The obvious benefit to working quickly is that you’ll finish more stuff per unit time.
I think some people could benefit from doing less work at a higher quality.
I think that the world could be a significantly better place if people were writing less software full stop.
Why do you think so? That sounds counterintuitive to me.
Largely because the majority, maybe the vast majority, of software being written today is being written to solve problems introduced by previous software. Add to this Sturgeon’s Law, and in general the strong sense that what passes for thought in Silicon Valley is profoundly ignorant and ahistorical, and it feels to me like we’ve entered a negative feedback loop where what stinks today is going to be cast into future generations' immutable truth.
I’m not some kind of nostalgia junkie; software has always been terrible. It’s just that there’s so much more of it now. And most software in the world isn’t being written in Silicon Valley; but the culture of the Valley is held as an exemplar, and other software cultures are being ignored and forgotten.
I’m not some kind of nostalgia junkie; software has always been terrible.
Agreed. The overall state of software is so very bad, it’s downright disgusting. I think almost every day of my life there’s some moment when some piece of software I am using, whether it’s on a PC, tablet, phone, or “other”, misbehaves in a way that makes me want to pull my last hair out and scream. The running joke around the office is how at least once a week, I throw a tantrum and insist I’m swearing off technology altogether and joining the Amish. And it’s not that far from being the truth!
Seriously, it’s 2015 and VPNs still suck donkey balls, there isn’t a decent web browser in existence, networks are ridiculously unreliable… the list goes on and on.
Probably the best thing I can say about software these days is this: almost every app I use on my laptop on a regular basis has some kind of auto-save / session resume feature, so I can just power my laptop off and go, and then resume everything later without much fuss. And that’s handy given how quirky the hibernate/resume feature is on my current laptop running Fedora Linux.
How do we square this with “move fast and break stuff”?
Given that software is going to be in a state of broken-ness most of the time, might as well get on with in rather than attempt to make it perfect before creating it, right?
“Move fast and break stuff” is the problem. It’s an asset allocation decision masquerading as deep thought.
I agree with the sentiment, perhaps for different reasons. Would like to hear what jfb would say.
Software: a series of human devised names, that compile down to bitwise representations that can be interpreted as data or as an instruction. It’s “names all the way down”. We’re essentially involved in a business not unlike law, there’s a bunch of human defined rules in interpreted language also interpreted by humans (who wrote the interpreter / compiler / API / DSL / … list goes on - incidently, think of how many languages one might need to learn for a Ruby On Rails deployment. I can count > 6.)
More software, more complexity. More complexity, higher cost to solve problems.
Ultimately we want to be governed by physical constraints in what’s possible. An average program uses the work of 1000’s of others - this is how it’s going to be - but, strong design are diluted. I like to think software is in it’s cambrian explosion - lots of weird asymmetrical shit floating around, unsettled on any decent design, in the lieu of deliberative intentional design, waiting for physical constraints to weed out the unfit designs.
<cynical>I’m working my way through the Breaking Smart essays and one of the points brought up is that the progress the author is talking about is not zero-sum, but rather creates wealth. I think he is right, but I do wonder what percentage of that wealth is purely incestual in that it is fixing the junk created by the whole process? How man consultants are billing hours becase the industry brute-forces itself into so complex solutions they need specialists just to manage the complexity of their own creation.</cynical>
“…the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”
people might benefit from publishing less work at a higher quality, but i believe churning out the equivalent of piano finger exercises in private helps a lot. the more you do things, the better you get at doing them.
Absolutely agreed, but I think the OP here has some good points. I especially agree with the bit about how a todo list that you don’t quickly complete items off of, becomes one where you only add stuff to it. I think I may, er, have experienced that phenomenon myself. :-(
But in the end, like everything in life, there are tradeoffs to be made to suit the moment and the task at hand. And it will always be a judgment call on whether to work as fast as possible, or focus on quality.
I’d love to see a qualified upvote that says, “read this so you can see what’s wrong with it.”
I say this because the author appears to be conflating speed and practice/persistence. Take the blogging example. I have a blog and I don’t post too much on it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing on a regular basis. I actually have a physical journal that I write in. With a pen of all things. It’s the place where blogs posts start. I write a fair bit in each “session” and it doesn’t take me long, but not a lot of it makes it on to the blog because I prefer to think things through before I share it. While quickly publishing blog posts gives me a feeling of accomplishment, I feel as though I’m devaluing the reader’s time with unfinished thoughts.
Now, I do think there is some truth to the author’s analogy of slowness with activation energy; I found it to be novel and clever. And yes, speed is important in some cases. There’s no denying that. If you can’t advance in something in a reasonable time frame it’s frustrating. But this conclusion is just outrageous:
The prescription must be that if there’s something you want to do a lot of and get good at—like write, or fix bugs—you should try to do it faster.
No, if you want to get good at something and produce lots of output you must keep doing it; trying to go fast is not a necessity. In general, I’d say that those who work quickly are well practiced and experienced. Speed comes with practice, and with speed there is a better chance of more output. And with more output comes confidence, which, to me, is the key to a lower “activation energy” for a task.
I have given you a qualified up vote as well ;-)
I think what’s wrong with the OP is that they don’t see what’s good about slowness and especially reflection.
But the OP’s point that quickness is good has value. Quickness gets you a network effect of completed items. Even if those aren’t the best items, that generates oportunities that you might not have gotten otherwise.
Reflection is good for an entirely different reason - it allows a wider view of a subject. doing a task reflectively may seem slow but if done right, reflection can be more like going quickly through the thousand ways to do X until one finds the way that works for other, larger purposes. Of course, this reflection might involve a person fooling themselves and that’s something one must on guard for.
The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve.
Ah, now I understand why tortoises die so young. ;)
Even now, I’m working in a text editor whose undo feature, for whatever reason, has suddenly become slow. It’s killing me. It disinclines me, for one thing, from undoing stuff.
After reading this I couldn’t help but think “use vim”. But then I read this:
As for writing, well, I have been working on this little blog post, on and off, no joke, for six years.
Has his undo feature been slow for 6 years?
Maybe they’ve had the text editor tracking the changes for 6 years and now whatever structure is representing it has gotten way bigger than anyone ever thought possible (or probable).
That’s a thought. Mind. Blown.
There is even a deeper idea here. And that is “The hardest part of doing something is thinking about it”. Speed has something to do with it, but it isn’t really the problem.