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ea_spouse

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[Dec. 15th, 2004|02:18 am]
ea_spouse
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve
the political bands which have connected them with another,
and to assume among the powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature
and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions
of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

- The U.S. Declaration of Independence




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.

Edit: Hello all. I'm sorry about this, but I've turned on screening for anonymous comments in this thread and the Gamewatch one. We have a troll who has been spamming comments every few hours or so, and I just don't have time to keep coming in here and deleting them. Rest assured if you post anything that ISN'T vulgar, I will unscreen it as soon as I see it. Hopefully the troll will lose interest soon and I can lift this.
Edit 1/4/2005: Turning screening back off, since things seem to have calmed down a bit. Thanks, all, for your patience.
Edit 2/24/2005: Modified contact link to reflect my new gmail address, ea.spouse@gmail.com.
linkReply

Comments:
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-16 07:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Hmm.

First, a couple of fact checks. The class-action lawsuit was not a result of my posting; the lawsuit had been in place since July. Although the press that followed my article drew attention to the lawsuit, my "crusade" did not "lead" to any of it. EA earned that lawsuit all on its lonesome. If you would prefer that the public not know about it, that is of course your prerogative.

Secondly, the first thing anyone says in attacking the people that have come forward here is a claim that they are "in the minority." I wish to disspell this myth. You yourself do not allege that anything I've said is false -- you've experienced it yourself. You simply aren't, for whatever reason, unhappy with it -- and because of that you see fit to ridicule and attack those that are. You would like them to "shut up." Why is that? What is it about this discussion that is so threatening to you? If EA has done nothing wrong, what do they have to fear? And further, if the result of all of this is that more "minority" unhappy employees leave EA, isn't that what you want? I am trying to help you.

As far as leaving the company is concerned, I might direct you to the FAQ, since that issue insofar as it impacts my SO directly is answered there. However, there is a contradiction here that perhaps you could resolve for me. You disdain the accounts of ex-employees of EA -- yet if my SO were to leave, as you suggest, he would become one of those ex-employees. Which is it? Why is it that those who have left the company, as you ask my SO to do, no longer have valid opinions on EA's processes, given that, by your estimation, they have done the right thing in departing?

On one figure I believe you are correct -- among the thousands of EA's employees, dozens would support you.

I find myself mentally coming back to this issue of 'minority'. I am quite certain that you and all others who have asserted that those unhappy with EA are a 'minority'. Conversely, in the thousands of comments this story has generated, the number of happy EA employees who have come forward could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Does that mean that there aren't more? No, certainly not. But given the difference in ratio between those who approve what EA is doing and those who do not, it does place you in the minority. But that's okay. It is okay for you to be happy with your job and for you to be in the minority. It does not discount your voice nor your right to raise it. If you are happy with your job, I am both sad and happy for you, and encourage you to by all means remain with EA. And whether you understand it or not, I am fighting for EA to treat you better as much as I am fighting for them to treat my spouse better.

In the course of this entire month-long discussion, this is the first time I have typed the word "sweatshop." There. Previous to that, if you heard that word, it was not from me. This will also be my first use of the word: "nazi." And I use them only in repeating your own words. If my account of actual incidents through the course of mine and my SO's experience with EA is interpreted by you to be a "nazi sweatshop," I think you need to reevaluate your estimation of your employer.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 09:39 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....


Ea_spouse,

Allow me to respond to your rebuttal the best I can. Eloquence was never one of my bigger talents so bare with me here.

I don't think that your original displeasure with the amount of overtime your spouse has had to endure is unfounded. However, it is very important to notice that no matter where you go in the game or film (dare I say most electronic and non-electronic entertainment industries) you will experience a large amount of overtime, lengthy "crunch" periods and the like. I am only assuming here, based on what little amount of information you have allowed to be disclosed about yourself, that both you and your husband are relatively new to the game industry.

