settings including the desktop, the server, laptops, and handhelds and at times embedded systems like routers. Both don't care that average user will use only a tiny fraction of the OS. This is general in software: things get generalized to all similar areas. There is no point for MS to create a "WM" from scratch, if MS need one it simply disables the unneeded features from

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by LaskoVortex (1153471)

        The most well-known example of technology overkill is Windows XP and its successors. Think about it for a minute. How many of the functions in these operating systems do you actually use?

        If an OSS advocate made this same argument as a reason to adopt Linux and OpenOffice, you'd have the OSS detractors screaming at him for not understanding business and productivity. I recall quite a flame fest over replacements for Adobe products a day or two ago.

        Windows is popular despite that it is only good enough. Linux dominates the OSS market despite its myriad shortcomings. Plenty of better solutions have come and gone, but good enough solutions spread like wildfire because they are not actually opti

      • by Entropic Alchemist (1613649) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:44AM (#29240809) Homepage

        I myself use maybe 10%. There are parts (of Windows Vista) that I have never explored and will never explore. I just do not need all that functionality.

        Yes, but who is to say that every user uses the same 10%? If most users only utilise 10%, I would think that these 10% segments overlap enough to cover a significant proportion of the total function of the OS.

      • I think Davester answered your question quite well. MS is in the business of making money, NOT the business of making a stable, secure operating system.

        Some of the most stable, secure operating systems can be downloaded for FREE. They also pretty much give the lie to the "good enough" mentioned in TFA. Linux is already "good enough" for any purpose to which it might be put, with the exception of high end gaming. People won't accept "good enough". They want bells and whistles, eyecandy, and someone to h

    • Uhm, well, DUH?!?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcrbids (148650) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:40AM (#29240329) Journal

      I drive a Toyota Matrix. It's no Lexus, but's it's plenty "good enough".

      I live in a two-story, 2,000 Sq Ft home. It's no mansion, but it's quite nice, and it's "good enough".

      My computer is an almost-3-year-old Dell running Fedora Core Linux. Although it was a bit spendy when I bought it, it's worth 1/10 of it's original value. I still use it because it's "good enough".

      My shoes, purchased at Payless shoe source, black leather Airwalks. Are they the nicest shoes in the world? Well, they are if by nicest you mean "easy to come by for $30 or less". Oh, and "good enough".

      Lame article is lame. We *always* compromise quality for price to find a healthy balance between the two. You don't drive a bulletproof limousine, nor do you (likely) travel to work every day in a private jet. Given a particular product marketplace, as features broaden, they become less and less important. The marketplace for the product as a whole commoditizes, and prices collapse.

      This is the natural order of market progression, and is the march towards general social wealth. The author of this article needs a little Econ 101, as does the article submitter.

      • You mean price and quality of goods are automatically adapting to the cost of material and labor needed to produce or maintain them, offset by the cost and applicability of substitutes? All producers shifting their production where it is needed or wanted the most and where the resulting produce is - for consumers - worth more than the energy, raw materials and labour that went into producing them? Is that an invisible hand or something? :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jpyeck (1368075)

        I appreciated your examples of items that are "good enough". This is also how I feel about most of my purchases.

        I disagree, however, with your statement that we "compromise quality" in making these choices. Juran [wikipedia.org] (an American whose ideas on quality helped drive the post-war Japanese manufacturing boom) defines quality as "fitness for use". In his and many other quality-researchers' definitions of quality, quality requirements are subjective and different for each person. I.e. my "fitness for use" is diff

    • Re:already the case (Score:4, Interesting)

      by j. andrew rogers (774820) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:28AM (#29240531)

      Interestingly, for some government contracts the lowest bidder is automatically discarded -- it is the *second* lowest bidder that gets the contract. This is a well-known theoretical mechanism for removing bullshit from the bidding process. The end price will be slightly higher, but the price will usually be more accurate for a given contract spec.

    • People make the trade-off between quality and price all the time. TFA seems pretty pointless to me.

      -jcr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Narpak (961733)

      Look at a large amount of government systems. Everything is to the cheapest bidder. But the cheapest bidder isn't always the best or product, and contains issues. Also known as 'good enough.'

