Some tasks are incredibly difficult and stressful for certain people — and it's not because those folks are stupid or lazy. Other individuals, obviously less talented, can perform the same jobs with grace and ease. Why?

In many cases, it's because the struggling folks aren't into the spirit of the tools that they're using. It's not that they have a hammer and insist on treating every screw as a nail — rather, it's that they think they have a screwdriver, but they're really holding a chisel.

When computers are involved, the principle applies with peculiar vengeance. Look at all the web sites that struggle to present information, and fail; read all the complaints that webmasters post about the inadequacies of the software that they're using. Contrast that situation with domains where everything works so smoothly that the machinery is forgotten, transparent like air.

Bo Leuf flattered me when he commented in a letter, "You seem to be managing your site very well." He was wrong to use the word "managing"; the site essentially runs itself. I've given up on trying to do hard things and have settled into a simple and mostly happy, harmonious mode of operation with the ZhurnalWiki system and the ^zhurnal archive If it's not obvious how to make something happen, I don't struggle to force it. (Sporadically I ask Bo or others for advice, however, as it does on occasion turn out that a slight tweak makes the difficult suddenly trivial.)

J. S. Bach reputedly said, of the piano, "There is nothing to it. You only have to hit the right note at the right time, and the instrument plays itself." That sounds suspiciously apocryphal — JSB was an organist and harpsichordist, for one thing — but the principle is too apropos to ignore:

Don't fight the tool!

(see also SeeingAndForgetting (15 Jul 1999), SpeakersToMachines (10 Dec 2002), ...)

TopicProgramming - TopicWriting - TopicArt - TopicZhurnal - 2003-04-07

(correlates: FourTypes, NothingnessShowsThrough, MalaproposDecisionmaking, ...)