Google be Dammed

I cannot count the hours I have spent fossicking around in obscure corners of the Net looking for that elusive piece of information, and it’s sometimes even the one I started out searching for. Usually in a crisis or with a customer looking over my shoulder pointing out how he would do it better.

A request from a customer – “Do think the Widget Mk 3 with the Oozelum software is going to revolutionize the honey-bee market” usually leads to sleepless hours scouring the Net for any references to Widgets, Oozelum and bees. I’ve charged off down many a blind alley.

After a short time, the sleepless hours are spent nowhere near Widgets or Oozelums or Bees, if you remember the original purpose of your search at all. You notice a Google reference to a far more interesting article in the Isle of Arran Shoemakers Gazette on finding an Assyrian Widget in an archaeological dig in Yucatan.

Reading the article leads to a reference on the academic furore around theories on how an Assyrian artefact could have made it to the New World before Columbus, and whether it is an Assyrian artefact anyway. Your next search is for the construction of papyrus boats that could possibly make it across the Atlantic.

I have a full set of instructions on how to build a scale model of a medieval Halifax guillotine. It can be scaled up to full-size should the need arise, probably the next time I visit the Bank Manager.

That is where the real hours are spent, and why I have much less hair nowadays.

I have torn my hair out with the time my technicians spend looking for drivers and the other bits of software needed to keep the ship going. Or looking on eBay for a part for their ’68 Cutlass. Or downloading music and videos. Some even including people with their clothes on.

Try and stop them, fat chance. They will probably spend more time trying to get around the restrictions than doing the work they are actually paid to do.

As a technician, I have spent far too much time, usually in the hours that should be spent with my family, searching for the exact piece of driver software to fix up a bit of equipment that Noah probably used as part of the GPS system in the Ark. More likely chasing down the definitive article on how the Holy Grail has been found in an Edinburgh fish and chip shop.

What do you do ? Does it matter ?

As an individual, does it really matter ? Probably not. That the budgie is now hanging upside down off the perch due to hunger is probably not a major issue in your life as you finally find the truth about Area 51. That you now look and smell like Robinson Crusoe six months into his isolation and are suffering from pressure sores on the bum probably doesn’t matter either. Go for it, become the world’s greatest authority, or at least your neighbourhood’s, on Babylon 5.

As a family man, yes it does matter. Do you really want your children and significant other hitting you around a handy orifice with a frying pan to gain your attention. They don’t understand your obsession with the Galapagos deep water reef turtle, and would much rather you replaced the light bulb in the bathroom, or took them to see Transformers IV at the local IMAX.

As a business owner, it should concern you deeply. The productivity of your staff is severely diluted as they slake their obsessions, and your bandwidth is burned up as they download an Uncut Director’s Version that proves that Glitter was not the worst movie ever made. Worst of all your users sit with broken equipment as your staff search the job boards looking for a company with a faster and bigger Internet feed. And free doughnuts.

As a business owner, you discover that your staff are saving their money by reading at least one daily paper online before starting work, that they are probably breaking the law by downloading copyright or even criminal material. You consider Facebook a swearword.

What you need to do is FOCUS and GET A GRIP.

As an individual, have a shower, wash your hair and change your underwear, particularly before receiving visitors. Tidying up the mouldy coffee cups and empty pizza boxes is probably also a good idea.

In the family, set aside times to be the parent and partner, and to do family stuff. It’s fun.

As a business owner, manager, advisor, IT professional, take control. If necessary cut off the Internet except for those that need it to do their job, and provide it for the others only outside work hours. Use monitoring software to see who is visiting what website and downloading what files. You may need to demonstrate that you had attempted to stop an individual downloading stuff that was unlawful or against company policy. The ability to do that kept a pal of mine out of jail. Update company policy to ensure that users are aware of the consequences of misuse.

Structure your IT staff pay package to include a large element related to productivity. Your CRM system should allow you to do this, even if it is only a paper system that allocates jobs and records the start and finish times. Money and the potential lack of it will focus the mind wonderfully.

If you do that, you should have more time to seek the Holy Grail.

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