As most of you are well aware, there are fanatics on both sides of the feature fence. Microsoft is known for spooky bloatware, while 37 Signals holds minimalism sacred*. While I acknowledge the benefits of rich features or dedicated lean apps, I don’t believe either of these philosophies are focused enough on my dearest design priority, minimizing constraints on creativity.
Myself, other developers and users can all stake a claim on constrained creativity. Much like modern publishing, the distinction between content creators (developers) and end users is becoming a matter of degree in lieu of distinct roles. So the question becomes are we maximizing our creativity as designers or are we limiting how much we constrain the imagination of end users. The answer is clearly dependent on the intended consumer – our self or others.
37 signals hit upon an interesting union of these requirements. They built Rails for themselves, but decided to share their creation with anyone else who was interested. And it took off with a life of its own, marketing Ruby as a potent scripting language and even inspiring alternative frameworks. For my personal work, I’m happy if I can free up my own ideas with well designed code, or if I put something on github that others can use.
* = Exceptions: Start.com was a lean project within Microsoft (referenced in Getting Real by 37 signals), and 37 signals’ Rails framework is a bit portly compared to Merb, Ramaze, Sinatra or Camping for focused web development