I am interested in startups and try to pay attention to how exactly value is created around me. I am also somewhat a perfectionist and when I try to create value myself, I tend to over-polish the details, often not being even sure whether the value is actually created. I noticed a couple examples of projects with imperfections (sometimes major), which people use anyway. Let’s look at these examples more.

Anki - memorizing

Anki is a program to memorize whatever you want using spaced repetitions. The idea is that you forget exponentially and each repetition resets the curve and makes it not so steep. However, it does not make sense to repeat too often. Anki tries to estimate what you are about to forget and shows you these cards for repetition. It works especially well for learning languages.

As far as I know, there is only one major Anki program on Desktop. There is also one on Android and iOS. At least Desktop and Android ones allow one to synchronize and backup their data through cloud for free. Pretty convenient, especially when one uses Anki one their phone (e.g. when travels). As a result, the data needs to be merged occasionally. This merge logic can become a nightmare pretty quickly. To my surprise, the authors of Anki just decided to refuse to merge in some cases. E.g. when a card type is changed (e.g. instead of “show me both sides as 2 items”, you replace it with “show me only 1 side”), the program just says - “hey, next time you will have to reupload all your data to the cloud, just FYI”. Then the other device just asks you whether you want to download or upload your data and whether you really want to overwrite your local data. My software engineering part feels pretty uncomfortable seeing that, but this is a great example of prioritization. The desktop and Android versions are completely free (even cloud storage). Thus, the authors probably didn’t have too much spare time. This reupload is definitely not perfect, but it is also not that bad at all.

I definitely get plenty of value from Anki and this reupload is just a minor nitpick. I personally would feel uncomfortable about making such decision not to merge some cases and just reupload everything. However, I haven’t seen anyone refusing to use Anki because of that. Also I am not aware of any competitors either (probably, because it is free).

Shotcut - video editing

I remember I needed to compose a small video. I definitely didn’t need any serious software, because this was a one-off thing. Thus, the goal was to have it done as easy as possible (i.e. no learning curve at all). Somehow I discovered Shotcut.

The program itself is pretty simple and easy to learn. At the same time there are some rough edges. It is obviously free. However, occasionally it could crash (pretty rarely though). Also my computer is not the newest, so keeping all the high resolution videos in memory got impossible pretty fast (especially when using preview function). Surprisingly, there is no built-in fix for that. However, the Shotcut community found a workaround. Basically, the program does not store videos themselves, but only their paths in the file system. Thus, we make a project with all the high resolution videos (add them from some folder). Then we backup this folder into some other temporary folder. In the old folder, we downscale the resolution of all videos. Now reopen the old project. Shotcut will just use downscaled versions as if it always was like that. Now you can do everything as usual (just the quality will be poor). Even the preview works. Once you are done, you restore the old high resolution backup and reopen the project again. Now you don’t need to look at the high resolution preview, you just produce the final video. This is not that RAM intense.

I was surprised by this solution. However, I discovered got stuck with this issue pretty far in the process, so I already had some part of my video done in Shotcut and what was even more important - I already knew how it worked. So I did the workaround precisely as described above. In the end it went very well.

Surprisingly, if I need to do another video, I will consider using Shotcut again (mostly because I already know how to use it). I even don’t mind this workaround at all.

This seems like quite an imperfection to me, however, the program still provides plenty of value. There are many competitors in this area, but they are not free and not so easy to use without much preparation. This “easy-to-start”-ness is the main value of Shotcut for me.

So what?

This is a reminder to myself to focus on the value when creating something. It is very easy to get stuck with small details and polish them forever. However, this polishing does not make sense, if there is no value provided. Unfortunately, it is much easier to do such value analysis once there is a finished product with some history and customer base. When I do something myself, it is also unclear whether I will be able to provide any value at all. Anyway, this is a great reminder to focus on what should be the most important to the customer, prototype it as fast as possible and polish later once you see that it works and provides value (if any polish is needed).

Happy value creation!