Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In Praise Of Being Too Clever

Strolling into my local bank the other day to get some cash from the ATM, a little something caught my eye. No, not the ATM what with the fuzzy, flickering screen, although the fact that my local branch in podunkville has a newer model with a nicer screen than the one in the big bank in the BIG CITY left me scratching my head. The nameplate on someone's desk.

Director of First Impressions

I know, and I agree with you - what the hell? That job title's too clever by half. But at the same time, it tickles me in all the right places.

It's more pleasant on the ears and brains than "ombudsman." What kind of word is that, anyway? No fair asking internets or dictionary. Beats "receptionist" too (which is what they are). For whatever reason, it speaks to a lot of things. A company that takes itself more seriously than I do, down to the point where they've got egregious nameplates like that out in public view.

It got me to thinking about Peopleware, the anecdote about The Black Team in particular. If you've never read the book and you work with software in any professional fashion, when you finish reading my drivel, go out and get it. Seriously.

But anyway, it was an anecdote about a team of testers at IBM that was good at their jobs to the point where they were unafraid to loudly announce to the world I am better at my fucking job than you are by dressing all in black. It sounds corny and like a complete non-issue in the age of casual attire, but I remember watching a documentary in high school (not Triumph of the Nerds but something around that time) where they interviewed OGs from IBM and they talked about how rigid the culture was, down to the point where on the first day of work, a co-worker lifted leg of the guy's pants up and critiqued the fact that he didn't have sock garters on. Taken in that light, dressing all in black does take a pretty big pair (but then again, maybe they were all black down to the sock garters).

Sadly, I started wondering to myself - where's my application's director of first impressions? For that matter, where's most software's director of first impressions? Most software out there (the stuff I do for work included) doesn't greet you with a handshake and a smile so much as scowl at you from its office before it runs back inside and slams the door shut, hoping you didn't notice it and if something goes wrong, leaves you to fend for yourself and maybe throws you a bone with a wiki or something lame.

Why doesn't most software, most teams developing software, take what they do so seriously enough that they can get away with doing something goofy like rolling into work dressed like an execution squad when everyone else is in a regimented 3-piece suit and get away with it because they're the shit and everyone knows it? Director of First Impressions too precious, too clever?

Hell no - I'm jealous. I hope that the software I develop is too precious too.