If the ignored press releases in my inbox are to be believed, we seem to have reached Peak IPA, at least in the US, and while there are certainly many fine IPAs available nationwide, it can be increasingly difficult to find other styles, whether at a bar or restaurant that is known for their great beer lineup or at your local dive, which nowadays is likely to have at least one local (or not so local) IPA on tap. Indeed, it can seem that the more ‘curated’ selections are nothing but a mix of high-octane IPAs and whatever variety of ‘sour’ is popular this week. Simply finding a well-crafted beer that is neither a high-ABV hop bomb nor something peculiar – lovely as those are when the mood strikes – can be something of a chore.
Given that context, I am cheered by a little-heralded trend (microtrend? Local trend?) that seems to be emerging in my (still new-to-me) surroundings here in Seattle – a good availability of excellent pale ales. I have long been a fan of classic British pale ales like Timothy Taylor Landlord, and I had essentially resigned myself to only getting anything similar on business trips to Europe, or visits back to the east coast; the left coast is certainly much better-known for its experimental IPAs than for its mellow, malt-forward beers.
But having been pleasantly surprised by the quality of local pale ales, I hope to shine a spotlight on a few that don’t receive the digital column inches and Untappd love often reserved for their IPA relations. Starting with the veteran offering, Manny’s Pale Ale, I can happily report that ubiquity does not negate quality – this has become my go-to beer, and it’s always a welcome treat, whether it’s at a Mexican restaurant where the options are Manny’s or Negra Modelo, re-fueling after finishing running 200ish miles with your colleagues or being served by R2-Beer2 (a real thing that happened at work the other week – the perks of tech nerdery are many and varied).
And there are more than a few that are truly outstanding. Special mention must go to Boneyard Bone-A-Fide, Cloudburst Unreliable Narrator and Stoup Fist Bump – a collaboration with Cloudburst, though their standard Mosaic Pale Ale is also excellent. While these do bend toward the hoppier side of the pale ale continuum, their shared feature is a clean, fresh biscuit-y backbone – thoroughly approachable and enjoyable. Boneyard and Cloudburst are more likely better-known for their top-quality IPAs, but these beers are not just scaled-down versions of those; they are well-crafted and deserve to be sought out in their own right.
Other fine examples of Pacific Northwest pale ales I’ve recently enjoyed are Seapine Mosaic Pale Ale, Reuben’s Daily Pale and Lowercase American Pale Ale – all hitting the mark for quality and flavor. And it’s not exclusive to Seattle area; I recently had many cans of Toppling Goliath’s PseudoSue appear in my refrigerator, and it’s just as good as advertised, though I would argue the Boneyard, Cloudburst and Stoup beers are quite easily in the same class. If real or engineered rarity adds to perceived beer quality (it shouldn’t, but it often does), Cloudburst beats Toppling Goliath – at present, they are only available on tap in the immediate area, and they are delicious.
My hope is that if People Who Like Beer actually seek out some of these fabulous pale ales, as well as others available in their local areas, we can drop the ‘session IPA’ nonsense (let’s be honest – good ones are re-branded pale ales, bad ones taste like hop tea) and breweries can properly embrace ‘pale ale’ as a marketable term once more.
That said, if someone invents a made-up style term that makes great ESBs more widely available, I will happily take one for Team Pedantry if it means I can find them more easily.
The (Hamil)Tonys are fast approaching, and this year promises to be an especially spectacular edition, not just because of the Hamilton juggernaut, but because of the diverse range of talent on display across all the nominated shows – can you imagine another Tonys year in which there was so much quality that the always-brilliant Audra McDonald didn’t get a nomination? How lucky we are to be alive right now.
And for those who question whether Hamilton is really that good, I offer an emphatic yes; I’ve catalogued everything I’ve seen on Broadway, in the West End, at the Globe, the National Theatre or at the Royal Shakespeare Company (both Stratford and London) over the past decades for comparative purposes. It took something truly amazing to move the most perfect production of A Little Night Music off the top spot, but there you are.
Without further ado, some theatrical reminiscences; I’ve left out opera, touring productions, college shows and children’s theatre for the sake of some attempt at brevity, but still largely failed. Art isn’t easy.
Holy Cats, That Was Amazing
Hamilton, Original Broadway Cast, 2016
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, Phillipa Soo, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Christopher Jackson
History is happening in Manhattan
A Little Night Music, Royal National Theatre, 1995
Another DAMNY is in the books, and once again, there were a few too many thought-provoking sessions than one could attend without bilocating, but to my mind, that is the sign of a healthy conference agenda and a maturing field. While there were still discussions on choosing the right DAM and making the vendor-vs-roll-your-own decision – and very important and useful those are for those new to the field – it was encouraging to see more panels looking to the future – indeed, some were beginning to address the gaps I see in the DAM world. I continually wonder when DAM, content strategy and knowledge management will all coalesce (or, barring that, make their boundaries clear in solutions that play nicely together), and this year’s conference confirmed that I’m not the only person asking those questions.
Sometimes a DAM is implemented without giving much thought to the foundational content strategy: in these cases, simply ‘getting a DAM’ is expected to solve any and all problems related to the digital supply chain, content marketing, audio and video encoding, web content management, rights management, digital preservation and content delivery, all in one fell swoop. A tool built to manage what we might now call ‘traditional’ digital assets – images, audio and video – may be tasked with being the single source of truth for copy and translations, contracts and filesharing; in short, handling and delivering structured and unstructured data of all stripes to varying degrees of success.
