Thoughts by Bruno Bernardino

Using limits as expanders

How I got more creative with less options

November, 2016

A few years ago, something I read really hit me.

It was about the strict limits of Haiku, a form of very short Japanese poems.

They had to be written in 3 phrases, of 5–7–5 syllables respectively (and there’s more about the context).

At first this seemed too restrictive. A place where rules were limiting creativity, as I’d seen in many other places before, like in music or filming.

But still, they had some inexplicable beauty in them.

It wasn’t until after a few years after, when I started practicing forms of minimalism and mindfulness that I saw the power those limits could have, and how fun it can be to impose them on your creativity.

After seeing some benefits of decluttering my possessions and emotions, I decided to give it a try with an Espruino. Coding Node.js for a “machine” running with 48KB of RAM seemed like a challenge fun enough.

I liked the concept and built something, but unfortunately I wasn’t that much into it.

I then started applying limits to projects I was building, like Oikon and Recordari, where I wanted just the minimum functionality to make it useful, not having to get more servers, hosting (web or email), no needing cookies, analytics, etc.

It was amazing how much I could build without ending up with more clutter. And how freeing it was!

Recently, I wanted to completely shut down my Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, and Digital Ocean servers I had running for a few different purposes.

Note I have nothing against those, they’re all great services, but I wanted to see how far I could go with it.

The biggest thing was the shut down the real demos of visualCaptcha, (and it was fine, since they were really for the UI/UX, which the front-end covers).

And all this was possible because Github has a great free static web hosting service.

I now have nothing in those except a little bit of AWS Lambda code with an API Gateway for some permanent redirects.

My latest project was Make Someone Happy Today, where it’s all really running with a couple of Zaps in Zapier for the logic of validating payments and sending SMS, CloudFlare for HTTPS, Github for static hosting, and Twilio for the SMS API.

There’s basically no profit there (it’s not the point), but the only “static costs” are really just the domain name and having a phone number in Twilio.

How something so nice generated so little clutter in my life has inspired me to keep trying this approach.

Now, I’m not saying you should or need to put hard limits in all you do (I usually advocate for healthy balances), but next time you’re building something, think about how you’d do it if you had some really strict limits in place.

It might just make you try something different.

Bruno Bernardino

Written by Bruno Bernardino.
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