      As with most things you buy, what is cheapest upfront might not be the cheapest in the long run. Arguably doing it right the first time might save you maintenance costs down the road.

  • wrong (Score:2, Informative)

    by JeanBaptiste (537955)

    The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      machines blowing each other up isn't war and doesn't have the same impact as war. War needs people getting killed, and there is no indication in any of the wars happening on earth that this trend is in any way changing.

      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Exactly, you kill all the men of fighting age who want to play soilder. The boys, girls, woman and old men are given the offer of food, shelter, no excesses if they surrender.
        If they let your troops and small tanks roll on, all is fine.
        If not, your light up the valley, town, city.
        Worked for grandpa ;) and the grandsons and daughters love it too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by lorteau (1627357)
      Modded 'informative'?? Are we only 2, the other one being Klobbersaurus, to have spotted the Simpsons quote?
  • I would be more worried about people (as in 90%+ of it) choosing lower quality products not because they are cheaper, or is delivered faster, or safer (in fact, none of them), but better marketed.
    • by minsk (805035)

      I would be more worried about people choosing poor products based on marketing if I thought it were a new phenomenon.

      But, just like the next generation being when the world descends into sloth and vice, we don't really seem to be getting anywhere in our tumble toward oblivion.

      • Re:That concerns? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:34AM (#29240289) Homepage

        People are confusing "quality" with "features".

        The quality product isn't the one with the most features, it's the one that
        meets the actual requirements, does so reliably and doesn't fall apart. This
        means that a Toyota or even a Hyundai is a quality product despite not having
        the frills of a Benz or the hype of a BMW.

        When the frills get in the way of getting things done, the more basic device
        is actually the more suitable one and represents "higher quality".

    • You missed the point. If the products are good enough, it is not a problem for the customer.
      If they are not, they will not buy from the company anymore, sooner or later, and tell others that product sucks.

      The Unix philosophy, worse is better, has always been about "good enough", so I think "good enough" is the future. Open source projects are mostly scratching an itch, until the itch is solved "good enough" (This is often criticized).

      IPv4 is pretty bad (e.g. for VoIP), but it is good enough, so its used. Th

  • by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:22AM (#29240231)

    Simplicity is the key... just like my post.

    • by gnupun (752725) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:04AM (#29240665)
      LOL. "Good Enough" is euphemistic code for average, mediocre, unimportant. So expect all future consumer products to exhibit that quality. Oh wait, most products already do, compared with products from 10 to 15 years ago: cars, software, movies, books etc. Is Windows 7 significantly better than the almost 10-year old XP? Other than its new GUI, it has nothing to offer other than slow, bloatedness. So why the hell should humanity improve technology if we don't get to use it while big, fat, CEOs use cheap materials and labor to increase their profits?

      If you support open source, good enough will be the norm, as in, "Linux is good enough for my software needs, I don't need/want anything else." Since open source products have less competition (hard to compete with a $0 price tag), the need to improve the product will be almost non-existent. In contrast, with closed source, there is constant competition to deliver better products as each competitor works hard to improve his product and steal his competitor's profits.
      • Mediocrity is a function of not being able to spend all ones resources on ones pet project.

        Lets face it the way capitalism works assures us that infinite resources cannot be dedicated to any product and one must have a large enough population who shares the same interest in quality that you do and have enough money to pay for them for such products to take off.

        Lastly, mediocre products are a sign of the lack of intelligence and powers of discrimination of most of the population.

    • Well, say hello to the no-frills, simple airline where we have a huge tank of gasoline, a "simple" commodity jet engine and only the simplest of pilots in a cockpit with no unneeded instruments. A windshield, windshield wiper, steering horn, pedals, airspeed indicator, compass, engine power setting and landing gear control. Our tickets are 30% less than the competition and our planes only crash 20% more often, but that's because we only fly in fair weather when there's no wind. Would you fly with us for you

  • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:25AM (#29240243)
    This article is really just one guy pointificating about a few anecdotes. Of course he's right that the mass market is in the middle to low end. But what was it not so? Ford outsells Ferrari. This is not news.
  • Nothing is perfect and we are all just left to our own for a definition of "good enough".

