Mental states of deep software development and deep research thinking are mutually exclusive

Insight through making in Tools for thought requires developing new software interfaces which express domain theories, then studying those interfaces and their usage to improve your theories. In practice, it’s quite difficult to think deeply about theories while in the midst of a significant software development project. And it’s hard to build momentum on software development when spending much of one’s day in reflection and writing. Worse: Switching costs are high between software development and research thinking.

In March 2020, I wrote a list of research questions for the Mnemonic medium, then embarked on building Orbit. Writing now in October 2020, I’ve not made any meaningful progress on any of those research questions. At some point I’ll need to execute a “hard switch” back to thinking about those questions again, at which point it’ll be difficult for me to take on any significant new features for Orbit.

I struggled with a similar challenge in June and July of 2019 while designing and implementing the Quantum Country user journey project. Then in December 2019 and early 2020 when working on theory with Michael, I little no progress on the medium.

This is one more reason why it might make more sense to collaborate: Deep collaborations between tool-makers and tool-users may support insight through making.

A related issue: Focused software development work is self-abnegating.