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No Telepones

From the Google article:

"Recently, Mr. Page, a 30-year-old software designer, sought to declare the company's newest office building off-limits to telephones, under the belief that it would improve programmer productivity. "

I love the idea.  I enjoy (contrary to many here on JoS) working in Cube-space and XP like open environments.  But one thing I hate is people talking on phones.  I can ignore everything else, but not a phone conversation.  It also seems to me that most phone conversations are not work related.

Software development environments.
No phones.
Would it work?

Nat Ersoz
Sunday, April 13, 2003

One note:  I (try to) take personal call on my cell phone, so I can walk outside and talk as loud and obnoxiously as I want without annoying the hell out of everyone else (in the office).

Nat Ersoz
Sunday, April 13, 2003

A place I worked at a few years ago had a policy where developers weren't allowed near phones. We had our own shared (between 2/3 devs) offices, and they actually had phones in them, but we weren't allowed to answer them, and no customers could talk directly to a developer unless the developer initiated the contact. They had a decent support team and sales team, and they figured there were enough people there to handle it.

It actually felt pretty good. Nothing to interrupt you when you hit the zone.

Geoff Bennett
Sunday, April 13, 2003

no one ever calls me, at work, or at home. the only problem i have interrupting "the zone" is aol instant messenger and a compulsion to surf the net. does anyone actually use the phone, anymore?

Monday, April 14, 2003

"Don't do this, don't do that" is the best way to put a fence around creativity.

IMO loose control, prevention and when required focused troubleshooting work a lot better.


Monday, April 14, 2003

Due to a previous downsizing and budget restriction, we've got to share a floor with customer services, and it drives me up the wall, even with six foot partitions put up between us and them. Because their job is (or at least seems to be) to placate irate customers on the phone all day long.

Fortunately they're being moved into a new office next door soon.

Better than being unemployed...
Monday, April 14, 2003

It might work in certain environments.  I find it difficult to imagine, though.  I don't get or make many calls at work.  A few are personal calls, but I often have to talk with someone from another group about the task I am working on.  Most interaction is via email, and I may only use the phone every couple of days.  But it is hard to imagine being without it entirely.

Monday, April 14, 2003

I still think deprevation tanks are the best way to spark creativity and productivity. I hate when I hear a noise. Any noise. I cannot work after that and I am forced to leave! I only got 10 hours in last year..

Monday, April 14, 2003

I'm with trollbooth. I think that the more that programmers are made to work in conditions similar to a factory, the better for everyone concerned.

After all, if you try to call someone who works on an assembly line, it had better be an emergency, because it usually requires a management person to pull them off the line and direct them to take a call - it calls attention to that person and negatively impacts their image at work.  Likewise, programmers have no business interacting with anyone outside their physical building.

This points up another important point - restrict their job role to the point where you've got highly specialized coders who simply have no business speaking with vendors, helping customers, gathering requirements, etc. A one dimensional work life is best. After all, if a programmer were exposed to outside influences on the job, they might consider that they would be happier with a balance. Balance is bad for programmers, discourage it at all costs.

Programmers professional? P'shaw. Treat them like the serfs they are, deserving of no life and needing to get permission to do anything outside of their mandated tasks.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Good idea? But we must make it appear as if it was their choice so how do we do that.. I got it! We can deduct a large fee from their check for use of a phone and the cheap bastards will opt out. Or better yet we can start a disinformation campaign on the good uses for a phone and actually advocate phone use (I can get a great deal on 24x 46 posters advocating phone use, 3 color glossy on decent paper with large pictures of the smiling happy people that everyone hates using the too-trendy omnipotent fisheye lense). The programmers "dissent of authority" gene will automatically override common sense and they wont be able to use the phone without facing a strong public lashing.

Monday, April 14, 2003

The opinion in this field, at least in the states, seems to be that once you pay someone it practically means you own them. So of course, no phones, no windows, galley-style cubicles, 9-to-5 inflexible work-hours. Wait, did I say 9-to-5?! Such lack of dedication to your master, sorry, employer?! I meant 9-to-10, of course. Weekends included. Except for Sunday morning, when you are allowed to - guess what? - wash your shiny new SUV, a testament to the benevolence of the system.

