Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Burden of Information

Among the duties I perform at the office where I am employed, I serve as the ersatz computer technician and maintenance drudge. When there are software updates, I get called upon to make sure all the systems in the shop are loaded up with the latest and occasionally greatest programs. The same can be said for my relentless quest to keep all our virus and spyware protections up to date and functioning properly and mercilessly against the daily onslought we face.

I put a particular focus on the several computers within my immediate reach and check them almost daily. My newest office-mate, LucasFan, has inherited the computer left by the previous Elder-Statesman who occupied that seat. For some reason, and despite all the measures I use to innoculate it, it is more susceptible to viruses than Blubrik. Constant browser-hijack attempts and spyware installations keep me on my toes as well. I suspect that the Elder-Statesman had opened a door I just can't seem to shut back before Napster become synonymous with the promise of a police raid.

LucasFan is a devoted user of AOL Messenger and can be frequently found (to my employer's increasing chagrin) furtively tapping away details of his day and whatever other missives seem important to convey to his wife, who similarly keeps up a constant chatter in reply. As his most immediate superior (snicker), I've suggested that it's OK, provided it doesn't become a distraction to the tasks at hand. I'm hardly in a position to suppress his IM use, lest I put myself in a position of utter hypocrisy. My own contact list reads like a phone book, and for some of my friends - even local ones - it's my principal form of communication.

However, one very significant way in which we differ in our instant-messaging use, is that I never leave my conversations up on the screen for the world to see when I leave my desk - even for a minute. Every time I get up from my computer to refill my coffee cup or to equalize the coffee pressure on the other side of personal filtration system, I close all the open message windows. This serves to protect me from anyone's impression, however correct, that I spent too much time online, as well as protecting any information I may have sent or received from becoming immediately public. (Yes, I'm aware that my messages are most-likely being logged on some server somewhere - but those people don't much care about the pitiful details of my daily existence.)

My newest office-mate doesn't take such precautions. Frequently, when I need to access his computer directly in his absence, or during my usual morning viral spot-checks on all the computers in my office, there will be his AOL Messenger window, open wide and inviting, with the complete transcript of his daily chatter from the time he clocks in, until the moment he leaves for home. Initially, my reaction was a quick and mildly-disapproving clucking of my tongue followed by an immediate shutting down of the messenger window. His business is his business, and nobody needs to see it, myself included. I was protecting my fellow employee from his sloppy security practices.

Have you ever noticed how you can instantly pick out your own name out of a long blur of words? I have- and there in the middle of the computer screen one day recently, was mine. Curious, as any reasonable person might be, I quickly scanned the context of my reference and found myself suddenly unhappy about it. In fairness to LucasFan, they weren't his words that bothered me, but rather those of his wife, who reacted childishly and and jealously when she found out that a design idea that she really liked was not her husband's idea, but mine. Truly, in context, it's a small thing. In the comfortable context of presumed privacy we have all said things about other people that we would never utter in public, whether out of courtesy or fear of reprisal, and I recognize that this was most-likely the case in this situation. More recently, there have been other revelations about LucasFan's private life and troubles laid bare and splashed across the screen that have given me pause and evoked a sense of sympathy tempered by embarrassment on his behalf that he would leave such sensitive information literally plastered on the front of his monitor. While I may have proprietary notions about the computers on my desk, they aren't exclusively mine, and I'm aware that anyone in the shop may use them in my absence, and I theirs. That's how it's always been in the office, and it keeps secrets and innapropriate material to a minimum.

However, some secrets are better kept than spread, and I for one don't want the burden of someone else's personal information added to my baggage. I think I'll excercise my authority (snicker again) and have a little chat with him this morning about company policy and privacy rights.

Lest anyone get the impression that my office-mate is some sort of deviant or a member of a terrorist sleeper-cell based on the above post, nothing so interesting as that was made public on his computer screen. His disclosures were all benign, but personal in nature, and I prefer that they remain private and unknown, especially by me.

10 Comments:

Blogger Dianne said...

I'm curious how "the talk" went. I hope all is well!

September 03, 2004  
Blogger Richard said...

I had prepared a strongly worded comment to your delima, but I was advised it sounded to parental so I am left speechless.

September 04, 2004  
Blogger Richard said...

Just me checking to see if you posted.

September 09, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the jealous and childish wife. I am so jealous and childish that I NEVER read people's personal IM's, much less post about them on "Look at ME!!" Blogs. thanks.

October 03, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the jealous and childish wife. I am so jealous and childish that I NEVER read people's personal IM's, much less post about them on "Look at ME!!" Blogs. thanks.

October 03, 2004  
Blogger tracij23 said...

I'm the jealous and childish wife. I am so jealous and childish that I NEVER read people's personal IM's, much less post about them on "Look at ME!!" Blogs. thanks.

October 03, 2004  
Blogger HeadCheese said...

Anything worth saying is apparently worth saying three times... Welcome to the blog.

October 05, 2004  
Blogger tracij23 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

October 05, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the subject of this rather embarassing monologue... (but I guess it's my own fault since I left it on my screen), I thought I'd give a quick response. I think it was all true about the IM stuff I left up. I shouldn't have and I guess there's no undoing what damage it has created, but as they say live and learn. Hopefully I won't have to be the subject of another Head Cheese commentary... I like reading them when they're about someone else. Also in all fairness to my wife, she can be a little... ok very dramatic at times, and I can see where seeing his name caused curiousness, but also in all fairness it was an off the handle remark, as I'm sure anyone that IMs on a regular basis knows, can be a little overwhelming to someone unfamiliar with some of the chilish banter that comes from such discourses (especially between my wife and myself sometimes)

October 05, 2004  
Blogger HeadCheese said...

I don't do politics on my blog, and alas, as I couldn't strip out the single offending line, I was forced to delete the whole comment last left by Tracij23. Besides, it was made irrelevent by the comment left by LucasFan himself.

"but also in all fairness it was an off the handle remark"

I choose to contiue to believe so, and said as much in the post. It was for that reason that I extended the benefit of the doubt. We all say things in private that are better left there. It's best not to leave them where they can't be avoided.

I'm glad to see that you agree, and am truly sorry for the awkwardness you have experienced as a result.

You are a smart and talented fellow, as your wife stated in her now-deleted comment, and I value you as a member of the team as a whole and my partner in the Art Dept. in particular.

Since your post does such a good job of wrapping up the story, I'll make it the last for this topic. I'm sure the next blog-post you star in will be much more flattering. ;-)

October 06, 2004  

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