    Seriously, Even with the U.S. space effort etc, there are things checked a bizillion times on a manned space craft. This is because the mission cannot just pull over for parts mid-flight. And even with all that, shit still breaks or doesn't do as expected.

    We are all just left to hope that any given "good enough" is, well, actually good enough.

    Ta Dah!

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:27AM (#29240261)
    My line of work - which is patent law, crucify me - brings me in contact with a lot of mechanical engineers. One complaint I often get to hear from the older ones is that in ye olden days, most people in management were engineers themselves, who had worked up their way through a lifelong career. Those were the days of quality products, of taking pride in the excellence of your work. Now, as MBAs have taken over, we have the days of producing as cheap and sloppy as you can get away with. This may be partially nostalgia-filtered, but I guess it has some reality to it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      ...then it's time for a new, unrelated industry to rise, or the economy is going to tank. Do you think the auto industry lasted forever with engineers in their management ranks? I'd say no, and around the time they started getting into that mindset, the computer industry gradually stepped in as the new high-tech industry. It has happened before, it will happen again, if there's another tech industry in our future.
    • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:07AM (#29240681)

      One complaint I often get to hear from the older ones is that in ye olden days, most people in management were engineers themselves, who had worked up their way through a lifelong career. Those were the days of quality products, of taking pride in the excellence of your work.

      Maybe so, but those same engineers are likely to miss other trends, such as the personal computer versus mainframes. To them the personal computer is junk compared to their meticulously crafted machines, but they miss the point entirely.

      I'm reminded of the photography industry, where for many years the purists insisted that expensive European lenses and cameras would always be superior, but in reality the Japanese products were the future.

  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:27AM (#29240265)

    Contrary to popular believe its always been the case that tools and machines were made just good enough.

    The definition of "just good enough" depends almost entirely on the cost to manufacturer any given device.

    When a given tool is manufactured, its engineered to withstand its expected life span, within the budget available.

    If you know you can buy a plow that will last for 20 years for X dollars, and a longer lasting plow for a lot more money, you immediately start thinking about how much cheaper it will be to build the same plow in 5 years, after the new mine is open, and the new forge set up. If its going to be cheaper, you don't bother beefing it up.

    Things in the past were built to last their expected life time (or the life of the owner), or the duration for which the device is needed.

    Per unit Cost, and per unit lead time to manufacture just about anything has shortened progressively over the centuries.

    We don't need the plow, the ship, or the building to last that long any more, and in fact it is detrimental that they do, because that delays progress of new technology. Its easier to recycle it and build next year's model, which will be cheaper.

    I don't see anything new here. Its been this way since dirt.

    Even my long dead grandfather used to complain "They don't make em like the used to".

    Thanks for that.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      The problem is a small group are getting the "plow that will last for 20 years" vs "plow that will last for 5 years" production line savings.
      The end users are getting Apple and MSed over, paying for a "plow that will last for 5-15 years" with the story of a "plow that will last for 18 years".
      • by icebike (68054)

        "Production line savings" end up in the purchaser's pockets, in the industrialist's pocket, in the grocery shopper's pocket.

        Don't turn this thread into a class warfare issue. Its not that at all. Its been going on throughout history.

      • You neglect that in our country, you aren't necessarily tied down by your class if you have the will to change the world around you. You can be in that small group, if you decide to, and work to it.
    • by compro01 (777531)

      because that delays progress of new technology

      Though often we end up with progress (too often "progress") for progress' sake.

      I've lost count of the number of times I've had something break and I end up having to replace the entire thing rather than a single part. Recent example, the thermostatic value in my shower went and rather than just replacing the value (which would have cost about $30, but isn't made anymore, after just 2 years), I had to replace the entire assembly for about $200. And the only difference I could find between the old and new i

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Tubal-Cain (1289912)

      Its easier to recycle it and build next year's model, which will be cheaper.