And perhaps that is indeed where we are going, albeit more thoughtfully – if the DAM is truly to be the core of the digital ecosystem, the end users may not need to know what it can and cannot do under the hood, as long as ancillary systems are seamlessly doing what the user needs, thanks to some deftly-designed data models, well-described asset relationships and friendly APIs. But without DAM leaders, both those at DAM vendors and expert DAM managers, developing these use cases and solutions for them, and demanding some firm industry standards, it will take some time to get to that ideal state. A case in point that came up in several sessions was that of the explosion in video resolution and formats – while that (exciting) problem will not apply to every organization, the approach to potential solutions will most likely affect the direction DAM vendors begin to move.
Similarly, the opportunities presented by linked data and well-described semantic relationships must be embraced; the digital humanities field was quite rightly called out for being at the forefront of this wave, having been surfing it long before business or even most technology companies thought to dip a toe in the water (just take a look at any THATCamp writeup). Indeed, it’s another example of how librarians have been key to the development of DAM over the past decade; not only can they (we) whip up a snazzy taxonomy and run your DAM better than anyone else, but they (we) can be amazing futurists – defining a roadmap for a product before the vendor thought to do so, or simply building a homegrown solution.
And that brings me to a slight worry; I noted (though I was far from the only one to do so) that a few of the technology-specific panels fit the dreaded all-male panel stereotype. This has not been my general experience at previous DAMNYs, and I did see that at least one of them had not been designed that way, but DAM managers and end users – frequently librarians and, nowadays, marketers – and DAM product managers and developers sometimes give the appearance of dividing along gender lines. I’ve previously raised the concern about how this could affect salaries (tl;dr – as a technical, or any other sort – of profession becomes more ‘feminized,’ salaries shrink), but I would hope that as a small, though growing, profession, we can all be mindful of that pitfall and work together to avoid a needless binary, where (at least superficially) men develop the software and serve in senior executive roles, but women do the day-to-day work. I will certainly grant that as a women with 20 years of experience in technology, my Spidey sense is more sharply attuned to look for this than it might be otherwise, but here’s how you can all make me feel better – take this year’s DAM Foundation Salary Survey and let the data speak.
But there is another way we a rising tide can lift all ships in this field – we can be more proactive about creating mentoring opportunities, both for those looking to get into the field, as well as for those looking to get to that next career step. The DAM Guru program does an excellent job of matching people with those looking for advice on a particular solution or for those who are just starting out, but we have no formal mechanism as DAM practitioners to take that next step for mid- and senior-level folk. As someone who has been ‘doing this’ a long time, and in different types of companies, I’d be more than happy to mentor those coming up, but I’d equally love to spend some time with some of those very senior executives who are driving the shape of DAMs to come. To borrow a phrase, I want to be in the room where it happens, and I’d like to help other people who want to get there find their own paths.
My biggest takeaway from this year’s DAMNY is that we’re at an exciting point in DAM’s maturity, and for those of us who are lucky enough to have found our way into this field, often by fairly circuitous routes, it’s always nice to re-convene to be among ‘our people’ – but let’s take lessons learned from other tech specialties and ensure that the DAM community’s diversity continues to grow, rather than contract. As we develop systems with ever-broader capabilities, the field as a whole can only benefit from a wide range of backgrounds and experience – let’s aim to keep adding new lifeblood.
I should probably propose a DAM career development workshop for next year…
Twenty years ago this month, I landed my first tech job, quite by chance – and fell headfirst into a career I neither planned for nor expected, yet here I am, two decades later, enjoying my standing desk in a gleaming tower. The setting for this serendipitous accident was London, and London in January of 1996 was an exciting place to be. Britpop was in full force (even if many of the bands lumped into that category did not embrace the tag, often quite rightly), amazing comedy was all over television and live clubs, and the theatre was in fantastic shape, from the RSC to tiny pub venues. Keeping track of the wealth of culture on offer was the purview of Time Out, and even as a relatively poor grad student, especially one who was thrilled to discover student discounts on theatre tickets were much deeper in the UK compared to the US, I happily paid for a copy of the magazine each week to plan my leisure time – more on that in a moment.
Of course, I should not have had such extensive free time; I was busy studying for my MA at the Institute of Archaeology, with plans to go on for a PhD, and then to become a clubby and chummy academic in the JRR Tolkien or MR James mold – obviously, I fell at the first hurdle by never learning to use abbreviations, rather than my first name, or possibly by having two X chromosomes and not being born in the 19th century. Instead, I seemed to find ample opportunity to hang out at the British Museum (that totally counted as work, right?), see bands like David Devant and his Spirit Wife, catch Iain Glen and Judi Dench onstage, hit regular comedy nights and, just for fun, I learned to build websites.
My coding hobby began initially as a way to organize websites I liked for easy access – enormous shared desktop computers in a lab did not make bookmarking useful, but having my own hotlist (hotlists were a thing) gave me some portability and, oddly, kudos among my less-technical peers. Even in that now-distant era before web comments became an archive of discontent, I soon realized that my free webspace let me share my interests – and gave me a platform to complain about things. I believe the Spice Girls came in for a good deal of online umbrage from me in those early, pre-irony days, but as a cool indiekid, my online persona had to take against them. But I later turned this opportunity in a more positive direction by building sites for bands I liked – official versions were still some way in the future. There was also the instant gratification element missing from academic research – if I wanted to spin up a new webpage, it only took a few minutes to knock together some code, find an appropriately-’90s background image, and play around with fonts. A brief aside – I once had a turquoise and neon yellow tiled background that perfectly matched a cheap shirtdress I bought at C&A, or possibly Topshop – it is possible that I was cosplaying my own website before anyone discovered something so ridiculously meta was possible.
