Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dear Hacker News: Just Shut The Fuck Up And Go To Community College

Hacker News often features posts which raise the question of if college is useless. I even wrote one of these stupid things. But the answer to this question is just absurdly simple.

The answer to this question is "take action in the face of uncertainty." If you have this question, take a year of community college.

How much cheaper is it to launch your first year of college this way? What are the consequences of failure? You get in the position every startup needs, a position which is constantly discussed on Hacker News. It's called a minimum viable product.

Operating cheaply, with the ability to pivot, is not just a terrific management goal. It's also one of the best organizing principles you can use in your code. Organizing principles which work well in code often work well in any other situation where logic is called for.

A/B testing is another example. On Hacker News, many people talk about A/B testing, how they use it, how important it is, etc., and also discuss different open source and SaaS tools for A/B testing. Then the teenagers among them make serious decisions about the next four years of their lives without collecting anything but anecdotal data. And the so-called adults contribute nothing to the discussion but the anecdotal data.

Apply MVP to the problem; use classes at a community college as a cheap experimental launchpad. Launch. Apply A/B testing to the problem; take classes on multiple wildly varying topics for very little money. Compare and contrast.

Every entrepreneur knows that it doesn't matter what a situation is. It matters what you make of it. And why care about what somebody else thinks your hypothetical experience might be? That's two levels of abstraction away from the problem. So you have to figure out what you're going to do for the next four years with anecdotal data filtered through multiple levels of distortion. What kind of fucking idiot would do that?

Hit the ground running and collect some data.

MVP and A/B testing are Hacker News strategy patterns, the startup mogul equivalent of the Gang of Four book. Another popular strategy pattern on Hacker News is "just fucking do it already." It also applies in this case. Shut the hell up, launch some cheap experiments, collect some fucking data, and analyze it.

Boom. You're done.