This blog is about creating a better user experience. And while we focus heavily on finding the problems in websites, it’s important to remember that some poor schlub is responsible for fixing all the mistakes. That is, somebody has to get in there and get their hands dirty with the code.
And all too often, in my business, that person is me.
I wish I had a guy to pass the hard work off to. But I don’t have that luxury. So when I run into problems, I just have to face them. There’s no such thing as backup.
This, necessarily, means that at times it’s me versus something I don’t know in a battle of wills to the death.
Have you ever wondered why your average computer dork is a little arrogant and acts like they already know what’s going on? It’s because they face their own intellectual and logical failures on a regular basis. And that, like fighting, earns a certain kind of toughness.
This toughness also creates an ability to see not just what can be done but what should be done.
And this is why we’re constantly coming to grips with the existential state, termed “You suck” by the late night television philosopher Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.
This “You suck” internal mantra breeds a very simple idea in our minds: “No I don’t.”
And that thought is the cause of so. Much. Trouble.
It’s the reason I spend weekends on a computer. It’s why nights disappear in the blink of an eye: I will not be defeated.
You may kill my social life but you’ll never take my… uh…. ability to figure things out, eventually!
And then I met Newman.
Newman runs at a different speed than I do. He’s on Alaska time or something like that. I dunno. It’s more relaxed.
Technically, his nerd belt is blacker than mine. He’s got a Masters Degree in Instructional Design. I competed in the Nintendo World Championships (the only one they ever had).
It’s cool, but it’s not the same.
Not too long after Newman and I started working on this website, I noticed that he was using this one phrase pretty regularly. At first, I didn’t know what it meant.
When you see the agent, run!
I didn’t get the reference. But one time, he let loose with a well timed “ya know, Agent Smith” and The Matrix reference became clear to me.
Like any good hero, I gritted my teeth and thought about what a friggin’ weakling Newman was. Run from what? Captain Ray Ban? That’s a movie. You’re not really going to get curb stomped by the bad guy from The Matrix. It’s just code.
But his approach was novel to me. Here’s a nerd that doesn’t get crazy bent out of shape about code.
I’m used to the kind of gnarled, bittered programmer that lives behind the kind of beards that ZZ Top would be impressed with. By contrast, Newman was the definition of a dirty hippie. An appeaser. A weakling. And his beard isn’t nearly long enough.
What I didn’t understand was that Newman was Tai Chi’ing the whole thing.
In the work-a-day world, there’s one thing that’s prized above doing it right. And that’s getting it done.
All the UX in the world doesn’t help if the website doesn’t function.
Job #1, and it’s one that I forget from time to time is – and I’ll quote the other esteemed comedic philosopher, Larry the Cable Guy – GIT ‘ER DONE!
See, the Agent doesn’t have to literally defeat you in order to win. You don’t have to find yourself stumped with no obvious next move to feel like you’ve lost your nerd battle. No, what happens way more often is that the Agent sticks around just long enough run your time schedule way over budget. It’s too much time in for not enough reward.
And that’s no good. It doesn’t feel good and it’s bad business.
Now, if you find yourself unable to finish the basics of your task, maybe you’re over your head. But when you’re engaged in the good fight of coding, sometimes you have to know when to live to fight another day.
Consider this post a brief reminder that living to fight another day is a smart tactic.
Sometimes you just need to get some space from your problem, get something less awesome that works and then work your way back into it.
Two take aways:
1. Be solutions oriented, don’t get bogged down in the minutiae.
2. When you see the agent, run!