What are you working on?

If your answer is a derivative of "it's complicated" then you have a problem. I recently contacted the owner of a website that I found fascinating. He posted a few things on his blog then went silent for a long time.

I wanted to show my support and encourage him to keep going. I received a very nice response but in it there was something that got me thinking.

What are some of the ideas you are pursuing? What do you consider your area of expertise?

When I received the email, I immediately started replying. I started telling him what I do and at some point, I wrote: "well you know, it's complicated".

I stopped for a second. I realized I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, that's why I couldn't explain.

That's OK. The first step is to accept it. But please don't end there. If an alcoholic realized that he was an alcoholic and kept drinking then what was the point of realizing it?

The next thing to do is to look at all the things you do and try to explain it. As easy as this sounds, it is something we all avoid. We know we know it. We think we know it, so we don't want to have to explain it.

One exercise I started doing is to try to explain what I do to someone who doesn't care. How can I make what I do sound interesting. If you don't want to feel embarrassed, try to explain it to a 4 years old. You will be surprised how difficult it is.

This is not an exercise in futility. One thing software developers ignore is that at the end of the day, people use our product. Not machines!

The most influential developers today are those that know how to communicate with others. It's no surprise that John Carmack can talk for over an hour about the Oculus VR without being boring.

If you notice, he does not stop to show a clip, he does not stop to read his notes, he does not stop to pick his nose. Oh and he does not move either. Now that is someone that knows what he is talking about.

Maybe you and I are no John Carmack, but we can at least try to explain what we are working on. It is the first step in convincing anyone to use our product.


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