Craig Murphy: author, blogger, community evangelist, developer, speaker

The Social Programmer

September 3rd, 2008 at 10:02 am

Yet a lot of firms have instigated a blanket ban…

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Just yesterday one of my friends e-mailed me with a small Outlook 2007 font size problem. There is, it appears, no solution as yet. However, unrelated to his original question, I found this link that I knew would be of interest to him in his professional capacity.

I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that his firm block sites such as Twitter. It got me thinking: Twitter, for me and for many of the folks I follow and those who follow me, it’s all about the conversation. Of course for me it’s a software development conversation – at least for the vast majority of the time. Generally speaking, I would think that most employers would be keen on peer to peer conversations and learning opportunities.

The amount of non-work related conversation that I am exposed to whilst sat at my desk (both in Edinburgh and London) is huge and very much irrelevant. Are you interested in your colleague’s telephone conversations? Open plan environments must be nightmare for those folks who can’t use a telephone quietly. I endured overhearing a 20 minute call between the chap sitting at the opposite desk and his umbrella company – I know what his weekly shopping bill is, his weekly rent, credit card spending and his date of birth…and that’s what I can recall without thinking. I was trying to work whilst this conversation took place – however since it was so close and so loud, I was very much distracted. This was just one such distraction that caught up with me today – I know that I’m not alone – blocking out the periphery noise whilst you’re trying to work isn’t easy.

The couple of times a hour that I might want to check-in with my peers, find out what they’re up to, perhaps ask them a taxing work-related question, in some organisations I’m denied that privilege. Compare the level of conversation and usefulness of Twitter to the average office-based morning chatter, it soon becomes clear that employee productivity is thwarted by in-person social networking. Of course, I’m not saying that there is little value provided by in-person conversations, far from it. What I’m saying is the amount of “noise” generated overall isn’t good for productivity, yet little is ever done to address the lost time, the distraction, the interruptions and the stress that such scenarios can create. Instead, the more focused avenues, such as Twitter, are blocked.

In a nutshell
The content that I get from Twitter is far more tuned towards the work I do. Blanket bans are often the result of the few spoiling a good thing for the many.

Next time on Murphy’s Rant
Printing on both sides of the paper, an environmentalists dream or just a source of frustration?

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