I like stuff.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A word of advice.

If you ever get an idea that you think you want to pursue (especially one involving the internet), never, ever ask anyone else's opinion.

Seriously. The amount of conflicting advice and unwritten rules of "Oh, never do that." are spirit-crushing and might be enough to remind you that if you had to ask these people permission for anything, you'd still be sitting on your bathroom floor every morning trying to figure out the latest documented best practices in putting on your pants.


Anonymous said...


stiill said...

There's a real technique to asking for feedback. I think you can get lots of useful ideas and feedback, if:
* you're at the stage where you're ready for ideas and feedback (if you ask too early, you don't have enough of your own initial vision)
* you ask people who can get excited about the idea, who can kick in their own favorite ideas
* you can push the discussion in a useful direction for yourself

That's off the top of my head, and some of it's wrong, and it's definitely incomplete. But I will say that most of the time I've gotten real value out of a discussion of some new plan of mine, it's been after a bit of time spent driving the discussion in a useful direction (which of course can be tricky if you don't want to stifle discussion). It's also been with the right people-- it'll quickly become clear that some people are excited about an idea and are people you can have a back and forth with, and other people aren't. It doesn't mean they'll be useless when discussing the next idea.

If you're considering foreign policy, you want people who can shoot down ideas. If you've just laid out the architecture for your next software project, you want people who can poke holes in it. But if you're just trying to get something crazy started, I think you need people who can drink the Kool-Aid.

You're going to have a hard enough time staying excited and dedicated through self-doubt (or at least I do, in my own experience), so it can be really helpful to have other folks who can stay excited when you're in doubt. And, of course, they can help brainstorm solutions to the problems that have you doubting. On the flip side, if you spend too much time talking with people who don't think you should be doing it at all, that's going to make you less creative about solutions, and more prone to just throwing in the towel.

I've heard sayings to the effect that if lawyers were in charge of all business deals, nothing would ever get done-- there are always potential down-sides. Sometimes you've just gotta do something. And in hindsight, yes, it will look naive, and full of mistakes, and foolish, but it might succeed anyway. At least you're not stuck on the floor without any pants.

stiill said...

Okay, wow, yes-- too much coffee this morning.