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the shoe is on the other foot May 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Did I Hear That Right?, Experiences.
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2 comments

One of the many things I have to do around here at CorporateSpeak is make sure everything we put into in our archival system is properly entered, tagged, and spelled so that we — or others in the company, both here and worldwide — can find it if they need to use it. Ever since we implemented the new archival system just over a year ago, it’s been a constant battle.

The first problem is “new”. For what we do, anything new is first dismissed as “someone else’s job”, then feared as “another thing we have to learn”, and finally grudgingly accepted with a resounding, “well, if we have to do it, at least we can do it crappily and someone else can clean up after us, right?”

Now the shoe is on the other foot. (CC-licensed photo from Moore Photography)

Now the shoe is on the other foot. (CC-licensed photo from Moore Photography)

Yeah. Right.

I have made literally half a dozen efforts to get people to properly archive their stuff. Really the problem is centered on the layout/mockup team, whose job it is to take all the stuff coming in and turn it around into something production can send to our clients. They’re the ones who also have to send things to archival when they’re done with them.

My L/M team, let me introduce you to them.

  • Rich: Rich is very talented and is honestly willing to do better, but English is not his first language and he often messes up spacing and punctuation. Given that other branches of the company pride themselves on their exactitude, this just makes us look bad. He also is ignorant of proper formatting no matter how many times I tell him.
  • Darren: Darren transferred here from another office a couple of years ago and seemed not to give a damn about the place, but his talent in many areas allowed his managers to overlook those problems. Fortunately, he has turned himself around and is actually now helping quite a lot with web stuff.
  • Amy: Amy is by far the most interested in everything that goes on here. She’s taken on a ton of stuff that isn’t her job, including a lot of web duties, and she’s made it her mission to get people to do better. She’s the one primarily responsible for Darren’s turnaround. Amy is also the youngest person on the team, so she hasn’t been ground down by the tedium of the business yet.
  • Vince: Vince doesn’t even try. He just sends his stuff to archival as-is and knows someone else will fix it. Worse, no matter how often I complain to his manager he just keeps doing his own thing.
  • Jim: I’ve got a whole entry about Jim over here. Jim is actually getting much better, and I’ve reinforced him with e-mails thanking him for his good work. Other people still have problems with him, but in my case, except for the occasional spelling error (which we all make, even me), he’s doing fine now.
  • Tom: Tom is exceptionally good at layout and mockup. It’s all he’s ever done, and it’s all he’ll ever do. He’s applied himself to being great at this one thing. Just not at anything else.

I’m pretty much setting all this up so I can experience a little schadenfreude as I watch Tom go through his own troubles lately.

After several rounds of layoffs, Tom, who is pretty much indispensable (that’s not a joke; his position and his presence are pretty important around here), was tasked with making sure all physical archival materials are properly put away when people are done with them so they can be found again — usually by Tom and his co-workers — when they’re needed. It’s extremely similar to what I do; it’s just that I do it electronically.

Tom started by sending out an e-mail in both Outlook and CServer, asking people to return archive materials when they were done.

Yeah. That didn’t work.

After cleaning up, Tom sent another e-mail, a bit more strongly-worded.

Still no success.

Now there are signs all over the place exhorting people to put away their archival materials if they’re older than a month (which is the rule, and has been since… um… forever… except that without Larry, who took the corporate buyout in January, there’s been no one actually doing physical archival for four months).

Yesterday, I watched Tom ask the assistant project manager for one of our pro sports clients if she still needed the videotapes that had been left in his area. The APM said someone else had taken them out, and she wasn’t sure, so Tom put them on the client rep’s desk with a note.

I guarantee that rep won’t put them away.

Why is all of this relevant?

Simple: because while I was recently trying to teach Tom and his team the proper way to do digital archival, and copying those e-mails to his manager (as instructed), he came up to me and railed at me about how much work they have to do and how they’re not writers and how it’s not in their job description to do anything related to the web, and how much extra work they already do for us.

