Tool Option Fatigue: Causes and Cures

Remind me, which button should I press? And what are the consequences?

Let’s start with a mental exercise.

You agree to meet a friend for lunch at a greek diner. “Great,” you say to yourself, “I haven’t been to that diner in ages.” “Damn fine coffee! And HOT!”

You score a booth. A surly waiter hands you a menu of nigh-biblical mass. You open it up, and… are overtaken by a tsunami of option anxiety, confronted by a swarm of choices in 6pt font.

There are many tools you could use, but what should you invest time, money, and energy in? When I say tool, I mean anything we wield with purpose to achieve an outcome — software, facilitated events, little scripts, templates, processes, etc. When I say fatigue, I’m talking about the annoying weariness that comes from the paradox of choice. Having too many choices isn’t just tiring; option anxiety often predetermines mediocre outcomes.

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. — 1 Corinthians 6:12

This phenomena has many well known industrial exemplars. There’s fatigue in the DevOps space. There’s plenty of exhaustion in the world of process and workflow. Writing JavaScript apps? Bet you’re whipped! And how many Linux distros are we up to now?

In this series, I’ll explore the root causes of and some practical cures for tool option fatigue and anxiety. Stay tuned (subscribe!) for more!

Part 1: Diagnosing Causes

  • You’re evaluating something early.
  • The benefits and consequences of open source tools.
  • Fear, loathing, and vendorism.
  • Solutions in search of problem.
  • Second system effects with dependencies.

Part 2: Prescribing Cures

  • Know where you are on the adoption curve.
  • Bypass the hype cycle.
  • Sensible defaults, Shu-ha-ri-kokoro.
  • Techniques for hiring (and firing) your tools.
  • Let your value system guide you.
  • Consistency’s for fools. Get smart with reversible decision and execution.
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