"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
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
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
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
courtesy of POP