Certain phrases can be interpreted in very different ways. Over
the holidays, I shared a few laughs with two brothers-in-law, Will and
Matt, over an old Saturday Night Live skit where a nuclear power plant
operator retires and leaves his team with some parting words, "You
can't put too much water in the reactor." After he's gone, the team
puzzles over the real meaning of his statement. Did he mean that we
can put as much water as we want into the reactor and it will never be
too much? Or did he mean that under no circumstances should we put too
much water in the reactor?
Shortly after the laughs over the SNL skit, it occurred to
me that another such ambiguous phrase is "why not". In some
circumstances it can start the discussion of why something can't or
shouldn't be done. "We can't do that, and here is why not...", or "Why not? I'll tell you why not..." In others, it can mean the exact opposite and affirm that some task should be done, as in, "Sure, why not?"
the Web consulting field, our job has traditionally included a lot of
"why not" in the first sense of the phrase - educating clients on the
limitations of the Web and explain why certain things cannot be done.
Clients unfamiliar with Web technology naturally expect the same depth
of interaction as experienced with desktop apps. We have frequently
been required to articulate to clients why certain features or UI
concepts from the desktop world were not possible on the Web.
time we rethink our usage of "why not." Before explaining to a client
why seemingly outlandish ideas aren't possible, I think we need to ask
of ourselves, "why not?" A lot has changed on the Web over the last
few years. New technologies such as AJAX, Flash, Flex,
and Silverlight, have exploded the world of what is possible on the
Web. Many things are now do-able that weren't before. It's important
that we think long and hard before we decide an idea isn't feasible.
might be the case that some "crazy" idea from a client might be a
fantastic opportunity for us to leverage these new technologies to
create an innovative new experience on the Web that no one has thought
of or attempted before. Perhaps the crazier the idea, the better.
We should view our client's creativity as opportunities for us, as
technologists, to push ourselves and to push the technology in exciting