"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 January 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Culture of Complaint.com



The sweatshop/webshop comparison

never made much sense to us -

many mistreated sweatshop

employees aren't even allowed to

take bathroom breaks, much less

play Marathon during work hours -

but that hasn't stopped legions

of allegedly exploited HTML

hacks from filling their home

pages with tales of worker woe.

Despite our best efforts, the

meme has even given rise to an

odd sort of modern muckraking,

as glossy magazines race to

expose the cramped conditions

well-compensated programmers are

forced to endure.



The latest expose comes from

champion of the underclass

Details, which this month ran

former Grand Royal editor Bob

Mack's account of his 11 weeks

creating content at Microsoft's

Mint. Believe it or not, Mack

found inefficiency and lameness

rampant on the Redmond campus!

Some of the food was greasy! To

add insult to injury, he was

"lowballed" during salary

negotiations, getting only

$1,500 a week though more money

was budgeted for his job. Do the

math before you make out a check

to Save the Geeks (Your money

provides all the Coke and pizza

your nerd will need!) Even minus

the money Mack says was taken

out by the employment agency,

that adds up to over $60,000 a

year - well more than the amount

made by the average American

family. That kind of

mistreatment we could live with.


While even we wouldn't want to

work 12 hours a day for a

moronic manager who couldn't

spell H-T-M-L if you spotted him

the first two letters, web

workers' disillusionment

probably stems from entirely too

much illusion in the first

place. Gung-ho geeks sacrificed

pay for what they thought was a

chance to change the world, but

dream jobs are just that and

even the most idealistic among

us eventually wake up one day in

a cold sweat, haunted by the

horrible realization that their

employer would rather make money

than change the world. Shocking

but true!



Given the hype surrounding the

entire industry, the resulting

complaints seem all too obvious.

Employees are overworked and

underpaid, managers shortsighted

and greedy. Right here in

America! Why haven't these

issues have received more media

attention? Thank goodness the

industrial economy doesn't run

that way. Naive as it might be,

though, such griping is a

mainstay of the web as well as

magazines. A Fray essay entitled

"Internship of Fools" reveals

that the White House web page

project is beset by bureaucracy.

In government? Good God!



Laugh all you want at such

Odwalla-addled naiveté,

but our perceptions of reality

are shaped by expectations as

much as anything else. Gen-Xers

who once expected an expanding

economy kvetched endlessly about

the recent recession they were

sure would make them

latte-servers for life; but it's

as foolish to expect business to

only get better as it is to

believe SOMA firms are putting

up web pages for the betterment

of humankind.


A congressional panel recently

reported that government

statistics have been overstating

the prices of goods, which means

that the recession may not have

been as bad as we thought. And

neither is working on the web.

But even $60,000 a year can seem

like a pittance when cloaked in

the right context.


[N Code]

Look at the "webshops" from a

different perspective and the

very complaints erstwhile old

media reporters take as an

indicator of discontent become

yet another sign that things

aren't really all that bad. Even

the most venomous net.spew page

implies that its creator has

both the time and technology to

tell his story; employees in

real sweatshops never had the

hardware to document their

experiences. And in an era when

art presumed to spring from

oppression is automatically

accorded respect, griping can

also be pretty lucrative. Mack

may have already made more money

than the average new media

start-up, and the possibilities

for turning complaints into cash

seem almost limitless. Just

look at Pearl Jam.

courtesy of Dr. Dreidel


Dr. Dreidel