Friday, June 26, 2009

BlackBerry summer

Well, I'm in the market for a smartphone, and am leaning BlackBerry - maybe a Storm, maybe a Curve.

I like to think that I won't be one of those obnoxious people, continuously twiddling with my smartphone, checking for those all important e-mails - hey, I personally heard from Michelle Obama just the other day, and I wouldn't want to have missed that missive; not to mention  a key frequent flyer e-mail from American Airlines; and a note from a yarn store that I somehow got signed up for. (I, who barely know knit from purl, or purl from pearl, for that matter.)

But somehow, while I don't think I'll be the worst smartphone offender in the room, I will no doubt be at least occasionally and, I hope discreetly, e-mailing, texting, and googling away. After all, when I first got a cell phone, I almost kept it in a lock box, as if it were a revolver or a vile of anthrax. I only took it out when I was stopped dead in traffic near the Hood plant in Charlestown and called my husband with my E.T.A.

Now, while I'm not one for calling while in an enclosed public place when there are other folks around, I am one of those who walks down the street, yacking away.

There was an article in a recent NY Times on the use (and abuse) of smartphones during meetings, and some of the tales told were pretty interesting.

There was the one about the folks from a marketing firm who were pitching a prospect, who spent the entire in-person meeting playing a game on his iPhone. 

While this does seem a bit obnoxious, the prospect, like the customer, is always right - or right enough, anyway, so that you'd probably ignore this behavior if you wanted someone's business. Besides, the guy was paying some attention - he was asking questions. Still, I really don't think that small, in-person meetings - whatever side of the pitch you're on - is the time or place to be playing a game. One thing if the prospect said, 'hey, I need to respond to this txt', or even said, 'I'm going to be keeping an eye on my e-mail, but I am listening to what you have to say.' Game playing: bad form. And who'd want this guy as a client, anyway?

(I used to report to a manager who would be playing Tetris when you were meeting with her. She would pretend that she was working - 'I have to check something here, blah-di-blah'-  but we could see the little Tetris boxes reflected in her glasses.)

Of course there is nothing all that new about doing side work during meetings. Certainly, since the advent of the call-in meeting, folks have been working-while-attending.  When I worked at Genuity, there was one fellow notorious for calling in to one of the many large-scale call-in meetings we had - generally for some ominous or completely BS announcement from senior management. Most of us would gather in conference rooms to listen in together (put mute on, roll our eyes, and make comments to each other). But Sam would call in from his office, forget to go on mute, and we could hear him madly typing away during the entire meeting - as did everyone else on the call.

Before the tele-meeting, let alone the smartphone, I guess all we could do was cast meaningful glances at each other and doodle.

The Times article also had this anecdote:

In Dallas, a college student sunk his chance to have an internship at a hedge fund last summer when he pulled out a BlackBerry to look up a fact to help him make a point during his interview, then lingered — momentarily, but perceptibly — to check a text message a friend had sent, said Trevor Hanger, the head of equity trading at the hedge fund, who was helping conduct the interview.

Serves him right, the maroon. And as if the world needed another hedge fund manager....

Some folks cited in the article were all up in arms about smartphone use - it's insulting, etc. But others pointed out there there are legitimate reasons to tap away - note taking, fact checking, etc. Not to mention snarky, fun reasons like sharing running commentary with your colleagues. Before there were smartphones, I used to sit on call-in meetings in active IM with a couple of remote colleagues. I don't think we could have survived some of the more absurd meetings we had to participate in without resorting to our steady stream of IM commentary. Still, we were sitting at our desks - not in front of the company CEO or the VP of Sales. They had no reason to suspect that we were making fun of everything they said.

(And speaking of this VP of Sales, she was in a management meeting when a fellow on her team IM'd her to ask how things were going. She responded "like shit". Unfortunately, she was in the process of hooking her laptop up to the projector so everyone could see her preso. The first thing all the other execs saw was her IM session.  I wasn't wild about this VP of Sales, but she was the only woman on the management team and they absolutely, positively treated her 'like shit.')

Anyway, I will draw up my own rules for Blackberry use:

  • Never in a client meeting without letting them know I need to check something or make a call . (Unless it's some huge-o client meeting, and I'm just sitting there in the audience, and I can do some casual, subtle tapping, and everyone around me is tapping away, not sitting there in rapt, still-finger silence.)
  • Never when I'm with a friend without letting them know I need to take a call, or we agree that I need to google something - like what was the name of George Bush the Younger's dog.
  • Never at a wedding, unless I'm sitting in the church waiting for things to begin.
  • Never at a funeral, even if I'm sitting in the church waiting for things to begin.
  • Never on a job interview, unless the interviewer asks for something that I need to find online.
  • If I ever have a job-job again, only in mega, everybody's doin' it meetings - and never, ever in small-ish meetings with, say, the president or the CEO.
  • If I ever have a job-job again, never while sitting there in a small or one-on-one meeting with Mr. or Ms. Big.
  • If I ever have a job-job again, never while sitting there in a small or one-on-one meeting with someone who reports to me. (Talk about a power trip.)
  • Never in a theater, or a concert, other than in the lobby.
  • At a Red Sox game, only when something entirely fabulous happens  - like clinching the pennant, or watching 'Tek take down A-Rod again - and I just have to share the joy.
  • Never while driving. (I rarely if ever use a cellphone while I'm driving, so it's fairly unlikely I'd get sucked into smartphoning while tootling down the pike.)

Other than that, the only hard and fast rule seems to be  - as with cellphone use - BlackBerrying is only okay when you're not disturbing others with your never-as-quiet-as-you-think-it-is tapping, or when you're not being out and out rude.

So I think I'll be okay, and not a total jerk with my new toy - whenever it is that I'm going to get it. But it really needs to be soon.

I'm in technology, for pete's sake. And I'm important.

Who knows? Just sitting here writing this, I may be missing out on all sorts of scintillating communiqués. Sure, I could just check my e-mail and IM and see whazzup. But that would be nowhere near as much fun as taking out my sportin' new BlackBerry and tapping away.


valerie said...

I almost laughed coffee across my desk with the sudden, vivid recollection of those twinkling little Tetris boxes floating past those insane, beady little eyes. Well, at least when something shiney had her attention our juglars caught a break. You just can't make up this stuff -- thanks again.

katrog said...

Next thing you know you'll be tweeting your brains out:)

Why do you think they call it "Twit"-ter?

I have decided to adopt the reverse snobbishness of the hopeless fogey, by claiming that those who are really important do not have to be at the beck and call of their electronic puppet masters 24/7. :)

Kath (blackberry-less, iphone-less, and app-less)

This message was sent from my now woefully ancient (2.5 years old) MacBook.

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