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November 22, 2005

Comments

zachary j. gamedesigner

http://dilbert.com/comics/dilbert/archive/dilbert-20051114.html
I realize that I've probably lost any credibility I may have had by linking
to a dilbert article, however, I feel that the point is appropriate:
If you attempt to regulate usage you're basically calling your coworkers or employees thieves.

This is the kind of corporate productivity bullshit I'm lucky to avoid where I work, and because of that I work harder and longer hours. I'm treated like a human, so I'm willing (and more able due to lower stress) to work longer hours.

This is especially lucky as I work in game QA, usually QA gets treated like dirt from day one.

If you have employees who abuse the internet, then you most likely have a more serious problem that either firing is the only answer for (your management must be perfect then) or you need to adjust your management. Rarely is the appropriate answer to restrict or cut back.

Of course I might be wrong, I've just worked at places that implemented one of about four different schemes for internet time-thief management. Which were: no restrictions, ban various activities, paranoia (we're not going to be specific but you will recieve occasional veiled threats about your job stability if we feel for some reason you've gone overboard), and no-internet.

I suspect that developers and artists get treated better in general than QA, so obviously my experience might not translate.

Hugh "Nomad" Hancock

At Strange Company, which you may have guessed is not exactly a hothouse of corporate thinking, the only app I've ever found it necessary to outright ban is IM. Not everyone had a problem with it, but for some people with active social lives, it was going off every other second - and the problem with IM compared to websurfing is that it's an active interruption which (and I realise this may be a uniquely British problem) some people are just too polite to ignore.

These days we've gone back to having it available, but I've got a firm rule that the only contacts StrangeCo IM can have on them are work-related.

(BTW, you'll be pleased to hear that the bug-tracking software you recommended is working absolute marvels in terms of letting the team get on with fixing bugs whilst I'm busy panicing about something else. We should probably "meet" over IM - funnily enough - for a follow-up meeting at some point, if that would be cool.)

Hugh "Nomad" Hancock

At Strange Company, which you may have guessed is not exactly a hothouse of corporate thinking, the only app I've ever found it necessary to outright ban is IM. Not everyone had a problem with it, but for some people with active social lives, it was going off every other second - and the problem with IM compared to websurfing is that it's an active interruption which (and I realise this may be a uniquely British problem) some people are just too polite to ignore.

These days we've gone back to having it available, but I've got a firm rule that the only contacts StrangeCo IM can have on them are work-related.

(BTW, you'll be pleased to hear that the bug-tracking software you recommended is working absolute marvels in terms of letting the team get on with fixing bugs whilst I'm busy panicing about something else. We should probably "meet" over IM - funnily enough - for a follow-up meeting at some point, if that would be cool.)

Greggman

I'm mixed on that.

First off, your idea an MVP program might backfire. When I had my own company the usage of the net was one of those exponential graphs. One guy used the net a 1000x more than everyone else, the next guy was like 400x more, the next 20x more, then 10x more, 4x more. etc.

It turned out the most productive guy at the company was the #2 most active internet surfer as well. So, I'm not sure an MVP thing is going to help.

At the same time, to the idea that people would find a way to be non-productive anyway I disagree with. The issue is not productive people vs non-productive people. It's an office full of distractions vs one that's not full of distractions. The net is probably the first true thing that is both nearly required (at least for some jobs) and also a huge dirstraction. I don't see most employees with stacks of casual reading books or a VCR/DVD player and a ton of DVDs or a TV watching movies or CNN or anything else. We know except in rare cases these are 100% distractions.

The net though is both a distraction and a resource so it's hard to ban it since I need access to search for solutions (today I downloaded the most recent version of an API as well as looked up several CSS and Javascript issues). At the same time it is as much or more of a distraction than a TV on your desk would have been 20 years ago, something no company would have ever allowed. I do or did use it as a distraction too often in the past. I've tried to get myself to save the browsing for home and so far it's been mostly working. When I had MSN on I turned off alerts. I have email alerts off as well so I only check it 2 or 3 times a day.

My suggestion for getting others to not browser too much is to hold them to their schedule. If they aren't getting stuff done on time then there needs to be discussion as to why. Is the work harder than expected? Are they waiting on someone? Are they wasting too much time on something else? I don't think outright banning the net is going to work.

