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Softpanorama IT Slackers Society. Established December 31, 2006
by Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov
Version 1.02 (Mar 10, 2012)
|News||Books||Recommended Links||Compulsive browsing of the Web||Office Slaves: the rise of bullshit jobs||Drinking from a firehose||Information Overload|
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Give yourself a break -- slow down...
After several years of working in IT many highly qualified programmers and top system administrators face strange symptoms which might be defined as "allergy to IT environment". Among them:
Working for a completely crazy control freak or a half-crazy right wing authoritarian
jerk, or know nothing who is school friend of vice-president of IT is much less fun that you expected
in college. Your resentment is growing day by day and several times you already was razor-thin close
to being summoned on "red carpet" for friendly counseling. You start to understand that
the key task of IT brass is to impede wherever possible the adoption
on useful technologies as they might threaten their existence. And that there is
a real danger of severe punishment for anybody who still has the remnants of sanity in the selection
of applications or architecture. Especially if he/she is trying to introduce something new.
If you think that three or more points in this list are true about your current position, don't fall in despair -- help is coming. Join Softpanorama IT Slacker Society.
Below you can find the IT Slacker Manifest. The key motto is "give yourself a break -- slow down". Stop moving electrons way too fast. This is a society for IT "neo-slaves" who are only superficially different from the "damned of the service industry", condemned to dress up as clowns all week, or mid-management lemmings who waste all their lives in pointless meetings.
In order to join you just need read and accept the following manifest and click on one of the advertisements at any page of the Softpanorama Web site to pay your annual fee :-). You need to realizes that this is the time for IT wage slaves to hit back and that you can make a difference being an underground member of this resistance movement. Here are the key ideas which we proudly call "IT Slacker Society Manifest." They are only few of them and they are definitely devoid of usual corporate BS (see also Ten Commandments of Software Development Slackerism) :
Beware of excessive zeal in pushing keys on the keyboard and moving electrons too
fast. While you can think about yourself as a brilliant programmer or administrator it
does not matter one bit. In reality you are just a special kind of mover -- electrons mover. And
as such you can be replaced by almost anybody sitting next to you. Or outsourced to some remote
or not so remote place. So work as slow as possible, do quality job to preserve your
dignity and reserve some time to venture outside your cubicle. Despite your excessive zeal
to push keys on the keyboard you need to spend some time (not too much, if you can help it) cultivating
your personal network so that you're untouchable when the next outsourcing wave or reorganization
comes knocking in the your door Try to spend some time making real contact with those around
you instead of sending email and using IM. As system provide you with the lunch
break never try to skip it to do more. This is your tiny slot of personal time and you need to use
it in full to eat and communicate with people, not to push keys on the keyboard. This
means sticking your head out of your cubicle, leaving the server room, and dealing with the real
people. As Prince Kropotkin once noted about his prison guards, "people
are better then institutions."
A more sound approach to consider this to be a regular working environment to which you need to adapt to. There is little merit in becoming a corporate IT revolutionary who fights the system on barricades and die for the cause.
David and Yves are both wrong – but short pieces on something as complex as this would be. We has a three day week as a result of a coal strike in the UK and production fell by – er – 4%. I like the term 'bullshit jobs' and can remember a Spaniard telling me he had one in the Mondragon cooperative, a matter held in great shame. Mondragon was under great pressure at the time and instead of sacking people had created messenger jobs to take up the slack – riding bikes with messages on site.
Bullshit jobs are different from scut work – the dirty, boring work like cleaning toilets. Many BS jobs pay very well, like being out of control of a TBTF bank. Dirt premiums were part-and-parcel of pay in the factories and shipyards of my youth. My last university paid a better hourly rate to toilet cleaners than regular cleaners. It also held panel interviews for these jobs – so you can tell where the BS jobs were! With all this recruitment and selection 'care' they never noticed they were starting the cleaners at a time before public transport started running.
The first scientific step in trying for a new economics is to ignore existing literature, at least for a while. The idea of this is to raise assumptions not skewed by existing theorising. David Graeber's book on Debt: the first 5000 years makes something of a fist at this on its limited topic.
Keynes' 15 hours may be right or wrong. I've know plenty of academics who worked less. The point is we don't know how much work it would take to meet basic standards for all the world's population. Indeed we are short of all basic information like this, not skewed by economic theory.
Post-singularity in Robot Heaven current work ethics clearly collapse. Economics doesn't do thought experiment well.
