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EA Spouse Posts Plans for Watchdog Organ

Zonk posted more than 9 years ago | from the anonymous-blog-for-social-change dept.

Games 87

Jaero writes "The Spouse has a followup post to her "EA: The Human Story" from over a month ago. Not only was it nominated for a Best Software Essay of 2004, but she has revealed plans to start an independent industry watchdog organization called GameWatch.org, meant to monitor the quality of life in the game development world. Anyone will be able to post their story, as well as design the logo (a contest which lasts until January 15th)."

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87 comments

Union Now (4, Interesting)

fishdan (569872) | more than 9 years ago | (#11093904)

As discussed elsewhere EA sports has an exclusive deal [sportsdot.org] with the NFL and the NFLPA. I expect them to allow more reasonable hours for their developers, because they will be able to turn out an inferior product without competition. Gamewatch, when it comes to pass, is a charming idea, but unions are coming [washtech.org] to the IT field. Regretably mean unscrupulous businessmen are taking advantage of nice developers with scruples. And most developers have listened to RMS at some point in time and have some of that altruism in them. Which means they need an organization to defend them. Union is the right thing to do. Can you imagine an organized strike of IT workers?

Re:Union Now (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11093952)

Yes, Unions are the answer. I would much rather see unqualified people given promotions and raises because of their seniority rather than talent. I'd much rather see less productivity and ingenuity. I'd much rather see the tech world turn into a garbage men's union or a welders union. Are you fucking nuts?

Anyway, they make fucking vidoegames. BOO HOO. Some of us do real work like have to write boring software for application servers or spend all day keeping machines up that cater to millions of SMS users.

Bitching about life as a game developer is like bitching about life as a rock star or an artist. You chose it as a "fun" career. You could employ yourself elsewhere in less fun and interesting venues. Stop bitching.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11093980)

You obviously haven't read her posts.

Re:Union Now (2, Interesting)

remosain (836828) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094165)

newsflash! I don't know about rock stars, but artist have a union ... SAG http://www.sag.org/ [sag.org] They are all workers after all

Re:Union Now (4, Funny)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095115)

Calling the Screen Actor's Guild a union is like Theresa Heinz Kerry calling herself an "African American":

Technically correct, but laughable to put it that way.

Re:Union Now (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094169)

Wow, I'm surprised that you where modded "interesting" since you do NOT tow the Slashdot line. You're quite correct, game developers choose to work in those types of sweat shops, instead of "real" IT shops, where the pay and treatment is generally much better. They need to "suck it up" or make a career change.

Re:Union Now (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094797)

Right there with you. In the days of US Steel, unions were needed for the sake of personal safety and survival. These days, they are just another revenue generator for the mafia.

Here is the core complaint from this "person" (no gender is ever identified):

Put up or shut up and leave: this is the core of EA's Human Resources policy.

Is that a horrible policy for a company who abuses "Exempt" employee status to milk their workers for extra hours? Yes.

Is it their own damned fault if they don't choose option #2? Hell yes.

Once piece of data which is carefully omitted from this story is the programmer's salary. If he's making anything close to an accounting firm's BFOH, and gets to write game code instead of babysite AS400 systems, and gets to put several years at EA Sports on his resume, then he's got nothing to complain about. There are lots of fresh-faced college kids who would give up a left nut for the chance to be "exploited" like that.

Let's face it, the typical code-hacker who lands a straight 40-hour job usually goes home and writes code for side-projects and open source contributions all evening anyway. It's not like this guys lifting heavy things for 85 hours a week.

Bottom line: He's sitting in a chair doing exactly what he probably would do with all his waking hours, regardless of employment: staring at a cathode-ray tube. Boo-frikkin-hoo.

That said, I've thought for a long time that EA games are going downhill, and now we know why. Not only are they written by sleep-deprived zombies, but they are written by sleep-deprived zombies married to shrill nags who never stop complaining about how much time they spend at work.

Hey Spouse: Maybe theres another reason why the programmer you married is staying away from home so much.

Re:Union Now (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11095972)

I dunno but the argument that programming and computer engineering in general is "real work" is a BS argument to me.

Computers are fun and all, tell me you didn't get into the field b/c you thot that.

Computers do help us in a lot of areas when it comes to solving real-world issues, but come on, the general commercial computer world is just a money maker for rich ppl.

"Real work" to me would be more like being a teacher, doctor, hell even a lawyer (the good kind, with principles, they do exist.) Providing a service to society, rather than a commodity.

But they don't seem like as much fun to me. So I guess I will keep my back breaking computer job for now.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11097062)

You mean that "fake" work that earns multi-billion dollars a year?

So how much does that SMS server rake in?

Re:Union Now (1, Insightful)

bconway (63464) | more than 9 years ago | (#11093989)

Have fun being unemployed while non-union workers, like myself, are hired. Unions have no place in the modern workplace and are a breeding ground for mediocrity.

Re:Union Now (2, Interesting)

charlieOReilly (817578) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094348)

Agreed. I believe those developers who are not confident in their abilities would want such a safety net, but this will do nothing but make those in the union less and less competitive. The best developers don't want to be a part of the herd, they want to distinguish themselves from it through outstanding performance. The union mentality will act counter to this. As suggested in Graham's essay, "Hackers and Painters" we developers are makers. By turning our profession into more of an assembly line type of job we are hurting our professional chances by taking away the only positive elements that distinguish ourselves from the overseas competition, mainly, intelligent creativity.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11094855)

That's right. The other day I was at that hotbed of unionism, Wal*Mart, full of unhelpful staff who clearly are barely able to do such complicated jobs as greeting and picking up shopping carts. All the people who worked there had the whole jobsworth why-should-I-care I-have-a-job-for-life attitude. I blame the Unions. If Wal*Mart would just get rid of unions, the quality of service would increase immeasurably.