      Pfft. My mother had had a certain washing machine for as long as I can remember. Never even serviced, as far as I know. New dryers, however, haven't lasted very long. She managed to get an one second-hand from a neighbor (maybe 10 years old) and hasn't had any problems since.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jcr (53032)

        If you were willing to pay a similar proportion of your income for a dryer today, you can still get a similarly high quality dryer right now. Miehle makes excellent washers and dryers.

        -jcr

    • by nitroamos (261075)

      Contrary to popular believe its always been the case that tools and machines were made just good enough.

      The definition of "just good enough" depends almost entirely on the cost to manufacturer any given device.

      Well, ok, but I don't think you've identified the driving force, because the real question is:

      When is the obsolescence date of the device you're thinking of purchasing?

      If a better/cheaper device will be on sale next year, then you're not going to pay as much for what you can get today. On the other hand, if the product you buy won't become obsolete for another decade, then you might as well pay the extra money to get good quality. Technology improves on an exponential scale. To illustrate my point: why buy

      • by shmlco (594907)

        "To illustrate my point: why buy a laptop now that will cost 3000$ and keep it for 3 years, instead of buying a 1000$ laptop every year for 3 years? I'll get a better deal with the cheaper laptops!"

        At 3x times the cost in materials, 3x times the energy needed to produce each one and ship it and sell it, and generating 3x times the waste when you toss each one away and it ends up in a landfill.

        You may be getting a better "deal", but from an environmental standpoint, the rest of use are getting screwed by you

        • by vakuona (788200)
          Who said anything about taking the laptop to the landfill. At one year, it is probably still very sellable.
    • by PyroMosh (287149)

      This is also an issue of modernization, industrialization, and establishment of reliable, fast supply lines.

      People often talk about tools, and how they used to last a lifetime, or plows, or whatever. But when that was the case, you didn't have a Sears and a Wal*Mart and a Pep Boys and a hundred other stores within 30 minutes travel time who carry tools. Go back a hundred years. You're a farmer in rural Virginia somewhere... you need tools to do your job day in and day out... there is Sears catalog, maybe

  • The author is an idiot. This has been going on forever. Using his camera example, anyone over 50 or so will remember the Kodak Instamatic cameras of the 1960's, when expensive cameras were on the rise, the cheap and easy Instamatic turned the market around.

    Cheap and easy has been #1 forever.

  • Sweet Spot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:34AM (#29240301) Homepage

    As someone who has been in the computer industry for a long time, I can tell you that there are sweet spots everywhere. Would you pay $100 for a good video card, capable of 80% of the power of a $200 one? Or would you pay $400 for one with 110% of the power of a $200 one?

    'Good Enough' is how technology has always been. Sure, we could make our jet fighters 10% more fuel efficient, if we added 50% to the cost of the engines, and a similar amount to the upkeep. We COULD do a lot of things, but one or two steps down from the best is still good enough for most applications in the real world.

    • The 100$ video card tends to have 50% of the performance of the 200$ one, which has 50% of the performance of the 400$ one.
      • Well. There is a sense of diminishing returns. The $100 one is usually pretty crippled compared to the $200 part, but the $400 single-card is rarely more than like 50% faster than the $200 one. Of course, it depends on the generation. The 8800 GT at $200 was so close to the speed of the much-more-expensive 8800 GTX that it was selling at $300 rather than the MSRP. ATI's 4770 over-performed at its price-point, too, such that it was more cost-effective to slap two of them together at first.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mce (509)

        Even if that were true - which it isn't - there still is a sweet spot. Imagine what else you could do with the money you do not spend on the 400$ card. If everyone does the same, as they do, demand for the expensive cards is low and what should be a $600 card according to your theory and could be a $800 one - considering the more expensive components - really has to be priced $1000 just to recover the development costs.

        Beware: I'm a software engineer who worked up his way through the ranks in the electron

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dangitman (862676)

        The 100$ video card tends to have 50% of the performance of the 200$ one, which has 50% of the performance of the 400$ one.

        Not in reality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      'Good Enough' is how technology has always been.

      Yes. Even Voltaire famously said, "The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good."