When we go back in history, we tend to inflict our own world-view. Stepping out of the time machine, most of us wouldn't be able to cope with the smell. It's rare to see a feature film that depicts actual conditions and its such nonsense we usually have in our heads. What real evidence is there that capitalism or any other system of the great and good has been other than a hindrance or opportunity cost to decent human development? I'll have the absence of any primitive people developing space-flight and leaving us a message, 'sorry you were too dangerous to take with us'.
If it was 'economics' that drove the exploitation of labour, what was the surplus wanted for? History is full of farces on this. Imagine looking down from a Scottish cliff seeing backs broken picking seaweed. It's going to be burned to help provide gunpowder for Napoleon's wars. The pickers get squat and the landlord is absent gambling and whoring in London. At the time, many women preferred whoring to domestic service. You can see much the same in the DR Congo today in the Coltan trade (use your mobile and you are complicit).
My game was rugby league and whilst still gladiatorial, the laws and refereeing prevent many of the head-shot fouls of my time. Economics has gone backwards to magnificent days that never were. It needs a total overhaul that starts with proper understanding of real experience now, proper history and new rules on what we compete on. Currently, it equates to Accrington Stanley winning the cup through the shock tactic of playing 25 men.
None of us are qualified to say what work and the lack of it (by which we mean income plus lack of dignity) mean to most people. Yves seems to conflate leisure with idling – without asking idlers what they get from it – adolescents love idling together (I have some tapes of how inane what they do is and the mess they leave behind and never clean up). I was idling in Rome a few months ago and could cope entirely without work. Hauling lobster with some good mates would be as good as idling. Nothing today beats being able to look back at trench work, smoke a tab with a mate and go off for a few swallies (Yves reviled ale).
All you have to do to attract adolescent idlers is put up something like a bus shelter. They'll be there is hoards, gassing like old women – don't use glass, they'll smash it. I played cricket, tennis, rugby, judo, soccer, hockey, chess – anything to kill time – all requiring some other sod be prepared to do the organising. Yves' seems on 'cloud Calvin' to me – we can organise idling as much as work. Check our the 'hayrick' times and historic festival days (there were lots). All I need for some idling tonight is £3 a pint and taxi fares (spend equivalent to a week's disposable income for most here in the grim North). I could afford the night, but my body can't, so I'm waking with Max. I prefer the people in the park. We could do some sociological idling, wandering past prostitutes, wrecks of people close to 'cider death' and plenty of resentment if we forgot to dress down. We'd find homeless people with tales to tell and coffee to hand to.
What do people do to idle in primitive societies? I expect Graeber knows, as I expect he knows the city-scape I've just decided to let Mawell haul me round before it gets dark with a few polystyrene flasks of coffee.
We'd need education and training for leisure, provision for it, money for it … the argument on what we'd do with it is pointless. My first stop tonight will be a tent behind the parish church – which is where most of us 'choosing' to drop out would be if suddenly made leisured. Graeber is on about an entirely different set of possibilities in which to live in that tent would be a choice. One might say too, that retirement in reasonable wealth, into active leisure is not a choice now for many.
I'm sure about BS jobs and they exist while we can't get on and provide safe shelter and other basics, don't go green, don't have big renewable projects that don't steal water from others … and when I see our public tested on what they know can only assume I wasted my time in education and that universities are a giant leisure scheme. Most of my hard-working old relatives tended to die at work, which was the norm. That's why pensions were affordable back then.
"Bullshit" work brought to mind Huxley's 1932 book "Brave New World" elitist character Mustafa Mond, "The optiminum population is modelled on the iceberg-eight-ninths below the water line, one-ninth above." John Savage asks,"And they're happy below the water line…in spite of that awful work?" Mond replies, " Awful? They don't find it so. On the contrary. They like it. It's light, it's childishly simple. No strain on the mind or the muscles. Seven and a half hours of mild, unexhausting labour, and then the soma ration and games and unrestricted copulations and the feelies. What more can they ask for? True," he added, "they might ask for shorter hours. And of course we could give them shorter hours. Technically, it would be perfectly simple to reduce all lower-caste working hours to three or four a day. But would they be any the happier for that? No, they wouldn't. The experiment was tried…What was the result? Unrest and a large increase in the consumption of soma; that was all. Those three and a half hours of extra leisure were so far from being a source of happiness, that people felt constrained to take a holiday from them. The Inventions Office is stuffed with plans for labour-saving processes. Thousands of them." Mustapha Mond made a lavish gesture. "And why don't we put them into execution? For the sake of the labourers; it would be sheer cruelty to afflict them with excessive leisure…Besides, we [Alphas] have our stability to think of. We don't want to change. Every change is a menace to stability."
"By contrast, a lot of men get depressed when they retire because they don't have hobbies or interests to occupy them (Graeber's idea that they are bursting with creative projects that they would rather have been doing seems wanting in a lot of cases)."