Take it from someone who has been in this business for over 11 years -- overtime and deadline "crunches" are something you -must- deal with regardless of whether they are mandatory or not. However, these crunch times can be alleviated and, at that, the magic formula lies closer then you might think. Again, I am only speculating here, but perhaps your significant other's overtime blues can pass if only he would become a more efficient worker. Now before you get upset and defensive of your life partner, let me explain what I mean. This idea comes not even from me, but a colleague of mine who is a long-time film industry veteran who now works on games. You see, in my colleague's previous 15 years of industry experience he came to work at 9am and left at 6:00pm with -extremely rare- instances of overtime, deadline rushes or weekend work. Why, you ask? Certainly not because he worked in a smaller capacity then his peers. My colleague is an award-winning professional who have worked on major (and I do men -major-) feature films. He simply cut down on what we like to refer to as "screwing around". Having a family and children, he realized early in his career that if he puts an end to prolonged lunches, socializing and "shooting the breeze" with his coworkers and browsing the web, he can get a lot more done in the amount of time equal to one normal (8-hour-long) work day. Add to that a learned skill of good self-management and pacing and you have a guy who never in his life experienced what your spouse did in the industry which is -notorious- for overtime and long work hours.

Maybe your spouse is the most efficient programmer on the planet, but we will probably never know that considering the veil of mystery surrounding anything else but your claims about your husband's mistreatment.

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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-16 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Hello again. First, I want to sincerely thank you for the cordiality in your response. After some of the recent posts in this thread, it is relieving and refreshing.

As you say, I have intentionally kept a 'veil of mystery' surrounding my personal information and my SO's. I do believe that, for now, this is still necessary. However, and this depends on how you count it, we are not new to the industry. Both of us have worked in it before, and both of us have experienced crunch. I do entirely know what you mean about the inavoidability of crunch, and it is not crunch itself that I oppose, but rather when crunch is planned in to the development cycle. For someone who explains this better than I want to take the time to right now (no offense intended, I just don't like re-stating what someone else has already said well ;) ), I would point you to Damion Schubert's "In Defense of Crunch".

Your comment on worker efficiency is valid, but given your time in the game industry, I would have to ask how much intentional inefficiency you observe during crunch times. Do your coworkers "screw around" during this time? In the companies I've worked with, whether there is 'screwing around' normally, it doesn't occur during crunch or when the team is behind schedule, period -- if it does, I would think that that is actually a management issue. However, the problem that I have specifically observed with EA, and from publishers in my experience with other companies, even has nothing to do with this, and to suggest that the problem is the workers in those particular cases is -- painful. Let me explain.

EA directly, in my SO's recent experience, and publishers, in our previous experience, are not satisfied when a project remains on schedule. If it does, their response is to add features. And add them, and add them, until "crunch" at the end of a project goes far beyond what would be considered reasonable even by a seasoned game developer team. Even the designers object to this, as it amounts to making design decisions on the fly, something that rarely yields good results. One EA designer posted his story with a similar experience where design decisions kept coming down from upper management -- his original design was scrapped and he was asked to do it over. He did it over seven times, before, in exhaustion, submitting his ORIGINAL idea -- which was approved! This is only a single anecdote, but it represents in a condensed version what the teams frequently experience; there are other stories of the exact same thing on other projects. There is a problem here, and blaming the workers is very similar to blaming a -- if you'll forgive the analogy -- victim of domestic abuse for 'asking for it' from an abusive family member. These problems are not limited to EA, certainly -- but they are definitely present there, and we have to start somewhere.

Thank you again for the courtesy in your response. I will respond to your other comments later this evening.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 11:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....


Ea-spoude,

There is one more important comment I wanted to make about your story. A lot of people do not realize this, butt Electronic Arts has many, many development houses all around the world under its umbrella. They have offices in California, Florida, UK, France, Thailand, etc. Your husband's unfortunate experiences occured in one of their offices while he was working on one of the many development teams within said office. Being an Electornic Arts employee myself, I can tell you with confidense that not only every studio but not every team within each studio has it as bad as your husband might have experienced. The practices you describe might be indeginous if not to the particular team then to the Electronic Arts studio your spouse is working in. Needless to say I am yet to see or experience the same degree of employee misstreatment your have described at the studio I work in.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-17 11:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Returning to these comments now.

