November 21, 2019
I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books growing up. A childhood friend had almost an entire bookcase of these. Near the front door, on the side of the staircase, a short, squat bookcase, with an entire shelf dedicated to these gems. It had two shelves that only came up to my waist as a young boy. I’d take my finger and drag it along the spines going over each title, trying to think what would truly be interesting to plunge into for the next hour or so. Sitting cross legged in front of the bookcase, I’d choose the book, and then start reading, going down the first branch of the story.
Can I make a confession here? After my first dead-end I really fought just going through each thread and finding the “right outcome”. In thinking about this essay, and doing some searching for a cover I remember, I tend to agree with Jeff Atwood that it was a pseudo-programming experience. I had this penchant for finding the correct one, or the one where the character survives. It’s important to survive.
Thinking back I’m trying to remember if I had a methodology for choosing. I did not, the choices were finite, I’d choose the first, go down that branch, and then jump back if it was a dead end and go down the other branch. Really brute-forcing the whole thing. Was there a better way to choose? I don’t think so, at least in this particular situation. Only two choices for each branch is lovely compared to the choices one has to make day to day.
What about other situations? Usually folks get disabled by the quantity of choices. Or you might consider it a stopping problem, as choices fly by, when do you decide to stop and choose one?