Because They Can’t

Showing Up

This year, many, who work in public-facing jobs will be sickened with an infectious disease and will, despite warnings to do otherwise, will show up to work while they are still contagious.

This is not anything that is nor is or unique to the looming threat of the coronavirus. This happens every damn day, because these workers have no choice but to show up for work.

In the past few days, I’ve encountered many articles and social media posts, that call attention to the plight of low-wage workers.  Many of them lack insurance, and don’t have paid sick time. Thus they are not afforded the luxury of ‘just’ staying home if they are injured, or even if they  have a communicable illness.

Many of them are employed in food service, or other positions with frequent human contact. They regularly work under conditions where they pose risk to their own health and well-being; and at times, to that of that others in their community.

These articles have really hit home for me, on so many levels. I’ve been in their shoes and I know that many  people in these situations  won’t take off from work if they’re sick.

Because they can’t.

“Just” Take a Few Days Off

When I was in college I contracted a stomach virus, like many people in the community also did that fall.

I got so sick that I made a rare trip to the campus infirmary, where the physician’s assistant  provided me with the expected guidelines: “…get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids and stay away from  solid foods until…” and assured me that I’d be better in about a week or 10 days.

He then suggested that I take a few days off from work.

“Like that’ll happen,” I thought to myself.

Because I Couldn’t

I was sick for months.

Because I never stopped working. Late-afternoons/evenings  or overnights for 8 or 16+ of heavy lifting, I’d  back in a steaming hot dish-room handling “clean” plates.

Missing work  had not even an option I’d considered, because I  couldn’t.

Nobody was going to pay my rent and utility bills, or the next semester’s tuition. And I was already being haunted by the specter of the student loan payments that would be due soon after graduation.

Avoiding solid foods didn’t work out so well, either.

Gatorade and chicken broth didn’t provide adequate sustenance for my work-activity level over 8 (sometimes 16+) hours. My shifts were bookended with a bicycle commute, that often involved a morning sprint, in which I raced home, to sneak in a shower before my morning classes.

I was getting a lot cramps: in my biceps, and upper back, and occasionally in my calves. Thus, I skipped ahead, from clear liquid to full liquid: gulping orange juice.

Soon I’d fast-forwarded to soft foods, wolfing down bananas by the bunch.

I don’t recall if the onslaught of potassium helped with the cramps, but my stomach was messier than ever.

Feed Me!

But…I was soooo hungry.  Fat, protein, carbohydrates…even vegetables were the things I craved.  One morning, as I wandered through  neighborhood convenience store, I heard the siren’s call of the “heat and eat” sandwiches section.

I stared longingly at the items, and tried to talk myself out of them, before tentatively grabbing a pack of sausage and cheese biscuits, knowing that once I hit the “start” button on the microwave that I officially owned it them.

I paid for the biscuits and wolfed down both of them while still standing in the parking lot because I couldn’t wait for the 100-yard-walk to my apartment building.

My stomach was quickly outraged.

I missed most of my classes that day, but went to work at 3 pm. My Statistics discussion section, or my Political Theory lecture, didn’t put bread (or sweaty sausage biscuits, for that matter) on the table. They were expendable.

When I Practiced To Deceive

During my weekend calls home, it was normal to chat with my mother for a few minutes before she handed the phone to my father who repeated a lot of the questions I’d answered for Mom.   Though during the period of my endless gastrointestinal affliction, he asked, “Ya been sick anymore?”

He had decades of medical experience, and had recently had  become a nurse. So, several times, I’d gotten  lectured about getting back to the “damn doctor” (“doctah” as he pronounced it).

While I agreed, I didn’t think I could because it was too expensive.

My father was a veteran, and as a college student, I would be covered under their insurance for a couple more years. Though, I knew that it didn’t cover everything.

I remember several times seeing my father burning through the checkbook paying medical bills that seemed to arrive by the basket-load every time one the six kids, or my mom, had a hospital stay.

Thus, to avoid contentious moments with my father, I  began lying about to him about my condition. I claimed that  I was back to running, lifting weights, etc. Lying and staying sick seemed a better option than arguing about going to the hospital.

All The Others

While, it seemed perverse that, despite having insurance, I couldn’t afford medical care, I realized that many people had it much worse than I did.

I don’t remember how many of my coworkers caught the stomach bug. Though it didn’t matter, things were already tough for many of  them.

In addition to the proverbial “struggling students,” I worked with  many people who had families, and were the sole provider for:  their own children, disabled spouses, elderly parents, younger siblings…there would be even less rest for them.

Unlike me, almost none of them had insurance. Our employer didn’t provide it, and it was prohibitively expensive to obtain from outside sources.

