TT with HD: Devon Persing
[Ed. note: LexBlog, DP's next employer, in Seattle, can be found on the web. Park(ing) Day, mentioned at the start of the conversation below, is an annual event in which parking spaces are converted to public parks. Teeter Talk's teeter totter was one amenity at Ann Arbor's recent implementation of Park(ing) Day. DP's domain is here: dpersing.com]
DP: I haven't teeter tottered in a really long time.
HD: So you didn't go to Park(ing) Day?
DP: I did not get a chance to go to Park(ing) Day. I had to stick in my office and do work, which is unfortunate--because they expect me to do work before I leave.
HD: Really? You have work to do, yet? Okay, are you ready? [Ed. note: Photography ensues, including with a flash.] ... ...
DP: Did you notice I wore a hat?
HD: I did.
DP: It's the first hat wearing of the season.
HD: Really? Is it because you're feeling chilly, or is it because you know I'm fond of hats?
DP: It was a little chilly this morning and I also thought it would be important to wear a hat.
HD: It's good to show deference to the host.
DP: Mm hm. You're not wearing a hat, though. [laugh]
HD: No, I'm not. So, did you make that hat?
DP: I did.
HD: How long did it take you?
DP: Oh, not very long.
HD: Shall we get the teeter totter actually in motion?
HD: Now you say "not very long"...
DP: ... I usually will knit in the evenings, often.
HD: So to fill time.
DP: I'm not even pushing. Should I do more work here?
HD: I am scootching forward, because I outweigh you, so I'm trying to achieve a better balance.
DP: Or I could move back. But I guess I don't have that much further to move back.
HD: So it's knit, not crocheted?
DP: It is knit--it's a knit hat.
HD: And is knitting a solitary activity that you pursue?
DP: I have been knitting solitarily mostly. I know people who knit in groups but it's mostly a sort of sit-and-watch-a-movie, or talk-with-my-aunt or whatever, and make a hat.
HD: The reason I ask if it's a solitary activity for you is that I have done intensive research on Seattle using The YouTube ...
DP: ... uh-huh, uh-huh ...
HD: And there is this thing called the "Seattle Freeze"--have you heard of it?
DP: I have not. You'll have to tell me all about it.
HD: Well, if you go on the Internet, when you look for reasons that people move to Seattle, and if you read the Seattle official sort of PR brochures, they talk about Seattle being filled with nice and polite people just like in a small town.
DP: Mm hm. That sounds right.
HD: And the critical view of that is that people are only superficially nice ...
DP: ... oh ...
HD: ... and that it's very, very difficult to penetrate into anyone's actual circle of real friends as opposed to just casual acquaintences. So this video I watched had this anthropologist or sociologist type person analyzing it. And she said it was reflective of people's solitary habits--it's the fault partly of computers apparently.
DP: Oh, is it? Hmm.
HD: Yeah. So people apparently don't know how to interact ...
DP: ... with other people ...
HD: ... face-to-face because so many of their interactions are mediated via a computer.
DP: Hmm. Well. I have to say that I know a lot of solitary people and socialize frequently with them. So I think there is something to be said for someone who can entertain themself and not necessarily require others to entertain them.
HD: ... "persona"?
DP: Yes, there we go.
HD: So the solitary, yet social persona. So I guess we'll see, then.
DP: Yes, we will see.
HD: Once you're out there and you say, Let's go out to that bar where we first met ...
DP: ... maybe they will have absolutely no interest.
HD: Yeah, maybe they'll say, We've got other people coming in from out of town who we need to tell the same story to.
DP: [laugh] Yeah, they're some sort of welcoming committee. [laugh] It's possible, it's possible.
HD: So you're not worried about connecting with real live human beings out there?
DP: No, I'm not, that's not usually a problem I have.
HD: So why are you going out there, if not to meet new friends?
DP: I think I was ready for a change. I've been in Ann Arbor for over six years. I moved here for grad school, not planning to stay.
HD: Grad school in?
DP: School of Information. I did the library track. I have not worked in a library--no, that's a complete lie. I've been working in libraries for the last two years, but not in any sort of normal librarian capacity. I do web stuff and I was interesting in still doing web stuff, but doing it out in some other venue, so I'm joining the private sector.
