It’s hard to describe how tiring it is to hear someone quote Donald Knuth (or Tony Hoare) in the wrong context. I’m not the only one annoyed by this. In “Structured Programming with go to Statements”, Knuth says:
We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil.
After having read Knuth’s paper containing this quote, I can agree that it’s certainly a brilliant piece of advice in the context of programming. What is irritating to me is the blanket application of this pearl of wisdom to anything that has to do with computers, especially systems performance, web operations and architecture decisions.
For the record: I firmly believe in these principles:
- Done >= perfect.
- Don’t waste time building elaborate simulations for what the future might bring to your capacity.
- Performance tuning is better left outside the capacity planning process.
But I think sometimes folks lean on the Knuth/Hoare way too much, in the wrong situation. This was meant to be a blog post of my own, but I think this article pretty much sums up my current feelings about it.