[thechat] Re: biting the hand ... (way long, and ranting)

Kelley kelley at grngrl.com
Thu Jun 28 08:51:24 CDT 2001


I'd love to have the time to craft a lengthy response to this, but new baby
means email-in-under-5-minutes.  Suffice it to say that during my tenure as
managing member of a number of Design Technology teams, I've run across the
attitudes you're ranting against more often that not.  In general I was known
as 'that production bitch' (even had a colleague print me a pad that said so)
by all of the designers, producers, etc.  This is because I said 'no' quite
frequently.  Ungarnished, uabashed 'no'.  Somehow this was taken amiss.
However, if I ever decide to frequent the office side of life again...do let
me know if you're hiring.  :)


martin.p.burns at uk.pwcglobal.com wrote:

> Memo from Martin P Burns of PricewaterhouseCoopers
> -------------------- Start of message text --------------------
> Forwarded from finestkind usability list, CHI-WEB.
> Most of us will recognise this situation...
> Cheers
> Martin
> ---------------------- Forwarded by Martin P Burns/UK/MCS/PwC on 25/06/2001
> 12:04 ---------------------------
> Please respond to mike stone <webgeek at YAWP.COM>
> Sent by:  "ACM SIGCHI WWW Human Factors (Open Discussion)"
>       <CHI-WEB at ACM.ORG>
> To:   CHI-WEB at ACM.ORG
> cc:
> Subject:  Re: biting the hand ... (way long, and ranting)
> > Not only does their entire body of their training indicate complete
> > and complex layout control, their clients expect the same. Can you
> > blame them?
> yes, i'm afraid i can.
> one of the most fundamental concepts in economics is that we always want
> more than we can afford, whether the limiting factor is money, effort,
> or the laws of physics.   people would love to have gravity cut them a
> break when they have to carry a heavy suitcase up three flights of
> stairs, for instance, but gravity doesn't care.
> the word 'expect', as you used it, is just a fancy way of saying that
> people want something, and are willing to throw a tantrum if they don't
> get it.   but the simple fact of the matter is that i don't control the
> users, any more than a physicist controls gravity.
> if you want to work with a medium, you have to understand it.
> rejecting
> the limits of the medium because they're inconvenient is foolish, and
> doomed to failure.   you don't get an airborne by flapping your arms and
> 'expecting' to fly.   you study physics until you discover a way to
> arrange forces so they counterbalance the pull of gravity.
> the same thing is true of graphic designers and clients who 'expect'
> the web to be just like print.   their expectation is wrong, and all
> the money and effort they invest supporting that expectation will,
> ultimately, be wasted.
> > We all expect the media we use regularly to behave in a consistent,
> > predictable manner, and I can't think of a good reason why the web
> > shouldn't behave similarly.
> the web does behave in a consistent and predictable manner.   it
> just doesn't behave in the consistent and predictable manner that
> print does.
> trying to make the web be like print is an enormously bad idea.
> it's like rejecting the internal-combustion engine because people
> 'expect' horse-drawn carriages.
> the web is a semantic medium, not a display medium.   the HTML that
> actually works, and which makes the web so all-fired popular, is
> the stuff that tells you what a chunk of information *is*:  a
> heading, a link, an item in a list, etc.   the markup that breaks
> the most often, causes the greatest number of compatability
> problems, and generally wastes the most effort, is the stuff that
> gets obsessive about how information "should look".
> if designers and clients want absolute control over the way a page
> looks, let them use PDF.   it's certainly no more intrusive than
> Flash, Javascript, or all the other crap people talk themselves
> into using, and it's a real display medium.   it actually works,
> and has good cross-platform support.   if there's really that much
> demand for appearance over content, PDF will eventually become the
> dominant medium for online communication.
> conversely, if everyone sticks with HTML, it might be a sign that
> users want a semantic medium more than they want a display medium.
> >> executives
> >> their whole training is based on the assumption of heirarchical
> >> authority
> >
> > There are cases when this is just what is needed. No matter that the
> > medium has all of this other power; people shouldn't have to use all
> > the web has to offer to be considered legitimate, right?
> uh, no..
> two-way communication isn't optional, it's mandatory.   the web is a
> marketplace for information, and markets are the antithesis of top-down
> control.
> sure, you can use the web for things like a corporate intranet, or for
> dissemination of information among members of a heirarchically
> organized team.   experience shows that even in controlled environments
> like those, the heirarchy tends to flatten, though.
> on the web as a whole, though, forget it.   executives have heirarchical
> authority because, at some basic level, the people lower on the org
> chart accept it.   in most cases, that acceptance is based on a mixture
> of salaries paid and respect earned, neither of which applies to a user
> hitting your company's website for the first time.   most sites don't
> pay their users, so their only choice is to earn respect.
> usability is about earning a user's respect.   but the earning comes
> first, respect comes second, and authority comes later, if at all.
> >> people take it as dogma that the company logo *WILL* be
> >> rendered in Pantone 225-3 Process blue
> >
> > Trouble is, they're not wrong; it should.
> i didn't say 'should'.   i said 'will'.
> 'should' accepts the possibility of alternatives, even if those
> alternatives are not desirable.   'will' rejects the possibility of
> alternatives, period.
> 'should' is workable.   'will' is simply wrong.
> > That the current breadth of technologies available makes this
> > temporarily impossible is unfortunate, but the urge to control
> > color, or anything else, is there for good reasons and must be
> > honored.
> when you get right down to it, the urge to use the web is based on
