Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I'm getting a bit overwhelmed at work lately. Stacked crises, paired with important yet seemingly unassailable issues, tripled with constant minor emergencies have conspired to practically ensure that responsibilities flow in faster than I can knock them back.

Here's a snapshot of what a typical day has looked like for me lately. I come to work thinking that I'm finally going to get that scholarship form redone, or that online catalog started, or that Pirate Science scene programmed, or that CMS built. But there's just a quick thing that needs to get done. Months ago, we built a conference web site, and because we can't accept credit cards yet, we had to outsource the registration form to another university, and that registration has to go live ASAP. But before we can let the registration form go live, we have to get the session descriptions from the program committee and put them up on the site we're building, so that they can be linked to off of the registration form. Because, you know, that would make the form too long.

But the sessions are not in a usable format for import into a database ("I've got it in a Word file..."), so I have to massage the data by hand to import it so I can write some quick PHP code to display it. I get that done, but oh did we mention that the sessions are still being tweaked? So I'll have to scrap the current data and re-massage it again later.

Then we're supposed to give feedback on the form, so we look at the actual registration form that was built. When printed, it's nine pages long, filled with literally hundreds of redundant fields you have to fill out. Many of the controls are inscrutable - some are literally unlabeled. But they think it's awesome because "it's all on one page."

Worse, the registration form was supposed to also communicate the schedule, but it really doesn't because it's just looks like an Excel spreadsheet of session names and times. It begins to dawn on us that we have to put up a session schedule, too, marked up in a way that lets people understand which sessions are opposite which events, admin meetings, and workshops, so that when they go to actually register, they can make sense out of this awful sisyphean form.

So we design a page layout that will communicate the complicated session schedule. But the schedule isn't firmed up yet, either, so we'll have to redo pieces of that, too.

And how to respond to the request for feedback? I have to decide whether to tell them that nine (printed) pages of dense form filling is just too much - which would probably just piss people off and end up with me building the registration form - or to just let it go and have the whole thing reflect poorly on us. Some choice.

Oh, and because they don't want to count the first-day workshops, tours, administrative meetings, and receptions as a conference day, we have to change the logo graphic. Meanwhile, three new responsibilities have come in via email which I've only been able to fire off "yeah, yeah, I'll get to it when I can" responses to. Then I look up and it's five o'clock two days later, sixteen hours of my professional life gone, and that much closer to all the other deadlines that loom like the Eye of Sauron on the horizon. Gah.

I'd say I need a vacation, but I'd just come back with even more pressing deadlines...

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