Re:Union Now (1)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095441)

Thanks for pointing out Wal*Mart. Everybody needs to read this [slate.com] about Costco vs. Wal*Mart which owns Sam's Club. The problem isn't unions. It's companies that treat their employees like shit, who are coincidentally also companies who like to bust up unions. Treat people like shit and you'll get shitty workers who hate their jobs. I like shopping at Costco knowing they treat their employees well, and the staff seems to have a better attitude than most retail places, not the fake friendliness and politeness you see in most stores, the genuine friendliness you see from people who *don't hate their jobs*.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11101290)

This reminds me of living in San Diego, when some people were trying to unionize at Boney's. Well, Boney's paid above union scale, generally had benefits more akin to what their workers needed and used, but was non-union. So the union was of course picketing at Boney's when we were there.

Of course, it was a small local grocery store chain, not like the triumvirate of Ralph's (Kroger), Von's (safeway) and Albertsons/Jewel-Osco.

So me thinks this was a bit of a cynical move on those store's parts to try and force a small local competitor out of business, but that could never be proven, of course.

Re:Union Now (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095341)

Unions have no place in the modern workplace and are a breeding ground for mediocrity.

Spoken like someone who never had to work without benefit of a union's success.

As you are randomly downsized and sold overseas, take comfort that you didn't give in and unionize when it could have saved your profession.

(and don't try telling me that there are no unions for white-collar workers: what do you think bar associations and medical boards are?)

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11095672)

As you are randomly downsized and sold overseas, take comfort that you didn't give in and unionize when it could have saved your profession.

Yes, by all means, if you're worried about your job being moved overseas, you should unionize.

Then you won't have to worry anymore. You might as well have pulled the trigger yourself.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11098258)

I prefer my own successes.

Re:Union Now (1)

adagioforstrings (192285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11099679)

I don't agree. Unions may solve that problem in the short term, but all it does is encourage companies to not even set up shop in the US because they don't want to deal with unions. Plus, unions are as prone to corruption as a corporation. They encourage a separation between the worker and the company, promote ill-will and don't encourage quality work. In a union, it's all about how the company is screwing you over and that the union lets you get what you deserve. That's it. Doing a good job gets lost in all the crap that comes with it.

That being said, I agree there is a problem, and I definitely agree EA and many other software companies abuse their employees. It's a big issue out there, but unions are not the answer.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11101252)

Which of these "companies" that you speak of do want to set up shop in the US? Hmm...

Well, it seems like all the software development jobs I see in the US are from... US companies, big and small. Not too many foreign companies opening IT shops in the US.

But this doesn't have anything to do with unions.

Too bad "management" doesn't take a more wholistic [pun intended] approach to the labor problem. Everyone at the company loses if the company is producing crap.

As far as abusing employees. Hmm... You mean like working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, 2000' below the ground pounding rock and shovelling it into muck buckets? You mean like having to pay back the company from your wages for living in company quarters and eating from the company store and restaurant, and not being able to leave the area until your "considerable" training debt has been paid off, because you're always somehow in a bit of debt, more or less?

You mean, like having to brink your 4 and 6 year old children to work with you to help you keep the threads and tie knots while you do other things with the spool bobbin winder?

Or having to work 12-hour shifts on a production line, in a locked facility, and you wear Depends or WhatIfs so you don't have to go to the bathroom, and a camelback so you can drink, all while arm-deep in chicken guts, or cow entrails, sorting organs?

Or, your pimp keeps giving you "free" crack all of the time to keep you high so he can fuck you whenever he wants, beat the shit out of you for not turning enough tricks, and hook you up with some pretty sick bastards in a group setting?

Sorry, I call bluff to the exploitation of EA employees. It's a two-way street. It's IT. It's sitting on your ass all day while calling it real work. It's going out to a sports bar on Saturday or Sunday, feeling like a Man because you can get drunk and act like a boor with all the other real working stiffs with nothing better to do on a weekend, or even worse, going to a karaoke bar with some of your coworkerfriends.

As far as the woman wanting to set up her organ, well, more power to her. I bet she's just griped because she's working full-time too, and when she picks up the kids at daycare she still has to deal with them until they go to bed, because daddy's still in meetings until 8pm, or worse, staying at work a couple of extra hours to do some extra "product testing", instead of going home.

Re:Union Now (1)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 9 years ago | (#11106289)

All you are saying about union is simply gross over-generalization. There are productive unions, which are nothing less and nothing more than democratic entities representing the workers.

Think of this: the only meager workers right you've got in the US got instituted thanks to unions. In most western countries workers have more rights than in the US (in particular more holidays), this does not stop workers from being actually as productive or more than US workers.

There are abusive unions just as there are abusive companies. However the purpose of unions is to make the workplace as livable as possible so that workers are as productive as possible.

The days of highly paid, rare, competent, expert IT professionals are numbered. Soon programmers will not be treated differently than workers on assembly lines, because IT skills will be widespread and cheaply available. In this context there is a vast potential for abuse, just like in the EA case.

In the EA case the company was being sadistic and actually unproductive. It should be possible to to demonstrate that from the point of view of the worker to upper management without risking being fired. The person who needed to be fired was the boss who was demanding totally unreasonable working hours from his staff.

This is where unions come in. The union conducts the negotiation in such a way that no one single worker has his/her job on the line and a reasonable compromised is arived at.

Instead a spouse got online and various forums got involved. It was enough bad PR from EA that they had to do something about it. Be absolutely certain that very similar abuse take place in the industry without anyone looking at it. The spouse's reaction is not something to rely on.

Now she is setting up something that very much resembles what unions would do. I applaud. Good luck to all involved. A union-like non-profit organisation is clearly the long-term solution here.