> the desire to take advantage of billions of dollars worth of technology
> that someone else has paid to purchase and maintain.   it's the desire
> to ride for free on someone else's dime.
> we must never forget this.
> users have power because they give us free access to a volume of
> resources we couldn't begin to afford in our wildest dreams.
> we are guests.   and we will remain guests until we cough up the bucks
> to buy the latest hardware and software for everyone who comes to our
> websites.
> if we lose sight of these facts, we become *bad* guests.
> the fact that computers don't display Pantone 225-3 Process blue is
> not a regrettable, but temporary, inconvenience.   it's a fact of
> life.   it will remain a fact of life until someone shells out the
> money to buy everyone in the world high-quality monitors, and then
> pays to have them calibrated on a regular basis.
> these are the realities, and throwing tantrums won't make them go
> away.   clients who want Pantone 255-3 Process blue must make a
> simple economic decision:  is getting that color worth the expense?
> if not, they get another choice:  is getting a free ride on billions
> of dollars worth of hardware that other people have paid for valuable
> enough to compensate them for not getting Pantone 225-3 Process blue?
> complaining because you can't get a free ride *and* Pantone 225-3
> Process blue just wastes time.   and in business, time is money.
> > These are wonderful things to be teaching. Still, I sense in your
> > overall complaint a lack of empathy with your constituents
> yes, i lack empathy.  gravity lacks empathy for someone carrying a
> heavy load, and users lack empathy for most of the things clients
> demand.
> seriously.. when was the last time you calibrated your monitor out of
> empathy for the brand images of companies who put their logos online?
> when was the last time you loaded an extra banner ad out of empathy for
> the financial motives of the content provider?   when was the last
> time you gave a website ten seconds of attention more than you wanted
> to out of empathy for the agenda its creators?
> encouraging clients to want things they can't have is lying.
> one of the most common things that clients want is a better free ride.
> they want everyone in the world to adopt an agenda that's good for the
> client.   they want it to happen right now, and they want it to
> happen for free.
> it's not going to happen.   no matter how much the client uses the word
> 'expect', or how much i use the word 'empathy', it's not going
> to happen.
> and the longer we spend playing that game, the more money the client
> will waste.
> > (along with very natural frustration, which is totally OK).
> *laugh*
> this ain't frustration.   frustration is when i say, "i've just shut
> down your webserver and deleted the httpd.conf file.   i've taken
> the batteries out of my cell phone and pager, and i won't be at home
> tonight.   i'll be back tomorrow, and we can discuss your priorities
> then."
> it's important to remember that things like that are not 'unthinkable'.
> people can 'expect' 100% uptime and all the bandwidth they can eat,
> but that's just another brick in the wall of fantasy.
> > I assert that not only are all of their desires valid, we must
> > empathize with them, seek the crux of their motivations to help craft
> > a web experience that meets the fundamental needs behind their
> > attitudes.
> the version of that which works is the Theory W (win-win) approach to
> software management and requirements determination developed by Barry
> Boehm while working for the US Department of Defense.
> the version that doesn't work is called 'being a codependent enabler'.
> it's important not to confuse them.
> > perhaps we all have to have a bit more of the social worker in us
> > that we'd like to.
> i see it differently.   IMO, we have a choice of occupations:  we can
> run an ambulance service at the foot of the cliff, or we can put guard
> rails up at the top.   running an ambulance service is long on empathy,
> but short on results.   putting up guard rails is more effective, but
> it lacks lack empathy for clients who want to flap their arms and fly.
> usability is not driven by 'expectations'.   it's driven by hard
> realities.   we don't say that drop-down menus are evil because the
> idea came to us while contemplating our navels.   we ran tests with
> an approved methodology, and that's what the results told us.   if
> the numbers had come out the other way, we'd tell people that
> drop-down menus are a good idea.
> clients, OTOH, would love to hear us say that their expectations are
> more important than our realities.
> <pure rant>
> personally, it infuriates me to see experts who can quote good,
> carefully crafted and impartial studies being stymied by arguments
> whose whole justification is "i think this looks cool."   why do
> we waste time running tests if we don't grant the results any more
> respect than the momentary whims of someone who admittedly knows
> nothing about the subject or the medium?   when did empirical
> evidence stop being worthy of respect?
> and why, for heaven's sake, are we worried about hurting people's
> feelings in an environment that's FAMOUS for priding itself on
> its blunt, hard-nosed, cut-the-shit-and-show-me-the-bottom-line
> attitude?   since when have captains of industry become fainting
> violets with delicate sensibilities, and who probably need a hug?
> show me the empathy in a contract negotiation.   show me the empathy
> in a job interview.   show me the empathy when a company lays off
> workers to demonstrate fiscal responsibility in preparation for its
> IPO.   there's a managerial consultant called "Chainsaw Al", for
> fuck's sake, and the guy was worshipped for his brutality-and-results
> until someone actually looked at the books and discovered that his
> 'results' were mostly creative accounting.
> *these* are the people we don't dare upset?   even when the message
> that will upset them is "you'll make more (or waste less) money this
> way"?
> wake up people.. we're just saving them the effort of flogging us
> by flogging ourselves.
> </pure rant>
> --------------------- End of message text --------------------
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