bikeshed + -ing. The term was coined as a metaphor to illuminate Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Parkinson observed that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant may spend the majority of its time on relatively unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bikeshed, while neglecting the design of the power plant itself, which is far more important but also far more difficult to criticize constructively. It was popularized in the Berkeley Software Distribution community by Poul-Henning Kamp and has spread from there to the software industry at large.
- Futile investment of time and energy in discussion of marginal technical issues.
i keep writing/saying.. ‘red flag we’re doing it/life wrong’.. things we keep focusing on that are actually irrelevant s and cancerous.. if we listen deeper.. so.. these red flags are ie’s of bikeshedding ness..
intro’d to the term via Doug here:
In a nutshell, and as explained here, the concept comes from a book called Parkinson’s Law:
Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.
Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far. Richard P. Feynmann [sic] gives a couple of interesting, and very much to the point, examples relating to Los Alamos in his books.
A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is *here*.
too much ness… inspectors of inspectors..
via michel fb share:
“Bikeshedding (also referred to as the law of triviality) describes a phenomenon where people spend a relatively large amount of time, energy, and other resources dealing with relatively minor issues.
For example, a corporate committee who engages in bikeshedding might spend more time discussing the construction of a small bikeshed compared to the construction of an advanced technological facility, simply because the bikeshed represents an issue that is easier for them to understand and handle.
The concept of bikeshedding has important implications, both in terms of personal productivity as well as in terms of group efficiency, since it can help identify situations where people waste valuable resources on trivial matters, while also neglecting important issues which require their attention.”
Bikeshedding and the Law of Triviality: Why People Focus on Minor Issues
“Is that the most important thing?”
If you want to have an argument, to raise tempers or to distract, the easiest thing to do is start bringing up things that are easy to argue about.
Not the things that are important.
Because the important things require nuance, patience and understanding. They require an understanding of goals, of the way the world works and our mutual respect.
If someone keeps coming back to an irrelevant, urgent or provocative point instead, they’re signaling that they’d rather not talk about the important thing.
Which is precisely what we need to talk about.