The Honda approach

I enjoy watching a Scotty Kilmer video every once in a while. I especially enjoy his reviews of client cars and why you should buy ‘X’ car. Lots of his detractors would say that he’s a crazy baby boomer who is obsessed with his 1994 Toytota Celica, and defaults to always recommending Toyota/Lexus or Honda/Acuras. Unfortunately, with the sad state of affairs in the car industry, especially in the US, he’s pretty much 100% correct.
In a recent video where he reviews a client’s car, an Acura ILX, he talks about a general difference in the way Honda and Toyota generally develops cars and how GM/Ford/Chrysler (the American big three do):

They’re (Honda/Acura) a classic Japanese corporation. They do things incrementally. They make things (shows an armored samurai)… make em a little better (shows Japanese warplane)… make em a little better (shows a picture of pikachu)… if you’ve ever ridden in an original Honda that was sold in the United States, that sold with one of those itty bitty motorcycle engines (shows an early Honda Civic onscreen), and got into one of these (Acura ILX), you would think that (the ILX) came from a different universe. It’s just a bunch of incremental improvements! Honda has been working on these things for a long time. And they don’t just say `oh that thing didn’t work and we’ll just throw that away(shows picture of Chevy Cruze)’

“Acura Just Changed the Game,” Scotty Kilmer on Youtube. Timestamp:

While he makes a bit of a generalization in this video about ‘Japanese’ corporations that I won’t get behind (not all Japanese corporations make full lineups of bulletproof and high quality products, I’m looking at you, Nissan and Mitsubishi), I can personally attest to the ridiculous amounts of (albeit boring) reliability you can consistently squeeze out of a Toyota or a Honda (my household has used a 1993 Toyota Corolla and a 2000 Toyota Camry for grocery getting over the last 15ish years), and part of it has to do with the iterative approach that both companies quietly employ on platforms initially designed 20 years prior (the last generation of Toyota Camries were the cumulative product of gradual enhancements of a nearly 20 year old platform that was only replaced by the new, modular platform of the newest Camry), where the companies add new bits to a design that has been increasingly proven with age, instead of throwing out a design that might at first be seen as a failure and starting from scratch again (what the American car companies do every ~10 years, mind you).

“What does this all have to do with code? Aren’t you supposed to be starting a blog about coding?” you, the reader, might be asking. Yes, so here’s where I connect this with code.

I’ve been working on a new portfolio, using the newest stuff from the React/Gatsby/GraphlQL ecosystem, but after getting a lot of technical stuff out of the way (utilizing GraphQL to make images performant and Styled components to decoratively style regular react components, among other technologies), I recently reached the point where I’m regularly reminded that I am not much of a visual designer. So I wonder how I’ll catch the attention of a visitor to my portfolio, without making the portfolio look the same as they’ve already seen. I don’t want to misrepresent myself; I very rarely make it down to the financial district, much less Freedom Tower, so I don’t want to use a picture of that on my front page. SVG’s seem cool, but even after getting pumped up and excited about the technology’s possibilities during and after watching presentations given at a good number of conferences that were put up on Youtube, I don’t want to dedicate an disproportionate amount of time learning it when there are a ton of things I already want or have to do lined up. For starters, I have to keep my promise to myself that I would start writing content for this blog, but I also want to dabble further with React, Gatsby and Next and all the crazy intricacies I was introduced to regarding the three technologies this past weekend. After watching a thought provoking video from Aaron P. on his youtube channel Code Drip, I realized I needed to hunker down on mastering one thing before focusing on other things.

So yes, it’s great to imagine all the possibilities of where a project can go, but the next important thing to do after getting started is getting something shipped, or in production, or in… showrooms? Anyways, start with something that gets the job done. It may not be as sophisticated as what a 100 year old Japanese car company can start with on their first try at something, but get it done. Sure, there are nifty things you can imagine yourself doing, but if you can’t get that into the mix at the beginning, learn how to implement it, iterate through learning how to be good at making it, and bolt it on at some later date. Projects don’t have to be one and done. Sometimes it’s good to get that minimally viable product out the door. You can always come back and improve on what you have later. This post, and future posts, will probably get that treatment. Think about the way Honda (or Toyota) established their reputations and maintains them.

Thoughts and comments welcome! @BxBytesSteph

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