July 18, 2007

“Good enough” technology

In doing some reading about online health, I was struck by a phrase repeated a few times: "good enough" technology.

First, Google was deemed a "good enough" diagnostic tool by two Australian doctors.

Then, Vince Kuraitis blogged about how Google Health’s personal health record strategy might echo the "good enough" technology of MP3s.

I know the internet is built on "good enough" technology, but I wondered how widespread the term is online. So I searched on the phrase "’good enough’ and technology" and found a few more examples:

Jon Galloway recently blogged about the value of "good enough" technology like Twitter (comparing it to dishwashers, which simply get the job done).

CIO magazine published a guide to "good enough" security and privacy compliance "so that you don’t waste your time or bankrupt your company."

CFO magazine wrote about Dell’s "good enough" strategy in 2003, but a search on a different engine revealed that Sun had that outlook in 2002.

Ward Cunningham’s site contains a wiki definition which includes a reference to a can opener as a "good enough" alternative to a Swiss Army Knife.

One thing I learned in this exercise is that one search engine might provide good enough results, but if you really want to survey the landscape, you should use at least 3 others (Yahoo, for example, suggested that I search on "’good enough’ technologies" and I thank them for that tip).

Addendum: Ward Cunningham kindly emailed me to correct the impression that he wrote the definition on his site when it was, in fact, contributed by an anonymous poster. He wrote, "My friend James Bach coined the term ‘good enough’ in the context of software testing. This was at a point where most software wasn’t being tested at all well and he was trying to set the bar at a practical level, not the ‘zero defect’ level that was claimed as the proper goal. I’m often quoted for asking ‘what is the simplest thing that could possibly work?’ This is a good question to ask when progress slows. My logic is that it is easier to make a working system better than to create a great system from scratch."