Monday, June 30, 2008


What is polish? Polish is taking things to their logical conclusion. It is tying up all lose ends, fully exploring all possibilities. It is solving the essence of the problem and documenting exactly how to reproduce the solution.

Polish is about simplicity, elegance, and removing clutter. It is removing the pieces of stone from the statue within the block of marble. Polish is exceeding expectations, going far above the norm. Polish is felt in a well designed product that just works, that fits in your hands comfortably. In the real world, these are items of just the right heft, perfect shape, and the simplest thing to get the job done. In the virtual world, they are novels that not only illustrate an idea, but put it into practice live before you imagination so that you feel as if you have lived it. Or they are mathematical models so eloquent they make you cry out that you did not see it first yourself!

Now there are those who will tell you that you should just do something, get anything in front of people so that you don't waste a lot of time creating something perfect that nobody wants. I would tend to agree, but with one qualification: what you put in front of them must be usable. If it is a video game, it better shoot. If it is a web app, it should allow you to do one thing well, and do it completely. If it is a mathematical proof it should be the simplest version of it that is still comprehensible.

How do we deal with complexity? With simplicity. Crush every problem down to the very root of the issue. Address this most fundamental problem in the simplest yet still helpful way, then iterate. Make sure at each stage you offer a complete solution to the simplest statement of that particular problem.

Technology allows us to economically pursue polish as never before in history. Now that one man can create ideas and products that are used by billions, no amount of effort can be wasted on perfecting the right idea. Your idea must compete with literally every other on earth in the past and present. Increasingly the only way to do this is with polish.

Communication of ideas between humans is hard and this will not change. With polish, rise to the challenge and transfer the essence of what the you have created into the hearts and minds of others. While all this means much more work for those who produce, it is an amazing time to be alive. We are to be witnesses and participants to the most complete, the most usable products and ideas from any time in history. Create things, and create them well.