Confusion ices ideas

Confusion ices ideas

Thursday, February 07, 2008

tagged: confusionstalls, ideaprocess, ideas, socialweb, stuckideas

Photo Credit: deadrobot

Since last fall, I've been mulling over the concept that confusion stalls projects or ideas.


I started a new software programming side-project (side-project = in free time). I had an idea for a Facebook application (I wanted to find out more about Facebook apps and social interactions in "online social networks"). I worked at it, got it along to a point, and then... fizz...

This isn't an uncommon story for many people who are of the "idea" type (often programmers, but also other disciplines). What usually happens is that they move on to the next shiny thing (and "idea" people have a steady flow of potential ideas kicking around: usually they like nothing better than generate new ones). I have a particularly bad affliction of the "idea" personality: I prefer starting, I prefer strategizing. Truth be told: I like the part where I solve the riddle or puzzle. After that, the "doing" and "seeing it in action" is all falling action (sometimes useful, but usually less fun that the other part). What happened? I got stuck on tags/open categorization vs. drop-downs/taxonomy categorization. This wasn't a problem I was interested in solving. I wanted to know what people would and wouldn't share online. Where they might push an open system that allowed new kinds of information. How the organic growth model worked. Those were/are my reasons. Folksonomy vs. Taxonomy... Yawn. I was at a stand-still. Instead of moving on, this time I forced myself to return to it and I realized that I wasn't "moving on" because I was bored, but because I wasn't sure what to do. My solution was to essentially not-commit on the Folksonomy / Taxonomy thing and avoid the question: bam! unstuck. (My clever hack: the way I did the database and web service underneath, I could change the entry form for Spots tomorrow and it would keep on ticking, 0 changes required.) I cared more about continuing forward than I did about the performance sacrifices I was making with my method. More recently I got stuck again. I was trying to implement some testing and it wasn't working and I needed to make this tool work with that tool. Again, something I didn't care to learn... fizz... (So now I'm getting another person and adding some interesting complexity [new language] to get me back into it.)

Boiling the Ocean

Confusion ices ideas. Let's say you are trying to do a home-reno project where you want to add a room onto your house. Let's say that you want a family room / den. You've gone through the process of getting plans from the Black-and-Decker home-reno book, you've got the permits, you've lined up the electrician. You're starting and you've got it partially framed. You've laid out enough room on the wall for a 560" LCD TV too. And then your spouse/partner comes in one day and asks you "are we still planning on hanging family pictures in that corner?" You want to accommodate that, but then the TV won't fit anymore. Should you change to a smaller TV? Who could deal with a mere 500"? And should you be using LCD or waiting for the forthcoming bacteria-on-electruded-silicon?

Should you re-visit the plans and make it bigger? But then does it look nice on the side of the house still? Or maybe you should re-think the floorplan... Bam! You're stuck.

You think you'll go buy any more supplies? Nope. Will you hammer anything further? Nope. And, if you don't realize why you are stuck, you're likely to have half a den for quite a while (and probably an unhappy spouse).

The Fix

Ha! You've never read this blog before have you. No fix for you. Look it in the eye and try to find the confusion, name it and make a decision (or postpone the decision if it makes sense)? I'm guessing just realizing the stuck will make it clear the next step is answering that confusion and then you'll get back to work.

Disparate links:

Paul Buchheit on "'Good enough' is the enemy of 'not at all'"


Thursday, February 07, 2008, 12:00 AM

tagged: confusionstalls, ideaprocess, ideas, socialweb, stuckideas