At work, a lot of people think I’m a cowboy or a pirate or something — a rule breaker. It disappoints me. It just isn’t true! Anyone who has worked closely with me knows that I love rules. Rules are awesome!
- Code standards are awesome.
- Copy editors are awesome.
- Ethics are awesome.
- Checklists are awesome.
- Style guides are awesome.
- The Bill Of Rights is awesome.
- Tests are awesome. (Somebody really oughta write a version of this for newsroom hackers.)
- Codes of conduct are awesome.
Maybe it’s because I cuss and have a beard and wear a leather jacket. Or more likely, it’s because I question everything, especially the rules. Except, what I’m usually questioning is not the rules but the way we do things.
The ways we do things are habits. And sometimes those habits come from rules. But all too often, they’re emergent behaviors, etched in our brains. They’re Pavlovian. “We got burned doing it that one time, so let’s never do it again.” They’re the path to least resistance — the ruts that form when shit rolls downhill.
And that kills me.
“Rules about fundamentals give you the freedom to think about bigger problems.” — Livia Labate, tweeting at me as I’m writing this.
Good rules are mind-expanding. They take care of the dumb shit so you can focus on the interesting shit. When I’m working, I don’t want to concern myself with “how should indent my code?” or “what’s the right color for the logo?” or “how do we spell this name?” Rules simplify your work and make you fast. They give your brain the time and energy to attack weird, difficult, novel problems. You know, the fun stuff.
The ways we do things are deep fucking ruts. You get stuck in them and you can’t see the world for what it is and you make stupid decisions because it’s just the way.
So, anyway, question the way and love the rules.
Because rules are awesome.
Originally published at happyhacks.tumblr.com on October 31, 2015.