Friday, 25 January 2013

Against targets for women speakers in tech conferences?

Just a quick and dirty flowchart on targets in tech conferences for speakers (it talks about women, it could be a lot of different groups)

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Employment is falling, unemployment is rising

Just wanted to make a quick post about how our government, and the media, is absolutely misleading us on the "success" of our economic fight back in terms of the new jobs being created. You will hear each month how many more tens of thousands of people are in work, and that less people are unemployed...yet it never tallies with our country's economic growth. Indeed the reality is that while we can be cautiously, very cautiously, optimistic on employment, our unemployment levels have been rising for a decade, and aren't slowing.

Here is the data, all taken from the Labour Force Survey (the vertical axis is percentage of population age 16-64 that year, horizontal is the year), with 2012 compiled from average data from 2012 we have so far...

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1971 for all aged 16-64

From this you should be able to see that employment has generally slightly increased since 1971, but so has unemployment. The economically inactive have moved in to those two "definitions". However that's just the trend, which may not be entirely appropriate for this range of dates, since it is completely clear that we are facing our biggest employment crisis since the last time the Tories were in power. However we are clearly not suffering to the level we were in the 80s.

This picture is a little too long, the best we can say is that we aren't doing well right now on employment, and out unemployment has been an ongoing problem for over a decade...

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1997 for all aged 16-64 this graph shows. Starting with when Labour took power. Employment is obvious, it was rising under Labour, then the recession hit, and it's barely recovering now. This does not mean that employment trends are not now on the rise.

But the interesting thing is unemployment. That too is still on the rise, and has been since sometime in Labour's second term. The recession boosted unemployment levels, but they're still growing. Recent unemployment tallies mostly with the recession effect, but there is also a clear correlation between a drop in economic inactivity and unemployment.

Is this because Labour and the coalition have made it harder to exist outside of the working/not working dichotomy? Is it an effect of an aging population? Is it just more political tinkering with who is defined as what in an age where higher education and other programs have grown?

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1997 for MALES aged 16-64

Looking at men, the general shape of rates of employment match closely to the data for both genders with two key differences. First, the drops and rises are much more pronounced. The recession hit men harder, but they are also recovering jobs and getting out of unemployment better than women (graph below).

Second, more and more men are moving in to economic inactivity. This is showing cautious signs of change in 2012, but it is interesting to see that men since Labour have taken power have moved generally out of unemployment and in to economic inactivity.

Trends for Employment, Unemployment and Economic Inactivity since 1997 for FEMALES aged 16-64

The effects of the recession had a more limited effect on women, and since Labour took power, and through the coalition, there has been a drop in economic activity levels. But when you hear that the coalition is hurting women the most it is this data that proves it. Unlike the men unemployment is still on the rise for women, consistently so. Meanwhile employment opportunities seem to be fairly stagnant.


The fact is that our employment rates are nothing to be celebrating. We should be happy they aren't dropping but there are only slight signs of consistent recovery right now. Women are suffering under unemployment and we don't necessarily know how many people have moved from a relatively "good" position in economic inactivity to a bad one of unemployment. In general for every cheer you give for our unemployment, you should give a groan for unemployment rising too.

As for "records" that are talked of being broken, our employment rate now compared to 1971 is not favourable, and isn't anywhere near as good as it was under Labour. Unemployment, on the other hand, is growing dangerously close to being comparable to the early 90s, which should be concerning the coalition a whole lot more than it is as it cuts budgets and locks people in to cycles of poverty with their social security cutting policy, and draconian benefit workfare schemes.

*caveats apply, the way that these terms are defined will have been tweaked as time has gone on, for example people that are currently being forced to work for no pay, just to keep their meager benefits are not counted as unemployed, they will at worst be counted as economically inactive.

Conferences and quotas, pt2.

I feel that when it comes to "discussing" the issue of the representation of minorities in our profession of web creators, people get themselves in to paradoxical positions all too easily. After a little spat today it's clear that, once again, there are a group of people that don't realise they should either be supporting those of us that are saying diversity quotas are a good idea, or should accept that they are being discriminatory in their opinion.

