Xi, Axe and Jib

There are two kinds of Scrabble players in the world: the “if” people and the “is” people. The “if” people stare angrily at their letters, thinking of 7-letter words they could spell if they just had I-N-G. The “is” people do their best with the letters they’ve got, getting by on the crafty use of 3-letter words and multiplier squares.

I learned a little something about Scrabble during the time I spent working at Vanderbilt. The place was a huge machine, where it took five powerful people getting in the same room to fire a person. As a result, I spent five years at a job that I, with my German sense of efficiency, boiled down to one hour out of eight. What did I do with the extra seven hours of my day? I played a lot of Scrabble.

Unfortunately, the same five powerful people decided when to give raises. In the way that they could never agree that I was pointless, they could also never agree to give me more money. Even I didn’t have the balls to ask for a raise. It’s hard to feel entitled when a skit about your at-work backgammon habit is performed at the office Christmas party.

As a result of my years at Vanderbilt, I am now a person who doesn’t play Scrabble with friends. I play Scrabble with people who have pissed me off. I’m an “is” player. I’ll xi, axe, and jib your ass to death.

What I’m getting at is that, while it’s all well and good to be able to lay down “slaying” or “jazzed,” the game of Scrabble isn’t about what you could spell. It’s about what you can spell.

This came up years ago when record companies were approaching new media by suing the hell out of college kids. Now, as magazines and newspapers are soiling themselves and going out of business because of bloggers, paper costs and current lack of ad sales, we’re all running around like chickens, praying to jump onto the Next Big Thing before it’s over. I call this “MySpacing.” It’s cool for a while, but the party can only be so big and so fun before somebody invites some douchebags who come and puke into your return air vent. In the case of MySpace, it got overrun by friend requests from bands (are you also being stalked by Ligion?), corporations and people who over-customized their pages so hard that viewing the page crashes the browser. (PS: we hate you, we don’t want to watch all those damn videos, and you definitely shouldn’t have set them all to auto-play.)

Magazine industry, take a lesson. Suing people and whining isn’t going to change a market that has already changed without you. Hire some people who are entertaining and informative (or keep the ones you have), build a user-friendly site, and put all the crap that anyone would want to know in one place. Then encourage linking. Don’t hoard your stuff. It’s pointless anyway, because your kids are probably more computer-literate than you. Make it easy for people to link you and give you credit. If you really want to get crazy, hire someone to track the trackbacks, and have that tracker give props to everybody who gave you props. Hey, if there’s anything bloggers love more than making fun of Speidi, it’s validation. I know, this will mean validating people you not-so-secretly hate and mock. Suck it up.

You’ll have to pay developers and maybe designers (but you’ll probably just hire developers who THINK they’re designers…no one’s bitter), but you won’t have to pay for paper or shipping. From the looks of the graphic design industry, you’re all starting to get wise to this, because you’re firing all of my friends.

As for me, I am done shaking my fist at people who think that web development and web design are the same discipline (aside from the bitchy comment in that last paragraph). I can point out the douchiness of the “design is development” assumption all day, and it’s not going to change the market. The market wants what it wants. So, in the vein of music and magazines, I’m going to evolve. I’m going to become a developer.

I’m going to xi, axe and jib your ass to death.

Unless, of course, you hire me. That alone will save you 😉

Advertisements

Connected (For Better Or Worse)

Every so often, something happens that makes me glad to be old. Well, in this instance, I should say that several things happened to make me glad that the internet wasn’t as evolved back when I was nineteen or twenty.

These days, things which keep track of our lives are everywhere. Almost everyone in America has at least one camera on his or her person at all times, usually in the form of a phone. Many of those phones even take video. Many of those phones can access the internet. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to have a lapse in judgment that doesn’t have the potential of being saved for all eternity. This is such a part of how we live that it’s easy to forget that things weren’t always this way.

When I was in middle school and high school, the internet as we know it didn’t exist. Oh, I’m sure there were some geeks in a college dorm somewhere chatting in some DOS-looking IRC-type chat room, but chatting and internet use weren’t in every home in America. Sexting didn’t exist. TEXTing didn’t even exist.

It was about junior or senior year in high school when my friend’s family got AOL and I witnessed AIM for the first time. I thought it was the coolest thing EVER. People from all over the country could talk to each other about nothing! For free! Well, sort of for free, because you still had to pay by the minute back then. And, you could only talk to a few people because nobody was online. Not the point. It was COOL!

Fast-forward 15 years, to a time when people can drunk Twitter from a phone. I’m so glad that my crazy, high-drama years were lived out when I didn’t have such an ability. When I was in my dorm room having boy-related freakouts, I just wrote those freakouts in a notebook that I kept by the bed. Now, people Twitter that stuff, putting their insanity out on the front porch like a proudly-carved pumpkin. Baby bats at goth night will have their awkward proto-goth phases captured online for all eternity. Their friends will never let them forget their “white foundation” phase. Thank God, nobody got pictures of mine.

I have great empathy for the teenagers of today, having to deal with the awkwardness and stupidity of high school, knowing that everything they do can be put online to haunt them forever. Just when you think that something is gone and forgotten, a potential boyfriend or employer Googles you and finds out about that time you peed in someone’s plant at a party. It’s no time to be a teenager.

I’m not saying that the internet is what’s finally going to make “these kids today” lose their collective shit. People have been predicting that for centuries, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m just curious as to what kind of legacy this will leave. Will it force us all to be better people if we know that we’re always being watched? Will we get better at accepting our own imperfections? Will liquor sales decrease?

Who knows. I hope I live long enough to find out, though. I would so hate to miss the ending of the book.