Then I realized you could get paid to do this.
One day while poking around on Time Out’s website – one of a very few covering London in any meaningful way at that point – I saw an ad for a web assistant. If memory serves (and it may not be as accurate as I believe it to be), it sounded slightly mournful – the site was getting bigger, but no one else had the requisite HTML skills to keep it updated. Could someone please apply and perhaps they would train them to do the work? ‘But I can do that right now,’ I thought – and I duly emailed off a copy of my resume and links to the pages I had built. I got a speedy reply and an invitation for an interview – the notion of attaching a resume as well as links to previous ‘work’ seemed to have been rather more than any other candidates had managed. Within a few days, I presented myself at Universal House, just a short walk down Tottenham Court Road from my UCL stomping grounds, and was hired immediately.
I discovered that in addition to the princely sum of £75/day (yes, really), I’d also be receiving a free copy of Time Out each week – two if I wanted them! Never having had a real job before, such an unexpected perk was especially welcome – my days of getting terrible free corporate art, snacks, software release t-shirts and on-site massages were still some way in the future. I’d get to hear about upcoming gigs in advance as I dropped them onto the website, and if something was missing, I could add a plug for a band I liked, as long as it matched the writing style of the rest of the site. I learned about an exciting new comedy group called the League of Gentlemen, who had yet to make their way to television. I got press kits from bands like My Life Story, and invitations to alcohol-soaked book launches. I discovered that there was a free drinks trolley that went around the office on certain afternoons. In short, there was not a better job for an overeducated 20 year-old with no real responsibilities.
But it wasn’t all just fun and games – I also got the chance to build on my skills. When my boss (the only full-time employee on the website for a very long time indeed) went out of town, I got to field all the questions about what we did, and generally run the show; when I came back after a week away, I was excited to learn that he’d tweaked the site to improve the layout with ‘a new thing – tables in HTML.’ With our nested tables (frames came later) and many, many carefully-sliced gifs, we could almost, but not entirely, get rid of imagemaps for the ‘graphics-heavy’ version of the site that was offered to people with faster dial-up connections. A second brief aside here: while I never liked the sound of a connecting modem, I do miss the Eudora ‘new email’ tone, which was an exciting thing to hear at the time. The office sounds fundamentally different today.
In those twenty years, I’ve only ever had to ‘dress up’ for work for the non-techie organizations (interestingly, it’s also only outside of tech-specific companies that I’ve experienced any overt sexism, though that’s another story) – it was delightful to donate all my ‘grownup’ work clothes when we moved back to the left coast, where I can wear my nerdy t-shirts, hoodies and DMs to work again without a second glance. Also back: occasional free booze, though as the tired parent of a tween and a toddler, I’m rarely out late – I need my sleep, so the ‘occasional’ aspect is really by choice these days.
If I have any work wisdom to impart as a ‘veteran’ tech nerd lady, it’s this: hire smart people, with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, and let them get on with solving tricky problems as a team in their own way – but set high expectations. Keep learning about new technology, languages and tools, even if you accept you can’t be an expert in everything; it’s especially important if your career evolution has taken you out of day-to-day development and into a leadership position. Volunteer for things – the non-profit world desperately needs your skills and experience, and you never know when your passionate hobby project may become your full-time concern. But most importantly, ensure that the ladders you used to find your way still exist – or build new ones if they do not. There is no single path into the tech world, but people from ‘outside’ are not always aware how transferable, and ultimately useful, their experiences might be for a technical team. A little coding knowledge on top of solid writing, communication and management skills can go a very long way, especially if you give someone the time and space to learn by doing. Beer helps, too.
And if there is a larger moral to my narrative, it is that procrastination can pay off in ways you never expected – just call it ‘learning’ and it becomes a virtue, rather than a vice!
September for the beer nerd may herald the welcome return of fresh festbiers and pumpkin beers (presuming you weren’t already tripping over them in the shops in July or August), but for me, it just means one thing: it’s Dogfish Dash time.
Now in its tenth year, the event has grown from a casual, friendly run around a portion of the Junction-Breakwater trail and a stop in Dogfish Head’s Rehoboth Beach brewpub afterward, to quite a competitive event beginning and ending at the brewery in Milton – and the competition starts with simply scoring a bib. I ran my first Dogfish Dash in its second year, and will be back this time for my eighth; I had to break my nearly-perfect streak last year as I was Far Too Pregnant to run. Despite missing a year, I seem to have amassed a larger-than-expected collection of Dogfish Dash ephemera: not just t-shirts and race bibs, but semi-forgotten unredeemed coupons, water bottles and the odd blog post (or two, or three).