There were several  tougher-than-nails waitresses who  returned to work a scant  few days after giving birth. And a bull-strong dishwasher in his late 40’s was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack. He came to work later that week.

Missing more work was not an option for them.

Why Don’t You ‘Just’ Stay Home?

My roommate, whose family was fairly well off,  used to badger me about going to work (and to classes) when I was ill.  He was a high school friend, and we were in our second year of living together, so he felt he could badger me, I guess.

Several times  he asked me, “If you’re so sick, why don’t you ‘just’ stay home?”

“I dunno,” was my usual answer.

After a particularly bad stretch with the stomach infection, I got up, groaning and listless, and made my way to the shower.

Again, he asked “Why don’t you ‘just’ stay home?”

This time, I replied  “Because I can’t.”

Then to drive my point home, and to be a little bit of a jerk, I asked him “Why  won’t your dad  ‘just’ pay my bills?”

He never asked again.

Be Better

It was easy then, and now, for people who have never been in a similar context  to dismiss lower-wage workers.

Furthermore, in a moment where we seemed perched on the edge of pandemic. It’s easy for people to dismiss these workers  as being “too stupid to stay home when they’re sick.” (Unfortunately that is an actual quote, I’ve heard in the past).

The truth is that they don’t stay home for a simple reason: because they can’t.

My advice to those  who can’t understand the circumstances of others who may be  caught in the low-income trap: be kind, be helpful, or just try to be quiet.

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A DAM Industry: “What Should We Call This Damn Industry?”

A DAM Industry

This post is about a digital asset management (DAM) industry. (Note that I wrote “a” DAM industry instead  of “the” DAM industry.)

DAM (as I learned it) is the acronym/adjective that professionals in one DAM industry have used to describe their skills, their software platforms, their processes, etc.

In that space  “DAM” means something along these lines:

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is a collective term applied to the process of storing, cataloguing, searching and delivering computer files (or ‘digital assets’). These may take the form of video, audio, images, print marketing collateral, office documents, fonts or 3D models. Digital Asset Management
(DAM) systems centralise assets and establish a systematic approach to ingesting assets so they can be located more easily and used appropriately.

(Source: The DAM Glossary)

In this particular DAM industry, there is some recurring controversy about whether “digital asset management” is a still a viable term (if it ever was)  for this particular group of professionals, their products, and their services.

Some have suggested that the term “digital asset management” is inherently confusing or that it is outdated (or both); therefore it should be retired.  I agree with this.

There are other professionals, who feel that this DAM party is just getting started, and their  DAM acronym  is getting more buzz in corporate conversations than ever. Thus, it should be preserved. I agree with this, too.

I’ll touch on these philosophies soon enough, though do need to take care of one bit of business.

The Elephant in the DAM Room

Right now, I  implore you  to make a DAM joke.

It doesn’t matter what the term  “digital asset management” means to you, but let’s just agree that DAM jokes are pretty damn hilarious.

Beavis and Butthead at Washington Monument. Caption: "Heh heh heh, You Said DAM"

You Said ‘DAM’
(source: ImgFlip)

Just succumb to your urge and crack wisely – about this DAM blog post, about this DAM industry, or somebody else’s DAM industry.

Don’t hold it back; that’s not healthy.

Here’s a primer, to get you in the DAM spirit:

(Hoover Dam  Scene from National Lampoon Vacation)

Feels good to get that out of your damn system, eh?

My DAM Journey

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my first encounter with some DAM software  was when I worked for a Chicago ad agency in the previous millennium.

In the spring of 1993, my company purchased a copy of Aldus Fetch (an ancestor of Extensis Portfolio). We referred to it as the “art catalogue” software.

I don’t know if the term “DAM” had even been coined yet.

(Demo Video of Aldus Fetch Software)

I didn’t hear the term digital asset management until several years later. Though it didn’t matter much. Not nearly as much as the problems it solved, with its scant-few features.

First, I could actually SEE what an image, or illustration, looked like –without having to open its source application! It wasn’t that long ago when it might take several minutes to launch Photoshop to open a file. The file preview was a huge timesaver.

Also, the keywords feature allowed users to  add descriptors so that we might actually FIND files –within a few seconds – without clicking through a cumbersome, and inaccurate folder structure on a server.

Since I didn’t know what the technology was called, and didn’t really give a damn.

I encountered the term “digital asset management” in about 1997. By then, I had  actually several years of (on and off)  experience in the DAM field.

Digital Asset Management didn’t seem like a good term to me then. When my colleague first mentioned it, I thought he was talking about money. It was an ill-fitting description of what the solutions actually provided.

However,  I didn’t have a better term to offer. So, I  ran with DAM. If nothing else, it was an attention-grabbing, giggle-inducing, acronym I used when trying  to sell corner-office decision makers on the idea of enterprise-wide solutions.