That’s when I gave up. Right there. To use a comparison I used in therapy last weekend: if you’re in LA and I’m in New York, we should probably meet in Kansas City, not San Bernardino. But if you’re not even going to get out of your apartment complex’s parking lot, then why should I waste money on plane tickets?

The absolute best part is giving Tom knowing looks when he has to take someone to task about their lack of putting things away. He knows why I’m doing it. He finally understands why I’m so anal about archival.

And, believe it or not, he’s actually made a token effort to improve. Sometimes I guess the shoe just has to go onto the other foot for your point to be made.

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turning right into wrong, one project at a time May 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Management, The Two-Year-Old.
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That pile of brown stuff was spread all over my hard work, and I can't even take issue with the person who did it. (Photo by Mike_el Madrileño)

That pile of brown stuff was spread all over my hard work, and I can't even take issue with the person who did it. (Photo by Mike_el Madrileño)

Okay, I have to step out of the “That Guy” persona here for a moment and vent about The Two-Year-Old, who for this post I will simply call 2. Because last night she took something that I worked very hard on and shoveled a huge pile of shit on it, then spread it around evenly, creating something that I’m no longer proud to have my name attached to.

Here’s what happened*.

Wally, who I’ve written about in the past, was working on a huge project for one of our biggest accounts. We’d all heard about this, and we knew it had the potential to be one of our biggest money-makers in a very, very long time. A lot of people worked on it, including 2. As it got closer to the project being delivered and going live on the customer’s site, I realized that Wally simply didn’t have time to do his portion of the web work.

So I went to Wally and said, “give me list of web work and I’ll take care of it for you, because I know you’re busy.” That, and this project could conceivably win us an industry award, and I’m always up for adding another one of those to my wall (I have four so far). Wally gratefully accepted my offer and I spent a good chunk of Tuesday building the accompanying website to complement Wally’s video and photography for the client.

Wally was not only extremely grateful, but he said several times how good he thought it looked and how pleased he was with the work I’d done.

I passed some information onto our night shift coordinator, telling him that Wally might have some last-minute stuff and here’s where it should go on the site, before leaving for the day. The night shift coordinator knew what he had to do to make the project go live for our client (and did so).

I came in Wednesday and, after doing some administrative work, went to the client’s site to see how Wally’s — and my — project looked. I always do that; you never know when something’s going to look weird, and I’d rather push out a change from my end before anyone says anything.

The project? To put it mildly?

I just about yelled “HOLY FUCKING SHIT” in the middle of a crowded production facility, with one VP and three managers in earshot.

I knew it would happen. I just knew it. Anytime 2 gets involved, she has to change things to look the way she thinks they should.

I build websites that are cross-browser compatible, and pretty much seamlessly integrate everything that needs to be integrated, using whitespace artfully while making sure things look neither too cramped nor too empty.

What she had done was evocative of a Geocities website from the late 90s, IE-only, with flashing cyan Comic Sans text on a burgundy background, passages of text she thought were important highlighted and in bold, and — in my opinion, as a writer, the worst of all — the accompanying text that went with Wally’s video and photography had been replaced by a slightly-sanitized version of Wally’s shooting script.

I eventually calmed down and, when Wally came in, I went over and said, “2 replaced the site we** built with something else, didn’t she.” I didn’t ask.

Wally confirmed it, and had the decency to look apologetic. Hell, he probably was apologetic.

Then I came back to my desk and tried not to stew.

Meanwhile, over in the meeting vortex, I found out that the client’s legal department was having issues with some of the subject matter of the project. They passed that on to us, and since Wally had left for the night, 2 did the only thing she knew how to do: take apart someone else’s vision with inexpert tools*** and slam it back together, then put a coat of paint on it and hope to dazzle the client with bullshit instead of baffling them by doing something brilliant.