It seems strange to think now that it was possible to fit most of the runners and their friends and family into the brewpub, with (relatively) minimal waits for beer, but as the Dogfish Dash has grown, the art of getting an ever-increasing number of runners to their beers has evolved and improved over time. Yes, some years had very long lines, but that’s simply incentive to try to finish in good time, and it’s clear that lessons are learned and applied to line management the following year. The other advantage of staging the race in Milton is the opportunity to tour the brewery; it seems there’s an entirely new portion each time, and the organization of the mini-tours has been top-notch. My now-10 year old looks forward to the race every year just for the tour; while he’s probably toured more breweries around the world than most adults, Dogfish Head is the one he sees annually, so he enjoys noting the changes (and donning the safety goggles). The staff members do an amazing job of moving large groups of people safely through the brewery, and the volunteers keep the beer flowing outside with plenty of enthusiasm. It’s also great to see the returning runners, both before and after the race: there are regular groups of costumed teams who seem to have better beer-related themes each time out.
I’ve developed my own strategies around registration and packet pickup over the years – though it’s worth noting that while it seems it was ever thus, there was no great rush to sign up for the first few years; you could take your time and see how you felt a few weeks out. It’s true you do need to schedule yourself to register and collect your bib and other goodies, but given the popularity of the race, it’s to be expected. That said, it’s quite reasonable to cap the number of runners, even with a race for charity; anyone who has ever run in a huge event like the Broad Street Run or one of the many Rock & Roll half-marathons knows that a huge wall of people in front of you, fast or slow, isn’t the most inspiring running experience. And given that the race goes through Milton, which no one would accuse of being a large town (though it is a town of considerable architectural interest), there’s only so much room on the course. And I hear rumors that the backlog at the bridge – a familiar, if minor, issue for anyone who has run this race in the past – won’t be an issue this year with the change in distance and route.
That brings us to another point; when those changes were first announced, there was the expected grumbling on Twitter about the loss of the 10K, while others lamented the lack of a 5K – it was too short for some, while too long for others who had hoped to make it their first race. For both, I’ll offer my perspective: the Dogfish Dash is what made me become a ‘real’ runner, and it can do the same for you. Prior to my first Dogfish Dash, I was a novice runner who could barely manage a few yards without stopping, though I was a keen and seasoned beer drinker. But after that first race, it became an annual part of my calendar, and I began signing up for other, longer races, just to be ready to run a ‘good’ (by my standards) Dogfish Dash – anything that would make my wait in the beer line shorter. I began doing all sorts of other fitness-related things that would have shocked and horrified my teenage self, but it has always paid off – I’ve exceeded my 10K PR each year in the Dogfish Dash, and I can’t avoid setting a PR (personal record, for all you couldn’t-care-less-about-weird-runner-jargon folk) for this new, ‘off-centered’ distance. And while I’m still not back to my pre-this-baby speed, and I realize that calling what I do ‘speedy’ would inspire laughter with certain stripes of runners who take things a bit too seriously, my prep races have convinced me it’s returning. So whether it’s a stretch for someone who is just starting out as a runner (welcome – there’s beer at the end!) or a shorter race that a distance runner can use to push their pace, it’s good, well-organized fun for all.
So, if there’s a moral to the story, it’s that beer is good for you, and makes you a fitter, faster runner. I’m living proof.
I’ve been to a post-punk postcard fair, in my Joy Division oven gloves
– Half Man Half Biscuit, 2005
Throughout college and grad school, it seemed everything was post-something. As a student of archaeology, that meant for me, largely post-structuralist, post-feminist, post-processural and the like; fast-forward 20 years, and Jeff Pickthall muses about whether he might be ‘post-craft’ when it comes to beer. It’s a perspective I’ve been wondering about of late, albeit without a clever title – while the explosion of an amazing array of breweries and styles has largely been a positive thing, there is more than a whiff of Shiny Object Syndrome in the beer world. While previously it seemed every brewery had a double IPA (or something else pushing the ABV and IBU envelopes), the current trend for ‘weird’ beers can be a bit wearying, and I say that as someone who loves them.
First, though, let’s put some boundaries around what ‘weird’ is for the purposes of this discussion. Some of it is reviving (or simply re-discovering) historical and regional styles like Kentucky Common or Gose (now NEW YORK TIMES APPROVED), and that’s great, though I’d love to see more done with the rigor employed by Ron Pattinson’s work with primary sources – there’s clearly a lot of room for variety in those historical styles, often much more than one would assume, and it’s fabulous to see (drink) the results of that kind of work. But there’s also a tendency to ‘modernize’ them – making a 12% barrel-aged Berliner Weisse comes to mind – in ways that aren’t just historically inaccurate, but simply don’t appeal to anyone beyond a particular kind of fanboy/girl who may simply be in it for the bragging rights. It’s perfectly fine to make things that aren’t for everyone, but if it’s something even that narrow audience professes to enjoy simply because they feel they ought to, there’s something missing.
There’s another branch of ‘weird’ that uses unexpected ingredients, and that can work extremely well, but that doesn’t mean that it will. It could be a huge failure. Or, perhaps even worse by some standards, it could just be thoroughly mediocre. And it’s fair to say that a wider acceptance of ‘weird’ also leads to more room for error – maybe that infected beer that cost a lot to make is just a new kind of ‘sour’ (which now seems to cover a very wide stylistic range indeed), and it can be repackaged or rebranded as such. That’s where things start getting sloppy, and over time, people notice.
