Good Enough is Perfect.

The animator and director John Lasseter  has been quoted as saying that Pixar films are never finished, they just get released. He wasn’t the first to express this sentiment –  in 2002 Star Wars sound effects engineer Ben Burtt made a documentary called ‘Films are not Released, they Escape‘.

Obviously these are just two recorded instances. I don’t doubt that there have been countless expressions of the same sentiment directed towards a large number of creative endeavours throughout history (and prehistory).

Orange sunset, Stonehenge.

We’ll bang in a new set and raise it quick. No-one’s going to see it from down there anyway. Image © Adam Stanford

‘‘You know you’ve hammered the socket holes on the wrong side of the lintel?’

‘Bo**ocks. We’ll bang in a new set and raise it quick. No-one’s going to see it from down there anyway.’
Anon. Salisbury Plain. 2,500 BCE. Probably.

Google are proponents of the ‘release early, update often’ approach. This brings with it a number of advantages – early adoption by version/product junkies means free bug checking, ongoing code and robustness testing, and rapid feedback which can be used to shape the product for future releases. And all this is free, courtesy of a vast and enthusiastic user-base.

Microsoft, at first glance, appear to take the opposite route. They have a protracted teaser period, crowned by an eye-wateringly expensive global release. This is often followed by a backlash of criticism, some justified, some perhaps not. Then over the next few years complaints/bugs/security holes are addressed as updates while development of the next big point release goes on, ready for the next big release.

The two approaches – expense aside – have a lot in common, but the release early approach has the edge.

Ultimately the most significant advantage is that the release early approach results in a lot more work being done, and a lot more ground being covered in a shorter time. Millions of people are going to use these products, so it makes sense to get millions of people using them as early as possible. It means the development teams can concentrate on product development. The Microsoft model fragments the process – either the team developing the next point release is distracted by patching the last release, or the team is split into two – one to patch the current release, and another to develop the next release. And on the next release the process begins again, and fragments further, because another team will have to be spawned to support earlier releases in form of service packs. For example, Microsoft currently support three separate versions of Office, while the Google version – Docs – only ever has one version under constant revision.

Ok fine. What’s this got to do with anything though? I mean really?

It’s a living example of ‘not letting perfect become the enemy of good enough’ versus ‘good enough is the enemy of the great.’ This largely relates to online projects (such as blog entries) because of the ‘release’ aspect,  but the essence of the approach can be adapted to almost anything you create.

Release early, update often  (good enough and getting better).

In the first instance you get work done, you get work out there, and you can improve your work based on the feedback it receives, or the thoughts you have about it now it’s in the wild. Because once it’s out there, modifying parts of it you’re no longer happy with becomes and imperative before too many people read it.

Modify in seclusion, polish until perfect (never quite good enough. May never be released).

We’ve all been there. We’ve all worked on a project for too long, ensuring every sentence is just so, that the argument is sustained, that the correct terminology has been employed to the best effect. When it’s finally released into the wild, you’ve invested so much into it that you’re perhaps overly protective – not so open to criticism or suggestions. The prospect of further revisions takes on a nightmarish quality. Or worse still, your protectiveness could lead you down darker paths – you could find yourself defending an idea or suggestion you no longer have any faith in. Ooooh.

So get something done. Get it out there. Take criticism on the chin, and keep tickling.

Obviously strive to be the best, but not to the point where you’re just the best in your study.

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