Dimitri. (who else)
Monday, April 14, 2003

Let me just try to scrape some of the sarcasm off the walls here....

...okay.  Here's my take on it:  I can see it working, particularly in an open Agile environment where developers are pair programming and not spending their entire day at their desks.

Another alternative would be to cluster several phones in one physical location, and tie them into a receptionist who can call people over a P.A. system.

I'd be willing to abide by either of the above arrangements, *provided* that I was allowed to carry a celphone.  If I got a call, I'd take it outside the building ASAP.

Obviously, though, this isn't for everyone nor is it for all environments.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, April 14, 2003

I sit next to the plant's buyer. To resume the situation : her job is to give shit on the telephone to suppliers who don't suppy us in time. She's very good at it.

Let's just say I have good headphones.

Application Specialist
Monday, April 14, 2003

I don't take phone calls, I have voicemail on always.  (My wife - only - has my cell phone numbers for emergenies.)  My email client is run four or five times a day, when I choose to run it.

When I start a new project, everyone quickly learns two things: (a) the new guy solves problems five times faster than anyone else, and (b) it takes him several hours or days to respond to messages.

Providing (a) makes (b) possible.  No one has ever complained.

Spaghetti Rustler
Monday, April 14, 2003

I say give everyone a phone and let them use it. Considering that workers are spending more time at work they need to be able to conduct business that would normally require taking off. I don't advocate screaming into the phone distracting your neighbors but removing all phones from development spaces might be overkill. I don't think it would work unless they had true alternatives.

I'd hate to be the person that implemented that rule when an employee misses an inportant phone call from their child's school or a family member calls to tell them their mother died. All hell would break loose.

Ian Stallings
Monday, April 14, 2003

>>>  Another alternative would be to cluster several phones in one physical location, and tie them into a receptionist who can call people over a P.A. system. <<<

Brent,  do you want to rethink this a bit?  The part about calling people over a PA system, that is.

Monday, April 14, 2003

The official policy at most employers ought to be "Orwellian R Us."

I contracted once at a big and blue three letter acronym company. Their official policy was that *any* contractor was an un-person as far as the phone system and external inward bound contacts went. Contractors were officially unknown to their internal telephone operators and their VM system. If you contracted there you *had* to give to outsiders who wished to call you, either the exact number of your desk phone extension, or, they had to hit it lucky and manage to reach someone that could pass the call along.

So in this set of circumstances, YES, it would literally be possible to miss a life or death call.
And I knew a manager and a few underlings from the place who lived and breathed this kind of thinking, who would do a *fine* job as cargo ballast for the next shuttle test launch...

Bored Bystander
Monday, April 14, 2003

I worked at a software company ... we'll call it SlaveCo., for the sake of this exercise.  The company policy was no phones for *most* developers.  Some, seemingly selected at random, did have phones at their desks.  All told, there was about 8 phones for 30 technical employees (developers and PMs).

* No interuptions

* 'Non-phone' developers (~15), shared a 'community' phone for all calls, business or otherwise ... which seemed to be permanently in use
* 'Phone' developers were constantly harassed for the use of their precious commodity
* Receiving a call was nearly impossible
* We did in fact, have a loudspeaker system (this idea very short lived)

Overall, I found the experience to very demeaning and not conducive to conducting business in a professional manner.

During my routine these days (self-employed), if I am busy with a deadline, I just turn the ringer off and check messages a couple times a day, at my leisure.  I schedule time to return my calls as well.  All in all, I enjoy things much better this way.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Developers need to be able to turn off interruptions. That doesn't mean developers shouldn't have phones, but it does mean that they should have DnD buttons, and people should respect it except when it's VERY important. You can turn off your e-mail and your instant messenger, why not your phone?

Brad (
Monday, April 14, 2003

My company develops speech apps, and I spend a decent amount of time testing them, either by talking to my computer or calling another computer on the phone.

Personal calls are the main reasons, besides occasional questions during customer installs, that I talk to another person on the phone. In my last job, with developers in multiple cities, I spent a lot more time in phone conversations with coworkers.

