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workpoop November 13, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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Sometimes, other blogs can say things far more eloquently than you (or, in this case, I) can. Such as this post on BoingBoing:

How much do you get paid to poop? That’s the question asked by Workpoop.com, a Web site that will, helpfully, time your restroom breaks and then calculate how much money you make while on the toilet using that time, the number of times you go per week and your hourly salary. I’m torn between three feelings here: First, a childish glee; Second, a childish disappointment that I can’t really participate, what with not having an hourly salary; and Third, the creeping sensation that, somewhere, somebody’s boss is using this to shorten their break times.

Regrettably, that third one is very, very likely.

I’ll be the first to admit that I do take some advantage of my company’s “hands-off” policy on work bathroom breaks. It’s not that I go in there to intentionally waste time, but hey, I have an iPhone and it comes with me everywhere I go. I go into the bathroom to poop, sure… but then I get sidetracked with e-mails or instant messages or casual games or even an idea for a CorporateSpeak blog entry that I start composing in the Notes app.

Speaking of iPhones, how long do you think before WorkPoop has an iPhone app where you can keep track of your time spent in the bathroom, how much company money you’ve spent dumping, and so on… and, best of all, how much have you spent versus others in the country or the world? I’d certainly like to know, and it would give me one more thing to waste time on while sitting in the bathroom.

Oh, and speaking of dumps and work, this gave me a little chuckle when I found it this week. I would totally do it, too.


ways to avoid work November 11, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Economic Downturn, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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Sometimes I wonder what kind of office Scott Adams used to work in; the people there must have been really forward-thinking in their cubicle insanity, given how accurate nearly every one of his strips is.

Let’s examine the points made by Dilbert here:

Ten Minutes of Explanation. This one is my personal favorite when it comes to doing things I don’t want to do. I’ll often find ways to foist a task back onto the person requesting it by saying I need more information or I don’t have time or my computer is updating. Anything to avoid actually doing a distasteful task, even if it’s a quick one. Yesterday, for example, I had to build a test page on one of our websites. It’s drudgery, it’s annoying to do, and if even one step is missed the entire thing has to be started over. If I do it right, it takes 20 minutes.

I put it off for almost four hours. The person I was doing it for totally accepted my BS explanation.

Incompetence. I’ve always been good at this one. When I worked for an office supply store, one of my tasks was cleaning the floor. I have never, ever been any good at floor-related cleaning tasks (except mopping; I’m good at mopping). Vacuuming the carpet in my area was a nightmare, and I was often asked to vacuum the carpeting in the furniture area as well. My coworkers eventually figured out that I was no good at it, but when I worked in the copy center, I was the only one who could do the job. I actually almost got written up because my vacuuming was so bad.

Company Policy. Whenever I didn’t want to do something before the reorg, I would simply say it was company policy for me not to do it. Most notably when artists and photographers were supposed to write their own copy. I could do it faster, and I could do it better, but it was technically their job to do it. (Still is, I suppose.) The whole point of it was to get them to be better at their jobs by getting more practice, but they just did it half-assed and it became my job to fix it so my work didn’t look crappy. Company policy always comes back to bite you in the ass.

Forgetfulness. I keep a list of everything I have to do. I actually write it on paper. I tried putting it in Outlook, but that was a failure; I never felt like I accomplished anything. Nowadays, with e-mail being the primary form of requesting people to do things, it’s easy to simply say “your e-mail got lost” or “I deleted it by accident” or “it’s in my inbox but I missed it between these other tasks”. You can still forget things; it just takes more work.

Falsehood. This is the one that always made me feel bad when I used it. I only ever used it sparingly, and really only when I was pissed off at a co-worker or customer. The perk of doing the kinds of jobs I do is that, for the most part, people don’t actually know what I’m capable of. I can lie about my time, my skills, software I use, my workload, whatever. I usually get the job done, but a carefully applied lie is a great way to buy some time.

Which of these is the one you use the most?

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another post about poop and work October 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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Yes, that’s right, it’s another post about poop and work. This has been on my mind lately because my stomach has been giving me hell and I’ve been… um… indisposed at work far more often than I probably should be. At least I don’t have to account for my bathroom breaks. Although, funny story: a few Fridays ago I went to the bathroom at 5:50 without my ID and at 6:05 when I tried to go back to my desk I was locked out of my own floor. Fortunately someone else was coming along and she let me in.

I also alluded to the fact that, once upon a time, that my ex-boss walked into the bathroom, realized it was me in the stall, and struck up a conversation. I think that was probably a little more disturbing than this:

I sneak into my workplace bathroom everyday to play some PSP. After 6 months of playing at the same time, I hear a voice comin’ from the toilet next to mine saying: so… watcha playin? wanna go wifi? It’s been 5 days and the company’s CEO and I play everyday at 3pm!

