Open workspaces foster noise and distraction

I really hate it when companies tell you that open workspaces foster collaboration.  This insults my intelligence more than saying that employee satisfaction is a high priority in the Information Technology field.  It’s not.  Stop telling us a 3×3 ft. cube is better than a 4×6 ft. cube because you can see EVERYTHING now.  It isn’t.  Open workspaces foster nothing except higher employee density per square foot, lower costs, noise, and distraction.  More lipstick on this pig will not make it less of a pig.

I would feel better if they just came out and told us the truth: it’s cheaper!  I’m not dumb, I can tell why the company is buying smaller cubicle walls.  Smaller walls are cheaper!  I can tell why they are packing us in like sardines.  Less building to maintain!  (Cheaper!)  Don’t tell me we are forced to listen to the intimate details of our neighbors’ intimate conversations with their doctor just because of the way we work.  Don’t tell me being this close to an employee flash mob due to another employee playing Pharrell’s “Happy” is due to our need to be more collaborative.  And being close to a breezeway (no more hallways because the walls are too low now) is doubly bad because everyone who goes by has to look at who they are going by at least once.  No judgment going on there, just looking.

Smaller walls = more information about what is going on around you = more distraction.  There’s a reason why conference rooms are usually enclosed by opaque walls: transparent walls are REALLY distracting!  Also, smaller walls = less sound absorption = more distraction and more noise!  Did you knew that the human brain is more attuned to picking up human speech than any other sound?  Well, guess what?  Your company just made human speech audible from not 10 ft., not 20 ft., not even 30 ft. away, but from 40 ft. away and beyond now!  More distraction!  It’s one thing to do some work at a Starbucks: you have no investment in what people are talking about there.  But at work, it is tempting to obtain insight by overhearing (I.e. evesdropping) on every conversation.  But here’s the catch: people don’t have in-depth conversations in an open workspace because they know everyone is listening.  So guess what?  Those “collaborative” conversations are now even more useless!

Blowing your nose?  Your colleague 50 ft. away can now hear it.  Farting?  Sally at the west end of the building can now hear it (probably smell it as well, due to the lack of any wall taller than 3 ft. and drafty office space)  Burping?  Ted on the NEXT FLOOR can hear it (don’t laugh…if your office workspace has “natural light” between floors then you know what I’m talking about.)  Moving around in a squeaky chair?  Trust me, every one withint a quarter-mile is now getting annoyed by it.  Everyone is now forced to deal with every nuance, every last subtle utterance either you, your environment, or your colleagues make.  I don’t know about you, but I know I work at my peak when I have to ignore or filter out e-mail notifications, meeting reminders, phone calls, unsolicited visits, across-the-room questions, toilets flushing, impromptu meetings at someone’s desk a few inches away, prairie dogs (people popping over cubicle walls), loud phone conversations, burnt popcorn smells, and people constantly walking by.  On top of that, I’m expected to get work done.  Why would productivity possibly suffer under these conditions?

Companies have forgotten what it is like to go to the library.  Hell, we have the Internet now, who needs a library?  Next time you can’t seem to hear yourself think, go to a library, sit down, and observe the environment.  Everyone is focused, everyone is quiet, and those people who are talking are whispering.  Why?  Because reading comprehension requires quiet.  But more importantly, reading comprehension requires NO DISTRACTION.  Imagine trying to follow a complicated set of instructions and having the toilet flush right next to you, or having to filter out a colleague talking on a speakerphone.  It would become more difficult to follow those instructions, right?  Why is it OK at work to have to deal with noise and distraction, but not at a library?  Because the library has a fixed set of rules that have been in place since libraries were created.  You don’t talk in a library.  If you need to talk to someone else, you get a room and talk.  Otherwise, it is “SSSHHHH!” from a scary librarian.  And people are conditioned to fear the “SSSHHHH” that librarians give since they went to grade school.  Tell people to observe library rules in the workplace, and after they stop laughing, they ask you, “Wait, you’re serious?  This is not a library!”

Well maybe it should be.  Can companies hire scary librarians to keep things quiet in the modern-day workplace?  I swear, if they would, I work work for them until I retire.  But until they do, I will be looking for another work-from-home job, where I can have four walls, no distractions, and if I want it, no NOISE.

Moved hosts

Hi-ho! I’ve just moved my WordPress blog from one host to another more reliable host (manually). Since I DIY’ed it, there may be some weirdness I still haven’t flushed out, so if you see anything weird going on with this blog, let me know.


SLF4J Library Names

Another tidbit that can help with understanding the SLF4J libraries you need to include in your Java project:

– If the logging framework name comes before slf4j, then it is used to create log messages (e.g. log4j-over-slf4j.jar)
– If the logging framework name comes after slf4j, then it is used to route log messages to that framework (e.g. slf4j-jdk1.4.jar)

The slf4j-api.jar works with both of these libraries to accept log messages in the format that one logging framework accepts and actually log it in the format that another logging framework expects.


