How to (not) increase your vexation

Onomatopoeia: the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named, like "boom" or "sizzle".

We use words like "irritate" or "annoy" or "frustrate" more than "vex". But "vex" has a touch of the onomatopoeic about it. When I say "I'm vexed", you can just hear that I'm irritated.

No-one wants to increase their frustration. But I found myself vexed in the last week, and it was all my own fault.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Many, many years ago, I learned XML, XSL-T and XSL-FO the very hard way. (Don't worry if you don't know what any of those are.) You might associate XML with web services, but XML began in the documentation world. It was a great way to create re-usable content.

A client asked me for ideas to solve a problem. They had a huge implementation project with a dedicated training team. The training team's approach was not ideal: they planned to rewrite training material in three different formats. And I do mean rewrite. But I had a solution: XML!

I knew about XML, but I didn't know very much. And I didn't see the danger lurking in my ignorance. Before I could protest, I was roped into the project. So now I had to actually figure out how to write the XML (easy), transform it to HTML on the client (unheard of at the time), and produce pretty PDFs from it (a nightmare).

A little knowledge is a frustrating thing

At the time, I discovered why bleeding-edge technology is called that. I bled - and cried and yelled.

But it's not only bleeding-edge technology that causes vexation. It's anything we don't know enough about to get right.

It's one thing if you have time to study the topic properly first. But too often, our approach to self-study is to learn while we are doing. And the problem with that is that you keep having to do it over.

That was my lesson this week. I thought I had enough knowledge to not invest time in proper study. But the result was that I had to redo and redo. What a waste of time!

In my case, my deadline was self-imposed. But if you have a rigid deadline, and you're hoping to figure it out as you go along (whatever it is) - congratulations! You know how to increase your vexation!

A little knowledge is expensive

Many development teams have too much work, too few people, and too many deadlines. So it's hard to find the time for training. Instead, managers decide that they can self-study after hours, or learn while they work.

The end result is always wasted time. I did a quick calculation of the cost of my ignorance. I guess that one hour of training would have saved me about eight hours of work. That's not a statistic. But there are plenty of studies to prove that training actually saves time and money.

I would love to hear your comments on this topic.

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