However it  seemed that I had to spend a lot of calories, explaining what the hell “DAM” meant. Even then, I was still  met with a lot of polite nodding or vacant stares. “DAM” was a pain in my damn neck.

With the advent of the Dot-com bubble, there were suddenly a lot of companies that professed to provide solutions that managed content in some way or another. Soon  “digital asset” management, “enterprise content” management systems were all rather meaningless.

The terms were subjective and rather elastic. They might be working with different types of content, and in different ways, but they were all managing content.

In my opinion, the terms and the associated acronyms (DAM,  DM, ECM…) were pretty much  useless.

Every damn one them.

Follow The DAM Money

Digital asset management (Content) has never been a good term. It offers more confusion than clarity.  I found myself using  it less and less when discussing content management solutions, focusing more on what my employers and clients hoped to accomplish.

A few years ago, an impassioned DAM  discussion, that began on a Linkedin group, spilled out into the streets (actually a public-facing web site). Professions offered compelling reasons  to drop, and to keep,  the damn “DAM.”

One key point: there was a new DAM in town. The financial sector was beginning to the use the  terms “digital asset” and “digital asset management” to describe their offerings in  Bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

DAM (Content) Guru David Diamond, who wrote a “DAM” book and a “Content Management” book  wrote on Linkedin:

“Major players in the Financial sector are using “digital assets” to describe Bitcoin and related “digital” financial resources. They’re calling the tools used to manage those resources “digital asset management” systems. I say that, as an industry, we abandon this term before companies like Fidelity take over all the Google search results that matter to us.”

Quite a cogent point and with a clear call to action for the industry to change its damn name.

Companies like Fidelity, Morgan Stanley were (and still are)  tightening their embrace of “digital asset management” and  the DAM (Money) industry would always have the ability to outspend  the DAM (Content)  industry in the search-engine-optimization wars.

Essentially, this brand-damn-new DAM (Money)  industry would  eventually get all the DAM traffic search results because they have more damn money to spend to buy loyalty from the likes of Google, BING, etc.

I thought this assessment was on the money (No apologies here. My puns are intentional).

Though I also agreed  with the contingent that held that DAM (Content) was  starting to gain traction as a term and that we should think thrice before abandoning it now. True, this DAM (Content) industry  was becoming a  fairly hot area. It’s interesting that, after 25+ years in existence that our DAM (Content) industry  had achieved “overnight” success.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact, that  DAM was never (in my opinion) a good term for the management for  content files. DAM (Content) is 1/4 century (or more) into its lifespan and it’s still  (again my opinion)   a fairly small speck  in corporate discussions.

The End is Damn Nigh

I’ve been seeing DAM (Money) creeping into my DAM (Content) web search results for a few years. Though today, for the first time, I tried searching for “digital asset” and “digital asset management” on Linkedin.

When I used the “People” filter,  nearly all of the results are for DAM (Content) practitioners.  That makes sense because my network is loaded with people in that space.

Then, I did the same searches with the “Content”  filter. I surprised  that the DAM (Money)  articles and posts far outnumbered those of DAM (Content) by a large margin. “Well, I’ll be damned,” I thought.

This suggests  that people are: writing posts about, commenting on, and  linking to, content that is about DAM (Money) more than they are about DAM (Content). Not what I’d expected, given the makeup of my network.

This helped solidify my opinion is that we’re nearing the end of DAM (Content) road.

As I’ve said, I have been in a slow-moving breakup with the term “DAM”  (Content) for several years, so I will have no difficulty in eventually letting it go altogether.  It’s been a good run.

A DAM good run.

(For related  reading: please see my posts: The Laswellian Definition of Content Management and  The Digital Liability. )



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“Digital” Productivity Tool

Yesterday, I got a robo-call about something I had to act on this morning.

The task was low-effort, but an irregular one, thus had a high risk of  slipping my mind.

I considered all my reminder aids:

  • Whiteboard
  • A planner full of paper
  • Phone and laptop software (‘apps’ as the kids are saying today)
  • An array of online tools from…(well just about everybody offers tools like this)

Then I remembered an organizational technique – perhaps the most effective ever developed – that was often employed  by my  former company’s Executive Creative Director many years ago.

Then I  grabbed a pen (not a mouse, a stylus, or a dry-erase marker) and I wrote  “Call  attendance office,” along my thumb (technically this IS  a “digital” solution).

Man's thumb, with "Call Attendance Office"

Thumb’s Up To Productivity

Well, as you can see, I actually wrote “Call  ‘attendace’ office.” The single downside to this technique is that there is no spell-check. Though the spelling was good enough to jog my memory.

Though I suppose if you’re particular about spelling, then a proofreader’s mark calling for the ‘n’ to be inserted is an option if you have a red Sharpie nearby.

