As we make things, whether it’s a personal or professional project, or some combination in the case of many MakerPros, we complete the task, or at least get it working, then move on. But in many cases, by moving on to the next project or task without reflecting on and recording what we’ve done, we lose some important benefits that we could get from documenting our projects. Here are a few benefits of recording what you’ve done and publishing it to the world.
Only shave the yak once
“Yak shaving,” or doing tedious tasks, such as setting up a programming IDE in order to actually program your device, are generally completed and then forgotten. Sure, it was a pain to install X, Y, and Z just to modify a few lines of code, but once you’ve done it, you’ll never have to do it again. Never, that is, until your computer dies, you move companies, a coworker needs the same capabilities, or numerous other scenarios. Do your future self a favor and write down what you’ve done.
In my own experience, after recording the procedure for setting up a Wemos D1 Mini ESP8266 Dev board here, I was able to set things up extremely quickly after a recent computer upgrade.
If you publish these "how to" articles online, this gives others the opportunity to provide you with valuable feedback. Perhaps when you set things up for your latest build you did install X, Y, and Z, but in reality you only need to do Z if you approach things differently. While you’ll certainly get better at a procedure or skill if you practice it yourself, a little bit of coaching or constructive criticism can significantly improve your results, and the speed at which you learn new skills.
Technical skills are important to being a good engineer, but this can be overshadowed if you can’t compose a readable email. This is even more important for MakerPros, who must constantly sell themselves to potential clients and customers. While writing what you’ve done down won’t necessarily help with this on its own, if you focus on doing this well when you’re done with a job and not under pressure, this can really help when you need to shoot off an email or other correspondence quickly.
If you go a step further and make video tutorials about what you’ve done, this can help you become more comfortable on camera, which can be an excellent asset. While not exactly the same, the presentation skills you pick up here should translate to public speaking, something terrifying to engineers and non-engineers alike!
Finally, while you may not get anything out of it directly, recording how you did certain things, and even your successes or failures for the world to see can benefit others. One would like to think that this kind of professional courtesy would come back to benefit you at some point, helping you solve issues that others have already experienced. More directly, having your work out in the public sphere can show off your expertise, perhaps providing new business opportunities in the future.