11 October, 2012

Things One Needs to Realize About Jobs

I want to lead off with the usual disclaimers about how I am not intimately familiar with what went on, just to make sure everyone knows that.  I can only comment on what I have been able to gather from around the 'Net.  You have been warned up front that this is nearly purely commentary.  Both sides in the long story I'm about to relate seem to have just cause.

I've continued to hear a lot of talk over Erik Lanigan and his departure from the TWiT netcast network.  I know there are a lot of Erik supporters out there, and probably, if you had to come down on TWiT's/Leo's side or Erik's side, there'd probably be more people on Erik's side.  However...if Erik had a little bit more experience (and I mean life experience, not necessarily radio/netcasting or TWiT experience), he'd have known it's not exactly good form to criticize publicly those who are employing you.  I learned this early on when I was working at Radio Shack, when my manager told me, that's fine, you can talk about this and that, but do not "talk shop" in front of the customers.  Not only did I correct my behavior for wanting to keep my job, but I agree with that assessment.  As a customer, I don't want inside squabbles going on in front of me.  I've had it happen in front of me in some of the shops I've been.  Yes, it's important to talk about immediate operational issues (e.g., my cash drawer is out of quarters), but if there are personal opinions about how the shop's being run, the discussion absolutely should not be taking place in front of strangers to the situation.

Erik's beefs may be totally legitimate.  He may have been lacking a paycheck.  He may think he's being overworked and underpaid.  But there are a few lapses in thinking and judgement on Erik's part.

1. Going negative is rarely good, at least not in public.

People will not take too kindly to being badmouthed in public.  And you're not necessarily going to curry any favor by being negative either.  It doesn't matter how generally right and just you may be.  You may be seen simply as a whiner and complainer.

The better solution many times is not to complain but do it yourself.  As some have suggested, take your talent and out-TWiT TWiT.  Mr. Laporte has many times on TTG told of how broadcasting is not as it used to be, needing to go hat-in-hand to a bunch of guys who have spent mounds and mounds of cash on transmitters and satellites and such.  The Internet is a whole lot more wide open.  Radio is waning in significance (albeit slowly).  Think of how in the  present day there is considerable money going into Internet exclusives (YouTube and Netflix productions).

2.Yes, finding a job is a pain in the behind.

I know that all too well, having been laid off 21-May-2010 and not having had anything except a 12 week contracting job since.  But the fact of the matter is, you've got to think critically about how much effort you want to plow into making your current gig better.  Could this effort be better focused on doing the job somewhere else, or maybe doing some other work?  And again, do you really think discussing that critically to anyone except your employers is going to help?

What...you want to try to amass a proverbial  army to storm the castle which is your employer's operation?  Yes, it might work, especially if there is something along the lines of human rights violations going on, but this would generally apply to more than one person--by forming a union for example.  (And those who know me know I don't like unions in the least.  However I have to look at history and say that there are some industries which likely would not have been changed for the better without them.)

In other words, you have to know when it's time to cut your losses and move on, and when you truly have a terrible labor problem.  If Erik had such insurmountable labor problems, I think he would be much better served by entering into talks with the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (what would be the NYS Dept. of Labor for me, I think).

3. Complaining about the past will not change the past.

Only some twist of quantum physics which allows us to create a TARDIS will help that at all.  Do not ignore history, but use it only as a guide to improve the future.  Dwelling on the past usually only hurts the dweller, not helps.

4. Consider carefully for whom you want to work.

Consider it not only from the perspective of your personal gain, but also try to consider future issues which may arise.  Unless you're the top of the heap (like Leo, or possibly Lisa) you never know in what direction any outfit will be going.  You can only make guesses based on past history.  You never know when you'll be associated with something you'd rather not be.

I understand these sorts of things, surpisingly for some, from an employee's perspective, not as management.  I've never been anything more than (well, male version of) a worker bee.  (Scientists tell me worker bees are female :-) . )  I think I agree with Mr. Laporte, this was not necessarily a good fit.

I've seen Erik's 0:39:40 long YouTube edit of his side of the story which I suspect does not include everything.  Of course, why would it?  It's Erik's perspective on the story, and it will be either deliberately  or subconsciously edited to make Erik look the best, and perhaps by implication, TWiT not so hot.  However...considering the repetition used in this video, it seems quite a bit more slanted towards deliberate than subconscious.

But the thing is, Leo is also somewhat guilty of some of the same issues.  When confronted during "The Tech Guy" to explain why Erik was no longer doing his show, it would probably be far better simply to have stated Erik and TWiT were not working out as a combination, we didn't agree with some of the things which were said/written and done, and so this is the direction in which we went.  And that's as far as it should have prudently gone, referring any persistent inquisitors that they're private, internal TWiT affairs.  But instead, it was somewhat of a counterattack when Leo went on to say things about compensation, about what was written on the main TWiT IRC channel ("chat room?"  pish.  Call things what they are.), and operational issues such as fiddling with the controls.

We generally societally don't talk about compensation.  The fact that Erik brought up dollars in IRC and Leo also commented on it on mic during a TTG break are fouls on both sides.

That Erik and TWiT didn't see eye-to-eye on how to run Erik's call-in show should have been the end of it.  I know it was just a sort of "natural" commentary on the state of things, that call screeners would help, but once again, it's poor form and rarely helpful to comment publicly on such operational issues.  Unless the topic of the show is you, it would seem far better to bring this up with the powers that be instead of commenting on it on the show.  At the very least you'll be perceived as a whiner.

