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Cognition

Typecasting Ourselves

In the movie business when an actor plays the same role over and over, he is considered “typecast.” A word that carries negative connotations and general disdain. The typecast label implies actors only play one role well, emoting the same expressions throughout projects, and presenting the same personality no matter the situation. Generally, being typecast is not something an actor strives for.

On the contrary, actors are applauded for their ability to portray a wide range of roles. They even win awards for their ability to evoke new emotions. Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar this year for his role in “True Grit,” a role that couldn’t be more different than his portrayal of “The Dude” in “The Big Lebowski.”

And while the term “typecast” can be applied to our industry, the implication isn’t the same. For example, agencies that focus their development resources on a single platform aren’t looked down upon for their consistency. Typically, they’re the ones called in at the eleventh hour when shit needs doing; these agencies often play the role of the hero.

During my time at Happy Cog, I, along with a great team, have developed and integrated countless publishing platforms. From Fortune 100 companies looking for enterprise platforms to startup bloggers eyeing the open source community, we’ve had a chance to experience a wide array of platforms. We strive to avoid typecasting ourselves. Sure, we have not tried every platform out there, yet, but we’re well on our way.

Having a high level of diversity makes us stronger. It gives us a holistic understanding of what exists and what’s possible. We’re watching what’s happening in the enterprise market, observing how they’re managing assets and how they’re setting up staging servers. At the same time, we’re keeping an eye on the open source community, learning from their template languages and daily patches.

This view provides us with an understanding of who does what well. If we see something in an open source product that isn’t yet in the enterprise market, we ask why. Maybe it doesn’t scale, maybe the enterprise market has tried it and it hasn’t worked. Similarly, if we like an enterprise feature, we look for an open source platform that mimics that feature. Knowledge is power and keeping a beat on the publishing community allows us to make informed decisions when recommending a platform to a client.

Then there are agencies more like Samuel L. Jackson. Agencies and individuals out there that focus their effort on a single platform. Agencies that strive to be typecast. They live and breathe a platform and are experts in the product. They bend it into shapes mere mortals can only dream of. They are the ones who make WordPress into a community site or Drupal into a Blogger clone. And, generally, they’re applauded for it.

So, do you typecast yourself into a single product? Let us know in the comments how you abide and if you’d recommend it.

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