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turning right into wrong, one project at a time May 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Management, The Two-Year-Old.

That pile of brown stuff was spread all over my hard work, and I can't even take issue with the person who did it. (Photo by Mike_el Madrileño)

That pile of brown stuff was spread all over my hard work, and I can't even take issue with the person who did it. (Photo by Mike_el Madrileño)

Okay, I have to step out of the “That Guy” persona here for a moment and vent about The Two-Year-Old, who for this post I will simply call 2. Because last night she took something that I worked very hard on and shoveled a huge pile of shit on it, then spread it around evenly, creating something that I’m no longer proud to have my name attached to.

Here’s what happened*.

Wally, who I’ve written about in the past, was working on a huge project for one of our biggest accounts. We’d all heard about this, and we knew it had the potential to be one of our biggest money-makers in a very, very long time. A lot of people worked on it, including 2. As it got closer to the project being delivered and going live on the customer’s site, I realized that Wally simply didn’t have time to do his portion of the web work.

So I went to Wally and said, “give me list of web work and I’ll take care of it for you, because I know you’re busy.” That, and this project could conceivably win us an industry award, and I’m always up for adding another one of those to my wall (I have four so far). Wally gratefully accepted my offer and I spent a good chunk of Tuesday building the accompanying website to complement Wally’s video and photography for the client.

Wally was not only extremely grateful, but he said several times how good he thought it looked and how pleased he was with the work I’d done.

I passed some information onto our night shift coordinator, telling him that Wally might have some last-minute stuff and here’s where it should go on the site, before leaving for the day. The night shift coordinator knew what he had to do to make the project go live for our client (and did so).

I came in Wednesday and, after doing some administrative work, went to the client’s site to see how Wally’s — and my — project looked. I always do that; you never know when something’s going to look weird, and I’d rather push out a change from my end before anyone says anything.

The project? To put it mildly?

I just about yelled “HOLY FUCKING SHIT” in the middle of a crowded production facility, with one VP and three managers in earshot.

I knew it would happen. I just knew it. Anytime 2 gets involved, she has to change things to look the way she thinks they should.

I build websites that are cross-browser compatible, and pretty much seamlessly integrate everything that needs to be integrated, using whitespace artfully while making sure things look neither too cramped nor too empty.

What she had done was evocative of a Geocities website from the late 90s, IE-only, with flashing cyan Comic Sans text on a burgundy background, passages of text she thought were important highlighted and in bold, and — in my opinion, as a writer, the worst of all — the accompanying text that went with Wally’s video and photography had been replaced by a slightly-sanitized version of Wally’s shooting script.

I eventually calmed down and, when Wally came in, I went over and said, “2 replaced the site we** built with something else, didn’t she.” I didn’t ask.

Wally confirmed it, and had the decency to look apologetic. Hell, he probably was apologetic.

Then I came back to my desk and tried not to stew.

Meanwhile, over in the meeting vortex, I found out that the client’s legal department was having issues with some of the subject matter of the project. They passed that on to us, and since Wally had left for the night, 2 did the only thing she knew how to do: take apart someone else’s vision with inexpert tools*** and slam it back together, then put a coat of paint on it and hope to dazzle the client with bullshit instead of baffling them by doing something brilliant.

2, by the way, is not a web expert in any way. For example, she made all of her people responsible for web content at her old job and then did nothing when the quality of said web content went from “A” to “C-minus” in about two days. She has a marketing mentality, which isn’t the best thing to have in a content production role; that is, if it’s not big, shiny, and flashing, and above the fold, it doesn’t exist. Also, in her mind, the right column is not seen by anyone going to a website (she actually said that to one of my supervisors).

I’m not going to go and talk to 2 about what she did because of the whole legal issue, but seriously? If this was the New York Times and she’d done a hack-and-slash job like this to one of my articles and let it go to press with my name on it, not only would I be dragged up before the editor but I’d be glad to have it happen. I’d be glad to show the editor what I did and what 2 did and let the editor decide who’s at fault for making the article into a piece of utter promotional bullshit instead of the well-written piece I’d submitted to the layout person.

Unfortunately, because I work at a production house, I can’t even complain. All I can do is go into the code, take my name off the project, and if the client comes to me, refer him to 2. Let her deal with the fallout.

