Plagiarism, age and competition

On our first episode of season 6 we cover, what to do about stolen content, can old people work in web design and more besides.

Play

Paul Boag:
On the first episode of season six we cover, what to do about stolen content, can old people work in web design and much more besides.

Paul Boag:
We are back, Marcus. Hello, how are you?

Marcus Lillington:
What day is it supposed to be?

Paul Boag:
It’s supposed to be the week of the 15th of April.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, amazingly warm weekend last week.

Paul Boag:
It was, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I am doing the barbeque.

Paul Boag:
Great time over Easter as well, to have that nice relaxing time as a family

Marcus Lillington:
Fabulous, it was lovely. I have actually just really come back from holiday. You not sort of…

Paul Boag:
Hang on, my son certainly not, none of that

Marcus Lillington:
You were…

Paul Boag:
I was working hard.

Marcus Lillington:
Were you really?

Paul Boag:
First of all, up in Edinburgh.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’ll give you that one.

Paul Boag:
That was proper work

Marcus Lillington:
One day, one day.

Paul Boag:
Excuse me, one intensive day.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes true. We all of us have done day long workshops you know.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you’ve done. When have you ever done a daylong workshop by yourself?

Marcus Lillington:
Many times.

Paul Boag:
No you haven’t. You’ve never done that.

Marcus Lillington:
Hundreds of them.

Paul Boag:
You’ve never. You’ve done full day kick off meetings but that’s a different thing to a full day workshop.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, much more to go.

Paul Boag:
No. And then as if that one intensive day of workout in my entire life was not enough.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you believe that you’ve pushed away from the nice time you had in what was it, Miami?

Paul Boag:
That wasn’t Miami. I didn’t go to Miami, it was Orlando.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, there you go.

Paul Boag:
I worked very hard there. I was doing videos for Tree House, what do they do? They do web design videos. Brilliant way. Actually I’ve got to say, I mean I am not been paid to pimp them but I’ve got to say what a great idea because the trouble of going to university to learn web design, it takes you…

Marcus Lillington:
Educational stuff, isn’t that what they do?

Paul Boag:
Yes, they produce educational videos. And it takes forever to establish a curriculum, say three years, to put a curriculum together for web design. Well I mean that is just a joke isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
The problem is also getting people to teach the subject who are up to date.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s a really, really tough thing because its not – well it’s because so new I suppose, but yes.

Paul Boag:
Team Tree House, teamtreehouse.com is they sell themselves as a better way to learn technology. You basically sign up for a monthly fee, you log into the system and then you can say I want to learn the basics of design. So you go in and it will teach you basics of design, then you go I want to learn I have to do iOS development. So you can go learn that and you get quizzed on it, you get questions and answers, you get – it’s very gamified. It’s a really good way of learning different skills.

Marcus Lillington:
Not that I am setting you up for this or anything, Paul but, so what did you teach people in your videos?

Paul Boag:
I taught them how to run a successful web design agency.

Marcus Lillington:
Did you?

Paul Boag:
Because all of the success related to Headscape is entirely down to me.

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely.

Paul Boag:
Therefore I felt perfect qualified to go in and talk about this subject.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, that’s fair enough then. Can’t argue with that.

Paul Boag:
No, absolutely no. No, it was a really good time. Lots of fun. I remember what it was like to work for a venture capital company that doesn’t need to make any money. It’s great.

Marcus Lillington:
All right.

Paul Boag:
Piss around all the time in the day, they don’t do anything there. A bunch of slackers and half the videos

Marcus Lillington:
Do I need to know what time it is, because I have to edit this out

Paul Boag:
No, leave it in. Have they paid us yet? I don’t know, by the time this goes out hopefully they’ll have paid us. Bunch of slackers. Absolute time wasters, unbelievable. No actually it was really good fun, really enjoyed myself with them. They are a really lovely team of people and it was great to hang out with other people that spend a lot of their time teaching web design because that’s what essentially I spend a lot of my time doing in consultancy, and presentations at conferences, and writing, and all that kind of thing, essentially it’s a lot of education. And to get to hang out with people to do all the time is really quite in enlightening. It was very good.

Marcus Lillington:
Cool. I actually went on a holiday. To Cape Verdi.

Paul Boag:
Yes, all of this having to go about me having a big jolly to Orlando and you were actually on holiday.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I am honest. Yes, I was in 30 degrees plus, toes in the sand, it was lovely.

Paul Boag:
I could do with that now.

Marcus Lillington:
I know ‘cause you keep shivering.

Paul Boag:
I know it’s so freaking cold.

Marcus Lillington:
Come down to 30 degrees.

Paul Boag:
That’s bad, isn’t it.

Marcus Lillington:
In Celsius, not Fahrenheit, much worse.

Paul Boag:
We landed after being in Orlando, glorious sunshine, t-shirt and all the rest of it, landed into snow. We landed in a snow storm. It sucked.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, well I nearly caught it on my drive back from Gatwick on Friday night.

Paul Boag:
Did you?

Marcus Lillington:
Because I woke up Saturday morning and thought where did all that snow come from?