"How are they being discriminatory?" you might ask, or as someone on twitter has lamented (paraphrasing) "Don't disagree with quotas, even if you agree with equality, you'll be labeled a misogynist!"

Well, yes, you might...and perhaps the fact you don't quite see the obvious link that makes that label apply to you is part of your problem.

You see people calling for quotas aren't saying that people who are bad speakers should be on the roster, they're saying that there are talented people of all colours and creeds and in order to help nurture future talent in a diverse way we should showcase our diversity.

Now, if you agree with this you shouldn't disagree with quotas. The implementation of a quota doesn't reduce the amount of quality on offer, it only changes the person that is standing on stage in front of you. Your experience doesn't change, no-one that doesn't deserve the spotlight has been given a platform. It's essentially exactly the same situation as if the conference organiser had willingly chosen to create a diverse line-up rather than being (for the want of a better term) "forced" to.

But if you view that those, especially women, are pushing quotas because they want "token" women for diversity reasons you are NOT accepting that women have just as much talent and ability to stand on that stage. You are, perhaps implicitly, letting your prejudices on show. Your first instinct is that women don't deserve to be there in the first place, and it shows in your language.

So if you are disagreeing with quotas have a long, hard think and ask yourself why you really oppose them, and don't complain that you're getting called on your prejudices while you do.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

When is a Royal veto, not one's?

Alright, so a load of republicans have their arses in their hands right now in frustration about the "outrage" of the royal family members having a "veto" on laws of the land.

How terrible is this! The Queen and her offspring telling us what laws are adequate for one's country while a general conspiracy is afoot to subvert the population's awareness of this horrid and nefarious scheme!

Or, it's still as ceremonial as all functions have always been perhaps?

We know, for example, that the Queen has to swear in a new government (and that it is for parliament to decide on that government). It's all pomp and ceremony really since the Queen has no power.

Let me just repeat this again. The Queen has no power, at least no more than any other significant land owner in this country, the same goes for Charles.

So then, what are all these instances of veto's about?

Well the one cited prominently in the daring expose by the Guardian is that of the Queen vetoing any kind of move to take power from her to declare wars. The fiend!

Except the reality is that the bill that sparked such a thing was a backbench bill by some MPs that really didn't like the idea of going to war without having a say. The Prime Minister? Tony Blair, a man who would then go on to press on with an attack 4 years later based on dodgy evidence and shrouded in spin and dirty politics.

The Queen was not responsible for the veto of this bill, Tony Blair was.

Not convinced? Well how about the Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill. I mean, look at that, removal of Crown Immunity! I guess the Queen must have vetoed that because, well, who would give up immunity?

Take a look at the debate...

Mr Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) said about the Bill. Are we to understand that the dilatory behaviour of the Palace is preventing the House from debating an important measure to protect the conditions of staff employed in this building and to give them the conditions that they would enjoy anywhere else?

Miss Betty Boothroyd (West Bromwich West)
Let me help the hon. Gentleman if I can. It is no reflection on the Palace, as the hon. Lady knows. An application is made to a Minister, and the hon. Lady is perfectly entitled and right to take the action that she now proposes to take. an administration error then, just one that happens to have "The Queen did not give consent" labelled on it as if she gave an active answer in such a (priority wise, lowly) private members bill.

Then there is the case of when she callously vetoed Lords Reform in 1990. I mean, if she isn't for giving up her own powers as the above examples so amply demonstrate, then why would she want loads of Lords to lose their jobs?

Oh, wait, no...just another administrative issue that was rectified later that year. The politicians on the other hand...well, just try and find a reference to Lords reform in 1990.

Of course it's not just the Queen, it's the Prince of Wales, Charles too. However there is no evidence of the Prince's consent ever having presented itself in a way to "veto" any bill.

Does this mean that bills haven't been altered in order to favour the royal family?

Well for a start this would have to happen before any bills even went to parliament, where they are recorded at every stage. For the bill to change there has to be approval by the person putting the bill forward, or a vote. The stage at which the Prince or Queen's consent is sought is almost always (as far as I can see) AFTER the bill has been published, it's just a matter of protocol.