That’s not to say there aren’t breweries doing weird beers extremely well; I’m very fortunate to live a short walk from Tired Hands Brewing Company, and they have yet to turn out a dud, but their smaller-batch model is perfectly designed for that sort of experimentation by highly-skilled brewers. And Tired Hands has also made great milds, a fabulous bitter, wonderful IPAs – it’s just that for them, those are the rarities. And because the quality and consistency is there, it works. Mikkeller has a similar, if somewhat more scattershot approach, likely a necessity given their peripatetic brewing model, but I did find it very interesting that their pub in Copenhagen had a great mix of traditional styles, both their own beers and those of their friends and neighbors, as well as the more outlandish beers they tend to sell abroad. Given that ‘weird’ seems to sell, it’s a smart approach – keep a hand in with high-quality basics, but send the ‘extreme’ things to the markets that crave them (though I’d personally love to have some of their beers that I tried in Denmark in the US – do I get any pull as a member of the Mikkeller Running Club? No? That’s OK). There are other breweries I’ll not name that desperately want to be ‘weird’ and to that end, only brew beers with, say, vegan bacon as a key ingredient, but they don’t seem to have mastered the basics. Those are the breweries that look uncannily like those that didn’t survive The Great Microbrew Bubble in the 1990s.
There are certainly times when I really want to try the Shiny New Thing – but equally, there are times when I wish I could find more great, well-brewed ‘normal’ beers – especially with a lower ABV (hey, I’m only small, and having one child who is under a year old means I’m a long way off from having any alcohol tolerance back). But instead of ‘session IPAs’ – the best I’ve had have been perfectly well-crafted and re-branded pale ales, with the worst tasting rather like hop tea – can we not enjoy a range of other styles? I have been thrilled to discover Conshohocken Brewing Company’s Puddlers Row Bitter; it’s perfectly done, and a great go-to beer.
But in the current environment, I’m sometimes told the ‘normal’ beers aren’t selling; I was pleased to discover my local beer shop had begun to stock some Hobson’s beers, but then crestfallen to hear they were selling them all cheaply because ‘they didn’t move.’ There can be any number of reasons for this, but given that I was actively keeping an eye out for those beers and didn’t know they were there, I can only imagine how hard it would be for someone who hadn’t heard of the brand to discover them. A small brewery that happens to make great beers isn’t memeworthy; after all, many beer snobs don’t want to drink ‘tired’ styles they associate with the Newcastle Brown they thought was pretty fantastic as underage drinkers. There’s no push within most of the craft beer-centric media (at least in the US) to talk about great ‘ordinary’ beers – novelty is what gets press.
These things are cyclical, but they have a real impact on what’s available, and I suspect there is an audience that simply isn’t catered to: they don’t feel the need to identify as a ‘craft beer person,’ but they’d like to try something new that isn’t too far from their comfort zone. On the other side of that coin, there are more and more craft beer nerds who know the value of a great ‘normal’ beer and wish there were more of them about.
So perhaps it’s not that I’m post-craft, but that I’m at a different phase in my personal craft beer cycle, which seems to run a bit like the image above. There are a few sub-processes and tangential directions left off, ranging from ‘I don’t drink contract-brewed beer’ to ‘I only drink beers for which I need to buy tickets and/or stand in line for hours’ on one side of the circle, with the other turning toward ‘I drink anything that’s free at a tailgate.’ It’s OK to have gone around the cycle a few times. It’s OK to go back and forth on different points on the cycle, or to decide you’re quite happy in one particular phase.
It’s a fabulous thing that I can walk a few blocks to have a great beer whenever the mood strikes me (provided I’m not at work, too tired, that both the big kid – who is something of a brewery tour snob – and the baby are both fed and watered, or that cats aren’t sitting on me). I’m thrilled that I can always find something unexpected and well-made, but sometimes I’d just like (the equivalent of) a pint of Theakston’s Best.
Perhaps the pendulum will soon swing the other way; with the hipsterization of brands like Narragansett as the ‘new PBR,’ we may soon see traditional brewing styles and breweries positioned as edgy retro options (and priced accordingly). Given the (often rather inward-looking) media noise and sales trends, I’m reminded that we’ve been here before – a long time before:
When every blessed thing you hold
Is made of silver, or of gold,
You long for simple pewter.
When you have nothing else to wear
But cloth of gold and satins rare,
For cloth of gold you cease to care
Up goes the price of shoddy.
I fondly recall my very first URL – it wasn’t a GeoCities site, though that would follow along in due course – but just the few KB (indeed) of web space every postgrad student was allotted by the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Unfortunately, there’s no trace of the content now, though the URL lives on as a ‘not found’ snapshot in the Wayback Machine. It’s a shame, because while I don’t recall falling prey to blink tags or other early web missteps, it did have a very vivid teal-and-yellow tiled background that coincidentally matched a dress I’d bought at Topshop (more on them below), and I wouldn’t mind seeing either one again. So, while my first foray into web development doesn’t exist anymore (a bit ironic, given that archaeologists love preservation, digital and otherwise), at least I still remember this: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~tcrnlag/index.html
But thanks to the Internet Archive’s drive to save GeoCities – and, of course, a vast galaxy of sites beyond – some of my early work, both professional and otherwise, does live on; so many websites captured from the Time Before CMS and DAM. After running out of space on my UCL account, I set up shop on GeoCities with a ‘hotlist’ related to my MA dissertation – those were a big deal circa ’95-’96, since search engines weren’t especially powerful, and even the site that would become Yahoo, Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web, was human-curated back then. I also built a GeoCities site for one of my favorite bands, David Devant and his Spirit Wife, and employed what seemed like a pretty cutting-edge Java applet, though alas, the applet hasn’t survived the freezing process. And I nearly forgot until the recent 20th anniversary that I used to help out on The Craggy Island Examiner, a Father Ted fansite. The site was powered by basic HTML, visible tables and not a few pints at a pub near Waterloo where we held ‘editorial meetings,’ and once a mini-Tedcon, circa 1996. But that bit of volunteer work did help lead to my first actual web job, at Time Out in January of 1996.
