Show-off developers over-complicate code

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Many software developers intentionally create "unnecessarily complex products" to show off their engineering talents, new research claims..

A Management Insights feature in the current issue of Management Science suggests that software authors have a "perverse incentive" to choose more difficult designs over simple architectures as doing so will further their careers.

The report, written by Enno Siemsen of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, noted that companies are struggling to cope with increasingly difficult and complex product design projects.

Siemsen asserts that good designers have an incentive to choose more difficult designs to better prove their talent, while less capable designers have an incentive to choose highly difficult designs to obfuscate their lack of talent.

One way to reduce these dysfunctional incentives, Siemsen argues, is to move reward agreements away from a long-term, career-oriented focus towards a short-term focus in which bonuses are directly linked to the success or failure of projects.

Alternative ways to reduce these incentives are to collect better data on design task outcomes, or evaluations from managers who have an interest in the design projects succeeding and an excellent understanding of the technology.

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