The cost of change

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As you know, this blog advocates the use of better software.  Since we're developers, we tend to focus on how programmers and designers can positively impact software.  There's another side to this though.  Without users who are willing to accept change, no amount of innovation will matter.

But it's unreasonable to expect users to adopt all new technology.  There are far too many products coming out each day for anyone to try them all.  Users need to take responsibility for balancing their use of existing software with the experimentation of new tools.

I'll give an example of a decision I've had to make.  About a year ago, I learned about a javascript framework called jQuery.  You don't really need to know what jQuery does, but just know that it makes a web developer's life way easier.  Anyway, since learning to use jQuery, I've heard about a number of other javascript frameworks which are potentially even better.  The problem is that it takes quite a while to learn how to use one of these frameworks so I can't afford to look into every single one that comes out.

How did I resolve this?  I decided that, while jQuery may certainly be replaced at some point, the cost of learning a new framework more than once every couple of years would negate any benefits that a superior framework would offer.  Sometime around next summer I'll be open to the idea of learning to use a new one, but for now I'm accepting what I already know.

Don't be confused by this decision though.  I'm not "content" with jQuery.  I think it's great, but I'm certainly ready for an even better product.  But despite my eagerness for all things to improve, I'd never get anything done if I switched tools every two months.  So I use what I know until it makes sense to consider changing.

I encourage you to be very conscious of this issue when considering using new software.  If you've been using Outlook for the past 10 years, you can certainly justify trying out the Gmail web interface.  On the other hand, if you've been using Wordpress for a couple of years, it probably isn't worth the effort of moving over to Blogger, even if Blogger is a better fit for you.

Most people are way too resistant to change, so this advice might not be too useful.  But if you find yourself jumping on every new trendy website or social network, you might wonder if the new products are enough of an improvement to justify the cost of change.

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