Paul Boag:
Well that’s where I.

Marcus Lillington:
It started at 2 AM

Paul Boag:
Yes, I landed at 7 AM on Saturday morning.

Marcus Lillington:
All right.

Paul Boag:
But this was a long time ago, now because this is now the 15th of April

Marcus Lillington:
Absolutely yes, yes we had a heat wave.

Paul Boag:
We knew that and we’re starting a new series of the podcast.

Marcus Lillington:
What’s the new podcast about because that’s far more interesting to everyone, have we moved from three to four listeners yet?

Paul Boag:
No, it’s actually gone down to two now.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, well.

Paul Boag:
We drove them away the last season but this season we’re going to come back.

Marcus Lillington:
The two listeners really don’t care about me and you going on holiday.

Paul Boag:
No they don’t but we have got a good season coming up.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
We’ve got some good stuff. Last season we did cool blog posts basically, you know all the cool stuff that people write about. This season we’re going to Q&A. We’re going to open it up to you guys and say whatever you want to ask about, whatever you want to talk about, we’re here to talk about. Its an hour of your conversation and your stuff. Obviously you need to send stuff in to, you can either email at [email protected] or alternatively you can tweet it with #helpBW or you can go along to boagworld.com/questions and submit there, so lots of opportunities. Audio questions please we would love to put some up. It’s really funny and our two listeners don’t seem to want give us audio, its really funny but there you go. So we want audio questions and that’s pretty much guaranteed way of getting on this show because we’re so desperate for them.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, good point actually yes, want to be on show, send us an audio question. It doesn’t matter about how bored…

Paul Boag:
It could be any question. No, it can be an appalling question. So yes, and we’ve already got people sending stuff in, which is really good. We’ve got probably a dozen or so question to start us off which is a good way of starting the season considering we’ll only probably get through three or four in an episode.

Marcus Lillington:
We don’t know yet, do we?

Paul Boag:
We don’t know.

Marcus Lillington:
One, probably

Paul Boag:
Knowing us one question probably

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But we got some really great questions on this first show, so its going to be a good one. And should we kick off with the first one?

How to deal with plagiarism

What can you do about appropriated or stolen content? I’m guessing this has happened with your posts. What, if anything, do you do about it?

Cyndy McCollough

Paul Boag:
You are the owner of the questions, Marcus.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Why did you say like that? You should say, yes I have been.

Marcus Lillington:
I am the owner of the questions.

Paul Boag:
And the first one is from one of our – well our favorite client ever, ever.

Marcus Lillington:
Unless you are another client other than this one, in which case you’re favorite.

Paul Boag:
And our favorite client ever, who is it from?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s from Cindy McCullen.

Paul Boag:
Yes, Cindy rocks.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Of America.

Marcus Lillington:
Of America.

Paul Boag:
Of the United States.

Marcus Lillington:
Cindy is from America.

Paul Boag:
She is responsible for the whole nation.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Oh dear, that’s quite a bad responsibility. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that

Marcus Lillington:
Definitely not.

Paul Boag:
They’ve done a lot of very naughty things.

Marcus Lillington:
Let’s not go there.

Paul Boag:
Well we’re perfect in Britain.

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve done far more naughty things.

Paul Boag:
How come? Yes, we seem to have screwed up most of the globe really.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Cyprus at the moment are having a problems, probably goes back to us. I suspect it’s our fault.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you think so?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I can’t comment on that because you’re probably right.

Paul Boag:
It’s all to do with why we set Cyprus up in the beginning when we gave their independence or they took it or whatever.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Anyway. What was I going to say?

Marcus Lillington:
History with Paul.

Paul Boag:
History with Paul, yes. I know everything. I watched Spartacus, that’s historical.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
And I watch Spartacus, that’s historical only because it’s got lots of sex and violence, both of them but they are I am sure completely accurate to what really happened.

Marcus Lillington:
Pass us that orange juice over for a minute.

Paul Boag:
Why?

Marcus Lillington:
Because I thought we roll a date.

Paul Boag:
The date was on the lid.

Marcus Lillington:
I am going you to feel.

Paul Boag:
And it was August 2013.

Marcus Lillington:
Are you sure?

Paul Boag:
No. But I’ve drunk three of these so far today, so that’s probably bad.

Marcus Lillington:
Do you want me to read out Cindy’s question?

Paul Boag:
Yes, read out Cindy’s question.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, I’m not going to do it in Cindy’s accent.

Paul Boag:
I’d like to hear you try and do Cindy’s accent. What accent has she got?

Marcus Lillington:
An American accent.

Paul Boag:
Why is that whenever I go to America somebody that’s just come back from America, whenever I’m in America, I go more British.

Marcus Lillington:
Hello.

Paul Boag:
Yes. I turn into Cholmondley-Warner.
.

Marcus Lillington:
I go the other way.

Paul Boag:
Do you?

Marcus Lillington:
I end up.