I think you might benefit from reading some of the comments posted to the main essay. To a large degree, it speaks for itself that I did not reveal what studio my SO worked for, yet there were many, many comments saying that he must work for studio X because they were experiencing the same thing -- it sounded too familiar.

EA does have offices all over the world, but its primary development houses are in:
California - Redwood Shores (EARS/EAHQ)
California - Los Angeles (EALA)
Florida - Orlando (Tiberon)
Canada - Vancouver, BC (EAC, EA Black Box)
Canada - Burnaby, BC (EAC HQ)
United Kingdom - Surrey (EAUK)

All other offices in Europe are sales offices -- not development studios. I have no doubt that if you work in one of the sales offices your hours and treatment are going to be vastly better than those actually working on games.

Of the primary studios that EA lists on its website (shown above), we have multiple testimonials from every studio documenting these practices. If you have not experienced the conditions, you are either very new or very lucky. In either case, I think you would better serve yourself by listening and reading rather than denying it all outright before you are even informed. Rest assured that this is not an isolated incident or even a series of coincidental isolated incidents -- it is EA policy.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 09:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

[-continued-]


Perhaps you have never used the exact words and phrases such as "Nazi sweatshop" but if you will come back and re-read your original rant, I assure you that you would be lying to yourself and others if you would state that similar words do not form in your mind based on your description of your spouse's quality of life at Electronic Arts. I have not compared my workplace to a fascist labor camp. I merely stated that that is what your accusations make it out to be.

You see, ea_spouse, your original angry letter have hit a very sore spot in the game development community. Overtime and deadline "crunch times" are ever-present in the industry and, regardless of whether the game developers themselves understand the reasons behind them or agree with them; -NOBODY- likes to work long hours or over the weekend. Not a single person. I will go as far as to say that with an exception of an occasional workaholic, nobody likes to work period. Anyone, even you, would choose an independently wealthy life style over the one filled with a day-to-day job cycle. Also, everyone wants to be paid more money that they are currently earning. I daresay that with exception of some exceptionally nutty millionaires and/or billionaires, every single person would, without hesitation, say "Yes!" in answer to a question whether they would like to be paid more for their work or not. So, naturally, lots of people will add a "me too" to your complaints. That does not mean that the -majority- of people hate the quality of life their employers (namely Electronic arts) are providing for them. They simply do not like to work long hours and want to work less and want to be paid more. Simple as that. I admit that some people might as well have horrible working conditions they are trying to combat -- but I am willing to bet that these people do not work at Electronic Arts. If the quality of life was so incredibly horrible, not only Electronic Arts but any entertainment company would not be able to stay in business as everyone would simply leave to pursue other avenues. Instead Electronic Arts is only growing with each passing year which is something to think about.

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 10:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

"Perhaps you have never used the exact words and phrases such as "Nazi sweatshop" but if you will come back and re-read your original rant, I assure you that you would be lying to yourself and others if you would state that similar words do not form in your mind based on your description of your spouse's quality of life at Electronic Arts. I have not compared my workplace to a fascist labor camp. I merely stated that that is what your accusations make it out to be."

It's too bad that people can't read, but you can't really blame the author for that. The situation at many EA studios is abrasive and damaging to their employees health and a guerilla marketing campaign by EA to undermine this very brave person's credibility and to red herrings won't work.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 10:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Where do you get your facts, exactly? "abrasive practices", "guerilla marketing campaign by EA" are rather big claims. Care to back them up by facts? And one more thing -- "very brave person" is not the one who hides her identity. If ea_spouse is as brave as you make her out to be, if her claims are valid and story not exactly one-sided, why does she hide her identity without fail and the true victim in this story, her husband, is yet to be heard from? Not to repeat myself but why, through all of this "abrasive practices", does ea_spouse's spouse remains -voulanterily- employed by Electronic Arts? Who in their right mind would stay int he company that wrongs him so especially if that person's spouse makes claims that her victimized husband is not the primary source of money in their family?
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-01-22 12:55 am (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

Oi vay << hand slaps on forehead with a sigh >>

What underlying, 'dog eat dog', aggressive business infrastructure and strategy do you suppose is maintaining and supporting the ongoing concern of the world's largest interactive entertainment company? The sheer love of seeing happy smiles on the faces of their consumers?! Here's a fact: EA's hostile 20% purchase of Ubisoft.

