What is the Simplest Thing That Could Possibly Work?
June 26, 2020
As the EarlyWords team, we are a pair of creative people who code. We like to think of focusing on either of these activities as cross-training. We learn a little something about coding from writing prose or music. And we learn a little something about creativity when we code.
In reality, of course, there isn’t as much separation as one might think. Coding is fundamentally a ‘maker’ activity. There’s something the ‘puter doesn’t do and we make it do that.
In any case, some lessons are transferrable from one discipline to another. In our corner of the software technology ecosystem, we practice a set of agile methodologies loosely based around what was originally called Extreme Programming. Sound too much like something you do with frosted tips in a montage with an nnt-tss-nnt-tss sound track? Hey, it was the 90s and the X Games were all the rage.
Anyway, one of the principles we’ve learned from agile methodologies is to focus on simplicity. In some circles, when we are faced with new territory, such as an unbuilt feature, we ask ourselves, “What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?” and we build that. Technology has a certain amount of inherently complexity. It’s very easy for us as humans to complicate it further by making more or doing more than is actually needed. So we build the simple thing and then we improve it incrementally a little bit at a time.
In the case of Early Words, for the first couple of hours, the app was a text box on a page that didn’t even save. Obviously, we didn’t push it out to the public like that because that’s not particularly helpful, but it’s a starting point, a building block. And we keep building. We’ve put a few more hours of effort into the app about four days a week for a couple of months. Eventually, we reach a point where it starts to feel real. Hey, this is pretty helpful! I like this! I’m using this every day!
And so here we are. Fundamentally, EarlyWords provides the service that we set out to provide. It’s been clarified, honed, and evolved in baby steps from early feedback to the point that it feels like a real beginning—a ‘minimum viable product’ if you will.
So, belatedly, welcome to EarlyWords (we-like-this edition)!