When you’re trying to make things better on all your distribution outlets, 2, taking good work that people have done and spreading your own personal brand of shit on it is not the best way to go.

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* Obviously I can’t use real names or give you web links because… well, because I don’t want to get fired, to be honest… so you’ll have to bear with me. Sorry.

** Yes, I know, I was the one who built it and Wally just provided some parts, but it’s always good to say “we” around people who are usually difficult to deal with. Also, Wally was under a lot of stress — more on that in a moment, back up in the entry — due to some legal issues with the client.

*** With apologies to Terry Pratchett and the Susan-in-English-Class scene in “Soul Music”.



1. Enelya - May 28, 2009

I can completely relate to this. Someone who reviews my work insists that if the words “CLICK HERE” do not start every link then the site is NOT user friendly enough. I fight it but in the end, this person has the authority and all the links are changed. This person also makes me include animated gifs – very 90s Geocities type.

2. Spider - May 28, 2009

I know how you feel. I have had the same thing happen more times than not.

I have built some grand sites for people, then they come back and say “I want this, and this and this and this and change this and this” until it looks like something out of FrontPage 4.0.

The fun stuff is when the client goes in there and says “I will fix this myself!” then they call you to fix their mistakes, but not wanting to pay for it. Sure, because all my hard work for you is free just because you are a dumb idiot who thought you knew more than the person you hired to do the work you know nothing about.

3. FapFap - May 28, 2009


4. Rogue - May 28, 2009

I would be bitter too.

5. crash - May 28, 2009

Glad my signature is reviewed by the feds, when there are questions, I can point them in the right directions, and let the ass kicking begin!

6. Punching You In the Face - May 28, 2009

Sounds like someone needs a swift punch in the jugular.

7. allhailtuna - May 28, 2009

This is why I try to avoid actually “doing” work.

8. K-J - May 28, 2009

I feel for ya! Happens all the time here too.

9. Brett Stevens - May 28, 2009

It sounds to me like the manager above you and 2 isn’t doing his/her research.

Learning to delegate tasks to those with expertise, and then figure out how to manage them, is a vital skill.

10. Repeat Again - May 28, 2009

Man, I feel your pissed-offed-ness. This has happened to me several times. But I freelance and that reduces control. I do a site. I turn the site over to the client, or in some cases the client over time wants a redesign. Either way somebody inevitably goofs it all up. In each case the client has in time returned to me. I either fix the site, or update, or whatever the hell they wanted in the first place, and charge the client much more the second time around.

11. Steve Dutch - May 28, 2009

By the time I got down here to the comment box I see about 1/3 of the page being used and the rest is blank columns right and left. And the text is in what looks like 8-point type. Oh yeah, you still need that big blank column on the right for all the links that ended halfway up the page.

If this is your idea of a professional Web page than I can only conclude your boss did you a favor.

Animated gifs? Well, when there’s an animation standard that runs infallibly on every browser without needing a plug-in, it will be time to move on. Until then, I use ’em too because I know every viewer will be able to see them. I hit too many video links that want an update of something before running or simply don’t run at all.

12. Blob O' Gue - May 28, 2009

You work in a factory. You have no creative control in a factory. You make products for someone else the way they want it done and they pay you. Period. If you don’t agree with it, leave. You have that right. Or, you can post bitter blogs, stew in your own juices and basically cook yourself from the inside out. Find a different place to work where you can agree with their methods or start your own company.

13. Steve Vance - May 28, 2009

Oh, and you’re so important. Let me tell you this – Without MARKETING to BRING IN those customers, you would be UNEMPLYED. Put that in your self-important web-programer pipe and smoke it. MARKETING is the SIGNLE MOST IMPORTANT FUNCTION OF ANY BUSINESS WITHOUT IT BUSINESS AS WE KNOW IT WOULD NOT EXIST IN THIS WORLD. He who has his name on the door makes the rules. What the boss says go, and if I were your boss I would tell you to go.

14. god - May 28, 2009

oh my god

who the fuck cares.

you’ve thoroughly wasted your entire life up until this point.

15. Pud Kaplan - May 28, 2009

I can’t really figure out what’s that you do, except artfully designing white spaces, but I can tell that you are an asshole. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2 is doing that intentionally just to piss you off. I know I would.

