Doing versus Talking

In On my Return to Blogging post I attributed the fact that I'd taken a break from blogging because I wanted to get out and do things rather than just spend my free time writing and thinking about things.

A Critique

The problem with this kind of statement is that it evokes a certain kind of anti-intellectualism: thinking isn't as good as doing things, which is counter productive. Actions, creation, feed and grow out of thinking (and vice versa.)

In light of this it's difficult to re-calibrate ones practice without on the one hand taking an anti-intellectual stance or becoming too ungrounded in practice.

Cogitative Side Effects

I read an article a while back (source lost to the depths of the internet,) that mentioned the following effect; when you talk about something publicly the recognition and validation you get from talking about it is pretty much the same as the recognition and validation you'd get from actually doing something. The result is, if you talk about doing something, you become less likely to actually do it because you've already experienced most of the gratification of doing something.

(Sorry for the poor translation.)

In any case, it seems plausible, and certainly worth testing. So when I say "I want to spend time doing things," rather than theorizing about possible future projects or talking about things I want to work on, as has been my wont, I'm just not.

This is an interesting conundrum for free software/open source: how do you start developing a project in a community centered way without shooting yourself in the proverbial foot. Sometimes it works (e.g. GNU MediaGoblin,) but often people hack a working prototype (and often a lot more) before talking about the project. There are too many examples to list.

There are also a large number of examples of projects that started that languish because they were clearly announced too soon. On the other hand, maybe early-public discussion or announcements is purely epiphenomenal and early public discussion is just a symptom of an always already weak project, that you're more interested in talking about something that doing something. (Which might just prove the point?)

The Take Away

  • Don't blog about something until it exists, and is in a form that you'd be willing to share and discuss.

Corollary: code names are probably the same as real names.

  • Strive for balance between "project work," and meta-work. The ideal proportions are unclear.
  • Avoid anti-intellectualism when possible.
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