Do one thing very well

When I was a wee lad, I was quite unpopular at school. Regularly picked on, beat up, and mocked, it was no secret that I was a pushover and the other kids could get away with whatever torture they devised for me. The problem was that I was trying to be everyone’s friend, to please everyone, and subsequently I attempted to become whatever anyone wanted me to be. But because I didn’t know how to become what they wanted, I was just an uncool, dorkish poser, painting a big target on his chest for the barbs of others.

Sometime late in 7th grade, though, I snapped and decided to be my own person. Screw them, I thought, I’m going to figure out what I want and do it; who cares what they think? And, much to my surprise, the mocking stopped. Within a year I was, if not popular, at least respected. When I stopped trying to be everything to everyone and became my own person, I was finally recognized as such.

I say this by way of introduction to Unix. A common mandate or philosophy of Unix and Unix software/commands is to do only one thing but do it very well. Too many software companies try to make their product do everything, or try to please all of their customers, and what they end up doing is making something overly complex that nobody can use or even likes. By trying to do everything, they end up doing nothing.

We can take some obvious life lessons from this, but also find some guidance regarding the tools we settle on. In building this site, as well as my other work resources, I try to find those things that do their job simply and well. WordPress is simply the best blogging software I’ve found, and since this site is primarily a blog, it’s my tool. It’s not nearly as powerful as Joomla!, but it works significantly better. Just like Zenphoto doesn’t have all the capabilities of Coppermine, or PunBB is considerably leaner than phpBB, it does one thing and does it well. Coppermine and phpBB are bloated and difficult to work with… so I don’t. If a tool makes my life more difficult, requiring more of my time than it saves, then it fails and isn’t worth using.

I am finally beginning to learn what I do well, and I’m going to focus on that. Throughout this week, I’ll be writing about some of the changes happening both in my life and at SilverPen Publishing. I’m taking steps for what I am calling SilverPen Pub rev. 3.1. Revision 3 began around the end of August 2007, I believe, and this is the next phase of that progression. I’ll be implementing changes a bit at a time until December 31, with revision 3.1 formally going live on January 1. You probably won’t notice many differences, to be honest, but we’ll get into that later. Stay tuned!

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