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Mobile Facebook

A few of my clients have asked me to configure their routers to block access to Facebook and Myspace. Apparently some employees spend inappropriate amounts of time using those services while at work. Using iptables to block port 80 and configuring Squid to reject access to those sites is easy to do.

So I was interested to see an advertising poster in my local shopping centre promoting the Telstra “Next G Mobile” which apparently offers “Facebook on the go“. I’m not sure whether Telstra has some special service for accessing Facebook (maybe a Facebook client program running on the phone) or whether it’s just net access on the phone which can be used for Facebook (presumably with a version of the site that is optimised for a small screen).

I wonder if I’ll have clients wanting me to firewall the mobile phones of their employees (of course it’s impossible for me to do it – but they don’t know that).

I have previously written about the benefits of a 40 hour working week for productivity and speculated on the possibility that for some employees the optimum working time might be less than 40 hours a week [1]. I wonder whether there are employees who could get more work done by spending 35 hours working and 5 hours using Facebook than they could by working for 40 hours straight.

7 comments to Mobile Facebook

  • Facebook itself provides a mobile version of the site, at http://m.facebook.com/. I think self-discipline is something most employees need regardless of whether they’re able to access distractions or not. A motivated mind can always find ways of amusing itself (ie procrastinating). In many ways, I believe it is management’s responsibility to make sure their employees are motivated and enthusiastic about their work, and if they’re not, to fix the system or find new employees.

    Of course, as I work for a company that is building a social networking application, I kinda get paid to use Facebook and the like, so my perspective is skewed.

  • These kinds of approaches are always a mistake. The staff should be judged on their productivity, not what they do in their downtime. If someone isn’t getting their work done, for whatever reason, that’s grounds for disciplinary procedures and counselling to work out why they’re not being productive.

  • I agree with Simon but I came here to say that Facebook serves up a streamlined mobile version when I log in from my Nokia E70.

  • toots

    Yes, right !

    That is the so-called “human factor” and is also proved by the french, who spend their time striking or on vacations, but still have one of the highest productivity in Europe[1] :-)

    More seriously, the belief that human work time can be rationalised is somehow equivalent to considering the worker as a machine on which you can optimise the usage. More than the fact that it is wrong, it is simply not acceptable.

    Besides, I personaly don’t believe in the race for an infinite increase of productivity. It simply is against the finite nature of our universe…

    [1]: http://www.forbes.com/2005/03/22/cx_da_0322topnews_print.html
    “All told, the French worker is a fairly productive sort, even with all that cheese.”

    Yeah, of course they add:
    ” But there is some evidence of slippage, and adding a few hours, or at least letting those so inclined work a bit more, is likely to help.”

    A sort of cultural misunderstanding. Must be that they still miss some real french cheese there :-)

  • etbe

    toots: I agree with the principle of not considering humans to be machines (IE don’t discard them if a newer model is slightly more efficient). But in this case I think that similar techniques can be used to measure productivity. The 40 hour working week significantly increased the quality of life for many people – yet was largely driven by the desire to have employees do more work. When a better quality and/or quality of work can be done for the employer while also giving a better quality of life for the employees then everyone wins.

    One thing I disagreed with was the enthusiasm of people in the Netherlands to go home when critical work wasn’t done. When working in a sys-admin environment and running an ISP service (operational 24*7) you don’t go home at 5PM when the network is broken. Work all night if necessary and then take the next day off.

  • etbe: while i mostly agree with you about priority/emergency work, you have to take into account that people have lives and commitments outside of work. public transport is also a consideration – leave on time and you get home in half an hour. leave late, miss the peak-hour services and it can take two or three times that (and you don’t get paid for travel time).

    you also need to consider that someone’s willingness to work above and beyond the call of duty is largely dependant on how well they’re treated by their employer generally. i’ll work my arse off for a good employer especially in an emergency, but will not willingly give even one second of my time or effort to a bad one, no matter the importance/urgency to them.

  • Craig: indeed, and I would characterize an employer who cut off access to arbitrary web sites as a “bad employer”. It’s all give and take — I regularly do late nights for my employer, but whenever I need to be home for a plumber, or want to go to a conference (or Google Developer Day, for example), it’s not a problem.