Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Content-oriented people have to fight off hucksterism when "doomsday preppers" come knocking on their doors

I just want to mention again the pressure I have gotten from various parties over recent years from various parties That is, to go to work for them selling something.  Some of the overtures, always unsolicited, were legitimate.  For example, become a life insurance agent.  Become a tax advisor for HR Block.  Become a supervisor of teens who populate malls or go door-to-door to solicit donations.  The last one sounds a bit scamy, maybe.  And there have been the calls for personal debt restructuring and other “services”. 

Even the legitimate ideas are problematic for me.  I would have to shut down all my own sites and dedicate my social media presence to selling (or hucksterizing) their agenda rather than mine.  Life insurance agents, especially, have to build up large numbers of “leads” quickly.  When I looked at all this, back in the spring of 2005, social media were not as well developed are a large a part of the picture as they are now (MySpace ruled the social world then, but it was not very business oriented), but they became such very quickly thereafter. The one social media site that seems to serve business in a  way that doesn’t corrupt personal online activity is, of course, LinkedIn.

There is a good question as to why my old career as an information technology (mostly or “just” mainframe for most years) evaporated.  I’ve taken that up before.  Part of the problem is that I was slow to “advance” or “move up”, and you can only run in place for so long.  And another problem, over the long haul, was my maturity, hindered by a long period (1979-1985) where I never implemented anything and didn’t have any responsibility for what happened in production, so I didn’t mature the way I should have.  I did grow up fast with the Daily Billing (and monthly) project at Chilton in Dallas, implemented in late 1987, before the TRW purchase in 1988.  I probably was never more critical to one employer with a production system than in late 1987, except maybe in 1978 with the MARS reporting system with New York State Medicaid MMIS at Bradford National.

I did try to make the "transition" from "mainframe" to "client server" -- that's a bit of an oversimplification to put it that way.  But I found it very difficult to support OOP applications that I had not written or had not been involved in the details of developing.  You learn a language when you build something with it ground up.  One-week classes in Powerbuilder or Java aren't enough. 
But one can remain a "coder" only so long.  The fact is, there is a tendency for careers to migrate from “content orientation” to “people orientation”, or particularly sales, over time.  That’s the old question, “can techies sell?”  How about, can artists sell?  Well, they have to sell their own work, but can they mass market to others?  I saw this with a company called Arts Marketing in 2003, when we were selling National Symphony subscriptions.  That seems like a fitting use of my piano background.  There was a young man from the company’s Toronto headquarters who was supposed to help us sell more, and he had a music degree.  Of course, it sounds like a corruption of one’s own life to become a huckster like this.  That’s a far cry from simple professionalism, which you can see easily if you visit the sites of various new generation NYC musicians (I’m familiar with a few like Timo Andres and David Kaplan).  Even in the world of self-published books, I get unwelcome calls trying to goad me into mass marketing my books in ways that could never be appropriate for my content.   But, yes, a lot of people have to make a living, and a lot of people depend on commissions.

I bring this up today because it does seem that the world is becoming more volatile and unstable, and I’m going to hit some very challenging angles of this observation soon on my main blog.  In the past, there was business instability because of so much merging and consolidation of big companie (sometimes with hostile takeovers), but I personally came out of all of these mergers relatively well, and the NWNL-ReliaStar purchase of USLICO, the insurance company that I worked for, selling to the military, in teh1990s, actually protected me from a serious conflict of interest.   I even came out of the 2008 crisis pretty well (by the time a few months had passed), but that’s partly because then Congress could come together and do what was absolutely necessary to save the financial system.  That’s no longer true, judging from recent headlines over the debt ceiling issue.   One doesn’t have to think too much (like Cassius) to see how a financial collapse caused deliberately by a “doomsday prepper” or “cold turkey” mentality by an asymmetric right wing minority in Congress could affect the plans of people like “me” or “us”.  I’ve made a “second career” out of the “free entry” model for Internet business, which is dependent on certain assumptions (like downstream liability immunity most of the time for service providers as under Section 230) that may not be around forever.   The world has a lot of tensions over “inequality for all”, and revolution, or at least extreme disruption, can come from either the extreme Left or extreme Right.  None of us can forever remain personally aloof to interpersonal challenges from people who don’t appeal to us as much as do the people who can “turn us on”.  Sometimes unwanted guests ring doorbells.  Sometimes they walk right through the doors. 

I would like to wind up with a “real” career in journalism.  I can see myself working in a media outlet, “keeping them honest”, (almost a synonym for “do ask, do tell”)  but that is the opposite of hucksterism.  I can only get there by finishing my “homework” without undue disruption from the “outside” world.  

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