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I loved this recent tweet from Russ Shanahan, and it inspired me to write about why I agree with him.

I vividly remember when I started feeling this way. It was caused by me regretting rushing something into Curated before we launched. We were deciding the initial feature set, and one feature I had on the list was a sponsorship scheduling system. I had written some thoughts on how it might work, and it was a feature I needed to run this newsletter, but I hadn’t put enough thought into how it’d affect the product. We rushed in a primitive implementation, but I felt uneasy about it as soon as we finished it. I should have put it behind a feature flag and re-thought it after release, but I didn’t. I shipped it.

The reasons I regretted it weren’t all technical either. Yes, it was a fairly rough, half-baked implementation, but it also fundamentally changed the external perception of the product. Instead of primarily seeing it as a tool they could use to make a great newsletter, many people started to see it as a tool to make money. That wasn’t my intention at all. Making money with a newsletter is about so much more than just having a sponsorship scheduling system! 😱 If we had launched that feature more carefully, I think we could have avoided that being the focus.

That experience permanently aligned me with Russ’s thinking, and I now err on the side of caution when releasing features. For example, there are two enhancements to search in the Swift Package Index (#1228 and #1320 specifically) in progress right now. Filtering package search based on metadata and expanding search to include keywords and author results. Both features are working but are disabled in production because they’re not quite right. I held back the metadata filtering feature because even though it works, I wanted people who use it to understand what they’re doing with visual feedback. Same with author and keyword search. It works but currently only matches one author or keyword result and doesn’t support partial matches.

I’m confident that both of those features are good ideas, and you can certainly make the argument that both could ship as is without hurting the product. But I’d much rather enable them with a bit more polish.

It’s not just about what the feature does either. It’s about momentum. Shipping something gives us a dopamine hit, and if you’ve completed the fundamentals of a feature, it can be hard to get motivated to tweak it afterwards when you could move on to something entirely new!

The best time to stop development on a feature is before writing any code, of course. You can also make a good argument that shipping features early for feedback is worthwhile, but there have been more times when I’ve regretted shipping something I wasn’t happy with than regretted not releasing something.

Dave Verwer

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And finally...

What if you didn’t need a real rubber duck to explain your problems to? 🦆