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11113045)

The following link has an interesting discussion of productivity, both individual and national, and the declining effectiveness of unions in some European countries. Welcome to the global market.

http://www.careerjournal.com/myc/workabroad/2004 11 23-sterling.html?cjpos=home_whatsnew_minor

Re:Union Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11101693)

As you are randomly downsized and sold overseas, take comfort that you didn't give in and unionize when it could have saved your profession.

Save his profession? You must be joking. When code can be as easily written in India as it can here, do you think employers are likely to stick around and let unions dictate higher wages to them? In fact it's precisely unionizing that will cause programming jobs to leave the country even faster than they are now. Unions only "work" in industries where it's difficult to outsource to another country, like some service industries. Simply put, even if the U.S. software industry were dying, unionizing would just be the final nail in the coffin.

Re:Union Now (1)

Jahf (21968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096670)

Try telling that to:

a) Anyone employed by Wal-Mart

b) Anyone employed by EA

etc

Unions have no place in the "modern" workplace -so long as- the companies function as modern companies are expected to. Unfortunately for workers, the conditions that favored moving away from unions in the past has fostered companies that have intense power over their empoyees when those conditions faltered.

Which would be better, a union or governmental regulation? In the end it will be one or the other. The argument that the non-union labor can just move to a different company (which usually means a new occupation) doesn't work in alot of these cases ... often because the bad-behaving company has taken a stranglehold over it's employee demographic. Besides, if enough people leave that work market, the tendency is to move to outsourcing (not feasible with Wal-Mart, definitely feasible with EA and things like IT departments), which in my mind is worse long-term than unions or regulation.

And it should be pointed out that EA may be the most visible problem here, but is not the only culprit. Same with Wal-Mart (Costco for instance comes to mind).

In the end there will be -some- form of balance.

Re:Union Now (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096842)

Why does Costco come to mind? They are in every respect considerably better off with employee relations than Wal-Mart. I don't believe they have many unions, but Costco's strategy is to save money by not retraining employees annually and they offer much better wages and benefits than other non-union retailers.

Re:Union Now (1)

Jahf (21968) | more than 9 years ago | (#11097607)

No, they don't have unions any more than Wal-Mart does.

Unfortunately, they do have many of the same labor practices and earlier this year a class-action suit was filed against Costco that was literally the same as one brought against Wal-Mart with names and a few details changed.

Details here [genderclas...costco.com] and here [epexperts.com] .

Costco is on a scale far smaller than Wal-Mart (and Sams) and have had far fewer lawsuits brought against them, but overall I think it highlights the problems when a company has to deal with margins on this level and is not impeccably run.

Re:Union Now (1)

pla (258480) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096759)

Have fun being unemployed while non-union workers, like myself, are hired

Do you really want to scab in a field where those who would otherwise "only" beat you up a little, will instead ruin your credit rating and enroll you on every sex offender list in the country?

Have fun stealing jobs, until "someone" tips off the police that you work within a mile of a school. ;-)

Re:Union Now (1)

Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) | more than 9 years ago | (#11102845)

Unions have no place in the modern workplace and are a breeding ground for mediocrity.
I've always looked at it like this: To get good deals in the marketplace you need a good agent (you can be the agent yourself, of course, but that's not your core competence, is it?).

If you're in a market where there is real differentiation (your skill difference compared to the next guy is actually valuable to the buyer), like in the market for top football players, then you probably should have an agent that works only for you.

If, on the other hand, you can't differentiate that much (no one is interested in paying large amounts for small differences in skill), you should pool your resources and have an agent represent you and a group of others. It does not really matter if you're the best systems administrator in the world - even with a top agent you're not going to get a substantially better deal than the 1000th best systems admin.

Unions are just that, agents in the market for work. As such they have a more important place in the workplace than ever before. Some agents are of course bad, corrupted even, but that's how it is in professional football too...

If you think that your union is just a breeding ground for mediocrity, then fire your agent/union, get an agent that looks for your interest in a way that maximises profit for you. A word of warning though: Workers without a good agent have no place in the modern workplace.

Re:Union Now (1)

Coffeesloth (669850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11119658)

That's not entirely true. Unions do have a place in the modern world just not in certain industry sectors. No...I'm not a union weenie and probably wouldn't belong to one if it existed in the software industry but the "blue collar" jobs do need somebody to make sure they aren't worked to the bone then left along the wayside.

Personally I blame the lack of overtime on the Bush administration. The Republicans in Congress and the President pushed the bill through stopping overtime for "white collar" non-management workers. If they had not done that at the urging of the Corporate world this would not be an issue right now.

So everyone that voted to keep them in office pat yourselves on the back right now, you helped make this a reality.

Re:Union Now (2, Insightful)

fireduck (197000) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094092)

so, when all the programmers go on strike, what's to stop the company from just up and moving its programming department overseas?

Re:Union Now (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096983)

"so, when all the programmers go on strike, what's to stop the company from just up and moving its programming department overseas?"

Practicality? Disrupted deadlines?

Re:Union Now (1)

SmegTheLight (521218) | more than 9 years ago | (#11099181)

so, when all the programmers go on strike, what's to stop the company from just up and moving its programming department overseas?

More importantly, what is to stop the company from giving in 'for now'. Only to spend the next year or two slowly moving the jobs overseas so that next time, they can't be hijacked by the Union..

If someone can and will do your job just as good as you, in the companies opinion for $5/hour, they you my friend are only worth $5/hour. The problem is that you live where $5/hour will not provide for a decent living, due to unions, duties, sanctions, blockades, other greedy bastards, etc..

Re:Union Now (1)

vp_development (789333) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094215)

I think that a union running as unions did in the last 40 years is a repugnant idea to most developers, who only want to work, and be paid fairly for an honest days work. Unions today have a stigma associated with them of people who want to become lazier and lazier and get paid more and more. I'm not saying this is a fair perception, but it is certainly wide-spread.

