The Hobgoblin

Without a doubt, performance is a cornerstone of a great user experience. Like security, it is the most misunderstood and oft-used scapegoat of the software developer. It’s not uncommon to hear developers reject ideas with a flippant, “We can’t do that, it will negatively impact performance.” Rarely quantified and frequently cited, performance is the hobgoblin of software development. How do we quantify performance? Latency is a form of performance. Execution, the time an operation takes to perform, is another.

Andre Charland and Brian Leroux (Mobile Application Development: Web vs. Native, Communications of the ACM, May 2011)


Note: They are discussing about mobile applications. On such context, latency is related to the time required by an application to start executing (which involves download rates and code initialization). Execution, in turn, comprises interpretation of code. Any downside in execution, they argue, is paid off by the ease of writing and mantaining a high-level, interpreted code. And indeed, “we can’t do that, it will negatively impact performance”. Right now I’m floating on the delusion of smooth particle effects and video rendering.

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