Double Fine is a game developer in San Francisco. A few years ago the outrageously huge response to their Kickstarter campaign funded Broken Age beyond their wildest dreams, enabling a great deal of hiring of all sorts of magnificent people.
This writing sample exemplifies all that is the most positive game developer attitude in San Francisco. I'm collecting this blurb like a squirrel packs nuts in its cheeks before darting up a Cypress tree in The Presidio.
It's here as much for me as for you - so I will read it now and again. It's good for my well-being.
BTW, here's the link if you're jazzed about applying. Buenas suerte!
[Scene: a Thursday night in a taxi eastbound on Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, California]
Radio Dispatcher: “All drivers avoid the area around Wilshire and (cross street) for the rest of the evening. A high-speed chase resulted in a death.”
Me: “Where’s that?”
My Driver: “Koreatown”
Other taxi driver on the radio: “What happened?”
Radio dispatcher: “The driver shot at police once. The police shot 12 times.”
Other taxi driver on the radio: “That’s fair.”
My Driver: (soft chuckle)
Read it on Medium: https://medium.com/p/e6c1f570ecaf
Anthropology degree in hand, my one practical job skill was broadcast DJ, hard-won such as it was on graveyard shifts at the college radio station. To be clear, I was terrible. Having been in the Youth Symphony and lettering in madrigal vocal music in high school, mixing music came naturally. But I was painfully bashful behind an open mic. Who cared what I had to say.
I followed my roommate to her hometown in Nashville to start my new life with the only entertainment connections I had through her family. First there was the job doing distribution of a nascent culture-politics weekly rag. Our workspace was an antebellum waterfront warehouse with no amenities — toilets, cooling/heating, clean air, decent lighting.
As the only one who knew how to do it I got put in charge of producing the weekly promo spots for the two big rock radio stations. At night we’d go to WROC’s swanky corporate studios to bang it out. I’d hand the tape to the DJ and next day it was on the air. For the other radio station, WKDF with the huge hearts-and-minds listenership, I had to hand-deliver the tape to the Program Director.
Except the second time, the Saturday of Independence Day weekend. Being conscientious, with concern for the agreement between the station and our paper, I called the DJ on the air. He was understanding but no, he could not accept the tape if I dropped it off, much less get it on the air.
Then he says, “Hey, aren't you the new female DJ? You just moved here, right?”
“Well, get over here! We need a female jock.” *
Note taken. The following Monday WKDF’s Program Director was filling in on the morning show, giving away tickets to a concert. I was the winning 6th caller. I told him my name and said that I also wanted to get him the promo tape I’d produced. He said I didn’t need to call in to get tickets.
Seated in his office he gave me the tickets and I passed him the promo tape. Then I told him I heard he was looking for a DJ.
FCC license: check. Air sample tape: check.
Cut to later. I earn a pathetic salary with no useful benefits. I’m covering the six-hour graveyard shift. I’m terrible. But it’s okay because it’s the one daypart that is not Arbitron-rated (influential on advertising revenue rates). Every night I identify inadequacies to fix by the end of the week, starting with conversationally reading the weather forecast without sounding like a dork.
This being Nashville, the station consensus was that I needed a relatable persona. Specifically, it was said, I needed to be a motorcycle momma. Exhibit a less extensive vocabulary and more of an attitude. Me doing this would require taking up smoking and drinking hard liquor excessively. I was impressionable and wanted to succeed, but no. I couldn’t do that. I don’t know that woman and anyone who did know that woman would know I was faking it.
Cut forward several years later. Same station, different program director. Now I’m on the 8-midnight shift — the hardest hard core rock daypart. It’s the nighttime sound track for students, grocery store clerks, people in their cars, and the Nashville recording industry.
By this time my vocal delivery shtick was down and I was a master mixer of LP vinyl. In the early 80s people didn't know it was a cultural renaissance; they just knew it was a party. Euro New Wave, punk, rap/hip-hop, LA garage, heavy metal. “Dearly be-lov-ed…”
But I was no motorcycle momma. Did market expectations change? Or did my station underestimate their audience’s tolerance for female stereotype range? I think a bit of both. Nashville had been a hard rock and Southern rock kind of town. With the national influence of MTV, ingrained locally by East Coast-native Vanderbilt students and session musicians, the Confederate flag-waving good old boys retreated for a while.
The comedian Chris Rock says that on stage he’s just a larger version of himself. I made an oath to myself early in my career that I would never say anything on the air that I would regret when I got home. So that’s me, too. I was myself, only expanded — more of a presence.