If a union could be formed like the textile unions [imdb.com] which at least initially fixed horrendous working conditions, that would be a union that IT workers probably WOULD be interested in. Obviously we don't have spinning machinery around that would chew up limbs, but a reasonable work environment is a reasonable demand. Employers are mostly concerned with the bottom line. If they can get more from their develoeprs by giving them great benefits [google.com] then that's what they'll do. On the other hand, if they can get away with being slave drivers...well, that's what ea_spouse wrote about in the first place.

Re:Union Now (1)

CestusGW (814880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094374)

I know my experience of unions has been that of a student, constantly facing the service groups I depend on (elementary school teachers, high school teachers, university professors, TAs, university support staff etc.) going on strike. So far, in my life, unions have been nothing but a disruption, stopping me from doing the things I need to do and causing undue stress (there's nothing quite like being a first year student in residence and wondering "If all the professors go on strike, what happens to that $2,700 I just plunked down on this semester's tuition?")

Re:Union Now (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11095623)

Something I find intersting is how this rather common attitude shifts the entire blame on the union. Agreed, they are the ones who finally went on strike, but usually this only occurs when negociation has failed over a significant period of time. Often, the dialogue looks something like this:

Union: Give us our 1% cost of living increase.
Management: no. and since you have no contract right now, lets change a few other things.
Union: If we don't have a contract, then we stop working.
Management: fine, see how long till your savings run out.
Union: Ok, we are striking.
Management: (to customers) it's all the union's fault! they don't want to work! (begin shift of blame)

Even in IT, if one is a contractor, and thier employier desides to not give them a contract and negociations fail to produce something both sides will sign, the contrctor will *gasp* not work! And of course, since it's the contractor who is visably not doing something (rather then the behind the scenes 'not doing something' of the employer) it's easy to again, shift the blame to one side.

Always look into why people go on strike. Outside a few high-profile, terribly currupt unions, most of them just want a contract and pay that keep them above the poverty line. If a strike is disrupting you, then maybe one should ask management, the people who are holding the power, why thier workers are so unhappy.

Re:Union Now (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 9 years ago | (#11098363)

I know my experience of unions has been that of a student, constantly facing the service groups I depend on (elementary school teachers, high school teachers, university professors, TAs, university support staff etc.) going on strike. So far, in my life, unions have been nothing but a disruption, stopping me from doing the things I need to do and causing undue stress

People don't strike for the fun of it, or to cause you stress. Striking is a lot more stressful on them than on you. They strike because they're getting a raw deal and have exhausted other options.

You should lay the blame at the feet of those putting the screws to the workers until they have no recourse but to strike,.

Re:Union Now (0, Troll)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095217)

I'm not saying this is a fair perception, but it is certainly wide-spread.

It's fair. I would go into more detail with lots of evidence and case studies, but it's not my job.

Re:Union Now (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094965)

IT workers and programmers are not synonymous.

If system administration and tech support went on strike, our business might freeze. If application development (me) went on strike... they'd fire all of us and hire someone else. And this is all different from programmers in a software company, which I know nothing about.

Re:Union Now (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096415)

When you say "programmers in a software company" I am usally one of them(as Im assuming not a programmer in a fiancial consulting service or a bank or whatever). I think youre probably right about a business programmer. From my perspective the situation would depend mostly on the situation. Ive worked in a few different situations... from R&D, to developing apps for vertical markets to startups. The thing about working on a product, as opposed to punching out business code(and Ive done that also), is I think generally a product tends to develop coder who become "gurus" in a particular aspect of the product.

For example... I once worked on a product in a team of 4 developers. I was the driver, communications guru, one was the database engine guru, one the UI guru and one systems guru. We all worked on it for about 3 years... if the UI guru was off sick or on vacation and a problem arose then we could fix it if we had to. However it would have taken us ten times the amount of time it would have taken him.

Re:Union Now (2, Funny)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096290)

We could picket IBMs headquarters armed with nerf weapons ! Scab workers wouldnt stand a chance ! Our striking song could be SF filk and instead of lighting those fires in bin things to keep warm in winter we'd just warm ourselves next to a small beowolf cluster. And of course our picket signs would actually be plasma screens ties to sticks... with nicely rendered 3d slogans.

Im there... but only if I dont have to stand up for too long... and make sure there is plenty of coffee and snacks.

Re:Union Now (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096523)

I think the word union is a bad idea. It bring to mind to many harmful images. Rather engineers, programmers and IT worker should perhaps consider a professional association. Doctors, accountants and lawyers have then. Rather than thinking of strikes and pickets and such we should be thinking of an information technology assocciation. One that could lobby governments and put the points of view that slashdot readers have(with a little more coherence tho). In time perhaps even considering things like being and accredited information worker(think like being certified to practice law or practice medicine).

Anyways... just my 2 shiney cents.

Hehe 'organ' (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11093910)

Uh huh huhh huh you said 'organ' huh huh huh huh huh

Watchdog Organ? (5, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 9 years ago | (#11093911)

Headline writers should be careful about creating needless and misleading abbreviations. Especially a headline that uses both "spouse" and "organ".

Re:Watchdog Organ? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11093941)

Funny, when I submitted this, the character limit for the subject was just after the full word "organization"... Hmm. Oh well, maybe more people will read it now.

Re:Watchdog Organ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11094257)

I would have expected "plans for watchdog organ" to be schematics for a pacemaker.

Re:Watchdog Organ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11094349)

note: it says "...dog organ"

Can you imagine an organized strike of IT workers? (5, Funny)

9mm Censor (705379) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094313)

It certainly would be organized, but geeks on strike? I think not, stikes are outside and picket signs are heavy.

Re:Can you imagine an organized strike of IT worke (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096941)

Nah, I can see a geek strike.

