When you find yourself shaving a yak, stop, take a deep breath, and get back to your project.
Yak Shaving? I heard this analogy during my trip to the MIT Media Labs visit earlier this week. Jean Baptiste told a great story of what Yak Shaving is. Let's see if I can re-create it:
You want to do something like walk your dog. But first you have to put on your shoes. But they're buried underneath a pile of clothes so you have to clean the room. To do that you have to get out the vacuum. But before you can do that you have to... You see where this might lead: soon you find yourself in a field shaving a yak.
Pulled from LiminalMike's flikr page
Here's a SparkFun analogy: You want to build a big/cool/fire project, but a small part of your project uses an accelerometer. You could build it yourself:
Now we realize that all of this is possible and we like to show people that they can do it themselves (SMD soldering, PCB layout, coding, etc). But what happens when something doesn't work? Was it the layout of the PCB? Did I solder it correctly (ahhhg! Is that joint soldered or not?!). Did I setup the pin correctly, or is it my code?! If the accelerometer was a small part of the overall project, you're really spending a lot of time on a small aspect of the project. The other option is to buy a breakout board (from us or anyone). The benefits:
At SparkFun, we sell yak fur to take you one step in the forward direction. We realized long ago that people have ideas and they need to get those idea implemented. Concentrate on your project and don't let the details hold you back too much.
Anyone remember the story of Mozilla? They decided to scrap the entire code base and start over. But before they could start on the new code base, they needed a good bug tracker... Yak Shaving! Now good things can come from Yak Shaving (Bugzilla is decent), but don't get distracted from the prize. The original goal was to create something innovative but instead they took a few steps back.
Anyone know of other good yak shaving stories? Seth Godin does a pretty good job of explaining it as well. Perhaps your own adventures?