Paul Boag:
You become American.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes I turn into American because I’m so weak minded. Anyway question, this is Cindy’s question, re-stolen/appropriated content what to do about it? I am guessing this, sorry; I am guessing this has happened with your posts, what if anything do you do about it?

Paul Boag:
Good question, Cindy. Of course because Cindy is our brightest and cleverest client she would send us nothing but a good question. That said…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s not a good question.

Paul Boag:
I think it’s got a major flaw in it which is the assumption is, that people taking your content and republishing it is a bad thing. I on the other hand…

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
…actively embrace and encourage it. I think it’s a good thing when people take your content.

Marcus Lillington:
Steal my stuff

Paul Boag:
Steal my stuff, yes. If you think about it, the wider your content circulates, the more exposure you get, right. There are only two downsides, both of which I think can be addressed. First of all that your content is stolen without a reference to who originally wrote it.

Marcus Lillington:
Well yes because then it’s not your content anymore

Paul Boag:
Yes, and it’s not…

Marcus Lillington:
It’s being passed off as somebody else’s.

Paul Boag:
And it’s not been giving you more exposure.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
The second is the search engines might think that the original is the copy, right. And that can drive you down in the rankings. Does that make sense?

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve never thought of that before.

Paul Boag:
But both of those problems can be fixed. Most people who republish your content are actually republishing your RSS feed because that’s the easy way of doing it, right?

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
So for example if you search on me you will loads of sites that are basically just re-purposing my content, which is fine because I actually release my work under a Creative Commons license, which means they are allowed to do exactly that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But they are all supposed to as part of that republish my content with reference to me, with reference to the original source.

Marcus Lillington:
Otherwise it’s stealing.

Paul Boag:
It’s stealing, yes absolutely.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Now they don’t always do.

Marcus Lillington:
So I was going to say, yes. What do you do when they don’t do that because then that’s…I can understand yes, more promotion, you know its kind of that’s a good thing, more people see your content and know it’s your content. Great.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
But that’s not really what I think she is asking.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
I think she is saying what you do with the…

Paul Boag:
The naughty people.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
The first thing to do is if you are – if they are using your RSS feed which most of them will be, there is nothing to stop you simply adding a sentence to the bottom which post that says something like, this post was originally published here and have a link to the original source.

Marcus Lillington:
Cool, yes.

Paul Boag:
And that would just get automatically pulled in.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And to be frank most of the people that do steal your content using an RSS feed are too lazy and don’t remove things like that.

Marcus Lillington:
I suppose that I agree with that but it’s if, I don’t know, we’ve had people send in, you know there is this web design agency in Argentina.

Paul Boag:
Yes. Who’ve taken…

Marcus Lillington:
Who’ve taken all your bits of copy

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And so then that’s not the same.

Paul Boag:
Yes, that’s not the same. In situations like that, where people are grabbing chunks of content from your site, it’s normally quite simple to resolve, which is, you just email them. You scare the shit out of them basically. You send up an email saying, hey I am really, I tend to go in with the soft approach to begin with, you know because what you want – you got to decide what you want as the end goal, right. Are you trying to, oftentimes you can write to these people and you’re just so angry, you express your anger, right. And that – when you get angry with people, often they entrench in their position and will start arguing black is white and we didn’t copy you or whatever else.

If really what you want to do is get them to get rid of the copy and get it offline, then what I often do is write to them and say, hey you probably don’t realize this but whoever not you, whoever produced the content on your website has lifted it from this source here. We kindly ask you to remove it straight away. And I am yet to encounter a situation where somebody has refused to do that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
If they did, then obviously you start to pursue legal, get a lawyer to write them a letter because that always looks official and scary but most of the time you’ll find that A, people are happy to link to the original source if that us pointed out to them, sometimes people forget to do it and they are not be malicious they just forgot to put in the link, maybe they do that a lot with other people’s content and in your case they forgot to do it. There are occasions when people own a website and some lazy web designer that they used, copied and pasted content without asking you.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s happened before.

Paul Boag:
Yes. There can be…

Marcus Lillington:
We’ve contacted people before in the past when this has happened, stating our concept

Paul Boag:
And design as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, I’m thinking of this particularly from the copy point of view where basically the designer really liked our work, liked our site and was obviously using it as a basis.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
And had dropped our content in

Paul Boag:
Verbatim.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Including reference to Headscape.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, it had Headscape in there as well. And basically it was just he’d been too lazy, he was using it as placeholder content

Paul Boag:
Yes, and then he ended up going live.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly.

Paul Boag:
There is actually a website dedicated, if this is a concern to you and you are worrying about it, there is a website called copyscape.com, let’s try with Headscape. I bet you it pulls back some stuff. So what you do is you go in and type in you URL and it goes and looks to see occurrences, the copy that is in it. Do you know what, no. Okay, I can search for a particular page. No it’s not, I doubt it’s going to have anything. But I’ll have a look, it’s scanning. Nobody has copied, but I bet if I took anyone of my articles from Boagworld and put that in, it will return loads of examples, because I release it as Creative Commons.