  • 'Good enough' is relative. Of course if it is not good enough then no one will buy it, but the real question is where is the line? Apple's products are probably the most polished on the market today yet they are still not 'perfect'. Is Apple operating on a good enough principle? It is all about standards. Good enough for me may not be good enough for you. Also, different requirements mean different solutions. Linux is great for people with time and a tech mindset, it allows tinkering and tweaking and

  • by TheModelEskimo (968202) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:38AM (#29240321)
    Wired are actually telling us that we LIKE high quality stuff, but after a point, consumer products are just repetitive. It's pornographic to the T - they're exploiting consumers by pushing for higher and higher quality while the essential creation remains the same.

    So we're starting to get a sense for what industrialism brought us: The need to put a harness on creativity, to attempt to "own" creativity. And it can't be done.

    My own theory is that we've tried unsuccessfully to sustain ourselves on consumerism, and the people who are doing the real creative stuff now are no longer what would be termed "consumers." They have withdrawn from the marketplace. So industry and media need to put a spin on this fast - they need to siphon off what's left in the can before they start to die. They're just in a mad grab for gobs of raw ideas, knowing that they can't hold onto individual ideas for so long anymore.
  • It's the economy, stupid.
  • But it's good enough to get me annoyed!

    This is just another diseased mind thinking that nostalgic reminiscing is when it was good. Ya, I remember when I was young and everything was so great! High quality stuff was everywhere. My Kraft dinner was so much better when my mom made it for me! That is just nonsense. Technology gets better all the time. "Good Enough" differs depending on the product. A CPU that doesn't quite do logic is not going to be "Good Enough", but a program that crashes some times might be

    • by kuzb (724081) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:03AM (#29240443)
      It's wired. "Good enough" pretty much describes the level of research they're willing to do in order to publish something. I wonder if this article isn't directly related to their own laziness.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MtViewGuy (197597)

      A good analogy of this is comparing today's high-definition flat-panel televisions versus the color TV's of the 1960's with all its tube components in the interior of the TV. Today's latest flat panels run cooler, offer a VASTLY sharper and clearer picture in terms of resolution and color clarity, and generally do way more than that old TV. And inflation-adjusted, the new TV is actually quite a bargain, too; a top-of-the-line 25" (diagonal) color TV from 1968 cost around US$500, about US$3,061 in 2009 dolla

  • by Hangeron (314487) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:47AM (#29240361)

    It's good for the economy to produce stuff that people have to replace regularly. We should produce crap that breaks every few months. That would really boost consumerism and spin up the economy. But what we really need are cheap and simple replacement societies. When a world police like the US bombs another country and takes their resources, they can just slap in a modern, cheap and simple solution. Benefit for all.

  • The 95% rule (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sarusa (104047) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @02:54AM (#29240403)

    This isn't really new, it's just the 95% rule (where admittedly 95% is just a WAG) and I've considered it a rule of thumb for decades

    Basically anything that's 95% good enough and has some other overwhelming advantage (cheapness, convenience, lack of confusion) wins over technically more capable competitors, except for a few fanatics who aren't enough to drive the market. MP3s lose some quality from CDs and FLAC/WAV, but who cares? They're more convenient. YouTube is a horrid example of this - everyone thinks blocky, tiny, hitching video is good enough because it's so convenient and there's so much content. So you have to reboot your mobile phone now and then or can't get coverage in some places, when land-lines work damn near 100% of the time - who cares? Apple knows this rule and uses it brilliantly - Mac OS and its apps do 95% of what people need and it don't bother you about or give you decision paralysis for the other 5% that only tech-heads want.

    I find that Linux with package management does about 95% of what I need to do out of the box and I have to script the rest... but that's good enough for me to just run Debian on all my servers and not worry about it. It's worth not having to fetch and compile every damn dependency by scratch or wade through all of Windows's hideously incestuous server configuration crap. More to the point, I could run BSD on all those servers, but why bother? Yes, I know you have all sorts of technical reasons why I should, but they don't matter. It's good enough and more convenient.

    I've got about 10 more examples but will shut up now, because I think I've made 95% of the point.

  • by Tanman (90298) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:05AM (#29240449)

    'Good enough' is what funds 'advancement.' See Bugatti Veyron for reference.

