The ‘I Can Do It Better’ Fallacy

There’s this general mantra that plagues the world of web development and software development in general. The idea that whatever is out there and has been done can be done better – if done from scratch. What I mean by that is, when a developer finds a problem that needs to be solved, they often believe its in the best interest to code from line 0 instead of using pre-existing libraries or building on top of existing platforms/software. Obviously starting from 0 vs. using what’s there has to be decided on a case by case basis. There’s a balance that has to be found. I feel like for me personally and Im sure for others as well – its hard to find that middle ground.

I’m not the first on to write about this, or think about it, but I would like to give my perspective on it.

A number of months ago, I wanted to start a blog. I already had experience working with Moveable Type (for VV – however, there were certain things I didn’t like about it.

  1. The templating was a little arduous. Though powerful – it took me a little to get used to the way modules/templates were defined and handled.
  2. Working with images/dynamic content was kind of a pain.
  3. And possibly the deal breaker – it was written in Perl. Though I had learned Perl when I was 14, I basically haven’t used it since then and Im primarily a PHP guy now.

For my own blog there were certain features I wanted and I felt that Moveable Type, though well done, didn’t provide them. More importantly because I didn’t want to bother with Perl – I couldn’t write the plugins I wanted to extend it. For these reasons I fell into the fallacy. So In about a months worth of free time – I wrote QuirkeyBlog 1.0 which included almost everything I wanted:

  • Easy image upload/cropping
  • Multiple feeds
  • Tags instead of categories
  • metaWeblog API support – for posting from flickr/MarsEdit

It was awesome – but in the end it was kind of buggy and I just wasn’t posting to it. So I basically just scrapped it and moved on to the next project. Now – four months later – I had a renewed desire to be blogging. On a whim I checked out WordPress because I had heard a lot about it and was liking the fact it was all PHP. And you know what – its awesome! Its amazing how many features it has and how good the support is. Score one for open-source. Be on the look out for my first addition to the WP community.

So in the end what did I learn from the whole experience? QuirkeyBlog 1.0 wasn’t a total waste – I’ve reused a bunch of the code in another application. However, it was a big time hog – and when it came down to it I could never catch up in features or usability to the bigger guys. What I took away:

If your thinking of developing an app in well worn territory its only worth it if your time is worth less then the features you want. Especially if your only developing for yourself.

Lesson learned.

One Response to “The ‘I Can Do It Better’ Fallacy”

Greg Says: #

I could have written that post better.


QuirkeyBlog is Aaron Quint's perspective on the ongoing adventure of Code, Life, Work and the Web.




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