One logistical update - I’ve centralized the posts that would usually go to the sudopoint or SQL blog to this one. If you were subscribed to sudopoint or on my SQL class mailing list, you’re now subscribed here.
I’m surprised to see many of my friends starting to build public online presences. Previously they didn’t seem to want to. Why?
Part of the reason seems to be that many of them are starting companies, and CEOs often have to do a lot of marketing. Without a pre-existing marketing machine, they try to bootstrap one from their personal social accounts.
We are each our own little company now.
That converts “full time employment” into something that looks a lot more like one larger company subcontracting work to a smaller company (You Inc).
It also explains why employers increasingly are looking to reduce global benefits in favor of those that the individual employee can decide how to wrangle. Instead of insurance benefits, pay enough salary that employees can buy on the exchange. Instead of dumbbells in the office, a stipend for doing whatever workouts you want. Instead of 8 hours a day each day, spend however much time you need to get the job done.
It also explains why getting a job is such a weird experience. Almost no one who gets a job gets it by applying for it via a website. Instead it’s about relationships you’ve built - effectively, how well you can market yourself as the best subcontractor for the position. Sure, the company doesn’t call you a contractor, but you can end the contract tomorrow and go start another one, just like a contractor can.
Gig economy workers already knew about all of this, of course. But this emerging independence has usually been painted as primarily an advantage to employers, who get away with providing fewer perks to a captive employment base. I think the opposite - this is an advantage, though largely unexploited, for employees.
For example, there’s a large community of people that now work two “full time” jobs. For those of us just working the one, we know that it’s perfectly possible (in fact, likely) that you only get 10 or 20 hours of productive work in for an employer per week. For highly circumscribed roles, with concrete independent deliverables (i.e. non management), getting multiple jobs is a brilliant approach to maximize your income.
Meanwhile, successful companies are getting smaller. And not just startups - I mean regular companies can be built “off the shelf” and so simply require fewer personnel to get a product to market. The rise of the Indie Hacker movement has been astronomical, and I think will only continue to swell. Journalists are leaving newspapers to start substacks, where they can earn money directly, on their own.
I suspect that the maximally employable people will be those that take advantage of this structure to market themselves effectively. The main problem is that most of the people I know doing this are, bluntly, super boring.
I occasonally peruse twitter, and even the “intelligent tech” people are primarily posting what I would consider to be absolute drivel. Epigrams that would drive Confucius crazy. Statements that seem controversial but are really just paper thin assessments of the obvious. They are effectively text-only rorschach images meant to get forwarded around as simply the next version of chain letters.
Most of these posters are pretty thoughtful people, many of whom are brilliant writers. But they need to use twitter / linkedin / facebook as sort of a marketing mechanism to catch a little bit of attention from the vast sea of internet fish. Which they then funnel into whatever scheme they’re peddling - youtube channels, substack subscriptions, try my startup, etc.
This blog isn’t an exception, but I can at least be honest about that.
More importantly, I think it has implications for those of you reading who don’t already have an online presence. All signs point to you being at a disadvantage compared to those who have shamelessly sleazed themselves out on social media. Probably not in your current role, but certainly when looking for a new one, or starting a project that requires a global audience.
And yet, the people who I most respect in my past workplaces, who are often the wisest, most thoughtful people, they often have no meaningful online persona. They don’t link to tweets. They barely watch youtube. As far as I can tell, many of them don’t even have linkedin profiles.
That makes me think that as loud and obnoxious as the current online discourse is, the vast majority of people in real life are not writing online at all, and most (especially the most talented and experienced) are barely reading it. They know it’s mostly crap.
Perhaps it is still early in the game. I wonder if participating in it will actually be an advantage, or instead an indicator of which people clumsily jumped into a fad that will eventually fade.