Monday, February 20, 2012

Doing what matters

When I was about 11 or 12, I had a rock collection.  A few dozen fossils and geological oddities that I had picked up here and there.  They all fit in a single glass case – I could see them all at once, and instantly knew the significance of every rock.  However, I was also a frequent visitor to natural history museums.  I noticed, in those museums, that the professional geologists and paleontologists had a catalog system that helped them keep things straight, and also see patterns which generated deeper insights.  With this catalog system came labels on the samples.

So, one day, I typed up (on a manual typewriter!) a few dozen labels for my own personal catalog system.  As I recall, each label contained the date I collected each sample, its original location, and a sequence number.  I carefully glued these labels to each of my specimens, and then stepped back to admire my creation.  Look what I had!  It was a… a… a… a rock collection.  With labels stuck to it.  It was not a museum, or anything of scientific value.  The labels did not actually add to my enjoyment of my collection.  In fact, they merely marred the appearance of the rocks.  So, I eventually removed the labels – mostly.  They left little gluey spots where I had made the attempt.

What did I learn from this?  I learned - build something great, first.  If what you have to start with is not great, no amount of image polishing will make it great.