Analytical 28: Tools

13 July, 2018


Some people are obsessed with the tools they use to get the job done. How much better is the best tool vs the right tool and how much time should be spend seeking out the perfect tool for the job?

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. If you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough. Calculated choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineer Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. and for other great shows visit today. Tools. I've come across a repeating trope in my life, the idea that in order to be good at a certain task, you first need to have the right tool for the job. And ultimately, the pitch is often, buy the best possible tool for the job that you can. The suggestion being that you'll do a better job if you use the best tool. An amateur that's wielding the best tool doesn't make them the master of it. And no master ever started learning with the best tools available. I think that's a little bit generalistic. Let's just give you some examples then. Let's run through a few. I mean, considering some I've come across regularly, at least ones I have in the circles that I travel in more. How about to-do list apps? So we've got Getting Things Done, which is both an app and a book and a methodology, I suppose you could argue. Then there's Wunderlist. Then you've got Microsoft To Do. Some people actually do use that. Anyway, you've got Things, my favorite for several years now. Evernote, sorta, kinda. Todoist is another one. Actually, you know what, I might stop there. It's pretty much an endless list or it feels like it's endless anyway. There's a billion, perhaps not a billion, but there's a lot of To Do apps out there. What about computers is another good example. You got Macintosh personal computers, call them Mac, you know, Windows PCs. Yeah, they're also personal computers. Anyway, Chromebooks, another one running Chrome OS from Google, tablet PCs, again, another example, something running Linux, I guess. It's the year of the Linux desktop, apparently. So computers is another example. What about audio recording equipment? That's another one. USB interfaces, microphones, shock mounts, editing software, people argue about what the best editing software is. Once you spend, I don't know, a certain amount of money and you obtain a tool that works well for you, that allows you to be proficient or efficient or both, then that sort of then becomes the best tool for the job, at least for you anyway. So maybe we need to turn this thinking around and the right way to think about it is, what's the best tool for the job that I'm actually the most effective using? And I do realize that the argument is a little bit circular insofar as you have to try each tool to become proficient or good at using it before you can then determine if it's something that you can become good and proficient at. So you can maybe throw away that suggestion saying I'm just being too idealistic maybe, maybe, maybe not. Okay, so how about we try this then. I propose something else. If anyone, anywhere is advocating that you should use a certain tool, then I suggest you apply an equivalence test first, amongst other things. Is the person that's advocating this alternative tool, are they using it? the same purpose that you intend to use it, and has the same or similar use cases that you have. Also, I'd check for experience. Have they been using it for a significant period of time, and can they explain the pros and cons of it? Because a number of times I've heard people say this new tool is the best one out there, and they've had it for two days, or even two hours. after three months they'll come back and they'll say yeah it's kind of good but you know it's this is not good that doesn't work and it's and suddenly they can tell you the pros and cons of it there's no substitute for that experience you've got to check for that check for bias obviously maybe that's an obvious say it anyway truth is sometimes it's just a sales pitch for a company you know or a friend someone someone that they're that they're associated with. Yeah, who knows? There's all sorts of things. At least as best you can tell. Obviously, sometimes it's obvious to tell, like, you know, come and use, you know, oblong space because it's like really great, or such. Other times, it's very subtle. I was listening to X and X show, and that's like something you should listen to, for example, fact technically you could say that's a bias. Anyway, doesn't matter. Point is, check for bias. Even if it wasn't all about money, consider the following before you buy into any of that sort of hype about a different tool for the job. Can I afford the time to change between the tool I'm using and the tool that I'm lusting after, I'm thinking of buying into? Because that time, that's a problem. time is money, time is effort. Do you really want to put that time in? Are you sure? I mean, the next question, is the new tool going to hold up in the long term? And that one's a little bit crystal ball gazy, but you know, the whole point of it is you'd need to make sure that it's coming from a reputable, well-supported company that's going to have some kind of protection from external forces as much as possible. Like, you know, so it's not some... Like, for example, if you were to buy a to-do list app, it could be the best to-do list app in the world, hasn't been updated in three years, and the website for the developer is gone. Not sure I'd be sinking much time into that. Just a thought. Next thing. Am I running from my current tool due to a knowledge gap of how to use that current tool properly? Or is the current tool actually broken? You'd be surprised how often something silly about a tool will put us off using it but it's actually just the fact that we have a bit of a misunderstanding about how it's supposed to work. It's not actually a problem because it's not actually broken. It's just we don't get it. how do you use it? I don't understand how to use some of these tools are very complicated maybe just don't get it so make sure you do your research before you just jump ship and the last one to consider is kind of related to the first and the time change between tools because when you change between tools are you prepared to be much less efficient for a time period whilst you learn to bend the new tool to your will because that could take real time and and you're going to be much less efficient with this new tool as you're trying to learn it. So you've got to be ready about it, you've got to think about that. So now just to reflect a little bit on my personal experience. Maybe yours is similar, maybe not. But if I look through my purchasing history for software products, just for that, it's littered with software products that would supposedly solve my problems in one sort or another, and I believed and bought into that hype that they would solve those problems. But they didn't, and there they sit. They've consumed my money, my time, my attention, for, I would argue, little to no benefit. So unused software, unloved software, not adding value in in any way and money is, let's face it, doesn't matter who you are, it's not a bottomless pit and more importantly, in fact, neither is time. Time is precious. I know I say that a lot, but it really is. It's running out with every tick of the clock every day. It's disappearing. And I'd even argue that time wasted is more valuable and more of a tragedy than money in many respects. How many hours are spent wasted trying all these new and different, supposedly better tools for no material gain, they could have been better spent doing the doing, not trying to make the doing a tiny little bit better. Chasing minor efficiency gains for the sake of chasing them is a fool's game. It's inefficient and even though it can feel like it's a productive use of your time, it really, it usually isn't. But worse than that, I found that it can become a habit where the refinement of the tool that we use consumes more time and energy than actually producing a result that that tool was supposed to be helping you achieve in the first place. And I suggest that you don't buy into that and you don't play that game and just get on with the doing. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can, like some of our backers, Carsten Hansen and John Whitlow. They, and many others, are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, all one word. Patron rewards include a name thank you on the website, a name thank you at the end of episodes, access to pages of raw show notes, as well as ad-free, high-quality releases of every episode. So, if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, there's all lots of great rewards and beyond that it's all very much appreciated. Analytical is part of the Engineer Network and you can find it at and you can follow me on Mastodon at [email protected] or the network on Twitter at engineered_net. Accept nothing, question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Chijji, thanks so much for listening. (upbeat music) [Music] Now, go on then, grab your tool. No, not that tool. Really. You went there, you did, you thought it didn't you? You did, didn't you? No? Not that tool? Jeeck, really.
Duration 11 minutes and 11 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.