Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Next Guy

Back in my construction days I learned a lot about the right and wrong way to do a job. Having to go in to a hack job and make it right lead my crew to try to always do things right and leave it nice for the next guy.  As my career progressed and I got into commercial (specifically hospital) electrical work I found myself in some safety training classes. In between being shown pictures of guys that blew themselves up one of the instructors said something truly profound.

"Every time you open a panel, you get to meet every other electrician that ever worked on it."

Whoa. I had already sort of developed that philosophy on my own, from digging into other guys work. It made me lay my work out in a way that wouldn't just get the job done but also would make sense to the next guy that had to dig into it. If things were complicated I'd leave documentation, sometimes just some marker on the door of the panel but something at least.

Getting back into the audio realm. Audio installs are subject to a lot less regulation than electrical ones. There's a also a tendency to do something "temporary" that winds up sticking around for years or even decades. Small, incremental changes build up over time and you wind up with a huge, undocumented mess when you try to go in and fix a problem.

I'll spare you the details of the theatrical/architectural lighting system that I'm wrangling today. All in all it's a pretty good system. Well designed and implemented. I have a feeling though that I'm meeting one of the guys that worked on it in the interim. Where's that splice or add on that's not in the paperwork that's screwing me up?

The same philosophy applies to setting up a studio, installing a system in a venue and any number of things. It's always been a part of my live stage setup. There's nothing worse than having something fail at go time and have to hand-over-hand a bunch of cables because you don't know what anything is. Simple things like color coding different lengths of cables can cut down the list of suspects when you're looking at a snarl of cable on stage. Better yet, avoid the snarl in the first place. Taking a few minutes to lay out a stage cleanly and neatly doesn't just improve looks and safety, it can save your butt and keep the show running on time.

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