December 10, 2003

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain

My youngest son was home sick from school, so along with getting Jello and chicken noodle soup, I went to Blockbuster and rented him some movies to help take his mind off it. We were watching the "special features" portion of the "Cats & Dogs" DVD, including a couple of specials on how they integrated the live animal shots with Henson puppets and some computer graphics (CG) special effects to make the movie.

While I found the craftsmanship of the animal trainers, puppeteers, and the CG teams to be quite fascinating, part of me always regrets watching these "making of..." specials. Why? For the simple reason that they take some of the magic out of the experience. During the movie, we're catapulted into another world, where amazing things happen and we don't really care how they did it as long as it looks real, cool, funny, or whatever. Then I watch "the making of..." and it's a little like showing me, without a doubt, that Santa Claus isn't real, but an incredibly cool CG effect. Bummer.

And then it hit me. When working with legal professionals and technological solutions, I'm often asked to "make it work" for them. Naturally this often results in some behind-the-scenes setup for them, as well as some personal training so they learn how to do certain tasks. It's gratifying to see their "aha" moment, when the light bulb turns on and I see that twinkle in their eyes that tells me they got it.

However, I'm also reminded of the times where I or someone else was explaining a more technical aspect of a program, and unfortunately saw their eyes glaze over. Probably, they didn't want to know quite that much about it, or perhaps it exceeded their personal jargon threshold for the day, and/or they didn't want to waste time hearing about details.

But now I wonder if just some small part of it was because it took some of the magic or coolness out of it for them. After all, part of working with and enjoying technology is the magic when something just works incredibly well, particularly on the first try. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to be a bit more "Oz-like" once in a while. If nothing else, it should be a lot more fun.

Topic(s):   Other Musings
Posted by Jeff Beard