3: Luddites and info overload

Luddites unite!

Techno-realist and best-selling author of The Cuckoo’s Egg, Internet legend Clifford Stoll, has been online for over 15 years and knows the Net backwards. He built his first computer himself and was wired into Arpanet (precursor to the Internet) in the 1970s. He also writes code, has seven computers and six different online accounts. After exposing high-tech hacker hijinks in spy novel The Cuckoo’s Egg, Stoll has turned about face in his latest book, Silicon Snake Oil, and says it’s time to examine our “love affair” with computers.

He’s hyperactive and has crazy, frazzled hair and suggests we go to a café. We sauntered round to the pleasant Cannelle patisserie in Chelsea in search of some confectioner’s custard and chatted for an hour or so, under huge black and white Mapplethorpe, Norman Parkinson and Ruth Orkin prints. Stoll had strong coffee.

He answered my apology for writing down notes, rather than using a tape recorder with: “Don’t apologise – it’s more intuitive. It’s easier. Recording denies the fun part. You don’t have to check the batteries. If you were typing down what I was saying on a laptop computer, it wouldn’t feel as friendly. I can draw an image on your notepaper, but I can’t do that with a tape recorder.”

He then grabbed my pen and scrawled a triangle with the words “good”, “cheap” and “fast” written at each point. “This principle is as old as capitalism. You can never get all three. And yet this is what the Internet promises. You can have cheap, good food, but it isn’t fast. Or cheap, fast food of low quality. It’s an economic theory. And we’re being sold on the idea of the Internet as providing all three qualities. I don’t believe it’s possible.”

Then I plunged in with my leading question: “When I started reading your book, Cliff, I felt like, oh, this guy’s obviously sat in front of his computer far too much and has now woken up to the fact that he’s spent 20 years thinking, `Well, what have I done? I should have spent more time smelling the flowers.’ But I just felt – well, so what? A lot of us already know that.”

“Good point,” Stoll said, gesticulating enthusiastically. “But I’m aiming the book at myself. I’m asking why is it that I love computers, but distrust the culture of computing? Why am I so ambivalent? Why don’t I believe much of the wonderment surrounding the Internet? So I started out by saying, maybe the problem is that I’ve spent too much time online. And I have. But then, that led me to ask questions about where society is being led.

“Maybe our love affair with computers isn’t such a good thing. At the end of a day of surfing the Net, am I satisfied? No. I’ve learnt damn little. It’s a profoundly shallow experience. I’ve uploaded and downloaded countless stuff, but most of it’s a big sinkhole of mediocrity. I yearn for some scepticism, some critical views of the Internet, rather than the bloated hyperbole of the popular press.”

Stoll is such a hyperactive, frenetic individual that it’s difficult to imagine him sitting still in front of his computer even for a second. He frequently jumps out of his chair to make a point, punches the air and skips up and down the cafe past the cabinets of souffle framboises and charlotte fruits rouges, while emphasising that there is a cost to spending too much time online.

“I’m an old hippy,” Stoll concedes. “We hear about cyborgs and network addicts who are online 18 hours a day. When we’re online we’re isolated and alone – I can’t share my keyboard with someone or carry on a conversation while simultaneously looking at my monitor. I could have been deepening friendships, meeting other people or speaking with colleagues instead of tapping on my keyboard.

“I prefer the sceptical view of network systems to an innocent Pollyanna acceptance of the Internet as a virtual community which is warm, welcoming and helpful. It’s actually cold, sterile and littered with rude commentary. Usenet bulletin boards are sprinkled with flame wars, uncivil and nasty messages.”

He disagrees that as more people go online, the discussion will become more civil. “It’ll get worse. Postings remind me of the short-term animosity between drivers in heavy traffic.”

“Road rage?”

“Yeah – is that what you call it here? It’s a great term,” he said, spontaneously grabbing a purple ink fountain pen out of his green corduroy shirt and inscribing the words on his left palm.

Stoll also doubts whether a larger number of online magazines will raise the standard of Internet content. “The amount of good material will increase, but the noise, glunk and gloop will increase at a much faster rate. If I saw Ted Kennedy and Princess Diana holding hands on a beach on an island that Jackie Onassis used to own, I’m obviously not going to give that away free on the Net. I’m going to sell it to a publisher. If you have anything worth communicating, you’re not going to give it away free online. Also, as network costs drop and paper prices skyrocket, the most valued writing will be on paper, and those of least value will go on the Net.”

