Someone Else’s Algorithm

According to the majority of apparel retailers my body is shaped in a way they don’t expect. A little slimmer here and a little longer there puts me between sizes. For may years, it was so rare to find clothing that actually fit – that I forget what sizes I was even looking for. And I spent many years with a dresser filled with someone else’s pants. These days, I know what sizes I’m looking for and I know the places absolutely don’t carry them. Half the battle.

This past week, C and I were reading Lauren Ipsum for bedtime story. It’s a fun, 130 page, Alice-in-Wonderland-esque story introducing computer programming concepts to kids. Huge kudos to the authors for presenting concepts like The Wandering Salesman, abstraction, jargon, and root cause analysis in an approachable, delightful manner. C and I both found it great fun.

As the story was winding down, the following passage grabbed and shook me hard. I paused reading out-loud, held back a “DAMN STRAIGHT!”, and dog-eared the page:

“His algorithm makes sense for him, but maybe not for you. It’s tempting to jump on the first answer that comes along. But a lot of the time it’s not the best. That’s why you have to keep your head on.”

“Why didn’t anybody say anything?”

“…No one is going to live your life for you, girl.”

Someone else’s algorithms – just like their pants – most likely don’t fit you and could introduce more problems. Conway’s Law reminds us of this as well.