Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Naked CIO surprisingly low-tech

I'm busy getting ready for the ISMIR deadline, but it was extended so I can take a few minutes to write. Yesterday, the Naked CIO posted an anti-social networking column. To his credit, he says that he likes increased social connectivity; however, this could be similar to when a Creationist says they are not religious and then spend the next few paragraphs arguing for the existance of a designer. The Naked CIO's main problem is how social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, will impact the work place (Note: I'm on Twitter now). Simple: people will learn how to use the technology.

I have a few problems with some specific arguments he makes. He starts by stating that email and instant messenging have blurred the line between formal communication between discussions on work-related matters and regular social interaction. One problem with this argument is his hidden premise that formality is more productive and healthy to the work environment. In reality, there are plenty of reasons to believe this is not true. Email, local wikis, and instant messenging have allowed for a lot of wasteful formal structures to be eliminated. It is no longer necessary to have a formal board meeting on every topic. I'm reminded of my first job out of college as a great example. The organizer started the meeting by saying that we had a meeting next month to plan a project and he wanted to get together to plan for the meeting. I'm not kidding. After 5 minutes I got up and left. He sent someone after to me when I didn't return and asked what I was doing. I had set up a project mailing list with an archive. Second, it is not fair to say that email and other technologies are the reason for decreased formality. Formality may have degraded for the simple reason that it is not necessary for increased productivity and can even become a negative by wasting time and making people remain silent because it would be rude to speak. As an example, overall attire has progressively moved from a coat and tie environment to khakis and polo shirts as the social norm. Why? Comfort.

He then goes through some scenarios that he feels may impact businesses. Here are the problems and my solutions:

1) Is a tweet from a company executive an official statement? Response: Depends. It's called a disclaimer. Columnists use this all the time so that the media outlet is not held responsible for opinion.

2) What if a friend mentions the possibility of layoffs on a social networking site and that negatively impacts the company, even if there are no layoffs coming? Response: Yes, new technologies make our jobs easier, even the job of being stupid. Social networking sites make it easier for young women to become targets of pediophiles, but it does not change the problem that teenagers are irresponsible and nieve. Most social networking sites have an option to send a private message versus posting to the known universe. The non-digital anology would be something like this: imagine you are sitting at a coffee shop near Wall Street with a friend. You are talking about potential layoffs with your company and you know this is sensitive information. You can either whisper it quitely or yell at him through a bullhorn. Yes, there might be an occasional idiot that unknowningly betrays his company, but there are idiots everywhere. We should not stop progressing as a culture because idiots cannot take care of themselves.

3) How do we resolve the issue of privacy when people can "Google" one another. Is it right for a company to do this type of background check on a potential employee? Reply: Is it right for a potential employee to lie or withhold information that may negatively impact his ability to work? Why should companies assume that everyone who applies for a job is trustworthy? People lie on resumes. People lie in interviews. Here's an example: an interviewer asks a candidate "What's your biggest weakness?" The candidate pauses, glances to the side, and replies, "Probably that I work to hard." Seriously? That's your weakness? The Naked CIO uses his brother as an example and questions what would happen if a company saw that his brother is a musician. Well, if he tours a lot and will miss work, then I fault your brother for withholding that information. The company should know if he's going to be missing work to tour or at least, be tired all day because he's playing music at a local club until 2 AM. Companies should know if you have another job. Heck, it's probably illegal not to tell them if you have to sign a disclosure agreement and your other job or hobby is in a related area. If your brother is an amature and maybe only has a couple gigs a month, your company will not care. Hell, it's better than what 90% of men do, which is sit on the couch and drink beer while watching football.

I'll never understand these nostalogic "those kids today" thoughts. Society evolves as technology evolves. You either learn to use it or end up complaining about the good ole' days.

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