Yet without fail the Queen and Prince give their consent on everything that they are asked. This is because, ultimately, this isn't a secretive consultation to get the approval from the most well known family in the country, but a simple administrative process that is only one of many quaint and out-dated...but ultimately harmless...rituals that tradition requires.

So, let's ask this question again. How exactly is what we have in front of us a case of the monarchy interfering in democracy, hmm?

Monday, 14 January 2013

What about the shadowy half-brother of "taking offence"?

It's been an interesting few days for those within certain circles on Twitter, and no doubt regular readers of either the New Statesman and Observer. Those who seem to dip in to professional trolling have had a big fight about being trolled...someone has "quit" Twitter because she was bullied only to have her friend bully without a hint of irony in one of the most vile ways I've ever read.

There are a couple of other blog postings that cover that particular issue and it's direct philosophical musings very well, I suggest you go read.

What I want to talk about is the rather overlooked issue of those who have taken justification. This shadowy half-brother of taking offence is overlooked, yet is actually the bigger problem that results from usually half-thought-out ramblings.

Take "James Delingpole". Charlie Brooker here is right, when you have professional trolls paid by the big publishers to get page views then what they are writing is not worth your time getting offended...or at least not pursuing after you've been offended.

But that doesn't solve the problem of those that have taken justification at his views. Those who will point to a prominent article written in a national paper (with it's own regulation!) and claim some kind of endorsement of their own prejudice.

Does James Delingpole or Jan Moir really hate as many people as they seem to? Maybe. Is that a problem? Only in so much as they normalise and legitimise what they're saying because of the (debatable) breadth of their reach and the reputation the brand they're writing under gives them.

To those sitting at the end of the Burchill Observer travesty and saying simply that people should not get offended so easily, or that they should just ignore it, are missing that, in this specific instance, that very charge against the victims of a heavily weighed attack on their way of life is an insult in itself. People that are forgotten about, or where they are not are ridiculed as somehow being "lesser", being told to just "live with it" is hardly a compassionate or reasonable thing to say.

But it is made even less reasonable because of that issue of those that take compliment. Those people that will look at the article and not see a horrible piece of hypocritical hate speech, but instead vindication of their own prejudices that they themselves cannot actually see as wrong.

We don't equally turn to these people and say they have no right to take someone's article and feel that sense of vindication, we for some reason only focus on those who get offended. Both sides are vocal, though admittedly those who are offended are usually more so, but those who decry (for example) twitter's downfall in to "twitterstorms" and "twittermobs" only focus on those people.

And of course the reason is that those who are offended are all too ready to say "I don't think this should be said" rather than their half-brothers and half-sisters who are massaging egos while shouting "No, I love hearing this, write more cheap trash!"

I'll never be happy in a world where those writing either their own blogs, or in the newspapers, feel that they need to self-censor hugely. If someone feels something they should feel free to write about that, as wrong or right as modern society believes that to be. There is a responsibility here, and not one that resides in writing up your piece and then deciding not to run with it, or with an editor saying "You're going to cause too much heat, let's not publish this one"...but with not engaging those you disagree with in such a manner that you provide ammunition against those that may not be too dissimilar to yourself to those who look for any bit of apologist rhetoric that they can use to justify their anti-equality agenda.

A little bit of compassion goes a long way, and by engaging with your detractors you not only help to stop the storms and mobs that you supposedly hate, but you also keep your views from becoming the property of those with agendas that you would rather not be aiding. If you say something stupid and can't stop yourself from saying it, fine...but please learn when you put your hands up and say "sorry" instead of shouting "shut up, troll"

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Keeping things "fair"

A farmer has three fields, and keeps a set of horses in one, cows in another and pigs in the last one.

In the field with the horses there is a plentiful amount of grasses covering it's entirety, and is by some margin the largest field; there would have to be significant loses to the grass before the horses would be left wanting. The cows have the next largest field, though half of it's land is covered by hard standing and poor quality soil that yields little grass. The farmer supplements their natural grass growth with hay.

