Inefficient “efficiency.”

Sometimes austerity involves sudden rupture: an immediate loss of services that we notice and protest against. More often it’s death by a thousand cuts: incremental destruction of the public realm, leaving us with outsourced, inaccessible, dysfunctional services. Successive Conservative governments have made these cuts in the name of efficiency. We experience this marvellous efficiency as The Four Seasons plays on an endless loop while we wait to talk to someone in a call centre with no power to act, subcontracted to someone else in a Kafkaesque nightmare of privatised, inscrutable bureaucracy, unable to resolve our problems or meet our needs. Nothing works any more.

George Monbiot on political choices.

Once upon a time, just after she retired, my Mum was brought back in as a consultant to do a review of a healthcare-related complaints helpline. Each state ran its own helpline and every single state was a dysfunctional shithow except for one. Mum’s job was to find out why.

The long and short of her findings were that every other state had implemented a “best practice” tiered helpdesk, specifically one that included a strict skill hierarchy between people on Tier 1 (who took calls) versus Tier 2 (in-office experts) and Tier 3 (who went to physically investigate incidents). The One Functional State did not; they still had different levels, after a fashion, but rotated staff between them. What it effectively meant is that, from the caller’s point of view, more often than not they’d call the helpline and get answered by someone currently on L1 rotation but who’d had the skills in T2 and T3 that meant they could immediately assist; no scripts or escalations required. The net result was that calls were resolved faster and people were generally happier with the service (and, recall, this was a healthcare-related helpline, so “happier with the service” had a direct positive health impact).

Ironically, as Mum was doing this, I’d just been “girl demoted” at work when our combined Level 2-3 IT support helpdesk got split. Myself and the one other girl on the team got somehow magically sent to Level 2.1 I only stayed in that role for a few months but, during that time, I was (successfully) resolving over a thousand tickets a month; the second most effective person was barely scraping double digits. The reason I could do this? Experience in T3, which meant I was basically doing every level of support, all at once. The reason I know all of this is because, despite the metrics, I ended up having a shittonne of downtime, which I used to, firstly, write SOPs for the (subcontracted) T1 people in vain hope of reducing escalation and secondly, when that was done, read books. Because of the latter, I got pulled up on performance management by my boss;2 this was where she made the mistake of showing me just how much I was propping up the entire system. So I did her the favor of performance managing myself out of the organization, into a promotion elsewhere.

Tl;dr, tiered helpdesks suck. But they make call center outsourcers rich so, hey.

  1. Notably, we weren’t the most junior people in the team . . . but the most junior people were men, so they got to stay. []
  2. Relatedly, in T3 I worked with a guy who’d use his flex time to take long lunches on Tuesdays to see a film at the cinema across the road. He got told by the bosses to stop doing this for “perception” reasons which, really, should’ve been my first clue. []
2021-07-26T07:46:27+10:0030th July, 2021|Tags: , |

You can’t care when you don’t care.

As someone who also dislikes Mad Man (and, honestly, most of That Genre of Asshole Man “Prestige” TV), I confess I did enjoy this article on disliking Mad Men.

Second confession, I also did enjoy the “rebuttal” to it which is basically Have You Considered You’re Just Not Cool Enough To Like Mad Man but, like, written in six thousand words of pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook1 because . . . yeah. Yeah that really does capture the true l’esprit de l’disliking Man Men when confronted by people trying to justify not just why they like Mad Men but why liking Mad Man is the only “correct” choice.

  1. Ironically cloaked as anti-intellectual gobbledygook. []
2021-07-26T07:15:11+10:0029th July, 2021|Tags: |

… and one for the country.

This is the most difficult paradigm shift in our conversations about the declining birthrate — but also the most essential. Why, on a planet that’s increasingly struggling to support its current population, in a world in which hundreds of thousands are fleeing instability in search of stable homes and jobs, in a society in which we ostensibly value autonomy and independence and feminist empowerment, are we positioning a declining birth rate as a “crisis”?

[T]he United States wouldn’t have a “replacement rate” problem (or burgeoning worries of “who will take care of our aging boomers”) if we welcomed more refugees and immigrants. The fear, in other words, is of our own making, and deeply rooted in narrow understandings of how a nation can and should sustain itself. We’re so wed to the principles of exponential growth — of the “right” sort of American — that we can’t even envision how fewer births might be part of the way forward.

