Could Your Content Be a Character from Office Space?

Although Mike Judge’s classic satirical comedy, Office Space, only broke even when it premiered in 1999, the movie quickly gained a cult following. At the time, the film struck a chord with an entire generation of cubicle dwellers who felt deeply alienated by their bleak, repetitive work environments. Myself included.

Every time I watch it, I catch something new. The movie has become a fixture in America’s cultural zeitgeist, due in no small part to its quirky cast of characters. And I’ve noticed that their shortcomings can even provide a context to inform one’s own writing.

Bill Lumbergh: Overly Optimized SEO Content

Lumbergh content

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Not unlike Initech’s unholy jerk of a boss, over-optimized SEO content is soulless and uninteresting. By focusing solely on keyword densities and search engine placement, this type of writing wholly disregards the needs of its readers in much the same way that Bill Lumbergh does with his employees.

Content that’s been overly optimized for SEO effectively treats its readership like Lumbergh treats the luckless Milton. It exiles readers to a dark, cockroach-infested basement, where they’re left to meekly obsess over the time they wasted reading it in the first place. Their stapler, if you will.

This isn’t to say that having a good grasp of SEO best practices is a bad thing; I’d say quite to the contrary, as a matter of fact. But if you find your content even comes close to resembling Lumbergh, then it might be time to reassess your approach.

Creating engaging content designed for the user would be a good start.

Tom Smykowski: Poorly Ideated Content

Smykowski: Poorly Ideated Content

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Simply put, any content that resembles Smykowski is poorly ideated. This type of writing is so poorly conceived, in fact, that it admires the pet rock’s inventors for their enormity of vision. It’s the type of content that will pull you aside at a party to proudly show you the rough prototype for its “Jump to Conclusions” game mat.

This isn’t to say that this type of content doesn’t occasionally get lucky. Like Smykowski, it could always get hit by a proverbial truck and go inexplicably viral. Even if it does, though, most readers will be left thinking, “That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

If your writing suffers from Smykowski syndrome, the fix is really very simple. Spend more time developing your ideas via a conscientious ideation process.

Peter Gibbons: Under-performing, Slacker Content

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There could be worse problems than having your writing look like Office Space’s protagonist, Peter Gibbons. After all, this type of content possesses a great deal of potential (at least, the Bobs seem to think so), and it’s yearning to break out of the box.

However, Peter Gibbons-style writing is being held back purely by a lack of motivation. Perhaps it’s unfocused because it has eight different bosses, or maybe its only motivation is to avoid getting hassled.

Whatever the reason, this is the type of writing that most professional writers find themselves creating at some point in their careers.  The trick lies in identifying you’re in a rut, and then investing the effort to work through it.

Of course, this analysis certainly didn’t cover every aspect Judge’s comedy classic, and there are probably countless other writing lessons that could be gleaned from this film. But we’ve run out of time, so play us off as the credits roll, Biz Markee.