I mean yes there is an obvious issue here of plagiarism, right and somebody copying your content but what I am more interested in is the broader issue here of how we view our content. What do I mean by that?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s for everyone.

Paul Boag:
Not that, but we’ve got this – got into our heads that we drive people to our website, right. But actually people more and more are not consuming our content on our website anyway even if let’s say nobody else copied our content. If our content went nowhere else beyond what was on our website, people who are still using viewing it on instapaper, they are viewing it in things like flip board, you know so they lose a lot of the context anyway. So I really think we ought to A, be writing our content more standalone so that if it is copied and put elsewhere or displayed in a different format than it stands up for itself in its own right.

Marcus Lillington:
That’s an interesting point that I never thought on.

Paul Boag:
But also increasingly now, we are beginning and this is I’ve got write a blog post on, we’re beginning to enter the post GUI world, right. We’re getting beyond the graphic user interface, we’re getting stuff like Siri, when you can Siri questions and it gives you the answer directly rather than sending you to a website or there is now Google Glass is coming along soon so you going to get a heads up now, it’s not going to show whole website is it? It’s going to show snippets of data.

There is talk about Apple releasing an iWatch and that intern is going to be you know again not entire websites. The way that we start thinking about our content is got to change and we got to think of it as nuggets of data that could appear in all kinds of random places and all kinds of context. For example, even with for example Headscape, okay, let’s take the Headscape site, somebody could quite easily ask Siri show me examples of websites produced – higher education websites, right. And Siri would then show a series of pictures, okay of higher education websites.

Now if we tagged up our content correctly, then those could be tagged as being produced by Headscape, right? Or alternatively show me web design agencies that specialize in charity, right. It goes off and it’s grabbing a series of basically names and a little bit of copy on each, right. That’s not going to appear on our website, not within the context of our website, so we need to start thinking in different ways about our content. It is a lot more than the plagiarism issue. It does apply to plagiarism because if someone steals a bit of your content and shows it out of context then great, you want it to standalone as a piece of content that’ll still promote you, but I mean obviously if they really steal it and they change it and make it referenced then that’s a whole another issue. But content is a really interesting subject and we think about it in maybe quite a narrow way especially traditional web design agencies who make their bread and butter money out of selling websites, right.

And I’ve noticed a shift in my thinking because now Headscape does so much more than just build websites, we do so much consultancy and strategy work and that kind of thing. I’ve started to think beyond just websites into this broader area, even with our content, chunks of our content being delivered to social media or things like that. That’s yet another medium that our contents turn up in. So actually the delivery of the content is far beyond just websites, that wasn’t at all what Cindy was asking, was it?

Marcus Lillington:
No, she is saying what do you if people steal your stuff?

Paul Boag:
The answer is talk to them, there we go.

Marcus Lillington:
Talk to them. There is only one other thing I was going to say.

Paul Boag:
Right.

Marcus Lillington:
If somebody, if you talk to them and they ignore you, and they are in New Zealand.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Then what you do about it, I guess what I was saying is you need, if that’s the case you therefore would need to hire a lawyer in New Zealand to help you out, that’s a valid really.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I mean the other thing I have to say because people get upset about their designs being stolen as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Harder to prove that one.

Paul Boag:
Yes, well not always. We’ve had our site just stolen completely point blank exactly the same. To be honest, I probably shouldn’t say this because it gives people carte blanche to steal my designs now, but I don’t care unless that is an agency that’s in direct competition.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Right. I care a little bit about – more about content because of the search engine ranking issues.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, which you didn’t cover – yes you did.

Paul Boag:
Yes, it would be – yes, because if someone, say if someone copies my thing, as long as they put a link back to the original source then it’s fine, it’s not a big issue because Google is clever enough to work out which one was published first.

No, but in terms of, you know, do I really care if some tiny little web design agency in New Zealand is ripping off my design and you know even using my copy? Am I ever going to be in competition with them? No. So is it the end of the world? No. Are they lazy asses? Yes. You know and my attitude is they are always going to be one step behind us. If all they are doing is copying us, it’s the same attitude you know when people say things like we couldn’t start a blog because we would be giving away our intellectual property and people hire us for our knowledge you know.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
And my attitude is – and our competition will copy us. Well yes okay they might but they are always going to be one step behind you and you are always going to be leading the way. So that’s my attitude.

Marcus Lillington:
And a good attitude it is too, Paul.

Paul Boag:
All of my attitude is good. Except when they’re not…

Marcus Lillington:
My attitude.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I have lots of attitudes on lots of different things. Should we do another question?

Can you be too old to be a web designer?

Interesting conversation on the train tonight. By the time your 50/60 yrs old will you/are you still able to continue being a Dev?

Jason Brown

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, the next question is from Jason Brown. Do we know who Jason Brown is?

Paul Boag:
I have no idea.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
I’m sure he is a lovely person.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
Jason write in and tell Marcus your life history, he wants to know.

Marcus Lillington:
Well I like your question very much.

Paul Boag:
It’s a brilliant question.

Marcus Lillington:
Here it is. Interesting conversation on the train tonight, by the time you’re 50 to 6 year old.