I may not have the creative projects of a Chuck Close in mind upon retirement, but boy, after years of career disappointments, toxic bosses and toxic workplace politics, as well as the stigmatizing of some jobs I've had that I resented, there will likely be no depression on my part, provided my health is pretty good and my significant other is also doing ok.
Sleeping late w/ no alarm to respond to, volunteering, more reading time, will work just fine :)
One source of all the bullshit jobs to me is the enormous amount of resources put into advertising/marketing. In US about $500. per capita is annually spent on advertising. As an old codger who has accumulated all the stuff he needs, this is a huge waste of resources. Aside from food and gasoline I don't spend $500. a year on discretionary purchases. If the private sector would use all the information it has on my consumption patterns and more effectively direct its efforts, we would both be ahead if they would just give me all the stuff I might want in a year and skip the irritation of advertising. The wired telephone is almost obsolete to me. 90% of its use is by telemarketers. I never answer the phone and I only use it to return calls to a few who leave messages. E-mail is rapidly becoming the same. I might get one or two messages a week but every day must delete 10-20 spam messages.
The Dork of Cork
The greatest waste /scam of our current time is the new private utilities and their "switch products" I must spend hours and hours with the Ma preventing her from being gamed but it is impossible….they have total control over the commons and are exploiting it to the max. Especially taking advantage of old people and younger people who want to somehow leave this terrible hamster wheel but cannot.
We are but farm animals waiting to be slaughtered.
The Dork of Cork:
The jobs are bullshit. There is a major jobs program currently undergoing in Ireland – its fucking hamster wheel economics.
"Yet virtually no one talks about it." Dorks have talked about it ALL OF THE TIME but there is no point to life – thats the underlying message of our age.
Pointless utterly pointless. Can we please close down the western experiment, please ???
Can we please close down the western experiment, please ??? The Dork of Cork
What? You think this crap can go on for much longer? Whatever for?
The Dork of Cork:
My mature reflection I would prefer to be a subject in a pre 1648 world then a banking asset that is not even valued much….. The Cromwellian experiment will continue to destroy however – that is what it does….its very good at what it does.
Sure it will stop ….when you are dead and are no longer a banking asset However It will not stop for the rest of the living dead.
Perhaps unrelated but my mother was taken for thousands of dollars by a telephone scam … We were told by a judge that we could nothing about it if she hadn't been declared "incompetent".
I will hear no kind word spoken of telemarketers. As I repeat later in this thread, it is practically impossible for me to contact family relatives in the USA due to "telemarketing fatigue" and the subsequent reliance on a machine that must recognize all incoming call numbers to establish communication.
The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit:
I am reminded of law school, sitting around the lunch table, talking about career preferences. Everybody would wax enthusiastic about the Big City Firms and Big City Jobs they were angling for – but when I'd comment that I'd like to find a nice small town office (or maybe DA) somewhere outside The Valley, they'd stare at me like I had lobsters crawling from my ears (h/t Christmas Story). I understand *exactly* what Yves is talking about regarding socializing (or lack thereof) and how Americans just have taken that Puritan Work Ethic to heart when it comes to loafing – or the moral decrepitude that comes from engaging in it.
Thanks for setting it out so well, Yves!
Once upon a time in NYC I had an argument with my then boyfriend: I, a telexist for an int'l. trading company had a better job than a waitress. He said no. I said yes. You decide because I didn't like doing either "work".
A few years later and without the boyfriend I moved to continental Europe. I never went back to NYC USA nor anywhere else in USA. It wasn't easy, another language was necessary to live and so I learned and what transpired was more than I had ever even imagined. Not money, not glory: time to think, time to live, time for oneself and one's personal life – time respected by and for society at large.
Paul Lafargue "Le droit a la paresse": "Une etrange folie possede les classes ouvrieres des nations ou regne la civilisation capitaliste. Cette folie traine a sa suite des miseres individuelles et sociales qui, depuis deaux siecles, torturent la triste humanite. Cette folie est l'amour du travail, la passion moribonde du travail, pousee jusqu'a l'epuisement des forces vitales de l'individu et sa progeniture…"
Forgive the absence of all foreign accents but the internet keyboard is still unable to deliver an accurate account of foreign languages point to point.
As for telemarketing: telemarketing has practically ruined the possibility of taking polls by telephone. Yves I think you're being a bit silly this time so calm down about it.
I forgot to add that due to the saturation of telemarketing I can't reach my relatives by telephone any longer – if they don't recognize your number on a system you can't even get through to them. Great when there are family emergencies to deal with and/or reunions to organize. Bravo telemarketing!!