But “who” was I? I was not a Southerner, grew up in a strictly classical household, and no partygirl. Still, I had the highest ratings of any regional radio station during my daypart.
The station management suggested I do a poster a la Stevie Nicks. Like this:
One day my Program Director, a New Yorker who went by the moniker “Smokey Rivers”, decided he knew who I was.
“Your audience is a 13-year-old boy. He’s got an older brother in high school who he looks up to. This brother has a girlfriend. She hangs out at the house, and she talks to the younger brother, shares popcorn him.”
“She’s friendly, but the girlfriend is also a romantic figure. She is unattainable but approachable. The boy can smell her perfume, watch her brush her hair, and see how his brother takes care of her. To the boy, she is a girl-next-door version of Marilyn Monroe.”
“You’re the girlfriend.”
There were other visions. Backstage at a street concert someone told me I didn’t look how he expected.
Me: “Let me guess. You thought I’d have flowing jet black hair, wear a bustier and high boots, and carry a whip.”
Him: (meekly) “Yeah.”
Different 13 year old boy, different imagination.
So perception can be suggested with just voice and personality (and a soundtrack). I still sometimes fight identities imposed by others’ imaginations, how they want me to be.
My mother is finally distributing her most precious possessions to her five offspring. Obsessed about the possibly that her children would fight viciously over her life’s collection, she went through law school to specialize in probate law, never intending to practice except to advise herself about her material objects’ dispositions. Is my mother the holder of a priceless Western Asian art collection? A stash of gold bars? Yves Ste. Laurent’s early design sketches? Abe Lincoln’s certified toothbrush? None of the above.
Some of the most personal items are being distributed to establish a legacy at preferred public institutions. Her piano is going to a university music program rather than to one daughter (not me) who she encouraged to play. Makes sense – who wouldn't want a name plaque on an item that exemplifies one’s identity outside the family.
My mother gifted one brother with our grandfather’s roll-top oak desk. I got a grandmother’s books from the late 19th Century, though I don’t read that language and am uninterested in that topic. Part of the reasoning, I know, was that each of us supposedly resembles the original owners of these items, but also was a nod to gender- “appropriateness”. This from an active life-long promoter of women’s equality, in her way. My mother, the Paradox.
Recently my mother drove many miles to hand-deliver a cache of items. Some I had selected from a typed list; others she just tossed in the trunk. Some of these items present ethical dilemmas.
In 1950s America no self-respecting middle- or upper class woman attended nice occasions without a fur stole. This is a wrap made with the fur of some rodent or small animal. The classic is the mink stole. My mother’s is not mink, but it is soft and beige-y. However, other than as a Halloween costume I have no use for it. Similar stoles sell for a mere $20-50; and anyway, it’s offensive to even my fairly moderate animal rights sensibilities. At a consignment shop someone said, “Everyone’s trying to sell stoles.” Someday I’ll dump it off at Goodwill for the tax write-off.
The ivory necklaces
Oh, Mom. Mother. Her Edwardian sensibilities impelled her to travel to every continent on the globe. Items that caught her eye were carted home, things sometimes so fragile that they were transported home in her lap. Things she picked up for her progeny were low-quality tourist bait. My mother toured Vietnam and I really did get just a lousy t-shirt. It went to Goodwill.
In this recent haul my mother gifted me, unsolicited, with two ivory necklaces. They are low quality carvings, and in fact one may be bone. Maybe they’re both bone. I would not be caught dead wearing a necklace made of what was once a poached elephant’s tusk, and certainly not bone. Recently six tons of contraband ivory was turned to dust. To sell these necklaces would support the market value of these despicable items. They will be buried in the backyard. Update: they were thrown in the trash.
Portuguese Bullfight Tile tray
How quintessentially 1950s. I had forgotten the black enameled tiles depict bullfighters. For sale now on eBay - SOLD
Those who strive do two things: develop potential and learn to recognize and exploit opportunities. Opportunities can be specific to a certain kind of potential, but it's also possible to recognize the unexpected usefulness of resources and opportunities: the convergence of conditions that can be leveraged for one's unique gain. Necessity alone is not the mother of invention. Vision, even to retain certain conditions, together with necessity or simply want, is the mother of invention and attainment.
Can Technology and Design Negate the Need for Political Regulation?
A provocative notion was stated in the context of online communities. Proposed May 30 by a UX Researcher from a well-known disruptive San Francisco business at an event called Design Research Night hosted at Facebook.
“The presence of a Community Manager is an indicator of flawed design.”