The site was a one-man operation when I started, so it was perhaps noteworthy that the web team immediately reached gender parity when I joined (though we did have some occasional help from another gentleman/former member of Hawkwind later). I believe one reason I got the job was simply because I emailed my resume and links to my ‘experience’ in response to the job posting; it was mentioned in the interview that no one else had taken that radical step. Time Out was a fantastic place to work in the mid-1990s – I got a free copy of the magazine each week, I got invited to book launch parties, occasional press passes and the inside scoop on some of my favorite bands. All I had to do was update the site each week – all the global sites (such as they were then, imagemaps and all) were run from London. And when I saw it again, I actually remembered dropping in that note about Budapest. Midway through my tenure at Time Out, we brought in a more structured layout with ‘complex’ tables – though still no sign of a CMS or anything approaching one.
I moved on to work for an agency that built sites for clients like Christies, Condé Nast and the Evans Group (retail clothing shops like Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Topshop and so on), where heavily-sliced images, complex tables and frames – and getting them to line up in competing browsers – became the bane of my existence. But I do fondly recall the spinning ‘D’ on the Debenhams site; that was also quite exciting back then. And this particular Dorothy Perkins page was a nightmare to build – so I’m glad it still exists. Unfortunately the early Topshop pages seem to be long gone, though it was fun working on something for which you were the target audience.
But the real mother lode (as it were) of my early web work comes from the Internet Archive’s snapshots of my career at Women.com in Silicon Valley. As the web nerd in charge of the homepage, both for Women.com itself as well as many of its affiliated sites like WomensWire, Prevention and more, there’s a great deal more preserved. I moved back to the US in late 1998 (when the site looked like this) , and, having turned down a wildly underpaid job at Yahoo (yes, there were stock options, but you couldn’t have paid rent in the meantime), I commenced work at Women.com. It was an exciting time to be there, and at first, there was a lot of ‘smart content’ aimed at women – not in the modern sense of ‘smart content’ of course, but there was a lot of information on careers, finances and health. It wasn’t quite Bust Magazine territory, but it wasn’t as far off as it would be later. I was tasked with building the redesigned site in 1999 – now everything was yellow – but what’s most interesting to see is what remains of the content – features like the Bloomberg/Women.com 30 Index, tracking the success of woman-led companies on Wall Street; the ‘first ever online presidential primary for women’ (spoiler alert: Al Gore won) and the Men of Silicon Valley (‘high-tech’s hottest bachelors!’). So yes, that was a Thing That Happened.
There’s much more to dig and record where that came from; I was at Women.com until 2001, when, with the writing on the wall for pure content sites, I moved on to Juniper Networks where ‘no layoffs’ were promised – when that turned out not to be true, I went to Hewlett-Packard, where Carly Fiorina was on what seemed to be a mission to destroy the entire company, largely from the recording studio next to my desk, but that’s a story for another time…
This year’s always-fascinating and very valuable DAM Foundation Salary Survey came out in February, and there were some interesting – though also, possibly worrying – trends to analyze. First, though, the positives: DAM jobs are becoming ever-more-global, as companies begin realize the value of their digital assets (or, perhaps more accurately, as they discover how disorganized or missing digital assets are a huge money pit). This is an encouraging trend, and one I would hope continues to grow. And the influx of those with MS-LIS and other library degrees suggests that the value of accurate metadata is being recognized – though I’ll explore a concern that brings up as well in a moment.
Mapping job titles to skillsets and salaries was noted as a continued area of confusion, and one I have certainly seen borne out myself, as well as amongst my peers; while it’s to be expected in a still-somewhat-nascent profession, it can be an area of frustration, not only for the postholder, but for potential recruiters and managers. It may seem a minor point, but given the volume of confused recruiter calls I receive, I think it’s worth digging into it for a moment, given this background from the survey analysis:
“Those with the term “Director” in their title tended to make the highest salaries, and those with the term “Archivist” or Archives” tended to have lower incomes. There were no other clear correlations between title and salary. One listing that included the word “Supervisor” in the title made as much as other “Director”s; many with the title “Specialist” showed no appreciable difference than those listed as a “Manager”. This suggests that when reviewing the resumes of experienced DAM workers, an analysis of their actual daily duties, tasks, and projects may be more of an indicator of skill level than job title.”
Indeed, I’ve had to explain on numerous occasions that my current title, Content Librarian, isn’t ‘just’ a content management role, and that I’m fairly senior in the hierarchy, where my tasks include crafting policies, setting standards and analyzing IT solutions – so likening it to a position such as ‘the’ University Librarian, rather than ‘a’ librarian who happens to work for a university, only makes sense to those coming from academia. When speaking with those from a straight-IT background, I explain it’s a bit like a product or program management role with a lot of taxonomy bolted on, though any DAM professional knows that’s still only a portion of ‘what we do.’ And having worked in traditional library and archival settings as well as in IT-focused environments, that brings me to my chief concern – will having more (very useful) library skills drive down DAM salaries, over time, simply through assumptions made by employers over title and background?
