The Lifehacker Principles: What I Have Learned In Five Years In This Job

Today marks five years since I became editor of Lifehacker Australia, hands-down the best job I’ve ever had. That seems an appropriate occasion to reflect on the key lessons I’ve learned in my time here. These are the Lifehacker Principles.

Five picture from Shutterstock

The world of technology has changed enormously in this time. Case in point: when I started this job, you couldn’t buy an iPhone or an Android phone in Australia. 3 was still a separate company to Vodafone, there were no 4G networks in Australia, and no-one was selling a Wi-Fi hotspot. Chrome hadn’t been launched as a browser, and the tablet market was non-existent. We weren’t running the site on WordPress, and we didn’t have a membership system or IT Pro coverage. In the world of tech, markets and sites evolve rapidly.

However, the key principles which drive Lifehacker to provide you with useful information remain the same. Those are:

Think like a programmer

You can’t approach coding randomly. You need a general idea of the issues you’re trying to solve, some knowledge of the tools you might use to attack the problem, and a willingness to spend time grappling with the task at hand. You’ll automate when you can, and you’ll utilise existing solutions where possible — but you’ll realise that sometimes your problem is unique.

That same approach doesn’t just work when you’re actually writing code: it can help with every aspect of your life. And that logic underlies everything we write on Lifehacker. Solving problems like a programmer is a good way to go.

Every problem has more than one solution

This follows on from thinking like a programmer. Virtually everything you try to do has more than one solution. Some methods are easier to implement; some are harder to follow, but produce quicker results. There’s no one solution that’s right all the time: it depends on circumstances. If the code produces the result you need, then it’s suitable for task — but that doesn’t mean you might not find a better way to do it in the future.

Again, the same applies in other areas. If replying to email once a day works for you, do that. If deleting regularly helps, do that. If storing everything and searching when you need it matches your temperament, take that approach. Be open to new ideas, but stick with the ones that work.

Decisions should be driven by information

No matter how elegant your code, if you feed in rubbish data, you won’t get the best results. That’s why we’re firm believers in testing stuff for ourselves, seeking out valid statistics rather than vague generalisations, and looking to science for information that has been challenged and validated. The better the information, the better your decisions.

Good ideas matter more than new ones

Occasionally, I delete a comment on Lifehacker from someone who writes: “This isn’t news.” While we’re always keen to keep track of new developments, we don’t judge the worth of an idea purely on its newness. If it hasn’t been presented by us before, or someone has an inspiring take on a well-known idea, we’ll go there.

All those principles drive Lifehacker’s ongoing mission: giving you advice on how to do things better, whether that’s buying a smartphone, installing a server, or reorganising a kitchen. Thanks to everyone for reading Lifehacker over the past five years, and I hope you’ll stick around for the next five. On to the next tip!

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