Fears Realized

Dear J-

I’ve figured out a way to automatically generate histories based on simple principles and average operations; now if I just knew a way to make it useful. These are the thrills of the spreadsheet operators, whose very stock in trade is lining up numbers on a sheet and making them march in clever time, though I may never be quite so smart as to figure out how to get consecutive nonzero cell counts without relying on search powers and smart Internet people. Let’s see … I could do a half-assed job at some of these things, or we could instead try to concentrate on one project at the suffering of others. What’s probably going to end up happening instead is me taking the laptop home to work tonight.

I like the concept of the noble suffering for art (or in this case, work)’s sake, but in practice it’s a lousy thing to execute. The longer you spend on false trails and manual work, the less time you have to spend on actual analysis, stuff that’s useful or what you were supposed to be doing all along (hey, no one is interested in being billed for mechanistic rote work), right? So now the question is whether or not you want to cut your losses here and write up what you have, or if it’s even worth continuing to tweak and tweak and tweak some more. The smart thing is to know when you’ve done enough and stop, for the love of everything, stop refining to the point where it’s completely unrecognizeable.

Plus no one wins with your self-inflicted pariah syndrome. Let’s be clear: the amount of effort you spend is masked by what your analysis has to show; if you can’t write up your conclusions in a cogent way, you might as well be continuing to work in obscurity; no one will understand or care what you have actually done. These things will continue to darken your outlook until you’ve acquired a reputation for overthinking the problem; I know, it’s a terrible thing, right? It’s a question of effort and management: know where to spend your energy, and if all that’s needed is a reasonable answer quickly, then by all means, figure out the most efficient way to get there. Next time I’ll know but this time … there was a lot of development.

Mike

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