The Joy of Shipping

Last February, I had a personal tragedy and decided to take a long break from tech (maybe I'll write more about it someday). I hiked the PCT then spent a few months traveling and visiting friends. As I get fully back into the groove of software engineering, I keep remembering something I somehow forgot: the joy of shipping fast and often.

I think everybody who has ever struggled with a piece of code is familiar with what I call the "Student High", that jolt of dopamine and adrenaline one gets when the code finally, finally, works (I call it the Student High since it has gotten markedly less pronounced for me as I've gotten further and further out of school). But I'm not talking about the Student High, which is fleeting and fickle as a midsummer rain. I'm talking about the deeper, more sustained and sustainable feeling of contentment that comes from putting things you've created out into the world.

It's a scary feeling -- nothing is ever finished and that goes double for most software artifacts. How am I, a meagre nerd of middling intellect and insight, to produce something anyone else finds remotely valuable? Am I missing something obvious? Upon release (of software or ideas contained in a blog post) will someone immediately point me towards a strictly better and more comprehensive version of what I just produced? The act of putting something into the world is intrinsically fraught with unknown unknowns, which gives most sensitive people at least a twinge of epistemological vertigo.

And yet there is no substitute for the act of bringing something into the world and saying with some degree of brashness, "hey everyone, you should look at this." To be human is to create -- and create messes -- and I rarely feel as human as when I am nervously debuting something I have wrought.

All that said, this website is the perfect project for my return to software engineering: it's fully self-directed, is not on any time line, is pressured by exactly zero business externalities, and has the right mix of things I'm good at and things I want to get better at. If it's ugly, it'll get prettier. If the writing is bad, it'll get better. If the ideas themselves lack the glimmer of interest to anyone else, I will at least be satisfied to have created something for myself.