Picture this: in front of Evil Corporate Headquarters sit a bunch of geeks, some playing on GBAs, others with laptops, and a couple using cell phones to blog about their experience. A couple of LED signs [betabrite.com] scroll "... WHAT DO WE WANT? ... FAIR WORKING HOURS ... WHEN DO WE WANT IT? ... NOW ..." and "... BOYCOTT EVIL CORPORATION ..." on the ground next to them. Someone's hooked an iPod up to their car stereo and is looping the same thing repeatedly at max volume.

I think it could work...

A problem is with unions in general (4, Interesting)

brucmack (572780) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094704)

This whole EA thing is really indicative of a larger problem... unions in North America.

I grew up in Canada, with a father in management at a public utility. I heard endless complaints about the union workers at said utility... how they were overpaid and underworked, but there wasn't anything management could do about it, or there would be a strike.

Then I went to work in Europe, and lo and behold, almost everyone is in a union. Furthermore, the union workers are not abusing their powers. Instead, the unions help their members get jobs and training, with contract negotiation basically a secondary function. It simply isn't needed, because companies tend to be fair in the first place. The unions publish wage statistics that companies are expected to follow, and they do.

It seems that in North America, unionized workers are the ones that need it the least, while companies like Wal*Mart and EA do whatever they want to their employees. There's this attitude of management to care only about the bottom line and not about the workers, while at the same time, unions are all about grabbing more and more for their members (see the current labour situation in the NHL).

I hope that at some point the system can change, but it's a long way off.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11095043)

Do you know why the American side won the last three major European conflicts (WW I, WW II, the Cold War)?

Because Americans somehow manage to consistantly out-produce Europeans.

You can't say it's a work-ethic thing. Europe is where we got our work ethic from. It's a systematic thing. America has some unions, and some socialist programs, but for the most part it is much more of a capitalist and cut-throat society. If you don't carry your end of the log, you will eat, but you won't eat well. Everybody here understands that and the results are plain to see: A nation where most of us, even the "poor" among us, own houses with big yards and two cars per family.

So any time you look at European economic models and compare them to us, do so with an understanding that, while they might be doing some things better than us, our own system is serving us very well compared to the way they live over there.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

MyMistake (620068) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095356)

Yes, let's take a look at the NHLPA. They just offered owners a 24% decrease in salary [go.com] , which the owners rejected. How many /. readers are offering to work for 76% of their current salary for the same work? I know they're making a bundle, but the owners signed the contracts...

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

Mike Hawk (687615) | more than 9 years ago | (#11099170)

Actually many of the problem contracts were decided in semi-binding arbitration. This is clouded, however, by the fact that in the last CBA the owners agreed to have semi-binding arbitration and are also allowed to, a limited number of times, elect to not sign the player based on the results of the arbitration, but this is never done because, as I understand it, this makes the player a free agent.

Its a plus for the union and its members when they are working. But right now they are taking a 100% pay cut. And if the players are so behind the union, why are so many pretty much playing as scabs in other leagues? Taking jobs away from their labor "brothers". Unions are great!

Re:A problem is with unions in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11101325)

Huh? The NHLPA is the union only for NHL players. I don't think too many NHL players are playing in the US/Canada minor leagues, but are instead playing pro hockey in Europe, from where many of them came into the NHL from.

They would be scabs if all the Euro leagues were on strike, and those owners were using NHL players.

While 24% of a paycut sounds like a lot, anyone making over $100,000/yr to play a game is making a hell of a lot of money.

What is that, like, one less Hummer H2 per year? Boo hoo.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

barc0001 (173002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11102239)

Apples and oranges. The NHL situation is a bloody mess 30 years in the making, where fingers can't be pointed at just one party. You have players thinking they're each God's gift to the ice rink, so they should get paid the most, and a few owners who in order to try and buy a Cup will actually do it, which puts pressure on all the other teams to offer their stars more money as well before they leave. Then the next thing you know, the payrolls are so large that some of the smaller markets (cough Quebec City, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh) can't afford them any more. So either the team moves, or something drastic has to happen like the former darling of the team comes back and buys it out and tries to prop it up. Essentially it's a huge clusterf*ck of brinkmanship that's destroying the whole league. I've actually started following WHL hockey instead, and with tickets to the games under $20, it's a hell of a lot more affordable for me to go to the games. And the level of play isn't that much lower than the NHL, so as far as I am concerned, the NHL can implode and let something else rise from the ashes a few years later.

And just to answer your pay cut question, I at one point did do exactly that. But it was more like 30%. It was either that from everyone or the company folded and 25 people lost their jobs. It all worked out in the end, so it was better than the alternative which was being out on the street with hundreds of other dot-com layoffs competing for the same few jobs.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11095966)

Actually, it has more to do with america's low population density and increadable (and relativly untapped) natural resources. Europe is an older area where much of the mining has been done and population pressures cause a lower rate of expansion.. while we have plenty of ore, plenty of wood, and huge amounts of space to expand in. Give the US a few hundred years and regardless of system, production will even out.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

metalhed77 (250273) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095135)

A study by UCLA showed that unionized companies are less profitable than those who are not unionized. However, unionized companies are more productive.

Food for thought.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

Medgur (172679) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095318)

Clearly, then, everyone should be in a union. The market will even itself out once all parties have equal bargaining opportunities. This allows for the supposed wage inflation caused by unions to be evened out across the entire working class and induces a certain level of comraderie amongst employees and employers that otherwise isn't there due to the current adversarial nature of their relationship.

Further, I think your implicit admonishment of Canadian Unionised labour is a rather reprehensible piece of black propoganda. The grandest labour disputes that come to mind where the wages are the unpopular sticking part revolves mostly around CUPE, and even they aren't paid all that well for full time, 40 hours a week unenviable labour.