The pigs have the worse lot, they have a large shed and an outdoor area that is devoid of natural food. All the food they get is provided by the farmer in troughs.

One year the weather was particularly bad for the farm, and the horses found that a patch of their large field had not grown grass properly through a combination of early droughts and then late floods on the valley side.

Some of these horses were extremely frustrated, they were used to having any area of the field to graze from, and the complete freedom that afforded. However, when they looked over at the pigs they were incensed.

The pigs, you see, were still getting the same amount of food as before, the amount they needed, from the farmer while the horses had to suffer a reduced (though still surplus) supply of natural grass.

Naturally the horses complained. Worried that nothing would be able to pull the ploughs if the horses got too upset, the farmer scaled the amount of food he provided to the pig's troughs by a similar fraction as the horses had lost in their field.

Wanting to be fair, and avoid any further arguments, the farmer did the same with the hay supplied to the cows. The cows were too pre-occupied agreeing with the horses about the similar loss of the natural grass growth in their smaller field, and arguing about how much more valuable they are to the farmer than the pigs, to notice the implications straight away.

The horses were now happy, they had more food than they would need. The cows were happy for a while, until they realised that they barely had enough food between the natural grass and the hay to go around, and the pigs were miserable...unable to produce healthy young and were poor prospects for the farmer.

But at least everything was done "fairly", so who can complain?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

How the Lib Dems have failed us.

Yesterday's vote on the benefit cap was, for me, the last straw. I've been more than supportive of various interactions that they have had in government, given their ideology and membership base. I still don't see the NHS changes as anything other than a win for the Lib Dems with the resulting compromise.

However the fact that the Lib Dems have consistently, at commons level, failed to protect the poor shows that they are simply not liberal enough for me. Waving through the scrapping of legal aid so that only the rich can afford to defend themselves was strike one. Strike two came with the "social cleansing" style rule to cap housing benefits and thus price poor families out of certain areas of the country regardless of their circumstance.

So yesterday, the active worsening of living conditions for all of the poorest people in society, standing shoulder to shoulder with the utter bullshit mantra that somehow the poorest don't deserve to get percentage terms higher rises in income than someone who doesn't receive benefits and probably, actually, is getting along just fine in the pay progression stakes, is my strike three.

Lib Dems will, and are, crowing about two things that further show how far they have fallen from what those like me hoped was a more pragmatic and principled party. The first is that Labour have some nerve, hypocrites that they are, in standing against this policy.

Yes. Labour are hypocrites. We know this. They are opportunistic, the sun also rises every day. This doesn't even remotely give you the right to play apologist for the worsening of living conditions of the poorest in our society, furthering inequality in this country rather than reducing it.

Second, the "fairer taxes" stuff. The only way that you bringing "million of people out of tax" all together is if you create an environment that allows their pay to rise, and that doesn't reduce their other income so that such a tax cut is irrelevant.

Since 2009 the tax allowance has risen by some £3k, and will save those on a full time minimum wage job £681 compared to that year. What does that matter when your changes to benefits mean that your income is rising below the cost of living? All that the tax changes have succeeded in doing now, thanks to the draconian standards of support that Lib Dems have been vital in supporting, is that middle income individuals are taking almost £700 extra into their pockets while the poor do not.

It's a shambles that the Lib Dems have turned what could have been a very progressive policy in to an utterly regressive system...rewarding those that happen to be in work on a comfortable wage while merely maintaining (at best) the situation for the poor.

The legacy of the Lib Dems in 2015 should have been that they stopped illiberal policy, rolled back the surveillance state, and protected the poor from even suffering equal (in percentage terms) losses in income compared to those much more well off. As time goes on it looks more and more like they're failing in all three, but it is the last one that is going to make it for me to support them at the ballot box.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Supporting IE7, that'll cost extra?

Netmag have highlighted some developer survey results that have a frankly shocking (to my eyes) statistic... 42% of devs surveyed charge extra to support IE7!

