kaigou: Edward, losing it. (1 Edward conniption)
[personal profile] kaigou
I need something to say to a coworker (who is otherwise a cool person) when for whatever reason he decides to play devil's advocate. Especially when what I'm arguing is something that he later admits is something he also believes in, or at least would like to recognize as valuable. It feels like he's either winding me up for his own amusement (though he doesn't seem amused at the time, so probably not) or just doesn't realize that I can't tell whether he's serious -- and the upshot is that I lose respect for him. It's like, oi, if you're that much of an asshole, then maybe I need to change my opinion about you. Or something.

Today there was talk about UX/user testing. G was somewhat dismissive of there being any value in this. I've done user studies for ten years (contextual analysis and ethnographic studies most especially, which means lots and lots of talking to users at length), I told him every single time I did a user test or interview, I learned something new.

It was almost always it was something that opened my eyes about my own privilege: that I'm abled, that my language skills are top-notch even for a native, that my eye-hand coordination is pretty damn good, that I don't have motor skill issues, that my hearing's good enough, that my sight is good enough despite needing glasses, that I don't have significant learning or cognitive issues that get in the way of my comprehension. Doing user studies, as CP later commented, reminds we designers and developers -- we makers -- that we are not The User. It reminds us to be thankful for the ways in which we're fortunate, and to be humbled about the ways in which we have it easy.

All those things I do when coding like larger click-areas and story-answers on alerts and proper color contrast -- just like all the things some architects do in corporate buildings like wider doorways and bar-handles instead of round handles and ramps at every entrance -- these are all invisible if you're abled, but they're crucial if you're not. And the onus does not, should not, lie on the person who is disabled to make do; the onus should lie on us, as the makers to make the web/world inclusive. Because we have the good fortune and the ability to do so.

But he was arguing against this, and I went along until the point where I said, the web should be inclusive, for everyone; the web exists for everyone. G replied, no, the web exists to make money. (Someone tell that to all we fans who runs sites at a loss out of pure love, but I didn't go there.) The whole 'make money' thing was so cynical, and enough opposite his usual attitude, that I just called it quits right there. We're going to end this conversation right here, I said, and that was that (whew).

I'm not sure whether to be pleased or roll my eyes that he told me afterwards that the reason he loves talking to me about stuff/work is that he always learns something new. Except he excused his responses -- though not in so many words -- as devil's advocate. I'm so freaking sick of oh, I'm just playing devil's advocate. It's going on my list as second-hated phrase, right behind, can't you take a joke?

Dear internets, please give me a good witty comeback for the next time G says he's playing devil's advocate. Not too nuclear, since I do have to keep working with him, but something that makes it clear he's playing a game that I don't respect and don't have time for. Anyone?

Date: 1 Oct 2013 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] genre_savvy
Not sure if this is terribly useful, but my sister is going to nursing school and I've been proofreading her papers. In one, she noted that an instructor had said in class, "The devil does not need an advocate. The patient needs an advocate. If you can't do that, then shut up." That's probably not helpful, but maybe you can tweak it to something more applicable? And more polite.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 02:56 am (UTC)
boxofdelights: (Default)
From: [personal profile] boxofdelights
Not quick or witty, but in hopes that what I would say in your situation inspires you to find something that works for you:

"'It's not a good game unless everyone is enjoying it.' That's what they teach kindergarteners. If you want to play devil's advocate, and you'd like me to play along, ask me."

I wouldn't expect that (or anything) to work the first time, but after that, I would give him The Eyebrow and The Mom Voice and say, "Don't play with me without my consent."

If he hadn't learned anything after five reps, I would assume that every opinion that came out of his mouth was devil's advocacy, and not worth engaging with. If he wanted any more discussions, I'd let him figure out how to make that work.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
dragonhand: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dragonhand
The Mom voice is incredibly useful. Give it a bit of a try. It comes naturally enough to lots of women, even me, with no kids.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn
I love this phrase. It's perfect.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 03:40 am (UTC)
majoline: picture of Majoline, mother of Bon Mucho in Loco Roco 2 (Default)
From: [personal profile] majoline
Heh. Provided I'm talking to someone I like, my response is always, "And you're comfortable being the devil's defense attorney? Must be good money."

