The Trouble with Passion

I have a problem with being passionate: it gets me upset more often than not. I admit, it’s a problem with me, not the organization, not anyone else … even if the problem does exist there, I recognize that I’m in the minority.

Lest ye think this is solely because I’m old and getting more “Get off my lawn” with each passing day, I’ve been like this for a while. Though I will freely admit that age is certainly a factor in some things getting the better of me.

Recently, this was because my opinion and expertise were challenged because I dared be honest. And let’s be clear, here – I’m perfectly fine being challenged. In fact, I expect it. I want people to question me if they feel I’ve missed something, or misstated something, or most egregiously, lied.

I get it, the software and services used to create and operate web platforms is not getting any simpler. It was simple in ‘93 when it was HTML and you couldn’t even get a table in. Today, if you don’t have at least five different languages or package managers, you seem to be doing something wrong. (There’s another rant about that coming soon…)

But there’s an advantage that comes with age: experience. That that experience can give you a reliable insight on things where you might not have practice. And that’s where, dear reader, things went a little off the rails.

We were estimating a headless installation of WordPress. For those of you not aware of what that means, it’s the act of hiding a content management system and providing access through another front-end. It’s sort of like the difference between eating dinner served directly from a chef, or being served by waitstaff: you still get your meal, you just don’t deal with the kitchen directly.

WordPress is famous for its simplicity. (Which is a mildly ironic fame, as the software has, unsurprisingly, become much more complex over the years. It has, conversely, also become extremely reliable compared to earlier versions.) It’s easy to set up, even for novices, it’s simple to support, and you can have a functioning website up and running in mere minutes.

Adding headless to it is another lift. You need a build process, sort of like how your chicken breast comes plated with garlic riced potatoes, fresh broccolini, roasted maple spring carrots with a maple-ginseng glaze – someone put all that on the dish, built from other components. Headless websites have similar needs.

If you understand the nuts and bolts: a CMS (in this case, WordPress), an API to query the CMS (usually GraphQL), a framework to build the website (something like Gatsby or NextJS), CI/CD process, you can have a headless build in about 20 minutes. The basics are pretty straight-forward, the trick comes in how you code and manage the templates that lead to what the public sees.

I’ll admit to being optimistic with estimates, not just ones I make for myself, but also ones I propose to help scope projects. What I expect is, if an estimate seems off, that someone will come to me and say: “Hey, your estimate is off.”

What I don’t expect is to have a third-party engaged for a sanity check without my knowledge, and then being told that my estimate is a third of what’s needed.

"But, Geoff, aren't you a VP? Don't people just listen?"

You’d think that. You’d think that someone with just shy of 30 years experience building websites might be granted a bit of automatic trust.

I suppose one other advantage with age: I tend not to lose my shit immediately, and try to (calmly) work out the situation. It’s doesn’t make me any happier, that’s for certain, but it does keep harmony, which is what is needed in team relationships.

"That's good, there is no 'I' in team!" 

But there are two in “homicide”. Okay, very tasteless joke … but one that should hint at the displeasure (and periodic rage) that arises when someone who isn’t as well versed as me in a given practice, process, technology, or service tells me that I don’t know what I’m doing.

Believe me when I say this: If I don’t know what I’m doing, you’ll be told. By me.

What I’ve had throughout my career are people who have been quite content to use their position to disregard what I say. Maybe it gives them a sense of power? I don’t know. But it is intensely infuriating to have someone tell me that I’m unaware of the facts or I’ve not spent enough time reading or that I’m just a plain idiot (without using that word specifically). That’s usually a sign when it’s time to move on.

I’ve been accused of trying to be the smartest person in the room. I can safely say that I’ve never actually had to do claim that. But it’s unavoidable that, sometimes, I just am. And when someone else who I know to not understand what I’m dealing with speaks up in an attempt to assert their position or their perspective or some other pointless point, it reminds me that there are reasons why I leave organizations, because it’s no longer worth my sanity.

Today, though, is not one of those days. A few years earlier, I might have raged and stormed out. I ain’t no Zen master, though – I ain’t got the patience for that shit – but I have at least enough perspective to hold my tongue until such time as I have reason to chew someone else out.

I suspect the facts will come to light in short order and I will be vindicated. And I will have to refrain from “I told you so”, even though I’ll really, really want to say it.