"If ea_spouse is as brave as you make her out to be, if her claims are valid and story not exactly one-sided, why does she hide her identity without fail and the true victim in this story, her husband, is yet to be heard from?"

Given the overwhelming response to the blog and Gamewatch, why is this REALLY important?
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 09:41 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

[-more-]

My problem with you, ea_spouse, is not what you did but how you did it. How you have taken a, perhaps, valid concern your spouse have had and taken it upon yourself to blow it right out of proportion. And you do so in complete anonymity, as to not incur any repercussions of your acts or take full responsibility for your choice of actions. While you indulge in your new found hobby of saving the lives of poor overworked and underpaid game developers, your husband keeps voluntarily coming to work for Electronic Arts every morning, collecting his no doubt non-entry-level or bottom-of-the-totem-pole salaries on pay days. He himself is yet to say a -single- word for or against your claims. For all we know he might not share your point of view or not see the situation as you do. Then again -- we will never know for sure, will we?

Yes, in this industry and in this company we work long hours. Our professions are -not- all fun and games. Game development cycles are straining and stressful. But we are reimbursed more then fairly, as it is not a secret that Electronic Arts is know to pay one of the best salaries in the game industry. We have fantastic benefits, great facilities and a wonderful sense of job security. In today's world where 4 out of 5 start-up game companies go belly-up in less then 2-3 years since their conception and only 1 out of 3 companies breaks even and sees good royalties, we receive bonuses and regular merit increases. We have one of the bets opportunities of career advancement, as Electronic Arts many studios mean many opportunities of advanced jobs opening up. We can transfer within a company and live and work abroad. Having worked in the videogame industry for over 11 years I can say with utmost confidence that these and many other benefits of working for Electronic Arts hardly make it the sweatshop (here I am using that "s" word again!) you clearly make it out to be.

Now let me explain what one of many consequences of your "help' you are trying to provide for me might be. You see, I enjoy working in the videogame industry in part due to its business-casual and relaxed nature. I like the fact that I can come in between 9:00am and 10:00am and take my lunch whenever I want. I enjoy the fact that if I do need to come in late or take an extra long lunch due to life's many unexpected issues, I can make it up simply staying a bit later in the evening. I am not and never will be a morning person, which seems to be a recurring trend among my fellow game developers. Your "help" can put an end to all that and introduce the joys of hourly pay and time-cards, not to mention mandatory, rigid work day hours. It might not mean a lot to you, but it will upset a lot more of the developers you are trying to help then you think. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Before I finish, allow me to address the recurring theme of "thousands have responded to my story" claim you have made in your rebuttal post. Yes, without a doubt, thousands have responded to your original story. But that is largely due to the fact that it was picked up and elevated to the ranks of a nation-wide scandal by the members of the press. Yes, the very same members of the press who have suggested the idea of a lawsuit and even offered (if not out right done so) to hire your spouse a lawyer. And even after you got your point across, got a lot of support of the game development community and got Electronic Arts seriously working on the improvements of the quality of life of their employees, you will not let it rest. You only bring the negative and try your best to bypass the positive. Even the members of the press which, days ago, were eager to bring your story to the masses now say, and I quote "I told you she [ea_spouse] needed to do spread her wings and fly… I just was sort of hoping she’d roost further away." - Kotaku.com.

And that is all I have to say about that.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-16 09:57 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

YES. Tell it like it is!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-17 07:48 am (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

I don't agree with a word of what you've written. And I work at EA.
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-17 11:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

You make a lot of assumptions here, and what exactly your goal is besides attacking my character rather than my issues (a distraction technique) is not quite clear to me.

First, anonymity. My anonymity is not "complete" and I am also not sure why you are so obsessed with it. In the press page on this blog you will find a section entitled "direct contacts". All of these contacts, with the exception of Netjak, I have spoken with either personally or on the phone. They have my name, my spouse's name, our exact occupations, our phone numbers (land and mobile), and in a couple of cases, our home address. I met with Alex Pham personally.

