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A Bad Case of the DDs

To illustrate the contrasting nature of content on the Internet, this week, I’ve noticed two stories, - see further below - the first being the release by NASA, of the digitised photographs from the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. The space agency does move a little slowly at times, thirty years but at long last, this remarkable archive is now available to anyone over the Internet.

Bringing us back to the present with a jolt, is the iPod London Toilet Guide, ‘pPod’, an interactive service experiment and guide by media company Nykris; what it describes as “A combination of text, spoken word audio, and music to deliver a guide to London’s public loos – truly a convenience for iPod users on the move!”

Neither one of these stories may capture your immediate interest, unless like me, you drink too much coffee but I find, that with so many unusual headlines being fed by my RSS Newzcrawler, to my computer over any twenty-four hour period, resisting the urge to waste business time reading strange stories is a struggle and this takes me back to my time as Managing Director of a much larger business, worrying, like a post-modern version of Ebenezer Scrooge, over how much employee time was being lost between cigarette breaks, mobile phone calls, endless email and random Web-browsing over the course of any working day.

My own guess, without embarking on any formal time and motion studies, was that as much as 20% of the company’s time was lost on any weekday thanks to the introduction technology of that was intended to make the business more productive; smoking breaks excluded. At the time, I calculated that the downside cost had to be close to £100,000 a year in lost productivity among the sales team and I speculated that very few, if any businesses have a figure that describes this problem that they add to their total costs of ownership when working out any IT-related return on investment.

Many companies today have ‘Acceptable Use’ policies when it comes to employee use of the Internet but very few, in my experience, will proactively enforce such policies unless ‘unacceptable’ content is involved and then this can often be a reluctant last resort because of the fear of employee tribunals, as with in one recent case where a well-known bank was defeated in court because it had failed to properly define its scoring of ‘misuse’ in its acceptable use policy.

Where once, twenty years ago with the IBM Personal Computer and Lotus 1-2-3 technology was a measurable enabler, a force multiplier in the workplace, I worry that today, it’s rapidly becoming a fuzzy entertainment medium which is actually driving down productivity and efficiency. How one uses any tool at work is very much a consequence of self-discipline and personal responsibility but when I walk into different offices in my travels and I see, even in an open plan office, people browsing the Web quite openly I wonder if as a society, we have become so used to the presence of immediate if not constant digital entertainment, that the ability to concentrate on a task for any length of time without distraction is becoming a lost art. Digital attention deficit disorder is the term that the psychologists are now using to describe a problem shared between my digitally-obsessive nine-year old daughter and many PDA-wielding corporate executives I know and you’ll forgive me if, at this point, I fire-up Windows Media Player and play the ‘Lola’s Song’ video from the EMI Website while I stop for a fag!


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