A long time ago, when I was fourteen my dad gifted me with a book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

I was very young and now as it always happens to me: the memories of the story inside the book are slowly fading away and mixing whit my own experience, but this book is still something I’m really bonded to and you’re going to know why reading trough.

To be honest my experience with motorcycles lacks of exciting maintenance stories but, on the other hand speaking of websites I have much much more to tell.

Fixing websites is my work and my own way to feel that kind of pleasure that only the solution of an hard equation would give.

Still, fixing something is a pleasure and I will not be here ruining yours, talking about how you do fix one particular thing on your website, there is Google for that, I would rater speak of what’s my philosophy on making stuff work again. I have a long list of rules I follow, the first is the one that I will show you today, by far the most general and important. This rule is not mine, it comes directly from Pirsig‘s book:

1. While maintaining a website, never apply more than one change per time.

Let’s say you do have an issue on your website, and you apply a series of changes all together to the system. The system suddenly starts working like a charm. Now, how do you determine what made the website work again? If someone would ask you, “how did you fix it?”. Could you answer? You can’t point out which one of the changes was the solving one.

Make one change, then test, another change, then test again, this is what experience is, else it’s called luck.

Errors are a part of this cycle, to learn from them you have to make them, but always one by one. In the end will come the moment when “that change” is not an error and is also not just an attempt, it’s the solution.

This works for everything, works for life, for spaceships and for computers. It works because even if you weren’t able to find the solution, at least you learned something, but what if in the end after trying everything you had, you still can’t find a fix? There is a time to learn and a time to earn, you don’t earn money with philosophy, trust me, money comes trough the fix. What then?

Then there is another rule, in another post, coming probably next week.

Niccolò