Monday, April 14, 2003

"Developers need to be able to turn off interruptions. That doesn't mean developers shouldn't have phones, but it does mean that they should have DnD buttons"

I'm sure I'm not reading this right. You mean that on each developer there should be a big grey button which lights up a "Do not disturb!" sign on his head? Actually the more I think about it the more it sounds like a good idea, though I would add to that the feature of an electric fence should people get too close.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

We have 5-8 people working in the same room, single landline telephone. Most people talk on their personal GSMs (that's European for cellphone, you insensitive clod!), and usually go outside the room. Works fine.

easily scared person witholding his name
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

z: No, I don't want to re-think the option of routing calls through a receptionist, who then calls folks over a P.A. system.  It seems like a reasonable system to try.

I've never been in a place that does it, but that doesn't prove anything either way.

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

So, how about no IM, no ICQ, no little telnet/irc windows in a font so small the munudgemunt can't read it from 6 feet away.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Twenty-five years ago I worked for a headmaster who had three colored lights on his door, red, yellow and green.

Green meant knock and come in, yellow meant knock and come in if it was really urgent, and red meant if you were dying arrange with the secretary to send an undertaker round.

The problem with developers (or other lowly minions) using it is that green would be interpreted as "please give me more work", but with a supportive management the idea has much to recommend it.

The tradition in fact goes back a lot longer. At Cambridge colleges the students, and dons' rooms typically had two doors, an inner and an outer door the latter being known as "the oak". If the oak was closed it meant the occupier was studying and should not be disturbed.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

>>> z: No, I don't want to re-think the option of routing calls through a receptionist, who then calls folks over a P.A. system.  It seems like a reasonable system to try. <<<

Sorry, Brent.  I have worked in environments with PA systems and it just seemed to me like it should be obvious what a bad idea this is if the goal is to reduce interruptions to developers.

At one employer all calls came to the receptionist who forwarded the call to the individual office.  If that person was not in their office, then the receptionist could use the PA system to notify them of the call. In this small (~45) software company only a fraction of the calls were paged.  There still might be a page every 10-15 minutes.

In your scheme, as I understand it, every incoming call is paged.  Since everyone has to listen to the page, everyone is interrupted every few minutes.

I recommend DeMarco and Lister's "Peopleware" where they have some particularly scathing remarks about paging systems.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

z: I thought we were talking about a *development environment* in which all calls are broadcast over a P.A. system.  An entire company is a completely different matter.

Some people are going to have jobs where they get calls all the time -- sales people, managers, etc.  I agree that it makes absolutely no sense to broadcast their calls over a P.A. system.

But if *developers* are getting calls every few minutes, even in aggregate, I'd be very worried about their productivity anyway.

Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Brent: You are right.  Your example was just for a development environment, so my comparison wasn't exact even though it was a software development company with most people being developers.  OTOH, the paging was only for people not at their desk.

But you should do some numbers to see if the idea is reasonable.  Say you have an environment with two dozen developers each getting one call per day.  That is one page every 20 minutes.  In a development environment that is too often.  Give us some examples of what you are thinking of.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

z: Agreed, absolutely, with your perspective there.

I think that a developer getting one call a day is still too often.  Now, I also think that developers should be allowed to bring in celphones, and that they should use these for personal calls.

As I see it, the company's phone system is a company resource that should be used for company business.  Again, if you want to bring in a celphone and use that for calls from friends and family, that's fine.  But I think that a *developer* shouldn't be getting one business-related phone call a day, especially if the environment has open communication (e.g., if you want to ask a co-worker something, you don't have to call him or her on the phone).

If I were working in an agile, XP-like place, I'd support a policy like this.  I'd *want* to work in an environment where I can focus on my work.  Obviously, we don't want to carry that to extremes, but I don't see access to telephones as a fundamental human right.

Brent P. Newhall
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I do hope to, once again, work in an environment where I can concentrate on my work of  software development.

That means, among other things, no paging, no XP-like environments, no cell phones with irritating alerting sounds (don't they have a vibrate mode like pagers?), and no radios playing some really obnoxious talk program (or anything else).

This dicussion of telephones and paging for incoming calls is rather pointless.  We are talking about ways to fine tune a poor work environment when we should be more concerned with getting a good work environment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

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