The Internal Bikeshedding Dilemma

29 Mar 2019 by Dave

We have a technical blog now, and as often happens, this first post is about the blog itself. But instead of focusing on the platform we chose for it, I think the process behind the decision is more interesting.

If you’re not familiar with Bikeshedding, it’s the tendency of teams to spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing trivial details, for instance discussing the materials used when constructing the bike shed at a nuclear plant more than the plant itself.

There was a bit of bikeshedding in getting this up and running. Should we use a subdomain or register a new one, or how about a folder on an existing domain? Should we use Wordpress or a static site generator? Should we allow comments or ask people to mail us their thoughts? But this largely happened in my head, so I’ve come to think of it as the internal bikeshedding dilemma.

The reasons it’s a dilemma is because it’s hard to catch yourself doing this without someone else’s involvement, but asking for input could either help make a firm decision or exacerbate the situation. (of course, another option is delegating the decision entirely to someone you trust, but if you’ve already invested some energy in thinking about, that’s easier said than done. I probably should have done that from the start).

You may be thinking “is this not just another term for garden variety procrastination caused by perfectionist tendencies?” and I’d say “you may have a point.” My hope is that reframing it this way will help. It’s easy for me to call people out on bikeshedding in meetings and I hope we’re building a culture where others feel comfortable doing that too. What I really want is to apply that same judgement to my own thinking process.

By the way, I settled on GitHub pages combined with Jekyll, since it’s just so easy to set up and maintenance free. Wordpress would have worked fine, even though it’s not “cool”. The point is that a blog like this should be about content. If you have nothing to say, it won’t matter what platform you use. Acknowledging that (and the fear behind it) exposed the triviality of this decision, like the triviality of the materials used for a bike shed at a nuclear power plant.

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