In applying for jobs and contract opportunities, the first hurdle is the
request for a CV in a proprietary document format. ASCII text, the
utmost basic of file formats, defeats many stupid employers and recruitment
agencies. Whilst this is useful to help weed out working for companies
with stupid people in them, it doesn't help in actually getting work.
The approach which has actually had far greater success, however, in
getting companies to change their policy of using proprietary document
formats is to explain clearly that the "online application form"
contravenes "Equal Opportunities" legislation. This article describes
the approaches taken and the success stories, one at a time, by which
the proprietary document format practices have been successfully
Principles don't Cut It
I get contacted by or I contact about one recruitment agency a month.
Every single one of them has failed the "My Principles Are More Important To
Me Than Your Job" test, except one (and I didn't get the job). So, over the
six or so years in which I've deployed this "Free Software Principles"
technique, in which I've tried pointing people at the
there simply hasn't been any traction because these people don't have
any incentive to change.
Put simply: when I tell them they're placing a significant burden
onto me by expecting me to use proprietary file-formats, it makes
me look like a complete f*****g t***t.
However, eventually, by varying what it was that I said (and I had enough
practice) I eventually began to get results.
Government Web Site "Accessibility"
The first success I had I didn't hear back about for over nine months.
I had complained using a Contact Form that in order to fill in some
application or other, it was expected that I have Microsoft Word.
I explained that the cost of Microsoft Office was £500, and that the
cost of a computer capable of running Microsoft Office was,
at the time, also around £500, and were they seriously expecting me
to shell out £1000 just to fill in some application form, and wasn't
this contrary to some Government Regulation somewhere? Incidentally,
if I was blind, this web site would fail "Accessibility" regulations,
and overall I'm not very impressed, blah blah.
Hit send, had a bit of a laugh, told a few friends, they all laughed,
thought nothing of it.
Imagine my surprise when I received a message nearly a year later,
saying "We have taken into consideration numerous feedback (yeahright)
and have revised our web site to be more compliant with Accessibility
Guidelines. We welcome your input and feedback on our new site".
So here was a way! By tweaking what I said, it was actually possible
to leverage regulations that these people had to comply with. Sentences
with words like "oversight" began to form...
Refined: Equal Opportunities
The second success was very recent; it was again a large organisation
for whom compliance with regulations is of particular importance. The
web site contained, on the job application, a proprietary-formatted
job spec. I explained, again, that as this is a job application, I
might not have the kind of money required to purchase expensive
computers, or purchase expensive software, and wasn't that discriminatory
and contrary to Equal Opportunities legislation?
It worked: they had a meeting; they made the changes. They now
had the right "words" with which to make effective policy changes,
and to be able to justify their actions to their superiors.
Testing the Waters again
So, my next attempt will be the Open University. After finding that
the Open University is beginning a
I was so absolutely delighted that I had to apply to be a Tutor.
The page with the application form is here.
Note the proprietary document format. Note also the assumption that the
document can be loaded into "Wordpad", "Star Office" or "OpenOffice".
This assumes that the applicant is willing to spend the money on a
computer powerful enough to handle the bloat-ware, which is contrary
to the Equal Opportunities policy. It also assumes that the applicant
has no principles or ethics regarding Free Software. If being a
"Free Software" advocate was a Religion, then there would definitely
be a case for discrimination. In fact, the derivation of the word
comes from the Latin, meaning "Rules", so there would actually be a case
that it is "Against My Religion (rules) to use proprietary file formats".
It is also deliciously ironic that the T155 Linux course is expected to
instil into the students the principles and benefits of Free Software and
its values. It's also ironic that the course description tells us of the
benefits of being able to reuse older hardware. Yet potential Tutors
who would be perfect to teach by virtue of their experience and their
principles are forced to violate their principles and use the most expensive
software and hardware, in order to apply for the job! The icing
on the cake is the fact that google searches for"
Opportunities Policy site:open.ac.uk" reveal top hits
on documents mentioning the Open University's Equal Opportunities policy...
in Microsoft Proprietary formatted files. Surely the top hit should be
the policy itself, in an "Accessible" format!
A University should lead by example if it is to be teaching anyone at all.
Ghandi's beautiful words went something along those lines. "Be the change
you want to see in the world".
It is possible to get people to listen if you want to instil
Free Software principles, but they have to have a "handle" against which
they are forced to act, within the organisation that they work. Or,
if they agree with you in principle, but are otherwise hog-tied, they need
that "handle" with which to justify their actions to their superiors.
Using the words "Discrimination" and "Equal Opportunities" in the same
sentence seems to do the trick.