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Chapter 2. Consensus and Compromise > Unpromising Compromise

Unpromising Compromise

Compromise is neither one thing nor another but something halfway in between, which often means in the middle of nowhere. Consider this variation on a classic example. Your team is designing a graphical user interface. One group strongly advocates placing the control buttons across the bottom of the screen, another is pushing for a panel down the left side. Between these horizontal and vertical extremes, a perfectly objective compromise can be struck: just place the buttons along a diagonal across the middle of the screen!

A compromise, like this one, is frequently worse than any of the original alternatives, but a consensus solution can be better than all of them. Technical compromises often fail to account for the merits in each of the alternatives, and their advantages are lost by taking some kind of average position. True consensus is not based on compromise, in which everyone and every position loses a little, but on synthesis, in which everyone wins big. The payoff, of course, is better software.


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