A conversation at the magazine.
A. There's no such thing as photo editing.
B. What are you talking about? Our photo editor is right there. Look at him, he's working. Whatever it is he does, it's called photo editing.
A. But can you really say there's such a thing as photo editing? I'd argue that photos are editorial, not edited.
B. What the hell are you talking about?
A conversation on the movie set.
A. Key grip isn't a real job.
B. I know it sounds made up, but it's real. They're in charge of rigging the dollies and cranes for the cameras and lights.
A. Movies should be the product of a director and a camera person.
B. Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea how hard it is to make a movie?
Whenever I walk into a client's office, I marvel at all the desks and cubicles and offices. Look at all the people! It takes concerted human effort to put out a newspaper or a magazine. Making a movie is a complex endeavor, often involving hundreds of people behind the scenes. And don't even get me started about all the people who work at banks, whole skyscrapers full of them, doing god knows what.
I am reasonably certain that no one sits around the newspaper or the magazine or the bank, calling out coworkers' job titles and insisting that they don't exist. I feel totally confident that no one on the movie set says "Hey, you know what would make this process a lot better? If we didn't have these unnecessary people, hiding behind their made-up job titles."
Our industry is growing. Which means it's changing. I believe a certain amount of Defining The Damn Thing (DTDT) is necessary, as it helps us clarify the boundaries of what we do. Sometimes I get frustrated by our inability to settle on a standard set of labels and descriptions for what we do, and I laughed a bit when we were mocked by the US News and World Report Best Careers 2009 report for not being able to agree on a name for ourselves.
But there's a difference between trying to use more precise language to clarify the boundaries between roles, and declaring that someone else's job is bullshit. The difference is that DTDT can help move the profession forward, even if it sometimes looks like messy bickering. It is inherently harmful to think you can point at a job title, a profession, a whole class of people, and claim that their work isn't valid.
Making great digital products takes people. Lots of talented people. Recognizing the various skills and roles that go into our work is a sign of respect. If we want bigger budgets, more time to do it right, and more specialized, skilled people to do it, then we have to stop screwing ourselves over by denying the existence of other people's jobs. Argue for more specialization, more clarity of roles, because that's what it takes to do things right.