07 March 2014

Unanswered Questions

In my experience, programmers vary in their ability to tolerate ambiguity, or in their ability to proceed without an answer to a critical question.

For myself, I've had the sense that I have advanced in my ability to tolerate not knowing the answer to an important question.  However, it's only because of some coping mechanisms I've built up over time.  And without those coping mechanisms, I still basically stink at dealing with ambiguity at a core human level.

There is a sequence that I go through all the time:

  1. No explanation yet
  2. What is the real question?
  3. How to file open questions while I'm working to find the real question?
  4. What is the TTL on open questions?
  5. How do I review open questions?
  6. How do I forget to revisit something important?

And I always feel uneasy when it gets to #4-#6.  I realize that GTD is all about managing a fixed-size attention span, and keeping track of things that fall outside that attention span.  However, I stink at the paperwork part of GTD, but I try to apply some of the principles in the context of open questions.

Here is a list of ideas that relate to each other and are related to this overall theme:

  • Ambiguous results
  • Anomalous results
  • Open question
  • Loss reflex
  • Disorientation cost
  • Orientation rate
  • Orientation ability
  • Orientation cost
  • Learning pipeline
  • Fixed buffer size of open questions
  • Open question LRU/LN cache eviction (least recently used, least needed)
  • Isolating open questions in code

Here are some articles that relate to this theme:

This post is totally alpha and I don't even know where to go with it, but I wanted to get it out there to think about it some more, since I always think better after pressing "Post" than before.

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