The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pay Attention! 

This sort of behavior is all too common where I work:

But one of the most interesting talks came from a former Apple and Microsoft executive named Linda Stone. Her emphasis was less economic than social. It was a plea to consider an epidemic she identified as continuous partial attention.

She couldn't have picked a more perfect audience. During the presentations the faces of at least half the crowd were lit with the spooky reflection of the laptops open before them. Those without computers would periodically bow their heads to the palmtop shrine of the BlackBerry. Every speaker was competing with the distractions of e-mail, instant messaging, Web surfing, online bill paying, blogging and an Internet chat 'back channel' where conferencees supplied snarky commentary on the speakers. Stone nailed the behavior so precisely that some audience members actually raised their faces and started listening intently.

Where I work, the majority of my coworkers have laptops. I have a desktop, with dual monitors. I can still remember the first time I went into a meeting when I started at my current client. I walked in with my pad and pen, and everyone around me had their laptops open, checking email and instant messaging people. My manager looked at me and said, "You don't have a laptop? I'll put in a request right away for one." She was shocked when I told her I didn't want one.

You see, I'm also the only one who ever actually remembers things that were decided in meetings, and actually pays attention to what is being said. I do take written notes, but mostly I listen. I'm often one of the only people who consistently contributes as well. It's also nice to go into a meeting and not be constantly bothered by other people who aren't in the meeting asking me questions, or just wanting to talk via instant messenger.

I also like being able to speak to people who don't have their laptops open. It's nice to be able to make eye contact, or even just see someone's face so you can read their body language to see if they really get what you're saying. It's also just incredibly rude to be speaking in a meeting, and see someone typing away on their laptop, knowing that they're not typing up notes, but are answering emails instead.

If I take my personal laptop into a coffee shop on the weekend to do some work, I usually go to Starbucks where they don't have free WiFi. Why? Because I don't want to be tempted to check my email, or log into instant messenger. If someone really needs to get a hold of me, I have my cell. But for several years I didn't even have one of those.

I guess you could call me one of those strange anti-technology technology types. I generally wait until I see the real benefit behind something before I buy it. I also know that there are some things that technology just can't replace... like eye contact, and a nice smile.

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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.


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