The implication of this statement is that humans, community managers, make up for social deficiencies of technology (the platform) and design (the way the platform is structured and interactively and visually designed). So conversely, in a world with excellent design (and the technologies to pull them off), human-powered management of human community members is unnecessary.
Is this just naïve talk of a utopian world without trolls, griefers, and scammers? Or, with the “right” technical foundation, are people capable of behaving cordially or even altruistically?
I'm thinking that while she might be right, by the time such a community could be designed the concept of communities will have been socialized to the point that it would be impossible to extricate the causes and effects of a community’s success. And so the statement falls on my ears as the clarion call of a design idealist, the effect of which may be a laudable vision toward a design purpose that supports community autonomy, if that is achievable or desirable. It certainly stems from a place of belief in low or no regulation. Design as a libertarian tool.
Is freedom the absence of political organization? Or does freedom stem from a well-designed, constructed, implemented, and maintained political organization that is nearly invisible to the population? And yet given the complexity of most current societies, a lack of, bare-bones political organization is a recipe for social collapse.
(For more on the topic, re-read Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky, 2008)
Mass mail occasionally arrives for prior occupants. Their names are familiar by now. Except this one.
What's being marketed? Guns.
That means that this open market website dove deep into their database to push guns to anyone who might be interested.
Because maybe soon, as a result of the Newtown, Connecticut School Massacre, there will be stricter guns laws. Maybe they're actually worried that it might happen.
The back says Guns International dot com. "Direct contact between gun buyers and gun sellers. Browse over 40,000 guns listed for sale. The easiest, most effective website to buy and sell your guns and gun related items. Register for 3 FREE listings."
So. The outside of the envelop advertises a classifies web site for the gun market. Turns out that's just the draw. More broadly the mailing is for people expecting to live off the grid. Inside the envelope are coupons for a propane refrigerator, easy-assembly out buildings and room additions or making your own log cabins and log furniture. Coin and classic stamp sets. A book on understanding biblical prophecy. Metal detectors. A $10 off coupon to join the NRA which totals here to only $25. It's all here.
Notably, there are also coupons for Rx delivery and mobility scooters.
Sometimes cultural artifacts just arrive at your door. This is part of our America. It really is.
FailCon is a convergence of entrepreneurs who listen to and swap war stories about starting and enduring business failures.
As the day wore on I began to feel that the word "fail" was harsh and, in any case, not quite perfect. If we talk of business failures, I ask 'must we apply the same word to ourselves'? The word "defeat" came to mind. It's still brutal. It means something crashed, hit the ground, that someone or something else came out on top, and that recovery will require great fortitude. But for me defeat feels like 'down for this round', 'down for this game', 'down for this season'. Recoverable.
Several times in my life I've felt utterly defeated over a period of years. I've thought about what giving up means. If not death, then what? Living in a remote but low-pressure location isolated from failure or the shame of failure?
First off, bad things happen everywhere.
Then I thought: let's say I do that. Let's say it's the day after I've got myself ensconced in some near-wilderness. It's not like "they" won. "They" have no idea, and if they do, my responses will be forgotten soon. Plus, some people will then be deprived of whatever value I do bring to the world even if I think it's miniscule. But most importantly, what will I do that next day? Knowing me I'd start over, complete with strategies, because that's what I do. I can't help but survive and thrive. So that means I must put up with the current misery. Shit.
I rallied. I was defeated but I had not failed. I was not entirely the weak link in the cascade of events. In fact, to always write myself off as the cause disregards my fallible humanity and larger forces around me. This is why I deeply appreciate Scott Berkun reminding us of the Fallacy of a Single Failure.
And so I may be defeated today. I do a post-mortem about what I could have done, what I should have recognized, but also noting how I might have been blindsided or inexperienced. Then I repair what I can followed by working on putting such thoughts aside. On those days I give up for the day. I accomplish as much as my sore emotions allow, consult with my inner board of directors, and then take a break. A hike, a chat with friends, a new indie film. Tomorrow I layer on more effort. I learned to take care of myself.
In one of these periods of dismay a drunk friend of a professional acquaintance told me to my face that I should give up. This guy had no idea what he was suggesting. What did he think 'give up' meant? I was later instrumental in that professional acquaintance getting a good job. Over lunch (that he bought) I asked for, and received, an apology. Who's going to tell me I have no value and that I should give up?
"Failure is only failure if you don't get back up" Ben Huh, FailCon 2012. Sounds like a defeat to me.
Personally, I think that first bracing smack in the face is exhilarating. The first day or so afterwards is precious. Not that I enjoy injury but the sharper the pain the more vividly displayed are your incorrect knowledge and assumptions. Your market has just been corrected. The new reality is here. Savor the release. I spend those sparkly moments examining every super-charged facet and feel the effects, checking on how I'm responding. However...
