OK, so I’m still reading the cluetrain manifesto… And in chapter 4 (“Markets are conversations”) they’re talking about how companies use TechnoLatin in their communication like their quote from a website who say “the company has focused on its ability to integrate advanced technologies that use innovative system architecture and software into high performance system solutions for PCs and workstations.”
So what exactly does that company do? Well, they “integrate advanced technologies”… ok, but what are these “technologies”? what makes them so “advanced”? how to you “integrate” them? what do you “integrate” them with? What do you mean by “innovative system architecture”? and “innovative software”? Um… I guess I don’t really know. Exactly!
How often do we as IT people do that to each other? How often do we do that in casual conversation to non-IT people? How often do we do that to clients?
I very rarely get to talk to an IT person who is passionate about the same technologies (programming languages, hardware, networks, applications, etc) as me, and who can communicate clearly without the haze of these TechnoLatin “buzz words”. So far the easiest people to talk to are those who have had some formal background where the naming of programming concepts (e.g. object oriented programming concepts like polymorphism, inheritance, interfaces, exceptions) are similar. Off hand, I can remember only one (non work related) conversation that was like this, and that was with a guy who’d gone on some Java courses… I can’t remember what we were talking about, but I do remember that we it had something to do with the practical application of some of the object oriented concepts. The “problem” was that there were other developers around without the same background who became involved in the conversation. Suddenly the flow was lost and what was clear communication before became murky.
So it happens when IT people talk to IT people… I fully understand that to explain the inner workings of some technical concepts would simply take too long to make communication effective. But we also need to “pitch” our vocabulary at the level of the other people in the conversation. I guess that’s where a “website” is wonderful, in that you can use the “technical terms” and put in links to more detailed descriptions.
But that’s often too much effort for a “non-technical” client. I recently needed to explain to a client why their domain was taking a while to be transferred from a web hosting provider to me. The problem was as follows:
- the original web hosting provider had registered the domain but not paid for it
- the registrar was not prepared to transfer it until it was paid for
- the client was getting e-mails from the registrar about the transfer requests and was starting to e-mail the registrar directly (not understanding any of the technical considerations, and getting very confused by the replies from the registrar)
The client wanted to know what the e-mails were about, why there would be a delay in the transfer, and generally everything that she’d not been told about owning a domain before. I think my e-mail response was pitched a bit too technically, because they kinda seemed to stop reading part way and lost interest in the details. I’m not too sure what they think of the events now. My e-mail was kinda long, but I did have a LOT to catch them up on (it seems that nobody had explained a thing to them about the fact that their site was even moving – a friend of theirs was managing it, but was not communicating to the web developer, the other web hosting provider, myself or the site owner)
Personally I’m happy to manage the entire process for a client (if that’s what they want), but I’m also happy for them to manage as much as they can handle. This client was not given the choice and ended up being forced into the middle of a technical problem (i.e. they were asked to vote on the domain transfer and didn’t know what the voting was about, or that their domain was to be transferred) So I don’t think it was a very happy situation, and I hope the client knows that its not how I would have liked things to happen.
Regarding the hosting, I’m going to try and improve the balancing act of technical involvement vs. ease of use in the future… but its going to be interesting. I’m kinda toying with the idea of building a “Domain owners handbook” and giving the client the option of using the handbook or having me deal with it entirely. (i.e. their e-mail address is not listed as any contact for the domain so that they never have to see the technical e-mails, but they also lose the power to keep me in check – so I could happily sell their domain to someone else and they’d not know anything about it until after it was done)
Regarding general communication – I’m not sure… I think I’ll figure that out as I go along – each conversation will need a different level. Some of them (like this blog) will probably be pitched to technically for some, and far too simply for others. I’m not trying to please anyone specifically, just trying to write out my thoughts. (If you have questions, feel free to contact me, or leave a comment.) In other “publicly visible” conversations I’ll try to give links to definitions of terms and to explanations… and I’m definately going to be around to answer people’s questions/comments/complaints… as long as we’re talking, I’m happy. 😀