show, don’t tell

I read an interesting email today from Michael Tiemann. He said, in part,

“The open source model makes a big deal about “showing the code”, and indeed when one proudly shows what one has *done*, then others may be inspired to do the same. By contrast, referring to something that somebody else has asked you to do sounds like work when you suggest that others do as they say. I am as guilty of this as anybody because it’s always easier to say what I’m a-gonna do than to do it and actually report about it. But… When I take actions and then describe the impact of those actions, I find it really encourages people to do the same…sometimes immediately, sometimes days or years later. [..]
Moreover, when I take action, I discovered rewards or benefits or perspectives that I never imagined when I took the decision to act.”

I think that digging in and taking action is a lot more effective than listing out non-committal ideas; I’ve tried both and found the former a lot more satisfying. I definitely don’t like working on things *in my free time* that I feel I’m being commanded to do; in contrast I get a lot of enjoyment out of working on something when others with a particular vision work together with me to make it happen. In addition, sometimes an idea sounds good in theory or written down, but putting it to practice is far less straightforward. It is hard to realize all of the challenges that are involved in making a particular idea a reality when you you stick to the ideas/talk and don’t dig in and help make it happen.

In conclusion, I think that leading by example is an effective way to make your ideas a reality.

About Máirín Duffy

Máirín is a principal interaction designer at Red Hat. She is passionate about software freedom and free & open source tools, particularly in the creative domain: her favorite application is Inkscape. You can read more from Máirín on her blog at blog.linuxgrrl.com.


4 thoughts on “show, don’t tell

  1. Was that for me? 🙂

    Posted by Anonymous | December 5, 2008, 8:43 pm
    • LOL nope it wasn’t 🙂

      Posted by mairin | December 5, 2008, 8:44 pm
    • Actually I think an article you linked to from your last blog post kind of makes my point in a way: http://www.azarask.in/blog/post/ask-aza-good-products-at-large-companies/

      “Nobody should feel that a set of requirements has been “thrown over the fence”. When this happens, the recipient-of-the-throw is beholden to an abstract deliverable and is no longer connected to the end-user. That’s a real problem.”

      I don’t want people to throw things over the fence at me. 🙂 I want them to work with me and help me understand what user needs/data are driving the requirement.

      Posted by mairin | December 5, 2008, 9:05 pm
      • Of over-the-wall tasks and involvement and collaboration

        You wrote:

        “I don’t want people to throw things over the fence at me. 🙂 I want them to work with me and help me understand what user needs/data are driving the requirement.”

        And that is how most nice things end up being made. Over the fence work doesn’t really help anyone and more importantly, the lack of ‘involvement’ does make it more of a necessary evil rather than an enjoyable task.


        Posted by Anonymous | December 6, 2008, 6:39 am
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