Sometimes the most simple, obvious concepts can be the hardest to internalize and keep present in your mind. Stories are powerful tools for teaching and learning, and we seem prone to enjoy them, remember them, and retell them. By wrapping concepts in a simple story, it makes them easy to remember, extends their reach, and can even make them viral.
Lately, I have started looking for simple examples of story-concepts that help me keep my eye on the ball. I have found the most successful ones combine a brief catch phrase with the story. I think of them as koans for the modern age. The first one I remember really striking me, that caused me to start watching for the pattern, is the Helsinki Bus Station Theory.
The catch phrase is “Stay on the bus”, and the concept is a simple one: perseverance. In other words, keep doing what you are doing, stay the course, and eventually you will carve out your own niche, area of expertise, or body of unique art. This concept works in pretty much any aspect of life, and by itself seems to be nothing special.
But what is special is the ability to hold this concept in your mind, so that you can continually act on it and strive towards it. In other words, take it from being a dry, dusty idea to a real thing. The story in the Helsinki Bus Station Theory makes it something I can call to mind in a more tangible, action-oriented way.
Another one I came across recently is “The DevTeam Thinks of Everything“, and encapsulates the concept of thoroughness and attention to detail. This comes from the lore of NetHack, a dungeon-crawl game, and is referred to by the acronym TDTTOE. (I’ve gone on a bit of a retro game kick recently, partially spurred by reading the highly entertaining Ready Player One, and Brad Einarsen’s home-built MAME arcade cabinet is adding more fuel to the fire.)
This acronym came into being because of the ability of the NetHack developers to anticipate almost any use of an object in the ever-more-complex game, and provide a reasonable response. This attitude of all-knowing comprehensiveness is one I aim for when building applications, and I think TDTTOE is a great state to aspire to. Anticipate all possible uses of the application, all possible data inputs, all possible ways output may be desired or used. Be thorough in both analysis and implementation. And take it as a point of pride.
The Dev Team thinks of everything. Do you?