Ramblings & ephemera

Famous “Laws” of Business & Technology

These come from a variety of sources; just Google the law to find out more about it.

Parkinson’s Law

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Source: Cyril Northcote Parkinson in The Economist (1955)

The Peter Principle

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

Source: Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in The Peter Principle (1968)

The Dilbert Principle

“Leadership is nature’s way of removing morons from the productive flow.”

Source: Scott Adams’ Dilbert (February 5, 1995)

Hofstadter’s Law

“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”

Source: Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (1979)

Amara’s Law

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

Source: Roy Amara.

Brooks’ Law

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later.

Source: Fred Brooks’ The Mythical Man-Month (1975)

Clarke’s 3 Laws

  1. First law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. Second law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Source: Arthur C. Clarke’s “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” in Profiles of the Future (1962)

Conway’s Law

“Any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it.”

Source: Melvin Conway (1968)

Gall’s Law

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. The inverse proposition also appears to be true: A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be made to work.”

Source: John Gall’s Systemantics: How Systems Really Work and How They Fail (1978)

Godwin’s Law

“As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”

Source: Mike Godwin (1990)

Hanlon’s Razor

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

Herblock’s Law

“If it’s good, they’ll stop making it.”

Source: Herbert Lawrence Block

Kranzberg’s 6 Laws of Technology

  1. Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
  2. Invention is the mother of necessity.
  3. Technology comes in packages, big and small.
  4. Although technology might be a prime element in many public issues, nontechnical factors take precedence in technology-policy decisions.
  5. All history is relevant, but the history of technology is the most relevant.
  6. Technology is a very human activity – and so is the history of technology.

Source: Melvin Kranzberg’s “Kranzberg’s Laws” Technology and Culture, Vol. 27, No. 3 (1986): 544-560

Linus’s Law

“Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”

Source: Linus Torvalds

Schneier’s Law

“Any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can’t think of how to break it.”

Source: Cory Doctorow’s “Microsoft Research DRM talk” (17 June 2004)

Sturgeon’s Revelation

“90 percent of everything is crap.”

Source: Theodore Sturgeon (1951)

Wirth’s Law

“Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster.”

Source: Niklaus Wirth (1995)

Zawinski’s Law

“Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.”

Source: Jamie Zawinski

Granneman’s Law of Operating System Usage

“To mess up a Linux box, you need to work at it; to mess up your Windows box, you just need to work on it. “

Source: Scott Granneman’s “Linux vs. Windows Viruses” in SecurityFocus (10 February 2003)

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