I’m guessing this guy works at a design firm or some sort of art-related job, or somewhere with a very small group of very eclectic people. I just can’t see any CEO, or even any regular manager, where I’ve ever worked actually doing this. Except maybe myself, when I was a manager, but in those bathrooms the lights shut off after ten minutes unless someone triggered the motion sensors, so on the plus side you knew how long you had.

This one, however, is a little more likely:

I just talked to a CEO of a Fortune 500 company while pooping. I LOVE being self employed.

My friend Park isn’t self-employed, but he works at home 90 percent of the time. He’s a programmer who designs billing systems for web commerce. You’ve probably seen his work while surreptitiously entering your credit card information into a website that promises you access to college-age women performing intimate activities for your enjoyment. Anyway, Park talks to everyone while he’s at home — his boss, his co-workers, his clients, whoever he has to. I don’t think he’s talked to a Fortune 500 CEO, but it’s certainly possible that people who work at home as much as Park does have at least talked to some pretty powerful people while pooping.

The closest I ever got was taking a call from a recruiter while pooping. I’m pretty sure he had no idea.

Why did I write this post? Besides to talk about poop a lot? Basically to say this: stories like the ones above are the exception, not the rule. For the most part, pooping should be done privately. The only person you should tell is your poop friend.

What, you don’t have one? Make one immediately.


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bored through no fault of your own October 16, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Experiences, Wasting Time.
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cc-licensed photo by Jason Scragz

cc-licensed photo by Jason Scragz

In the past I’ve talked about how, when you’re bored at work, you need to find something to do to make it look like you’re working. Well, for the past… oh, week or so… I haven’t really had much to do.

And it sucks.

I haven’t been blogging the entire time; I do most of my writing for CorporateSpeak on break or at home these days. But at least writing in a Notepad window on my computer screen looks like I’m doing something useful.

(Now that I think about it… if I was writing this in Dreamweaver, would it look even more like work? Probably not, because the text wouldn’t change colors often enough. But it was a good idea, right?)

I’ve moved past jobs that are full of boredom and drudgery. I spent my time in retail and in data management. As a web developer and ostensible programmer, I should be able to do more interesting things to further the cause of my company. And when it’s busy, I certainly do — and I get noticed for it these days, which is really nice. But we’re in a slow period right now for my department.

And slow periods mean little or nothing to do.

I swear I’ve done everything I can to look like I’m working: I’ve done some coding for coding’s sake; I’ve read my instructional manuals; I’ve done “research” via RSS feeds; I’ve even gone so far as to over-document things in our system just to give myself something to do and to make me feel like I’m working.

But there’s nothing happening. In the past 48 hours, I’ve received five requests, and none of them were the kind that took me more than an hour to complete. Two of them were the kind where I could immediately send back an e-mail to answer a question and then mark them as done.

I guess what I’m getting at here is this: what do you do if you’re caught out doing nothing when there’s nothing to do? How do you explain to your boss that all the requests are fulfilled, that there’s nothing new to be added to any projects, that everything’s running smoothly, and that it only looks like you’re sitting here doing nothing?

You really don’t.

Look, it’s getting so bad that I’m dragging my heels on a project with a time budget of one month (I’m one week in). I could easily finish it in two weeks if I sent enough e-mails to the clients involved, but if I get it done too fast, then where will I be?

Bored again.

My old boss cautioned me against showing that I was quick and efficient in my work. I could show him, but I should manage expectations both inside and outside the company so I wouldn’t be asked to do things at a pace that would burn me out. I guess I understand that, but at this point I think I’d actually enjoy having too much work to do.

Of course, everything around here happens in the last hour of the work week — 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Last Friday afternoon, five requests all came in at the same time and two of them were the ones that I needed to set processes for and then wait for the next quarter-hour so they’d run. It was an awful lot of hurry-up-and-wait but at least it was work.

I’m not going to my boss to say I need more work. That’s just stupid, and it makes me look bad. But between you, me, and the internet… someone please sell something complicated to a big client. I need something to do for the rest of the day.

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proper care and feeding of online friends October 15, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Wasting Time.
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If you’re anything like me, there’s one person you talk to pretty much all day at work via some sort of electronic communication system. If your office disallows IMs, it might be on the Gmail/GTalk web interface, or even via texting, but you do it. Talking to a friend helps keep you sane and it gives you a place to send funny links you stumble over in your daily goofing-off.

cc-licensed photo by Kennedy Garrett

cc-licensed photo by Kennedy Garrett

But what happens when that person goes on vacation?

