Turns out, bookmarking lots of links doesn’t help you create anything new.
I used to spend loads of time reading online and collecting bookmarks on neat tools and services, storing them for when I eventually have a project idea which is their perfect match. I guess my thought process was if I collected tools & resources for every scenario, it would be a walk in the park to build any idea. Writing articles, coding software, any creative task was fair game. I would dig through every Product Hunt new products email and collect any I thought had potential. There are over 1000 links of interesting products & articles still waiting in my notes, and that’s just the ones from the past few months I haven’t gotten to yet!
I think of myself as a project person, but looking at how much time has gone into passively collecting tools and not creating, a better description would be digital hoarder. It sucks to realize, but I guess I’m the digital equivalent of the guy hoarding trash in his room yelling he needs it “just in case!”.
It just doesn’t make sense to try to have the perfect tool for every situation. To start with, there are millions of people improving or creating new tools every day. No matter how good a curator, one person can’t keep up with so much information across a ton of different fields. It’s a losing battle. Even if you try to keep up, your information becomes outdated quickly. Tools evolve, and what was once the top tier application could just be a memory a few years later. I miss you too, Yik Yak .
Collecting niche tools for every project wastes your learning effort, too. Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, assume you are fantastic at organizing and somehow always find the One Right Tool for the task at hand. With so many tools in the collection, at best you will have a surface level knowledge of their capabilities. You’ll have to take time away from creating to learn to use this one-off tool, and knowing this extraneous effort is attached to projects adds friction between you and a finished product. If you want ideas to rot in a notebook somewhere and never come to life, adding friction is a great idea. But wait, there’s more! Since the tools are niche, they won’t apply to many of your other ideas, so the time spent learning one won’t make you any better or faster in the future.
It’s much better to have a few tools you are comfortable using and can adapt them to fit new situations rather than a bazillion you only know the marketing copy for. With a small toolkit, you know what a tool can & can’t do. You won’t get halfway through assuming it has a capability and discover it’s not there. Been there, done that — numerous times. With a new project, you also get started on the actual idea earlier and move faster, since you don’t have to spend time learning which buttons to press in an unfamiliar tool. What if you don’t have skills yet to have a toolkit? As far as I can tell, your toolkit will constantly be evolving as you learn and grow. New talents will come up and old ones will fade away, the goal is just to recognize your strengths and use them instead of chasing the new and shiny.
I want to be a prolific creative, able to take all the ideas in my head and bring them into reality. Now that I’ve realized the difference between collecting tools and actually creating, I can approach life with a different mindset. For future projects, I challenge myself to use what I already know how to do, even if it’s unconventional.
I naively thought I could apply the same complex & scalable solutions used by actual companies to my side projects. I was wrong.
The simple steps I would follow if I got to re-do my college CS program.
A reflection on my failure to build a viable product, so others can learn from my mistakes.