Monthly Archives: October 2008

Random xkcd noise

Just having fun.

Happy Halloween. 🙂

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The Pain of Communicating

Blogging about work is… risky. However, I’ve just been given a summons… sorry, a meeting invite, to a meeting which by the look of the invitees, is meant as a drubbing or a dressing down of us slow interactive producers. See, a ways back, one of our esteemed account guys who self-admittedly knows very little about interactive, made a promise to the client based on some bad advice given from someone who no longer works at my company.  Now, the Interactive team is struggling (struggling!) to make everything come together and to make ends meet and do the impossible which was sold in to the client. We’re struggling to make it happen.

What does that mean?

What it means is that we took a look at the client’s budget. Fixed budget. And then we took a look at what was promised. Let’s not get into specific numbers here, but the budget we have to work with is less than 20% of what a comparable project took to get built.  Yeah.

So we had to come up with some way of doing the impossible and saving 80%. We scoped out the job completely internally, and we’re swamped. Even with the struggling economy, work in the interactive department continues on the setting of “Cranking!” So the timing and the money came out pretty high… came in about triple what the client wants to pay for what they want to buy.

Not happening

Already knowing that it’s just not going to happen the way that the client (and more importantly to this post, the Account team) wants it to happen, we start looking around for a better solution. If we farm part of the work for development out to another company, we can make the deadlines (which are beyond tight) -and- we can offer a much more robust service platform than we could create on our own by buying into a third-party solution.

Great! Win-win. We pared down the budget so it comes in only at about 1.5x the original estimate. This is rock bottom, though, so we now are trying to come up with ways to help the account team return to the client and explain why we can’t give them what they’ve asked for it in the budget they’ve asked for. Earlier this week we’re talking with the account team, and one of the members says, “Well, I can get a guy who will do this whole project for one third the cost.”

The guy in the basement

*sigh*

So, we are up against Joe the Plumber. The Guy in the Basement who doesn’t actually really exist. Because let me tell you, one of the things that the client wants on this is a Content Management System and a Scalable Database solution which integrates into a dynamic web site which integrates with e-commerce solutions. That guy in the basement? This is beyond his ability level to deliver on. Maybe if he were part of some “Basement Guy Consortium” he could build a virtual agency to deliver on the project, but then he’d be back to paying the same level of prices that we’re cooking with, all to cover the necessary expertise and effort.

But Account doesn’t see it that way. Because Account doesn’t -see- the actual parts which require effort. These aren’t Interactive Account Executives, they’re Print-based/traditional Marketing Account Executives. They are used to dealing with things that they can -see-. Make a creative change here, and you can see it. If you can see it, if you can visualize the complexity, then you understand that there’s a certain price with it. Print on paper is one thing, on mylar lenticulars which display multiple images depending on the angle of viewing, something else entirely.

But the web… the web is something else entirely.

Preparing for the worst

So now we’re going to get called into this meeting with two of the higher ups invited, and we’re going to get scolded if we’re lucky, yelled at quite the possibility. All because in trying to figure out what the -right- solution to the client’s requests would be, we have had to take more time than Account likes. And they don’t understand what we’re doing, they don’t understand why we don’t react the same way that the Offline side of the house does. When Account says jump to them, they jump. When Account says jump to us, we look at the order and try to figure out what the client really needs us to do, not what Account is ordering us to do.

And you know what? We’re usually right to do so. Because Account doesn’t understand what they’re asking from us most of the time. Account is usually the source of tons of the problems in any interactive agency unless they have interactive experience, because you CAN’T have your point of contact and sales rep for the agency selling, communicating or defending something that they don’t themselves understand.

So we get the lumps, and we get to try and defend ourselves from this onslaught. Not fair. Not fun.

The pain of communicating.

The Internet Is Publishing

There’s some question I have in my mind as to whether or not this guy would have been given the same sentence if he had had access to (or chosen to use) a lawyer.

The link above shows the CNN story about a guy who films himself doing stunts on his Yamaha motorcycle, and then posts it to YouTube, and … gets nailed in court for reckless driving.

Now, I can see how that’s enforceable, because, well, hell, the internet is a publishing medium after all. If you publish something for the world to see, you take responsibility for it whether you realize it or not.  But, see, even though they’re minor offenses, traffic violations are still criminal proceedings, and in criminal proceedings the burden of proof lies firmly on the accuser.

In defense of the poor sap, I would have argued down several of the counts of reckless driving and anything resembling speed. I mean, the cops as much admitted that it was impossible for them to determine the actual speeds of the person on the bike. Add to that the fact that it was within the digital realm, and the possibility that the video had been enhanced or altered somehow to exaggerate the actual speed of the driver and I think you’ve got a pretty good challenge to at least part of the charges as presented in the article.

