I seem to fall into the same bad company every time.

There are people whose ideas attract and motivate me. These people usually produce ideas and systems that attract and motivate me. Sometimes I meet the idea or system before the person, sometimes the other way 'round. I couldn't even always identify the humans involved with the ideas and systems. But I know them.

They're my clan, my village, my clique.

But what the hell are they? More precisely, what distinguishes them from other people and things? (And yes, I mean to include "things" on the list, as I will explain.)

I think I have figured it out. I think we're all addicts to elegance.

Over time I have come to see elegance as an end in itself, not only because I prefer to be surrounded by nice things. Elegance seems to be a marker of real, inherent value. Lots of things work. Only a few things are elegant. Elegant things change how you do things, and sometimes how you think. They make difficult things accessible, or at best, they make them invisible.

This is a premise that I believe, but I do not intend to make a strong case for it here. I will leave that for the future. I'm simply going to try to lay out the idea, primarily so that those of us in the same clan can find each other. In fact, I could almost stop now. Most of the elegance-based community already know who they are from what I've already written, whether they've called it that or not.

Aesthetic qualities are notoriously difficult to define; philosophers have struggled with it for millennia with no real resolution. So I'm not going to try. I'm going to play an example game:

Adobe Photoshop: elegant.
It's UI is intuitive, it can be expanded by third parties to add value, and what it does is powerful -- it makes new visuals possible. The mathematics that underly it are very complicated, but it doesn't matter -- what matters is that you have tools to smudge, smear, sketch, warp, and layer images. You can put anyone who has curiosity and sense of play in front of Photoshop and after a while they'll basically get it, and be creating things that amuse them and, not long after, will amuse others.
Adobe Illustrator: inelegant.
It can do a lot of things, but its approach is unintuitive and the UI doesn't help. I think it would be a rare person who could sit in front of Illustrator and figure out how to do things.
Python: elegant.
Pseudo code that works.
C++: inelegant.
C++ could be the poster child of inelegance. Everything can be done, but the language is rife with inconsistencies in user model, syntax, approach, style. You can know most of what you need to about the inelegance of C++ by noting that the preferred syntax for declaring (say) a pointer to an int is "int* ip", which implies that "int* ip,jp" would declare two int pointers. But it wouldn't because the * is really (that is, in the compiler and grammar) attached to the ip, not the int. The standard coding style promulgated the by creator of the language lies about the syntax. What kind of elegance can you expect from someone with that kind of design approach?
Perl: uh, well, hm.
Perl is an odd mixture. Perl has the great feature of elegance that it's easy to do many things in a direct way. But have you heard the saying that software is often first Baroque, then Roccoco, then Rubble? So much stuff has been piled on Perl that it is starting to pass well through the Roccoco stage, creeping towards rubble. "Not just one way to do things" is a good principle in your pocket, but it's not a design philosophy that works because it doesn't tell you when not to add something.

Not adding things is the hallmark of elegance. Almost everyone clan member I know has the following statement from Antoine de Saint-Exupery in their soul, and often on their wall:

Perfection is reached, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.

You'll notice that this idea has never infected the Microsoft Word team.

There are people who are drawn to elegance. Some people know that elegance is not a frill, not a patina. It's not something that you add to something. It's what something is. And it really, really matters. Lack of elegance makes something harder to use, harder to understand, harder to express with, harder to get right. The number of bugs possible in an inelegant system can be many times larger than in an elegant one that doesn't give you as much rope, but only the right rope.