In honour of the fifth year since I founded Enfolding Systems (which was originally called Burning Tiger), I thought that I would repost a conversation we had in the early days about precision vs. expressiveness. This conversation was captured by my friend and colleague Stewart Butterfield (later of Flickr fame), who was working with us at the time.
“…we humans spend most of our time classifying and constraining: This is a fax number and not a cell phone; this is a press release and not an airplane manual. The free-form world is made up of primitives that we assemble together to construct more complex systems. The challenge, as I see it, is that these primitives are themselves made up of yet smaller things, and so forth, fractally. You could go to the nth degree of detail, but that’s not how humans work. We get to an acceptible level of detail for our purpose, and then approximate the rest. For any given actor in a particular context there is a level of detail that is acceptible, and it can be substantially different given a different actor or even subtle changes in context.”