I have a real thing about this kind differentiation, I don't like it and don't think it's very professional. While I think it's a natural and practical step to say that it becomes cost-ineffective to support certain browsers, while they are still very much viable entities we should, as standard, support them.

Factoring how much work you will have to do in testing is naturally a good thing to do, as long as you're not charging money for your own lack of competence and the time that adds to the project. However charging a certain amount for a project and then up-scaling it by X% or by adding an amount of money on's the kind of thing EasyJet do, and we all know how we feel about that kind of practice.

When we stand back and say things like "IE7 will cost extra" we sound more like dodgy plumbers (as opposed to the very nice and ethical ones) than professionals. What do we mean, IE7 will cost extra? Are we not in the customer satisfaction business? This doesn't mean our client, of course, it means their customer! By having bolt-ons for things like IE7 we are trying to dissect and modularise what should be the very standard level of service we provide.

When we cost work we have to be realistic; we deserve to be paid for our time but at the same time the client doesn't deserve to pay for you to learn your craft. They can happily go somewhere else where someone is already an expert and can do it better and quicker, if only they knew where to go. If it's going to cost a certain amount to deal with modern web complexities then be respectful to yourself and to the client. Explain the cost and why that cost is there.

The segmenting of our web has to stop, especially that driven by the partisan hatred of Internet Explorer. We are entering a world now where changes to what our web browsers are capable of are changing every month. In less than a year we are going to start seeing reports of website that are "not working" because someone has turned off their automatic updates and is only 12 months out of date on their browsers, but the tech being requested was only implemented in vendor-specific form after that.

What do we do then? Charge for testing in Chrome 23.0.1 or earlier? Anything over Firefox 17 is ok, but below has a surcharge?

In an ideal world the conversation about what the site will be capable of, and the difficulties that could present themselves, you should have around the planning stage of the project anyway. If the client starts to get horrified at the time or cost that a particular functionality will take to complete then that is the perfect time to refine the goals, and for you to be immediately on hand with all of your knowledge and skills to come up with a new, simpler, and more palatable solution for the them.

The reality is that we will have to accept our job will cost as much as the functional spec adds complexity, and regardless of the job we should be applying an architecture that allows the site to work (where it is possible) on the weakest browsers and enhancing itself as the customer's browser allows. Do this and you'll never have to worry about fiddling about with complex invoicing, and your work will stand the test of time too. Doesn't that sound more interesting, and a little less "douche" like?

Monday, 7 January 2013

Women, web developers, and conference quotas

As a pre-cursor to this post, it's probably a good idea to read This article on .net magazine's website about the issue of gender diversity in the web development profession.

Had a good read? I'll continue...

I don't subscribe to Andy Rutledge's view (as much as I can decipher it), that the industry will sort itself out regarding diversity. He seems to believe that if women want to get more involved with web development, that they will. It's clear he thinks that issues such as conferences being male dominated, perhaps even the actions at technology trade shows of severely objectifying women to sell tech, are non-issues.

If you are good at what you do, and want to do it, you'll get on board and ignore the culture. I can't really agree.

The trouble is that I do find slight common ground in the proposition that gerrymandering conference speaker quotas is the right answer, or even really an answer at all. I think if we're going to focus on breaking down barriers, conferences are so far past the barrier that trying to tinker with them is only internally symbolic.

Where there are party political conferences, or the public offerings of seats of parliament, it's very easy to send a message of diversity and equality by trying to implement quotas, and by fixing appearances so that your organisation can be reflective of society. The key thing here, though, is that they are public.

I would be interested to know how many budding web developers or designers know anything about web conferences. Maybe I'm wrong here but I don't think that conferences are something people get in to until they already get really in to web development. Once a person has gone past the "I can make this look pretty" and "I can create this cool thing", and they have gone past simply copy and pasting answers from Stack Exchange, it's only then that they say to themselves... "I want to really KNOW my profession".

From here they might get in to some articles, maybe some authors, and from there they might hear about a conference. It's here that perhaps I most closely, although hopefully fleetingly, align with Andy's view. By this point people that are keen to get involved are doing so because they want to see experts. By this point gender, race, dietary requirements all become secondary to skills and experience.

