And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.
--John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

The Asylum Director

My photo
"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russel Baker

Thursday, June 14, 2007

BS From The Boss

My boss at the moment of this writing, Gene Cruz, is full of bullshit. Despite his supposed academic abilities, he's an utter and complete fool. He seems to have no concept of what the nature of the work we have actually is. He's also living in a well-made glass house of a pipe dream that all of his employees actually enjoy what he's putting them through. Of course, there's the delusion he maintains that his opinion actually matters to the writers, particularly when he seems to lack the basic faculties to understand that half of the stuff he prattles on about is utterly irrelevant or, in my case, something I've thought of before, implemented in my work, and milked dry.

For example, back when I was maintaining the casino blogs project, I was up for a promotion. It was a promotion I did not want, mainly because it would have thrust me into a position where the nature of the work was not what I had come to specialize in. Anyway, here's a rough transcript of part of the conversation. One that, for me, shows off his utter incompetence.

Me: I've been doing it for so long that...I've started to weave personal opinions and experiences into it. I'm turning it into a long narrative, one that has recurring characters and pieces, but eventually, I'm going to run dry of gambling-related topics and anecdotes.

Dumbass Boss Gene Cruz: Well, the casino blogs project really might delve into the realm of creative writing. You have the freedom to adapt the entry as you see fit, provided you don't steer too far from the intended topic. You can make the entries anecdotes and stories, not jsut articles on strategy and statistics. It's fairly easy, right?

Me: I realized that early on and I've been doing that for so long that I'm out of ideas. You can only re-write the statement "there is no way to beat roulette" in so many ways before you run out of ways to say it in the English language.

Dumbass Boss Gene Cruz: You should implement what I've said. It will help you produce better output for the project.

I'm inclined to believe he has no idea at all what he's talking about.

Of course, he recently spread around (through our editors) a little e-mail that contained some bits of "wisdom" on how to write better. A 10-point blog entry, it would seem. Well, being the good employee that I am, I've decided provide my own counterpoints, just to hammer home how stupid our idiotic boss can be.

First Point: Create valuable content.

This can't be done. Primarily because to create valuable content, you actually have to view what you're writing as more than a means to an end. In this case, the "end" is a paycheck. Sure, once in a while we'd get a project we genuinely care about and like, but how often does that happen? As long as we're not writing for something we genuinely like, we'll never produce truly "valuable" content.

Also, even if we can write about something well enough for it to look good, that doesn't mean it can be considered valuable. The fact is, the nature of the projects is that there is one detail or another that limits just how "valuable" we can make it. Clients might have ridiculous requests, like keeping to a "3 short sentences per paragraph" rule, which would tend to cut ideas and points up, resulting in a fragmented piece. Besides that, our general lack of enthusiasm on the topics makes it difficult to really come up with any real value to the work.

Second Point: Create original content.

Considering that he ripped all these points (and the subsequent explanations for them) off of someone else's blog without citing the source of it (which happens to be Steve Pavlina's website), I find this point rather ironic.

Anyway, due to the nature of the work, there is no such thing as original content. You see, since we generally have no idea what we're writing about most of the time, we rely on outside sources. We rely on other people's work. Sure, we re-write it and present fresh information and mesh stuff together. Sure, the machines and the software don't pick up on the little things that betray the true source of the piece. However, any sane writer who even has the slightest knowledge of the way life works will tell you that there is no such thing as truly original content, aside from one's personal experiences. And honestly, how often do our personal experiences come into play in our line of work?

I'll answer that. Never.

Third Point: Create timeless content.

Uhuh. Impossible. Why? Because half the time, we're marketing shit to people. From acne treatments to cars, from how to buy motor homes to where to find angel investors. All of this, obviously, is bound by the whims and fancies of time. Nothing that we've written about so far is truly permanent. Casino house rules can change on a whim. Styles used in making beds and bedspreads can come and go. Detoxification measures in Nebraska and Montana can change to suit the times. Exchange rates and sales patterns can be dropped and altered in a snap.

You can't create timeless content if the very nature of what you're writing about is time-bound. To create timeless content, we'd have to write on things that are constant, regardless of events. Things like human nature, the human condition, philosophy, and maybe even theology. Marketing and sales and that sort of stuff? At some point, even the greatest marketing campaign will fade away into obscurity. Even the biggest, most widespread fad will become little more than a memory.

Fourth Point: Let your audience see the real you.

Again, this is utterly impossible. We're hired to pretend to know a lot about things we generally have very little knowledge on. What we're being asked to do is to outright lie about what we know. Sure, bits and pieces of who we really are might come across in the writing style or the choice of words but, ultimately, we're engaged in a web of pretensions and lies. Also, the constraints of the project limit just how much of ourselves we can show to the audience. Again, style might betray bits and pieces about us, but not everything.