2, by the way, is not a web expert in any way. For example, she made all of her people responsible for web content at her old job and then did nothing when the quality of said web content went from “A” to “C-minus” in about two days. She has a marketing mentality, which isn’t the best thing to have in a content production role; that is, if it’s not big, shiny, and flashing, and above the fold, it doesn’t exist. Also, in her mind, the right column is not seen by anyone going to a website (she actually said that to one of my supervisors).

I’m not going to go and talk to 2 about what she did because of the whole legal issue, but seriously? If this was the New York Times and she’d done a hack-and-slash job like this to one of my articles and let it go to press with my name on it, not only would I be dragged up before the editor but I’d be glad to have it happen. I’d be glad to show the editor what I did and what 2 did and let the editor decide who’s at fault for making the article into a piece of utter promotional bullshit instead of the well-written piece I’d submitted to the layout person.

Unfortunately, because I work at a production house, I can’t even complain. All I can do is go into the code, take my name off the project, and if the client comes to me, refer him to 2. Let her deal with the fallout.

When you’re trying to make things better on all your distribution outlets, 2, taking good work that people have done and spreading your own personal brand of shit on it is not the best way to go.

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* Obviously I can’t use real names or give you web links because… well, because I don’t want to get fired, to be honest… so you’ll have to bear with me. Sorry.

** Yes, I know, I was the one who built it and Wally just provided some parts, but it’s always good to say “we” around people who are usually difficult to deal with. Also, Wally was under a lot of stress — more on that in a moment, back up in the entry — due to some legal issues with the client.

*** With apologies to Terry Pratchett and the Susan-in-English-Class scene in “Soul Music”.

alarm clocks May 27, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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I think I’ve overslept all of once in the past three years, and it was on a day when I was coming in late anyway, because I had a doctor’s appointment. But apparently many people do oversleep.

song chart memes
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things discussed at meetings May 27, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Meeting Minutes, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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This is slightly less accurate than I’d like; 75% of the red space should be “assigning make-work to the one person in the company who actually does anything useful”. That’s usually me.

song chart memes
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on being hamstrung May 26, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Management, Technology Trouble, The Two-Year-Old.
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1 comment so far

One of the things our CorporateSpeak office does is run a feed service that pulls in articles and sends them out to our clients who want news feeds on their sites. One of my jobs is to cherry-pick from our various branches and include the articles in client feeds.

A model in a fashion show. (Photo by Ben Yeoh)

A model in a fashion show. (Photo by Ben Yeoh)

I found an interesting article on Friday posted by one of our clients on their company blog about a fashion contest they held. At the contest, one of the entrants chose not to wear underwear and was photographed without it. A photo with her nether regions showing appeared on another website. Anyway, long story short, the client said “you signed the indemnity agreement, so it’s entirely your fault. Tough it out.” The woman, however, is in a position of some visibility at her office and is concerned about her image.

Given that web traffic often increases when stories about animals, children, and attractive women are posted (and this woman was attractive), I thought the story would be good to put on our own site’s feed — we maintain a small news feed as part of our promotional material.

The story was up for about six hours; the moment the Two-Year-Old saw it in our top pages of the day report, she decreed it to be completely removed from all feeds. Which was done.

Today I checked our traffic reports; the story was the second-most-viewed thing on any of our sites, and on the website where it originated, they received 300,000 page views (we got about 4,000). It was also the most-viewed video of the day on our video CMS, and the fourth-most-viewed video of the week. Pretty good for only being on the site for six hours.

I put the story up to drive traffic to our site. It did that. People saw our ads — video pre-rolls and banners. They may have clicked them. Money may have been made because of that story; I know our client made some. But because the Two-Year-Old happens to have two nieces the same age as the young woman in the story, she was particularly affected by it and ordered it eliminated. I imagine if the story had come from one of our other branches, instead of a client site, she would’ve been on the phone to her peer over there and had it taken down (the Two-Year-Old is a very powerful person in our company, and can order almost anyone around, including — I think — my Big Boss).

