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Objectivity and Commercialism

by talexb (Canon)
on Oct 05, 2002 at 15:13 UTC ( #203038=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

    In my humble opinion, you can't be objective if you sell your services. If someone calls you, then he trusts in you (for your past results or by chance). But you can't know everything and therefore your choices won't be objective.

I saw this post when I originally read the thread Loyalty, Personal gain or Professional Integrity and wasn't happy with it. I wanted to continue the discussion, but start a different thread. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, that this is a discussion on the merits of a position, and is not meant to offend fellow Monk valdez.

I disagree with the thesis that if you sell a service, you cannot be objective. While it is not possible to know everything, it is possible to know enough about a range of topics to be able to pick a suitable technology for a particular client.

Here's an example I came across recently: I was talking to a broker who was interested in setting up a hockey pool web site for some friends. He was familiar with MySQL and had access to a server but wasn't that much of a programmer. He described the site layout to me a little, and I concluded with "If I were doing it I'd use Perl, but it sounds like it is simple enough for you to use PHP".

He had heard of Perl and was scared. I explained in lofty tones :) that, yes, Perl could be a difficult language, but for this particular application PHP would be more suitable since the site design was fairly simple and that the application was web-based.

I could have sold him on the merits of Perl and urged him to try the language, but in this case, it just didn't make sense.

I think you have to be objective if you are going to sell your services -- if you always prescribe one solution, no matter what the problem, you're going to get a reputation for that. Not every problem is a nail.

--t. alex
but my friends call me T.

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Re: Objectivity and Commercialism
by BazB (Priest) on Oct 05, 2002 at 16:54 UTC

    I agree with talexb on this one.

    I'm not a contractor, and I've never had to hawk my services, however I'm of the opinion that as a contractor, being objective is a Good Thing®.

    Being able to select the best solution for the problem is something that a client will appreciate.
    Admittedly everyone's definition of "best" will vary, but I'll define it to mean a robust, maintainable and on time/budget product (which rarely happens, but hey, I can dream :-)

    If you're not in a position to select the right tool/language then you're likely to be hurting yourself and the client.

    Taking hakkr's comment:

    I am looking to learn a bit of Java...and have just recommended a project with the recommendation to use Java where Perl would have sufficed.
    If I was the client and ever got wind that my contractors were using my new system as a learning platform for another language, rather than attacking the problem with something that they were already familiar with, I'd get a little nervous...
    I know a few folk have done things like this in the past and got away with it, but it's not something I recommend.

    Learn new techniques on your own time unless there is a very good reason to it on the client's time, then when you've got a solid grounding, start recommending/using it.

    Picking the right solutions and delivering them successfully to clients might well secure more work when you need it most, get it wrong a few too many times and it might be time to find another profession :-)



      Alternatively, I have adjusted the time I bill when developing in a technology that is new to me. If you are at this many years you will, as I have, learn many new technologies. The most rigorous learning of a new skill is in the heat of actual application. Clock time has to be elastic while you learn; the client must always be treated fairly if you are to have staying power.
Re: Objectivity and Commercialism
by trs80 (Priest) on Oct 05, 2002 at 20:46 UTC
    I was in the same position recently and I suggested the client use PHP since they were more comfortable with it for whatever reason. It doesn't make sense recommending something that you will always have to convince them that it is the "right" thing for them to use. If you have to convince them its right the first thing that goes wrong will be the technologies fault and they won't get past it. At least that has been my experience.
Re: Objectivity and Commercialism
by valdez (Monsignor) on Oct 05, 2002 at 21:14 UTC

    Hi talexb,

    I never said that I will sell always Perl, I only said that we should offer the best of our knowledge, that can be partial. Even though, it is possible to be more objective if we are asked to suggest solutions and not implement them :)

    Ciao, Valerio

Re: Objectivity and Commercialism
by seeker (Curate) on Oct 06, 2002 at 13:23 UTC
    I have to agree here. If you are programming for money (either for a salry or by contract) you have an obligation to give your employeer the benefit of your skills, knowledge and experience. Anything less is not only unprofessional, it is also dishonest.

    There is still room for honest differences of opinion. But they ought to be honest differences of opinion, and not just personal biases.

    Having said that I am also reminded of the old adage. "If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail".


Re: Objectivity and Commercialism
by jordanh (Chaplain) on Oct 06, 2002 at 19:30 UTC
    I think that real objectivity is extraordinarily difficult to achieve. People often feel they are being objective when they are actually working with deep-seated biases.

    The only time that we even approach objectivity is in Scientific experiments where the results are duplicated by different groups. Then, we start to stray from objectivity when we interpret the consequences of what the experiment is telling us.

    Taking this into account, I have to disagree here. It's extremely difficult to be objective when we have a personal stake involved, such as a work situation.

    I do think that it is the responsibility of a professional to try and be objective in all situations involving work. The terms professional and professionalism are thrown around a lot without, to me, clear distinctions and definitions. However, if I were to define what professionalism is to me, it is exemplified by someone who exercises their judgement in the pursuit of their work with as much objectivity as they can possibly apply while still delivering value. You can't fret over objectivity to the point that you are paralyzed and can't deliver products and services. Short of that standard, a professional tries to be as objective as possible.

    Update 10/06/2002 19:27 UTC - Minor syntax editing, didn't change meaning.

Re: Objectivity and Commercialism
by Anonymous Monk on Oct 06, 2002 at 21:01 UTC
    The moral is that people act in accord with their perceived self-interest. You believe that being objective is the right approach. Enough people disagree that assuming objectivity from most people with a vested self-interest is stupid.

    Now who is right? Is it better to be objective? Or to take advantage when you can? The answer to that depends on whether you expect to have repeat business. An extreme example are people who provide wedding arrangements. They don't expect you to be a return customer, and so have every reason to take advantage of you in any way that they can...

      If that's what you took away from my node, that I did not explain myself .. or :) you are being thick.

      The moral of my node is "Do the right thing, even if it means you don't get the business". That's worth more to me than getting the business, using the wrong tool, then losing face when the next consultant looks at the mess I left behind and says, "Man, this is a Ball Big Ball of Mud, and why'd they do it that way?"

      My objective when working for a client is to give them the best job I can manage -- or, if I can't do a decent job for them (because it's outside my skill set), pass on the job. I have had an extremely lean year, partly because of that, but I feel content that I can defend my technology choices with my existing clients.

      --t. alex
      but my friends call me T.

      Update: Correct double word (Ball Ball).

        That is what I brought to the table, not what I took from it. I offer it to help you understand why others react as they do.

        That said, I empathize with your desire. I feel that way myself. But neither of us will change the world, and it is important to understand what the world is like.

        So I hope you take two lessons from this. The first is that there are good reasons why people will distrust your objectivity when you have a vested interest. The second is that you will be more competitive and happier in situations where you have long-lasting relationships with repeat business.

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