Is It Worth the Time?

| low-tech

Today's XKCD starts to answer: how much time should I spend making a routine task faster?

XKCD 1205: Is It Worth the Time?

I really like this comic. As a Ph.D. student, I have a lot of control over how I spend my time, and this question comes up a lot. (I'm even writing about analyzing how I spend my time.) Relative to the people I work with, I think I err on the side of spending more time optimizing my workflow, and I think programmers in general tend to do this more than others.

Obviously you shouldn't spend all your time optimizing. We joke that one optimizing friend (Aleks) will only need one keystroke by the time he's done; it'll set off some sort of complex scheme for something-or-other. The details are moot, of course, since he'll never reach that point.

Still, I don't think Randall's chart is the definitive answer. It can be rational to spend more time "optimizing" than you'd naïvely expect to shave off:

These arguments aren't earth-shaking, but at least there's some ammunition to use in defense of over-optimizing.

Update: Cory Doctorow made some good counter-arguments on Boing Boing.