On a warm August evening I found myself in the company of Dan Cederholm and Luke Dorny. We were a small group split off from a larger crowd that had just finished dinning together. After the meal most of us walked across the street to an An Event Apart after-party. It was late and most of the casual and curious were long gone leaving a few persons of name recognition and a small group of people who just wanted another minute of their time. Even nerds have their fans and followers.
Such a person walked up to Dan, introduced himself and began a conversation with a question. Pretty standard conference party chit chat soon turned into hard core questions pertaining to development, validation, and strict adherence to both. Given the company I was in I figured these topics were standard faire—though trying to discuss such matters at 10PM in a art gallery turned into quasi-cool flat party doesn’t provide a best setting. Still, Dan, being the very decent citizen he is, kept his focus on the visitor and did his best to engage him in a manner befit his reputation for being a really nice guy.
Hard of hearing in a crowded place I’m not sure exactly what was said but the guy became irate and his discourse took a harsh tone. The conversation turned into accusations. Apparently this person was upset that Mr. Bulletproof did not take strict adherence to web standards as seriously as he should. And (pardon me if I don’t have this exactly word-for-word) that considering his position and influence he was preaching the gospel too askew for the greater good of the world.
It was at this point that Dorny put his drink down, stealthily slipped in-between the two and masterfully inserted himself as the primary target. A minute later Dan quietly backed away from the trio, looking like he had just been through a minor traffic accident. It wasn’t long after that Luke and his new friend were onto another topic less stressful and animated (knowing Dorny that means they were talking about beer, 1960’s European Poster design, Volkswagens, or all three).
There are a few lessons to be learned from this observed encounter.
A “perfectionist” and a “purist” are not the same person. The perfectionist seeks to do everything to the best of their ability against standards that are often set higher than average. The purist, on the other hand, seeks to adhere to some set of rules that are written for conditions in a world wherein Tom Cruise is taller and a lot less creepy, and every morning the box of Trix is full and fresh without all those lame crumb particles at the bottom of the box.
In the time that I have known him Dan is a perfectionist. This is partially why he has attained his rank and stature within our community (it also helps that he’s a fantastic designer, author, and presenter). More importantly, this attribute is why clients pay him money to create work for them. They know that while he will earnestly try to craft things using methods that are pure and as by-the-book as possible, he won’t seek a strict path that will end up causing delays or over run a project budget.
Clients, supervisors, vice presidents, and so forth—they don’t want the purist. Purists freak them out. While they might make for interesting subjects on the Discovery Channel, purists aren’t the best fit in the business world. Purity costs money and dedication to a path that often leads to even more unwanted or unnecessary expenditures.
Duct Tape is a business tool. It’s not one that anyone wants to use but it’s there for when perfection has run it’s course and it’s time to move on to other pursuits. Purity has no duct tape—only devotion.
Lastly, when you want to talk to someone who you admire for one reason or another it’s probably best not to verbally attack them for problems that aren’t their fault. If you want to be religious go to church.