Paul Boag:
50 to six?

Marcus Lillington:
50 to 60 years old, will you – are you still able to continue being a dev.

Paul Boag:
I think this is broader than just a dev.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes. Can you work in web design…

Paul Boag:
When you are 50 or 60.

Marcus Lillington:
50 or 60. Well, I nearly am.

Paul Boag:
And Chris is.

Marcus Lillington:
Chris is, yes. But I can’t code anything.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
So I guess in answer to your question, um, I don’t know but I think generally yes of course you can. It’s about understanding the business and you can understand any business…

Paul Boag:
Did you read Leigh’s…

Marcus Lillington:
Age 50 or 60.

Paul Boag:
Leigh’s recent post about – so he went

Marcus Lillington:
No

Paul Boag:
Leigh – how old is Leigh? Leigh is older than me, isn’t he, couple of years older than me, must be 43 maybe?

Marcus Lillington:
Something like that, yes.

Paul Boag:
Something like that.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So Leigh went to see, check out the .net awards – link in the show notes – which has got – it’s this year focusing very much on young, up and coming.

Marcus Lillington:
Right, yes.

Paul Boag:
And he looked through this portfolio and he was like so demoralized and they were all so incredibly talented and young and all the rest of it. So he wrote this blog post and it starts off, I start reading it and I thought ah, okay, this is good because he is talking about how demoralized he got and then he got into but what can we learn from that as older people in the web design industry. I thought he was going to go into the kind of normal thing about experience. Instead the whole article basically is about how to rip off young web designers and screw them over. It’s just brilliant. It’s wonderful. It’s a good question, isn’t it?

Marcus Lillington:
It’s a good question and I suppose that the honest answer is that good design, and this is my opinion folks, good designers and good developers are young.

Paul Boag:
Oh. Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
And that’s why we end – the likes of me and you end up being strategists and we deal with objectives, we deal with information architecture, we deal with the kind of making sure that all of the right things are in place in the right order and all of that kind of thing. We also run businesses as well because we’ve grown up a bit and we’re a bit more, we care about stuff like that. I don’t know, I mean you can look at the musical world; all of the great rock musicians did all their good stuff when they were young. I don’t know about the art world but I imagine the same probably applies to a certain extent.

Paul Boag:
I would agree – I find it harder to judge from a design, sorry a technology side as a dev. If I look at designers and I look at my own experience, I reach the point where I did begin to feel like my designs were becoming very same. I think you reach a point where it becomes formulaic if you are not careful, and I imagine the same applies for music.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Which is probably why a lot of designers move beyond that eventually. Whether that’s true with coding, I am not so sure because if the technology is constantly changing. I don’t think the question is will you be able to, so much as will you want to.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, but I mean I guess what I am – well that’s the tricky one, isn’t it? Do people end up who were once designers end up as project managers because they want to or because they feel they should.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
As you said, you’ve got a bit formulaic, a bit stale so time for new challenge but actually it’s like better get out because all these young buggers are better than me.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know the answer to that.

Paul Boag:
No.

Marcus Lillington:
And those young people don’t want to be project managers, well that kind of….

Paul Boag:
Boredomness

Marcus Lillington:
Or just responsibility. I want to be a creative and do creative stuff. Chances are be able to get paid more.

Paul Boag:
Yes. So I think, I mean that’s the other aspect of it is that there are changes not just in – right, I would say a 50 year old is just as capable of producing great design as a 20 year old. I think the issue is has the 50 year old been doing it for 30 years.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Right? And by which point they become a bit stale. And then also I think you need to accept that a 50 year old is at a different stage in life. You know part of the reason why a 20 year old developer is such a good 20 year old developer is because they don’t have a mortgage, they don’t have family, they’ve got a much more flexible life and so they will spend all evening fiddling with some new technique which a 50 year old just can’t do, you know.

Marcus Lillington:
So then you’d argue that they wouldn’t be able to produce the same quality of work?

Paul Boag:
No, well yes but it depends on – but no it’s not that bad – it’s not that there is anything intrinsic in a 50 year old that makes them incapable of doing that. It’s outside factors. If someone – right, if you had a 50 year old.

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know the answer to that.

Paul Boag:
No, neither do I, I am making it probably the stuff the conversation, innit. I think if you had a 50 year old who had trained to become a web designer relatively late in life, right. And was divorced, single maybe, whatever, then I think they would make, just could potentially make even better a designer and developer than maybe someone who is younger, potentially.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But I think that’s quite a rare situation. I think you can’t separate what you do out from the rest of your life in a sense.

Marcus Lillington:
But the positive side of this is there is always jobs for the oldies.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Because there are jobs that the youngies don’t want to do or don’t have the experience the do.

Paul Boag:
Yes, I think that’s a big thing. I mean it’s inevitable – I remember when I was young always kind of sneering at you know the older you got that you fell back on this ‘well I’ve got lots of experience.’

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But it’s true, you know.

Marcus Lillington:
Of course it is.

