I had a terrible case of Scope Creep yesterday, so it is perhaps fortunate that I had recently learned the name for the problem. While it isn’t true that naming a problem is the equivalent of solving the problem, it does at least allow you to whine about it more effectively.

Would you like to see the school where I’m teaching? 9

Here is is. Specifically, this is the building where I teach. It is entirely possible that one of those top windows is my classroom. Someone with better visual-spatial skills than mine would be able to tell you for sure.

It took me a couple of weeks to find the doors.

I am in the Fine Arts department, and that is our …mural… below. I’m not sure about using the word “mural.” It is made of clay. Can it be a mural? Some of my readers will be able to tell us the correct tem. I wait eagerly for this.

9 I like being in the art department. It seems to me that writing belongs there, not in some random place near the business school.

This is true even though I am taking the position with my students that I’m a professional writer, I meet my deadlines, I expect them to meet theirs, and I don’t even want to hear any airy-fairy stuff about inspiration or their needing to get their creative juices flowing.

I think they’re listening to me. Thursday I handed back their papers. Everyone had done so well and I was so happy with them, and I told them so. There were all these As and Bs. They swarmed up to get their papers while somebody was writing on the board, and then there was a bunch of murmuring which interfered with continuing the class.

I never have this problem, so I stopped. “Okay,” I said, “you need some time to celebrate before we go on?”

No such thing.

“Where are my comments?” one of the Ashleys asked me in an injured tone.

They are all named Ashley, except the ones interchangeably named Jason or Justin. I am of course subsuming all the Ashleighs and Ashlys and Ashlees in there.

Anyway, the others agreed. They were shocked and appalled that they hadn’t gotten enough comments.

One boy (Justin, uinless it was Jason) said, “She gave them all to me,” but mostly there was a sense that I had shorted them on the comments to which they are entitled.

I could have said that I had been online with the engineer all night except for that measly five hours of sleep, and had been too tired to think up anything to say, but then I remembered that I had been making rather a point of the importance of giving and accepting feedback. Not to mention the whole not waiting till the last minute part.

I quit apologizing and defending myself and instead said, “Thank you. That’s good feedback for me. Next time, I’ll make sure to give better comments.”

So, yes, I had a bout of Scope Creep yesterday. This is when you have agreed to do something for a price and then the client wants more than that.

I had been delicately suggesting to The Computer Guy that one of our mutual clients might need some parameters and maybe should pay a deposit.

“They wouldn’t be trying to be difficult,” I said. “They’d just be sitting around one day and someone would say, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool—‘”

“That’s always how it starts,” he said. “Scope Creep.”

Yesterday’s Scope Creep was about a client’s need to make changes on the site. I say, “Tell your webmaster…” and if that doesn’t work, then I tell their webmaster. That’s how it works. When they don’t have a webmaster, I introduce them to The Computer Guy.

But this client is like me: she can learn new stuff. She can do it herself. I just need to explain to her how to do it. She’s willing to pay for my time as I explain it to her.

Of course I admire this. But I don’t want to do that. I’ve done this sort of thing before when pressed, and I can tell you that it just leads to people wanting you to fix their hard drive. Last week I went up to The Computer Guy’s office and he had a table full of laptops whirring away doing some kind of maintenance. After the client left, I said, “I thought you didn’t do hardware.” It was Scope Creep.

“He’s special,” The Computer Guy said shamefacedly. The trouble is, everyone becomes special.

So I determined to be firm. “I don’t do that stuff,” I said. “I do words. Even on my own site, they tell me, ‘Fibermom, don’t touch anything in red.’ Sites work better when they’re coded well, by experts.”

She is determined, too. This took quite a while. I had a little parley with one of my pro bono clients and their webmaster. Then I worked for a couple of hours on linkbuilding for a site with relaxation audio. That’s like relaxation tapes — you know, you listen to them and someone tells you to relax your forehead in a soothing voice — but now of course they’re MP3s.  I found this quite relaxing, and it was a good thing, because my tutoring appointment didn’t show.

This was fine, actually. I was working while waiting for him, and the menfolks tidied the living room a bit for the occasion, so when his mom called a couple of hours later, I was very relaxed and cheerful about it. I also — and this is the part that I’m reporting — rescheduled them for next week, not for later that evening or for today. It was my son’s birthday yesterday, I have a phone conference today, I need to clean my foyer for the HGP, I need some time off. I haven’t gotten my Minimum Daily Requirement of Lolling Around.

At 6:00, then, I almost turned off my computer. However, I got a call from #1 daughter. She really is special. She needed a domain name registered for a friend. I checked availability and we got that settled, and then the friend explained his plans. International safaris. We made some rough plans regarding his technology needs and I sent the domain registration request off to The Computer Guy with a heads-up about the likely future need for design work.

“This is my first big game hunter client, actually,” I confessed, “so can’t predict future needs well. Just the domain for right now.”

There was a moment while I felt as though all the clients The Computer Guy brings into the mix are normal things like insurance brokers and pharmaceutical companies, and the ones I bring in are things like big game hunters. Which type is more conducive to Scope Creep, do you suppose? I don’t know the answer to that question. It is possible that mine are more fun. I would claim this was because I was in the Fine Arts section, except that Sukey actually has a degree in Fine Arts, and as far as I know she never shows up with big game hunters.

So today is for domestic activity, including the procurement of a birthday cake. Yes, it’s late. I’m claiming that it’s because everyone had to work yesterday and the grandparents are celebrating with us tomorrow, so yesterday was the present segment of the birthday and today is the cake and tomorrow is the lunch out part.

It was the fault of the Scope Creep.