Creative destruction

I was making a joke about the fact that I accidentally have two profiles for Open Source Bridge – one is with pink hair, and one with brown hair. Obviously, one of them is the mirror universe me. Probably the one with brown hair. No one with pink hair could be sinister, right?


I said that my mirror universe self would obviously specialize in creative destruction, instead of speed-building documentation sets from nothing. But in truth, I do both.

Any sufficiently complicated documentation set is indistinguishable from a pile of cruft.

Creative destruction is related to deleting, but is not the same. Creative destruction is less trashing things by category, and more like letting a herd of goats loose to clear a hillside covered in Himalayan blackberry. The goats are a lot more discriminating and not as destructive as a flamethrower, but they are omnivorous enough that your wild roses may also get eaten with your blackberry brambles. Creative destruction lets you take a cleared space and plant something new in it, without having to work around what has grown up over time.

This is the part of the konmari method that I identified with most. Put everything of a category together, look at it, and decide what it is that you want to keep. It's really difficult to make distributed decisions because it requires holding all the objects of that type in working memory, and our working memory, as literate humans, is just not that good. Play to your strengths, which in this case means "make it easier to be bold about deletion/destruction".

When I walk into an organization with existing documentation, I like to do a gap analysis: What traditional docs sections might they be missing? What things do I wish I knew as someone new to the product? Does the documentation cover every step of the product, from pre-installation to removal? Can people make good business decisions based on these documents?

A documentation destructionist looks to see what we can carefully, mindfully burn to the ground. Is it old? Is it about something we don't support? Is it a path we didn't follow? Archive it, delete it, and move on. You don't want to leave old versions of anything around if it will confuse the issue when someone is trying to use your tool.

Clearing a swath of ground makes it possible to see the daylight between the trees, give your good docs a bit of breathing space, plant new things that you want for the future or the present. New ideas grow best with some sunshine and elbow room, and even if you have infinite storage space for documentation, no one has infinite attention to read or maintain it.

Happy Tuesday! What can you destroy today? What would your documentation set be better without? What is out there bothering you ever time you go past it? Go get rid of it!