"Be certain that you are not suffering over your suffering." (The Book of Runes, Ralph Blum, St. Martin's Press, 1982) I read this as saying 'Save your energy for the issues, including the facts of your trauma and the crisis at hand. Don't waste energy on melodrama, languishing in your misery.' Care for emotions as you go and then also when the crisis has subsided.
I counsel suffering friends to not shove the pain of these events aside, to stay in the moment. Anguish festers and compounds itself. This is an opportunity to grow, to accept responsibility for your own maturing, to become a better person for your own happiness and the well-being of others. Well, that's what I say anyway.
"When times are good, some of your character shows. When times are bad, all your character shows." This is a "Chinese" proverb I cannot re-locate since I first spotted it in a 1979 Farmer's Almanac. This one bon mot has been a guiding light through my adult life. Message: 'Behave yourself while you deal with your issues'. Similarly, it's also best to mind your character when times are extra good.
Chip Conley, CEO of Joie de Vivre spoke of being not superhuman but a super human, the chairman of emotion and meaning. A man after my very own heart. He spoke of Maslow (whose hierarchy of needs he simplified to 'survive, succeed, transform') and Frankl, two psychologists who profoundly influenced me.
Ben Blank's (Intuit's Innovation Catalysts team) said things about recovering from professional defeat and instilling sustainable practices that I believe and promote. I particularly soaked up these gems:
It takes guts to run.
In a years-long war zone, the last real but booby-trapped shelter is afire and collapsing. Outside it's storming and freezing cold. There is no sun.
Only some critical variables are clear when need meets opportunity. A few known comforts, long poisoned and broken, are pondered and cast aside. Immediate pain and dire consequences for staying in the shelter are considered. For the desperate and strategic mind, the ill-defined future outside beckons, come what may.
Even unprepared and barely informed, the ability to act in one’s best interests fuels an immense leap of faith in one’s self.
Without vision, those mired in a perilous present cannot have faith in the future. Only a dependence on luck.
And so she did not run because she was afraid of the present. She ran because she was unafraid of the future.
A battleship turns hard-about mid-ocean. The invested vessel radically changes course over hours, days, weeks, months…years, amidst the sea, against all tides and sharks and everything, turning the rudder this way and that, catching wind and sometimes paddling. A literal spin in place, like the blade on a beanie, takes the shortest time but requires incredible skill, astute judgment, and excellent conditions. Certainty in the need for this strategy, for a fast new direction, bolsters morale in times of anxiety. Vision, again.
The alternative is to chart a long arc around: a little to the right and then a hard left for a long time, straightening out when a viable direction is achieved. But the vision might be forgotten by then, or the objective itself evolves.
If the resources are available - material, intellectual, and psychological - agility supports a positive, rapid conclusion.
Pivots are expensive, often even taking recovery time. Sacrifices may be required, re-orientation. Returning to an intact state in the new conditions depends on the original constitution of the vehicle and driver, plus advantageous support. Too fast, too hard - poorly informed - and a pivot costs everything. Pivots are brave.
Masochists. Maybe even they dream of benevolent overlords. The right mix of providing what it takes to thrive and to challenge.
I’m reminded of Mary Poppins:
"Wanted: a nanny for two adorable children."
If you want this choice position, have a cheery disposition... Rosy cheeks, no warts... Play games, all sorts. You must be kind, you must be witty, very sweet, and fairly pretty...
Take us on outings, give us treats, sing songs, bring sweets. Never be cross or cruel. Never give us castor oil or gruel. Love us as a son and daughter, and never smell of barley water.
If you won't scold and dominate us, we will never give you cause to hate us... Hurry, nanny! Many thanks! Sincerely... Jane and Michael Banks!
What is the difference between a boss and a leader?
“A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting.” - Russell H. Ewing (1885-1976) British journalist
Not everyone is hip to the concept, even now.
This really happened. Silicon Valley, 2012. A team offsite is announced. It’s the manager’s hobby; an individual sport like gymnastics. The team is not asked if they want to do this or maybe something else. The manager gets in a practice session while the team risks physical injury and social embarrassment. This manager is a boss. The kicker? The outing is paid for by the employees.
Daniel Pink in his book Drive points to three key factors in motivating cognitive workers (as opposed to physical workers) toward optimal performance: autonomy, mastery, & purpose. Intrinsic motivation. It’s like an organization being user centered.
Experience researcher in high tech and built environments with an anthropology provenance.