We can talk, if we like, about the image we portray...but the only image we're sending out (for now) is to those who want to go from simply being good web developers to being excellent ones. If we do things to represent better our diversity, although it would likely do us no harm at all, it would ultimately be to placate our own insular group.

Of course the key there is that it'll do us no harm at all. The idea from Andy that somehow it's a bad thing to get more women speaking in conferences because of some issue of stopping a "better" speaker from getting involved is inherently misogynistic, even if he can't see it. The web world is not like some kind of darts fraternity where there is always a world champion and a runners up in skill and capability. We have hundreds (more?!) of people that all reside in the same sphere, with maybe dozens that have been in that sphere for a bit longer and have a bit more experience on the circuit.

Replacing a good male developer with a good female one isn't going to make a shit of difference to the quality of the conference, it certainly isn't going to deprive the audience, and it may well help bring...albeit only slight...a different perspective.

But none of this, at this point in time, deals with the issue we're trying to actually help solve which is the involvement of women in the profession (and ethnic minorities, I know that is another strand of this same discussion). It might make us feel better about ourselves, and it may well make the experience for those that want to join the network of web developers that REALLY care about their profession feel more safe and wanted. For those reasons we should (and seemingly are given who is advocating such change) look at how these conferences are formed.

The primary focus we have to have though is much earlier, and we need to make it much clearer that this isn't a profession for white boys.

Andy Rutledge can sit there and pretend that socio-demographics don't matter, but to do so is entirely ignorant. Just as I wouldn't expect *anyone* to go and stand in the middle of a group of teenagers at a bus-stop, I wouldn't expect someone who doesn't fit the socio-demographics of the area they're interested in to feel comfortable trying to access it.

If we don't have prominent, celebrated and respected people from a wide range of diversities in our profession, then we have no hope of allowing those that have the skills and desires to become part of our group the freedom to do so.

We can nurture at a younger age, we can break down any initial barriers in people's minds that this is something only for the boys. Those running the Girl Geek Nights are an excellent example of this, a "safe space" initiative that allows people to naturally build it up, but it doesn't have to stop there. But let's also seek out and find those bedroom coders that are probably representative of the majority of people currently in our profession. We need to find a way to create avenues for these people in to our profession, and to give good advice on how to walk them. Schools and universities are only one small way.

That's a first step. But then we need to back it up with visible evidence that it's the case. This means a level of positive discrimination is necessary, unfortunately. If we have a woman and a man that both appear to be equally acceptable for the job, we should be choosing the woman to join ranks. This isn't, as Andy may cry, something about valuing tokenism over abilities, it's about improving our profession.

In my field where I've nurtured through three university sandwich-year students, everyone that got the role was because they not only fit the requirements, but exceeded them more or equally to the next best candidate. Yet at this level there is not a lot that is needed from a candidate, it is ultimately a work experience role, not even graduate level; the number of applicants each year is also extremely high, so it is extremely easy to positively discriminate like this. Except that it would be a lot easier if in each of the years I've run the placement...despite dozens of applicants...I've only ever had one female apply each year.

Ultimately it is important to realise that positive discrimination isn't about putting someone less able in to a role over someone more's about picking the under-represented person out of two or more equally "good" developers, if they aren't already the better one.

In the end this will result in the situation Andy wants, we'll have an environment where everyone is free to enter or exit the profession without prejudice and without reservation...but it's naive to think we can get there through conference meddling alone, or by just letting nature take it's course.

Feeling you're in the "Friend Zone" isn't about entitlement...

Feeling you're in the "Friend Zone" isn't about entitlement, it's about personal despair. At least, that's my feelings on the matter. There are, no doubt, those that hold views that if they act the "right way" that any girl/guy (Object Of Desire, or OOD, from now on) they want that they will naturally succumb to their charms.

However my experience of people that feel to be in this "limbo" isn't that they feel entitled in any way, shape or form to an outcome from those that they desire, only that they wish things would work in their favour...that they are ultimately jealous of the person that has what they want.

