‘I’m intrigued by this idea of complexity being something adversarial, that sneaks into your life like a cockroach’

Five takeaways from the written version of a charming talk given by Pinboard founder Maciej Ceglowski  at the 2013 XOXO conference in Portland. Well worth a read.

I’m intrigued by this idea of complexity being something adversarial, that sneaks into your life, like a cockroach, and you have to fight to eradicate.

There’s a pernicious idea that comes out of startup culture called “fail fast”. I’ve always been a big believer in failing slowly. When you’re not in for the money, success doesn’t come to you pre-labeled. It can look just like failure. Chasing money makes it easier, because then you can quantify success unambiguously. Otherwise, you may have a hard time telling the two apart.

Writing a work diary is the only honest record of what you’re thinking at the time. Your memory will lie to you, almost immediately, about what you thought was going to happen on any given day. The only way you can trust it is to write down your state of mind – what you’re worried about, what you expect will happen. And then over time you can go back and look for patterns of thought that you might want to fix. Maybe you’re always too optimistic, or maybe you choose to work with toxic people, or chronically underestimate what things will cost. Writing it down will help you understand your mental habits, and correct for them.

It’s not our job, Thoreau argues, to fix the world. We may not have the time for that. But we can’t cooperate with injustice. If the law compels us to do something wrong, we have to break that law.

The reason I think it’s vital we act now is that this state of affairs is still shocking, still disturbing. Let it persist and it will become the new normal (in other words, the “old shitty”) and anyone trying to fight it is going to be branded a Utopian or hopelessly naive, unable to come to terms with modernity. We should commit to giving legal, financial and moral support to anyone who refuses to obey gag order, or publishes a National Security Letter. The secrecy exists because the programs it cloaks can’t withstand the light of day. One good, timely push will break them.

Read Mr Ceglowski’s talk here.