He says computers are seen as a universal tool to solve organisational problems. “But for many people a paper calendar on the wall, an address book in your pocket, a Rolodex on your desk, a shoebox for bills and a carton of letters to answer are acceptably workable ways of dealing with these daily problems. In many ways, these methods are superior to use because they’re intuitive. I can instantly find what I’m looking for.

“The arrogance of computer folk if that they try to belittle and beat people who don’t use fancy computer programs into submission. These people then think: `There’s something wrong with me because I don’t understand why I don’t spend twice as much time using more complicated technology.’ But computers are often inappropriate for what you want to do.”

As for PCs in schools, Stoll says: “Using PCs is as simple as learning how to drive. They don’t teach driving at high school. It only takes a couple of weeks to learn the basics of word processing and spreadsheet programs. Two months of education at the most. That’s not enough to warrant even a full semester on computing. In the US every school is graded on how many computers it has. Computer programming is not a life skill or guarantee of getting a job.”

The ambiance was ruptured by the publicist’s sudden return, and she whisked Stoll away. “Gad zooks! It was a tickle of delight to meet you,” he said. And indeed it was.

““““““““““““““““““““

Chief Luddite

Bill Henderson, 56, is the US-based leader of a 3000-strong revolution of Lead Pencil Club reactionaries who are rejecting electronic gadgets and going “back to basics”. This doesn’t mean they live without electricity and telephones and supermarkets – but they’re turning off the bombardment of information and rejecting fast communications. “We want no part of your new Apocalyptic religion, your demi-gods of Speed and Convenience. As to your ubiquitous proclamation of the forthcoming Information Age, you must be daft. We are drowning in information right now,” Henderson says.

“The international electronics industry is fattening its purse while brain-draining this civilisation. Try not to use the Internet and computers. People who do are sick of being human beings. You have to face up to pain, war and death. Life isn’t always a picnic, but you can’t escape in a fantasy world. It catches up with you. You have to get out in the fresh air and grow up. Look at Bill Gates – he’s a fixated 14-year-old playing with gizmos. Hardly a good role model.

He says the hype about computers is similar to when television was introduced. “Everyone touted it as being a great educational tool. The computer is supposed to solve all of our problems – that’s what Bill Gates implies. `Multimedia will revolutionise classes. They’re the greatest boon to humanity.’ But revolutions come and go and they’re often accompanied by a lot of egotism and mass suffering.”

And what does he think about futurists who say the problems with Luddites will vanish because “they’ll all be dead soon”? “Techno-utopians have a lot of arrogance,” Henderson says. He cites Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalogue fame who said: “We are as gods and we might as well get good at it.” “This is a damning quote,” Henderson says. “People talk as though they are gods. Hitler thought he was god. We are not gods. This line of thinking is a real disaster. According to techno-evangelists, the digital revolution is the most stunning advance in evolution since the capture of fire.”

As for relying on computers to perform any functions for you, Henderson says this is a betrayal of our human talents. “Some people don’t want to make any effort whatsoever, so they use machines to do everything for them. They’d spend the whole day in bed if they could.” But what’s wrong with that? “Your mind and body would atrophy. Any time you give your mind to a machine you’re taking something away from yourself. You could be doing maths using your brain instead of grabbing a calculator, and writing or using a typewriter. I generally spend my time scribbling with a pencil. It’s a lot cheaper and simpler – you get an instant printout on the page in front of you. Computers are always breaking down. My wife has a computer for word processing – she’s not connected to the Internet. I’ve never used it. I’ve watched people using computers. But I like to keep things simple.”

The club’s pledges include: “We will avoid fax and hang up on voice mail. We will receive no email and send none. If our computers develop a virus, we will seek no cure. Our communications will be face to face. If direct human contact is not possible, we will write letters in our own handwriting because that handwriting is a mark of our personality. In our correspondence, we will favour the lead pencil, that quirky little expendable that the superhighway would like to forget as it rushes past on its way to oblivion. What’s your hurry? Not So Fast! Leadites Unite!”

Henderson warns that: “If you use the computer too much, you develop things such as Repetitive Strain Injury and carpal tunnel syndrome. You’re like battery hens that never see natural light. Well, alright – I’m using that disaster scenario as a bit of an exaggeration, but you have to be vigilant and have balance. We’re being oppressed by omnipresent machines.”

As for the information revolution, he says we have too much already. “I subscribe to four magazines and often don’t read one. It took me a whole year to read The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. We have TV, radio, newspapers, books – it’s horrendous nonsense. We don’t need all of this stuff. The computer manufacturers are trying to create a `forced need’ that doesn’t exist.

