| This Month’s Question
Who's to Blame—You or Your ISP?
To curb piracy, the UK government is forcing Internet service providers to take responsibility for their clients’ illegal downloads of music and movies. ISPs must apply antipiracy software voluntarily by April or British officials say they will impose sanctions. The ultimatum comes after years of pressure by media companies to target ISPs—rather than individuals—for illegal downloads. The service providers argue that they should serve merely as data relays, not as monitors, for what passes over their networks.
Should ISPs, not their Customers, be responsible for illegal downloads?
| Respond to this question
by e-mail or regular mail. Space may not permit publication of all responses, but we’ll try to draw a representative sample. Responses will appear in the September issue of The Institute and may be edited for brevity. Suggestions for questions are welcome.
| Responses to March’s question
Would you want your employer to adopt a quiet time like Intel’s?
To be more productive, a group of engineers and managers at Intel Corp. has adopted a “quiet time” to eliminate office distractions. On Tuesday mornings they turn off their e-mail, forward calls to voice mail, decline all meetings, and hang a “Do not disturb” sign on their doors. Some say that a steady barrage of e-mail and phone calls hinders the ability to focus on work that requires creativity and analysis. But others argue that it’s vital to respond promptly to co-workers’ requests for information so that they can get the answers they need.
Make Your Own Rules
Once every two weeks or so, I institute my own quiet time by turning off my e-mail and phone. I limit the quiet time to no more than four hours so I can respond to phone calls the same day. Instead of a company instituting an official quiet time, an atmosphere supportive of the concept would be more helpful. This way I can have the quiet time when I really need it.
Sometimes quiet time is necessary to complete a task that requires concentration. But shutting people out is inconvenient for them and perhaps inconsiderate. Employees should choose a time to keep their office quiet, possibly early in the morning.
RICHARD VAN LEEUWEN
West Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Intel’s one morning a week is a good start. Quiet time is absolutely indispensable to creative thinking. If colleagues need an answer, it can wait until the afternoon, and they can use that time for some creative thinking of their own.
Chapel Hill, N.C.
I would definitely vote for having quiet time away from the everyday barrage of internal spamlike e-mail that hinders productivity. However, those messages would still build up during quiet time, and you’d have to handle them eventually.
A better solution would be to change the implementation of internal mailing lists, which are at least 90 percent spam. It’s quite common to dedicate up to half of each day going through internal e-mail spam just so you don’t miss the 10 percent that’s actually useful for your job.
San Jose, Calif.
Going Too Far
Although I believe that time without meetings can be valuable, I think an enforced quiet time with no phone calls or e-mail is going too far. Engineers do not work in a vacuum; their jobs are fundamentally collaborative. If you are answering colleagues’ questions, your individual tasks may not be progressing, but the tasks of your group or company are moving ahead.
No Distractions, Please
There need to be times when there are no distractions. But there’s a need to respond to people, and this limits quiet times. I often work best when I have the time to think something through thoroughly rather than being interrupted to respond to inquiries.
Hey, Cool It!
We need quiet time to be more productive, but I don’t think my employer should adopt an official quiet time. We tend to disturb others for every little obstacle in our paths when we can answer many questions ourselves. We should disturb others only when we really need to.
On the other hand, we don’t have to respond promptly to every message we receive. We should respond only to those that really merit immediate attention. For instance, we can set up auto-reply messages when we can’t respond to e-mail right away. We can turn down the volume of the phone ring and screen phone calls.
Little by little, perhaps people will start to contact and distract us only when it really matters.
Silence Is Scarce
Quiet time is a great idea. I work in a sea of cubicles, and it’s virtually impossible to have any quiet time to concentrate on anything. Between the conversations and phone calls of people around me and the barrage of e-mail (mostly spam), I don’t know how anything gets accomplished.
Let It Ring
Quiet time would really help get some productive work done. It takes a significant amount of time without interruptions to do research.
While it’s not particularly sanctioned by my company, I occasionally turn off my e-mail and phone. Although e-mail can be helpful when working on a group project, the sheer volume of it is overwhelming at times. People shouldn’t expect an immediate response to e-mail.
Where’s the Fire?
Intel’s move is not a bad idea. It allows workers to have the time to focus on important items once a week. Sometimes it’s vital to respond to others quickly, but this tends to cause chaos once customers or colleagues get used to it. If your problem can’t wait for three hours once during the week, you probably need the fire brigade instead.