I’ve experienced the disparity between IT and library-land salaries first-hand – I began my career in IT, building websites and managing content back when it had to be done by hand, before DAM and CMS solutions existed. Even as software to help corral and catalog content and digital assets came into being, my salary working with those tools remained quite comfortable. Then I went back to library school, with a view toward using my IT background, augmented by my new taxonomy and knowledge management skills, in the heritage/academic sector – libraries, museums and archives. Despite having additional skills and experience, moving into that world reduced my pay by more than 50%; at the time, it was a manageable reduction, and I had a fantastic work environment and great colleagues, but it wasn’t sustainable in the long-term. I returned to IT, and immediately more than doubled my salary – using the same skills, but with a different job title and cost center. While part of that jump was down to non-profit vs corporate budgets, even in the for-profit world, I know other DAM ‘librarians’ and ‘archivists’ who have found that a change in job title made a vast difference to them in terms of salary. It’s anecdotal, to be sure, but it seems that those whose titles are more ‘techie,’ and less ‘librarian-y,’ often have higher incomes, albeit for the same sort of work – and good luck figuring out who is more junior or senior, if job title is your guide! Clearly, we have some work to do.
As more librarians – and more women – come into the DAM field, there is a danger that salaries may become depressed; we already know that the youngest cohort in the survey results have lower salaries, and that they are overwhelmingly female, though they have more library degrees. Having said that, it’s quite rightly noted that their youth and relative lack of experience is likely the key driver behind their lower pay. But historically, the ‘feminization’ of a profession (think teaching, or, going back much further, textile production) has never had a positive impact on salaries; quite the reverse. It would be nice to think that we can ignore historical precedent and that we’ve moved beyond that – and I’ve written elsewhere about what it’s like to be a mid-career woman in technology facing those issues – but given the existing salary gender gap in DAM, it’s something we should continue to be vigilant about – let’s make sure that gap is truly reflective of a historical blip, and that it doesn’t become wider.
I am a firm believer in the value of a library background in the DAM world – combined with solid IT and management skills, it’s an ideal, broad-based skillset for an evolving field. And I completely understand someone coming from years in ‘traditional’ library settings jumping at the first salary offered in a DAM role; given the lack of funding in academia and public libraries, it’s (sadly) likely to be a big bump, regardless of how ‘low’ it might be for an IT or marketing position. But it’s been well-documented that failing to negotiate in salary situations leads to lifelong repercussions, and as we see more highly-skilled, and likely previously-underpaid people coming into DAM roles, we should continue to share salary surveys and job title information as we build toward a more well-understood profession. Likewise, as hiring managers, we should do our best to keep salaries fair, and to help our recruiters and HR departments understand that a great DAM professional might not be obvious from their last job title or training.
My longer-term hope is that by highlighting the value of librarianship in digital asset management, we can help enhance information work all around, making the wider world realize that it’s a useful route into a technical profession, and one that deserves to be better-known and appreciated, and paid on par with other IT jobs. An MBA may be one ticket to a ‘good’ salary in DAM, but we need to demonstrate that it isn’t the only one, and that men and women have an equal shot at long-term advancement in the field.
Consider this a call to action to make an impact before the next salary survey!
All sorts of things might make a post, and this certainly qualifies in that regard.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, my dad spent a lot of time in New York as part of his long career with 7Up. When I was a small child in the 1970s and ’80s, I enjoyed going through his collection of Playbills and programs with him, and naturally demanded to be taken to the theatre on every possible occasion. And while I’ve seen some great productions (and some less so – Martin Guerre, this means you) on Broadway, in the West End and elsewhere, my own collection simply isn’t as impressive (yet).
I’ve been attempting to organize his collection since his death in 2006, though I never seem to make much of a dent. But some of these are too fabulous not to share, and, of course, that goes for the ads, too.
It’s worth noting that they aren’t all for plays – this program was for a screening of Mastroianni’s 1961 comedy Divorce Italian Style, shown at the Paris on W58th. And sometimes there’s a concert – it’s hard to ignore this amazing program from a Robert Goulet show. But we quickly get into the good stuff – a Playbill from the original production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. My dad was always a huge fan of Zero Mostel – I’m reasonably sure I saw The Producers for the first time when I was around 6 – and he also liked to recount having seen him in a play in which Mostel flashed the audience.
There are more original casts: we revisit Zero Mostel in Ulysses in Nighttown – I’m presuming the 1974 play was the one involving a nude Zero Mostel, though it’s also notable for starring a young Tommy Lee Jones, David Ogden Stiers and Fionnuala Flanagan – then Funny Girl and the rather tamer Oliver! make appearances.
There are also some larger-format programs, for The King and I (which I saw much later, on Yul Brynner’s very literal farewell tour) and Golden Boy:
Among the ads for Tiki bars, cigarettes and furs, there are some amazing pieces – and some very worthwhile bios – young Jerome Robbins looks as though he wants to devour your soul, and a pre-Monkees Davy Jones had ‘the longest part ever written for a teenager’ on the radio (so think on!); one presumes many librettists still consider Benson & Hedges ‘noteworthy’ as the ad suggests:
But while there’s much more from the world theatrical that isn’t poorly-photographed here, I couldn’t miss out the Kentucky Derby program from 1956 – in case you don’t recall, Needles was the victor that year, the very first Florida-bred to win – he would also take the Belmont Stakes.
