I saw this Story about office sensors tracking your every move. It struck me as something the great James Altucher (who won’t answer a text) would comment on. He didn’t, that I’m aware of, so I will.
Sensors that keep tabs on more than temperature are already all over offices—they’re just less conspicuous and don’t have names that suggest Bond villains. “Most people, when they walk into buildings, don’t even notice them,” says Joe Costello, chief executive officer of Enlighted, whose sensors, he says, are collecting data at more than 350 companies, including 15 percent of the Fortune 500. They’re hidden in lights, ID badges, and elsewhere, tracking things such as conference room usage, employee whereabouts, and “latency”—how long someone goes without speaking to another co-worker.
Proponents claim the goal is efficiency: Some sensors generate heat maps that show how people move through an office, to help maximize space; others, such as OccupEye, tap into HVAC systems. The office-design company Gensler has 1,000 Enlighted sensors lining its new space in New York. Embedded in light fixtures, the dime-size devices detect motion, daylight, and energy usage; a back-end system adjusts lighting levels. The sensors also learn employees’ behavior patterns. If workers in a given department start the day at 10 a.m., lights will stay dim until about that hour. So far, Gensler has seen a 25 percent savings in energy costs. It estimates the investment—installation cost the company about $1.70 per square foot, or roughly $200,000—will pay off in five years.
Legally speaking, U.S. businesses are within their rights to go full-on Eye of Sauron. “Employers can do any kind of monitoring they want in the workplace that doesn’t involve the bathroom,” says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute. And as long as the data is anonymized, as Enlighted’s is, some people don’t mind tracking if it makes work life easier. “It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t feel intrusive,” says Luke Rondel, 31, a design strategist at Gensler. “It’s kind of cozy when you’re working late at night to be in a pod of light.” A majority of U.S. workers the Pew Research Center surveyed last year said they’d tolerate surveillance and data collection in the name of safety.
Up to a point, perhaps. The Boston Consulting Group has outfitted about 100 volunteer employees in its new Manhattan office with badges that embed a microphone and a location sensor. Made by Humanyze in Boston, the badges track physical and verbal interactions. BCG says it intends to use the data to see how office design affects employee communication. Outside critics have called the plan Orwellian and despotic—“It is a little bit invasive,” says Ross Love, 57, a BCG managing partner who volunteered—but the data collected is anonymized, and the company has pledged not to use it for performance evaluation.
Full Eye of Sauron? And, just who would that make your employer?
Companies, large and small, always look for ways to save money. It helps the bottom line. But it’s also a method of control – control of the HVAC, the light bill, and you. If ever you tire of slaving for the Dark Lord, you might consider self-employment. Altucher did it with writing, among other things. I’ve followed suit.
The other day James posted some tips on overcoming the obstacles to successful writing, as books are concerned. These points are worth considering. His points (with my commentary):
Writing is boring. It’s unnatural. It’s basically sitting and staring at a scream and typing into a keyboard.
This one is a killer – perhaps literally. Sitting is unhealthy. Break it up with bouts of random movement. Exercise during the day, twice if you can. Drink some coffee while you sit.
B) NO DISTRACTIONS
Because of the above, I always had to create an environment of zero distractions.
For my very first book, my family went to stay with my in-laws and I spent two weeks locked in my house and did nothing but write.
I turned off Internet, no TV, nothing. Just wrote. This was very hard. I’m too used to being distracted. It’s natural to be distracted.
I’m lucky in this regard as I can usually write anywhere and under any circumstance. However, for serious or strenuous work – editing for example – it needs to be quiet. No way around that.
Everything has a story.
Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, even a good tweet.
A good story helps work flow. That leads to better reading and more engagement – even if one writes about tax policy or book writing tips. I started this piece with an “Eye of Sauron” hook…
D) BOOK-SPECIFIC STUFF
This is a post about books and not writing in general so there are other book-specific items that a writer can’t ignore.
A book is not just the 40–80,000 words in the middle.
A book is a cover. A back-cover. Two flaps. And an interior.
In an odd way, writing the base material is the easiest part. It’s what writers do, in defiance of that history James mentioned. The other stuff, so much of it, is actual work.
Finishing the book, delivering the book, watching the book come out, dealing with both good and bad reviews, requires some self-awareness.
Dealing with that psychology is painful.
Most of us in this business over think the hell out of everything. Analysis becomes paralysis if you let it.
F) THE NEXT BOOK
The hardest part of finishing a book is starting the next book. This is often the most important way to market the first book. How many authors didn’t achieve success until their second or third books?
Here, James is way ahead of me. When that first tome is finished there’s a temptation to relax. It’s needed but can lead back to paralysis. I finished my second book two months after my first – and that was 14 months ago… A few little pseudo e-books and pubs for other people later and I’m still looking at several new drafts.
We’ve all got something to work on. I’m going to work on my coffee now. Y’all enjoy life in Mordor…