Because advocate isn't the immediate synonym in our culture for laywer anymore, I find that reminding the other person exactly what position they've taken on usually shuts them up.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 04:07 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
Man, that whole 'tude gets tiresome really quick, but THANKYOU for fighting the good fight and trying to keep designs inclusive for everybody.
I'm wondering if this "male=don't bother arguing" conversation thing is also crossed with "male = defending privileged status quo, aka 'maintaining order'".
That's always an easier stance to take. The arguments are already in place, assumed, taken for granted, annoying. "You know so-and-so won't like that challenge" underlies it without even articulating it.
So what happens when one of the guys steps out of the regular formation and challenges the existing practice?

Date: 1 Oct 2013 05:20 am (UTC)
majoline: picture of Majoline, mother of Bon Mucho in Loco Roco 2 (Default)
From: [personal profile] majoline
one of the guys steps out of the regular formation and challenges the existing practice?

I personally, have never seen a dude do this, except when they back up something a woman has said and defend her. So yeah.

Date: 2 Oct 2013 02:28 am (UTC)
nagasvoice: lj default (Default)
From: [personal profile] nagasvoice
Man, that is tiring. But yay for the coworker speaking up to defend your argument too!

Date: 1 Oct 2013 06:38 am (UTC)
windsorblue: (ellen frackin' tigh)
From: [personal profile] windsorblue
So I guess a punch in the throat is "too nuclear"...?

Date: 1 Oct 2013 07:24 am (UTC)
qem_chibati: Coloured picture of Killua from hunter x hunter, with the symbol of Qem in the corner. (A cat made from Q, E, M) (Default)
From: [personal profile] qem_chibati
I'd probably do something similar to what you've said here, that you are not able to enjoy these conversations, that it makes it difficult to know what he actually stands for and consequently undermines his integrity and consequently the respect that you previously had for him.

You'd prefer it if when he's trying to get more information and understand the matter more seriously if it was in a less antagonistic manner, because at the moment it comes across as he is questioning everything you say like he completely disagrees with it, as opposed to gaining additional information.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 11:44 am (UTC)
tesserae: white poppies in the sun (Default)
From: [personal profile] tesserae
Argh. Ultimately that "devil's advocate" crap is just self-aggrandizing behaviour, plus it's lazy arguing. My students do this because they don't yet know how to engage with the argument that's being made, and think that if they throw up a bunch of their own counter-arguments it'll serve the purpose; it's sometimes hard, though, to tell if they honestly don't know or if they're just reverting to eight years old.

For an argument as stupid as "the web is for making money" there are a million comebacks ("so we should make it easier for everyone, don't you think?") but I think the best one might be the law of unintended consequences - making something easier for, say, people with limited vision can open a site to a whole new group of unanticipated users. Years ago, when they first started spending the money to put in sidewalk curb cuts, the usual Scrooges wanted to know "how many" wheelchairs would actually use them. When the engineers went back to do the use studies, they found people pushing strollers and walking small children as well as salespeople dragging briefcases, students dragging luggage, kids on skateboards and all sorts of other folks all found it much easier to use the intersections with curb cuts. Which, in turn, led to more pedestrian traffic and more customers for businesses. Making websites more accessible has the potential to do the same thing. Why would you want to say to *any* potential user/customer that they should go away & use another service after spending all those resources to attract them????

If, as he says, the web is for making money that seems counter-productive...

Date: 1 Oct 2013 02:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] vcmw
What about, "ok, let's play human advocate now"? I'm good with the earlier suggestion about user advocate too. For me, human vs. devil advocate might add an element of a call to bring it from an intellectual place to a feeling place. And might sound incongruous enough as a phrase to be effective while being jokey? Perhaps not - tone is not my best thing.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 03:39 pm (UTC)
carose59: (XMerricat)
From: [personal profile] carose59
I like all the replies you've gotten already, but I did think of one, so I'm sharing it. *g*

"So, later, when you admit you agree with me about this, how are you going to explain why you were arguing with me? And why should I not be annoyed with you wasting my time and energy arguing over something we agree on?"

Date: 1 Oct 2013 05:02 pm (UTC)
issenllo: strawberry thief print from William Morris (Default)
From: [personal profile] issenllo
Call him on it the next time you suspect him doing this, since he's admitted that he likes acting as a devil's advocate. Roll your eyes. "Really, again? We're going to play this game where you say something you don't believe? You're not TV, you know." Or some other comment questioning his tendency to behave like a fake. Remain firm on your own viewpoint and let him try to justify himself for once.

Date: 1 Oct 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
dragonhand: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dragonhand
Wow, I came here to try and be helpful, but you guys have covered it brilliantly, with panache, finesse and aplomb. And humor and kindness.