I've had the opposite problem as well though. FTP doesn't work through our firewall so trying to get a new copy of RedHat or download SDK stuff from NVidia ends up taking way too much time.

I also agree with your idea about removing the bottlenecks. Any process that takes more than 20 seconds of wait time is inviting people to get distracted and into something else. Unfortunately it's hard to get companies to deal with this. For example there are two programmers on my team that have secretary class PCs on their desk. Their compile times take 4x-8x longer than my machine. The company though while logically they might see that that's bad, that it leads to lots of wasted time from waiting, even more because durning that wait they'll get distracted and waste even more time and not only will that wasted time eat into the schedule and end up costing the company more money in the end but it will also mean a worse product because they won't get as many iterations and they won't have as much time overall as the pressure to finish toward the end of the project will mean skipping stuff. And yet the company can't get over the hump of spending the **money** now for a new machine for those people. $1k t $3k for a new machine is a tangible amount of money. Some arbitrary increase in productivity is not so those programmers are stuck with slow machines :-(

Fran

What would Stephen R. Covey do?

Andrew McLennan

Sigh.

This again?

IM is a productivity tool - its main aim is communication. Strangely, its possible to turn it off when distractions are not wanted. Something responsible people do.

What makes responsible people? Happy people. That's the secret - happy people. People you treat with respect and care. Its not hard to grasp - its obvious. However, as soon as you start thinking about banning IM you might as well ban talking. If you want to be back at school - go right ahead. It'll do wonders for your productivity. All that quiet. All those unhappy festering thoughts.

As for the Net - is it stealing to relax for a few minutes in a creative industry? I don't see many crunching battery hen programmers/artists/designers doing inspirational things - and inspiration and new, valuable IP is what brings in the big bucks. So go ahead, ban inspiration. You might as well if people aren't talking.

Factory conditions belong...in a factory. If your development house is a process house and not a value creator - go ahead. You're only paying for factory behaviour after all.

Sigh.

Jeffool

I never really thought it difficult to balance work with pleasure when programming. (We all do it, to a degree.) As long as I was hitting my goals, I was happy. Though a pal of mine? His company had what I thought was an interesting way to handle IMing. They all used AIM in office, and used a work-only login. They were permitted to give the AIM name to anyone, but while working they were expected to stay in 'away' mode and only come out to respond to important messages or when they had 'free time'/were taking a break.

It's half-paranoia and half-trust. You know your boss can see how often you're talking to people just by looking on his buddylist, but if you're confident you're getting your work done, you won't care that he sees you IMing.

Though I believe that earlier this year AIM introducted the 'talk while away' feature which completely destroyed this plan. I'm not sure what they're doing now.

Pag

The folks at Relentless in the UK have an interesting middle-ground on this. They disconnect people's computer from the internet but a few stations are connected online. Anybody can go and surf online using these computers when he wants to -- that way there's no problem for research, getting email or even an occasional break -- but if somebody is always at the internet stations other people will start to notice. What I like about this solution is that it allows people to use the internet, but adds some social pressure to prevent people from overusing it.

Also, there are some IM protocols that work on LANs with no connection to the outside web. Using them is great in an office for 2 reasons: it's more secure because people from outside the company can't snoop on the conversations and it ensures that during work hours people chat only with people in the company.

Here's the adress of the article about Relentless (where they mention that they always hit their milestones with no overtime, thanks in part to their internet limitations): http://www.gamesindustry.biz/content_page.php?aid=12872

I've discussed it on my blog a few weeks ago: http://sacredcows.pagtech.com/

roger

Motivation is the key for productivity. When I feel motivated I start working, I disable IM clients or stay invisible and I surf just when I need some information essential. When I dont want to work, then I spend the whole day reading blogs, playing or watching movies.

jvalenzu

Professionals are responsible for motivating themselves.

Jurie Horneman

Does reading this at work count as procrastination? :P Totally agree about having at LEAST one person optimising workflow as a full-time job. It's the secret to success in game dev for medium to large teams IMO. You don't learn it until a project tanks because making a change to a level takes an hour. Damn hard to recruit for, too. And a wide-open market for open source solutions / consulting...

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