Marooned is a piece of interactive fiction produced as part of a challenge to complete an entire Twine story in 24 hours. Turns out I only needed 15! G. Deyke took up exactly the same challenge and produced a story with something like four times the word count, so definitely check that out too. I actually haven’t read it yet myself, but that’s an impressive feat no matter what.
As the (spoiler-free!) screenshot above will hopefully illustrate, the story isn’t massive but it is fairly complex. It’s either my first or second attempt at writing less linear interactive fiction. I’m actually in the middle of a similar piece, but I’m planning to take more than a day to finish that one!
My journey to university comes in two chunks: a bus to the nearest train station, then a train into the city. By car, it takes twenty minutes or so. By public transport I’ve got to head off about an hour and a half before I need to be there. It’s actually not that bad since I can use the time to catch up on reading and/or pick stuff up from the shops on the way.
But yesterday I had a perfect storm of mishaps that really screwed things up. I had intended to go in an hour early and see if I could work on my current coursework project (which involves Twine) on the university computers. However, I’d forgotten that the buses come slightly earlier in the hour if it’s earlier in the day, so I missed the one I was aiming for. The next one got me into town just in time for the train, but there was nobody selling tickets at the station so I had to queue up to get mine from one of the machines. That took long enough that by the time I got to the platform, the train was just leaving.
Which is where the good luck comes in!
Figuring that I had more than half an hour before the next one, I headed over to the game shop where I worked last Christmas. I’d handed in a CV a while ago hoping to get some more seasonal work, so it seemed like the thing to do would be to follow that up. As it turns out, that was definitely the thing to do. I start tomorrow!
While having a job again will almost certainly force me to prioritise some things (namely the course and the job) over others (the Alterworld collection, my jewellery sales and Beyond the Black Throne), I’m hoping that it won’t totally eat up all the time I could possibly be spending on personal projects. If nothing else, I’m still hoping to produce regular (if nothing else, fortnightly) Black Throne updates, and I’m also hoping to put together something rather ambitious for Christmas this year. I wouldn’t like to spoil the surprise, but as I’ve just got the news and I’m feeling good about this right now, I will mention that I’ve got an entire freakin’ orchestra behind this one. Alright, I’ve got permission to use a wonderful piece of music they’ve already recorded, but I’m still chuffed to have this kind of talent on board, and I’m determined to make the most of it.
So yes. The course is engaging, my own projects are going places, and I’ve got a job again. Things are good right now, even if–perhaps because–public transport can be kind of a nightmare.
Anyone who’s used, heard of, heard about, or even glanced at briefly through the window of a speeding hovercraft will know that Universal Jobmatch is a steaming pile of shockingly poor planning. Yes, it’s disappointing that the government jobsite that cost £17 million to put together is already due to be dismantled, but the real surprise is that it’s been allowed to carry on for this long (and that it will continue to carry on at least until it comes up for review in two years). Saying that it’s being scrapped after only 18 months–as at least one new article has claimed–is like saying that they’re breaking out the tanks after only 18 months of Godzilla stomping around the place. Because Universal Jobmatch isn’t just terrible at what it does: it’s actively harmful.
A lot of the activities Jobcentre Plus requires claimants to do involve basically just flinging CVs at as many potential employers as possible, whether there’s a job going or not. Universal Jobmatch is no different. If you apply through the site directly, there’s no option to add a covering letter. Fortunately, however, it’s usually not necessary (nor even possible) to apply for a job through Universal Jobmatch itself because so many of the vacancies link to third-party sites. So rather than pointlessly sending out swarms of electronic CVs–the online equivalent of screwing several copies of your resumé up into a ball and drop-kicking it over a rainbow–the process of using Universal Jobmatch actually goes a little like this:
- Search for a keyword that vaguely matches your skills.
- Ignore the six identical commission-only catalogue delivery jobs posted (technically violating your Jobseekers Agreement, which dictates that you apply for literally every vacancy you see).
- Ignore the job based in Aberdeen, which apparently counts as “within 20 miles” even though you don’t live in Aberdeen. Or Scotland.
- Pick something from whatever’s left and click “Apply.”
- Discover you’re being taken to another website.
- Make an account at said website.
- Upload CV to said website.
- Apply to job on said website.
- Repeat steps 4-8 for every other vacancy listed on Universal Jobmatch.
Except that you’re not going to repeat this for every vacancy listed on Universal Jobmatch. Pretty soon you’re going to twig that Universal Jobmatch doesn’t actually offer any jobs of its own and you could just cut out the middleman by searching on one of the countless better recruitment websites it keeps directing you to. But unfortunately, it’s not that easy…one does not simply avoid Universal Jobmatch.
When you turn up for your weekly in-person meeting with your adviser, they’ll pick a handful of vacancies from Universal Jobmatch that you are then required to apply for. This is typically the point at which you stop actually applying for jobs and become some kind of rubbish internet sleuth. Because that vacancy you now absolutely have to apply for? It expired a week ago–Universal Jobmatch just didn’t get the memo. But of course, you have to be completely certain there’s no way you could possibly apply for it anywhere else, because if your advisor finds it advertised on another website, you’ll lose your Jobseeker’s Allowance for 13 weeks. Enjoy all that Googling. It’ll make a nice change from doing anything productive.
Dealing with the Jobcentre, it often feels as though the process isn’t so much about helping you get a job as it is about getting you off benefits. And this makes sense, in a way, when you consider that there simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. Ultimately, they’ll never be able to find work for everyone. However, they can sanction the benefits of as many people as they can find excuses for. Or force them to complete Mandatory Work Activity, which doesn’t pay anything but for some reason counts as employment for the purposes of any “Look how many people we got into work this month” statistics. Suddenly Universal Jobmatch, with its wide variety of fake jobs and scams, seems less like a monumental blunder and more like a deliberate nuisance.
This, in the end, is what got me off Jobseeker’s Allowance after claiming for a couple of months last year. I was asked to apply for an unspecified “sales” job with an unnamed employer (phone number 11111 111111, apparently, if you fancy getting their side of the story). The “Apply” button for this one took me to what claimed to be a recruitment site, but didn’t give any indication that I was applying for any specific job and (kind of suspiciously) didn’t offer the option to upload a CV. Which you’d think would be important, unless they’re hiring people on the strength of their email address and the ability to type their name into a box. Though from the look of things, that could well have been how they selected the designer for their site.
Naturally I went back to my advisor and explained why I hadn’t climbed into the back of that particular stranger’s van. She was very understanding and asked me to provide a complete explanation of the situation to provide to “a decision-maker in Newcastle.”
This is the root of the problem with Universal Jobmatch. It’s not just a scam-riddled waste of money: it’s a scam-riddled waste of money that people are forced to use. For me, the impact was minimal. Getting sactioned was just a final push towards ditching the Jobcentre altogether and doing what I could to find work without their interference. But not everyone has a family they can fall back on to support them, so not everyone has that luxury.
If you’re in that situation, the only advice I can give is to set up a new email address specifically for Jobmatch (and, if you can afford it, a cheap mobile too). It won’t protect you from the fraudsters, but it will help deal with the colossal amount of spam you’re going to get.