HD: Can you name the company in the private sector?
DP: I can! They're called LexBlog.
HD: LexBlog? So L-E-X ...
DP: L-E-X-B-L-O-G. They make blogs for law firms, and teach them how to write for the web and do online marketing.
HD: So are you going to be working with the design part or are you going to be working on the actual educational part?
DP: I'll be doing the design part. It's a pretty small company, so there's probably room for bleed-over, but mostly I'll be taking designs that the designer has made and actually turning them into the templates that form the interface of the blog.
HD: So a law firm that wanted to to purchase LexBlog's product or engage your services, what they'd get is a "platform" on which they would blog about legal matters?
DP: Yes, with the idea that they can network with other firms, or also get clients by people stumbling across their blogs by doing Google searches, perhaps, about things they're interested in or concerned about, then perhaps they can find a local firm that can be useful to them.
HD: So why is that better than the attorneys in a particular law firm just going over to Blogspot and saying, Hey, let's write blogs!
DP: I think part of it is the expertise of people who know how to make things look nice. Just any sort of web environment--the environment I work in now, part of it is for scholars. A scholar could go online and post their journal article on Blogspot, but there's a certain weight to publishing with a group, whether that's with a specific platform for your profession or with an academic organization.
HD: So it's basically a way for lawyers to present a more professional cohesive impression rather than having people say, Blogspot?? Seriously??
DP: I'm sure that there are people who are successful at that. But the idea is that you get a professional-looking thing, but you also get someone who will help you use it correctly. You're not sort of left with: Here's your blog! Have fun! ...
HD: ... and remember to try to write something really often.
DP: They're actually taught--they've got people on staff who are former journalists and former PR people ...
HD: ... there's a lot of those. [laugh]
DP: Yes, yes, I hear that the mainstream media is sort of letting go such people.
HD: Well, they're giving them alternative opportunities is what they're doing.
HD: I think they're doing it because they want to help them expand their professional range or something. It's all by design.
HD: It's all to help people! [laugh]
DP: It's to help people? Well, that's good. Helping people is good.
HD: That's my understanding, anyway.
DP: I also like helping people. I have absolutely no knowledge of, or really specific deep interest in law in particular--obviously it's very important--but I'm interested in working in places where there's a service component. The idea is to make a thing, but then also to make it useful, not just let it go.
HD: So you make the thing and then somebody comes back and says, Here's my frustrations with this thing you made me.
DP: Yes. Can you fix it? And the answer should be: We will work on that.
HD: I think the answer should be: You're using it wrong. [laugh]
DP: Sometimes that is the answer, absolutely. Sometimes a part of it, too, is being good at telling people. Yes, sometimes you have to tell a client that they're wrong.
HD: Not that they're stupid per se, but that they made a stupid choice.
DP: They're doing it wrong. And it takes a certain type of person who can convey that information.
HD: Can you pull that off, generally?
DP: Actually, no, I'm not good at that. I usually just say, You're doing it wrong and then go from there. There are people who are much more suave about those sorts of things than I am, and those are people who work in marketing, and that's one of the reasons I don't.
HD: Alright. Anything else on your mind today?
DP: The weather has turned nice.
HD: I imagine that Seattle is like it is ...
DP: ... right now.
HD: Right. Like it is right now, but most of the time.
DP: Yes. That's also my understanding--I've not spent a whole lot of time there. But it is not too hot in the summer, not too cold in the winter, and that's okay.
HD: Okay, well, I just want to establish--and maybe I'm wrong about this--but from your description, it's you, it's not us--that's why you're leaving.
DP: That's correct.
HD: It's not our fault.
DP: It's not.
HD: And in particular, it's not my personal fault.
DP: No, it's absolutely not your fault. You don't need to be held responsible. It's me, it's not you.
HD: Okay. Because I figure anytime anyone leaves town, I immediately think it's because of something I said or did.
DP: Everyone? When anyone leaves, or just specifically people you know?
HD: Anytime anybody leaves I figure ...
DP: ... What did I say?
HD: Or, What did I fail to do? Did I fail to reach out?
DP: Could I have done some outreach for this person?
HD: Yeah, allright. Well, listen, have a fantastic time out there.
DP: Thank you very much.