In Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Elizabeth Swann protests her mistreatment at the hands of Captain Barbossa by accusing him of violating the “Pirate Code.” Turns out, quoting Captain Barbossa, “the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Is there a lesson here for arbitrators?
Take the “rule” that arbitrators should index one batch for every ten they arbitrate, for example. This is an important guideline to ensure arbitrators are aware of the project instructions and updates. However, is someone going to monitor your work to make sure you’re maintaining the proper balance? Hardly. We have neither the time nor the interest to do so. In fact, in some situations, we’d even recommend ignoring the 1:10 “rule” altogether.
What!?!?!? Sure, if you are arbitrating the same project over and over and are developing expertise in that project, and you are reading and consistently applying the project instructions, why would it make sense to slow down by making you index a batch (especially with a five-million image arbitration backlog)? But if you change projects to something new and unfamiliar, wouldn’t it make sense to familiarize yourself with the quirks of that project and its custom instructions before you start evaluating the work of indexers?
Have you ever arbitrated the same project for weeks or even months, and all of a sudden you open a batch and see a new form or record type? Sometimes the forms or records change in the middle of a project. This would be a good time to go back and index a few batches again to be sure you are familiar with the new forms and review the instructions to see if they have been adapted to the new records.
Remember, rules or guidelines (or whatever you want to call them) are generally good things that help us stay out of trouble. Where you have the freedom to follow or ignore them, we hope you’ll choose to see them for what they are—helps that are meant to keep the work moving ahead on the right track.