Be as Unhelpful as Possible
rating: +7+x

The following was mistakenly recorded and automatically transcripted via a malfunctioning proximity unit located in the Site-23 break room. Its contents have been deemed unimportant and have been tagged for deletion.


"… florid? Is that the word for it? I guess so, that about fits. I mean Christ, our jobs and sometimes our lives depend on your organization of this information."

"My articles? Florid? I beg your damn pardon."

"I suppose it must be nice in some ways sitting behind your computer screen all day. No sense for what is practical out in the cells your containment procedures call for or the hours of terror and death we endure so you can pen a sentence of the description. You aren't out there having to sift through articles that fail to place all the necessary information in a concise, upfront manner. Not like in the old days, when it was the special containment procedures, the description, maybe an addendum or two. Everything you need to know, succinct, right there.

Case in point; last week, I was trying to get caught up on an anomaly — your anomaly — that we were assigned to on remarkably short notice. The information, and I mean the real crucial stuff, was absolutely nowhere in the description, man! You drop that much of a bomb and not a hint towards it in the containment procedures?! And while I'm at it, why do you just cross out information? What the fuck, do you know where the fucking backspace key is?! Why not replace it with a more informative sentence while you're at it?

(A loud, violent sound occurs; likely the pounding of a fist upon a table.)

Don't smirk, you clever little shit. The information my team and I needed, I mean really needed, were in the fucking exploration logs… very, very lengthy logs. And at the very end, turns out. And hell, it wasn't even spelled out there! If we didn't read between the lines, or apply a good shit's-time of critical thinking to it, we might have missed the part about it having the potential to cause an XK. It was a freakin' miracle nobody died.

I mean shit, I'm not an English major, but I'm not a dumbass either; I can eventually figure it out. But I'm a MTF agent, not a damn critic, and I need the details right the fuck when I need them, not after reading cohort analysis and commentaries only to bank on the most supported theory. Do you know how goddamn dangerous that waste of time is? Do your damn job and extract the pivotal details into the meat of the article, and be direct about it. That's all I'm askin'."

"Now, hold on a minute. I see your point, I do. I may be an academic here but I'm not insensitive to the acuity of the front-line situations involving the anomalies I document. The short answer is that I have to adapt if I want to stay on board here, and it would just be someone else here for you to yell at if I chose not to. I'm well aware of the trends away from your old style, as you called it. But let me explain something to you that you clearly don't know about yet.

Go look at the most recent recipients of Foundation grants and you'll see that they are written in the new style. The ones written in your old style are virtually absent; they're relics now. The most iconic of them wouldn't get past the peer review process. Do you know what this means? It isn't me you have your issue with; the Foundation itself is incentivizing these newer styles. So what am I to do, hm? A whole new generation of researchers and authors, with better techniques and familiarity with exponentially increasing technological aids and more dynamic compositional methods are nipping at my heels, salivating at my rank, 24/7.

And, to be honest, I empathize with you. I do. You might not be able to tell, but I compromise with these demands; others revel in them. I put a bit of the old style in my works because I believe it was a successful formula, and for good reasons. But that time is over, and as much as I hate to admit it, the Foundation might not be alive if it wasn't. Our scientific paradigm — like any other — is not immune to the pressures of taste and transient style."

(Sighing.) "I… I'm sorry, I didn't realize all that is going on. I'm sorry for calling you a clever shit. I… I guess I'm still hot-headed; a field report of mine was rejected and returned to me last week. I'm ashamed to say I'm as upset at that as I am with the near-deaths of a few in my command this week. It was the first submission in twelve years to be rejected like that. The comments said that the 'pacing' needed to be better, and complained of a 'lack of character development'. Why do my reports have to be cryptic when they could be scientific… what are we aiming for here?"

"Survival."

"Survival? Just… don't; I just calmed down."

