the standards of standards
I've been thinking about the Presentation Zen post Nobody's Perfect. Thankfully not due to some presentation going horribly wrong, but instead because it reminds us that we can't get a perfect score every time. Standards advocates would do well to keep this idea in mind.
Because we shoot for the highest standard, sometimes we are too inflexible - unwilling to compromise or accept that something less than perfect may still be an excellent step forward. We can also fall into the trap of trying to say no instead of trying to say yes. Worst of all we might swap high standards for a high horse (or possibly a shetland pony).
People may think standards guys like me are critical of other peoples' work (we pretty much have to be), but the truth is we're probably much tougher on our own work. If we're not careful we can end up focussed on what we haven't achieved, without giving ourselves any credit for what we have achieved.
making hard work of it
I fell into the "but it's not perfect..!" trap a couple of weeks ago. I had a bad week: good work being hijacked with bad work; copping personal attacks for professional duties; getting a reputation for being "anti" because I don't change my opinion of a bad product just because some time has passed.
Everyone has those bad days where you think about chucking it all in; but ultimately I came back to the realisation that I didn't choose the web standards path because I thought it was easy, I chose it because I thought it was right. That's right sportsfans, I'm a true believer.
What I hadn't done was take my own advice and stay sane in the middle of it all. So I took stock, reminded myself that we have actually made quite a bit of progress and it's just my impatience (and a frustrating week) that's getting me down.
so are high standards really a problem?
In general, high standards are a good thing - after all, if you aim low then you'll never hit a high target. The trick is to aim high but still within the bounds of reality; and not to aim so high we can't accept the odd compromise.
Sometimes we just have to cut ourselves some slack about where we aim and whether we fall short.
We're not perfect, the industry is not perfect and we're not going to attain worldwide web standards perfection tomorrow (probably not ever, actually). We have to accept the imperfections of our industry just as we have to accept our own flaws.