Sunday, February 24, 2008

Avoid Too Much Salt

I watched National Treasure last night with my family. This morning, my son and I watched the DVD extras. Before the deleted scenes section, the director, Jon Turteltaub, told us that the original cut of the movie was four hours(!) long. In comparison, the final cut was just over two hours.

We all like sugar. We all like salt. But, if you have too much salt, the cake isn't going to taste good. -- Jon Turteltaub.
He explained that, individually, each of the scenes that they cut were good. He lamented that some great performances were removed, including some by actors who no longer appear in the movie. But, as a whole, all the extra scenes made the movie worse, not better. It's the same with software. It's not any good if you ship the four-hour version of your software. It's big and confusing, loaded with things that don't advance the goals of your users, which is always (always!) to accomplish their objectives, not yours.
  • Cut anything that doesn't move your product in the right direction.
It's really hard to edit a movie after it's in theaters. And it's really hard to cut features after you've shipped them. You can one-up Jon Turteltaub by cutting features before you write (or shoot) them. Don't let great work end up on the cutting room floor because you weren't willing to cut features.