Last week I set a personal record: started flamewars on four mailing lists. It would have been six or seven, but I realized I was edgy, and decided to not watch the mailing list folders for a few days until I cooled off. But I never cooled off. And I wondered why. I recalled a recent blogpost by Adam Greenfield (hilariously if inaccurately mocked by ok-cancel) and I found a clue. I think he, and Peterme, and Lou and Peter Morville… well, we’re all outgrowing our favorite pair of jeans: IA. And the waistband is cutting in badly, but it’s our favorite pair, so of course we’re crabby. We’re all going to stay crabby unless we finally take them out of our “skinny” drawer and give them to goodwill. (Okay, I suspect Peter Morville saw a tailor to have his let out, restyled, and pressed; and Lou told us that they were in the garage, but really he cut them into patches and made a quilt — but hey, let’s not beat this metaphor to death. Oops, too late.)
Despite no longer calling myself an information architect (I’ve been happy with entrepreneur for some time) and despite a deep affection for the community I’ve been part of for so long, the lists have been making me crazy. I’d been off them for a while, and had gotten back on for a number of reasons, from promoting the new Boxes and Arrows features to seeing if new trends were emerging in my (former?) profession. And I was shocked at the blatant stupidity I thought I was seeing. Only it wasn’t stupidity; I had radically changed my point of view. It was as if I had been enjoying the company of swans for some time, went to sleep and woke up a duck– and thought the swans looked silly, all long necked and white and showy.
Starting my own company, I’ve had to learn an amazing amount in a short time. I’ve had to essentially give myself a home-MBA (resulting in similar quality, I might add, to a home-perm). As a result, returning to the lists, I couldn’t believe what things people were saying — I was thinking “Of course they don’t implement that feature, there is no upside” “you have to make choices, and in this market that was the right one” ” Jesus kee-rist, of course YouTube is designed.” and so on.
I’ve been angry because so many (not all!) design practitioners whine about how no one pays attention to them, when they don’t take time to understand the business folks. When they proudly crow about their empathic skills, and just as proudly crow about their hatred of excel. They expect business to read GAIN, but refuse to read businessweek. Too often they judge from their point of view, instead of questioning and learning instead.
And I’m angry because I’ve been so very stupid in so very many of the same ways, and my hubris pisses me off. I’ve been humbled by Excel in the last weeks, and made wise by Advertising Age. PowerPoint has been a better friend than Photoshop, and Drucker wiser than Hillman.
I’m not sure I could write another design book ever again without first going to the well of business and drinking deeply. For those “moron sheep” sure know a whole lot. And you cannot learn unless you have ears to hear with, and sometimes that means shutting up.
I’m not even sure if I have a point yet to make from all this research and digestion.
I do know I am a small piece of something big, and I bring my own skills to play along with others, and now I can no more tolerate dismissing of “monetization” any more than I can stand dismissing design as “making it pretty.” I don’t know if the right thing is to unsubscribe and move on, or to remain, and try to explain some stuff I figured out, while watching for the new stuff others have figured out. Or maybe I should just flame and be done with it, and start the conversations needed to get change happening. I’m not sure I have the stomach (even though I clearly have the talent) for that work.
This blog has more to say these days about publishing than about IA, because it is a blog: a personal journal of one person’s view. Maybe it’s getting to be time to change that also; change topics formally, change the dynamic, or maybe it’s getting to be time to take my own advice and “Shut up and Dance.”
Anger is almost always based on fear, and change fuels fear. I am becoming Christina 2.0, and joy and fear and anger as par for the course, I guess. With occasional flamewars and design bashing thrown in.