Last Thursday, my friend Loco, who is the beneficiary of all of my links, random thoughts, complaints, and moments of zen, told me he was taking a long weekend off — Friday through Monday. When you go on vacation from work, you always draft e-mails to people who are going to fill in for you. Well, Loco CC’d me on this e-mail:

TO: Aaron Larson
FR: Loco Moci
CC: That Guy
SUBJ: Proper Care and Feeding of Online Friends


As I will be out of the office tomorrow and Monday, I am delegating you to fill in for me as That Guy’s designated online friend. Please feel free to send him any links that interest you, being careful to note their SFW or NSFW status.

I also recommend you prepare stock responses to his daily spate of complaints about boredom, exhaustion, daily drudgery, and relationship woes.

Thanks in advance for your help. Please call me at 310-555-5626 if anything comes up that you need my input on.

Loco Moci
PHP Developer
SmallCompany Enterprises

Needless to say, all of us had a good laugh. But it does bring up an important set of rules: the care and feeding of your online friends. To wit:

  1. Be sure to warn your online buddy of your absences. Your sudden disappearance may shock and depress him/her, and you will likely receive e-mails and/or text messages becoming increasingly frantic in nature.
  2. Provide alternate means of entertainment. Recommendations include a witty friend, a laser pointer, or a TotalFark subscription.
  3. Extend a helping hand. Online buddies generally share one or more career aspects — for example, computer programmers, accountants, or administrative assistants. Tell your online buddy that you will be available in case of emergencies, especially if you are in the process of helping him/her with a particularly knotty problem.
  4. Remember your substitute buddy may not have the same comfort level as you. One man’s nipple slip is another man’s affront to humanity — or, worse, it could land both you and your substitute buddy in a sexual harassment/appropriateness class, courtesy of HR.
  5. Stay in contact. Drop your online buddy a quick e-mail just to see what’s up. It’s very reassuring.

If these rules are not followed carefully, your online buddy may experience unacceptable levels of productivity.

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looking like you’re working even when you’re not October 9, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Wasting Time.
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As part of the recent reorganization at CorporateSpeak, I’ve been moved to a department that’s a bit more high-profile, which means I’d like to avoid looking like I’m not working when I’m not working.

Wide-Awake-Glasses_9045FD12It’s not easy.

Some suggestions:

  1. Read a book. If your job involves you having to learn new programs or programming languages, odds are good you’ve got at least one book about said program or language. As a coder, I have books on JavaScript, Flash, PHP, MySQL, CSS, Perl, and Actionscript. Right now I’m about 70 percent through the JavaScript book; it’s boring, to be sure, and the one I have is woefully outdated (it was a gift), but it looks like I’m learning.
  2. Apply your knowledge. The stuff you read about in item 1 is ripe for you to play with. Write a little app. Do some coding. Make a pretty Flash animation to test your Actionscript knowledge out. And in the end you’re only helping yourself.
  3. Organize your stuff. You can only do this maybe once a week, and it involves being messy, but take an hour to organize your e-mail, file your messages, put old files into the proper folders in your desk or on your PC, do whatever you need to do to clean up. Maybe even redo your post-it notes to make them easier to read.
  4. Research. This one’s probably my favorite. Find some RSS feeds that are relevant to what you do, put them in a folder in your RSS reader of choice (I prefer Google Reader, but you may like something else; I do, however, recommend using a web app over a desktop app), and when you have perceived down-time start reading. You can call it research, and you can do it with a smile.
  5. Volunteer. If all else fails, volunteer for more work. This, however, can backfire because your boss or colleagues may think you don’t have enough to do.

Here’s some websites that might be useful for your “research” folder:

  • BoingBoing and BoingBoing Gadgets — technology, weird stuff, and cool things you can’t afford.
  • CNN — for the news, obviously. You may also want to drop in tech feeds from other news sites, but mostly you’re going to get AP rewrites.
  • Consumerist — technology and money.
  • Digital Trends — technology and computing.
  • Facebook and Twitter — using GTweet, you can get your tweets in your RSS feed, and it’s possible to figure out your Facebook feed as well.
  • Futurismic — technology and futuristic stuff.
  • Giveaway of the Day — you may find some useful apps here, and they’re free.
  • Gizmodo — technology.
  • Lifehacker — useful apps and techniques.
  • Smashing Magazine — design.
  • The Daily WTF — coding and tech-sector stories.
  • Word of the Day — from your favorite dictionary site, or even Urban Dictionary.

And one more suggestion: if you like My Life is Average, Texts from Last Night, FML, or similar, their RSS feeds are pretty clean and you can work them into the other feeds for an occasional laugh.