    It is the average/affordable/usable sales that fund advancement for the high-tech/advanced. Another excellent example of this is photography. The development for the latest and greatest DSLR low-light cameras with anamorphowidealcoholic lenses is paid for by point-and-shoots. Video cards are another example -- the low- and mid-range cards fund the cutting-edge. The only purposes for high-end are advertising of brand name superiority and to have trickle-down on the 'good enough' stuff.

    • It is the average/affordable/usable sales that fund advancement for the high-tech/advanced. Another excellent example of this is photography.

      I think that's backwards. It's Nikon and Canon's premium-paying professional market that funded their move into point-and-shoots and consumer cameras. The technology in the professional cameras is handed down to the consumer ones. It's not like point-and-shoot cameras start out with advanced technology that later gets added to the pro line.

      Likewise, in computing the high margins from Apple's Mac Pro, Macbook Pro and professional software help subsidize the lower-cost Macbook and iMac, while high-end softwar

  • !news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:05AM (#29240451) Journal

    I can't believe no one's mentioned "worse is better" [jwz.org] yet. An excerpt:

    I believe that worse-is-better, even in its strawman form, has better survival characteristics than the-right-thing

    Another example would be Linux. It can be argued that Minix and Gnu HURD both likely had superior designs -- in fact, at the time, Linus fully expected Linux to become irrelevant once HURD was released. It never happened -- because Linux was available now, and was free and freely modifiable now, even though it was worse, it attracted enough developers so that it ultimately became more practical for most tasks.

    And of course, the most obvious example is Windows. This follows the pattern:

    The lesson to be learned from this is that it is often undesirable to go for the right thing first. It is better to get half of the right thing available so that it spreads like a virus. Once people are hooked on it, take the time to improve it to 90% of the right thing.

    DOS was an abomination, especially considering real OSes existed at the time. Windows 3.1 was barely more than a multiplexer for DOS, and Windows 95/98/ME were similarly backward abominations. Windows NT was unusable by ordinary users until Windows 2000, and why would power users prefer it over Unix?

    Yet they were half the right thing, and they were usable by ordinary people, on the PC, faster and cheaper than anyone else.

    The story mentions netbooks, but that's just the latest iteration of this. Remember, the original PCs weren't as powerful as minicomputers, which weren't as powerful as mainframes.

    • by jgrahn (181062)

      I can't believe no one's mentioned "worse is better" yet.

      I meant to, but you beat me to it. Unix versus anything else in the 1970s, TCP/IP versus whatever layered monsters others tried to dream up.

      I still don't see how Windows fits into that, though. The PC hardware did, and that's what got it rolling, plus the users' childish tendency to love, trust and bonding to first IBM, then Microsoft.

  • Perhaps a pencil is good enough - there isn't much research going into them about how to improve them.
  • by golodh (893453) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:36AM (#29240577)
    I mean, just look at MS Windows. Throughout its history it has always been "good enough" in a technological sense of the word, but superior in terms of accessibility and convenience.

    And what about Henry Ford's T-model? It most certainly wasn't anything to brag about, technology-wise. It most certainly wasn't any better than the competition, but yet gaain it was "good enough" and accessible (in the sense of affordable).

    Now what was that about "the future of technology" again?

  • by fooslacker (961470) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @03:59AM (#29240643)
    It's not just technology it's all things. As much as engineers want to have a perfect widget and developers want to have a perfect system it's just not practical. What is "good enough" is determined by exterior factors and most notably economics/usage. If a product is desirable enough to make it the most profitable at a given price point with a given feature set and less than optimal quality then there is no incentive to improve the product beyond that point. In fact it is damaging the economic value of the product to do so since it consumes resources without an expected return. For those of you who find the economic argument in poor taste and just want to make things good on principle switch the concept over to helping people solve their problems or pure usage of your product(s). Investing more in a product won't help more people or get more people to use it beyond a certain point where as focusing your efforts on a new product will help more people or get more usage of your portfolio of products as a whole.