Paul Boag:
There are loads of things, you know, I see young designers doing and think, okay, you’ll realize that’s wrong. Just, you know you need to come to that realization yourself but that isn’t going to work and there are good reasons why. But the trouble is you need that inexperience too because sometimes what didn’t work before will work now. So you’ve got to have that balance all the time, you know I actually don’t think it’s – I wouldn’t want anybody, so I wouldn’t want, I don’t know, Chris Sanderson for example who is a designer and he is still relatively young but he is probably mid 30s now, isn’t he?

Marcus Lillington:
I have no idea.

Paul Boag:
Something like that. I wouldn’t want him to feel like he had to move on from design if he didn’t want to.

Marcus Lillington:
No, and I don’t think – yes, I’m not sure about Chris but we are already talking about him taking on more consulting roles.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Because of his experience. So…

Paul Boag:
Yes. But that’s from our point of view because we see – to be entirely frank about it, he would feel almost little wasted just being a designer because I know there is so much more he could do. Why are we talking about – this is really unethical. But equally I would be happy him carrying on as a designer and he does still great work. Why wouldn’t he doing great work in another five years, you know, or another 10 years? There is no real, solid reason why not, is there?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know. I have it’s my opinion. I think that there is a bit of spark, creative spark.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Which, you know, you…

Paul Boag:
And which applies as most to development as design I think is worth saying as well.

Marcus Lillington:
Which might be completely to do with the exterior factors like no kids and all that kind of thing but I don’t think so. I think we’ve got more energy, more just spark is a crap word but that’s what I am talking about here, which I think goes, diminishes as you get older.

Paul Boag:
But is it…

Marcus Lillington:
And I don’t know if it’s because of exterior factors or whether it is – bit I think it’s both.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
As – we all deteriorate as we get older, that’s just a fact.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
So I think part of that deterioration is losing your drive or creative spark or whatever.

Paul Boag:
It’s interesting, I am just trying to look at the industry as a whole because when I started it there was no.

Marcus Lillington:
Old people.

Paul Boag:
Experienced people. There were no experienced people, you know I am the old people of web design, Jeffrey Zeldman is probably slightly ahead of me but you know generally speaking yes, I think he is about Chris’ age. Yeah, so there is not…

Marcus Lillington:
Only just. But he started a bit later than you did; only a couple of years later but, yeah.

Paul Boag:
Yes, he did. I forget that, yes. So there is not really – and I have to say looking back it was all a bit chaotic and a bit unstructured and so it does need both. It does need that experience.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, and I think that’s fine. I haven’t got a problem with any of this. I suppose it’s just interesting to know whether it’s all external factors like responsibilities or whether there is a bit of both.

Paul Boag:
This needs a broader conversation I think.

Marcus Lillington:
Okay.

Paul Boag:
We need people to comment on this one.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I would really be interested to know what people thought. So whether you’re a young designer or developer or an older one, please post your comments.

Marcus Lillington:
But then they won’t know will they, because they’ve got no experience.

Paul Boag:
Well no, but they will have.

Marcus Lillington:
I’m joking.

Paul Boag:
But that’s the other thing as well, it’s that – what I am fascinated about is because if you’d ask me when I was 25, whether I wanted to end up being a consultant which is what I do today essentially, I would have been horrified at the idea of not doing hands on design anymore. So have I ended up doing a job that really I hate and I just convinced myself that I like doing it now.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Was I kind of forced out of that job or did I chose to go out of it, you don’t know do you. It’s weird, spooky.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So, Jason you’ve asked really annoying question that we can’t answer.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
But it is interesting, I see no reason. If you want to carry on doing design until you’re 50 or 60, I see no reason why you can’t and there is no reason why you can’t be a developer late into your career. You just need to keep that spark about you and that’s the hard thing to do when family grinds you down. That’s what it is. Family responsibility, kids and mortgages and all these people that sponge off you. I am glad my wife never listens this, I’d be in so much trouble. Right shall we move onto the next question?

How can internal web teams compete with external agencies?

I am part of a small in house web dev team for large NFP company. How do we compete with external agencies circling our company pitching aggressively at management who are not tech savvy and easily fooled by shiny things? We do not have resources or a dedicated sales team to pitch our own skills, knowledge and services or even the opportunity. Are internal development teams a doomed species? Should we pack it in and become consultants?

Jared Smith

Marcus Lillington:
Okay, our next question is from Jared Smith and it goes like this: I am part of a small in-house web dev team for a large not-for-profit company. How do we compete with external agencies circling our company pitching aggressively at management who are not tech savvy and easily fooled by shiny things? We do not have resources or a dedicated sales team to pitch our own skills, knowledges and services or even the opportunity. Are internal development teams a doomed species? Should we pack it in and become consultants?

Paul Boag:
Yes, you should. As somebody that’s works primarily with not-for-profits and are an external agency circling, I think you should give it up and outsource all the work to us. There we go. Answered question, hoorah. Oh, Jared, I feel for you mate. This is a common issue. In fact I’ve been well known when I go into many companies not just not-for-profits but many companies that have internal web departments to sit down with the web department and say, okay guys what have you been trying to do on this website for three years that management haven’t agreed to and then I pitch it to them and we end up doing it.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
I do give the internal web team credit, I don’t claim that it’s my idea but yes, you get the idea. There is a funny relationship between management and their internal teams.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, funny that’s quite kind.