Now, big caveat here...shouldn't need to be said but you always have to be ultra-clear on these things...WANT DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD GET, nor should it. You are free to desire what you want, and your OOD is free to not reciprocate that. You are free to express (in a legal and non-predatory manner) that horrible situation, but they are also free to do whatever they want and can to avoid that expression.

I find the parallels to be that with those who work, in the UK, believing that the government cares more about those who aren't working by "giving them stuff for free" and thus delivering a "better lifestyle for being lazy than someone gets by working hard".

I ask myself, do these people feel entitled to the money that the government is handing out? In some cases, sure, but in most cases they just feel jealous about what they perceive someone else's life situation is. And just like with that relationship between your OOD and their new partner, you probably don't really know as much about that relationship, and certainly not your OOD's partner, as you think.

I don't think it is at all helpful to paint those who complain about being "Friend Zoned" as misogynistic or patriarchal. The immature outbursts by those that feel that they have done everything they "need" to do, or "can" do, and haven't got what they want aren't necessarily linked at all to any innate feeling of entitlement or belief of superiority. As much as it may manifest itself to look this way, a person getting depressed and angry about not finding reciprocation is doing it because they know, deep down, that they are the ones that are not good enough...but their only emotional response is to try and create excuses for why it may appear that way.

It's sometimes too bitter a pill to swallow that you are simply not what your OOD wants.

So we can call this person a dick for being, well... a dick about it. Sure. But how does it help our culture if our answer to this is to label these people as some kind of sex fiend, prowling around assuming they have the formula to get instant sex and are angry it doesn't seem to work?

For a start it seems to me like this just exacerbates the situation. They already feel that they've not been understood properly, because they have either caught from popular culture, or a stark self-assessment of their own positive traits, a belief that "being nice" alone is something that gives you special points that should open your OOD's eyes to what a great life partner you'll be. Barking at them that they shouldn't just expect sex because they're acting nice doesn't do anything to those that actually need support and help with their emotions and relationships other than create a negative reinforcement that society doesn't "get" them.

I reject that guys who complain about being "friend zoned" feel entitled. But they do feel desire, desire that can persist long after rejection, and that in itself comes from the irrational. To try to pin the label entitlement to that irrational desire is lazy, to ignore the psychology of built-up hope that manifests in a reaction that can appear to be drawn from a sense of entitlement is lazy. To abandon these people to an emotional world that can actually make or break how much they respect women in the's just lazy.

The outcome whether they still feel jilted desire, or indeed feel entitled to a "result", may be the same and shouldn't be accepted. Making anyone feel like shit simply for following their own hearts and desires isn't at all acceptable.

But if we want guys to be respectful to their other OOD's in the future, perhaps we shouldn't make step 1 the exile stage, to be marked and noted as an evil misogynist; instead help them to understand how to avoid the build up of emotion that causes such outbursts, and the ultimate negative atmosphere that causes it hard for even the "friend zone", that they would actually be very happy to reside in at any other time, to sustain itself.

If you know a guy that's complaining about being "friend zoned", by all means wake the idiot up, definitely do what you can to re-educate and stop them if they've fallen down the spiteful path of trying to humiliate their OOD. If they were happy enough to desire someone they know deep down that they're happy to be their friend also. If they are complaining without even having talked through their feelings with their OOD, then help to facilitate that process.

But then be sympathetic, not to calls that they did everything they could...the sooner they realise that relationships are built on the feelings of two parties and that feelings aren't readily manipulated the better...but to the reality that they aren't in an emotionally secure place if their happiness rides on acceptance by an OOD, that they need to find that security and to better understand what they really do have to offer in a relationship, and how that will be discovered organically, not by campaigning.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Labour's (not a) Job Guarantee

Labour have announced some policy! Unfortunately it is an all too familiar one, once again trying to be Tories with a twist, in this case it's forced labour if you have been on benefits too long.

