Jeremy Hiebert

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Game Developer OT

Also via Play Journal comes the story of a class-action lawsuit by employees of video game giant EA suing for unpaid overtime. It seems like the thing was at least partially set off by an anonymous blog post from the spouse of an EA employee, who describes what she'd ask the CEO if she got him on the phone:
"The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?"
I wonder if this is the case in many "buzz" jobs and industries like video-game design. When you get so many people wanting to work in a field like that, employers seem to be able to treat them however they want, knowing that there will always be others to take their places.

The Pro-Am Revolution

There's something so cool about The Pro-Am Revolution:
"The report defines Pro-Ams as amateurs who pursue a hobby or pastime –which in many cases is an all-consuming passion – to a professional standard. Pro-Ams are involved in ‘serious leisure’, which requires specialist knowledge and a major time commitment.

As people live longer with active retirement years, or downshift mid-career to improve their quality of life, the authors predict that ‘serious leisure’ will become a growing part of our lives.

'Pro-Ams are a new social hybrid who force us to rethink they way we think about work and leisure time,' say the report’s authors, Charles Leadbeater and Paul Miller."
Via Pat Kane.

Update: A great essay version apppeared in Fast Company, along with a contrary blog post I mostly disagreed with (read my cantankerous comment at the bottom). You can also download the entire report (315kb PDF). Oh, and one more article from the creator of Twinkler.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Measuring the Economy

The True Measure of Success isn't GDP, and the types of statistics governments collect don't tell us anything about what really matters, says Daniel Pink:
"We measure whether life is getting better by checking whether the good numbers (GDP, personal incomes, and so on) are going up and the bad numbers (unemployment, inflation, and so on) are going down. However, over the past half century, something strange has happened. The US's per capita GDP - the value of all the goods and services a nation produces divided by its population - has nearly tripled, but American well-being hasn't budged. We've grown almost three times richer but not one jot happier. There's ample evidence that in all postindustrial societies, material wealth and broader happiness are no longer closely in sync."
His ideas for collecting data related to well-being are compelling. Idealistic, of course, but why not imagine a better future?

Local Lifestylism

I posted a link to Joie Gastronomic Guesthouse and Farm Cooking School earlier in the year, but followed up on it a bit more this week. Their story may be an example of the type of deconcentration I talked about in a previous post -- moving away from the buzz and opportunity of the big city to create a more integrated lifestyle in a rural area. It seems like the progression often involves parallel transition from jobs to self-employment in some form, because the rural areas don't tend to support much new employment, or at least not the kinds that people from the city tend to be looking for.

I've wanted to write more about food here, because it's so fundamental, and the eating choices we make often don't reflect our values. It looks like Heidi and Michael really get this, and I like the focus on local foods and sustainable agriculture. They even helped start Vancouver Chapter of the Slow Food Movement and now run the Okanagan Chapter. A couple of quotes from the official Slow Food Manifesto:
"We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods."

"In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer."
This reminds me that I've got to bug Tannis to start working on the site she talked about to feature local farmers, food and wine providers, places nearby to get organic foods, and restaurants offering smart (and delicious) food choices.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

On the Virtues of Idleness

Via Chris (and a second recommendation from Brian) comes this excellent article -- QUITTING THE PAINT FACTORY: On the virtues of idleness. It's not an easy read, but it's worth slogging through for the pearls of wisdom. A tiny taste:
"Look about: The business of busi­ness is everywhere and inescapable; the song of the buyers and the sellers never stops; the term "workaholic" has been folded up and put away. We have no time for our friends or our families, no time to think or to make a meal. We're moving product, while the soul drowns like a cat in a well."
Update:Brian deconstructs and supports the same article with his usual depth and skill.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

From Here to Autonomy

I quoted Jory in the last post without mentioning that it's part of a series of articles called "From Here to Autonomy". If you're at all interested in how we perceive our roles and level of control in organizations and how we find meaning in our work, I'd recommend reading the entire series:

Life Control

Check out this short, fascinating article from Fast Company -- Ranking Ourselves to Death. I'm a sucker for anything discussing how people redefine success and then work towards it in unconventional ways:
"As far as I could tell, none of them had opted out because they couldn't hack it. Rather, their success had given them the confidence to live life on their own terms. From their point of view, they had opted in -- to what really mattered to them. These folks represent what demographers call 'deconcentration.' It's a historically unprecedented trend of recent decades in which people leave the regimentation of city and suburb, seeking more personal control and meaningful voice in a rural community."
This gem comes from Jory's excellent analysis of how we decide what we should be doing with our lives, and how our goals are often in conflict:
"When I wasn’t dreaming of receiving international accolades for my epic writing in the form of the usual literary decorations—Pulitzers, Nobel Prizes, New Yorker articles, I was fantasizing of sitting in my little cottage in some unknown rural enclave with a view of my wild English garden, sipping coffee. Even while dreaming of my arrival I was planning my escape."
She's exploring the difference between external and internal measures of success. Most of us adopt some versions of the usual suspects in our definitions of success -- wealth, power, fame and the American Dream -- without ever initiating the difficult process of questioning them and making sure our goals are aligned with what we really value.

