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

by on Jan.25, 2013, under Communicating, Frothy Concepts, Organizations and Sociology, Software and online tools, The Quantified Self

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!

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