Paul Boag:
All right.

Marcus Lillington:
There is not a good relationship usually between internal teams, especially internal web teams, they’re always seen as like, oh, they are the people that put my content onto our website.

Paul Boag:
Yes. They have no sense of ownership over the website, they are a resource that is simply used to implement other people’s grandiose schemes and that is what you’ve got to work on and that is what is difficult to change. And I don’t have any kind of really solid answers for you, Jared, except to say that no, I don’t think you should give up at all but I do think you maybe need to learn from what external agencies do here. And you know maybe you don’t have a dedicated sales team but neither do we. You know, Marcus does sales alongside consultancy, I do sales alongside consultancy, Chris does sales alongside other work that he does. You know we’ve all got other responsibilities but that doesn’t mean that we can’t sell into companies. And I would see it as part of your role internally to start selling and promoting yourself.

Marcus Lillington:
Exactly, yes.

Paul Boag:
And you say, you talk about not having the opportunities to do that but I think you need to start taking the opportunities, you know these external agencies aren’t waiting for management to ring them up and say hey pitch me a great new idea, they are proactively going in and saying we’ve got this new shiny thing that we want to sell you. You know and you need to do the same thing, you need to be – and you’re in a privileged and a better position where you know you have the direct email address of the MD. You could send them an email which is more than I could because I wouldn’t get, I would have to jump through lots of hoops to get anywhere near someone like that.

You know you have an opportunity here to really start promoting and selling the way things – what you want people to be doing and taking control of the website. And to be honest the proactive you are and the more brave you are, the more respect that you will get overtime. There is this thing within large organizations of almost a kind of I know my place mentality of they don’t feel that they can overstep their boundaries of what they perceive their jobs as being. But I actually, you know, I found increasingly that management very rarely get annoyed at people taking initiative and saying look, I really think this the way that we should do things but I think it’s so important to present that in the right way. You can’t just go in and expect instant respect from these people. We don’t get instant respect when we first encounter a company, we have to earn that respect and we have to prove our case. We have to prove our own inabilities and our own competences but, more than that, we have to prove that any idea that we have for the site is going to be financially viable.

We’ve had to learn to speak in a language that management understand and respond to. If you talk about accessibility, for example, they don’t give a monkey’s ass. If you talk about search engine placement and the accessibility’s impact on that, then you’ll start getting their interest. If you talk about return on investment, you will get their interest. If you talk about, you know, key performance indicators you’ll get their interest. You need to talk in the language that they understand.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
So I mean I think that is a big part of it.

Marcus Lillington:
I think another thing is that relates to that is if you don’t go and pitch your ideas for we’d like to be doing this, we’d like to be doing that, you’re always seen as the people that moan when somebody else does.

Paul Boag:
Yes, you’re the ‘no’ person.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes, exactly.

Paul Boag:
And you need to become the yes person and even when they come to you with silly ideas, you know as an external agency we don’t have the authority or to turn around and say no, we’re not going to do that, that’s stupid. What we’ve had to learn to do is go ‘okay, yes that’s a great idea, I can really see where you’re coming from on that, but let’s work through some of the consequences of this’ and get them to the point where they reject their own idea, you know if it’s a crap idea.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
You need to be the positive person and if somebody has got doubts about an idea, then you might have to prove it to them, you might have to show them, you might have to do a prototype in your spare time to get the point across. You know I hear a lot of internal web teams moan that ok we’re just too busy to do anything else. Well you know I am sorry but so are we, you know in an agency world, we’ve got to do paid work all the time. You know we’ve got to pay our bills and the rest of it but we also have to find time for the sales process. Sometimes that does mean doing a little bit of extra work. We don’t get paid for the 60 page proposals that we write but we have to write them, it’s a part of the process.

Marcus Lillington:
We’re just better.

Paul Boag:
To be honest, this isn’t coming out the way that I thought it would when I read the question.

Marcus Lillington:
You are having a go, aren’t you?

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
You are telling them off, get off your ass and do something, that’s what you’re saying.

Paul Boag:
I am a little bit, which shocks me, because a lot of the time when I talk to internal, I’ve got huge time and respect for internal web teams, right. They are under enormous pressure; they are not treated with the respect that they deserve. They are intelligent and competent individuals that often get the raw end of the deal but, that said, they are also – they’ve given up a lot of the time. They’ve been beaten down to the point where they don’t fight their corner anymore. They don’t try, you know even the tone of this message is, he pretty much says are we doomed.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
They’ve given up and internal teams actually do have quite a privileged position but they don’t utilize it properly. They allow themselves to be constrained by their job description.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Or by what management tells them they should or should not be. You know when I worked for a large organization and I did find it frustrating doing it but I broke the rules all the time. I ignored what supposedly was my job description and made suggestions that were way above my pay grade. Most of them were rejected, some weren’t you know.

