Internet Access

by Jay Cuthrell
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I was listening to TSOT on NPR this morning. This was made possible due to my new early to bed and early to rise experiment. The subject was related to productivity and Internet access in the workplace. There was a lot of anecdotal evidence and people called in to say why they felt the Internet was good or bad for productivity. The real issue, in my mind, is management techniques.

Often, there is management in a company setting and it is monotone. I say monotone to describe a management technique where the manager assumes that everyone is either a) a big boy/girl or b) a complete ninny that requires massive micromanagement. It’s pretty rare, at least in my limited experience, to see a manager that can shift gears.

I’ve been in and around IT for the majority of my career and it clicked with me when a caller described problem solvers and quota workers. Problem solvers are those that figure complex things out that don’t come with a great deal of instructions and are left to figure it out for themselves by a deadline or milestone. Quota workers have a detailed workflow and an expected output over a period of time but with more frequent deadlines. I think that the animosity towards a manager can stem from treating problem solvers as quota workers. This is sometimes described as trying to make the creative put out in a timely fashion. Well, as they (those that are creative) say, you cannot rush inspiration.

So, then there are quota workers that require constant supervision. Or do they? I got the feeling that putting an IT manager on the floor of a blue collar construction or assembly line might be a fish out of water story. Then I started thinking about the rotation programs in larger companies that put wunderkinds on a crash course in all the parts of the business. This lets them do everything from assembling the widgets to sitting in on the top brass meetings about those widgets.

So, back to Internet access. There is a lot of Internet access filtering/proxy/session hijack products and services out there that market themselves as tools to shape employee productivity. I say shape since I am still not convinced the word improve can be used without some amount of marketing lobotomy.

Also, when there is a browser on the desktop, it is probably something default and it just leads to frustration and loss of cycles through having to get past the MSN homepage load each time, then wondering if some people use a bookmark or try to type in http:\ each time they want to go somewhere.

I’ve watched people that have never grown up around the Internet tools. It’s pretty scary to watch. They don’t want to know what is going on with the GUI. This is why phish scams work. It looks right. People click.

All this was going though my mind as the Internet access talk continued on the radio. I kept wondering if someone had considered that Internet access might not be the real issue. Maybe the real issue is that the way people access the Internet is flawed from a productivity standpoint.

As I drove up to the recycling bins (the real reason for my early morning trip), I saw the overflowing massive bin reserved for phone books. Yes, phone books.

All that Internet access and I wondered why there are still phone books. Perhaps, the Internet access just isn’t as productive as it could be.


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