Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Best practices

The industry buzzphrase "best practices" has long annoyed me, and I think I know why -- it's code for "let's do what everybody else is doing, because we (a) aren't very good at thinking up our own solutions, and/or (b) are just risk averse". In other words, it's a way to be proud of mediocrity. There's a lot of mediocrity around, so this buzzphrase is quite popular -- 120M Google hits today.

On the other hand: maybe I'm wrong. Best practices are an acknowledgement that industry (the computer industry in particular, although the phrase and this argument apply to many others) has network effects, that things work more smoothly when people adopt the same practices. So it's really just another form of standardization or platform.

Best practices are great for the large-scale group but bad for innovation, which is a result of non-standard activity.

The discourse surrounding "best practices" is pretty similar to that around "design patterns" (which I also find annoying, for similar reasons).

Here's a real economist making a similar argument. He says, "I'm a weirdo, I get discriminated against, but I'm willing to acknowledge that the people who discriminate against me are acting rationally."

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