He says the negative side of the Internet is that everything you order can be monitored. “You just become an international statistic for global corporations. Marketing departments can pin you down on a map like cockroaches, sorted according to buying preferences. Big bucks will control cyberspace. The Web is a duck primed for slaughter. Soon, every company will have a site and the Web will resemble a global Yellow Pages – and you know how much fun it is to flick through a phone book. Great.”

As for porn and sex on the Net, Henderson describes this as “sad”. “It’s beyond hilarious. There’s nothing like sex with a real person. Online, you don’t always even know who you’re having sex with.” But what other case, such as the disabled? “There’ll always be exceptions, but they can use horny mags. I don’t think the Net is totally bad – it has a lot of good medical uses for coordinating scientific and academic research. But 99 per cent of us can do without it. Otherwise, people should use it in moderation or not at all.”

Henderson’s opinions caused a sensation when he founded the club in 1993, and he wrote the editorial opinion section for the New York Times in 1994. “The Lead Pencil Club started off as a letter to our Little Long Island newspaper – it was just lark. I was reading a book in December 1993 at 3am and the author, Doris Grumbach, was complaining about gadgets in her memoir Extra Innings. She was sick of them and wished they would catch a virus for which there was no cure. I thought about it and agreed. `Why not use a lead pencil and start a club for those of us who agree with her?’ I asked myself. The next day I phone Doris with my idea and she liked it. I wrote the letter as a satire and did it just for a laugh. I got a huge response. Many of our members are former computer users who used to work for IBM, but became frustrated.”

He says the club has about 3000 members worldwide. “You have to keep everything in perspective – 90 per cent of the world’s population don’t even have access to a computer. 200million Americans don’t have computers at home – a lot use fancy typewriters. We publish the Minutes throughout the world, and we post a newsletter edition too. Our motto is that we’re in no big hurry. `Not so fast’. So what – it might take us another day to finish a task. We’re not in a rush.”

It’s easy for Henderson to rant on about eschewing technology, but what about those of us who have to earn a living in office jobs? “I run a one-person business and when I have to write legal documents I use a 1942 Royal manual typewriter. Otherwise I handwrite my letters. Now you can get computer programs with 300 fonts to emulate your handwriting. It’s utterly hilarious. Why do you need a $3000 machine to do something you can do by hand? While all those Net nerds are suffering from stress and too much gazing at the screen, we’ll be out in the fields and boating. Our place in the world will probably be offering de-stressful alternative breaks for techno-addicts.

“All of my friends have computers and they try to persuade me that it’s worthwhile, but we agree to disagree.”

To join the Lead Pencil Club, sent a letter to The Lead Pencil Club, PO Box 380, Wainscott, NY 11975. Acceptance is automatic and there are no membership fees.

“““““““““““““““

Technophobia and how to overcome it

Technophobes need to shed their fears gradually to adjust to a rapidly changing electronic world. A “Predictors of Computer Anxiety” study, conducted by Alistair Anderson from Deakin University in Australia, found that one in 10 university-aged students suffered from technophobia, which included symptoms such as breaking out in a cold sweat and an increased heart rate.

The ultimate infamous technophobe is the Unabomber, the hooded, nameless abstraction behind aviator shades who bragged, maimed, and murdered his way into a position to have a 35,000-word manifesto published by The Washington Post last year. He wielded terror for 17 years with letter bombs to high-tech research scientists and computer stores. US police are now investigating a suspect, Theodore J Kaczynski, who was a maths prodigy and graduated from Harvard during his teenage years. Until his arrest, he was an “unkempt mountain man” with “heavily matted hair” who lived in a “tar-paper shack” he’d built himself and used to exist on “cans of Spam and tuna.” His court case will be heard in November 1997 and is expected to last for four months.

Psychologist Martin Corbett, a senior lecturer at Warwick Business School, is an expert on computer technophobia. He discovered this condition is, unsurprisingly, often caused by resentment and fear. “People believe technology is a good thing, but think it’s out of control – a sort of Frankenstein complex, which has taken on a life of its own,” Corbett explains. He says businesses often sack staff to offset the costs of new technology. “This gives people the idea they’re in second place. And machines are often pampered and treated better. Staff aren’t allowed to drink or eat near the computer in case they damage it.” Many people have more faith in machines, and this can lead to misplaced trust. “Staff have to check everything out on the computer first. Somewhere along the line, it has been forgotten that a human programmed the computer in the first place.”

