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Chapter 2. Cognitive Friction > The Cost of Features

The Cost of Features

Most software vendors don't know how to make their programs easy to use, but they sure know how to add features, so that is what they do.

Physical objects, such as my Swiss Army knife, are subject to a natural brake on the proliferation of marginal features. Each new blade or accessory costs money for the manufacturer to build into the knife. The maker of the knife knows this, and each proposed new feature must pass a gauntlet of justification before it makes it into a shipping product. In engineering terms, this is called a negative feedback loop, in which intrinsic forces trend toward stability and equilibrium. For example, tire friction in your car creates a negative feedback loop in the steering system, so that when you release the wheel it tends to return to straight ahead.


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