Bring Me a RockI finally had enough – I fired a client. After spending months carefully identifying requirements, presenting concepts, getting agreements on draft designs, and countless hours coding and editing content, I present the initial draft website to the organization’s board of directors only to be told by one director, “I never wanted to change the website!” Others were incensed that I expected them to actually provide content for the website – I was somehow supposed to create content from what they knew in their heads without their involvement.

Of the 11 people around that table there was only one person who had ever managed a website before – he liked the design and features. But the other directors thought that my concerns with security were needless and I was just being too careful. Never mind that I gave just the first and last name and email address of one member to my business partner and gave her 30 minutes to see what she could find – she came up with 10 pages of information detailing the complete details of their family, sons’ girlfriends, details of their home security system, wife’s wedding dress, buying and selling history – in short, enough information to be able to answer most security questions that commerce sites use – and it was all legally obtained from public sources.

None of it was a concern to them. OK, find someone else to do your website.

It’s not just a case of pique – there’s liability when you create something and someone later gets hurt because of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bridge that collapses or a website that reveals personal information – just ask Target, ViTech, the federal government or any of the other organizations that have had their websites hacked. How much risk are you willing to take on someone’s behalf?

It’s a case of people not wanting to be bothered with all those complicated passwords and procedures – “Why do you have to make it so hard?”

True story – I used software that automatically generates strong passwords for users when they request their password be reset. So I reset one user’s password and emailed him the password with the suggestion that he cut and paste the new password into the login form. The next day he confronted me with a sheet of paper with the password written on it that he shoved in my face and demanded, “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TYPE THIS IN?” I reminded him that he could have just copied and pasted the password in – and all I got was a “How do you do that?”

It reminds me of a quote I heard many years ago – and I don’t know who said it:

“If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think they’ll hate you.”

In this case, it would be “if you make people really learn something new, they’ll hate you!” Which is somewhat humorous because the organization is an educational organization for a rather technical field with lots of opportunities to learn new techniques and equipment.

Change is hard – and I know that, which is why I provided videos that showed how to do every procedure that a user might want to do. Then people complained that they had to watch the videos!

So why did I fire the client? There’s always a cost-benefit analysis that everyone does when they are involved in any organization. I had some really crappy assignments and situations I dealt with in the Navy and afterwards working on federal contracts. But I stuck with the job because the mission gave purpose to the work that overrode the situation. But most situations are not going to materially affect the security of the United States or prevent someone’s death or injury. So you have to ask yourself is the cost to you worth the reward you’re going to get. And by reward I’m not referring to how much you’re being paid – the client I fired was a pro bono job.

I fired the client because I would have to surrender my dignity and integrity if I continued. If the client wanted to put their members at risk – that’s a legitimate choice. But I have the choice if I’m going to support that decision or not. If I’m not, then the only honorable thing to do is to say NO.

I’ve see too many people that chose to accept the answer which wasn’t what they felt was right for a host of reasons – and the regret in their lives affected them mentally, morally and even in terms of their health. I won’t.

Another aspect is – are you willing to work in an environment where your work is not respected? I don’t mind being questioned – it allows me to double check my reasoning and perhaps find a better way. But when your work is challenged by someone who doesn’t have the knowledge of how things work and wants changes that can’t be implemented without creating more problems – that’s when you need to say STOP! When I was supporting the Air Force Acquisition Office I heard a new term – Bring me a rock! As in, bring me a rock. NO, that’s not the rock I want. Bring me a rock. NO, that’s not the rock I want. Bring me a rock….

You become frustrated and defensive when you shouldn’t.

But when you stop, it feels so good.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.