Most fundamentals of computing are simple and so is this one: If some aspect of your software counts, count it!
People who are accomplished software engineers tend to be pretty smart and hard-working. They show mastery of difficult concepts and technologies that are beyond the grasp of most people. It's natural that people like this, when presented with a problem, would tend to dive right in to the tough stuff, both solving the problem and showing how smart and accomplished they are.
But the fact is, computing, like many other fields, benefits from regular re-visiting of the fundamentals, the software equivalent of "blocking and tackling," or even more basic, physical fitness. There is no better way to achieve great results in software than to revisit and re-apply the fundamentals on a regular basis.
Fundamental of Computing: Count it
Even though he was not a specialist in computing, I can't think of anyone who "gets" this concept better than Count von Count.
This guy really knows his counting. From Wikipedia:
The Count has a love of counting; he will count anything and everything, regardless of size, amount, or how much annoyance he is causing the other Muppets or human cast.
The Count also knows that the earth revolves around the Pun, not the other way round:
The Count mentions 2:30 at any chance he can get and often makes jokes about it. This number may represent an inside joke ("Tooth Hurty"). During the afternoon, his segments of the show always come on at exactly 2:30 p.m. or during the "fashionably late" segment, which airs at 2:31.
Counting How Big and How Often
There are many opportunities to find out how big something is. Whenever I hear about a bunch of data, I immediately go to the fundamentals and find out how big it is. I often find out that the number isn't as big as people are acting as though it might be. At this point, I won't do anything more than mention "Big Data" for fear of ruining my mood.
The way you do this is pretty simple: find out how big the average thing is, how many of them there are, and multiply. Not tough! That leads you to think about how you're going to store it. When you do, you find that the typical software methods people use are they same as a decade ago, when capacities were tiny compared to today. It's worth re-thinking storage methods!
There's nothing wrong, for example, with keeping a complete working set in an in-memory secure data store, everything including logs and history in a disk-based DBMS or flat files, and a historical set of data in a data warehouse organized for retrieval and analysis.
The important thing is that counting how much leads you to the fundamental architectural decisions that determine so much about how much work it takes to create and maintain a piece of software.
Counting How Many and How Long
Counting how many and how long are things I think the Count would also approve of. For example, consider the fundamentals of web site design.
Even before the user has a chance to get an impression of whether they find the site to be attractive, there's the issue of how long they have to wait for it to come up. How long you have to wait is the overwhelmingly most important factor in web site design. If a great-looking design is just too slow, the users will go elsewhere.
Second, count the keystrokes and clicks it takes to accomplish a given task. Sound trivial? Yes, of course, just like most of the fundamentals of computing. However, "trivial" factors like whether what stands between a consumer and his goal is 5 clicks or 3 clicks turns out to make a huge difference. Every "extra" action you require the user to take is an opportunity for that user to decide that his goal is one bridge too far, and he's got better things to do with his time.
Count von Count may be irritating, but he's nearly always right: count it!