Maybe It was a Bad Idea (that survived accidentally)
by Dwayne Phillips
Just because something survived and thrived doesn’t mean it was a good idea. There are other explanations.
Good ideas bubble to the top. Market success shows those good ideas. Bad ideas fizzle. They don’t make it anywhere. Well, maybe these statements are true, but maybe the aren’t.
I see things that have survived the test of time and the marketplace. Close analysis reveals all sorts of problems. Why was the thing built that way? There must be a good reason because it survived, right? Perhaps not.
Bad ideas can survive as well as good ones (maybe even better than good ones). A celebrity stood next to the bad idea; it took off in the marketplace. The market wanted something like this, the bad idea was in the room, people bought it. The bad idea was the best idea that anyone had at the time; it survived.
There are more explanations of how and why a bad idea survived. That’s just the way some things happen. Let us not, however, infer that market success equals good idea. This is especially true in how something is implemented, i.e., what makes it work. I have seen many successful systems that were ugly under the hood. The technical debt was so large that it was difficult to calculate. The system needed to be refactored or rebuilt on the inside. Long-term success depends on someone understanding that the system that had short-term success was a bad idea and fixing it before time catches up with it.
Remember WordStar or WordPerfect or Lotus 123? These were software products that once dominated the market. There are now gone. Look them up in Wikipedia. Maybe you can find floppy disks for them in someone’s closet (like mine).
If something is working, fix it before someone discovers that it was a bad idea.