too many dimensions of documentation
Monday, August 6 2012
There is no single design document for this web development project I've been working on. Instead, I must consult long threads of emails, posts on Basecamp, and a number of documents particularly ill-suited to providing information to a human. I speak of course of Excel spreadsheets. If a text document is one dimensional (that is, it can be read in a single linear pass), an Excel spreadsheet is two-dimensional, meaning there could be an infinite number of threads. At some point in its evolution, Excel managed to add a third dimension, that is, a series of tabs, each of which takes one to a separate sheet within a greater spreadsheet document. I don't use Excel very often and I only learned about those tabs some time in the last eight months. It was those tabs that let me down today, partly because until one becomes aware of a certain scrollbar, a large number of those tabs could be hidden. So when I had a call today with a project manager wondering why I hadn't followed the spec on some tiny part of this project, all I could do was let her lead me by the nose to the relevant part of the spreadsheet.
As you know, Gretchen co-wrote a book with our friend Jenny, and the book was released a few days ago. Today Gretchen went down to Manhattan to attend the a release party. Since Gretchen was essentially a ghost-writer for the book, the most she could really do at the release party was haunt the place, though some people would have her sign their copies anyway.
Meanwhile back Upstate, I kicked back in front of the television after another long day of work. I've been enjoying the reality show entitled Shipping Wars, which assigns television crews to various people working as freelance shipping professionals. These people try to underbid each other on a shipping auction website, with the lowest bid winning the job of shipping the item. Shipping Wars actually begins each show with the bidding process, typically showing the shippers in their respective places with their respective laptops. Often they're shown doing their bidding while seated on the beds of their trucks. While it would seem to be a bit of a challenge to put drama into a bidding war where none of the bidders are in the same place or communicating in any way other than their actual bids, somehow these scenes work, though it seems to depend on the shippers talking to themselves as they bid. What's less effective is the attempt to continue the inter-shipper rivalry once they're on the road with whatever they're shipping. We're treated to one shipper seated comfortably on a couch talking derisively about some mishap we've just witnesses, as if the comfortable shipper had been watching right along with us. These comments almost always come across as needlessly cruel and unconstructive. But the show itself is a winner, particularly when there are mishaps (and they definitely happen). Shipping Wars, like Gold Rush seems to fall right into that narrow sweet spot between schadenfreude and whatever the long German word is for "rooting for the poor little guy just trying to scrape by."
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