There’s a story about an art teacher that split their class in half. They told one half of the students that they’d be graded based on a single piece of work, and the other half that they would be graded on the quantity of work produced.

The half that was being graded on quantity ended up producing higher quality pieces.

By iterating and learning from their mistakes they actually ended up producing better work than the students that only had to produce one piece.

Quantity leads to quality.

Sharing work helps you to think and develop. The feedback you get feeds into the next iteration.

If you’ve enjoyed creating something then there’s a good chance that at least a handful of people in the world will enjoy seeing it or hearing about it.

Promoting yourself and your work can be a good way to clarify your thinking and future direction.

Get better by creating more

Produce lots of stuff and share it.

Being prolific doesn’t mean that everything you produce has to be absolute gold. But the process of producing large quantities of work ultimately leads to a higher quality of work.

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10 تعليقات

  1. It's the same with software I imagine, because of several reasons.

    1. Writing more code (and being conscious of it) makes you a better engineer. You'll run into more issues that you will fix and, hopefully, remember.

    2. If you'd take the art example and say "Paint 20 cubist pieces", and then transfer that to "Write 20 authentication servers", each iteration you'll benefit from what you learned and be able to 'clean up' the code. It's essentially writing 20 PoCs where each PoC improves on the last one.

    EDIT: Writing more versions also allows you to explore more ideas without fear. If you have to write "one good version" you'll be less prone to exploring 'exotic' ideas. So you'd benefit from that as well.

  2. I'm reasonably sure that it was a pottery class (or study) in which students/study participants were asked to produce either the best piece they could think of or as many as possible. I think it was actually a study that I read about.

    It might need some internet sleuthing to find it. I'll try later.

    I do not think that it is surprising that practice improves skills though (well, except for people with an exceptionally fixed mindset ;).

    (For today's lucky Ten Thousand, "fixed mindset" refers to… )

    (For today's lucky Ten Thousand, "today's lucky Ten Thousand" refers to )

  3. A friend of mine is a sculptor. He once said something to me along the lines of "if you want to make the perfect sculpture, don't try to make the perfect sculpture. Instead make lots of sculptures, until you make the perfect sculpture." – which I tend to agree with.

    His advice had more to do with enjoying the process instead of stressing about the end goal, which I quite liked.

    In the context of software, I think that being prolific is certainly key, but it also helps to study the masters. I've learnt some pretty cool lessons reading the source code of popular OSS applications for example.

  4. The definition of "creating more" is the elephant in the room. Do you stay focused on one subject, iterating multiple times over the result, in order to achieve incremental improvements? Do you explore a wide breadth of problems, giving you new perspectives on thinking about the problem at hand? Do you churn out mindless crap just for the sake of it?

    It's a rather fuzzy and abstract philosophical notion and any attempts for an absolute framing of "the one single truth" are flawed.

  5. When teaching mathematics I like to always mention that the greats like Ramanujan, while it seems like they just knew everything from pure thought, they all actually did a ton of work by hand. Ramanujan in particular is known for his fastidious notebooks calculating thousands of digits numbers like pi. From writing out the calculations for hours and days, he'd come up with simplification formulas and develop new insights. These days, we have a tendency to just look at the formula and go "wow, how the heck did the think of that?" Well, what we would call "busy work".

    Do the busy work. Do the calculations. Write it all out. Nobody is better than the busy work: it pays off and it's how you learn.

  6. In a way I feel like quality vs quantity is a false dichotomy. What's important is deliberate practice, which can be deficient in either.

    Is it worth doing 100 reps in the gym if they're all with bad form? It's better to solve the same problem in 5 ways or 5 different problems once?

  7. "Quantity leads to quality."

    The analogy of being graded on quantity in an art class tends to make me imagine I'd just line up a ton of canvases and slop paint on them all at once to be the top of the class, or create pots in only their crudest acceptable form.

    That is, quantity does not lead to quality by itself. The student must be trying to learn something new with each new piece. Quantity iterates the feedback loop. The student still must be able to identify mistakes or areas where improvement is needed. Doing that means paying attention to quality.

    So it's not really about ignoring quantity or quality for the sake of the other, but finding a good balance.

  8. When presented with this kind of “simple advice”, I always like to think the counter examples.

    Quantity is great, unless you are trying to change a paradigm. Iterative learning gets you trapped in local minima, so be sure to aim for quality once in a while.

    I would also not take that “experiment” that seriously, because the requirements where obviously different, each class optimized as needed. “Quality” is an abstract concept, and most of the time you are better of saving the time than spending it on “Quality”.

  9. What's the point of these posts? It's an opinion based on nothing else than a hypothetical anecdote. Is it motivational posts for HN readers–is this what "gratifies one's intellectual curiosity" these days?

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