Anne Helen Petersen on birthrates.

Amazing how, whenever you put on the glasses, the answer underneath is somehow always racism1 . . .

  1. Or, arguably in this specific case, the way in which racist/supremacist nationalism intersects with patriarchy and the policing of women to ensure they’re birthing the “correct” number of the “right” sorts of babies. []
2021-07-20T09:53:50+10:0028th July, 2021|Tags: |

Fed.

So when I changed servers the other month I finally switched from Fever to FreshRSS for my RSS feed reading needs.

It’s a bit less slick-looking (though, admittedly, Fever’s interface had gotten *very* dated), but I do most of my actual reading reading in Reeder, and FreshRSS’s API is lightning fast.

2021-07-20T09:20:31+10:0027th July, 2021|Tags: , |

Before the end.

An important feature in the wider political landscape [of the early 20th century] was the existence of a competing economic system in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. [T]his was instrumental in making capitalists in the West accept the need to come to terms with labor. It is important to note that the welfare state was never an expressed aim for the labor movement before it was created. The stated aim, of course, was socialism. It was the fear of socialism that drove capital to concede [. . .] unregulated, crisis-stricken capitalism had to come to an end because, if it didn’t, the balance of forces meant that capitalism itself might fall. It was under the Keynesian model of regulated capitalism that the social and economic foundation for the welfare state was created.

On ideological competition.

2021-07-20T09:17:00+10:0026th July, 2021|Tags: |

Megamart dot com

The internet has been gentrified. All the small cute houses and mom & pop shops have been shut down and replaced by big corporations that control everything. I’ve been making webcomics for twenty years, and at the start, the internet was a beautiful wild place. Everyone had a home page. It was like having a house and people came to visit you and you would visit other people in their houses. Now, we don’t visit each other in personal spaces anymore. It’s like we have to visit each other in the aisles of a megamart. Everything is clean and sanitized and the weirdos who made the internet what it was are no longer welcome. No space for freaks anymore.

Megan Rose Gedris on online spaces.

Strong tip to anyone with basically any kind of internet presence, particularly any kind of creative internet presence: buy a domain name and a basic hosting plan and make yourself a website. It doesn’t have to look special or fancy1 but the thing is no one can really take it away from you. Even if your host un-hosts you for some reason2 you can just . . . upload your site to a new host. The URL won’t even change because it’s the domain name you own.

Social media sites (and popularity) come and go. But your website? That’s forever.

  1. Actually, web brutalism In; one of my current favorite personal homepages looks like a basic text file and is literally just straight-up unstyled HTML. []
  2. Only once have I ever been suspended from a webhost, and it was for posting pictures of Star Wars: The Old Republic that EA decided to DMCA-SLAPP me over. This is, incidentally, why I no longer use US-based webhosts. []
2021-07-15T07:38:12+10:0024th July, 2021|Tags: , |

Superstar.

Sherwin Rosen also wrote about the Economics of Superstars in 1981, defining a world “wherein relatively small numbers of people earn enormous amounts of money and dominate the activities in which they engage”. Which is exactly what we’re describing.

In today’s world, the problem of discovery seems to be even more difficult. To get to a meaningful size of audience seems incredibly difficult.

On Twitter, the graphs are heavily skewed. For instance people with over 10,000 followers are in the 99.9th percentile of all users or the top 0.1%. Over a 1000 is at the 97th percentile. I’m not saying that’s the cut-off necessarily, but it’s a massively skewed ecosystem if a Twitter presence is what is supposed to get you to launch a “creator economy” career.

In theory, this is a bit of an indictment of the creator economy. If creators who are better aren’t necessarily the creators who are getting most of the benefits, then what’s the point? And also, if most creators aren’t able to do well, but only a few get to be superstars, is that a functional economy that one would want to be a part of?

On the creator economy.

No, in my case. It wasn’t.

Relatedly, I was talking to someone recently who didn’t believe in public funding of the arts.1 His rationale being that “people are prepared to pay for the art they want,” probably without actually realizing he was talking to someone with a failed creative career. I don’t think I quite outright laughed in his face, but it was close . . .

  1. He has a maths degree. Nuff said. []
2021-07-15T07:18:34+10:0022nd July, 2021|Tags: |
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