2000 February 11, Jeremy H. Brown, “"Yak Shaving"”, MIT CSAIL GSB archives, accessed on 2011-08-18:
You see, 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. Here's an example: […]
So I was yak shaving -- checking up on the tachycardial effects of nutmeg being as billo hasn't popped in with information on dosage limits for those ingesting nutmeg for its psychoactive effects -- when I should be writing about tegestology or some such thing.
2005, Mark Frauenfelder, Make: Technology on Your Time, volume 1, O'Reilly Media, page 11:
Our anti-yak-shaving research is still ongoing (current estimates indicate between five minutes and 50 years before we have it licked).
2007, Moore, Dana, et al., Professional Rich Internet Applications: AJAX and Beyond, ISBN 9780470082805, page 18:
A lot of traditional RCP application development as we have come to know it involves a great deal of what is now called yak shaving.
[…] otherwise the pager needs to start doing a bunch of unnecessary yak shaving.
2008 March 1, Zed Shaw, “You Used Ruby to Write WHAT?!”, CIO:
"Yak shaving" is a programmer's slang term for the distance between a task's start and completion and the tangential tasks between you and the solution. If you ever wanted to mail a letter, but couldn't find a stamp, and had to drive your car to get the stamp, but also needed to refill the tank with gas, which then let you get to the post office where you could buy a stamp to mail your letter—then you've done some yak shaving.