The fact that Leo was talking among others on the staff about locking down the controls to me is a bit telling of growing dischord between the parties.  Although...if Erik could have adequately demonstrated the abilities of the system to revert things properly (and I stress "properly" because things don't always work as documented, or work consistently), it's TWiT's fault for not using their capabilities to the fullest.  So what if Erik twists every single virtual knob to something unsuited for the other shows?  If it serves Erik's show well, and it can more or less be reverted to whatever you want it to be easily, rapidly, and consistently, why lock him out?  Still, Erik has to realize whose knobs they are, and respect the owners' wishes, and the owners shouldn't have to result to such things as the access controls being discussed.

Transparency is generally thought to be beneficial to all.  The argument will probably be made that the more transparent, the more out in the open the whole affair could be, the better.  I would also in theory be in favor of everyone on both sides being able to core dump their experiences, and let me decide, if I had the inclination, who/what is better.  But let us not forget transparency can work to people's detriment, and people don't necessarily want to be transparent.  That's why the US Constitution has its Fourth Amendment.  In a perfectly transparent society, the 4th wouldn't be there.  But in practice, very few people want such perfect transparency, hence the existence of the 4th.  The thing is, in practice it's rarely prudent to air all these gripes about the other party.  It's often far better just to move on and just chalk it up as another experience.

Again, it's not necessarily my intention to be critical, but I want to speak some more to point 4 above, about the character, as I see it, of Leo Laporte.  Yes, this will have a complaining tone to it of sorts. I realize that, and that it's somewhat contradictory and hypocritical, but I feel I must put it forth anyway.  After all, I did say this was an opinion piece.

I've written on Google+ before about a taste of Leo's irresponsibility.  I for one just find it difficult to fathom why he finds it so impossible to hit every single live read.  Sponsors are more-or-less his customers, albeit indirectly, and their needs I would think should be paramount.  If necessary, he should devote some time either to searching out some software to help him out, or indeed since he says he's a programmer, coding something himself.  He interrupts all the time for hard breaks.  He has no choice whatsoever (that's why they're called hard breaks).  Why he cannot take control for a moment and even interrupt a call if necessary and do his live reads, I do not understand.  However, it seems most times he just plum forgets that, "hey, this is a segment 4," and just goes on to another caller.  Then he ends up doing a live read as the last part of the segment, and what good is that if it's followed by more ads?  Might as well just integrate it into the stop set (block of ads) near the end of the hour.  And I can't imagine the sponsors are pleased when their ad time gets somewhat truncated because Leo is in a live read and the hard break sounder comes.  (Of course I'm imagining they aren't too pleased either when their spot does not air in the segment which I presume the traffic department told them it would.)  Idunno...it's pure speculation on my part; maybe they don't care as long as it airs sometime during the show.  That seems to be the prevailing attitude of Leo and the Premiere board op(s) (Luis, then Kyle, then Nathan).

Again, transparency might not be the best.  Leo seems to think it's all the best all the time.  He seemed to have no qualms talking about how his wife and he are separated.  I also recently read about how Abby was none-too-pleased about Leo talking about her college, her illness, and so on.  Also, granted, I haven't been following California public records to look for it, but Leo has not yet said anything about divorcing his wife.  I can just say I make a value judgement on this one, that I think it's improper that he be doing anything besides TWiT with Lisa...at least not until he is genuinely single again.

I personally don't like how he talks over callers sometimes.  I know; I've been there, and tried (unsuccessfully) to get a point in edgewise.  It's also a reality that often this is necessary due to the very nature of some callers.  It's a necessary evil, if you will.  All the same, it seems rude a lot of the time.  Of course, there are some in the biz (Mark Belling springs immediately to mind) who are worse.  (I will not listen to Mark past any monologue when he is substituting on "The Rush Limbaugh Program.")

Color me surprised, but he's also talked openly about how he's disturbed his apartment neighbors with his sound system.  Speaking as someone who lived under two sets of tenants (among 5) who couldn't seem to grasp this concept either, this is something one just plain does not do.  Barack Obama said similar things about his college days; yet one more reason I don't like him.  Both of them ideally should have known better.

Leo has also made it publicly known he spent unbelievable gobs of money on the TWiT Brick House, close to $1 M or perhaps beyond, if memory serves.  Then not too long ago he also let on how he had to start watching his pennies perhaps due to this.  Huh?  I mean, another theme talked about from time to time, sometimes during TTG, sometimes during network breaks, is how netcasting is mostly a labor of love and how there's typically not a whole lot of money in it, and how it's sooooo tough to get sponsors.  Of course I'm not privy to their ledgers, but they seem to be talking at odds there.  How can this be such as tough-to-sustain business, and yet you have the budget for a million dollar studio?  (Actually, Leo didn't; he has talked about how the budget was a lot more modest in the beginning.  I do not know what led him into exceeding it.)

So to wrap up point 4, do you really want to be working for someone who has such openly suspect character, Erik?  Maybe it's much for the better you two separated.  If despite that you still wanted to work for them, it would seem keeping your concerns private and not airing it all out would have been more prudent.

Yet, despite all that, it's obvious Leo is successful.  He probably has millions of followers and fans due to Premiere Radio Networks.  There are also exceedingly few people who can claim to have won an Emmy.  I have to admit he is entertaining and informative too, otherwise I wouldn't be spending around 6 hours per week listening (to TWiT's stream), plus occasionally other downloads like "Security Now!"

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