On the path of compromise
The ideal is not pragmatically possible
Yo peeps, and welcome to another issue of the ProtoNewsletter, where I share not only ideas, ravings, insights, and tips of dubious usefulness but also grammatical mistakes and odd phrasing.
Here I am after a (too long) unproductive pause. It’s been hot lately; try to understand.
Anyway, today we talk about real solutions for the real world.
By day, I am a software developer. ⌨️
As a developer, I have not only to implement features in the app I work on but also discuss with the other members of my team what is the best way to do so.
Usually, there’s a multitude of solutions to a problem. And they’re not all equally good. When we are in the design phase, the goal is to find the best one possible (within the constraints we have to deal with).
Some time ago, we found ourselves discussing, for several days, how to structure a new feature. The discussions lasted more than usual because we couldn’t get to an optimal and “clean” solution, as we use to say.
The feature itself was not that complex. What made designing a solution complex was the set of constraints around it. These constraints didn’t depend on us, and we couldn’t act on them directly, nor in a reasonable timeframe.
In theory, if we eliminated the constraints or had a long enough time, we would have already had an optimal solution. Not only clean but also simple to implement.
In practice, the constraints existed, and the available time was not long enough.
In the end, after discussions and discussions, we settled on a compromise:
- First, go ahead with an imperfect solution (working, but not ideal).
- Then, collect arguments and propose a long-term improvement to relax the constraints and move towards the ideal.
Looking back at this series of events, I realized we all go through similar moments in life. Sometimes you find yourself in situations where the “perfect” solution is not applicable or would take too long.
- Attempting an exam even if you haven’t studied everything.
- Publish an article even if it doesn’t fully match your taste.
- Release an application even if you would like to add other functions.
- Show up for a job interview even if you don’t feel ready.
However, there’s a critical difference between my story and these examples.
At work, my colleagues and I were forced to get to a solution within a reasonable time. We had to develop the feature. Postponing was not an option.
Instead, in our personal lives, there often is nothing forcing us to choose. We can postpone indefinitely.
Does it make sense to do so?
Rarely: it wouldn’t be a pragmatic choice.
I can indeed postpone and try perfecting, but it’s not a good investment. The best way I can go forward is by doing.
A mantra I acquired some time ago is that: there’s a massive difference between doing something and doing nothing.
A published article is better than no article. An application in the hands of users is better than no application. Done is better than perfect.
So, similarly to what we decided at work, I prefer to resort to a compromise:
- For the time being, I go for the imperfect solution (which exists, unlike the perfect one).
- Then, I start working to improve and strive towards that elusive “perfection”.
And the beauty is that working to improve can also mean simply getting back to doing, given that doing moves you towards quality. It is a virtuous cycle.
In an ideal world, we would have ideal solutions. All our results would live up to expectations, and every choice would be right.
But, even though we forget at times, we can live only in the real world.
Recently I’ve watched (and rewatched) a bunch of Kurzgesagt videos, a YouTube channel you surely know, and if you don’t, I’ll report you and have you arrested. I recommend every one of their videos, but you can start from this one, given the time we’re living.
Then, after years of owning the Switch, I finally bought The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’ve played way too many hours, and my productivity has dropped dramatically. I had to force myself to stop playing to write this newsletter.
I’ve also been to Nuremberg. In the sauna area of the spa, everyone was naked.