I took a few days’ break from Icefall to develop a quickfire helper application for myself (a simple media-centre type program to organise, search and filter the various videos and music I have lurking around, with a few handy unique features like automatic IMDB-Lookup for descriptions, saves me typing them off the DVD cover).

After working on Icefall for so long, I was amazed at how quickly I was developing the code for the new program! When writing Icefall, I might create a single new source file in a night’s work, or maybe make 4 or 5 moderate improvements to existing code. On the media app, I was churning out half a dozen new source files at a time, and I had the entire application virtually finished in about three days.

Thinking about my observations of the difference, I eventually came up with the following formula:

Development Speed = Effort / (Complexity * Quality)

For a given amount of effort, I can get a lot more done on the media app, because A: it’s far less complex, and B: I care much less about the quality of the code. Multiply those factors together and you can see why Icefall development is approximately an order of magnitude slower: it’s a complex system, all the code has to be correct, robust, speedy, and extensible.

I’m convinced this is part of the reason why so many “we’re going to create the perfect application, that does everything and is open source” projects never reach version 1.0. With all the effort in the world, they’re just throwing huge numbers on the wrong side of the divisor.

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