Attention to detail. An OSS optimisation dilemma

Don’t be so familiar and so much into the details. Keep people dreaming. Close the window, and make them wonder.”
Celine Dion.

The story behind today’s post still vexes me to this day. Yes, Celine Dion vexes me too but that’s a whole other story.

In the early 2000’s I was tasked with building a vendor’s first ever auto-discovery engine. We were assigned a brilliant young developer to implement the architecture. After an extended period of time we managed to sign off on this significant achievement for our vendor.

There were a raft of other challenges ahead of us as a project team, so I was quick to shift focus onto the next set of tasks. I needed the developer to follow suit. Unfortunately he was obsessed with making the discovery engine more efficient and wouldn’t move on.

The solution was polling a vast network from midnight each night and taking about four hours to run. That was acceptable in the eyes of the customer. But our humble developer spent the next four weeks optimising his code to bring the discovery cycle down to just over one hour each night.

The part that vexes me is that:
a) I’m a huge advocate of the efficiency gained but
b) As a project team, we had many other high priority functional modules to deliver in those precious 4 man-weeks

Which fork of this road would you have taken? I suspect your answer will provide an indication of your mindset, whether you’re a details person or a big picture person.

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