5 Oct 2015
Fighting for MVP
It took me a while to understand the concept of a minimum viable product.
I spent my summers with my grandfather, who taught me that nothing's worth doing if you can't do it right. Perfect. I learned discipline, and that discipline involved working until things were done.
Not until they were okay. Until things were done.
My grandfather was an army recruiter. He was a store owner. He cut his own firewood and stacked it perfectly. He fixed small engines.
He wasn't obsessive - he understood that sometimes, things CAN'T be perfect. But the solution was easy: he simply didn't bother with those things.
He didn't know what a minimum viable product was. I'm not sure he'd ever understand it, either.
I have promised everyone I know that I am going to start writing a book. But, to be perfectly honest, I don't want to. I'm scared as hell.
I'm not worried about whether or not I have anything to say. I'm worried about whether or not I can say it all. That I'll forget something. That it will go to print incomplete.
These are real fears, because I no longer live in a world where I have to worry about this. On the web, mistakes can be fixed. There is no print run; no proof sheets or air date. The web is rolled out a bit at a time. Mistakes aren't remembered. They're just fixed.
A book, though. Those mistakes are there until the next edition. If there is a next edition at all.
My fields - content strategy and information architecture - can be approached from a hundred different angles. I approach it from the library science angle, because I identify with the completeness and organization of that angle.
Those of us who cherish the library sciences have difficulty with minimum viable product, because when you are organizing and cataloging books and files and content, you do so to completion. The idea that there are things on the edges can be maddening.
Which is why I had to teach myself, little by little, to accept close enough. And I suck at it.
But that's the web.
Minimum viable product can be learned. We all have things that we let slide for reasons of a faster launch. Despite my perfectionism with document design and kitchen cleanliness, I fail miserably with self-editing. I want every thought to be correct, but I can't be bothered to make sure the words are spelled correctly.
It's a twisted way of writing, and it comes from the pull of perfection: I know, as a writer, that I will sit on something until it has withered away, so I force myself to post fast and loose.
It's maddening to me. But, if I didn't do it, I wouldn't have anything to show for the hours I spend. This is one little thing I do to counteract perfectionism. It's one small step toward minimum viable product.
I've learned two things since working on the web.
First, sometimes, good enough is good enough.
Second, that first thing only makes sense if you understand there's always room to go back and make good enough a little better.
I still suck at it. I hope I can change. I'm not sure I can. So I have to just fight for progress, learning a bit at a time what good enough really means.