I just don’t understand it: companies want to grow their web business, but managers refuse to comprehend that you have to be edgy on the web sometimes — and if the option to be edgy without it being your “fault” falls into your lap, you have to take it. I mean, the most popular post ever on CorporateSpeak is The Facebook Babe — maybe because there’s a picture of two women in bikini tops? I don’t know.

Boobs sell. Cute kids sell. Puppies and kittens sell. Wardrobe malfunctions definitely sell. Just, apparently, not around here. Because we really don’t want to grow our web business; we just want upper management to think we do.

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This post marks the addition of a new category, “The Two-Year-Old”, because it seems like an awful lot of my posts are about things she does that make no sense.

Closed for Memorial Day May 25, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Meta.
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CorporateSpeak is closed for Memorial Day. It is a company holiday. If you’re working… well, enjoy your comp day.

please consider the environment before printing this e-mail May 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Technology Trouble.
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A lot of people these days have begun adding a small line of green-colored text to their e-mails. It usually looks like this:

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

Do you notice that? Do you even care?

Photo by Marco Varisco.

Photo by Marco Varisco.

Well, first of all, are you the kind of person who prints out e-mails? Most of you who read this blog don’t do so willy-nilly. I for one print out certain e-mails — mostly flight information — but the only time I really print out messages is when I have to get a record of something or give it to someone who’s not capable of reading e-mails on a computer screen*. A lot of my co-workers print out e-mails so they have paper to shuffle at meetings — nothing beats a few pieces of paper to fiddle with so you don’t look like an idiot when you’re called upon. Plus, you can doodle on them.

What’s worse than printing e-mails, though, is printing e-mails and leaving them on the printer, never to be picked up. That’s just a complete waste.

But here’s the thing: if you’re an e-mail printer, you’re not going to be swayed by a little line of text asking you not to. You might feel a pang of “oh, I totally missed that”, but for the most part you’re just going to print it anyway, read it, and throw it away. If you’re not an e-mail printer, then the person putting the line in the message is preaching to the choir and it’s a waste of perfectly good screen real estate.

I guess the message makes people feel better about themselves by not printing the e-mails, and it allows companies to say “see? We’re greener! We tell people not to print our e-mails!” But really it’s useless. It’s not going to change people’s behaviors. Tech-unsavvy people print, and tech-savvy people don’t. There’s really no middle ground.

Please consider the environment before printing this blog entry.

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* Believe it or not, we still have people incapable of looking at an e-mail and transferring information from it into a database. And we pay these people as much as I make. Once a month I have to print out about 200 e-mails and hand them to her so she can put them in a database.

stuff I’ll get fired for May 21, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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2 comments

Since this morning’s entry was kind of short, here’s an amusing-yet-accurate graph for you:

song chart memes
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So many things at your job are redundant, and the moment you open your mouth, you’re either being negative or being a troublemaker, and that’s just another reason for them to penalize you when you really shouldn’t be.

They get you coming and going, don’t they.

rolled-up newspaper guy May 21, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Staff, Wasting Time.
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About a month ago, I suggested that you should poop at work. But I probably should’ve added “be discreet about it”. As RockstarMama warns:

Dear Walking Down the Hall With Your Rolled-up Newspaper Guy,

You aren’t fooling anyone. We all know you’re going to poop.

You probably do this every day, except on the toilet instead of in the park. (Photo by Elvert Barnes)

You probably do this every day, except on the toilet instead of in the park. (Photo by Elvert Barnes)

Even as newspapers die out — slowly but surely — your office will continue to subscribe to at least one local daily and one national daily, and you will continue to carry the sports or news or business sections (or all three) into the bathroom at about 1:45 every afternoon.

You probably have a smartphone. Just read the news on that, or play a game. With the sound off, please.

adopt-a-toilet May 20, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere.
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What are the odds? Probably better than you’d think.

Dilbert.com