[Oldletter #19] One's own project, Making users awesome and Obvious to you yet amazing to others

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Every Friday, I’m sharing a short list of evergreen articles/resources broadly related to software engineering that wouldn’t typically get shared in most tech newsletters or social media feeds.

  • A project of one’s own (2021) by Paul Graham. Having your own project, not a “job” project that you’re obligated to do, can produce your best work.

    There is something special about working on a project of your own. I wouldn’t say exactly that you’re happier. A better word would be excited, or engaged. You’re happy when things are going well, but often they aren’t.
    You have moments of happiness when things work out, but they don’t last long, because then you’re on to the next problem. So why do it at all? Because to the kind of people who like working this way, nothing else feels as right. You feel as if you’re an animal in its natural habitat, doing what you were meant to do — not always happy, maybe, but awake and alive.

  • Badass: Making Users Awesome (book) (2015) by Kathy Sierra. If you’re an engineer building a product, it will have users. A hard fact is that these users matter much more than your code. The brilliantly-taught lessons in this book are especially valuable for engineers with less exposure to the real people using their products. Also check out this detailed review of the book by Joel Hooks (Egghead).

    Tools matter, but being a master of the tool is rarely our user’s ultimate goal. They don’t want to be badass at our thing. They want to be badass at what they do with it. They want badass results.

  • Obvious to you, amazing to others (2010) by Derek Sivers. Why you should probably be sharing more of your ideas and insights with others than you’re currently doing.

    Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them. So maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else? We’re clearly bad judges of our own creations. We should just put them out there and let the world decide.

Submitting your recommendations

If you’d like to share an evergreen article/book which has significantly influenced your thinking or practice around software delivery, please email it through to me and I’ll add it to my backlog for sharing in future editions.

Have a great weekend!

— Paul

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