This morning I was messing around with my web publishing pipelines and I ran into a problem with permalinks. It wasn’t a big problem because I don’t have a lot of content on the site in question, but it was a problem. I felt a weight in my chest.
It has been a while, but for a few years I made a living making sure permalinks didn’t break for people who were very sensitive to that sort of thing. I tried to bring a level of that rigor to my personal web stuff, too.
Some of that is just what we do, right? We know how to do something “right” so we do it right.
When I ran technical websites for Linux enthusiasts, there was a high level of fixation on “doing it right” among my assorted communities. Some of that was people insisting on “doing it right” because it was their day job. Some of it was people applying an unrealistic and stringent sense of rigor to their technical lives because tech as a hobby is full of aspirants – people who don’t do it professionally but aspire to professional levels of mastery and competence.
I found a lot of those folks to be suppressive. Constantly policing for correctness, constantly applying the standards of someone running multiple data centers to someone just trying to get file sharing set up between their Linux box and their wife’s Windows laptop. They insisted on a kind of rigor that is not realistic or helpful, and that serves to simply stop anyone from doing anything.
I am not here to yuck anyone’s yum. Sometimes the fun of a thing is just doing it as well as your knowledge and skill allow. More people should just be doing stuff as well as they want because it is pleasurable to them.
But there’s a toxic side to that, as well, when we get wrapped around the axle over “doing it right” at the expense of just doing it at all: Of making a new thing, exploring a new idea, trying something out, or just unburdening ourselves of a bad decision and its outcomes.
We get tied up in knots for a lot of reasons:
We don’t want to look dumb. We don’t want to do it wrong. We don’t want to accidentally run afoul of some standard people who have to worry about state actors apply to their own work. We don’t want to give a bad impression to potential employers or existing bosses.
It used to confound me that StackOverflow is so full of questions where people initially refuse to just show their code instead of asking vague questions about code they refuse to show (that always prompt a demand to show their code) until I realized “well, they probably depleted their ego just getting to the point where they could ask strangers for help, and they’re probably worried there are fifteen things they aren’t doing right or that are not to someone’s taste.”
In the mean time, what’s ticking away is our remaining seconds on this Earth and our creative energy.
So I’ve broken all the permalinks on my site. In fact, right now, because I misjudged the agility of a few services I am depending on, one site is just down while I wait around for some automated systems in the bowels of a provider to acknowledge each others’ work.
When it all comes back up, people who bookmarked my timeless classic about org-mode on mobile devices will be frustrated. The 20 people on LinkedIn who read my post about listening to people may not be able to find their way back to it.
I just got tired of having this hard-to-maintain site that I never really warmed up to and felt sort of overbaked and too much about “doing it right” to some standard I don’t have to worry about anymore. So I’m not worrying about it: I made a site I’ll have an easier time with and will like working on more, and it’ll be online soon enough.