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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Seven Sins For Seven Virtues Part 3: Diligence vs. Sloth

A continuation of the Series Good vs. Evil: The Internet

Can you just see where this one is going to play to?

Writing school papers were always a burden to me. I would get the assignment and pretty much put it off to almost the last possible minute. There was always something better that I would rather do then to sit at my old 286 PC or Apple IIC and pound out a four page paper on any subject. Still, I had hopes of being a writer and that kind of procrastination is evidence as to why I am not one today. However, when I would sit down and begin to write, I could get in the zone and within a couple of hours, I had five to ten pages of my paper written. I could bullshit with the best of them but at times the gas tank would run dry and I'd find myself adding some margin space or extra words to fill up the page. But, I made sure I followed the advice of Dr. Meredith from Real Genius who said, "Always... no, no... never... forget to check your references" So, I kept musty old books and MLA style guides riding shotgun as I fluffed my paper. Then, during my junior year I had to perform a mighty task, an electrical outline. Simply put, our crazy Physics teacher had us do a huge paper on chapters from our Physics textbook. This was the same assignment that my brother had done when he took the class six years before. The teacher was so behind with the times that he used the same tests for years and made students covert all the metric units into English in order to take the test. So, when it came time for me to write my outline I figured if his tests hadn't changed maybe his electrical outline hadn't either. I asked my brother for his copy and I reproduced it on my computer. The teacher thought he was keeping us honest by marking every page with a pen so that we couldn't simply change the name and submit one he previously graded. All I did was follow the work of someone else and typed it out word for word. I got a B. He docked me because the printer ink was a little lighter than his liking. It was all worthwhile since I made a $100 selling it to another student the next year.

Now, I told you that story as a basis for how the Internet can help to blur the lines between diligence and Sloth. In 1991, the United States went to the Persian Gulf to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupancy. Gone were the days of going to the movies to see Moviola reports on the Allied efforts during WWII. Now, we could watch up to the minute reports on CNN. We could see grainy black and white POV footage of missiles as they flew through windows and exploded. News and information just became an instantaneous commodity. One the Internet would take to new extremes.

In the race to be first and grab the audience, the Internet has made it possible for news and information to be available 24/7. However, there are casualties in the war for information supremacy. Diligence has become one of those casualties. Newspapers and other media outlets want to be first and its hard to compete with the Internet for first place in the race to report. An example is something I mentioned in my last 7 for 7 post, the Sago mine disaster. While the the reports came in unchecked that all but one miner was alive, the news outlets scrambled to report the good news. What they didn't do was check their facts and wait to see if there was a mistake in the chain of information. It turned out that all but one died in the tragedy and the devastation to the families was second only to the confusion at how a mistake like that could have been allowed to happen. For that matter, how could it have made it half way around the world before it was caught?

Now, before you start throwing fits, I don't believe that the Internet suddenly became sentient and started telling everyone bad information. Anderson Cooper was right there and he got the word, too. But with the Internet as a player in the game, everyone wants to scoop everyone else and to beat the Internet means you have to be quick. Facts be damned. One hand washes the other. There's even been times where the legitimate, and I use that word loosely, have relied on the Internet as a source of information, only to discover it was a prank. In fact, now, there are times when I watch the news where stories or images are credited to websites, like or instead of actual reporters. Sometimes, a lackey with an itchy trigger finger and too much Red Bull has pushed the button prematurely on a story before the facts are all there. In an attempt to be the first to prey on the grief of the world, templates are even prepared for obituaries of prominent people and Joe Intern has accidentally left the door open. The interchangeable obituaries leave room for nasty errors like "Dick Cheney was the 'UK's favorite grandmother.' One quick edit could drop the grand and have been accurate. For the record, Elvis is still dead, but Abe Vigoda is very much alive.

The other side of the coin being Sloth. I'll have you know that I'm writing this post from work right now. Remember when I said I would rather find something better that sit and do a paper or any work. I've re watched movies, bad ones, more than once even though I have work to do. I am a professional procrastinator. There is nothing I can't do that the Internet can't help me to do in the act of avoiding work. Although, I do make an effort when I am on the clock. I only stray towards an open browser during lunch or when I'm waiting for my little SAP or Sharepoint window to load the next screen. Usually, it's checking alternate email accounts or reading news. Of course, my work has blocked most fun sites. Oh you name it and it's blocked, most radio station homepages, Facebook, myspace, Youtube, Lottery sites, and anything mp3 or streaming music related, and so on and so forth. I'm surprised eBay is still active as well as ESPN.

When I first started in Customer Service in 2001 I was on a team of four, who were responsible for all orders for the west coast. We handled maybe 35-40 calls on an average day. Since I was the new guy, I had to work most shifts from 11:30 am - 8:00 pm. This usually meant that around 6:30 pm the phone went silent and I was alone in the office with one or two credit analysts. Since the phone wasn't ringing I was surfing. Pogo,, iwin, CNN, eBay, everywhere. My usage probably made IT's head spin as I commandeered the bandwidth pipe and went nuts all to keep myself busy until my shift was over. As I gained tenure, my hours became more regular and the work load became more. My usage became less, still whenever there is a lull, I was out slacking around the net. Today, since most of my favorite sites are blocked, I have to wait until I'm home to do some fun stuff.

My wife asks me what the hell I'm doing. I say, "Getting a third of my $156.00 worth of money spent on cable." I play casino games, scrabble, and other little goofy aps on Facebook, check the job sites of various companies and catch up on email. If I have some time, I even try to finish up a few blog posts to build up my library so that I don't have to scramble at the last minute to keep up with my three a week commitment.

I am not much different than, well, anybody. I get up for coffee or to go empty out my recently ingested coffee and I see numerous screens. Doing a search of "Work Internet usage" in Google News returns a lot of results from Canada and the UK. The Internet has even been a part of a few lawsuits in employee termination cases. Diversions from work are a part of everyday life and the Internet, or more importantly those who create and market sites on the Internet, know it and use it to make billions of dollars a year. What would happen if it all just went away? No more penguin tossing or flying a paper airplane through the office. Go read Richard Clarke's Breakpoint. Of course, his novel is more about terrorism and government networks, but just think of it in terms of slacking. First there would be complete and utter chaos followed more or less by increase of productivity. Maybe, that would be a good thing. Then again, if that happened, how would those 2.5 people who actually read my blog see it? I discovered the .5 was someone who just scanned through and didn't actually pay attention to any posts. Go figure.

Therefore it is the judgment of the Mongo Municipal Magistrate that the Internet isn't evil in terms of diligence vs. sloth.

The Internet isn't out to get you or make you lazy. You are. "It's PEOPLE!"

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