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Ruminations. Reflections. Refractions. Code.

Sep 10, 2017 - Software dev work culture philosophy reflection

On the Wisdom of Waiting

An excerpt from the excellent (as expected, really) write-up, Toward Go 2:

“We did what we always do when there’s a problem without a clear solution: we waited. Waiting gives us more time to add experience and understanding of the problem and also more time to find a good solution”.

The whole thing is a worth a read for its clarity of writing, but I wish to focus on the importance of waiting.

A lot of technical problems are made big deals of without clear evidence of harm. If one can live with something for a while, clarity comes with time. Better solutions present themselves, and often, we get lucky: the problem can actually go away. Well, they did have to fix it in the case of Go above, but my point stands!

I recall an incident early in my career where a problem had been in production for at least a year: the company ‘policy’ was to be more secure by avoiding auto-completion (preventing auto-saved values) on form fields in the browser. Long story short, this is achieved by the autocomplete attribute in HTML forms.

A prior incarnation of the site had this feature enabled, a subsequent upgrade missed it. A tester notices it one afternoon, and suddenly management deliberates till around two in the morning, cozily from their own homes, while us developers were on standby in the office. We fixed it that night, but at an expensive human cost for no evidence of real benefit. It could have waited till the morning, at least. And arguably, saving form fields should be a choice left to the user.

Of course, this applies to life in general, too. A deliberate, active decision to wait is not the same as being complacent. It is being fully aware of the urgency of an issue, and its current lack of clarity. Not knowing, and having the luxury to wait and to defer, is a blessing. When available, gee, take it, don’t fight it!

I have used the word ‘waiting’ because of the excerpt, but taking it further, the value of deliberately taking a time to be in quietude as ways of achieving clarity should now be more… wait for it… clear.

Book plug: over the past couple of years, I have delved a bit more deeply into reflections such as these, and collected them in a book of a spiritual, non-dogmatic nature, Touching Nature. If you like applying life lessons inspired by experiences, you might like the book. I also promise that the book is more soberly edited than my sometimes rambling posts. :-)