On the way over to SXSW, I was reading The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. It’s good, but my mind was obviously in a design mode, not a science mode. So when I crossed this sentence, it leaped out.

We accept the premise that organisms have comparable purposes in the systems that collectively keep them at homeostatic norms: our bodies stay marvelously calibrated at 98.6 degrees for a reason, and that reason is that our particular mode of staying alive is optimized for that temperature. That is one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be an organism: a system of cells and organs that are explicitly devoted to ensuring the survival of the larger group to which they belong. [Emphasis is mine]

That last line is sticking with me. Whenever I want to make a change or an addition to a site, I have to think about how it will affect every other aspect of the system and what needs to be adjusted. The site needs to always hum along at 98.6 degrees.

It’s also going to encourage me to build more elastic solutions. Instead of creating a system that fails completely when something goes wrong, have it work well enough, but — just as your body’s temperature rises when you’re fighting an infection — send you warning signs that trouble is brewing. For example, forms should submit data even if it’s incomplete, because people might not try again if they’re overly frustrated.

As for SXSW, I’m still mulling things over. Expect some posts over the next few days.