A common pattern involves someone making a statement that’s fairly profound, and then a flood of people adopting it, misinterpreting it (usually through oversimplification), and then misusing it to support arguments that the original person who made the statement never would have agreed with in the first place. That pattern fits for the old “worse is better” essay that is much loved among software developers. Jim Waldo has written a piece for Artima that revisits worse is better and clears up some misconceptions. Here’s the crux of his argument:

My problem with the slogan is that it has become a catch phrase for those who either haven’t read the original article, or have read it and either have forgotten what it really talked about or never understood it in the first place. As a catch phrase, it is often used to justify shoddy design, or following the crowd rather than doing what is right, or as short-hand for the real claim that our customers are too stupid to either appreciate or deserve high quality products. Why spend the time doing things right, this line of reasoning goes, when we all know that worse is better. You are far better off giving the customer something that you know is less than what you could produce, because they (those simple customers) will think that it is better.