It’s Not My Job

It’s Always Your Job

One of the coolest eras of my life was when I worked for the Boy Scouts.  I took 6-8 weeks every summer and lived out of a tent in the middle of nowhere.  No electricity.  No Internet.  No cell phones.  No television.

It was heavenly.

Working for the Scouts also taught me some great work ethics.  The first rule has defined my attitude towards work ever since:

Work until you think you can’t.  Then keep working until someone tells you to stop.

Having that voice in my head helps me work all night to close out client projects, fight to finish difficult – sometimes messy – cleanup jobs, and run long distances despite being tired.  It’s a rare sentiment among many people in my age group, and rarer still among those in my industry.

The second rule we learned was that everything is your job.  At camp, we used outhouses.  They’d frequently run out of supplies or get … um … messy and a Scout or Scouter would come and ask for help from the staff.  The one thing you were never to say is “it’s not my job.”

Everyone, from the trainees to the area directors to the business manager to the camp cook was expected to immediately stop whatever they were doing and help whenever a Scout asked a question.  If you were on your way to take a break, you’d detour to stock the TP or hose out a mess.  It didn’t matter who you were, what your jot title was, or how much you were paid.  It was never not your job.

As a result, we built an incredibly coherent unit.  I’m still close friends with many of the staff, and we’ll be trekking back up to camp in two weeks to labor away in the mud and rain (that’s what we do for fun, after all).  We haven’t worked together as a camp staff in over 6 years, but there’s still a deep meaning to what it means to be a “Cooper Staffer.”

Every organization has a brand, and it is the responsibility of each and every person in that company to live up to the brand.  The intern should be encouraged to learn the jobs of the people above him.  The CEO should be willing to offer her time to customer support when call loads are high.  Every member of the brand has a hand in shaping it – no matter what their job title might be.

WPMU.org … A Great Bad Example

Yesterday, I was alerted to a blog post on WPMU.org about plugin localization.  I don’t normally read that site, but figured it was worth a look based on who’d sent out the link via Twitter.  Frankly, I wasn’t happy.

Read the post for yourself and draw your own opinions.  When I read it, though, I was overwhelmed by the seemingly negative tone in the article.  It starts off by alleging certain kinds of developers are “dicks” because of the way they code.  It defines their work as “not well done, and also evil.”  Then it goes on to accuse these same developers of being “narrow-minded.”

In the author’s defense, he does finally offer a message of support by offering to coordinate efforts to fix the problem at hand – a lack of localization/internationalization in plugins.  But still, when the hand extended as an offer of support is the same hand that bitch-slapped me 3 paragraphs earlier … I’m not too eager to grab it.

It all eventually boils down to a difference in opinion.  He feels one way, I feel another.  But I still pushed back.

Rather than call people out and insult them, I think he should have written an explanation of the right way to do things.  Encourage excellence and offer support to those who don’t understand it.  His response:

@ tutorials isn't my thing on the site, but I do think they should run one, would be a nice follow-up.

First of all, WPMU.org is a site all about tutorials.  Their about page even claims:

WPMU.org is the number one source on the web for WordPress news, tips, plugins, and theme reviews.

On the one hand, you have an organization trying to build a brand around expertise, knowledge, education, and resourcefulness.  On the other hand, you have a member of that same organization building resentment  and frustration while simultaneously insulting and alienating the very audience to whom the organization is trying to appeal.

From a branding perspective, this makes less than zero sense.  From a business perspective, it paints a toxic portrait of how the company communicates its brand internally and, as a direct consequence, to would-be customers.

Should the author of the original article – or even another member of the team – elect to write a tutorial and try to re-build some good will here, I’ll happily reconsider.  Until then, I’ll keep a wary eye on a haphazardly inconsistent brand.


  1. That’s sad. This would have been a really good place to give people links to information on how to localize/internationalize their themes/plugins. I’m developing a theme that would definitely benefit, but that article didn’t help me take action. So… it was kind of a waste of time to read. Well, except that I learned an important lesson for future bloggage: Don’t chastise others without offering an actionable solution yourself.

    • Eric says:

      I took it a bit personally because none of my public plugins are properly internationalized. Not because I don’t want to, but because they were all written in direct response to specific requests and I didn’t have the time to work through it when I first wrote them. It would be easy to go back and add it … but again it’s a question of time.

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