Entropy is Inevitable, Expending Energy -- Yours or Ours -- Can Delay the Chaos

An image of a galaxy, with the Digital Echidna logo written in the stars.

Labour Day weekend is kind of that last kick at the ol’ relaxational can for summer. Today, the kids are off to school and, as Andrew mentioned last week, it feels like the unofficial start of the new year. For me, Labour Day weekend’s a great chance to spend time with family and, as the sun sets on the summer, spend time with a good book.

This weekend I pulled out an old favourite of mine and re-read Isaac Asimov’s short story, “The Last Question.” It’s a lighter read about some heavy topics -- mainly entropy and man’s enduring quest to reverse the second law of thermodynamics. In the story, generations of man ask a computer how to avert the heat death of the universe -- essentially, the point in time where all energy is too dissipated to allow for work.

So what does this have to do with web design? Sales? Team-building? I’m glad you asked.

Entropy is the process where a system’s thermal energy becomes unavailable to be converted into mechanical result. As a result, the system gradually declines into chaos.

So, while on a universal scale, we may not be able to stop entropy, when it comes to our projects and processes, we can take action to minimize its effects -- and delay the descent into chaos.

Now, when you’re talking about a website, chaos is a relative term. But for anyone who has watched a carefully planned and curated website slowly devolve into a mass of jury-rigged patches and uncurated, unfocused content with multiple styles and voices, the term chaos may not actually be too dramatic.

We expend a tremendous amount of energy researching, planning, and developing our web solutions. But if we don’t continue to expend energy maintaining it, then it can fall apart. Think of it like building a sand castle -- you can spend hours building it up, but unless you continue to maintain it and repair damage from wind and water erosion, it won’t last.

So you have two choices: you can either allocate internal resources to make sure that your web presence remains intact and relevant; or you can expend other resources to solicit support in maintaining that presence -- essentially, hiring someone to do the maintenance for you.

At Echidna, we’ve seen it both ways -- some clients have robust internal teams that can maintain their solution after-the-fact; others turn to us for service-level agreements to monitor and maintain their sites on their behalf. There’s no right or wrong way -- it’s just a matter of what resources you have, what you can afford to expend, and what other priorities may be competing for those resources.

Often, the focus amongst organizations is on maintaining the content. We support that through providing an intuitive, tailored content management system that allows internal users to quickly, intuitively, and efficiently use their effort to offset content entropy. But perhaps the internal IT team isn’t as well versed in the back-end -- and that’s where SLAs can be a help. You’re going to have to allocate resources to fighting long-term entropy. And if you don’t have the capacity internally, whether through staffing or competing requirements, you can turn to an expert -- and use your financial resources -- to support that effort.

Look, I’d love to be able to maintain a car on my own. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t have the time, inclination, or skills required to fight off the effects of time, use, and elements on my car. I turn to an expert -- a mechanic -- using my financial resources to purchase his “effort” to do what needs to be done to minimize the impact of entropy on my vehicle.

Eventually, every site’s going to need significant work. After all, how many sites do you see from the early 2000s that are still functioning perfectly? Markets change, technology changes, and your needs change. But through effective expenditure of energy -- either yours or ours -- we can work to mitigate the effects of entropy and keep chaos at bay.

At least for a few years!

I’d love to hear how you stave off entropy in your organization. And, as always, if you want to talk about how we at Digital Echidna can help you maximize your resources, I’m just a phone call or email away.

Questions Answered

How do I prevent entropy in my project?

What resources do I need to maintain a website?



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