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Sacrificing certainty for creativity

You’ll no doubt have seen that Spotify cancelled the podcast Heavyweight this week, alongside a tranche of redundancies. Ironically, I’d introduced Wendy to the show hosted by Jonathan Goldstein only a fortnight ago. I’ve listened since the start, though in a pretty on-and-off fashion. The episodes were so well-crafted and moving that it felt weirdly disrespectful to listen to them as background audio, which ironically meant that I didn’t get around to hearing them.

The best thing I’ve read on the topic is PJ Vogt’s insightful piece on the cancellation of Heavyweight and the broader state of the podcast industry. Of his Search Engine podcast, which I also enjoy, Vogt says:

We have a budget that’s good until July. After July, we’ll see.

One of the comforts of working as a doctor is the confidence in future employment. Even in public health, which is undoubtedly the rockiest of medical specialties in those terms, it’s easy to have a high degree of confidence that doctors will always be required in the system somewhere, even if the system is dismantled every five years or so.

Podcasting, by contrast, sounds terrifying: most of my job is about dealing with uncertainty, but I couldn’t sleep if I had no idea if my job would still exist in a few months. The creative drive of people like Vogt and Goldstein, their willingness to sacrifice certainty to make journalistic and artistic products, is truly something to behold.

I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to have a job that allows me to pursue my interests while maintaining a degree of personal assurance. Most people aren’t so lucky.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Technology, , .

Other worlds

One of the benefits of reading novels is the realisation of the degree to which any individual’s life experience is limited. We all get to live only one life and act out only one set of life choices.

In the last few days, though, it feels like the limits of my own experience have been fired at me from all angles.

On The Rest is Money, Steph McGovern and Robert Peston discussed the enormous industry of narrative video games, which eclipses television and movies combined. This is a world that has completely passed me by. I wouldn’t know Call of Duty if I fell over it. The last console I owned was a PlayStation 2. I think the last narrative computer game I played was Simon the Sorcerer on the Amiga, and I don’t think I ever completed that.

On Search Engine, Taylor Lorenz told PJ Vogt about hiring a ‘content consumer’ to watch all of her friends’ Instagram stories and send her a summary report each week, saving her the trouble. The bit that surprised me was Taylor and PJ’s shared concern about appearing to disengage at the end of the project, and how her friends might take this. I don’t think I even knew it was possible to see who had viewed Instagram stories, let alone that anyone would obsessively check that.

In medical news this week, there has been a bit of unnecessary fuss about doctors being advised to avoid ‘sexting’ and to avoid including their faces in explicit images. One consequence of spending more than twenty years with Wendy is that the modern dating world has passed us by. The idea that I would want to send or receive explicit photos with potential partners seems vaguely ridiculous and not erotic in the least.

We all lead sheltered lives; they’re just sheltered in different ways.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, , , , , , .

Professional prospects and social media

On Search Engine recently, Ezra Klein told PJ Vogt:

This is an argument I’m always having inside my own industry. I’m someone who’s done a lot of hiring in my industry, so I think I have some credibility on it. People’s social media accounts are typically a reason why they don’t get hired, not a reason they do, in my experience.

The reason is that if they’re doing really well on social media, it’s for that exact reason they’re not doing as much of the actual work people are looking for.

I’ve been involved in many hiring decisions in my line of work, and I’ve never checked candidates’ social media profiles… but my job is in the Civil Service rather than the real world.

However, Klein’s observation chimed with my perspective on the experiences of a couple of colleagues during the pandemic. They both used different forms of social media to ‘subvert’ the usual routes of communication processes of their organisation. They both became ‘known’ (at least within the public health world) as ‘personalities’ who communicated clearly—that is, they were both successful at social media.

Both inevitably ended up in hot water for giving messages which did not align with the organisational view. The problem was that they had become ‘big name’ representatives of their organisation but were operating entirely outside the normal processes. Crucially, they both also mistook their success in the game of social media as expertise in public communications.

In other words, they did well on social media by demonstrating a dismissiveness towards due process and the expertise of others. The errors that undid them would not have been made by people with expertise (but may have been made by—say—me, in other circumstances). They became popular, but possibly undermined their professional reputations more than they bolstered them.

In contrast, while I know many people who have fostered professional connections via social media, I can’t think of anyone I know in my field for whom success on social media has led to genuine professional progression.

But, in fairness, this is only my personal experience: while it aligns with Klein’s view, others think differently. According to Alex Heath in Command Line,

Musk thinks X can build a viable LinkedIn competitor. “Historically, I’ve done a lot of recruiting on Twitter,” he said, adding that he sees someone’s posts on the platform as the “single biggest indicator for whether they are excellent or someone you would want to hire.”

Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

The image at the top of this post was generated by DALL·E 3.

This post was filed under: Post-a-day 2023, Technology, , , , , .

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