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Posted on: Wednesday, 25 March 2009 by Rajiv Popat

There is a certain sense of pride and joy you can get out of having an idea that will not let you go till to work on bringing it into existence. Then you work on shaping it into form; turning it into something concrete; in the form of an application, a website, content or what-ever-it-is that you work on; that can be shared with the rest of the world. It is much like the act of giving shape and figure to raw sand, shaping a mud vase or drawing on a blank canvas.

As a perfectionist; you enjoy the art; and you want to give whatever-it-is-that-you-are-working on the final touch of a specialist before you show it to anyone.

If you have been a part of any product team and have gone through a few releases, chances are high that you have been a part of release meetings where even the most kick-ass developers are arguing and trying their best to delay the release of the product. They feel they need more time for finding and ironing out every little bug that exists in the system. I wrote about this in one of my earlier post.

This is where most start-up companies, young budding programmers, big software shops and even the so-called-veterans of software development tend to go wrong. If the fundamental premise on which your product is built, is remarkable, your audience really doesn't care if the first version of the product is --- crappy.

Guy Kawasaki explains how to address the dilemma of when-to-ship in his book, The Art Of Start:

A You can spend hours discussing these questions with your team. It won' t be easy to reach a conclusion, and there is no "right" or "wrong" answer. Another way you can approach this dilemma is to ask yourself, Would I let my mother or father use the product or service in its current state? If the answer is yes, ship it.

Guy literally refers to this as the 'Don't Worry; Be Crappy' rule in his live presentation when talking about his Macintosh evangelism days:

So, Don't worry be crappy - the concept there is, if you wait for the perfect world; if we had waited for chips to be cheap enough, CPUs to be fast enough, color display, Ethernet port, slots; if we had waited for everything to be ready for Macintosh, we would have never shipped.

We would have 'never' shipped; and so, as long as you are truly making meaning; if you've leaped curves; if you have a revolution; I think the market will accept elements of crapiness to a revolution.

I am not saying ship crap. I am saying ship something that is revolutionary with elements of crapiness to it. Very, Very different; and I truly do believe that in high tech the way it works is that you ship and then you test. Other than life sciences; you ship and then you test.

Dave Winer, in his blog, takes pride in building software that is made up of shitty code with bugs. He explains:

An old software slogan at Living Videotext: "We Make Shitty Software... With Bugs!" It makes me laugh! We never ran this slogan in an ad. People wouldn't understand. But it's the truth. We make shitty software. And so do you!

Software is a process, it's never finished, it's always evolving. That's its nature. We know our software sucks. But it's shipping! Next time we'll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The only software that's perfect is one you're dreaming about. Real software crashes, loses data, is hard to learn and hard to use. But it's a process. We'll make it less shitty. Just watch!

It is easy to knit your brows at Guy's thought process and Dave's thought process on this topic; but if you give a little bit of time and effort to read between the lines when you read Dave's post or the Art of Start; you realize that what Dave and Guy are taking pride in, is not the shitty-ness of their code, crappiness of their product or the fact that their application and products have bugs.

They are in fact taking pride in the fact that they worked on applications and products which were built on a beautiful idea capable of defending itself, which were brought to existence.

That and the post is a subtle reflection of the sheer human stubbornness to keep showing up, sticking to it and make things better with time. 

You really don't need to worry about how crappy your application is before showing it off to the rest of the world. What you need to worry about is the basic premise of thought on which the application is built. What you really need to worry about is - Will that thought endure the test of time and keep you involved even after the big-bang-hype of your release dies.

Everything else; is secondary.

For almost a year, this blog suffered from starvation of content because of my desire to meticulously spell-check and grammar check every post; polish each picture; constantly question if the post met the quality of something that can be published. Once in a while; people were kind enough to give me gentle nudges and tell me that I need to write more often; and I agreed; but I hardly ever reacted by taking corrective action.

Then something happened. It wasn't a Hollywood-type-flash-of-light-realization, but it was fairly close.

I realized that it was okay to have a couple of typos here and there; as long as the premise on which the posts were built had the potential to make a small dent in my world and yours, dear reader.  I realized that I could come back anytime and fix the typos; which I often do. As a matter of fact, I continue to scan my own posts for typos even after publishing them.

I had similar realizations with striking similarities even in the world of shipping working software.

If there is one thing you take away from this post it is this: Don't waste time chasing the desire of getting it right the first time. If there is something you want to chase, chase the sheer human stubbornness of continuing to show up. Everything else is secondary.

Whether it is your new product, blog or your life; Guy's advice holds true.

Don't Worry. Be Crappy.

I wish you good luck.