Cost of Vices

Rob Paterson confesses: I Am an Addict. It's a short post about the "little" expenses we incur that seem insignificant until you add them up. Tannis and I did some figuring last week and found out that we spent $300 in two earlier weeks on eating out and drinking. I'm hoping that wasn't an average week. (As an aside, what is it about our ongoing fascination with high-end beverages? I realize that this happens over time, but it seems like one day we woke up and would accept nothing less than the best dark coffee, microbrewed beer and local wines.)

Whenever anyone needs to cut spending, they look at the disposable-income purchases like eating out. I think it's a legitimate way to get through a tight month, but my criticism of that approach has been that people don't seem as willing to question their biggest actual expenses: housing, vehicles and consumer debt. We assume that they're non-negotiable, but we trap ourselves by tending to by the most/biggest/best we can afford, or often borrow enough to buy somewhat more than we can afford. It astounds me when people talk about regular payments on their credit card debt.

So what does it have to do with Lifestylism? What we choose to spend our money and time on should reflect what we value. Issues of spending are always related to how much income we can generate, and the general equation is that we need to work more (spending more time) to generate more income. But at what point do we not have the time to enjoy what we buy? Perhaps that's what underpins our reliance on consumer debt -- we work enough to cover our "basic" costs, but still expect to be able to afford our favourite extras as well.

Twinkler

Via Curt comes this interesting new application that helps you articulate, share and borrow life goals. It's called Twinkler. While it is pretty nifty, I'm more excited about the potential. Since you can record your lists of goals and see that some goals are shared by many other people, it's an obvious step to give the tool a social element. I'd like to see the profiles of people who share the most number of goals with me. Seems likely that we'd have other things in common, and perhaps give us the chance to work together on some of the goals.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Work Hodgepodge

Since I apparently have no time for real posts, you're stuck with a few great links:

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Teaching the Future

From the editorial in this month's International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning:
We teach history but do not require future studies. The tools of the futurist are basic to research and development, but the future affects everyone, and everyone is part of the future. Do you want to accept the future somebody else designs for you? Or do you want to be part of the process? You cannot change the past, but you can exercise a great deal of control over your own future and positively influence the future of your family, professional associates, communities, and students.
Courses in financial literacy and career planning get pooh-poohed in most schools, as if they couldn't possibly be as important as thermodynamics or calculus, even though the vast majority of students will be far more likely to be faced with real issues surrounding credit, mortgages, budgets, and career moves than they would be to require the use of advanced equations. I like this quote because it frames these things as future oriented activities. Should schools teach the future? Only if they can do it better than they've traditionally done with history.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Parenting Lifestyle

It's no coincidence that I started this lifestylism project while I have two young kids at home. Having kids completely changes the equation of lifestyle choices and values. Time management and financial decisions get a lot more complicated and difficult. Rob Paterson pokes into some of these issues in Early Childhood or Early Parenting. I've added some comments there -- if you have any ideas on the topic, please contribute your thoughts too.

I was interested in a related report the same week: The New Realities of Earning and Caring. Instead of proposing more money for daycare programs, they're looking at some of the root causes and concerns surrounding why families feel they have no choice but to put their kids in daycare:
"A single earner and a stay-at-home spouse is a luxury few families with dependent children and seniors can afford.
Therefore, families 'struggle to care' as well as to earn."
Rob also discusses a provincial program on the way out in PEI called Best Start -- it's worth the read if you're at all interested in how helping kids early can pay dividends later on.

Thinking and Doing

I wish I had enough time and energy to really reflect on some of these things instead of just quoting and linking, but these things tend to be cyclical...perhaps once my course is done, I'll spend more time here. For now, I want to keep some more wisdom from the Experience Designer Network. Brian is consistently writing about the stuff that matters in life, in ways that stretch my brain and make me more curious about how people make decisions about meaning in their lives. A sample:
Many people seek alternative ways of living and experiencing life intellectually. Fewer people, however, seem to actually do something about it. And this tendency is not surprising in a work-a-day world. It is easier and more comfortable to ruminate about our cirucmstances than to step of the edge of a cliff and face the unknown. There is a wide gap between being able to think about doing something, and doing it. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is risk. To dramatically alter one'e lifestyle is an act of courage. We become more aware of and perhaps closer to the abyss. People that take chances with their lives often find themselves on the fringes of social and cultural norms. Not only does this require courage, but it requires a great degree of resilience as well. All of this brings us into closer proximity with our mythological selves.
Also, a note about the Experience Designer Network -- it is becoming a richer and more integrated resource every day. It's like an experiment in managing knowledge...perhaps even a look into Brian's brain. Click into any of his posts and take a minute to look at the links in both sidebars. Most are categories or concepts that lead you to all the posts he's written that include references to the keywords. He's also got the usual links to interesting people and resources, but it's the way he's categorized his thoughts that really kicks.