I just couldn’t resist. This is an unplanned blog post but Chris Penn posted something that was just too juicy to keep to myself!

In Chris’ post Avoid Magic for Magicians, Marketing for Marketers, he warns that experts can spend so much time around other experts that we lose sight of the purpose and start catering to our expert pals and expert idols. Chris focuses on Marketing and SEO folks who engage “regular people” with industry lingo and pulling out obscure tricks that only mean something to other experts.

I recently wrote about Client-Developer Relationships and approached from a concern of having seen developers force solutions onto clients that the client didn’t need and/or couldn’t maintain. With these 2 posts together, there’s a new insight for any expert in any field: are you serving your client or are you serving other experts?

PLAYING BASS FOR BASSISTS As a bassist, I’ve faced the quandary of playing bass to impress other bassists or playing bass to make a song feel good for the bandleader and a live audience. Even when famous bassists demanded that we learn to support a song, it was hard to ignore their fancy tricks because they do make songs feel good. (Sometimes, those songs only feel good to other bassists.)

But the expert bassists don’t hire us for gigs. A local bandleader hires us for gigs and they often don’t need, want or understand difficult licks and exotics chord. Are they terrible people? No. Philistines? Possibly. Are they in charge and providing the opportunity? Yes.

BEING A RESPONSIBLE EXPERT Because someone is in charge, does that mean they get what they want? No. The point is not that expertise should be just plain diluted. Whether we’re working with a client, a bandleader, an employer, or a friend there should be a responsibility threshold below which we will not creep.

We should be guided by responsibility not our favorite tools or sweet tricks. 

I face this quite frequently:

  1. Clients who can’t afford what I can responsibly develop. Or,
  2. They’re willing to pay for an enhancement and sit it on a questionable (irresponsible) foundation.

It’s a tough situation. It’s tough to turn down money, and it’s tough to not help someone who needs the help. But it’s sometimes necessary to avoid the fallout of having build something that is broken soon after it’s turned over to the client.

One simple example in building a data entry interface:

A field labeled “Start Date” A field labeled “Start Date”
Field only accepts dates
Restricted such that the Start Date can not be later than the End Date
3D text with Drop Shadows
Built in custom code when Excel or, a WordPress plugin would have been sufficient

The IRRESPONSIBLE example has no validation layers. A person can accidentally input a partial date, a name or an inappropriate date, and when it’s time for analysis, we’re analyzing with crap data. Both parties in the Client-Developer Relationship should be concerned about this.

SUMMARY As I expressed in Client-Developer Relationship Part 1, there are lots of experts who are hired to come in and clean up after another expert. And thanks to Chris Penn for reminding us (and that includes me) that we aren’t serving other experts. We have to start with what’s minimally responsible, and build from there, in service of the client.

Now, let’s keep that data clean y’all!

Please leave comments. It would be interesting to discuss what other people have to say about expertise, clients, developers and responsible development.

Calculus photo credit: emdurso via photopin cc