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How to Pull a Jennifer Dewalt (humbledmba.com)
22 points by jaf12duke on Oct 3, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 18 comments

> Make For the Sake of Making

I don't get this strange virtue of new-age geeks. If you said "Make For the Fun of It", i'd get that; making can sure be fun. But making things for no point whatsoever, other than to keep yourself busy? At least with knitting you eventually get practical use out of what you spent time on.

I have a shelf of unfinished projects and directories full of thousands of lines of unfinished code. In retrospect I wish I had spent my time flying a kite.

I think you answered your own question. Making stuff is not constantly fun. It is more like hours upon hours of confusion and drudgery sprinkled with minutes of elation "wow that worked!" (Try making something in hardware to see this with maximal prominence).

The point is that if you are only looking to have fun once the going gets hard you'll just stop and shelve the project. On the other hand, if your goal is to make something ie if you are Making For the Sake of Making (tm) you'll be more likely to actually cross the thresholds of difficulty at which you learn significant lessons.

People who create and invent, hackers have tons of unfinished stuff. If you like it do it, you don't need a reason. What's wrong with coding for the sake of coding something. From time to time I go back and look at my old code, sometimes I re-learn things I'd forgotten or see better ways to do them.

I think in this post this is with respect to the learning process.

At times you don't need to learn something which you probably might not implement ever, but its good to know it anyway along the way.

I don't really like how its framed 'Make for the sake of making' but I think that was the idea.

> I have a shelf of unfinished projects and directories full of thousands of lines of unfinished code.

You should complete the good projects and release them.

Maybe it should be "Make and share."

I wish Hacker News didn't allow marketing fluff like this. It's the same thing that happened to Slashdot. The MBAs took it down.

Blog posts about other blog posts. It's a pattern that many here seem to follow. It really makes you aware of the real ratios of content to fluff and creation to recycling in today's tech community.

> Tell lots of people

Sure, that works for making websites. In fact, I'd argue that website-building is one of the most easily-publicizable things on the Internet, which is mostly composed of websites.

But what about niche things? I'd greatly enjoy "180 traditional Scottish dance tunes in 180 days", but there's not an HN-ish outlet for that. I'd also enjoy "180 reflections on philosophical readings from the Enlightenment in 180 days", but any philosophers I have easy access to aren't going to be interested—they're beyond that. Similarly for topics I don't actually care about. 180 new meals? Only a few people can eat them. 180 poems? Deliver us.

Dewalt's feat became famous for two reasons: a) It's a common task done in an uncommon way (everyone knows what website-building is, very few think it's reasonable to pop one out every day for six months) and b) The demographic who would be most supportive of it is very easily-accessible in large numbers.

Scottish dance tunes: just from a quick Google on the subject, I'd recommend talking to http://www.scottishdance.net/ about it, probably also the Scottish Arts Council, /r/scotland and so forth.

Reflections on philosophical readings? /r/philosophy has 148k subscribers.

180 new meals? Write 'em up on eGullet (I've had very positive responses to my writing up foodie experiments there), /r/food, tell the massive foodie blogosphere about them.

It also doesn't matter, in all cases, how large your audience is, only that they appreciate your work - at least, if you're looking to finish rather than to become famous (which I think was the purpose of this blog post). I've spent 1-2 hours worldbuilding and game desiging every week for the past 4 years for a total audience of two people: the players in my weekly RPG. That's a big enough audience to keep me motivated and keep me creating that particular work - over 200 times so far.

Not everyone will be able to pull a Jennifer Dewalt. Attention is a zero-sum resource. As more people attempt to get front page on Hacker News for their self-promotion, fewer and fewer will end up getting that exposure. Also, the signal to noise goes down.

Let's see the quality people can produce, not just quantity. And let's focus on the quality, not on the people.

The ending: "Try this: build 1 website in 1 day" reminds of something an internet spam/dark arts guru said that really inspired me (won't link for reasons): "If someone held a gun to your head and said you have 24 hours to build a website, you'd have a website built within 24 hours."

Re 24 hours: I would, because I would outsource it on elance.

I like coding too much to be a professional and focus only on getting things done. There is joy in reinventing the wheel and messing about.

However you'd get it done, you'd get it done. That's the point.

I appreciate that Jason here refines some of the key things about Jennifer's approach that helped her be successful. I find I am most effective when I use similar things (like well defined steps with a start, middle, end definition) and least effective when my goal is more amorphous. An example might be "Learn Clojure" versus "Build 5 apps in Clojure."

Usually when I'm stuck on something its because I don't have a concrete enough definition.

I know that a certain group of people find this story inspiring. I find it to be a huge turn off. It seems more like the story of how easy it has become to google search for code snippets and copy paste them and tweak them until they work.

Is this actually a good way to learn how to program? I really doubt it.

I think it's an okay way to start to learn to program. It will likely get you to a point where you are ready to really learn, especially if you approach it with curiosity, determination, and the willingness to experiment.

Question for 'business guys' here - How would you learn sales, or business, in 180 days?

Jason Fried suggests buying and selling the same thing over and over on a place like Craigslist or eBay: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20110301/making-money-small-busi...

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