[thelist] show of hands...

Ben Henick persist1 at io.com
Thu May 9 19:40:01 CDT 2002

On Thu, 9 May 2002, the head lemur wrote:

> Being a sole developer allows you to be a salesman, bookeeper, promoter,
> accountant, bill collector, computer repairman, secretary, software tester,
> user, researcher, a business, a form filer, taxpayer, graphic artist, search
> engine user,  and marketing director. You will also need to understand how
> your *client* does business from raw material to finished product,
> competition, market share, promotional aids and liabilites, due diligence
> for site creation goals and methodologies, what information the client needs
> to make a sale, providing that information in a form that can be acted on.
> You will also need a basic understanding of contract law, copyright, fair
> use, slander, libel, fraud, browser technology, servers, server software,
> business insurance, just to name a few things that are part of the biz.
> Then you get to sit down and do some web publishing:)

>From this, it follows that there as many different kinds of developers as
there are kinds of sites to develop.  And that is a lot, as every client
has his or her own unique perception of what the Web is, at least in some

A generalist who knows what they're doing can:

a.  Build a site that meets all of the client's objectives, within reason
b.  Pinch hit for anyone, anytime
c.  Talk to the lawyer, the government, the bank, the PM, the illustrator,
    the hosting provider, the SBA, etc. etc. - without needing a
d.  Appreciate the client's desire to economize, and far better than
    a team (or even the team's manager)
e.  Give 100% of their attention to the client and their needs without
    bringing the conduct of their business to a screaming halt, within

These reasons are something of a pyramid; items [a] through [d] on that
list are possible because item [e] is also possible.

The downsides are:

a.  The eighty-twenty rule can drive a generalist into the poorhouse (this
    is something I'm dealing with right now, and have really been dealing
    with since I started)
b.  If the generalist becomes acutely ill, the project's in trouble
c.  Doing one's own sales and marketing as a generalist
d.  Comparative difficulty of self-motivation; there is no esprit de corps
    without a corps to possess esprit
e.  Unproductive relationships with third-party agencies; they admit
    you're good, but don't know what the #$^& to do with you, and are in a
    box because mere production does little good for your state of mind

In my experience a successful generalist needs to have exceptional
talent for establishing rapport, and have a strong presence as a
negotiator, in order to succeed without burning through a lot of

Ultimately... on an interpersonal level, being a generalist is about
enjoying a position of leadership, and fulfilling it well.  Even though
a generalist takes instructions, and the scope of their leadership is
often narrow, their decisions are just as often the most significant
factor contributing to the success - or failure - of their clients' online

If you need someone to CYA in order to be comfortable in your job, then
being a generalist is probably not for you.

Ben Henick
Web Author At-Large              Managing Editor
http://www.io.com/persist1/      http://www.digital-web.com/
persist1 at io.com                  bmh at digital-web.com
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?"
"I think so, Brain, but... (snort) no, no, it's too stupid."
"We will disguise ourselves as a cow."
"Oh!" (giggles) "That was it exactly!"

More information about the thelist mailing list