Always on. Not your gadgets. You

There’s an interesting post on GigaOm today about our increasingly 24-hour lives.

As a result, our lives are becoming more “real-time,” whether we like it or not. Just as Google and Microsoft’s Bing are upgrading their search indexes to make them more real time by capturing things as they occur, instead of hours or even days later, we are being forced to upgrade our internal processes to do the same thing. But doing that isn’t quite as simple as tinkering with a search algorithm — we have to find ways of managing the real-time demands placed on us while still maintaining something approaching a healthy personal life, something Stacey wrote about a little while ago. How do we handle the demands of our our spouses, our children, our relatives and friends? How do we maintain our health when we are always on, always available, in real time?





0 responses to “Always on. Not your gadgets. You”

  1. In the writer’s view, both are filled with sleep-deprived writers who are shackled to their computers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and enslaved by computer readouts of the posts and stories that have gotten the most traffic. But while many of the details in the piece are specific to the media industry, the underlying phenomenon that the Times is describing seems far more universal than that: it is the increasingly “real-time” nature of our lives.

    No, the details in the piece are just plain old bollocks. What, a news channel is on 24 hours a day so its journalists must be awake 24 hours a day? I work a nine-hour shift for a support function that is always available for systems that are always on, proving this logic wrong. And I know people who are always available, 24/7, and they do it in return for gob-smacking sums of money. So some people are willing to do harder work and longer hours in return for more money and some others are willing to forego that money in return for having more home-life. This is news?

  2. Gary

    I wrote a huge reply to you but my browser crashed and I lost the lot. If any bits of this are rubbish, you can be sure the originals were much better.

    > And I know people who are always available, 24/7, and they do it in return for gob-smacking sums of money.

    Yeah, but your employer is part of an industry where people can still get gob-smacking sums of money. News media used to be one of them too, but almost overnight the money’s gone. That’s partly because of dwindling circulations, partly because online ads don’t generate much money compared to print ones, partly because Craigslist and eBay killed off the classifieds and partly because media has always been a few highly profitable bits paying for the whole shooting match.

    The internet, of course, has blown all that to bits, so you’ve got a classic case of oversupply that the new breed of businesses are capitalising on. Many outlets pay wages so low you can’t possibly survive on them if you work normal hours. Content farms offer cuts of ad revenues on pages determined by search criteria, but the page views are so small – individually – that you won’t make anything, while of course small x millions makes a tidy sum for the site owner. Entire sectors don’t pay anything, because it’s about exposure. Facebook’s trying to build its own freebie content farm: and trying to pitch it as the future of the CV. People will fall for it.

    Although a lot of it is media-specific, the underlying trend isn’t – and it is something that’s been going on in manufacturing for ages, of course. Now it’s starting to hit white-collar work: massive downward pressure on wages coupled with longer hours and more responsibilities, often freelanced out or outsourced so the firm isn’t covered by employment law or the financial burdens of employment, but with rights grab contracts so you can’t reap the financial benefits of owning your own work as freelances used to do. And that’s the good stuff. More and more stuff isn’t paid at all. Call it crowdsourcing or an internship and it’s no longer screwing people.

    > So some people are willing to do harder work and longer hours in return for more money

    Some, sure, but I think the wider picture is one where you have to be willing to do harder work and longer hours in return for less money. I think the GigaOM piece is right when it says this bit:

    global, online, 24-7 is increasingly the way the world works, and we had better train ourselves to manage it and get good at doing so, or resign from modern life entirely.

  3. Gary

    Ah yes, remembered a bit from the lost reply: bear in mind GigaOM’s readership is largely drawn from people in connected, new economy jobs, so they’re going to be more globalised than more traditional white collar jobs. For the time being :)

  4. You’re not wrong, but my argument is with the first three words of the passage you’ve quoted. Some people are having to work harder and longer hours for less money because their employers are bastards, not because the companies they work for are open longer hours. Again, this is news?

    The writer has written a piece about crappy employers and has tried to make it more topical by crowbarring in some stuff about Google’s real-time search results and 24-hour news stations and claiming causation. Could have written the same thing in Dickens’s time:

    Maybe it’s because the workers in Shoreditch have all been struck down by cholera, or the boss has fired them all for asking for a five-minute break. Or it could be that demand for matches is through the roof as Bonfire Night approaches. Responding to those things is something that your company likely doesn’t have much choice about —- it has to do so, in real time (or something close to it), or it will lose a competitive edge. And you are sometimes the one who has to do it.

    Progress occurs when we recognise that this is not inevitable, but is a bullshit excuse used by employers, and that it is employers, not events, that are to blame for the way employees are treated.

  5. Gary

    Oh, indeed. One man’s new economic reality is another’s “cool, cause I wasn’t planning to pay anyone anyway” :)