Technophobia can be treated. In serious cases, a combination of drugs-of-your-choice therapy and off-the-top-of-my-head-advice can be used to “think” your way to freedom from fear. This can be a gradual process, so you may have to repeat these steps innumerable times, until you get it right.

No-nonsense self-help plan for technophobia

1. List what you want to achieve. Start with something modest, for example “I will walk into the room, switch on my PC, wait three minutes for it to boot up, select the Internet icon, breathe deeply a couple of times, exit all programs and turn the machine off.”

2. Write down words of encouragement on prompt cards. “My modem is supposed to make funny beepy noises and have flashing red lights. This is perfectly normal. It is not on fire. It will not explode.”

3. Desensitise yourself by imagining that you’re confronting your phobia. Keep thinking about using your PC after 9pm when the technical support lines have closed, until this ceases to terrify you.

4. Make a timetable for carrying out each confrontation session. Start off with something not too difficult. Right-click the mouse button while using your Web browser. Ooh – what’s that on your screen? Haven’t seen that before. “This program has performed an illegal function.” Leave the room quickly and phone the police.

5. Note your progress by ringing your Mum and telling her what you’ve achieved at the end of each session.

“““““““““““““““““`

Information overload

You’ve got 1,000 email messages, 2 billion faxes, 10 letters and the phone keeps ringing. You might feel like you’re dealing with too much incoming data, but – hey – maybe it’s just you. Look around at your office colleagues – they seem to be doing fine. Except that they never speak, and are always curt and rude whenever you make conversation. Well, maybe that’s just me. But truly – abrupt co-workers are displaying classic symptoms of “information overload”. No time for ergonomic breaks. Just burn through and churn it out. After all, your boss just spent trillions on installing that great Internet connection to make your life easier, so you should be able to produce vaster quantities of work with all that instant information at your fingertips.

When you’re in this situation, it’s little comfort to read the often-spouted figures about how a weekday edition of [insert newspaper name of your choice] contains more information than 17th Century peasants used to encounter in their entire lifetimes.

A recent Communications Overload study by Gallup and the Institute for the Future showed that a typical middle-management executive sends or receives 178 messages and documents daily. Secretaries deal with about 190 letters, emails, faxes, phone calls, voicemail, sticky notes, pager messages, courier deliveries and internal mail. Employees are interrupted at least three times an hour by messages and about 70 per cent felt “overwhelmed”. Also, as people try to contact others, they encounter a communications “gridlock”, so they send the same messages by different methods, which makes everything worse. You know – when someone sends a fax, then rings to ask whether you got it, and if it went missing they send an email, then ring again to check and – well, why don’t they put it in the post, too?

The cold, hard facts are that you’ll be *burnt out* by the time you hit your 40s if you haven’t managed to “switch off”. Worse, you’ll have to retire early because you won’t be able to cope anymore. That’s the brutal news from Professor Cary Cooper, an organisational psychologist at Manchester University, and foremost pioneer in workplace stress. And these problems aren’t happening down the track – we’re burning out *right now*! Cooper’s been using the Net since 1994. “We’re in the middle of a crisis – people are overloaded with email, Web information, faxes, voicemail and the expectation that we must produce work faster. No one ever prioritises any of these messages, so we have to treat each one as though it might be vitally important. We can’t afford to overlook anything.” He says it’s ironic that technology is designed to “minimise stress levels”. “Instead, we’re all rushing around so frenetically, harassed and time-driven. Everything is urgent. Worry is burning us out. We have to spend so much time with technology, and then we lose our support mechanisms when we’re taken away from face-to-face communication. I wish the industry would find ways of helping us sort through all this junk on the Web. It’s so overloaded with rubbish. People are just going to switch off and not use it. That’s the backlash and it’s already happening. The main problem is 90 per cent of the stuff is advertising. How do I access worthwhile material? It’s all thrown in together. When I search for a phrase such as `occupational stress test’, I often have to scroll through 20 pages of results before I find what I need.” But surely Prof Cooper’s forgetting the prehistoric Net days in 1993 when academics were ecstatic they could key in a phrase and get an answer back after 15 minutes? “Our tolerance is less now. The technology is promoted as being quick, but it’s not. We want instant answers.”

But what about intelligent agents? I’ve tried most of them and none have been any better than search engines. “I’ve given up on intelligent agents and search engines don’t help at all,” Cooper says dismissively.

