Chinese Democracy Syndrome

Gus Mueller writes about programming on his site, about how some programmers wants everything to be perfect before they ship something. There’s a whole lot of wisdom in what he says, and not only for programmers:

…I think sometimes developers can get caught in a trap of trying to make things too “perfect”.

“Like Chinese Democracy” Kirstin said.

To which I replied- “That’s the perfect analogy. I’m going to blog that.”

In case you haven’t heard of it already, Chinese Democracy is an album that Axl Rose, the singer of Guns N’ Roses, has been working on for a very, very long time. The hold up is because he wants to get everything “perfect”. So it never ships.

First-time sex

Merlin Mann has been talking about something similar in a podcast he called First-time Sex & the Beauty of 1.0. Quoting Merlin:

Everybody is so busy making things perfect the first time around, that you never actually make anything

Yup. That’s now officially declared the “Chinese Democracy Syndrome” (or CDS for short). Trying so hard to get version 1.0 perfect, that it never ships.

This applies to other things than software, like complex projects. I’m working on a presentation on something that’s quite difficult to explain to people. And I found myself planning and planning and researching, and not working on the actual presentation. Gus talking about CDS made me think about what Merlin said about the first draft, and now I’ve put together a really bad version 1.0: Fonts, colors, facts, timing and length – everything is bad. But it’s version 1.0 and it’s so much easier to fix version 1.0 than making it (this does not necessarily apply to building houses, bridges and spaceships, I must add…)

The secret of Google and VG

Loving the beta-version is also one of the key ingredients of Google’s success: They make a 70% good product, get it out to people, tag it beta, and let it improve by getting feedback from users and their own experience with it. In Norway the tabloid VG is the biggest website, far ahead of the others. They do the same thing: Get things out. Sometimes they fail miserably, sometimes they score big successes. They would never have known if they just kept the projects on the harddrives, tweaking and tweaking them.