Now. As for my SO. Do you really think that if he didn't support every step in this process I would still be involved in it? This is another uninformed character judgment you make, and it is wrong. If you had actually read the articles published by the press that you so hate, you would note that my SO interviewed with Randall Stross from the New York Times. He did this in person; Randy has seen his EA badge. If you are truly all that interested in my SO's side of this, you can either read the New York Times article or contact Randy personally. He can tell you my SO's hair color if he so desires. My SO has not commented on the blog because there is little reason for him to do so -- disproving a wild conspiracy that he doesn't exist or opposes my efforts is not, I am afraid, a good enough reason. Mostly, he is exhausted, and does not touch the computer while he is home.

If you had read some of the comments on the blog, you would also know not only that other employees of EA have been fired for far more trivial 'offenses' than mine, but that several of your coworkers have warned me to guard my anonymity carefully. I am following their advice.

My identity and the veracity of everything I have said is quite realistically verifiable, and for that reason the press have the information they would need to get that verification. However, they felt they didn't need it -- in light of the copious collaboration provided by other EA employees. A number of these EA employees have given not only their studio location but their names, which I note that you have not; your comments have been far more anonymous than mine.

Yes, the press spread awareness of this story. Because that is their job. I am not sure what I have "blown out of proportion" -- perhaps you can call attention to specific phrases in the original article or in any of my comments that have in any way exaggerated the situation. What I provided was a start-to-finish narrative on my experiences with my SO's employment with EA. Challenge any statement you please (challenge everything!). You lambast a poster below for using "heavy accusations", but you have yet to call attention to a single line in my article or in the testimony of any other EA employee and challenge it directly, choosing instead to use yourself inflated terms such as "nazi sweatshop". Tell me where I have blown anything out of proportion and I will address your concerns then; until that point you are simply blowing steam.

(continued below)
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From: ea_spouse
2004-12-17 11:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....

In your comments here you first told me to "shut up" and now say that I "will not let it rest." You're correct about that last. I have no intention of allowing this to continue. I can only conclude that you are referring to Gamewatch.org in your statement about not 'letting it rest', and how you derive that that project will be "only negative" I do not know. Perhaps it's something else that you could research before speaking on.

I am also not certain where you get your information on EA paying the 'best salaries in the industry'. This is patently not true, and there are a number of assumptions that have been made by those outside of EA about the average EA salary. These assumptions have been corrected by numerous commenters other than myself. You being inside the company, the statement is less explicable, but there is a lot of mystery that goes on regarding salaries, which is fairly normal for most businesses. In my direct experience, EA's salaries are wildly variable -- workers in the software industry take pay cuts to get into the game industry through EA, while an animator with film experience might make six figures simply because the latest hiring fad is to get someone with that particular experience. The executives, of course, do very well. And in the meantime, for the hours they work, software developers at EA would make more money pumping gas at Costco.

If the result of the lawsuits against EA (which, by the way, my SO and I are not yet involved in; not a single member of the press offered to hire us a lawyer -- more misinformation from you, or you lie knowingly) is that you receive overtime, I encourage you to give it back to the company. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-18 03:51 am (UTC)

Re: Curioser and curioser....


"My problem with you, ea_spouse, is not what you did but how you did it. How you have taken a, perhaps, valid concern your spouse have had and taken it upon yourself to blow it right out of proportion."

EA Spouse didn't blow it out of proportion. A personal story prompted a tidal wave of people to come forward in empathy, agreement and relief. Are all of these people wrong?

EA Spouse alone could not possibly have accomplished what has resulted to date; it's been the domino effect of support and what appears to be considerable consensus on the need for change that has given scope to the original blog because it was the spark that set off the powderkeg. No major newspaper like the Wall Street Journal or New York Times would have touched the story if the EA Spouse blog was a few pages long and populated with postings that clearly contradicted or negated her story.

If anything, shouldn't your irritation be directed at the powderkeg that exploded?
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