Besides, you can’t just -ask- him, either. The Fifth Amendment holds sway, so there’s no way to put him on the stand unless he or his own counsel decide to let him take it. By *not* putting him on the stand, you’ve at least put the burden of proof squarely back upon the State. Forensic analysis of the video is expensive and time consuming to produce, and those are resources that the State can better use in the prosecution of actual criminal cases instead of clogging the courts. Motion for summary dismissal.

I should -so- go study law. At the very least it’ll inform me as to what’s doable, defendable, and what’s not. Maybe one of my readers will take a more educated, legally focused view of this and comment. Or not. *shrug* I still don’t think he deserved the full sentence he got. Although stupid is as stupid does, and while the actionability here is in question, I don’t think his intelligence is.

Thesis: Simple wireframes

It took a bit, but I’ve finally gotten my site architecture down and some simple wireframes done up. I even did a first draft at a design but I didn’t like it because it was too obvious. I’m still thinking of how to turn a “patriotic” design into less of a flag-waving bonanza (I keep imagining I’ll have to do a ‘Don’t shoot! I’m a patriot!’ kind of song and dance when this is live if McCain wins).

But I’m still optimistic, so I’m going to try for more of a classy, minimalist look. Not that the US Patriotic look isn’t classy, but it adds too much of a message that is sometimes directly challenged by the site materials. Not in an aggressive way, but definitely challenged.

The better thing yet is that by doing these wireframes I’ve got a solid sense of how I want the flash elements within the site to work. Knowing that is half the battle, the rest is just ironing out the logic of the code. My next steps in all of this are to work these up into a couple more design executions as comps and then settle on the one that I’m going to go with. Then it’s time to take the placeholder graphics I’ve got and use them to build the code base for the flash interactivity. Once the code and interaction is working I’ll populate it with the “real” graphics later, but why wrestle with all of those images when you can just as easily make shortcut graphics to get the code banged out with.

Here’s the pages for the wireframes.

Home page, with below the fold flash element

Home page, with below the fold flash element

Timeline wireframe with flash notes

Timeline wireframe with flash notes

Who's Who wireframe with flash notes

Who

Red - Articles about Native American POV

Red - Articles about Native American POV

White - Articles about Manifest Destiny

White - Articles about Manifest Destiny

Blue - Hope for the future

Blue - Hope for the future

Bibliography styling

Bibliography styling

Business playing catch-up

I recently was involved in the successful launch of a microsite project at work which attracted worldwide attention, received over 3 million visits in three weeks, with 1.3 million visits on launch day alone (we didn’t collect qualifying data so I have no breakdowns of actual visitors or any of the fun stuff), and which presented a multimedia experience that was hosted in part by YouTube.

Thankfully, YouTube and our server hosts provided reporting on everything, so prior to the in-house client meeting where we handed over the bill (we went over budget due to unforeseeable launch coordination issues that were not the team’s fault, but just had to be dealt with) I assembled the graphs and charts in PowerPoint and presented it as the opener to explain what had been accomplished. It also explained why the overage in budget was actually very slight in consideration against the greater project, a fact with which the client readily agreed.

The visual graphs and charts were much better received than the accompanying Scope of Work with the actual information and breakdown of details on what had been done (normally a SOW is signed before work begins, but this was an unusual project). The visiting client asked for an electronic copy of the deck to present to his own internal staff and the executive board for the client. As a means of providing the executives with a summary of what they were looking at, the client put into their own words several phrases to be presented as “business take-aways” from the successful project.

Take away #1?  “The web works.”

It was then that realization hit me of just how far back in time I had to step in order to understand my client. The Masters program at Quinnipiac is already light years ahead of the prevailing thinking within the commercial aspects of Interactive Business as it is, and stepping from theory to reality was a bump. It’s more important for me to wrap my brain around the fact that to many people, there’s just as big a jump if not greater to go from Interactive Business to Traditional Business thinking. Even with a client who regularly puts large sums of money into the web for various pursuits, there was still residual uncertainty left within the highest echelon of business decision makers as to whether the web was *really* worthwhile.

Staggering, man. Just staggering. Some days I think I’m hopelessly behind the curve of the internet even with my formal scholastic training. Other days I wonder just how far ahead I am. All depends on who I talk to.

But yes, Virginia. “The web works.”

@Deathshonor

You do know I’m kidding, right?

Turtles discussion

Turtles discussion

Rocking On

Rocking On