Central

18
Jul
2009

One of the things I have noticed throughout my working career (whenever working on a project basis with client review that is) is the odd distribution of concern over various elements. Time and again, I as the project manager or designer feel certain that some very important and fundamental questions must be answered before we go forward. I present to the client the alternatives and set the table for a particular discussion of central organizing principles. In the case of a web site design, these are things like site structure, organization, and navigation. Secondarily, these important items are also about points of design involving the brand, identity, overall color scheme and the like.  Of course along with these decisions, any programming and code must work well across browsers and systems, and work with a consistent interface when clicking through the various choices. These things are fundamental to the structure of a project. The page by page nitty gritty of what extra photo to use here or what subhead wording to use there or whether to link to a particular outside resource are just that – small details that can easily be changed.

So it is with some mirth that I realize that very often clients are much more interested in the nitty gritty than the overarching. The things that speak to them are the small details. I have several theories as to why this may be the case. One is that people inevitably talk about the things they understand. While the big picture elements may very well be important to them, it can be a bit complicated to connect all the dots and make the big decisions, whereas the small ones are easy to make. Another reason is that people’s thought processes are not very often hierarchical, despite what we would like to believe about ourselves, and so every thought about a project is held in the brain with somewhat equal weight, and things are brought up as they occur. A couple of months ago I was working on a project for organizing a photo library, for example, and my client kept bringing up being able to copy resources in a particular way before we had even built the functionality to get those resources into the database in the first place. I kept explaining that there was a hierarchy of importance of functionality, with some things necessarily preceding others, and that we were time limited and could not do everything so it would be necessary to prioritize. I suspected that this did not sit well with him, but we came to agreement. And sometimes, the reasons people focus on the small stuff is that they trust me to take care of the big stuff and really aren’t all that interested in the big picture. This happens more often than you might think, and the challenge for me is to recognize this and not let my ego get in the way. Sometimes I worry that the client (for the lack of feedback I get about the big picture stuff) is unhappy with my work but unable to articulate it. In a situation like this I can sometimes take it personally, but this is pure ego and pride getting in the way of what is actually happening. As long as ample room has been given for the client to express their particular opinions (when they have them), things generally work out well. Sure, there can always be misunderstandings and disappointments. But when I take myself and my pride out of the equation and let the work be the work, things go better and we are all much happier.

Waiting for Godot

15
Jul
2009

The last several days have been a strange period of waiting for things. Waiting on checks to arrive. Waiting on clients to get back to me. Waiting on potential clients to approve a contract that I am not even sure I want. Perhaps because of all this waiting, I have felt a contemporaneous and strange sense of waiting for something else as well. Something unknown and unknowable. Something I can’t put my finger on exactly. I am not at all a fan of this sensation, as it is definitely outside the realm of being in the present. It pulls me somewhere else and makes me immaterial somehow. It places a vague, uneasy cloud over everything, a slight sense of dread. I am not sure exactly what this thing is, except a lack of focus, and a lack of presentness.

Trying to get back into doing something while waiting, I reworked my CV a bit yesterday to add new clients and make the management of the client area easier to change. It is now all stored in a database table, and each client record is now easy to publish or unpublish as well as adding new clients or info without ever having to touch the page design. It gave me a small sense of accomplishment, and luckily today I received some new client information that will allow me to get back to work on their projects.

But this vague sense of waiting remains. What am I waiting for, what are we waiting for?

Status Updates for 2009-07-10

10
Jul
2009
  • this left me absolutely speechless…http://bit.ly/12ZchM #
  • Quite happy with my new neti http://twitpic.com/9xrf7 #
  • Just barely escaped being thrown up on by a very sick kid in the tenement museum. But I suppose it added to the authenticity. #
  • David and Jackie and I are about to take a tour at the tenement museum #
  • Poutine is taking over Manhattan? Where, exactly? #
  • I heart Gavin Newsom: http://bit.ly/9dyTF #

One Thousand.

10
Jul
2009

Most of the time, I am not really big on milestones other than as curiosities and snapshots. They don’t really mean much outside of our human tendency to mark the passage of time and judge ourselves against impossible standards. Still, This is my 1000th post published to this blog, and it surprises me a bit. Why should that be?

When I began this blog, it was mostly for quite practical reasons. I was embarking on a big trip to faraway places, and it was a way to keep nervous family members and friends abreast of my whereabouts. I also preferred the blog format to those mass emails that people send out, because it is entirely by choice. Being virulently anti-spam, I told everyone that if they were interested in what I was doing, they could read about on the blog and if they weren’t, that was fine as well. But something happened along the way. The blog became a way for me to reflect with some immediacy on what I was experiencing, and it gave focus to my travels. It allowed me to communicate about places and ideas, with feedback from readers. It gave (and gives) me a place to write about whatever comes to mind, and to explore everything from the haughty to mundane. Sometimes it is a dull chronicle. Sometimes it is a brilliant exposé. This blog has taken me through many changes in my life and through more places than I would have imagined possible at the beginning, almost three years and one thousand posts ago.