Do what I want, not what I (don’t) say

keyboardI have lots of clients who have great ideas, wonderful vision, and yet have a lot of trouble understanding why I keep asking them for more and more specificity before I sit down and write some HTML or code. I’m afraid they sometimes think I’m a dolt because I keep asking for more detail about exactly what they want me to do. They find it hard to understand why I can’t just take an idea and run with it. Why do I need a detailed specification?

I ran into this passage a week ago, written over 10 years ago (but timeless), and the clarity and insight was so right on that I laughed out loud:

“The programmer, who needs clarity, who must talk all day to a machine that demands declarations, hunkers down into a low-grade annoyance. It is here that the stereotype of the programmer, sitting in a dim room, growling from behind Coke cans, has its origins. The disorder of the desk, the floor; the yellow Post-it notes everywhere; the whiteboards covered with scrawl: all this is the outward manifestation of the messiness of human thought. The messiness cannot go into the program; it piles up around the programmer.

Ullman, Ellen (2012-02-28). Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents (Kindle Locations 352-356). Picador. Kindle Edition.

So when the client says, “Make that headline a little more greenish,” I now have something I can point them at so they’ll understand the difficulty of that seemingly simple task. I love it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *