What is a “Work Worth Doing”?

If you are a software developer, designer and/or artist, try to assess the real impact of your previous projects.

I have been going over HDDs with my projects of the last 18 years to try to finally collect everything and make an online portfolio. But I have realized that even though I had a lot of fun, learned a lot and made enough money to live comfortably, rarely any of these projects did actually any good to anyone else except to myself and my immediate clients. Now I am looking at my OneNote notebooks of hundreds of ideas for future projects and I am realizing that I need a system to determine what should be realized at all.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Doing something for the sake of a self-challenge and learning experience is not worth it.

Someone said that it was sad that some of the brilliant minds today are wasting their potential on ways to make us click more ads and stay longer on social networks. Even though some defend it saying that working on those algorithms potentially could spark an idea for something bigger, the same can happen in a shower. They are wasting their potential on something ultimately unproductive, while also “helping” others also waste their time. I may not be in that category, and may never create something with wide impact, but without at least thinking in that direction, there is even less chance.

Felling guilty: Yesterday a video of mine went viral and during that day only, the world’s net loss was 600 man-days

I am not saying there should be no “l’art puor l’art” (“Art for art’s sake”), or doing something with a philosophy “because I can”, but I am questioning decisions to dedicate whole life to it. Various other fun things can be productive at the same time.

It is about “Work worth doing”. There must be an answer to the question “Why am I doing this?” other than “Money”. Before starting a project, try to imagine a child in front of you, while you are trying to explain him why you are doing something, and after every sentence he asks “Why?”. How many answers can you give him? What number should be a threshold?

Even for self-brainstorming session it would be helpful to have some questions every step of the way:

  • What is the final goal of the project? (Money does not count)
  • Does it address a real problem that needs to be solved, does it solve it, or at least attempts to do it?
  • Does it influence other people in a positive way?
  • Does it just have an entertainment value, or does it make someone’s life better in a measurable way?
  • Can someone else use it as a starting point to make it into something greater?
  • Even if it positively influences a group of people, what are the long term effects in terms of the total impact on environment, and therefore on a different group of people in the future?
  • Even if it changes the world, is it just a fad?
  • What’s the best possible result/outcome of that project, and what’s the worst one?
  • Why hasn’t it been done before… maybe it wasn’t worth it?
  • Can someone else do this project better? Will they do it, and if not, why not?

Suggestions to expanding the list of questions are welcome.