Scott Hanselman

Yak Shaving Defined - I'll get that done, as soon as I shave this yak.

January 23, 2014 Comment on this post [23] Posted in Musings
Sponsored By

Un Yak - by Ludovic Hirlimann, used under Creative Commons've used the term Yak Shaving for years. You're probably shaving yaks at work all the time and don't realize it.

The term was coined by Carlin J. Vieri, a Ph.D. at MIT back in the 90s.

Yak shaving is what you are doing when you're doing some stupid, fiddly little task that bears no obvious relationship to what you're supposed to be working on, but yet a chain of twelve causal relations links what you're doing to the original meta-task.

Phrased differently, yak shaving is all that stuff that you need to do to solve some problem.

Here's a task. "Hey, Scott, can you deploy that web site?

Ok, do I have access? No, gotta get it. Passwords? Deployment technique? Web Farm? Scaling how? Web framework not configured? Oh, what about the connection string?

"Hey, Scott, is that site deployed yet?"

"No, I'm still shaving this yak."

Yak photo by Ludovic Hirlimann used under Creative Commons

Programming in a nutshell

* Ren and Stimpy of course, were first, but it was used at MIT in the context of irritating technology ceremony.

Sponsor: Big thanks to combit for sponsoring the blog feed this week! Enjoy feature-rich report designing: Discover the reporting tool of choice for thousands of developers. List & Label is an award-winning component with a royalty-free report designer. Free trial!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
January 23, 2014 4:50
Then Continuous Integration is just Automatic Yak Shaving . I'm going to use that instead from now on.
January 23, 2014 5:01
That GIF explain everything you said! Well done.
January 23, 2014 5:10
I prefer "Still Shakin' It Boss" -- reference to Blazing Saddles
January 23, 2014 5:16
Check that, Cool Hand Luke reference... I must be getting old
January 23, 2014 6:53
I gotta say, that gif image is great! I had to watch it like 5 times and each time I laughed at something different. Only devs would get it!
January 23, 2014 7:15
Goodness, I thought I was the only one! Thank you for helping me understand that I'm not alone!
January 23, 2014 7:38
I used to do that until i read a book called "Getting things done" by Davtid Allen. One rule there in book is if there is a task in the middle of your job, just think about how long it takes. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it, otherwise keep it in a list (there are many structured todo lists). Putting things in a list make you feel that all your issues are taken care of.

January 23, 2014 11:25
Finally, there's a term to describe my entire life. I'm going to put 'Yak Shaver' on my business cards.
January 23, 2014 17:38
Extra points for calling out Ren & Stimpy.
January 23, 2014 18:12
It's my whole life too. I was just taking a break from yak shaving to look at this...
January 23, 2014 18:58
I don't know how many times I've used that Malcolm in the Middle sketch to explain what shaving a yak is. Wonderful!
January 23, 2014 19:09
"Irritating Technology Ceremony" is the definition of IT work in the FedGov. Now I have a phrase to describe it. Yak Shaving!! Also enjoy your tweets about 6 and 8.
January 23, 2014 21:44
Funny - how like dog-fooding, the term yak shaving involves an animal.

For newbie web programmers, learning ASP.NET MVC will feel like yak shaving - they'll have to know a fair deal about C#, ORM, Visual Studio, jQuery before they can be productive.
January 23, 2014 22:33
Yak, sounds waay cool, I'll definetly use the expression in my next work extimate, thanks Scott!! ;)
January 23, 2014 23:50
I'm exhausted....that last yak was the death of me.
January 24, 2014 0:47
Very entertaining post as always Scott
January 24, 2014 0:49
Like it. Just installing some virtual yaks to repro an issue,,,
January 24, 2014 8:01
Dude, that's Brian Cranston from Breaking Bad in that gif! Never heard the expression but will def be adopting it. Know the situation all too well. Both professionally and personally.
January 27, 2014 11:51
hahaha...I have seen developers do this all the time. I often find myself 'shaving the yak' when I have to learn something new technology. I start from something and end up doing a host of other things before I get back to learning.
January 28, 2014 13:54
I feel so disappointed when I try to explain this to my boss and he doesn't understand.
February 05, 2014 12:39
Yak shaving sounds very much like the song : There's a hole in my bucket
February 18, 2014 6:16
Gif is awesome, but you forgot to actually explain WHY its called "Yak Shaving"! The original story, much like the Cranston gif, is that after attempting to take care of something, this long convoluted process ended up with the guy literally shaving a yak because he needed to replace a pillow stuffed with yak fur - or something like that. I cant find the original story anywhere, but I read it recently.
March 29, 2014 19:20
This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am genuinely happy to read all at alone place.

my page ... garcinia cambogia fast

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.