After a few moments at my desk this morning, I looked down at my keyboard and saw the not-so-subtle reminder that I needed to make a call. I grabbed my phone and 90 seconds later: tardy excused.

Mission accomplished.

What are some of your 20th century productivity hacks?

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Time Has Come Today

Please Don’t Make Me Shop

Frequently,  before Christmas or my birthday, people (my wife, my sisters, etc) tell me that I’m hard to buy for.

My response is always “I am not. I don’t want anybody to  buy me ANYTHING.”

I don’t like people spending money on things for me because I don’t like things in general.

I don’t like being on the hook to return an item–if it’s the wrong size, a non-flattering cut, or a hideous color–because I really hate being in stores. Then if I am successful in returning the item, I’m in a position where I’m expected to actually….SHOP.

Other than a few trips for groceries per week, I go to great lengths to avoid stores. Just being in a big box store is exhausting for me. The lighting bothers me, I hate weaving through crowds, the noise if it’s busy. 

I hate spending money. I hate contributing to clutter to  my house.

If I shop at all, I shop at smaller, or at least, less-busy stores. If I need hardware, light fixtures or tools, I prefer the store that is within walking distance. If they don’t have what I need, I’ll grit my teeth and drive to one of the national chains, that have a larger inventory.

Every few decades, I am forced to shop for clothes. Usually, I don’t mind a few holes in my shirts, or socks, though I worry about the threadbare jeans. Because eventually somebody might  shout:

“I see London, I see France, I see Scott Smith’s underpants!”

“Don’t Ruin It For Him”

Last spring, a few weeks before my birthday, my wife told me that our teenage son was pretty excited about his gift idea. I was then placed under orders to not “ruin it for him” by groaning about how much money was spent, or if it was something that I wasn’t interested in.

“Oh….kay…” I meekly replied.

It turned out it was a pretty cool gift.

Wrist watch on Mans Arm

Wrist watch on Man’s Arm

It was a watch. And a Timex watch at that. Not a digital, internet-connected, steps-counting watch, with a minuscule movie screen. It was an analogue watch, with big numbers and a needle-width  hand that rotated around the entire watch face.

When I put it on, I happily sang the refrain from the psychedelic rock song Time Has Come Today. 

In my childhood, I was fascinated by watches. Neither of my parents wore one.  Though I can remember staring at the wristwatches worn by my older cousins and brothers-in-law, my neighbors, and strangers that I’d see in the grocery store. 

A wristwatch become one of the items on my “When I Grow Up, I’m Gonna….” list.

TV commercials from my early youth, featuring John Cameron Swayze trying to torture a Timex watch, helped to cultivate  a brand loyalty in me (though I couldn’t name any other brands):

Timex Watch Commercial Featuring John Cameron Swayze

The watch my son bought me is not a single-use device, either. Not only can I tell time anytime, anywhere, but I can also check the date (Full disclosure: I have to reset the date each time the month has fewer than 31 days). 

Furthermore, it has a light switch, so I can tell time in the dark. It has the added value of providing enough light that I can find my phone during a power failure, and the phone has an app that provides enough illumination that I can find a flashlight  in the utility closet.

So, my watch can do at least three things.

I hadn’t worn a watch in years. My previous watch met its end after I already had a mobile phone, which had a clock on it. “Who needs a watch?” I thought.

Productivity Hacker

Eventually, I realized that by living without a watch I was losing time (as always my pun was intended).

A common  fidget behavior for modern humans, and certainly me, is to check the time. With a wristwatch, it was quick, easy and provided immediate gratification. In that respect,  a watch is pretty much a pacifier to me, except I don’t have to remove it from my mouth to eat or speak. 

It took me time to acknowledge that relying on a phone as a clock (or for fidgeting)  was cumbersome. It wasn’t always convenient to pull it out of my pocket.

Furthermore, it was rare that when I looked at the clock, that I limited my interaction to just a  time check.

Often, I checked e-mail (and sometimes responded to email,)  looked at news, occasionally social media….Checking the time, sure was time-consuming.

When I periodically said  that I was considering buying a watch, people  would say things like “Those are handy for tracking your steps checking messages and updating your social media…” Or “You should try the Apple Store.”

Uh..those are things I DIDN’T want to do with a watch.  I just wanted to the tell time.  A traditional wristwatch would help to seal my productivity leaks.

The fact that I got a watch without having to shop for a watch is gravy. 

I don’t know if my son ever heard me discuss my longing for a traditional wristwatch  or not. Perhaps he did. He knows I’m not big on shopping.  

In any case, I’m glad that he got it for me.

Because he gets me. 

Video: Time Has Come Today (by The Chambers Brothers)

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