Freedom to express is what is needed to show people who and what you are. Unfortunately, no project ever really lets you show off everything about yourself. The closest we've gotten would be the blog projects, but those have a fundamental flaw. You're either pretending to be someone else when you write the blog, or you're pretending to be doing something that you're not.

Fifth Point: Write what is true for you, and learn to live with the consequences.

See above.

How can we write what is true for us when we write little more than facts and information that someone else has presented? Most projects leave no room for personal opinion or analysis of the situation. It's straight-up information. I'll concede that the blog projects do give a stretch of freedom for this, but I find it difficult to comprehend how we can determine something we say to be true for us if we've never seen or experienced it firsthand. Yes, you might claim that card counting is the way to beat blackjack, but how can you really believe that without seeing it in action?

Sixth Point: Treat your visitors like real human beings.

This actually counters what he tells us. For the most part, he wants us to write the articles in such a way that more and more people will be enticed to read. That's a problem, as that reduces people to being little more than statistics. You probably know the old adage "kill one person, it's a tragedy, but kill a million people, and it's a statistic," don't you? Same concept applies. Sure, you might want to write something that'll reach out to others, but since we're simply relaying information for the most part, there's not much of a point to it, is there? We're reducing the readers to numbers because that's what the client asks of us. Rake in the numbers and ignore the "personal touch." Yes, there is a difference between what the output becomes after the client's orders are fulfilled and actual, honest-to-goodness caring. I used to work Dell Customer Care. Believe me when I say I know the difference. And believe me when I say that client guidelines and office guidelines destroy most of a writer's "personal touch."

If nothing else, let me give you an example.

This is something I wrote for work, about restoring vintage cars.

Now, compare to Angel of Temptation, which I wrote as a personal piece.

See the difference?

Sharp eyes can tell I feel strongly about the latter piece, while the first one was little more than something I needed to do away with. For the latter piece, I actually cared what people would think about it and I reached out to write it with the express intention of making something good. I might have intended that for the former piece, but it doesn't come across. Mainly because my passion for writing refused to extend to what I had to write about.

Final Point: If you forget the first nine suggestions (yes, there were originally ten of these things), just focus on genuinely helping people, and the rest will take care of itself.

I won't dispute this. This statement is entirely true. However, this puts us at a dilemma. Do we focus on meeting client expectations, sacrificing things we know might be of help to a reader, or do we focus on the reader, and end up screwing ourselves for not following a client's instructions? For my officemates, I suggest you take a bit to think on that. If we consider our work as just what we have to do to get paid, then the desire to help others isn't there and, thus, we produce sub-par work. Of course, to desire to help others, we have to actually care about what we're doing and, the way things are, most of us really don't care anymore. Do we?

Now, please note that I am not disparaging Steve Pavlina's work. He's an excellent writer and he makes very good points. In fact, if I wasn't so Cthulhu-damned irreverent and insane, I'd probably apply his advice to my work. Anyway, where was I again? Oh yeah, my boss' incredible display of hubris. I just couldn't stand idly by and let Gene Cruz, dumbass beyond compare, both plagiarize and misuse Pavlina's work. After drilling us about "quality" and "originality," our boss has some nerve doing this.

Ah, the foul stench of hypocrisy in the morning...

Now, to lighten the mood...a picture from School Days.


Keitaro Hanazawa said...

Galit na galit ha? Wahehe!

We share the same dumb feeling towards the BOSS. Actually, all writers knew how dumbass, cruel, and inconsiderate the BOSS is.

About his e-mail. I got perplexed after reading it. We can only write creative and valuable articles only if we cared and if we're interested with the topics. But the thing is, we can't give a fuck about acne, mortgages, venture funds, and scholarships. Tsaka we have restrictions in writing, so paano lalabas creativity dun, duh!

I'm giving myself two months in this company. But I'm not really sure. I might leave this pandemonium faster than you can say "Quota!"

meganhahaha said...

Dear Harvey,

May we all have the courage to make okray as you do. And for that I will make one excuse and send this little plea up to where-prayers-go-daw.

Sabi nga ni Borat, "Very nice!" Couldn't have said it any better.


Spongebabe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spongebabe said...

tell it like it is, bro!

my only consolation in this company is knowing artistic, creative, and intelligent people like you and the rest of the web content crew. ::sniffs::

the Boss is stupid, everybody knows that. i bet you can do a better job than him. tee hee.

Cough Syrup Junkie said...

waah!!! i like this one! :D


HARVEY! Hanep! Tama ka dyan. Kakakausap niya nga lang sakin kanina. At kala ko magtatanung siya kung anung tingin ko sa kumpanya. Mga ganun. Pero wala. He thinks the company is well-managed and worker-friendly that it needs no improvement. Bwiset.