by Leon Rosenshein

Ideas In The Shower

I don't know about you, but I've solved a bunch of problems in the shower. It's the perfect combination of no distractions, some manual activity, and no immediate cognitive tasks. It gives the brain a chance to wander, sift, and make connections.

Sometimes you need to step away from the problem you're trying to solve and not think about it so hard. Step away from the pressure of a blinking cursor or a blank whiteboard demanding to be filled. That freedom lets you change the scope of your thinking. It lets you focus on the big picture and not get bogged down in the details of syntax and language or where to put the box on the page to avoid crossing lines. occasionally you end up with a Eureka or A Ha moment, but more often, and at least as useful, the broad outline of the solution to your problem will come to you. That doesn't mean that the full solution with all the details is suddenly known. There usually lots of detail work left (and all the language and syntax stuff), but you'll have a framework to hang all that detail on.

Back when we were in an office it wasn't unusual to find me walking around the office quietly or stopping to play a few rounds of darts. It wasn't quite as good as the shower, but it came close. And during those times I was able to come up with approaches to multiple problems. Sometimes solutions that were bigger than what I was originally looking for. Like when I was working on that map visualizer. I was looking for a way to keep the views in sync for the map visualizer and realized that I wasn't talking about two points (look from/look at) and a rotation, but a point, a unit quaternion, and a direction (at/from). It was not only less data, but it also worked for syncing across and between 2D maps, 3D Maps, BirdsEye views and StreetSide image cubes. There was still lots of math to be done to make it work, but that framework gave us the context to build it in.