To illustrate the contrasting nature of content on the internet, this week I’ve noticed two stories, 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, but after more than 30 years 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, or ‘pPod’, an interactive service experiment and guide by media company Nykris. It is described 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 to my computer by my RSS Newzcrawler over any 24-hour period, resisting the urge to waste business time reading strange stories is a struggle.
This takes me back to my time as managing director of a much larger business, when I worried like a postmodern version of Ebenezer Scrooge about how much employee time was being lost over the course of the working day as a result of cigarette breaks, mobile phone calls, endless e-mails and random web-browsing.
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 of technology 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. I speculated that very few, if any, businesses have a figure to describe this problem that they can add to their total cost of ownership when working out the IT-related return on investment.
Many companies have "acceptable use" policies when it comes to employee use of the internet, but very few, in my experience, proactively enforce such policies unless unacceptable content is involved. Often this is as a reluctant last resort because of the fear of employee tribunals, as in one recent case where a well-known bank was defeated in court because it had failed to properly define "misuse" in its acceptable use policy.
Where 20 years ago 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 on my travels I walk into different offices 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 the psychologists are now using to describe a problem shared between my digitally-obsessive nine-year-old daughter and the many PDA-wielding corporate executives I know. You’ll forgive me if, at this point, I fire-up Windows Media Player, play the video of ‘Lola’s Song’ from the EMI website and stop for a fag.
Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.
Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security.
For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services visit www.zentelligence.com
This was first published in July 2004