He points out that one of the difficulties employees now face is the fact that senior management often spend zillions on buying up-to-the-minute technology, but they never use it themselves, and don’t realise it hasn’t made your life incredibly easier. “Managers, who are mainly computer illiterate, don’t need to use the new technologies, and they assume you can find all you want in five minutes. These expectations are a major cause of stress. Reality is very different from what they’ve read on the computer sales brochures.”

He says one of the worst time-consuming culprits is email. “Everyone’s forgotten how to prioritise. When people send you email, they should honestly indicate how urgent it is. Otherwise, you just get a wall of emails that demand such an immediate response and speed up the pace of work, because it’s so easy to respond. You feel like you must respond, or you’ll have too many messages to sort through later. Who wants to spend their weekends dealing with email? You either do it there or them, or you forget about them. I often forget if I don’t reply the same day. Once you’ve answered lots of emails, you’ve lost focus of your main priority – getting your work done.”

This is awfully difficult to balance, of course, when reading the emails can be vital to your work. “We have to make sure people aren’t spending too many hours in front of a machine. There are people I work with who are endlessly on the Net and they’ve lost something. They think they have a solid communication network, but the true network is face-to-face.” On the upside, he says the Net offers us the chance to telecommute. “We can work at home and do more in peace.”

Before you sit back and start getting cosy, however, we managed to track down the author of Data Smog: Surviving the information glut [Harper Collins] by US author and Wired correspondent David Shenk, who says we’re “on the brink of an Attention Deficiency Disorder (ADD) epidemic”. “Experts are now seeing a new manifestation of what they call `culturally induced ADD,” Shenk exclaims. “We’re all doing three things at once and missing out on things like slow sunsets, long conversations and reading books. ADD is a symptom of the information age.”

He cites the research of Philip Nicholson, who specialises in `technostress’. Nicholson believes many computer users develop feelings of “deep dependency” on their machines, and think they couldn’t function without them. To test this hypothesis, he often asks his audience to pretend they were faced with the dilemma of making a choice between giving up one of their fingers and giving up the use of their computers for the rest of their lives. He reports that one-third of the people he surveys chooses to give up a finger. The awful thing is, I paused to consider this too. “I had to think about it,” Shenk agrees. “It’s amazing how dependent we are.”

He thinks the concept of having a computer with a Net connection in every classroom is a waste of money. “People think this will automatically improve schools, but learning depends on having good teachers, excellent text books and small classes. When TV was introduced everyone thought it was going to be a fantastic educational tool, but the problem is most people use it for entertainment. A computer may have a place in a school library, but not in classrooms. Genius is only created by learning.”

He also disputes that online voting would improve the political process. “Now we can be heard and form interest groups on the Net, but politicians are paying too much attention to what we want. They’re afraid to get out and lead. The public isn’t always informed on every issue. That’s the politician’s job and why we elect them. Direct democracy isn’t a great idea either. It would just make our lives more complicated. Who wants to get home and then start going through legislation and making decisions? We’re already buried by our own work. We have to elect and trust our representatives.” The fervour for online voting, however, means that “democracy will have 50/50 chance of survival”. “There are already Net users who think we don’t need a central government anymore, and we can make all of our own decisions.”

In his book, Shenk quotes Sun Microsystems Eric Schmidt as saying “With a computer network, I can attack a million people at a time. It’s like an atomic bomb.”  “This statement is obviously hyperbole,” Shenk says. “The network can’t kill millions of people, but it can cause serious damage. Computer viruses can disable your phone, stop electricity supplies and everyone will be very vulnerable.”

According to Shenk, computers may “fuel an age of immense commercial, cultural and political possibility,”, but they also contribute to “skyrocketing levels of stress and depression, a dangerous fragmentation of culture, a stimulus-dense society with fewer escapes, a dangerous use of database technology.”

He says the Net is contributing to the “stretching and splintering” of culture. “Circulation has dropped at general interest magazines, like Reader’s Digest, Time and Life, and readers are going for specialised, niche magazines. It’s just like a large cocktail party that breaks up into a string of small conversations. We fragment into little clusters. This is great for researchers, and marketers call this `nichification’ and it’s an important part of improving our quality of life. But there’s also a big price to be paid in separation.”

For this reason, Shenk says we shouldn’t use intelligent agents. “Agents are personalised, and mean we don’t have to share information with anyone who’s not exactly like us. This customisation depletes our community spirit. We know less about people with different interests.”