16. Mr. Production Coordinator - May 28, 2009

Well, Mr. Vance, seems like your illiterate rant comes from having one of your useless nerves stepped on. Marketing is not the only reason business is conducted. Business is conducted on the basis of need or perceived need. Needs exist continuously and business will fill them without marketing. Marketing creates perceived need, needless purchases, needless credit use, needless credit crash. Needless to say, marketing is not only needless, it’s evil.

17. BP - May 28, 2009

Been there so many times over the years. Love how everyone is an expert from the sidelines. The WORST is when you create something to client specs, the client LOVES it and then your boss tells you to make changes that the client specifically said not to do.

Steve – Marketing is not the single most important function to a company. Being professional is. Just so you know.. if you are a manager and have to fire someone.. then you failed at leading.

Pud – when you graduate high school and get in the working world you will find your employment short lived if you purposely undermind projects just to piss someone off.

18. ghphoto - May 28, 2009

I hate it when others mess up what your doing. People need to learn to mind their own business.

Check out my blog! I’m posting a new post on the hour, every hour, for a year!! http://24blogsaday.wordpress.com
I also have a photoblog http://ghphoto.wordpress.com

19. Brap - May 28, 2009

Sniveling, incompetent moron?
Whining sucks, no sympathy for whiners here.

20. N. Gin Ear - May 28, 2009

Yup, that’s what is colloquially called a “seagull manager”, i.e. one whom flies in and craps all over your hard work, then disappears into the sunset. The only thing worse is an idiot in Marketing, whom after being told that Engineering has a new concept under prototype, proceeds to sell it in quantity (even though told not to). Of course the same numbnuts later complains that all those units that were rushed into production before testing was complete had to be reworked to make them do what he promised they would. Said “marketing moron” is generally an offspring of the company owner, which explains a great deal…..

21. TimL - May 28, 2009

Love reading comments like this. It really lets you know how many douchebags there are in this country. The scary part is you people breed.

The author has a legitimate complaint as he is the one who did the vast majority of the work only to have someone completely change the site. To put it in as another scenario: The book is WAY better than the Movie!!!! Do you want to know why? Because some jackass like #2 fucks up the movie.

22. god - May 28, 2009

you’re all going to hell.

not the real one but a special geek hell i made just for you where the coding is all wrong and it only works with Internet Explorer.

23. LDL - May 28, 2009

OH MY GOD. This is my life in a nutshell. Being a writer, my retard of a boss goes in to “approve” my work – which is something I suggested the first month I worked here to get a vibe of if I was on the right track, BIG MISTAKE. Now he has to “approve” everything, which basically means, going in, bolding, adding “amazing!!!” and about 80 exclamation points per page. And spelling mistakes. He does the same thing to our graphic designer and video editor. He’s like an armless waitress – he brings absolutely nothing to the table.

24. Elidet - May 28, 2009

I’m the first to admit when I know nothing about designing a website. That being said, I would never do what she did. My brother is a genius when it comes to web design, so I just refer people to him.

All I know how to do is use templates for blogs.

I’d be embarrassed to be 2.

25. Rich Tedlow - May 28, 2009

Welcome to the real world, pal. We are glad you managed to squirrel your pasty white geek ass out of your mom’s basement. Now please take your head out of your noob ass long enough to look around you and realize that your situation is called “business”, and it is the environment in which you will have to exist for the next 30-40 years. While you are looking around, notice how successful and happy the people who whine about it become. Not very. Notice how successful and happy the people become who spend their time and energy finding ways of dealing productively with challenges. Very!

Fact is, as good at what you do as you may be, what you do is relatively unimportant, and there are a million people just like you who can replace you easier than your dear #2 can fart.

Reality…making textbooks look stupid for over 100 years.

26. CK - May 28, 2009

Good lord can I relate. I once made a news publisher for a client so she could post announcements on the front page of the website. I almost had to write a script that would sentence case everything on publish because she would POST ALL OF HER NEWS IN ALL CAPS, just like all of her emails to me. I got such migraines from her…

I find it amusing that Mr. Vance abuses capitalization (as if we can’t hear him through the computer) in much the same way.

