When is Complex worse than Simple?
Complexity Creep: BMW's Electronic “Dipstick” Causes Oil Grief – Jalopnik
Thanks to blog reader Marc for sending this along. Technology for the sake of technology doesn't just happen in the factory floor, it also happens in product design. How many overdesigned products do we struggle with because they are too hard to use or because they could have been designed in a simpler, cheaper manner?
Along the lines of the infamous overly-complex BMW “i-drive”, described on this site as:
BMW's 2001 introduction of iDrive, its pioneering driver information/entertainment system, was arguably the biggest corporate disaster since Coca-Cola Co. decided to tinker with the formula for its eponymous beverage.
Lesson? Sometimes simple and straightforward can be best. Separate, single-function buttons can be better than a multi-function controller (I complain about this still with my Toyota Prius and it's non-tactile touchscreen).
Simple and low-tech and also be better than the high-tech approach. That brings us to the oil sensor system on the BMW 328i, which did away with the time-tested dipstick approach for checking your oil level.
The Jalopnik blog quotes a Car & Driver letter writer:
I was told the proper way to check the oil is to return the car to your BMW dealership and it will put the vehicle on a rack, drain the oil, measure it, and then reinstall the oil in the car.
There are reports of drivers over-filling their oil, risking engine damage, because of problems with the electronic oil sensor.
Maybe the sensor problem has been resolved, according to some discussion on this Edmunds message board:
Replying to: walterquint (Jun 02, 2007 4:47 pm)
It is true to a point. There was a period when there were either faulty sensors and/or condensation collecting in said sensor, and that incorrect readings were the result. FWIW, I haven't heard of an incident of incorrect reading in several months and so it would seem that the problems have been ironed out.
For my part, I have a problem with the lack of a dip-stick for a different reason. As I am inclined to perform most of my own maintenance, I prefer to remove used oil via the dip-stick tube as opposed to crawling underneath the vehicle. Eliminating the dip-stick has also brought about the elimination of the tube that it is slid through. Grrr.
Why not have a sensor AND a dipstick as a backup?
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When is it worse? Always. In processes complex processes have more possibility of problems. And the same thing for products. Examples of non simple thinking: If Tech Companies Made Sudoku by Kathy Sierra, Simple Cell Phone and The Psychology of Too Much Choice.
Einstein said something close to “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”. I think that sentiment provides a good aim.
Right answer! I love that Einstein quote, too.
I had the same reaction as curiouscat. I think far more interesting question is, “When is simple worse than complex?”