I’d love to see what you’re reading when you’re trying to kill time — drop me links in the comments — or what else you can think of for me to do. Because sometimes I get really bored.

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a little goofing off is good for productivity October 8, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Observations, Seen Elsewhere, Unsociable Networking, Wasting Time.
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Don’t be so quick to crack down on people who use the internet to goof off at work:

A new study from the University of Melbourne in Australia apparently flies in the face of conventional wisdom—and many employers’ common sense. According to the study, workers who are allowed to use the Internet for personal reasons during the workday are actually nine percent more productive than workers who don’t. The reason? Perhaps surfing the Internet for pleasure or personal reasons increases worker’s concentration levels or eases anxiety about other parts of their lives, enabling them to concentrate more on their work.

Checking Facebook: the new smoke break at work. (CC-licensed photo by MarsHillOnline)

Checking Facebook: the new smoke break at work. (CC-licensed photo by MarsHillOnline)

Admittedly, in the U.S. we don’t like hearing that people in other countries, such as Australia, have come up with ways to make employees happy (I still think mandatory mid-day exercise, as has happened in Japan, is a great idea), but this makes total sense to me.

Think about it: if you aren’t automatically penalized for spending a few minutes checking Facebook or writing an e-mail to your mom, you’re probably more likely to do only a few personal things before getting back to work. But if it’s absolutely forbidden to even log into your Gmail or pull up I Can Haz Cheezburger, employees are more likely to either do it anyway and for longer or spend that time they’d spend on TMZ complaining to their peers about how much it sucks that they can’t go onto TMZ for five minutes.

The IT policy in my new department is a little stricter than the old one — for example, I know for a fact that they monitor the ports AIM and Yahoo Messenger go out on — but I still have the freedom to check Facebook every now and then, tweet or retweet, and see whose life is normal today. I get my work done, I get it done right, and I get it done on time.

Obviously people will occasionally abuse the policy, but in my experience as a manager I’ve found that it’s better to be a little permissive and deal with the fallout than to be completely draconian and have to penalize people for posting a status update when someone in the office says something totally inappropriate and you just had to tell someone.

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you must work now September 22, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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A while back I wrote about new moms and how difficult it is to get back into the swing of things at work because of all the mom stuff they have to do. Well, I apparently didn’t broaden my scope far enough because it’s so easy to avoid work these days that you don’t even have to try.

I certainly don’t.

pockets of time September 2, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Meeting Minutes, Wasting Time.
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Yesterday I had a meeting scheduled to start at 2:00. I finished a small project at 1:45.

And there was nothing else on my list that was worth starting, editing, or continuing for 15 minutes before I had to go to the meeting.

I was reminded of this passage from “Still Around the Morning After”*:

“Kerry, is 8:30 all right?” Susan called from the living room.

“They don’t have anything earlier?”


“That’s fine, then,” Kerry said. It meant they had about half an hour before they had to leave. Late reservations made strange little pockets of time: even if there were things she needed to be doing, if there was half an hour until she needed to leave, there was suddenly half an hour with nothing to do. She had bills to pay, journals to read. They could figure out where to put that rug that Susan had transplanted from her house. Or they could have sex. It was funny to have sex on the list of options, just another thing on the list of things to do with her time, even if usually it was by far the most attractive thing on that list.

Meetings that are about to start, or that start very late in the day, or that start half an hour after your day begins, or half an hour after lunch — basically any meeting that starts within half an hour of another planned event — tend to kill a chunk of your day that you could otherwise use productively.

It’s like this post about the Paul Graham article that discussed manager scheduling versus maker scheduling — managers can do meetings whenever they want, because they only exist to approve, disapprove, mete out punishment, and attend meetings. Those of us who design, develop, and create aren’t as good at structuring our days around the meeting schedules of others. When we’re in the zone, we’re in the zone — we don’t want to stop for anything. Conversely, when we’re not in a creative mood, we find other projects to work on or administrivia to… um… administrate? Administrivate?


Yesterday, my task list was pretty light. I had almost nothing to do that could be done in the time available. So I checked Facebook. I checked my e-mail. I blogged. I sat at my desk and waited.

And waited.

Those 15 minutes took forever to pass. Possibly even longer (subjectively) than the meeting.

It’s those little pockets of time…

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* The story contains explicit sex, and is fanfiction. Read at your own risk. And don’t judge me. It’s a good story.

You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve wanted to work that passage into a blog entry.

sit around and do nothing September 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Management, Pictures, Seen Elsewhere, Wasting Time.
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The bigger your office, the likelier this will be:


Everything I do has to get past the Two-Year-Old, the Marketing Manager, and often the Big Boss as well. Good luck pinning the three of them down in a single day.