Jumping Through Hoops

Musicians, designers, game programmers, tenured professors.

There are some jobs that seem great, and the demand vastly outweighs the supply. There’s a deluge of people applying for a small number of jobs. In those sorts of professions, a system of hoops naturally forms. It’s no longer enough just to work hard and be really good — you’ve got to jump through the hoops.

For musicians, it’s playing dingy clubs night after night trying to build some kind of following, hoping for an eventual record deal. For game programmers it’s paying your dues as a code monkey working hellish hours in the run-up to release, hoping to become a game designer so you can realize your own vision. And for wanna-be professors it’s living in the academic limbo known as a “post-doc,” hoping one day to have a research group of your own (with your own army of post-docs to do your bidding!).

It’s a filtering mechanism. It weeds out those people who truly aren’t passionate — otherwise why would they jump through those painful hoops? You don’t become a game programmer for the pay. If you’re smart you don’t become a musician because you want to be rich (only the most elite musicians are).

It’s clear that you need some sort of filtering. There are just so many musicians out there — some are terrible, many are incredibly talented. But pointless hoops aren’t the best answer. Perhaps before technological solutions playing dingy clubs was the best filtering mechanism for musicians. But in the internet age we’re starting to discover that becoming well-known musically is a different ballgame. You can become a you-tube sensation instead.

And indie game developers are finding a way to exploit the internet as well to avoid those hoops. But for other occupations it’s less clear. Is there some sort of disruptive hoop-killer for academia?

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