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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Am I interrupting?

On Sunday the Washington Post ran an interesting article about how the Amish and Menonite communities in Southern Maryland are adapting their general distrust of technology to the real business need for telephone access. Some of these communities are building shared phone sheds, maybe 1000 feet from anyone's house, where the phone is available for use but too far away to become part of the rhythm of the household. "If you keep them at a distance they're not misused."

I thought about this article today as two items crossed my desk. One was an article about potential applications of text messaging, that the West Coast Michael Stein pointed out in his blog. The other was a six month old email I came across organizing my desktop today - it came to me from Marshall Kirkpatrik of TechCrunch, suggesting I try out a new service,, that sends you RSS feeds over IM as they are posted. (This service no longer seems to exist - at least I cannot find the website.)

Observing my response to these two items helped me understand the Amish response to the ubiquitous telephone. I'm never without my Treo Smartphone. But I wouldn't dream of answering it during dinner, and I often let it go to voice mail during the day. As my coworker Krista says - "the phone ringing is an invitation, not a command. " People talk about "disruptive" innovations - seems to me the mobile phone as a highly "interruptive" technology that needs to be controlled. Unlike email, for example, that you can check when you are ready to.

Michael and Marshall are trying to get us excited about even more interruptive tools. And I notice that I am in the minority who shut my IM and email notifier off for good parts of each day so I can concentrate. Or am I? Where do you folks fall on this spectrum? Are you eager for more tools to stay more closely in contact, or are you finding constant communication damages your ability to concentrate on the people and tasks of the moment?
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Comments on "Am I interrupting?"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (September 4, 2006 at 3:21 PM) : 

try lol, though if you don't need it you don't need it. hope you're well.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (September 5, 2006 at 9:12 AM) : 

I like my information to be available instantaneously, but I have to balance this with correspondents' assumptions that I will respond instantaneously. Therefore, my cell phone is ONLY for emergencies, and I never let it go to VM. I refuse IM for a number of reasons, number one being its intrusiveness, and number two being the assumption I will reply right away, and the hectoring that ensues if I don't. Unless an ambulance is involved, nothing is so time critical it can't (and shouldn't) receive a thoughtful response. After all, that's why I want my info right away, so I have as much time to think on it as I need.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (September 6, 2006 at 9:54 PM) : 

Michael -- check out www.mobileactive,org for some amazing stories about mobile activism. If I am engaged in a campaign and have actively opted in to be contacted to get a text message calling for a specific action (call a legislator at a critical moment, for example), you bet I want to be interrupted!


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