Now, I want to get one thing out of the way... if the choice was between this "Job Guarantee" and the current system of "Workfare", where people are being forced to perform mostly menial jobs for short periods of time without getting a wage, just to retain their benefits, then I'll take the former over the latter. If the "Job Guarantee" was of a job that then did, actually, guarantee a job after it, I'd be even more supportive.

Unfortunately the whole thing smells rotten.

You see, I have an intrinsic problem with using threats in order to get people in to work. While I will happily accept there is a minority that will prefer to reside on benefits regardless of how profitable or readily available jobs may be, the research done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation simply doesn't tally with this view being the main one. To sit here and constantly make these "threats" just demoralises those that are already the most vulnerable while perpetuating a myth that those out of work are only doing so because they're lazy and are there by choice.

Frankly, coming from Labour, this is unacceptable. Not surprising, since it's been their stall for years now, but unacceptable still.

Then there is the job. We have no idea what kind of jobs are going to be made...except that it makes sense it'll be an extension of the current workfare scheme. Similar time scales, similar lack of guarantee of a job going forward. The only difference is that you will be afforded the dignity of being paid a "wage", which is no doubt a notional "ethical" sum from the employer that they currently don't pay except in cases of expenses, the benefits they already receive, and a top up from the government to reach the minimum wage.

This is a fairly pathetic excuse for a job guarantee, and one that doesn't work. If these are the same jobs as we're currently forcing people to undertake (and let's remember that Labour aren't exactly saying that they'll be abolishing the current practice of workfare for those unemployed for less than 2 years), then the reality is that this style of trying to find people work is worse than doing nothing. The stats show that the amount of people finding further employment after taking part in these forced work schemes is LESS than if they had just been left on benefits.

Why is this? Well, aside from the further demoralisation that may lead them to be less enthusiastic to subject themselves to the same perceived lack of worth, a common sense view might be that their time is removed from the act of actually finding work and in to doing what is, in most cases, a pathetic excuse for building "skills" and "experience"

So, a temporary job, with minimum wage pay, with no guarantee of one going forward. What happens next to that person unemployed for over 2 years? Perhaps they go back to being unemployed for less than 2 years, reset to zero. This would certainly help keep the figures for long term unemployment at an all time low as we cycle year after year through everyone to bring them back to "1 month unemployed" and so on.

But with no jobs for people to actually do, what's the point? Isn't this just a cruel joke of a scheme. In a world where most people that are claiming benefits are doing so because there isn't the right job for them to go in to, what kind of games is Labour really playing by saying "We can create jobs, but only for a little bit". Isn't this just increasing a cycle of dependency on the state, rather than breaking it?

Now, if this was voluntary temporary work created for those that find themselves genuinely between jobs, the types of families where having to go down to benefits for months rather than have a low paid job to "tick-along" in while they try to get back on their feet quickly, I'd be celebrating it. As it is, there is no guarantee this work is going to be beneficial for those taking part because it is not in any form targeted.

Think about that possibility... a government that tries to keep people's dignity, to make active attempts to slow the kind of rapid descent in to poverty that can ruin families, and to make the road less bumpy, all without coercion! I know, a pipe dream at best!

If the government can create jobs, they should be using them more wisely. However, as with workfare, we have to be careful what we are "creating". One major criticism of current forced work schemes is that people are doing work that someone else could be employed to do, and there is evidence that people have lost out on over-time and holiday pay that they would usually rely on as companies have been able to spend no money on forcing benefit claimants to cover those most unsociable hours instead!

If the act of creating jobs is just depriving others of jobs, then we are not creating a solution, we are just massaging unemployment figures.

And if these jobs are only temporary, then the whole situation isn't sustainable. The very fact that we can't simply get jobs for those who are in long term unemployment who want to work (which is most of them, remember) shows exactly WHY THERE IS LONG TERM UNEMPLOYMENT! It's perverse that we should degrade those that are long term unemployed with a situation that simultaneously proves that they are justified in claiming benefits while vilifying them for being in that situation. Yet this is what Labour is going to choose to continue to do if they win power.

This is why, while I can support the idea of being at least civil in giving people a wage for doing work, I can support this "(not a) Job Guarantee" no more than I can Workfare.