Interesting…I bought a ZeroWater pitcher today and tried out the little TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter that comes with it. Our tap water is 235 PPM. So I hoped my fridge filter would reduce that down significantly. Nope, only went down to 200 PPM. The ZeroWater water measured 000 PPM (+003 PPM). ZeroWater is the real deal.

Of course, they do say that when the water from the ZeroWater filter starts reading 006 PPM to change it out. We’ll see how long that takes.

A more visual way to understand SLF4J

Simple Logging Facade for Java (SLF4J) is a Java abstraction library used to allow the selection of a logging framework at deployment time, rather than at compile time. SLF4J allows the developer to use the logging framework of the deployment environment even if the developer’s code is written for a different logging framework.

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Menu-Driven Engineering

I can’t count the amount of times I have heard this at work: “I can’t determine the requirements because the customer doesn’t know what they want!”  Also, “how can I determine the requirements if they don’t tell me what they need?”  If the customer is reluctant to provide hard requirements, then they are essentially telling the technical team that they don’t know what they want.  They don’t know what the technical team can do for them.
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Iron Man 3

Cheap movie review: Iron Man 3 was fun. It was a lot like The Iron Knight Rises.

Update on my Standing Desk

After nearly a year with my standing desk, I decided to update every one on how it’s going.

It took me about three to four months to get used to standing all the time, but now I actually prefer it. I do still use a chair when I work, but I purposefully us a barstool so that I wouldn’t get too comfortable while sitting down. I mostly use the chair for when I eat lunch at my desk or when my back hurts. But for the most part I stand while I code.

I also bought an anti-fatigue mat to stand on, which helps with shifting weight around on my feet.

If I get busy enough, I forget that I am standing up. But I must admit: I have a better time coming up with ideas if I’m sitting down. So I have come up with a compromise: I sit (and frequently stand up and move around) while I am designing something, and when it comes time to just lay down code, I remain standing. This arrangement has worked well so far. Also — for some reason — I speak better when I stand up. This helps during conference calls.

I didn’t mention in my original post that I set the height for the monitor shelf too high and had to adjust it. Luckily, the posts that the shelf sits on are made of PVC and painted to look like metal. So all I had to do was cut them down to size and the problem was solved. Since the monitors are not that heavy, the shelf they sit on doesn’t need to be that strong. And as a result, if you shake the desk, the monitors tend to shake a lot. But that’s okay; I make sure not to jostle the desk around too much.

I had one person ask me if the desk could be made without the swaging wire and turnbuckles (the metal cable ‘X’ at the back the desk). Yes, it could, and it is fairly square without them, but the wires help keep the whole desk from twisting. Plus, the wire is much lighter than the wood it would take to accomplish the same task.

So all in all, I am really liking the desk, and I am really liking standing up while working.


I’ve always been fascinated by people’s reaction to money, especially when they don’t truly understand money. They say it’s the root of all evil, it’s not about the money, money isn’t everything, money can’t buy you love. It’s funny to me that they always attach money to emotions and feelings, as if money had a mind if its own. I suppose to those who don’t understand it, it probably does have a mind of its own. But this association of money with emotion is not unlike that of associating guns with emotion: somehow it’s the gun that kills people, not the person wielding it. Since they do not possess a true understanding of what a gun is, they can’t fathom its true purpose. The same goes for money. Somehow it’s the money that corrupts people, or oppresses people. Like guns — which save lives — money’s true purpose is widely misunderstood. Money facilitates lives. It greases the wheels of industry. It does not have a mind of its own.

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WebRoot Identity Shield stops Breevy from working

I decided to post this, since I couldn’t find any information about it on the intertubes.  If you have both  WebRoot SecureAnywhere and Breevy installed on your PC, WebRoot’s Identity Shield can get in the way of Breevy’s operation.  It doesn’t do this on all version of Windows, as I have Windows 7 Professional on my PC at work, and I have WIndows 7 Ultimate on my PC at home, and Breevy refuses to work on my Win 7 Ultimate PC with the Identity Shield on.

I have tried all manner of different WebRoot Identity Shield settings and configurations and the only way I can get Breevy to work on my Win 7 Ultimate box is by turning Identity Shield off completely.  As far as I can tell, there is no good combination of checkboxes being set or unset, or applications protected, allowed, or denied that allows Identity Shield to keep working and still allow Breevy to work.

If the Breevy guys or the WebRoot guys could figure this one out, I would appreciate it.  My home PC is an Intel Core 2 Q6600 with Win 7 Ultimate 64-bit, and my work PC is an Intel Core i5 M430 with WIn 7 Professional 64-bit.

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