    Regardless this is nothing new and yes "Good Enough" will be the future of all things not just technology. What is good enough will largely depend on the economic concept of "utility" and maximizing that utility for the greatest number as well as the impact of failures. If failures kill people the definition of what is good enough is different than if you just have to reboot and wait 20 seconds.

    Heck life just works this way. Evolution isn't an optimal system for the individual but by being suboptimal at that level it tries out failure paths and becomes optimal for a species as a whole. Economics and how "good" something gets works in a similar manner serving the needs of the whole population rather than the needs of the individual user or small group who want the product to reach it's perfect form.
  • Good enough is what most people can afford; past, present and future. The question is not will we be satisfied with less. It is can we afford better?

    Personally, I see more mass happiness and leisure in a future where the answer is YES. So let's all work to make it that way. Screw this article.

  • by improfane (855034) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:04AM (#29240661) Journal

    I think the bare-bones and full featured are niches that will always exist.

    Things like Notepad, Vi/Emacs and Notepad++
    Google Docs, Microsoft Word/OpenOffice
    Photoshop, GIMP then Paint.NET
    Apache, lightHTTPd

    Any other examples?

    It's kind of sad that the most full featured projects are commercial. I think TIME makes all bare bones software into full featured. I mean, Word is 1983, it has been re-envisioned and re-written many times whereas Google Docs is built on a relatively recent platform.

    The Pure Digital camcorder is just another niche. I doubt that the expensive camcorders lost sales to this? Or did they? Does Word lose sales to users of Google Docs?

    I think the world wide web IS an example of worse is better! Desktop applications are faster, more capable and powerful yet we rely on relaying redundant TEXT and continually re-drawing the screen. ...terminal much?

  • by macraig (621737) <mark...a...craig@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:04AM (#29240663)

    ... if it's taken them THIS long to notice the inexorable descent from qualitative focus to a quantitative one. It's only been progressing for over a century, after all. That descent is one of the primary things that has made my life hell, because I will not and cannot make that descent. I'm not "wired" for it like all the neurotypical types. I'm not alone in that inability and refusal; when can we emigrate to another planet and create a culture of craftsmen? This culture of suits and middlemen is killing me!

    Way to go with that prescient observation, Wired.

  • by cartman (18204) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:09AM (#29240693)
    The philosophy of "good enough" has driven most open source projects. From linux 1.x kernels to MySQL, from GIMP to KDE, many OSS projects are clones of earlier commercial projects, but with less features and for free. By saying that, I'm not insulting OSS. Most of the time, fewer features (but free) is the best value for most companies and people. That is why OSS is so influential.

    Recently, I read an article on slashdot that OSS UI development should stop imitating Mac and Windows, and should start innovating. Also, I've read various things from Eric Raymond and others that OSS should be prized for its innovativeness. But I think that's all wrong. OSS is most valuable when it's not innovative. The most successful OSS projects (like Linux, gcc, mysql, OpenSSL, and others) have been shameless clones, while the innovative OSS projects (like Hurd) died off. Of course there are exceptions, but usually OSS software is the generic drug of the software industry.

    There's nothing wrong with that.

  • by azgard (461476) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:37AM (#29240789)

    I am tired of all that "people are stupid and don't want quality" and "worse is better" crap. This is not true at all.

    People want quality products that last, unless they are overpriced. The problem is, it's much harder to recognize quality, especially in modern products, thus there is no market pressure for it. But there is a market pressure from the investor's end to produce as much things as possible.

    Ultimately, it's an issue of asymmetric information and trust. Consider buying a computer. Say, you have a 2 year warranty period in EU. You have two choices - one for 200$, and the other for 300$, but the producer claims it will last at least 3 years (but the warranty is still 2 years). So, which one are you going to choose? The cheaper one of course. Because you have no insurance that the other will not last say 2.5 year, in which case you would be screwed. This is a classic situation on a market with asymmetric information, as described in George Akerlof's Market for Lemons.

    Furthermore, the companies want to sell as much product as they can. Company building products to last 20 years (with warranty, so assume you can trust this deal) would be at a disadvantage to company making products to last 5 years, because the profits of the latter would be higher (it costs more to produce 4 products than 1, so with the same margin, company can make more profit). In history, companies (mostly found by idealistic engineers) believed that building quality product is better, but in the 70s the MBA types they installed instead realized they are wrong, so that's why it went downhill ever since. Even if you would try to switch companies, if all of them are doing that, it gets useful.