I love the French for embracing laziness - it doesn't have the negative connotations it has in the US. That is a compliment. More recently Corinne Maier wrote "Bonjour Paresse," which addresses bullshit apparatchik labour and why workers should revolt in their little ways to break down the machine.
When asked what would happen if all workers behaved that way, she responded, "Maybe it would lead to something new."
P.S. This is too good to be true. Received my semi-annual call from Hanks Harte this afternoon! Brilliant use of resources. Really, almost as valuable as teaching math to 5th graders or building wind turbines or repairing sewer systems….
It seems that the primary motive of the bourgeoisie would be to preserve their power, wealth, and status, by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary.
The position of the bourgeois is maximized by balancing production with consumption so that there is always a crisis about both. During the era of subsistence capitalism, when capitalists directed the production of traditional necessities, this was not a problem: the products in effect sold themselves and were always in short supply. During the succeeding period of consumer capitalism, propaganda (advertising) was necessary to move a large part of the product. During this period, the 'leisure' time of the workers had to be increased so that they would have time to shop for, buy, and use up the new products. The balance seems to have been struck at the 40-hour work week. Most of the work done was 'necessary' in that it was necessary to produce the goods and services consumed, even if these goods themselves were not necessary. The seeming vacuity (bullshit content) of corporate bureaucracy and government may have been politically necessary even though its utility was not apparent to the casual observer or Dilbert reader.
We seem to be entering on a new phase of capitalism now which can be called 'finance capitalism'; in this phase, instead of preying on and exploiting a working class. many capitalists prey on and exploit other capitalists. Evidently fewer people are needed to do the work required, so we are seeing an increase in 'structural' (permanent) unemployment and part-time low-wage jobs. As a result of the decline in 'real' work, there is a corresponding decline in demand - people don't have money, or if they get some they save it in anticipation of being laid off or stranded as their company goes out of business. Hence, a smaller proportion of the work done will be 'real' and those who have jobs will be more likely to find that their job is 'bullshit', that is, seemingly vacuous, existing only for some arcane managerial-political reason.
Best job I ever had was telemarketing for the new Disney Hall in Los Angeles the year it opened. Worked a four hour shift and except for a bathroom break was constantly calling, constantly getting rejected, and then would make a sale. I would work four or five of those four-hour shifts a week and make $2G net.
Why telemarketing for Disney Hall? Disney Studios couldn't pay for their own Hall? Sorry for my ignorance but just what exactly were you marketing for Disney? I haven't been to any of their "parks" and I probably never will. I'm 58. I couldn't care less about Disney parks now and even as a kid in the USA I didn't care about "Disneyland". My parents took us kids to visit the dams, the ghost towns, the beautiful wilderness of the US. We went with tents and gas stoves and flashlights to sleep under the summer sky for the precious ONE WEEK my dad had for vacation. We watched shooting stars at night, we waded on rocky shores of cold rivers during the day and most importantly we were together and WE BOUGHT NOTHING.
After an hour with the dog down the road with our ;forced choice idlers' I'm with Dork of Cork on closing down the Western experiment.
I've been with the 'workoholics' (often self-proclaimed) Yves mentioned – doing such as management development, board room meetings and the like – there was a culture of 'hard work', but it was bull too. Most of it is image management. When you have a three day deadline and work 24/7 to get it in, the "hardworkers" are all unavailable until that point they think they can cash in on your success. With few exceptions I've found their "hardwork" gets in the way. You get helpful submissions on pet research projects when the funding criteria include "no research funded". In experimental economics, I'd invite David and Yves to a 'pick the elitist' night at my local – but to be honest I have to work hard at 'street cred'. The obvious lesson is we are a mile away from reality for others and keep it that way. This is how we move from 'we could do with controlling inflation' to 'let's use unemployment to do it'. This stiffs 20% of the population, but, hey, its moral because so many more would suffer if not for our genius plan.
Farming is a key date on division – remains of the people who did it are distinct from hunter gatherers and that class that got others doing it. Life was much tougher for those who toiled in the fields. Yves is right that paying less and less for scut work makes it demeaning and that voluntary work beyond retirement age shows a good side – though we'd want to investigate why some people don't give up, the possibility that retirement is oppressively lonely being one I found amongst ex-workers still using shipyard canteens.
It's very noticeable (I'm afraid I browse this blog rather as I do street-and-pub sociology) no one runs with the 15 hours a week, how we would fund mass leisure, what it would be, how we'd get the necessary work done – I have an idea that such mass leisure would be an industry – and how we would encourage innovation, prevent free-riding, over-population … and who we would hang once we found out it was possible and has been prevented!
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