For Breezier Binary, Hire a Hipster
In writing this, I’m making an assumption. I’m assuming you’ve felt your brains slosh around like a Shake Weight while sitting across from The Developers, struggling to comprehend exactly how they’re going to turn that million-dollar campaign concept into a coder's paradise. They’re walking you though some cross-platform Ruby on Rails fantasy; you’re picturing a Dorothy look-alike blowing lines as she treks across Oz; things are mostly lost in translation but c’est la vie. That’s the internet for ya.
If that assumption is a fair one, I’ll also assume you’ve experienced the frustration of trying to dig out of a development situation gone south. The deadlines missed; the bugs unsquashed; the communication barriers that actually got in the way of something turning out the way you promised a client it would. The nasty frustration of not knowing if you asked for something impossible, or were delivered something half-baked.
This lack of common tongue doesn’t just lead to verbal black holes, it’s also a common culprit behind bad executions of good digital concepts. The first time I experienced this, I was working with two contracted developers that quite smugly reveled in the binary secrets guarding their lifestyle from my deadlines. The navigation was clunky. The type hung in unbalanced text boxes ripped out of some beta version of Myspace. And PS: “we generally work between 11pm and 4am.” I wanted to fucking kill them. And I wanted to kill myself for not having the basic coding knowledge it would take to fairly call bullshit.
That, mind you, was before marketing campaigns could just as easily stretch into the mobile web as the traditional one, and right around the same time when the social web was still narrowing clients’ eyebrows (in the what is this crap kind of way). And while building truly awesome technology required just as much expertise back then, you could argue that it didn’t require such diverse expertise. Today, we’re not only required to speak the language of web developers, we need to communicate with mobile developers, HTML5 developers, Ruby developers, the geeks in the CGI department – the list goes on. Yep, we’re living in a dork’s oyster, and when it’s your responsibility to manage the execution of projects that rely on developers’ skill sets, speaking their language(s) is about 80% of the job, with another 20% going to knowing how to hire the right crew in the first place.
But I think the job’s about to get easier, and here’s why: Those ponytailed, Warcraft-loving, communication-challenged developers are starting to fade out, and they’re being replaced by a new breed. These newbies keep fairly normal working hours and are even more obsessive about the quality of their work. A handful of them are even graphic designers and coders, and really good at both. Most pleasantly, they speak English – very well.
This transition doesn’t just mean that translating concepts into code is going to get easier for Advertising people, but also that the very line between geeks and everyday humans is getting blurry. Sounds promising, yeah? But here’s the tradeoff: This shiny league of nerd nouveau – they’re hipsters, goddammit.
The reason for this shift is obvious enough: most grownups are intimidated by the internet; hipsters think they invented it (alternate answer: I hear geek badges are suddenly helping dudes get laid). But before you lose your lunch, let’s cover the perks of this trade-off with some disgustingly swooping generalizations:
• Unlike yesterday’s developers – who often have lush histories with a handful of outdated coding languages – Hipsters are hyper-sensitive to “emerging shit.” Thanks to this snootery, your website will never be built on a rusty coding language that no other developer will want to touch.
• Hipsters are more likely to bring some design sensibility to the table, which can translate into a better user interface and experience for your client’s customers.
• Hipsters are automatically qualified to give you legit feedback on applications involving social or mobile functionalities, because inside of each of them is a Social Media Expert (PS: Don’t use that term around them, they’ll walk out).
• Not being of the underworld, they are accustomed to real-life situations like deadlines, punctuality and daytime meetings over Skype.
• Formerly, Developers were difficult to find, typically requiring heavy Google-ing, a flashlight and some Cheetos. Hipsters, on the other hand, can be found in most coffee shops and are multiplying like rabbits.
In other words, this transition marks the beginning of a very good thing. So when you tell one of these next-gen developers what language your client’s website is built on – only to watch their eyeballs roll behind a pair of eyeglass frames they probably found in a dumpster (Drupal, really?) – hang in there. A little condescension beats a lack of communication any day, at least in the ad world.