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May 10, 2010

Software as Symphony

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I've always been taken by singers who have extraordinary vocal range. To span multiple octaves with grace, strength and apparent ease - that's always struck me as the price of entry in the world-class singing game.

And that's what struck me today, as I listened in on a daily project meeting (we call them "standups") with a team of our application developers, template designers, and project managers: the range they covered as they ticked off the issues involved in automating a multi-channel marketing program for the sales force of a global energy client.

In a 15-minute meeting, the conversation ranged from the security implications of using a core jquery component (a 2010 kinda issue), to the details of US postal regulations for mass mailings (dating, I'm sure to the mid-1960s) to the best version of Caslon to use for display-type applications (a passionate design debate since the 1890s, I'd bet).

Three centuries worth of issues, all packed into a 6x9 postcard layout and the application that automates its design. And yet here was this team (twenty and thirty somethings) digesting it all with enthusiasm.

And in a world of careening Camrys and crackpot Congressmen, that gave me hope.

Because at Pica9, we really do BUILD things. Solid things - systems that last. We have an application for one client with roots that are older than my fourth-grade son. And it runs, and runs well, for thousands of users to this day, and will for years to come.

And these design tools last for decades because the people who are building them have that range I was talking about. One foot in the world of software, one hand in the world of design, another foot stretching out to touch the world of social media, online video, and on, and on. An intellectual game of Twister, with brand managers, our clients, spinning the spinner to tell us where our free limb needs to go next.

So, the next time I hear at a cocktail party or a travel soccer game that we Americans don't build things anymore, I'll just remember that team of ours in the middle of their standup, and you know what I'll do?

I'll break into song.

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