Mine is a dying art.

Over the last 8 or so years, blog scripts, site content management systems, site hosting, and desktop web publishing clients have grown so sophisticated that authoring and administering a personal site is trivial these days. If you can deal with Microsoft Office, you can do this.

Microsoft, spotting an area to dominate, has already made many significant strides in this direction. Many hosting services, often on some flavor of Unix, offer by default FrontPage extensions. Most of Office has ways to export data and content from Microsoft’s proprietary formats into slightly less proprietary XML and HTML.

Purists like me may sneer at the dreck Word generates and claims is HTML but it’s on dreck like this that a medium is democratized.

I just got a opportunity from a current customer of mine. He lead me to another fellow who described something that would be ideal for a blog tool. So I told him, the potential customer, that instead of paying me, he should look up TypePad hosting and the Ecto desktop blog client. Sigh. Mine is a dying art.

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5 Responses to Mine is a dying art.

  1. Bakafish says:

    If you treat your career as a static commodity you shouldn’t shed tears when it gets trampled by progress. Writing publishing systems was fun 8 years ago when I was doing it, but god help me if I was still doing that kind of thing now. There are two ways to live in the world of bit mastication, constant motion or pure artisan skill. When a robot takes your job stamping widgets, make the most outlandish hand carved widgets out of unobtainium and Buka-Buka wood, or learn how to fix the stupid robot.
    The second thing about business is that giving the customer good advice, even if it means losing the sale now, always pays you back later. I can’t tell you how many times I convinced my customers not to use my services when more cost-effective or convenient solutions where available resulted in better projects from them down the road.

  2. Toby says:

    “The second thing about business is that giving the customer good advice, even if it means losing the sale now, always pays you back later”:
    well this truism is not Always true– it really depends on whether you are likely to see more business from that customer- or indeed whether you like that customer.. the fact is that someone’s personality largely determines how often they get ripped off, overcharged etc…
    since you are in fact in business and someone came to you for your technical expertise, it is really up to you whether or not you want to give them do-it-yourself advice or charge them up the ass for something they could easily do– and the decision to do so should be decided by a calculation of how much you like the guy and whether you think honesty is going to repay you later– if you feel karmic about it, perhaps you should do all of your work pro-bono, but that rarely pays the rent. 🙂

  3. Pace Arko says:

    Actually I think I have to agree with Jason’s truism. Or maybe I should substitute one of my own:
    “Never underestimate people’s disinterest with infrastructure.”
    That very same guy, whom I gave all the advice to, came back to me and asked me to set his site up anyway. He just wants to get his site going. He doesn’t care about how much blog technology has advanced in the last 7 or so years.
    He’s like the guy who realizes that he could print up a bunch of brochures with Photoshop or Publisher or something but still pays some professionals (who will probably use the same tools.) to do it for him anyway.
    He says he’d like to take over the site administration himself at some point but he wants me to assemble and maintain it for him to start with.
    Ah me, professional at last.

  4. Bakafish says:

    I didn’t mean it as a truism as much as a business rule. Even taking a careful calculation and determining that there may be something to gain by exploiting a situation, it often leads to unforeseen downsides beyond the karmic dysentery. You are playing the odds that you can get away with it and in the long run it only takes one person’s overzealous thirst for revenge to wipe out any short term gains. It’s also a slippery slope to weasldom, and really has no place in real business, even though this kind of practice thrives on the edges of commerce. The whole “buyer beware” concept has become ingrained in our culture, but in many other parts of the world all you have is your honor, often guaranteed with various parts of your anatomy.
    My advice is, if you don’t like someone, don’t give them any special service, or don’t do business with them. If you screw them, they are yours, you’re tied to them, and you will live to regret it. If they are naive, they will most likely discover your deception, and in the mean time you have to work extra hard to keep them in the dark. I’m sure you can find some situation where it’s the perfect crime, but playing the angles is gambling and the house has the odds on their side, you might be lucky, but IMHO you are better off choosing not to play.

  5. Pace Arko says:

    Well I didn’t really intend this to become a discussion about business ethics as such but I guess that’s what it has become. Conversations, even slow ones posted on a site, are like that.
    Anyway, I generally agree with Jason. Giving technical advice away free is good business. It lets the potential customer judge how competent you are, reduces their confusion and ignorance and reassuring them on those points, give them a reason to come back to you and give you a contract.
    I only had one customer, in six years, invent excuses to withhold money from me. I voided my last invoice with them, telling they didn’t have to pay it and gave them references to another webmaster I know. Their site is still up but loads badly in Firefox and hasn’t really changed much in three years. Their loss.

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