Marcus Lillington:
Well I know what people will be saying here. They’ll be going, yes but I’m not you, Paul or whatever, I am not – that’s not me, I am not that kind of person. I don’t want the pressure of having to go and present to management even though I know my ideas are good. So my advice would be make sure that the third-party that’s circling is the third party that you want to be working with.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
Not somebody that you’ve never heard of.

Paul Boag:
Yes, now that’s a really good point. You know sometimes you can get into these situations where they bring in somebody that really knows less than you do and that’s the demoralizing situation, you know. And you can be a key influencer on who is bought within your organization. I mean this is a bit of a delicate issue for us to talk about because the truth is that most of the time when we get invited to tender, it’s by not senior management but by someone within the web department that has gone bugger it, if we are going to have an external agency in I want it to be Headscape because I know them and I like them and they get us onto the invitation to tender.

But I have to say this business of okay, I am not you and I don’t want to sell, well suck it up. I’m obviously in a really argumentative mood today and I do apologize but either you suck it up and do it or you suck it up and shut up.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
Right? You’re not doing yourself any good moaning and winging and being frustrated. You’ve either got to accept the status quo or you’ve got to change it. And like Marcus says, one way of changing it is to get an external agency in that will change it for you but I think you can achieve more than you think you can. This is coming across much more negative than I wanted to. I am really sorry guys because I have – Jared don’t take this personally, I completely understand your situation and I have complete sympathy with you but on the other hand I am trying to give you a bit of kick up the backside and well and encourage you to go for it.

Marcus Lillington:
With pretty much every project we work with, we work with a web team and we always take it on ourselves to try and get them more power.

Paul Boag:
Yes.

Marcus Lillington:
To try and get it in writing, you know, get management to agree to that – because I think I started off by saying that yes the web team are just seen as they are the people that just put my content online. Well, we are trying to get the web team to be the people that own the website to say what goes online.

Paul Boag:
Yes, to drive the strategy.

Marcus Lillington:
Yes.

Paul Boag:
In fact we were talking about that just before we came in here, we were talking about an expert review that Marcus has to write next week and I was saying you need to put web governance in there, we need to talk about the structure of the web team and how the website is organized internally. I mean there are enormous issues surrounding this. And often it does need some external help to kind of break the stalemate of where things currently are but yes, Jared don’t take it as negative. Take it as encouragement to ‘you can do it’, because I really think you can and you shouldn’t give up on in-house. There is something intrinsically satisfying about when you get to a point where you can work and you have a level of control over an internal website where you’re working in on it day in and day out.

Agency work can be very intensive and very also frustrating in some ways because you work on something and then step away from it. You’ve got an opportunity to really build something, and also you’re working for a not-for-profit so I imagine it’s probably a really satisfying organization that are doing really good things. You just need to stamp your authority and get in there guy, go on, go for it.

Marcus Lillington:
Or, alternatively, get your management sacked.

Paul Boag:
Yes. But who is it…

Marcus Lillington:
And become really highly political maneuverer in the background.

Paul Boag:
Yes, absolutely. Well, we worked with one client, I can’t mention their name unfortunately, but we did I think it was Marcus that said basically it’s a generational thing, we need to wait for the management to die. Which I thought that is the worst assessment I’ve ever heard of an organization but I did like it, yes. Oh, well I think that’s all that can be said on that. Shall we stop at three questions this week?

Marcus Lillington:
Stop at three. It’s 45 minutes on so…

Paul Boag:
That is about right, yes.

Marcus Lillington:
I’ve got a nice little short joke.

Paul Boag:
Okay.

Marcus Lillington:
Which make me giggle. It’s my girlfriend thinks that I am stalker. Well she is not exactly my girlfriend yet.

Paul Boag:
That’s a good one, I like that one very much.

Marcus Lillington:
There is lots of other quite sick ones that I can’t repeat but that was the kindest of them.

Paul Boag:
From whom – who sent this?

Marcus Lillington:
I don’t know, it’s just a list I found it. I forwarded it to myself.

Paul Boag:
And you can’t remember where it came from? So keep sending Marcus jokes that aren’t sick so he can repeat them on show.

Marcus Lillington:
Please, please.

Paul Boag:
And also questions, guys. There is so much we could talk about related to web design. And please wade in on all the things we’ve talked about today. How do you feel about stolen or appropriated content, what’s your thoughts about working as a designer and developer into your 50s and 60s and am I being unfair on in-house web teams? Let us know in the comments.

Marcus Lillington:
I think you are going to get some major, major feedback on that last one.

Paul Boag:
Fair enough. Good. And to be honest it could just be the mood I am in so I may well back down rapidly by the time this actually comes out and I do apologize. But yes, so comment on all of this which you can do at Boagworld.com/season/six and then you can get to this particular episode from there. And most of all send us some questions because we’re really looking forward to this season. Audio questions preferred. Talk to you again next time. Bye.

“Man with computer” image courtesy of Bigstock.com

Headscape

Boagworld