Monday, October 4, 2010

Unbelievably Fantastic!

Last night, Jonathan and I worked until 1:00 on a new website for Angel Medical Systems. Over the past few weeks, my job has shifted from technology to marketing, (except of course, when something needs to be done on the technology side of things) and I've been working on the order of sixteen hours a day trying to keep up with a broad range of assignments. Jonathan's latest assignment for me was to redesign and implement the company's website.

Existing Website

Working on corporate websites is really fun. You get to use both sides of your brain simultaneously. In one moment you're coding software to make one image dissolve into the next; in the next, you're fine-tuning photos and re-coloring drawings. You get to write marketing materials and you get to write software all at the same time. In this case, the marketing content is itself quite technical. The whole process is fully engaging.

To make it even more than fully engaging, Jonathan told me that he wanted to finish the whole project in a week. He also used the magic word, not please, but instead: impossible. He said something on the order of, "I know this is probably impossible, but we really need to get this done by next week."

I'm a sucker for that kind of sweet-talking. So, I jumped in.

Now, I don't know if you've ever been involved in developing a website, but the one thing that's really great about marketing is that apparently everyone knows how to do it. I managed to get the website done in just a few days so that we could review it, fine-tune it and then launch it. The thing is that the fine-tuning actually became much more than that. Each of the reviewers had a list of things that they considered important, absolute must-haves, and it was my job to figure out how to shoe-horn them into the framework I'd put together.

Design by Committee

Back at Bell Labs, we used to call this process design-by-committee. Design-by-committee is somewhat akin to four or five friends combining households. Each one has her stuff that she really wants to keep, but the new house is much smaller than the sum of the four or five previous houses. You have to make tradeoffs. The problem is what happens when you're combing English Colonial with French Provincial with Danish Modern with Mediterranean. It's not that any one them is bad or good, it's just that a living room full of stuff where each person picked two items from his previous household doesn't always result in the desired effect.

So, last night after a week of trying to elegantly combine households, Jonathan hit the reset button and I started again. The process felt a lot more like undoing than redoing and certainly not like just plain old doing, and I found myself not drawing the same satisfaction from the work that I normally do.

Do Over

This morning, I popped out of bed a bit before 7:00 and headed out the door to the bagel shop. I was feeling a bit weary from the long days of work and critical of myself for not having got it right in the first place; I'm fully aware of the design-by-committee effect, and yet I let it happen.

As I listened to the local radio station, the Newscaster asked the DJ how she was and she responded, "Unbelievably fantastic!"

The newscaster said, "Uhh... wow!"

She went on to say that she'd been in the coffee shop yesterday and started talking with a guy who had responded to her inquiry as to his wellbeing with "Unbelievably fantastic!"

When he asked about her, she told him that she hoped to be doing as well as he was. His response to that was that it wasn't a prediction, it was a decision; she could just go ahead say that she was unbelievably fantastic and it wouldn't be lying.

As I drove and listened I could feel the smile spreading across my face and I decided, "Yup, I am unbelievably fantastic!"

Then I said it out loud and then I said it even louder and then, well, I was.

How are you today?

Happy Monday!


  1. Me too - unbelievably fantastic!!! - and I just signed up for the gym.

  2. Joy, That's unbelievably fantastic!


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