Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Diminishing Returns

Ok, first off, I gotta say that one of my goals -- being in bed by 11 pm each night -- is proving to be more difficult than I thought. I find myself running around at the last minute, cleaning cat boxes, feeding cats (yeah, yeah, stop one and I can stop the other... thanks, Kevin), arranging all my electronics and keys and wallet and ring (think the hero scene where the hero puts all his gear in his pockets and holsters and stuff and that's my mornings) and then getting all my clothes arranged (I have a butler, his name is James. He hangs the next day's clothes in the bathroom and thoughtfully leaves the underclothes on the heat vent so they're toasty after the shower) anyhow, I find myself running to get everything done at the last minute just so I can be in bed by 11.

But I did make it. And so far, I have the room to myself. So the window is open so I can hear the rain. It's pretty cool. And yeah, I do have the laptop. This is our week to read through the entire book of James each night. I think every Christian pastor is required to assign this task to their congregants at least once every five years. Maybe it's a constitutional requirement to keep their non-profit status or something. I dunno. Anyhow, I still need to do that. I've been doing that on my Blackberry the last two nights, except BibleGateway.com seems to have something in it that likes to crash Blackberries. Yeah, I feel like rambling tonight. Deal with it or change the channel, eh?

Anyhow, there was an interesting discussion today in a meeting. It was all about knowing your audience and not trying to be all things to all people. It actually came up in a very different way in a second meeting today. It's interesting to think about because I am somewhat of a perfectionist at times. Sometimes I'm lazy and half-arsed and I abandon projects from time to time and I have a "someday" list that's pretty dang long. But there are certain places where I really feel like a perfectionist. And one of those is my job. I and my colleagues are responsible for creating things seen by the public. And I want them to look great. I want them to be perfect. Unfortunately, the conditions under which they are viewed are outside of our control and immensely varied.

I hit a wall today, unintentionally. I was wrapping up a project that has had its share of difficulties. On a whim, I tested my product today, using a Microsoft website on a non-Microsoft browser. And it broke. At what I'd consider the 11th. hour. I was so close to being done. It worked everywhere else as good as could be. (Which is to say, basically everywhere but in the IBM's offering.)

I began to think about the dilemma.... here's a scenario where someone's using a Microsoft website on a non-Microsoft browser. (It worked fine with the Microsoft website on the Microsoft browser.) It occurred to me that if someone had the know-how and attitude necessary to use a browser other than Microsoft's dominant browser, chances were that they would also use a different website other than Microsoft's as well.

So I finally had to realize that if that obscure combination of events ever came up, that particular small cluster of people will have less than the absolute best interpretation of my presentation. That perfection and consistency is absolutely impossible and that I have to do as much as I can for the majority, after which point, it becomes a waste of time and a waste of money (not to mention stressful!) to contine to pursue the impossible. (I could ask for help on message boards or see if I could get a consultant to review/audit the process, but those types of things would take time and money and just delay things. Besides, I think I am pretty competant and not sure the results would turn out different if someone else participated in the process.)

But we'll deliver the best possible product to the most people possible and for the rest, it ends up being outside of our control. It feels like settling, but I suspect it's more about being realistic, accepting limitations and continuing to do the best you can with what you're given.
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