At some point, I’ll need to be a good archivist and make sure staples and paper clips aren’t damaging things, but for now, they are happily climate-controlled and reasonably well stored beyond that. I’ll have to do another installment in future: there’s a bio of a young Elaine Stritch that’s simply outstanding…
This month’s Session – or, Beer Blogging Friday – asks us to identify those under-the-radar locations that are about to become the next big thing on the beer scene. This presents an ideal opportunity to finally blog about our trip to Copenhagen in 2013; yes, this blog post is nearly two years late, but better late than never, and a wider audience should be aware of the wonders of the Danish capital’s beer scene, both old and new.
When considering Copenhagen, most beer nerds immediately think of Mikkeller, and with good reason – Mikkel Borg Bjergsø’s steady march to beer omnipresence, with bars and tasting rooms from San Francisco to Bangkok, and a global distribution network that some brewers with a permanent facility can only image, has been remarkable. And their original Copenhagen locations do not disappoint: especially at Mikkeller & Friends, in the Nørrebro neighborhood, you’ll find a warm welcome, and an ever-changing lineup for 40 taps. I would love to see more American breweries follow their ‘and Friends’ approach, which they take very seriously, highlighting not only Mikkeller beers, but also those of like-minded breweries from near and far. When we visited, we enjoyed having the opportunity to sample the wares of To Øl,Herslev Bryghus and Bryggeriet Refsvindinge, among others. And, this being Denmark, having a well-behaved child in tow was not frowned upon; quite the contrary. The bottle shop attached to the bar had an enormous crate of Westvleteren XII sitting in the corner – as you do – and a very interesting selection beyond that. Nørrebro is also home to Nørrebro Bryghus, whose beers are available across Copenhagen, from restaurants to tourist attractions. It was an especially welcome discovery at the National Aquarium of Denmark, Den Blå Planet: you can enjoy a beer or two while taking in the view of the Øresund. Amager Bryghus beers are also widely available around the city, and Brewpub København was worth a quick visit.
No list of Copenhagen tourist attractions would be complete without a mention of Tivoli Gardens, which we found a most pleasant surprise. Having previously only visited rather uninspiring to downright filthy theme parks in the US and UK, I admit I didn’t expect much, but it was in every way delightful – and it has its own small brewery, Bryggeriet Apollo, in the park. While the beer in general is nothing earth-shattering, nor did it have any reason to be, it was certainly well-crafted and offered at a not-unreasonable price, given the surroundings (and the fact that food and drink in Denmark is quite expensive, compared to other major European countries). Modern amusement parks could learn a lot from their 19th century forebear – good food and drink, lovely gardens, fun rides without long lines, and Tycho Brahe as a mascot, rather than cartoon characters – all well worth the price of admission.
Returning to bottle shops, Ølbutikken is a can’t-miss stop; Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and his staff have a well-curated collection of beers from around the world, though obviously with an emphasis on the owner’s Evil Twin Brewing. And for those wondering whether the purported feud between the rival gypsy-brewer twins is A Real Thing, I can only offer this: Mikkeller & Friends had a number of interesting Evil Twin beers on tap, and Ølbutikken carried a good variety of Mikkeller beers. A little public friction is no doubt good for business, or it may be that Danish practicality overrides any present animosity; one presumes the truth is somewhere in the middle.
But brewing in Copenhagen isn’t just about gypsy brewers and tiny breweries – there’s a good case to be made for saying that this is where modern industrial brewing was born, and that isn’t necessarily a Bad Thing. Emil Hansen first began to culture yeast for Carlsberg in the 1880s, laying the groundwork for brewing as we know it today. And the Carlsberg tour is absolutely a highlight for anyone interested in brewing history, and in considering how huge, multinational brewers can still make ‘good beer.’ Again, children are made to feel very welcome – the tour starts in the stables (or in the shop, depending on your point of view), and petting the Jutland horses, who have been carrying Carlsberg beer for more than 165 years, is encouraged. From there, it’s a whistle-stop tour though the old brewhouse, complete with beautiful tilework and copper kettles galore, to the famous Carlsberg Elephant Gates (with their 1901 swastikas fully explained, for the benefit of any children, or adults who might have missed some art history lessons) and sculpture gardens. And the tour concludes with a mix of old and new, in the Jacobsen Brewhouse, named for J.C. Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg. Since 2005, Carlberg has been brewing a range of high-quality beers under the Jacobsen label, and mixing and matching Carlsberg and Jacobsen beers in your post-tour samples is encouraged. There’s no ‘craft vs crafty’ issue here – Jacobsen is very clearly part of the Carlsberg family, and a well-respected one at that – it’s just a great example of how a large brewer can respond to market demand for more flavorful, complex beers, all while keeping their flagship brands in the public consciousness.
There is, of course, much to do in Denmark beyond beer – visiting the Gundestrup Cauldron at the National Museum of Denmark was the achievement of a major life goal for me (this comes of having too many archaeology degrees), and the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde is also a must-see (though it is worth noting that both sites have some of the above-mentioned beers available in their shops and cafes). There are ample opportunities to visit a number of bog bodies across the country, and if you’re traveling with children, your itinerary will almost certainly include a visit to Legoland – which, like Tivoli, albeit with much more plastic, is surprisingly diverting for adults as well.
But if you seek a great beer destination that hasn’t quite been discovered by the hipster masses, head to Copenhagen; its mix of young, independent breweries and historic heft is hard to beat.