The myth of the perfect programmer (or marketer)

Cool looking actor #1: “It’s the pentagon. Do you think we can just walk right in and take whatever documents we want?”

Geeky looking actor #2: “Watch me turn this wrigley’s gum wrapper, a AAA battery and some titanium shavings from my laptop case into an instant bypass of this multi-million dollar security system”.

Don’t you love the movies? They rock. Some total stud and a complete geek get together and decide they’re going to save the world by breaking into the pentagon or CIA and getting access to top secret files. There’s actually a good reason these persona’s exist. It’s because you want them to exist.

It’s really a funny quirk about human nature that we tend to think that everyone else has a “secret” or “discovery” that we don’t. That’s why headlines like “1 Secret to a Flat Belly” pop up all over the place. It’s not because they really have a secret, other than do tons of exercise, stop eating like a garbage can and get plenty of sleep. It works because way too many people assume that the hot girl with the sexy abs is eating twinkies and sitting in front of the tube six hours a day, just like us.

Enough about twinkies. What has this got to do with internet marketing technology?

Programmers have to follow the rules

Many people really believe that somewhere in the world there’s an omniscient hacker who can break into computers at will and reads top secret files like I read my email. They really believe that if you know enough about technology then you can control any computer in a matter of minutes. Here’s a news flash for you. HE DOESN’T EXIST!

Yep. Sorry to burst your bubble. Even the guys that design the programming languages understand that there have to be rules. They define how things are ordered, loaded, protected and so on. You might even think about it like gravity. You can sometimes find ways around it (like an airplane), but as soon as the engines cut out you remember really fast that it’s there working like always.

Remember that programmer? Yeah, the one that you wanted to build your website for $300 and you’re always mad that he didn’t get it done just the way you dreamed about it and that it took more than two days time. He has to follow the rules too.

And if you want the guy that can actually perform “miracles”, keep in mind that he’s worth a lot more than $300. Yep, it’s true: you really do get what you pay for.

The “REAL” secret: Quality comes with time and iterations

Another thing that the movies have ruined is the reality of developing through iteration. Since they only have a two minute montage to show you how they break in to the Oval Office or the FBI mainframe before getting back to the story line, it’s easy to think that real programmers should be able to write a perfect program the first time.

That’s not actually true either. In reality, the best software is the result of iterations! Period! This isn’t just limited to programmers. Look at cars, buildings and architecture, plumbing and even your favorite pancake recipe. This applies equally to the creative design process and shopping at the grocery store. It’s a universal constant.

The bottom line is that if you want something to be top quality then you have to plan for iterations. The first revision product is going to be limited, clunky and might even work (with a little skill and luck). Give yourself and your programmer time and budget to get through a couple of iterations if top quality is your goal.

Did I mention the power iterations

Why are iterations on a project so important? For the same reason that a baby’s first step usually isn’t followed by an immediate second step. Even the unbelievable human nervous system requires many, many failures and falls before all the neural connections function well enough together to enable us to walk. That’s not to mention the building up of strength in the legs.

Programmers are the same way. The more iterations you go through on a theme, the easier it becomes. Even to the point that some tasks may go off just like walking. We don’t really think about walking (I mean lift leg, lean forward, place foot, ensure balance, shift weight, lift other foot, etc.). Some programming tasks can get to be that way too, just like walking, but it’s only after many iterations and failures.

Marketers call this split testing

This is actually an old concept in advertising. Direct response marketers call this split testing. Interestingly, many programmers hold a similar myth about the omniscient marketer. They really believe that there’s a sales guy somewhere that can sell anything to anyone, whether or not they have a need or desire for the thing.

There is no omniscient marketer either.

In reality there’s no direct sales guy that can magically whip out the perfect headline in a matter a minutes based purely on his genius. The best copywriters will tell you that research is the key to good copy. I would add that research must be coupled with many iterations of split tests to identify an optimal headline and offer.

Stop the cycle of first version paralysis

Rather than get hung up on why your programmer or marketer friend isn’t able to pull out the hollywood version of the website or sales offer that you need right now to become an instant millionaire, why not just take a stab in the dark and call it a first iteration. If it’s useful then pat yourself on the back and get back to work!

I promise you the next iteration will be even better than the first.

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3 Responses to “The myth of the perfect programmer (or marketer)”

  1. Chris Hunt June 2, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    …you’ve not heard of Frank Kern?;-)

    • Daniel June 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

      Sure I have, and I know that he tests! In fact, somehow I ended up on two of his lists, one through aweber and another through iContact. I just watched him go through almost the same sequence about a week apart pitching some local internet marketing thing as an affiliate. He proves the rule rather than being an exception.

  2. George August 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Frank Kern – Legend!

    It is right though, testing and rules are the basics which need to be used.

    Internet marketing for example, in order to test, you need all the rules in place.

    Traffic to website – rule #1
    A website – probably rule #1, but #2 here,
    and so on.

    I like reading your site. You write how i think. Shame i can’t write how i think. Practise i suppose.

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