The Willies - Overcoming what you don't want to do with risk analysis

Wed Jul 18 18

Every now and then I get what I call "the willies" when it comes to development. In fact if I can list times when I've felt the willies it would look something like this :

  • The first time I wrote C#
  • The first time I installed Ubuntu
  • The first time I wrote an angular UI
  • The first time I assembled a file

The willies are basically a debilitating feeling I get when I look at a new technology I want to learn but don't necessarily need to learn. Even if there's an understanding that one day I might need to know how this thing works.

A lot of problems that I think new developers face is the question "Well what can I do with code?" much like the age-old math student question "When will this ever be useful?" and a lot of this is the logical disconnect between well-formatted text files and interactive software. The beginner software developer can multiply numbers, ask the user how old they are and make the lamest game in history (guess the number). It's not immediately obvious to Mr Beginner that ALL software is effectively this with more ceremony.

  1. Ask the user how old they are later on becomes data entry and forms.
  2. Multiply numbers together becomes all data massaging from form A to form B
  3. Guess the number becomes Fallout New Vegas (just add some graphics)

Today the willies comes from a feeling of risk. It is RISK for me to learn a new technology because it might not be useful for me to know it. I feel like this is the same problem that the beginner developer struggles with as well. They could risk their early adult years learning a useless skill (i.e. formatting code files) or they could become a successful florist in the same amount of time.

Framing things in terms of risk is useful because it lets us assess potential losses and weigh them against potential gains. The risk for me to learn blockchain programming (my current blocker) vs. the risk of wasting my time becomes something quite easy for me to weigh either side. Once I've made the decision I can attack the problems I'll get more easily.