Arnaud's Blog

Opinions on open source, standards, and other things

The value of preparation and going slower

Ok, maybe I’m just rehashing the obvious here but, it occurs to me that in our ever faster pacing world we sometimes forget simple wisdom which is worth restating and reflecting on.

I’ve been remodeling my house quite extensively and while I’ve hired contractors now and then for specific tasks I’ve done a lot of the work myself. And when I say myself, I literally mean that. This is myself alone.

Working alone isn’t always the easiest obviously. Sometimes a helping hand can save you quite a bit of time and trouble but, I’ve come to realize that working by myself forces me to prepare more and this leads to better results in the end.

One such example is simply when nailing something up on a wall for instance, be it a sheet of drywall or a piece of framing. If you have a helper, one typically holds the piece in place while the other nails it. It’s fast and easy, but actually not that precise.

In contrast, when you’re alone, you can’t hold the piece and work on it at the same time. So, you have to first figure out some support mechanism that will hold your piece in place and free you to work on it. Using a support mechanism actually allows you to much more precisely position your piece before you move on to nailing it in place.

I’ve done that on several occasions and it never fails. I always end up with a better result that way.

Now, it’s true that it’s a slower process, especially given that I sometimes have to first build some kind of contraption to hold my pieces in place. But you’ve got to wonder about always trying to go faster. Is it really worth it?

Look at OOXML (what? you didn’t see it coming? 🙂 ) What have we gained from having this rushed through the standards process? Now that the dust is starting to settle down it’s easy to see that all we end up with is a specification of terrible quality and a lot of collateral damage, including for Microsoft, Ecma, ISO, and IEC. Wouldn’t we have been better off taking the time to do it right?

I sometimes marvel at some of the old buildings and wish we took the time to build more like those. Buildings that are not only functional but also elegant. Buildings that show, from the quality and the level of detailed work they present, how much their makers cared. Something which is unfortunately too rarely seen on modern buildings.

Of course, one has to find the right balance. But it seems that the balance is currently heavily tilted towards always going faster, even if it’s at the cost of producing lower quality. I think we should slow down a bit and give quality another try.


September 15, 2008 - Posted by | standards | , ,

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