"I'm speaking of a broader scale than personnel here, no offense… beyond the tithe of individual lives that is unfortunately necessary for the Foundation's work and progress. There is a component to our presentations for outside funding that inarguably relies upon a sort of… entertainment value. And the Foundation has started selling modified reports as fictional accounts, mainly to be sold to movies and video game developers. Our work must be captivating, not quite above all else I'll say, but sufficiently so. That's my opinion, at least, and my best answer for you.

But, and just as important, maybe the answer is sanity. Personally, I can say that when your life is all about cataloging anomalies, one after another, after another; even as unexpected and unusual as they are, it still gets a redundant and boring. That's human nature. Publications can be remarkably rewarding, yes. But only eventually; most of the time, it is a painstaking trudge of a process, oppressed by anxiety over the count of citations it will or won't merit."

"All these anomalies and the real concerns for authors are citations?"

"Oh, yes. They are the currency of reputation in our line of work."

"I had to dig real deep to find your name tied to that publication… aren't authors' names usually part of the classified information?"

"They're encoded, but not usually classified, per se. Unless there is reason to explicitly include names in the documentation or to add further layers of encryption, the Foundation prefers to simply post employee ID numbers with the publications."

"So why do authors worry about a publication's citation count so strongly if it's not immediately apparent who actually wrote it?"

"Citations, like it or not, are the only quantifiable method to indicate quality that we have. It's not the only way to adjudicate a publication's worth, but it is the most expedient. In a simplified but very visceral sense, our citation count is our worth here. Now that's obviously an oversimplification because the system is a very sensitive, but not a very specific gauge. In other words, highly-cited publications are almost always of good quality; but minimally-cited publications are not always an indication of poor quality. Sometimes, the low count can be a function of poor reception or passing tastes instead. The catch is that in our vocation and given this competition, there is little motive for pragmatic separation of an article's quality and its citation count.

I understand how silly this may seem to someone who looks Keters in the eye from time to time, but academic writing can be an unimaginably relentless, unforgiving, and unsympathetic arena. Notoriety, even by proxy, is like oxygen. The ID numbers garner a familiarity all their own. It's funny; I remember a time, for instance, that ID#40232 meant nothing to me! Now I would be… just, honored to publish with them.

But… lately, no, it honestly hasn't been all that enjoyable of a job to me; more of an unhealthy obsession that follows me everywhere, personally. And I'm not sure, but that might especially for those who do have notable repute; I imagine they are under increased pressure and expectation to produce quality papers, one after the other. I almost feel bad for them… but a high count of citations… it's just too desirable to completely feel that way for them.

Why do you hang around here? I know you've had a long career; you could retire with a nice severance package and forget the rat race here.

… Because I love it here. I really do. I am still so happy about having come across this organization. I don't want to think about if I hadn't. It has enriched my life so much, and I can never fall out of love with it, no matter what. And finally too, it seems to me a bit of enjoyment and art are returning to my process, which is the brighter side of these changes in trend. I have to ask myself honestly if I don't truly want these developments, and want them to continue… they are liberating, in ways. Putting it bluntly, they represent more avenues for potential success.

(Sipping can be heard in a pause.)

I think we're going to have to get over our issues with these trends, or become extinct.

(A vocal affirmation and a soft clinking, as in the toasting of glasses, are heard.)

By the way, someone of your clearance level can always contact us about our anomalies; we authors are insatiably eager to discuss our own works."


Records Notice: Discontinuation of Deletion

A detailed proposal has cleared first-pass Administrative approval which stipulates that an article's author or authors are to be immediately available via telecommunications for as-needed, remote consultation. This proposal aims to benefit new object assignees and urgent response teams.

An installment of this collaborative model is being piloted for objects whose documentation has been assigned upper-tier values of compositional obfuscation. Surprisingly, authors have reacted positively to the new (and uncompensated) responsibilities, many exhibiting elation. A vast majority are, as one author put it, "thrilled at any opportunity to further promote my works, which are, in my opinion, criminally under-appreciated."

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