    It's just normal capitalism in play, but most people didn't know the rules at the beginning, and now that large companies started to optimize by the rules, it's just not fun anymore.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @04:58AM (#29240857) Homepage

    As the first poster indicates, we are already there... or it's already here. But what does it mean?

    New tech has certainly lost its luster and people are certainly realizing that new doesn't always mean better. But this cannot be the whole reason can it? Is this yet another sign of economic down-turn? Maybe, but for many, this started happening before the downturn really started having affect. I think it's the consumer pushing back and demanding value in larger and larger numbers. With every "new thing" that replaces old things that work just fine, we are seeing more and more "needless" advancement or changes that aren't really advancements at all.

    We see this especially in things like Windows where resistance to moving away from "Just Fine" Windows XP to the newer, shinier "Aero" interfaced versions is surprisingly strong... well, surprising for Microsoft I am sure, and surprising when you see how abrupt this movement has been. After all, people had been discussing the new Windows for years with excitement only to be disappointed with all the most significant features removed. We see this in the shrinking numbers of "Hummer" vehicles on the road as well, though we might argue that has more to do with fuel costs than anything else, but from where I sit, Hummers are nothing more than oversized pickup trucks as they only bear slight resemblance to the HumVee which is what really excited people about "Hummer" in the first place, but "Looks like a HumVee" doesn't sell Hummers the way it did at first. People soon realized that there should be more to expensive cars than what it looks like and the price tag. [funlol.com]

    I think what the "push back" is all about it a crying out for "substance" in our new stuff. What all the new stuff we see these days really lacks is substance. I'm not saying that turds are not useful, but we want turds that are more than just polished... otherwise, our old turds are "just fine."

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 29, 2009 @07:43AM (#29241513)

    When you look back a few years, then "second grade" was inferior and often not up to speed. Remember those Cyrix processors, the kinda-sorta-intel-compatible ones? They were cheap, they were allegedly compatible, but often they were anything but "good enough". Or the cheap knockoff electronics that first came from Japan (in the 50s/60s) and then from China? They were kinda-sorta good, but if you wanted quality you headed for the real stuff.

    Today, everything is from China. The allegedly "good stuff" and the cheap knockoffs, often they come from the same conveyor belt. Brand name is no longer a sign and guarantee for quality. Manufacturers, or rather, the companies that have others manufacture for them more and more these days, realized that it's cheaper to produce cheap products that break sometimes/often and just replace them under warranty. Of 100 pieces you sell, maybe 70 will work ok, of the 30 non working ones you'll get 20 thrown back, the other 10 will just toss it and buy something new or don't know enough about the merchandize to even realize it doesn't work as advertised. That's cheaper than producing quality goods where 99 of 100 will work.

    Another thing is life expectancy. 40 years ago, you could sensibly expect your TV to last at least a decade. And you also had it for a decade, it was expensive enough to have it repaired if its magic smoke escaped. Today, you'll be lucky to have it for more than its warranty period. But even that is 'good enough'. By the time those 2 years are over, some new standard is coming out and you want a new set anyway.

    It actually is "good enough". People don't expect things to last anymore. And often don't even want them to last. They want cheap. They want cheaper. They want new, shiny stuff and not cling to that old appliance forever and a day. Quality, of course, suffers in such an environment. It's very difficult to get quality products anymore, if you need some, you will have to look very carefully.

    And if you find something, inform me. I'm looking for quality instead of cheap, but I can't find anything anymore.

  • well, duh ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ankhank (756164) * on Saturday August 29, 2009 @10:53AM (#29242915) Journal

    Reminds me of a guy laughing about the amount of precision his job required -- he worked under that mountain from which World War III was expected to be fought. Radio interviewer asked him about accuracy of the missiles used.

    He said with what they were throwing, hitting anywhere in the time zone would suffice for their purposes.

    Then he laughed and said no, no, only kidding.

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