Perhaps some wage levelling across the entire field should occur. When the CEO is making the same amount and working under the same conditions as those actually producing the product she might actually feel some moticum of empathy for their plight.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

brucmack (572780) | more than 9 years ago | (#11115329)

I should clarify my position a bit... I didn't mean to say that all unions are bad. In some situations, the workers need representation against an employer that doesn't treat them as well as it should.

However, some unions really have run rampant here. I'm on a four-month co-op job right now, where all co-op students are required to be in a union. I also happen to be overpaid by about $5/hour, and I barely do any work, because the corporate mentality is so lazy. And this is a company that is flirting with bankruptcy! And I know for a fact that if the owners were to try to take away anything from the employees, they'd be threatening to strike immediately.

My co-op terms in Europe were quite refreshing... The focus there is on fair treatment of both sides, and that results in great productivity. Of course the productivity isn't as good as when you drive your employees like slaves, but the management won't have any trouble sleeping at night.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (4, Informative)

ahoehn (301327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096277)

Generally, unions only exist where they need to. For example; The other day I was getting gas at Costco, and the employee came over to help me fill my car. I thanked him, and he said, "Not at all; guess how much I'm getting paid to do this." Turns out he was making $19 an hour to pump gas, and that's a typical Costco employee wage.
I'm related to one of the vice-presidents of Costco and asked him about this. He told me that apparently there have been only two costco warehouses with unionized workers and recently, one of them disbanded because the workers realized that they were paying union dues for no reasons. Costco treats its employees very well. The upshot of this is that Wall Street doesn't like Costco very much, because they spend too much money on their employees; but they nevertheless continue to be a very sucessful company.
The moral is that while there are certainly bloated unions who only stifle industry; they're the exception. If businesses take good care of their workers, the workers won't feel the need to unionize. From the sound of things, parts of the game industry are in desperate need of unionization.

Re:A problem is with unions in general (1)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 9 years ago | (#11104961)

Wall street isnt very smart, is it?

Costco seems to be doing well, paying enough so that the employees are happy to do more than the minimum to get by. But Wall Street doesnt like that.

Can Someone Post the Text? (0, Offtopic)

clickster (669168) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094724)

I'm behind a filtering proxy. #&$%@!!!!!!

Article Text (0, Redundant)

Digital_Quartz (75366) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094934)

Welcome, and thank you for visiting. If you are here in search of the original "EA_spouse" article, you can find that here. The following is my update as of 12/15/2004.

So much has happened in the past month, I find it difficult to grasp. One essay written months ago set off a powderkeg of response, not just from the game industry but from the entire software development community. Truly, the power of the Internet is astounding, and all other things aside, we live in a positive age when so much information can be shared so easily and quickly.

The thing that lifted this up into public view, though, was not my essay so much as the response to it, so I will keep this brief. I have left the original essay and comments intact, and you can find them below. To supplement the original essay, I have organized my own comments and links to others' commentary into a FAQ. I have also put together a press page that links to all of the news stories related to this blog.

I am pleased and a little flabbergasted to announce that "EA: The Human Story" was nominated for Joel Spolsky's Best Software Essays of 2004. More details on this as they come.

I also would like to announce the initial inception of Gamewatch.org -- don't visit it yet, there's still nothing there. =) But there will be. It is my intent to start a non-corporate-sponsored watchdog organization specifically devoted to monitoring quality of life in the game industry. As much as I would like to extend this to the entire software industry, games are what I know, and where I need to stay right now. However, this project will be as open-source as I can possibly make it. All code written for the maintenance of the site will be available to the public, and all financial information for the organization (which will be a volunteer one) will likewise be made public. While GameWatch will occasionally run articles, its primary purpose will be to provide a reporting site where employees from any company in the industry can come to share their experiences. Our goal is to hold up and reward those companies that operate ethically, the better to ensure that top talent can seek out employment where they will be respected and best provided with the resources to do their jobs, namely family time, sleep, and sanity. Employees will be able to post anonymously or publically, as they so choose, and will also be offered an in-between option to register with the site but have only their testimonial posted, not their name or contact information. Registered testimonials will be given a greater weight than anonymous ones, but both options will be available. We will also provide forums for advice and discussion for all game industry affiliates, including existing employees, veterans, and aspiring students.

If you are interested in helping out with Gamewatch, please contact me with 'Gamewatch.org' or similar in your subject line. In particular, I would also like to announce a logo contest for Gamewatch. Simply, I'm looking for a one or two-color vector graphic (black with single-color highlighting, or simply black and white), approximately 200x200 pixels, on the GameWatch theme -- a couple of ideas we've tossed around are a caricature of an English Bulldog or Doberman Pinscher with a controller in its mouth, or some variant on an actual wristwatch theme, but do not by any means feel restricted by these suggestions. I will accept entries at ea_spouse@hotmail.com for one month, until January 15, 2005, and then a winner will be selected. I will pay the winner $20.00 -- $25.00 if the entry is provided in a standardized vector graphic format (Adobe Illustrator .ai, for instance). It isn't much, but it's what I've got -- and the artist will of course be credited on the GameWatch website.

For those interested in discussing Gamewatch.org as a concept and in its details, I have added a page here for that purpose.

All of this aside, the most important thing I have to say is -- thank you, to everyone who has visited this page, and especially those who took the time to contact me with an interest in our story. And especially especially to the spouses and EA employees who voiced their support and declared their own willingness to help our industry fulfill its potential. We're not done yet, but we've made a great start, and that is entirely due to the outpouring of response that flooded the Internet over the past month. Thank you.

Anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11094882)

Anyone will be able to post their story

Soooo...it's like fatbabies.com, you know, minus the trollers and fanboys. Who am I kidding, Gamewatch will have those too.

i fear! (1)

nege (263655) | more than 9 years ago | (#11094892)

Does this not just fuel the executive business case to outsource? No threat of unions, no threat of high cost of labor, plenty of replacements. No more whining Americans... Granted, those things COULD happen in other countries, but the chances are arugably less, and the bottom line is that salary is WAY cheaper...

Re:i fear! (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095359)

That will certainly be one of its effects. But in turn, the increased push towards outsourcing is going to generate a serious backlash against corporations who feel no obligations or loyalty towards anyone but their own shareholders.

If the excesses of the last couple of decades have shown us anything, it's that corporations need to be reined in. Right now, the average CEO makes 500x the salary of his* company's average worker, many corporations can bypass billions in federal taxes simply by setting up a P.O. box in the Cayman Islands, and a few million in properly placed campaign contributions can lead to favorable legislation worth tens of billions.

In short, fueling the business case to outsource also fuels the business case for shoving all these executives out the airlock.

Re:i fear! (1)

sulli (195030) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095552)

Really? People still shop at Wal-Mart and buy EA games. Where's the backlash?

Re:i fear! (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096045)

God, I wish I knew. People can be such sheep.

The vast majority of people will always be spectators in the political scene. Aside from voting every four years, they don't organize their lives in a way that promotes their political beliefs. Most people think sweatshops are a bad thing, but how many of us take the time to figure out which companies to support in order to improve the standards of living for laborers? Most of us are against corporate welfare, but few people have any ideas about which companies are getting it or which politicians are voting for it.

So the major battles get fought between the few politically active people and those interests which happen to have enough money to pay people to promote them. So far, money seems to be winning hands down.

I keep hoping that average people will start to sit up and take notice.

Unsure about the best possible solution here. (4, Informative)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095145)

And for what it is worth, Yes. I am a game programmer, so I have at the least, an informed opinion.

I am fortunate enough to work at a company that is exactly what EA is not. So I dont feel particularly persecuted or exploited at the moment. Hell, I can post to slashdot while at work, it appears.

There is something about Unions that are repulsive on some level to myself and the programmers I know. Mostly due to the negative connotations they have aquired.

First, myself and my coworkers basically agree one one element though. A crunch is acceptible when needed. A death march is not. The goal then, is to prevent a death march.

Second, the amount of hours that are needed for a project is directly dependant on how much time a project is given and how much money is offered for it. Both those variables are controlled by the publisher. The dev studios must work with what they can get in that regard.

A death march happens when either the time frame for a project cannot be met using sane hours from the available programmers. The way to avoid a death march is to ensure that there are enough programmers on a project to complete in in the allotted time frame.

Having a union for game programers at one developer studio means that a publisher will simply not give that studio any projects. To my thinking, there is just too much of a disconnect between the part of the industry that gets the lions share of the money and the part of the industry that creates the products.

EA did not turn into a shit hole to work at until after they started to focus hard on the bottom line. Being a publisher AND develper, they should know better. But I bet that the guys in Decision Making positions do nothing more then dictate how a game will be made. They do not have to actually work under the conditions they mandate.

My previous job, when we were in a crunch, I do not recall the decision makers actually being at the office. The lead programmers were the highest meatbags on the food chain, and they were just as slammed as anyone. But at my current job, I can honestly say that my boss puts in harder hours then anyone else, for the most part. The resulting difference in crunch policy is obvious to one who has seen both methods.

The I think that the real solution is to make sure that the people who dictate schedules are also working under those schedules. But I dont know how to make that happen. All a union does is add another layer of people who do not work under the conditions they create (though I concede that the union types are closer to those conditions then management types).

END COMMUNICATION

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11095683)

This is one of the things my company actually does right. I work for a game company that has crunch times that can hit 100+ hours/week.

But every time that happens, you can gaurntee that management is going to be there for 110+

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095846)

There is something about Unions that are repulsive on some level to myself and the programmers I know. Mostly due to the negative connotations they have aquired.

But what about the negative connotations of workers competing against each other in a race to see who can work for the least amount of compensation? Bueller? Anyone?

Having a union for game programers at one developer studio means that a publisher will simply not give that studio any projects.

Until most programmers are unionized, of course. Then the publishers have little or no choice - kinda like how workers now have little or no choice, largely due to the collapse of unions.

I grant you that many unions have transformed from organizations originally chartered with the purpose of seeking to promote workers' interests, into organizations that collaborate with management to force concessions from workers.

But just as voters needs to make a clean break with the two-party duopoly in order to make political change possible, workers have to break with the two-party duopoly of management and union leadership.

Corrupt union leadership is no more an agument against unions in general than corrupt government officials are an argument against representative democracy in general.

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (1)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096103)

Cannot say I have heard of Bueller. I dont see myself as in competition of any sort with my co-workers, but that could just be myself.

The choice between Union and Not Union to me seems false, or at least flawed. I always like to go for Plan C. I think that Plan C is for game companies to become less dependent on publishers.

Most game developers are started up by game programmers. I dont think that any one of them harbor dreams of becoming EA type programmer meat farms that pump out assembly line games that guarantee a profit.

A Union can negotiate with your boss. It cannot negotate with the guy who hires your bosses company to do something.

Now, if there were a way to keep the abusive publishers from handing out crappy deals that create the situations that require the death marches, then the problem would be largly solved, I think.

END COMMUNICATION

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (1)

kindbud (90044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096228)

A Union can negotiate with your boss. It cannot negotate with the guy who hires your bosses company to do something.

Nor can it negotiate with the electric company. So what? Nor can the electric company negotiate with the guy who hires your bosses company to do something. Again, so what? I don't see your point. If the boss has to abide by a contract with the union, then the union has indirectly influenced negotiations, just as the electric company has indirectly influenced negotiations by the brute fact that electricity usage costs money.

