The Bugsworth Letters: 4

The Bugsworth Letters: 4


My Dear Mugwort,

I must send you my sincere congratulations as I hear the patient is beginning to show signs of doubt and discomfort. While this might bring you satisfaction, you must beware! This may be but a brief sojourn into discontent, and it is therefore not time to relax, but instead to redouble your efforts. However, it is critical to ensure that your efforts are spent wisely.

To that end, I’m particularly worried about one of the pronouncements in your response to my previous letter. You said the patient was getting frustrated and was beginning to work very long hours in order to complete their work. To address this, your plan was to encourage the patient to work less. You were worried the patient was sure to start making progress if they continued at this pace.

Well my sweet naive Mugwort, you mustn’t follow through with these ill-conceived plans. To accomplish your goals, you needn’t reverse the patient’s course, but instead you need only nourish the seeds the patient has already sown within themselves.

Without delay you must praise the patient for their efforts, and encourage the patient to work even harder – always harder, never smarter! Work more quickly! Deliver faster! The faster the patient delivers, the more praise you must shower on them. This increase in pressure will lead to more output, but don’t fear, this will only be very temporary. For a short while, the patient may even relish the expedited completion of tasks.

But this is pure subterfuge! Pressure to be expedient will lead to the patient conjuring ill-conceived designs, cutting corners, and eventually to burnout. The patient’s work will become brittle and unstable, and they will be locked in an ever worsening struggle to maintain their pace. The changes the patient introduces will cause as many problems as they ameliorate. This can be the fate of virtually any system, but with enough pressure to move quickly, the patient will construct a quagmire of epic proportions.

Be sure to stay vigilant during this process though. When the patient begins to see the situation deteriorating, if they are studious enough, they may propose writing tests in order to prevent the situation from devolving further. You must fight against this with all of your being! Be sure the patient knows you don’t have time for silly things like tests, and if they were better at their job, then you wouldn’t need a bunch of tests. Questioning the patient’s abilities is sure to subdue these notions!

So you see, you need not worry that your patient has begun to burn the so-called “midnight oil”. With only a modicum of effort, you can ensure that the patient’s energy is diverted away from tasks that would improve their situation, and instead towards hastening the inexorable march of entropy.

Your Affectionate Uncle,


This letter is part of a series. Check out the previous letter, here.

What if there were a nefarious figure at work behind the scenes, trying to ruin our efforts to write software—an antagonist to our efforts of quelling complexity?

Well, through undisclosed means and methods, we’ve uncovered a series of correspondences, and they seem to unveil just such a figure—Uncle Bugsworth. He wants software to fail. He wants complexity and entropy to win out over simplicity and functioning software. And he’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen.

At least, that’s what we’ve gathered from the letters that we’ve read thus far. See for yourself and make your own judgments.

These are the cordial letters between Bugsworth and his nephew, Mugwort.

(Heavily inspired by CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters)

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