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I really like my job, but there’s one aspect that’s starting to getting me worked up. I’m the UI guy at work. I didn’t start that way, though. I moved into the position because I’ve grown tired of super heavy technical work (the honeymoon is over), and I’m moving myself to tasks that I enjoy more as well as find engaging while learning to improve myself. If I wasn’t doing this at work, I’d still be reading up and learning about it anyway.
The problem is that no one really sees me that way (or the key people have yet to fully acknowledge it), and I keep hearing about how the guys before me, who still work for the company, should have a look at what I’ve designed and critique it. No, even worse, design a piece within what’s already been started, without any knowledge of what’s been done, why it’s been done, where it’s all going, or what the application as a whole really does even from a business perspective (let alone a design perspective). AND! they aren’t actual designers on top of it.
This is definitely an angst post that’s built up a little over time. I still need to work on how others perceive me, and I have to change how that is from how it was. Never an easy task, but in the meantime, I get the group think problem.
The art critique is rarely an event that’s enjoyed by those being critiqued, especially in college sessions where the art professor doesn’t go easy on freshmen. However, at work, it becomes the group think that we all know and hate. Committees that turn out crap.
The meetings my company have are generally above average. We make good progress, and solve problems that take more than one person’s limited base of knowledge. On average, we’re not performing group think, and we do a good job at this outside of design. Design, however, never really had a champion. Someone to lead the way. I’ve finally picked up the reins, and I’m not about to let group think ruin the small progress I’m making at turning our decade old, flagship application, into a modern, slick-yet-comfortable tool.
Design is one of those areas you just can’t have a teams of people contributing. You have to have an executioner, a king, a monarch who calls the shots. You still have to remain open to ideas, and accept the critique for what it’s worth. I find more often, when dealing with non-designers, you really have to work at digging deeper to understand the underlying problem they’re incorrectly trying to solve through design terms.
People want to speak your language, and because art and design are so accessible to all, everyone thinks they’ve got a clue. But they don’t. They don’t know how to convey meaning through contrast and texture, typography and spacing. I certainly don’t think I’m perfect, but I’ve set a path, and I’m not about to let others change that path.
So, I’ll endure the near useless “design critique.” I know it will be useless, but the boss will still think the others A) have any time to actually do work on this product, and B) have any clue what they’re doing. They won’t speak up about what I’ve done with anything of value because they lack both basic design knowledge, specific business knowledge, and they lack the time to process anything from an outside point of view to say anything of meaning.
Yes, they know how to write HTML and CSS, and not enough of Java to be a real coder, but that doesn’t make a designer. So, I’ll cut the heads of any ideas that aren’t appropriate, and define myself in the new role I’m playing. They don’t realize they’re invading my territory, so I’ll be nice, but as time passes, I can’t let their group think hold me back from taking part in the art critique that should really happen. Since this is currently in house dev work (clients on the horizon the in next few months), my coworkers are my clients, so I must treat them similarly. But, as I don’t let clients bowl me over, I can’t give coworkers the easy out for being familiar to me. They’ll be happier in the end that I didn’t sacrifice the application for ideas they half thought through and half considered a valid idea.
I’m already convinced that index funds are the best choice for a person’s core investments, but the studies into index fund performance versus actively managed funds keeps coming out, and the news is always getting worse for the active funds. Here’s a couple highlighting the sad state of the “expertly” actively managed funds, those investments driven by the profit motive of beating the market – a game full of fools.
“The year 1998 was certainly the one in which active managers had plenty of opportunity to add value, either by moving to cash or by choosing winners…Let’s look at the facts. The 164 actively managed emerging market funds tracked by Morningstar fell 26.9% in 1998, far more than the 18.2% loss by the Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund…an underperformance of nine percent, not including the further expenses of taxes on fund distributions.”
No major winners in either pack with both options losing big, but you have to assume you’ll lose at some point when dealing with the stock market. That’s why the real winners have long-term outlooks in terms of years not months, weeks, or day, buy and hold – forever if possible, as Warren Buffet says. It’s just as important that you limit your losses when times are bad as it is bringing in the profit when the times are good. The lower your volatility, the better your results.
“Through examination of current and survivor-bias-minimized fund data, as well as other academic studies on this issue, we find that index management outperformed active management in most asset classes.
Surprisingly, index management outperformed active management in the Small-Cap Value and Small-Cap Growth asset classes—precisely the asset classes where one would expect active management to outperform.”
Index funds aren’t perfect, but they’re undoubtedly a better investment than active funds. Index funds help simplify the equation while providing on average better overall returns and lower overall losses without the guess work of picking this year’s winning active fund over this year’s vast selection of actively managed losers.
I’ll end this post with the words from a wise man, John Bogle’s speech given at the Risk Management Association:
“Think about it. When investors—individual and institutional alike—engage in far more trading— inevitably with one another—than is necessary for market efficiency and ample liquidity, they become, collectively, their own worst enemies. While the owners of business enjoy the dividend yields and earnings growth that our capitalistic system creates, those who play in the financial markets capture those investment gains only after the costs of financial intermediation are deducted. Thus, while investing in American business is a winner’s game, beating the stock market—for all of us as a group—is a zero-sum game before those costs are deducted. After intermediation costs are deducted, beating the market becomes, by definition, a loser’s game.“ (page 11, Black Monday and Black Swans [pdf]) I recommend reading the whole thing, great speech.
Haven’t written anything in a little while. Had family visiting, so I’ve been preoccupied. Good times, I love my family, and look forward to seeing them again.