Making useless things

May 11, 2018

Simone Giertz, bringer of joy and self-described expert in shitty robots, makes machines that succeed in failing. In her TED talk, Giertz talks about her path from “useless” things to expert. It’s all the more relevant after she found out she has a brain tumor.

Giertz’ talk resonates a lot.

During the early years of FlowingData, when there was a comment section on every post, graphics I made would occasionally gain traction over the interwebs. In my own version of Godwin’s law, if a comment thread grew long enough, someone eventually would chime in: “Cool. Someone must have a lot of time on his hands.”

I was in graduate school at the time, with a dissertation staring me in the face, so I didn’t actually have much time. But I made time, because I didn’t know what I was doing, and that was fun for me.

I grasped on to the “cool” part of the comment and discarded the rest in my head. Someone liked something I made enough to tell me so! That turned out to be a great decision.

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