This started as a discussion Kristoffer and I had on Kodsnack. We were talking about shipping (as in releasing software into the world), but it dawned on me that the concept should be the same in any area of creativity. This is both a translation of that discussion and a slight continuation of my thoughts on the matter since we spoke.
I wrote this between us recording the episode and its release, and of course a fun twist came as I read comments (in Swedish) on the episode. It occured to me that everyone who commented assumed (I am willing to bet that none of them - nor the person who wrote the blurb on Techworld - had listened to the episode) that it was about work projects. This was not the case, in my mind our discussion was wholly about the things you do in your spare time. The things you create for pleasure and possibly learning. Things are always more obvious in your own mind, and how this might apply to work is a whole other interesting path to explore.
Focus and closure
So, creating something and putting it out there in one way or the other. We talked about ways such as putting code on Github, releasing an app on some store, publishing a text and so on. My initial feeling is that it is always a good thing to ship. I have felt this for a long time, that I gain a lot by making myself get things to some kind of finished state. One where they are decently ready for use or consumption by someone else. I have felt for a long time that this for one thing focuses what I do - enabling me to throw away or postpone unfinished things for example - and for another gives me a sense of closure allowing me to move on to something else. Focus and closure.
I am not sure I have ever thought otherwise, so I was surprised when Kristoffer made the case that shipping is not always good. What you implicitly do when you release something is take on the task of maintaining it. One way or the other, you will have to deal with the fact that your creation is out there. This I had never actively thought about, except for the natural hope that some day, someone will appreciate what I have done. But have you really thought about what happens when people discover what you made? It will start demanding time. Whether it be handling pull requests, feedback, support, updates, community participation or what have you, people reacting to what you do takes time. These can all be fantastic experiences (there is also the whole nightmare world of bad ones), but even in these best of cases, releasing something into the world will not be free for you. Perhaps the price of releasing this little thing is that you never get to the next little thing? Or the next big thing.
I still believe in shipping. I get my little benefits and rewards, and we all benefit by being able to find each other's creations in the future. But Kristoffer made me realize how many more sides there are to putting stuff out there. Shipping is not an end point. It is strange that I have not thought more about this, because I sure have dealt with it. Especially at work, in the form of long-term maintenance and improvements to all things we create.