There was another client who took my beautiful complete site and handed it off to their admin who was interested in learning HTML. Good lord. This is why I should have taken screenshots of my projects on hand-off for my resume, because I can’t link to any of this shit anymore.

27. OldScout - May 28, 2009

Since I’m a COBOL kinda guy & only get involved with Data management … What’s a “Geo cities”? I thought a Geo City was a Chevrolet. Now you are calling it some kind of internet display that’s incompetent.

28. poloisanidiot - May 28, 2009

smart people do not communicate just as good as we stupid people do.

29. Sm177y - May 28, 2009

From what you have stated, it sounds to me that 2 changed everything that you did…. layout, and text. It sounds to me like 2 just needed to change some of the text, not the layout.
That leaves me to two conclusions:
a. 2 IS a complete idiot, and cannot determine where text and layouts differ


b. Your code sucks so badly that nobody can tell where shit begins or ends.

Now it was Wally’s project to begin with, and now your taking in a shitload m,ore credit than you may deserve by your ** statement: “Yes, I know, I was the one who built it ”
This kinda leads me to believe the latter of the two conclusions mentioned beforehand.

Quit your bitchin’

30. StarCraft 2 News - May 28, 2009

That Guy, this post echoes just about everyones thought when someone else tampers with his/her work at the last second.

Good luck with it, and really excellent post btw.

31. Dennis - May 28, 2009


With ya here. I’ve dealt with that before. Unfortunately, someone will still ask, “where were you on this project?”

For those who say he’s an ass, imagine someone taking something you handcrafted and butchering it. It seems as though he’s not alone in his opinion and, given what he said, I think he sounds legit. If it was such an emergency, she should have buzzed him on his cell to explain the situation.

Sorry man, hope it turns out better.

32. Keri - May 28, 2009

probably was crap anyhow.

33. Kristopher Sarratt - May 28, 2009

Wow…what’s worse is setting up an awesome website that is so awesome (took me 2 full months to make) and then turning it over to the client and they hire a kid out of highschool to run and maintain it to save some money. Then the kid goes in and totally destroys it. Ugh, now I have to take it off my portfolio…such a shame.

34. thelayout - May 28, 2009

That Guy, repeat after me: Pearls before swine, pearls before swine, pearls before swine. That always makes me feel better. Good luck!

35. Expatopicks - May 29, 2009

Hi, this is one nice article. Most of us face similar situations in life.
Keep delving into such events and happeneings.

36. Expatopicks - May 29, 2009

Hi, this is one nice article. Most of us face similar situations in life.
Keep delving into such events and happenings.

37. sto67 - May 29, 2009

Wow, I face those situations a lot at work as well. Once when I went on holiday for 2 weeks I came back to find my desk literally buried in 2 weeks worth of work! My temporary replacement did nothing and when I came back he was long gone. I was fuming because there was nothing I could do besides suck it up!

38. cantueso - May 29, 2009

How strange or funny or awful. I can’t believe anyone would attack you for this post. Are they envious? But of what?

As a translator I used to work in a large pharma company. Unlike you, I got completely used to working for the paper basket. It was not that there were too many corrections, but that routinely everything had to be translated, even when nobody was going to read or need it.

There was a long corridor with offices left and right. In most of these offices there was a physician dreaming or reading or both. I think that in the offices of the very large companies very few people really matter.

39. Passionista - May 29, 2009

I swear sometimes adults act worse than children! I’m sorry you have to deal with someone so inconsiderate of your work.

40. TheManInTheYellowHat - May 29, 2009

I could not work in such an environment. Unbelievable. I’d take my name off it too.

41. mkraut - May 29, 2009

See, it’s translation, some people, confuse, “hey could you polish this a little?” with.. “Hey take my project and fuck it all side ways and backwards”, its worse than fucking it ‘up’.
Meeting Vortex:, good ideas go in to it, confusion and anger come out, it’s not you, it’s them. Buddy

42. sinairesse - May 29, 2009

hahaaaaaaaaaaa. funny

43. Harleigh Kyson Jr. - May 29, 2009

That’s the way things go when you work for an organization where there are too many untalented cooks and the broth gets easily spoiled. It is especially a pain in the ass when you are an eagle and the people you work with are turkeys.

The only thing you can do is put forth your best efforts to satisfy yourself and if the final result turns into shit, go into the code and take your name off of the project.

