On our recent vacation to Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong we delighted in the awkwardly worded pseudo-english phrases on t-shirts, jackets, school notebooks, stationery. In fact my prize souveneirs are several school notebooks. One has a drawing of a telephone on the cover and this definition: 1. N-PLURAL: Communications are the systems and processes that are used to communicate or broadcast information, especially by means of electricity or radio waves.
Another has a weathered photo of a bag of peanuts and this saying:
Pleasure of life
It is time all day’s tiredness is relived and space is full of cozy relaxtion and a joy of my own.
The surroundings calm down in deep silence.
And I enjoy my own time.
I took this photo in Hong Kong. Surely the name must be a cruel joke. I showed this photo to a friend who suggested the Chinese characters might be roughly translated as “design king” or “king of designer”. If you can confirm this or know better, let me know.
When someone shouts “Wrong design!” or, “That won’t work!” or, “Your design stinks!” he’s being judgmental. My latest IEEE design column, Handling Design Criticism, talks about how to filter out constructive criticisms from noiseâ€¦and what it takes to really get behind people’s judgments, puffy praise, and aesthetic arguments to discover the real issues.
As I was writing my column, it occurred to me that it is as important to be skilled at effectively giving criticism as it is taking it. I’ve gotten better at this over the years. No longer do I write scathing reports or repeatedly restate my objections until I wear everyone down. Maybe I’ve mellowed with age, but I think it’s more than that. I’ve learned to point out issues in ways that aren’t so confrontational and to pick my battles. Hey, if I ask you leading questions so that you come to the same conclusion as I did without a confrontation, we can both be happy! It’s not a sneaky tactic, really it’s not. I’m not perfect giving constructive advice and I’d like to get even better. So I’m polling friends, family, and seeing how they manage to point out design flaws without waging battles or making enemies. If you have found clever ways to offer constructive design advice, drop me a line. I’d love to hear your story.
I remember once wearing my mic to the bathroom. When I returned everyone knew where I had been. It was hard enough for my co-presenter to not fall on the floor laughing, let alone the 60 people attending the seminar. I had to jokingly apologize to my audience for sharing too much before we could go on with the rest of the day.
We all make mistakes.
Last week the Agile 2007 conference registration system made a big mistake. Everyone got an acceptance or rejection letter intended for someone else. Within 24 hours personal apologies had been sent out via email to people who had mentioned this snafu, and the correct notices were sent. Big embarrassing mistake handled rather nicely. Or so I thought.
But today I (and a few hundred other submitters) received an official apology letter from the conference meeting planners explaining in gory detail the technical reasons for the original glitch, how they had dutifully tested the fix before sending out the acceptance and rejection letters, and that the conference registration system folks were sorry for any confusion this had caused.
Hm. A second apology. What was with that? Stop dwelling on being so sorry.
But wait. It gets worse. The apology was sent via a list service configured to transmit all mail it received to the members of the list. So a few auto-reply out of town emails and grumpy complaints were forwarded, too. Followed by queries about how to stop the emails and replies to those queries. (At this point I was laughing, but not sending any email to the list!) These were then followed by two more apologies: one from the list maintainer and another from the chair of the Agile Alliance who put a stop to the chatter.
I get it. You are sorry. I’m sorry that you were so sorry and felt the need to give more information information. But next time I’m hoping that the volunteer conference organizers take an agile apology approach (I’ve learned this over my many years of being involved in conferences with my inevitable mistakes and recoveries). If someone complains, they deserve a personal response. But one apology is enough. And you don’t have to explain why a goof up occurred, just how it is being fixed (if that’s possible).
Agile apologies please! And for you complainers to the list: lighten up. Everyone makes mistakes.