Success metrics

Arguably the single most important part of any project that everyone skips is defining what makes a project successful.

The Traps to Avoid

Doing so focuses the project and, more importantly, will help you ignore three big traps:

  • Taking on other people’s definitions of success.
  • Never finishing.
  • Grabbing onto tantalizing data that don’t actually support your goals.

Other People’s Ideas of Success

Often–always, actually-–when working on a project people will offer opinions and ideas on what you should do with it. This is human nature and is a lovely thing. If you’re not sure in what you want though, well, it’s easy to take on their thoughts as your own. Feedback is good, taking it all in means that you’re not secure in why you’re doing what you’re doing.

A lot of what people will suggest means success is going to have to do with capitalism. Always remember that you are not required to monetize your joy.

Never Finishing

Finishing anything is hard. It’s so hard.

The last 10% of even the best scoped projects is always 1000% of the work. Nothing will kill your momentum during that difficult phase more than not knowing what you’re actually shooting for.

You get lost, flail about for a bit, and put it down forever. It’ll make you feel guilty for a long time too whenever you think about it.

Tantalizing Data

Social Media figured out years ago that people like having numbers attached to their posts. Engagement metrics are, frankly, super fun because it’s a nice dopamine hit to see strangers interact with your posts! My guess is that with any interrogation though you’ll find that your reasons for posting are not to see analytics numbers tick up.

You’re probably, at a minimum, more interested in a specific audience liking and retweeting your work. Or, the actual reason you’re posting on social media might be to sell your project, generate commissions, share it with a group, keep a diary for yourself, OR any number of totally valid reasons to use social media.

A large number of favs, shares, and/or retweets is rarely going to be your project’s actual goal. If it is, you can go and buy those likes and retweets from many numerous shady websites with a minimum amount of fuss.

A Personal Example

To personalize this: the primary goal of the posts on this blog are to help me organize my thoughts and to reference them later on. A secondary goal is to share posts with my social circles. A tertiary goal is for random folks on the internet to find the posts when they’re looking for specific information.

This post was written as a reminder to myself to avoid mistakes I’ve made in the past. I’ve walked directly into all of the three traps above and will likely continue to do so. If anyone else reads this post hopefully they’ll be able to use it as ammunition against me the next time I dive in headfirst into a project without a goal.

If my primary goal was to achieve some sort of Elite Blogger Status I’d have to do things a lot differently. Probably there would be no cryptic posts about goal setting! Not going after that particular goal frees me up do what I actually want with this little corner of the internet and not obsess too much over analytics numbers.

A door, a fix, some lessons

I dislike the doors in our house. I love the knobs though.

The doors, however, have faults. They’re old and hollow, the veneer is peeling, the springs in the deadlatches don’t spring as much as they used to, and the regrettable decision by the previous owner to put carpet over the hardwood floors means that they’ve all be cut too short. However, these are the door we have.

During a lazy sunday afternoon I finally gathered the energy to address a problem with the door to my daughter’s room. This particular door would rub against the jamb whenever swung open or closed. A scratch-screech as the fibers worked their way past each other screaming protests. One of many minor annoyances of a 60s kit house that you quickly learn to live with amongst the deluge of other minor annoyances. Until you think about it and the problem grows roots and becomes The Current Fixation.

I mentally prepared to take the coward’s solution: just sand the thing down. Make a millimeter less door to impede free movement. Of course, as these things go and will always go, upon inspection the problem rested not in the door, but the hinge.

Whomever had hung it had done so half-heartedly. They chiseled enough material to roughly seat it and no more. And compounding the problem on the other side they also stopped short on the strike. It’s probable that decades ago this was enough to get it in just fine. To do it properly would have meant shaving a bit more space for the hinge, a bit more space for the strike, a bit more time and energy when it likely wasn’t needed. But, as we all know, houses flex and relax and shift and breath and smrik at our half-measures.

Once identified, the problem then became a series of small steps: the hinge pins were removed and the door placed gently elsewhere. For all its other faults it wasn’t in trouble today. Then the hinge and strike screws were unscrewed. Then the hinge and strike pried off. Then 20 minutes of inexpert work with a dull chisel and utility knife—both found in their proper place rolling around the bottom of the toolbag. 15 minutes of cleanup work with a toddler helping.

Now the door swings and closes and the only sounds the slight woompf of air pressure and the metal on metal grind of the deadlatch.

Soon the daily annoyance will evaporate into the ether replaced with a memory more and more infrequently recalled. Time will proceed as follows: its absence will be savored, then unnoticed, and finally a new annoyance to take its place.

Repeat and repeat and repeat.