"The Experience-Adjusted Base Time" it takes to do something (or sort of a Prototypist's Manifesto)

by phil on Friday Jun 27, 2008 3:30 AM

"The Experience-Adjusted Base Time" is a new concept I've formed to help me get good at anything. I formed it recently when I had to overcome some challenges in programming. I never really thought I could be a programmer until this year. Up until this point, I've always considered myself a scripter and a designer.

This concept is something you lay out before doing a task that you have very little experience doing. For example, I have an idea that involves modifying a skateboard to operate like a Segway. Now, the wrong way to go about it is to go to Radio Shack and start trying to hack. Or to take apart a Segway even though I don't have any electrical engineering experience. Both of those attempts would be examples of rushing, or trying to operate like a pro even though you're a dilettante.

What you got to do is figure out, "what's a reasonable amount of time it should take for someone of my experience to accomplish this task." When you start thinking about that, you start thinking about the critical path it'll take for you to get from A to B, considering your experience. So for someone of my experience, someone with no electrical engineering experience, to make a skateboard-Segway, the first thing I'd have to do is probably take an Intro Course in EE, just to familiarize myself with the basics. Or the thing would be to convert the project into maybe 3 smaller, stepping stone projects or milestones. The XP-Adjusted Base Time, then should take me a total of 9 months for me. While as someone who already had the experience could probably do it in two weeks.

The whole point of this exercise in wordplay is to really assume you can do anything, that there's a critical path, a series of steps that aren't that long. If you're a scripter or were good at math in school or can fix your VCR, then there's no reason you can't imagine some brilliant idea, and then take it from idea to reality in less than a year.

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