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Friday, March 30


March 30, 2007 — 5:10 pm
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It doth suck and, verily, doth it blow


Today’s the day I had to show my current multimedia dingus to the client. It’s basically a little interactive thing that asks a question, stores the answer, shows a video, and gives some feedback, times ten. Easy, right?

Then the artistic genius building the kiosk decided he wants it to run vertically. Like, portrait. Computers do not do this, says I. Well — says he — I’ve never done it before, either, but I think you build it sideways and we’ll physically rotate the monitor. Oh, and no touchscreen — we’re tucking the computer out of sight and giving you three hardwired buttons. Three whole buttons. This’ll be packed with interactive functionality.

Um. Monitor #2 will rotate (I have three monitors — worship me), but you can’t design rotated. Up/down arrows become side-to-side arrows, the mouse is all over the joint. I can rotate the monitor to run the application, but I have to design it sideways and crane. Fabulous.

I had to bribe the video guys to use their +3 Video Editing mojo to rotate all my .avi files for me. My primitive video stuff doesn’t have a “make it sideways” spell. I’ve been excreting building supplies over this for a week.

So today I pitch it to the client — no, the client, the client’s boss, and the client’s boss’ boss. The latter is a woman whose name strikes fear in the hearts of cubiclemonkeys everywhere. Say it aloud and hear the gentle pitter-pat of ass-cheeks clenching. She isn’t a cruel woman. She’s that potent combination of stupid and powerful. This is cubiclemonkey kryptonite.

They gather in my office. I rotate the monitor for them, and in so doing somehow hit a button that kills the signal. It goes black. I have a feeling now is a really bad time to figure out what all those little buttons at the bottom of the monitor do. Time rubberbands while I punch buttons and sweat, though it might’ve been kinder if I hadn’t gotten it working eventually.

I love working for a research and engineering company. I love learning about geeky, science-ish things. But there’s no getting around it: engineers hate subtlety. I designed an interface of duotoned photographs: all muted blue and dusty red. Earthy variations on our corporate colors, with a nice, bangy video window in front.

“My eye goes right to the video window in the middle”
“Excellent! That’s just what I intended.”
“But I can’t really see the photos in the background that well.”
“Excellent! That’s just what I intended.”
“Change it!”

They discuss among themselves what color goes best with red and blue. Something nice and bright. Orange? Yellow? And then one of them leans forward says, “you know those web sites where there’s text and it’s on this sort of lozenge thing and it’s tumbling over and over — can we have one of those animations?” Something inside of me rolled over, pulled the covers over its head and cried itself to sleep.

I had originally promised them a bunch of functionality, but I presumed I had a full keyboard to work with. Now I have three buttons: “yes” “no” and “reset.”

So they’re all like, “can we skip to specific scenarios?”
And I’m like, “no. I have three buttons, and they’re totally spoken for.”
“Can we have a demo mode?”
“No, I only have three buttons.”
“Can we have a help screen?”
“I have three buttons.”
“Can we have fast forward?”
“Yes, sure, if you can fast forward with your mind.”

Thank you, Ace, for planting that dangerously insubordinate snark in my brain.

It got back to me later that they were, on the whole, pleased. I mean, I’m going to have to rape and pillage my own design, but I’ve been professionally outraging my artistic sensibilities for decades. I’m getting good at it.

And, anyhow, it’s Friday. Like I give a rat’s ass about anything on Friday.

— 10:02 am
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