He quotes Nicholas Negroponte, who insists smart agents should include an adjustable “serendipity dial”. “But you can’t automate spontaneity,” Shenk points out. “Such restrictions are like building one’s own information prison. We have to make an effort to avoid filters and make our own decisions. Otherwise, technology will lead us into narrower worlds where we spend less time interacting with people outside our range of interests. Democracy is dependent on a certain amount of tolerance and consensus and the ability to understand a wide variety of perspectives.”

Why do we put up with all of this? Because we’re incurable “techno-utopians”, Shenk says. “We assume that machines will always improve society, without questioning the unintended consequences. It is possible to use technology to get extra free time, but people get used to superfast communication, they speed up and become addicted to the quicker pace.”

The UK’s foremost expert in Internet addiction, Dr Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University, was overcome with data overload when he first logged on to the Net in early 1995. He recounts a horrific tale of counter-productiveness and information promiscuity. Griffiths says even his personality has been affected by too much Net usage. “I’ve noticed the downside is that I’ve totally gone over to the soundbite culture. I read everything in bite-sized pieces now. I can’t get through more than six pages without going brain-dead. It’s even affected my writing – I only write lots of small articles now. My last book was made up of 40 edited papers. My impatience levels have soared. If my browser is `unable to locate host’, it bugs me to death.”

When he first got on the Net, Griffiths wanted “thick, fast and immediate rewards”. “I subscribed to everything going,” he confesses. “I was getting 100 emails a day from newsgroups. It took me four months to work out that 98 per cent of it was garbage. I was away for a week and I had 700 emails to answer when I returned. It got really daunting. There were only 10 I wanted to read, but you can’t skip any of them. It took me hours to open them all.

“I wanted to be on the cutting edge, but there was no real advancement in the academic discussion. People were promoting their own fixed points of views, which I’d already read, or were emailing and saying they agreed with me, which didn’t really help. I was bombarded with so much — I was swamped.” He says that although he thinks “dissemination of information is a good thing”, he couldn’t “see the wood for the trees”.

He used to try and skim everything on the Net. “But then I’d miss important news. I could spend an hour every day looking at the Unofficial Lotto Site – I study gambling addiction, and it always has new sales figures, draws, popular numbers and ticket price structures. This is relevant to my work, but I just can’t spend that much time on it. I’ve learnt to be more selective.”

He still uses email daily, but only surfs the Net for research twice a week. “I check my email first, then voicemail, then my pigeon-hole. I never carry a mobile phone and I tried using a laptop on the train, but I went back to using a pen and pad – it makes me feel more in control. Before, I used to feel like a pinball, always being contactable.”

Now he clichedly says he “puts all his eggs in one basket” and only reads one newspaper daily. “I rely on colleagues to give me relevant clippings if they see something and I do the same for them. It’s an old fashioned system, but it saves time.”

“““““““““““““““

Shenk’s tips to clear Data Smog

1.   Turn the television off. “There’s no quicker way to regain control of the pace of your life”.

2.   Say `No!’ to dataveillance. Follow instructions on junk email to unsubscribe from lists.

3.   Resist advertising.

4.   Resist upgrade mania.

5.   Be your own “smart agent”. Learn to discriminate.

6.   Cleanse your system with “data-fasts”. Examine your daily intake and consider whether your info diet needs fine-tuning. Take data-naps in the afternoon, during which you stay away from electronic information for a set period. Try to go for a week or month without using the Net, and this can have a remarkably rejuvenating effect.

7.   Set yourself a certain number of hours on the Net each week, or at least balance the amount of time spent online with an equal amount of time reading books.

8.   Lobby the government to legislate against data spam.

9.   Reformulate the issue of “information have-nots”. “Disenfranchised citizens don’t need bottomless wells of information. They need education. There is an important difference.”

Cooper’s list of what to do

1.   Learn how to manage the technology.

2.   Send your senior managers on training courses so they know the technology’s limitations.

3.   Avoid all mail lists.

4.   Tell your regular contacts to prioritise messages.

5.   Ask your boss to hire a Web researcher to trawl through all the junk and present you with the best information.

6.   Sort your emails into lots of folders to prioritise them.

7.   Don’t give out your contact details to everyone.

8.   Think of your own ways to avoid spending too many hours in front of a machine.

9.   Leave a message on your voicemail saying that callers shouldn’t leave a message unless the matter needs dealing with today.

10. To avoid burnout, restrict the number of inquiries or messages you deal with – only 10 if you are under 45 and five if you’re older.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s