"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 18 December 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Memes to an End



"It would take more than a man   
to lead the slaves from bondage. 
It would take a god."            
- Charlton Heston,               
"The Ten Commandments"           


It takes more than a meme to lead

the slaves from bondage.

Geeksploitation is dead.



People are scared. The recent

turmoil in the heart of the

Digital Revolution - layoffs at

Wired, shake-ups at Pathfinder,

losses at AOL - has left the

same geeks that were loudly and

repeatedly grinding their teeth

at managerial stupidity just six

months ago eerily silent. The

distance from feeling hateful

towards a job to feeling

thankful for a job is shorter

than most thought; people will

work longer hours under worse

conditions when the cubicles

begin to empty.



Prosperity breeds contempt, and

poverty breeds consent. In good

times, it's easy to complain "I

work for an idiot." The hunger

of hard times makes you swallow

the second part of the sentence,

and "I work" suddenly takes on

much more significance. "Just

one more compile" stops coming

from the corner office and

starts coming from your own



[Geek Script]

Geeksploitation suffered the same

trajectory as any pop cult meme

from grunge to gangsta rap,

sinking from Rolling Stone to mere

journalistic logrolling faster

than Sheryl Crow rumors. After

the Rolling Stone article, The

Site got into the act and the

topic started to bubble up in

newsgroups and on chat servers.

Without looking too hard, you

could find dozens of people

swapping enthusiasm for misery,

and swapping misery with



Always eager to eat our own if

it's amusing enough, we tried to

abort the meme early in the

game; and even The Site dug up

some sweet-talkers from the

compost heap. Gathered together

in the playroom at Cyborganic,

the flakes from GeekCereal held

forth on how they couldn't be

happier with their jobs, despite

well-nigh endless yammering to

the contrary. "The job is fun so

it cuts down on the need for

outside-of-work fun," said

"Caleb", who, I'm guessing, could

probably stand to get out more.



Wrongheaded if not entirely

off-base, does Geeksploitation

deserve to die? Perhaps it's

lived out its natural life span.

Computer industry trends have a

shelf-life of anywhere from a

week to a couple of years, and

what was hot a few months ago

can, and usually should, be

hopelessly passé today.

The hyperactive pace of

invention fuels the rapid

pitter-patter of ideas being

born, being spread and being

dead. Hitching your wagon to a

rising star could give you a

very short, very parabolic ride.

Bitter experience breeds

cynicism - it's only a dream job

when someone else is doing it.


But in the end - as always -

nothing's changed, though

everything is different. Working

conditions have been largely

unaffected; the atmosphere in

which work is done has been

radically altered. Borderline

incompetents still run the show,

but pointing it out makes you

look like the last person out of

the cave: "Hey guys, have you

ever read this 'Dilbert' guy?

He's, like, so right."



Mutated from an awkward phrase of

employee rebellion - "Help!

Help! I'm being Geeksploited!" -

to yet another handy way for

management to dismiss complaints

without addressing them,

Geeksploitation deserves to die,

deserves to be beaten to death

with a shovel. If the brittle

carapace of Geeksploitation (or

the Geeks that lived it) teaches

anything, it's that talk has

never accomplished one damn



Spittle-flecked emails between

friends; angry digressions over

homemade sandwiches; pathetic,

anonymous rants in webzines:

None of them will ever change

how a company, or an industry,

is run. Whatever truth there was

in the complaints has been lost

under a tide of cliche. The real

lesson of the meme is now just

emerging: put up or shut up.



Quit your talking and deal with

it, one way or another.

courtesy of POP