If it Itches, Scratch

Posted on June 29, 2014
Tags: site

Tim Lavoie

You might just feel better. If you don’t, you probably learned something interesting in the process.

Cart of Death

Sometimes, looking at a tool gives you an idea of some new way to solve a problem that hasn’t been solved yet. I’m thinking more of those other times, where you can see a way to do something that has been done millions of times, but not precisely in the way I want to do it.

I’ve faffed about for some time, thinking that I should put ideas to paper, or at least bits in the aether. Problem is, I find myself constantly distracted by any and all sorts of “new shiny”, constantly wavering, changing direction and messing with new goodies that just suck up more time. You may have heard the term “bikeshedding”. That’s me, in spades. The process reminds me of using a friend’s borrowed, round-bottomed kayak. I’m sure it was great for someone, but for the life of me, I couldn’t go in any sort of straight line. Every clumsy, sodden stroke sent me off in a slightly new direction. What seemed to help though, was when I tied this inflatable dinghy to the rear, and used it to pull my kids to the nearby beach. Sure there was more drag, but this floating sea-anchor provided something to pull against, and more of my energy went into moving all of us in the desired direction.

So, while Zotonic (in this case) seems to be super-capable, and leverages all sorts of neat technology (like Erlang) to do it, I think it’s a place-holder for me. I’ve also played with various static-rendering wiki and blog platforms, far more than I’ve spent any time writing on or for them. In this case, this spiffy platform does far more than I’m likely to need, and I find myself irritated by the mental friction of trying to bash it to fit my own peculiar mental model. It’s time I made my own, even if the logic of it and its design choices completely escapes everyone else.

The way I figure, it’s better to make something of my own, even if the effort of doing so is going to be far larger than just using whatever I can find. There is value in making these design choices, and in implementing them, knowing the result well enough to be able to say what worked, what didn’t, and why. Even if there’s no usable output for anyone else, that new-found knowledge is probably handy in ways that can’t be anticipated just yet. I’ll let you know how it goes!

P.S. The weird contraption isn’t mine, but I think it symbolizes the thought process well. My son and his buddy are grinding away (and welding, bolting) at merging an old shopping cart and an older dirt bike. I expect the result would give Ralph Nader apoplexy, and I’ve already promised to play standby with my first aid gear. Yes, I do have a collar. Point is, this is scratching their itch, and our lack of understanding just doesn’t matter.