How to Get Over People Breaking Your Design

I read an interesting quote from this short bio of Douglas Merrill, VP of Engineering at Google: There are no lasting technical solutions to social problems, and most interesting problems are social problems. “The particular tools and systems we give [people] yield certain kinds of problems,” he says. Merrill sees it as his job to […]

I read an interesting quote from this short bio of Douglas Merrill, VP of Engineering at Google:

There are no lasting technical solutions to social problems, and most interesting problems are social problems. “The particular tools and systems we give [people] yield certain kinds of problems,” he says. Merrill sees it as his job to help solve them.’

“There are no lasting technical solutions to social problems”. Now that’s an interesting attitude from a Google guy!

I like it, because it takes away the premise that anything we do technologically will be a continued success without our continued effort. It suggests that we’re in this for the long haul, that we’re all in this together. (cue John Lennon song)

It’s easy to say that spammers and malcontents will always arrive right after a new technology has surfaced and muddy the waters. And that may be true, but isn’t it OK? Isn’t the fact that there are people using the technology going to make it better? Going to teach us how best to evolve it over time?

Don’t Break My Design

This is the classic “don’t break my design” problem. Lots of folks out there are scared to death that someone will actually, say, use their web site and say critical things about it. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve spent long hours creating web sites only to be reticent to introduce it to the world, because I want it to be the pristine creation that it is in my mind.

This also carries over to blogging, and writing. I know *tons* of people who think the idea of starting a blog is a good one (they want to, really bad) except that they’re scared to death to do it. Just….do it. You’ll be a better writer as fast as you can say “I had Trix for breakfast this morning”.

But then, after going through this process a few times, you realize that they’re only making it better, even if it might be at the expense of your ego. They’re actually doing the work of many more people, just earlier and in your face. So let them say nasty things about it. You’ll make it better next time.

And pretty soon, you’ll be propositioning people for feedback. You’ll realize that you can’t replicate social issues surrounding your creation. You’ll want critique. You’ll want critics to be nasty to you, because you’re the person making this thing, and if it’s any good you’ll get the credit, even if it started out a mess. Nobody remembers the early mess.

When you flip the table, embrace their help, you’ll have a better product. Isn’t that the original point?

Published: November 10th, 2006

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