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Would you ship it if it had your name on it?

Painters and sculptors sign their art. Writers have their names on the jacket of their books. Journalists get bylines.

Their name is forever tied to the what they worked on. Some of this is the narcism that we all have and the desire to mark ownership we all crave, but I remember reading that it started as a way to take responsibility. You put your name on what you worked on so that people would know that it was your brilliance, and your errors and faults, that were on display.

A question that I'm now teaching myself to ask and wish more people shipping software would ask themselves is "Would I ship it if it had my name on it?" Not just my company's or my products, but mine.

Releasing products, especially in a fast-moving industry and in a launch-and-iterate culture is often about what you leave out, and what you will get to later.
You have a vision to begin with or at least a plan, but then as deadlines approach or other evil things happen, you decide what features you won't complete, what you can leave out, what bugs aren't likely to affect too many users or are minor in their impact. This I understand and completely support, but you also start to think about "what really isn't that bad", visual blemishes that you think you'll get to later, things that users may not miss etc. and tell your self that you'll get to these later.

The tragedy is that you often never do; you get to some important things but given the pressures of shipping something new, if you didn't fix it the first time, its likely you'll never get to fixing it ever.

Its hard for people to take ownership of a product, any product. Its hard to make the 100 minor improvements that together make the product suddenly pop. Its harder still if people around you don't remind you to do it or don't share a fanatical sense about this. A culture of "just ship it" is dangerous and surprisingly common.

I think a test you have to ask yourself before you release anything is "Is this beautiful enough for me to put my name on it?"


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