Now, if there were a way to keep the abusive publishers from handing out crappy deals that create the situations that require the death marches, then the problem would be largly solved, I think.

You think? Maybe the workers could band together and make employers sign contracts that force them to take workers into account when negotiating with publshers. Hmmm.....

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (1)

LordZardoz (155141) | more than 9 years ago | (#11096771)

Or alternatively, game dev companies could be started up that are entirely employee owned, and the employees would have a more direct hand in negotiating the contract.

Unions could potentially solve many problems with the labour abuses that exist in game development. However, they can also create an entirely new and different set of problems.

And regardless of the pro's and con's of Unions, that solution will simply not work as long as the majority of game programmers mistrust the idea. Our mistrust may be unfounded, or based on poor examples and worst case scenarios, but the mistrust is still there. I cannot speak for all game programmers, but none of the programmers I have worked that have mentioned unions have ever done so with anything positive to say about the idea.

And even if Unions are a viable solution, I remain convinced that they are not the only solution, and that they are likely not the best possible solution.

END COMMUNICATION

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11101353)

But what about the negative connotations of workers competing against each other in a race to see who can work for the least amount of compensation? Bueller? Anyone?

Economics? Anyone?

I think unions exist where the work is actually hard, and there is an incentive to actually work from 9-4 in Management, and only a few get there, and the mind set is "I got it, and I'm not going back, so screw you. Where's my TSR report?"

But I guess I'm too communistic (learned that from the Army, of all places. How many push-ups did you do because someone else in your platoon screwed up something?).

Re:Unsure about the best possible solution here. (1)

Lips (26363) | more than 9 years ago | (#11101154)

Anytime you want to hand back the gains that unions have made on your behalf in the last 100 years, please feel free to do so.

More work for everyone! (1)

webview (49052) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095255)

Excellent... Start a web site hire a bunch of people and have them work insane hours to keep it running. I think it should be more than just games companies that people are made aware of.

Somebody Help Me (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 9 years ago | (#11095368)

Not having worked in the gaming industry, I know nothing about it, except that it exists. Which is truer: working as a developer at a gaming company means you play games all day long; or you work and develop code like the rest of the developer world?

Not knowing anything, I'd _guess_ the latter, while I'd _guess_ fresh graduates hope for the former. I remember studying engineering, and thinking we'd all go out and do super-cool design work. It's not quite like that.

Cut The Fat....... (2, Interesting)

Bluesy21 (840772) | more than 9 years ago | (#11100763)

OK, forget the game industry for a minute and look at all industries. All industries seem to be purely focused on the bottom line. Not that most of them take it to the extent that EA seems to have.
Virtually everywhere we see people making less, their jobs getting outsourced, or employees be laid off. However, the income gap between the bottoms rungs of an organization and the top level has been skyrocketing across all industries. It's time for all workers to have a little more respect for themselves.
I'm not talking about people have jobs where they don't do anything all day and never have to work late, but companies should stop taking more from their employees every year than they give them. More and more it seems the trend were employees get a raise less than the inflation rate and they are expected to essentially take a pay cut and then pay more for health care and get less benefits. IMO there doesn't seem to be an end for this trend but I guess we can all hope.

Re:Cut The Fat....... (1)

webview (49052) | more than 9 years ago | (#11106569)

Boycott the financial markets. This is how it works. The irony of it is that everyone's 401(k) is so loaded on the market that you want companies to be so focused on the bottom line. This is capitalism, this is the way it will always be. Sad...but true...

EA should be unionized by IATSE (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#11101842)

The obvious union for EA LA is The Animation Guild, local 839, IATSE [mpsc839.org] , which represents most Hollywood animators and CGI artists. Local 839 is growing, bigger than it was ten years ago, because of the growth in CGI effects.

For EA Redwood City, IATSE Local 16 has jurisdiction. Here's the union contract for Industrial Light and Magic [mpsc839.org] , whose CGI employees are represented by IATSE Local 16, San Francisco. [local16.org]

Some key clauses:

  • The basic five day workweek for this computer graphics unit is 45 hours (40 hours of straight time and 5 hours of (1.5 times rate) overtime. This workweek is a flexible one, allowing the employee to work as many as 12 hours in a day without additional pay as long as the aggregate hours worked in the five day period does not exceed 45. Hours worked in excess of 12 in one day or 45 in the five day workweek will be compensated at 1.5 times the hourly rate. All overtime beyond 9 hours in any day or 45 hours in any week must be expressly pre-approved by the employee's supervisor. Any employee who works more than five (5) days out of any seven (7) consecutive days shall be compensated (i) for time worked on the sixth day at a rate not less than one and one-half times the hourly rate for the classification of the employee and (ii) for time worked on the seventh day at a rate not less than two times the hourly rate for the classification of tfie employee.
With a contract like that, "crunches" mean huge overtime pay. They still happen, but the paychecks go way up when they do. So employers don't understaff.

IATSE also represents Dreamworks SKG employees, who work in the same building complex as EA Redwood City, doing very similar jobs.

An IATSE organizer can be found at most Bay Area SIGGRAPH meetings. The links above will take you to the union web sites.

Re:EA should be unionized by IATSE (1)

stupid_is (716292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11105544)

"EA should be unionized by IATSE"

I saw that as: "EA should be unionised by Goatse!

At least you guys have a job (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11124274)

I know this will probably be modded down as flamebait, but I gotta say it. Stop whining!! I would love to work in the IT market again, but, as I'm sure most of you are aware, the job market isn't exactly booming right now for developers in the U.S. So I went back to school and got a degree in biology and work in a lab now. But programming is my love and it kills me to read about these guys working for a prosperous company and all they can do is whine!!! At least you're not out in the desert getting shot at. At least you're not a help desk phone operator. I'm sure you're making a lot of money, too. Damn, you're lucky and don't even realize how lucky you are.
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