I was doing a bit of mechanicing the other day. As with any practical job I do, the first x amount of time is spent searching for the tools and materials.


On this particular occasion though it was more like x times 5 time spent ratching around looking for stuff.

The job involved mainly 10mm bolts (approx 3/8″?). I had no bother finding a 10mm spanner, in fact I had a couple. But a socket would have been much better for this job. Pictured is an 11mm socket – I found 2 of them, but I could not find the 10mil. In fact I think I have (had) at least 2 of them too, although it looks like I need another.

I spent a fair bit of time wielding the spanner thinking how much easier it would be with the socket. Both when I took it to bits, and again when I rebuilt it.

I find software dev to be similar, whether to go with the known, known to be poor approach, or spend an unknown amount of time and effort searching for a better way.

How might you describe that?

If (time/effort poor way) > (time/effort best way + time/effort to find it) * (1/chance of finding it)) then best way else poor way.


If (time/effort saved best way – time to find it) * chance of finding it > 0 then try the best way.

In my case I reckoned the time taken to find it (if possible) would be way more than the saving so I just did it with the spanner.

I guess there is also a ‘preference’ factor (prefer researching to working badly), and maybe a ‘pressure’ factor too?

Do you have the same though process? how would you describe yours?



8 Responses to “suboptimal”

  1. Rob Bruce Says:

    You need to factor in the sheer intellectual pleasure of discovery. I’m often tempted to offer clients a discount if I’ve learnt something exciting during a project, though I’m going to admit that I’ve never actually carried it through.

    I always keep my socket sets in their original cases. It’s tempting when you’ve finished a physical job just to chuck your tools randomly back in the shed and forget about them. You’ll buy yourself a couple of minutes in this way, and cost yourself hours in the future. I sound like someone’s dad, don’t I?

  2. Ross Says:

    I think I get what your saying, I got a bit lost in the maths :-)

    I tend to go:
    How long the way I know, if it’s ages then think about a better way?
    How long to learn the better way?
    Use once or use many?
    New way intresting/cross training?
    Pleasure of Intellectual Discovery? (PID)*

    I run this all though the Mclean super computer (very fast core processor) and then make my choice.

    *TM Rob Bruce 2008.

    P.S. You get your sockets from Halfords?!?!

  3. Simon Says:


  4. Simon Says:

    If you must know, its a replacement for the other 11mm I lost, although the original set was nowt special (draper).
    Don’t tell me you’re a snap-on snob?

    use once or many is a good point

    BTW I’m waiting for Nick to send me some of these:

  5. Simon Says:

    Dad indeed. I don’t just chuck them in randomly – I put them somewhere clever to improve efficiency on the next job. Which is much harder to recover from.

  6. ross Says:

    To be fair, my Dad was a engineer so i did have some decent kit growing up, I tend to get my spanners from the pound shop now!

  7. Rob Bruce Says:

    Aren’t pound shop spanners generally made out of cheese?

  8. ross Says:

    Yeah they are, but they cost a pound, lol!
    I only need them to tighten up my tabel legs!

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