Daniel Roy Greenfeld

Daniel Roy Greenfeld

About | Articles | Books | Jobs | News | Tags

Apologies to Chris

This was originally posted on blogger here.

Who is Chris and why does he get an apology?

Chris is a co-worker of mine. He's more than a co-worker, he saved my soul. About three years ago he introduced me to Python, SVN, Trac, and Plone. He also first pointed me at Pylons and Django. He has pointed me at open source alternatives. He fended for me with certain NASA functionaries. He is honest, visionary, brilliant, opinionated, creative, funny, witty, well-spoken, principled, and has helped me in a thousand ways. If he was the boasting type I would probably still be calling him my python mentor.

That is Chris.

So why the apology?

This past Friday afternoon another coworker was asked to give a certain relatively important someone (aka a VIP) a short bulleted list (5-6 items) of innovations on our big project to go onto that VIP's periodic personal review which was due the next day. Not to NASA. Not to anyone important. It was just the normal sort of crud that goes into self-reviews. The other coworker turned to me and suggested I provide the list.

And then I turned to Chris and asked him for some input. Chris refused for several good reasons:

  • A short list did not do justice to our project.
  • A longer list would require effort that would require approval. Approval from our manager who had left for the weekend.
At this point what I should have done is said, 'Nevermind, I'll just do it myself.' If he got pissed then things would have rolled over eventually and we would grumble/laugh about it over drinks at some point. However, instead I tried to convince Chris that this was no big deal and that we ought to spend five minutes getting it done.

See, cause I really respect Chris, I'm always looking for his approval on things. And sometimes thats the wrong thing to do. I should have stopped listening to him, told him definitively that I was going to do this, and done it. Instead I waffled, fighting my desire to get his approval and my knowledge that a battle over a five minute task was not a battle worth fighting.

I did some stuff in retrospect that looks stupid. The worst was that I wrote an email to my boss, sent it, then got Outlook to recall it. When I found that Chris had written one of his masterful detailed lists I didn't tell him that his effort, while exemplary, really complicated things for me.

You see, some battles are worth fighting. Some are not. I agree that the list I was asked to provide did not do our project justice, but I also recognize that this was NOT intended for general distribution. Provoking this fight wouldn't score a victory of any value, just make a VIP's job a little harder, and incur their ire. I have no problem with fighting good fights, but in my opinion this fight just wasn't one of those good fights.

A better fight would have been for documented processes, requirements software, nixing the cubes, collaborative software, and for work on new and exciting projects.

So late that night after 5-10 minutes of effort I put together a list and sent it to the VIP. Then I started to think about sending a note of explanation to Chris. I note I never sent. Why? General stupidity on my part. I was trying to figure out how to write it in a way that kept his approval. I procrastinated over the weekend, which really was not the thing to do.

Chris found out on Monday what I had done. From his perspective I'm a/an @#$%-#$@ for not only providing the list and for not being straight with him. I can't really say I can blame him. I knew the former was going to happen, the latter could have been avoided if I had been forthright from the start.

I'm not sure anything I write can make a difference at this point. Apologies are just words, and words are easy to say. Which is why if I'm going to say anything its going to be public and in a place associated with me.

My apologies Chris.


Tags: apology legacy-blogger