Skip to main content

Giving the customers what they want

I do not believe that I am an elitist, but at the same time, I wonder about that phrase. To me, it implies an abdication of responsibility. Which is better: to give the customer what he asks for or to solve the real problem?

Here is what I mean. Occasionally, someone asks me for some tool/gadget/software program that strikes me as not really addressing the problem. This can be for any number of reasons; the customer has an immediate pain point and wants to address the specific requirement, the customer is already fixated on the technology and want that solution, the customer has been told that the answer is SOAP (and what was the question?).

As a professional, that puts me in a dilemma: either I end up arguing with the customer or I hold my nose and give him what he so plainly wants even if I think that it is not the right answer. Given my temperament, it means that I usually end up contradicting the client and thereby losing the deal.

Today I ended up doing that (I think, it may be too early to tell the final outcome). I was confronted with questions about scale, P2P etc. for a project for which I believe the real issues had nothing to do with scale, P2P or whatever technology; but were really about the business context that the solution was planned for.

Personally, I think that if you are going to hire someone for their experience and judgement, you should be prepared to listen to their advice. This is like going to the doctor and demanding that they prescribe you some drug that you had heard of; what you should ideally be doing is presenting them with your symptoms and trusting their judgement. If you don't trust the doctor, go somewhere else (or go to medical school).

On the other hand, he who pays the piper calls the tune. And it's a big mistake to be too far ahead of the piper.

Popular posts from this blog

Existential Types are the flip side of generics

Generic types, as can now be seen in all the major programming languages have a flip side that has yet to be widely appreciated: existential types.

Variables whose types are generic may not be modified within a generic function (or class): they can be kept in variables, they can be passed to other functions (provided they too have been supplied to the generic function), but other than that they are opaque. Again, when a generic function (or class) is used, then the actual type binding for the generic must be provided – although that type may also be generic, in which case the enclosing entity must also be generic.

Existential types are often motivated by modules. A module can be seen to be equivalent to a record with its included functions: except that modules also typically encapsulate types too. Abstract data types are a closely related topic that also naturally connect to existential types (there is an old but still very relevant and readable article on the topic Abstract types have …

Concept Oriented Markup

I have long been frustrated with all the different text mark up languages and word processors that I have used. There are many reasons for this; but the biggest issue is that markups (including very powerful ones like TeX) are not targeted at the kind of stuff I write.

Nowadays, it seems archaic to still be thinking in terms of sections and chapters. The world is linked and that applies to the kind of technical writing that I do.

I believe that the issue is fundamental. A concept like "section" is inherently about the structure of a document. But, what I want to focus on are concepts like "example", "definition", and "function type".

A second problem is that, in a complex environment, the range of documentation that is available to an individual reader is actually composed of multiple sources. Javadoc exemplifies this: an individual library may be documented using Javadoc into a single HTML tree. However, most programmers require access to multiple…

Hook, Line and Sinker

It is well documented that people’s #1 fear is speaking in public! Effective and efficient public speaking is a whole topic in its own right; but a few simple tips might help to both improve your effectiveness and help to reduce the anxiety.

You may be called on to talk about your work at very short notice; or you may have a week’s notice; and you may be required to give a formal slide show or just a brief verbal update. Many, if not most of the issues, are the same.
The Hook
Newspaper editors call the first paragraph of an article ‘the hook’. Its meant to hook you into reading the rest of the piece. On the other hand, the classical ‘say what you are going to say, say it, and say what you said’ approach gives people plenty of time to switch off.

The hook may be playful, it may be controversial, but it must communicate why the listener should pay attention.
The Line
Its a conversation! Even if no one says anything they are listening and thinking; and maybe replying to you in their head. So, …