Are you stuck working at this place because they pay you very well while they treat you like shit? Or because you are frightened it may be hard to find another job because of the recession? If you aren’t, then the only thing you can do is to try to get a job among people you respect.

In the meantime, if the turkeys keep fucking up your work, just take your name off the projects.

Don’t forget: A camel, a hippo, or a rhino is a horse that was made by a committee chaired by 2.

Harleigh Kyson Jr.

44. Whiney Designer Chic - May 29, 2009

I am pretty sure that is article is about my boss…lol. Ok, we would need to change a few things in the story…only the names…lol!!! We have a great designer and the owner’s uneducated and non-talented wife destroys all his work. I told him to get a set of nuts and tell her to pee off. : )

45. Vicky - May 29, 2009

I do take issue with the notion that a “marketing mindset” is one that is attracted to the shiny, rather than to the effective. I think that this mindset is more common among graphic designers than marketers. And it is more common among the do-it-yourselfers than marketers and graphic designers added together.

I tell my students (and clients) that having a knife in hand doesn’t make you a surgeon. Upgrading to a scalpel doesn’t make you a surgeon either. If you need surgery, hire a surgeon.

46. Top Posts « WordPress.com - May 29, 2009

[…] turning right into wrong, one project at a time kay, I have to step out of the “That Guy” persona here for a moment and vent about The Two-Year-Old, who […] […]

47. Cy Quick - May 30, 2009

Please excuse my butting in. The work you do is far beyond my abilities. But I would have assumed that you would back-up your cumulative product, at the end of each session, to disc, and put it in your pocket.

I am a 68-year-old non-geek and amateur blogger. I hate to be told that I can do more things using a new operating system, or blog theme, when it has taken me long, hair-tearing hours to learn what I already manage. I want only to write my banal and trite pontifications, and email words (not pictures) to my friends and family.

Your analysis and articulation of the difference between your approach and that of 2, echoes what I struggle to say about the entire hi-tech world of today, including ads in all media, programme trailers on TV, street furniture, mall layout, and what my feeble mind has to cope with as I try to use my personal computer and cell phone amidst the confusing noise of unwanted options.

I have always fallen back on subjective terms such as ‘arty-tarty’, but your descriptions paint the dreadful picture precisely, if I understand what you are saying.

…flashing cyan Comic Sans text on a burgundy background, passages of text she thought were important highlighted and in bold…

…marketing mentality, which isn’t the best thing to have in a content production role; that is, if it’s not big, shiny, and flashing, and above the fold, it doesn’t exist…

…take apart someone else’s vision with inexpert tools and slam it back together, then put a coat of paint on it and hope to dazzle the client with bullshit…

This attitude is what I encounter every day in the street, on the TV, and on my laptop screen.

I think it is the core of the thinking that it is involved in take-overs, asset-stripping, and financial services crime.

Given my generation, and my UK context, I relate all this to the death of grammar schools, where kids of high-IQ, a treasure of the nation, could flourish. Comprehensive schools mixing all IQs, and many new red-brick low-challenge universities were opened.

There is also the issue of high-brow/low-brow. 2 clearly desires her day to be spent to the accompanment of beat music, with minimal intellectual challenge. She caters for people like her.

Your company needs to recognise this and set up two steams, one for clients who want the pop product to suit teens and twenties in a leisure context, and the other for clients whose business involves serious work.

48. courtneyjohn11 - May 30, 2009

Top notch site! Great post.

49. feedback: the creativity killer « corporatespeak - June 25, 2009

[…] printed in the Utne Reader, but I'm not sure.I took a lot of flack last month for a post about a manager turning one of my projects into crap. I freely admit that I got too attached to that project, and that management’s prerogative […]

50. feedback: the creativity killer « corporatespeak - June 25, 2009

[…] printed in the Utne Reader, but I'm not sure.I took a lot of flack last month for a post about a manager turning one of my projects into crap. I freely admit that I got too attached to that project, and that management’s prerogative […]

51. Kop - January 4, 2010

Wow. That hurts. I got one word for you, man: backups. Keep a backup of your own work at home in case this happens. (Then again, I don’t work in the industry, so I don’t know if you’d even be allowed to fix what 2 did.)

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