The Bugsworth Letters: 7

The Bugsworth Letters: 7


My Dear Mugwort,

I’m very pleased to hear that you have successfully diverted some of the patients “refactoring” efforts into activities which will wreak havoc. You’ve done well! But I must still entreat you not to relax. Your patient is studious, which is the most dangerous of all traits. However, even the most egregious of traits can be exploited for your purposes.

To that end, a patient who is studious and motivated is particularly susceptible to the lure of “not invented here”.  Do you remember when I suggested that you posit to the patient that they create their own testing framework? That is a marvelous example of “not invented here” syndrome.

“Not invented here” syndrome is endemic among software developers, so your efforts will be minimal. You only need to merely suggest that some widely used tool or framework is not good enough for your needs because it doesn’t scale, isn’t configurable, is encumbered, is poorly written, or anything else you can come up with. It actually doesn’t matter the reasoning because most software engineers only need but the slightest prod to rewrite someone else’s code. No matter how good that code is!

I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m sure you are incredulous, but it is true! Merely stating that “this JSON parser is so slow! I bet if we were to rewrite it in the language of Rust, we could easily speed it up by an order of magnitude.” You might think that this vicissitude would be unwelcome by the patient, because it will surely impede progress, but fear not! They will be but a moth to a flame, helplessly attracted to the challenge, until they are burned up by its heat!

This most pervasive of peculiarities among eager software engineers is ripe for exploitation, and so you must seek to introduce it whenever you are given the opportunity! Doing so will surely lead to success.

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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