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Quality is Fractal

What does a napkin tell you about a restaurant? Quite a lot. A restauranteur friend told me about a survey that showed a massive correlation between category of napkin and customer satisfaction. Thats not to say you can hand out deliciously thick napkins in a shitty burger joint and immediately win customers over. Its a cause and effect thing. The napkin represents a degree of care, preparation and devotion that goes above and beyond asking if they want fries with that.

Nathan Bowers recently wrote that quality is fractal. That is to say quality offerings display self similarity. Any small part of it, is indicative of its whole. This lets you make a good judgement about an entire product by looking at a very small portion of it. This is as true in software as it is in restaurants.

Gordon Ramsey, in his auto-biography, defended his obsessive perfectionist nature, arguing he has to obsess. You dont win Michelin stars without it.

It doesnt matter how amazing the steak is, if its served on a cold plate its crap. If its served with a dull knife its crap. If the gravy isnt piping hot, its crap. If youre eating it on an uncomfortable chair, its crap. If its served by an ugly waiter who just came in from a smoke break, its crap. Because I care about the steak, I have to care about everything around it.

The parallels in software are obvious. If you see a few lines of atrocious code, you can make a judgement about the programmer. By judging the programmer, you can judge his boss, and by judging his boss you can judge the company. Thats the nature of fractals. The desire for quality trickles down to everything from making sure that the homepage photo isnt blurry all the way through to making sure that font in Christmas card is correct. As Aristotle said, excellence is not an act but a habit.

We judge humans this way so it shouldnt be surprising that we judge software the same. Thats what is so clear about Apple. They are what they repeatedly do. They design everything, even the bits that allegedly dont matter.

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