August 20, 2003

Desperately Searching for a Place without Network Connectivity

Daniel Hon desperately searches for a place in Cambridge (UK) with both high-powered caffeine (so he can get some real work done) and with no network connectivity (so that he can get some real work done). He fails:

ext|circ: Sigh:

Good: I made it to the big Starbucks in Cambridge to get lots of work done today, hopefully away from a network connection.

Bad: I reached an impasse and had to look up some documentation that wasn't cached locally.

Good: T-mobile appear to have installed a hot-spot here, they just aren't advertising it.

Bad: T-Mobile have installed a Hot Spot here. There wasn't supposed to be any network connectivity.

Good: I can look up the documentation.

Bad: It cost me £14.00 for 120 minutes valid over a 31 day period. That would get me a month's unlimited access in the 'states.

Even worse: US T-Mobile Hot Spot accounts aren't valid in the UK. You'll need another one.

Good, I suppose: Found the documentation I needed. Happy now, even though I'm £14 out of pocket.

Bad: Don't even get me started on the horrible UI that T-Mobile are using here for sign on. It's horrendous. Sample: the connection window that is spawned disappears straight after it's spawned if you're using Safari, leaving no way to log out. And your connection doesn't appear to time out, either. And the survey form to report your bad experience doesn't work. I could go on. I will. At length. Later. Meanwhile: Use Camino.

Posted by DeLong at August 20, 2003 08:06 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Brad

We do love you! Off topic, but I don't give a damn. We really do love you and could care less for the rubbish of radical right critics.

Lise Unbalanced but Decidedly Fair

Posted by: lise on August 20, 2003 08:19 AM

The phase "real work" should now be used with some caution as the notion thereof has failed quite hard through modern history. There is a per hour price for "work", which of course varies, for instance between types of "work". But it is of little use to lable some work as more "real" than other. We quite naturally don't do that with goods; pork-bellies are no less "real" than gold or shoes.

Why do we label some work as "real"? Is cleaning the house "real" work? Selling ice-cream? Working in a mine or in a steel-mill?

Stalin and Mao both made the mistake of pricing "real work" too high, overemphasising the importance of heavy industry. Most significantly so during the "Giant Leap", when the tools of trivial work, like kitchen utensils, were melted down to raw material for the processes of "real work".

And the idea of "real work" is still dangerous. Perhaps neither the stockbroker nor the economist is performing "real work" in the eyes of the steel-mill worker? Yet they earn a lot of money. Lots of money for no "real work": is there something we have to fix here?

No! Lets stick to the price and don't try to impose subjective values supposed to be generally valid!

Posted by: Mats on August 20, 2003 08:55 AM

Mats writes: "Why do we label some work as "real"? Is cleaning the house "real" work? Selling ice-cream? Working in a mine or in a steel-mill?"

I think the usage is a distinction between actual work and non-work, non-work being an activity where you are in the location where you would do the work, but you are spending more time on distractions.

Cleaning the house is real work. But if you're mostly sitting down, dustcloth in hand, watching Jerry Springer, and not getting anything done, you're not doing real work.

Work in mines and steel mills, by this definition, would certainly qualify as 'real work', because there are few distractions and the work is dangerous.

Posted by: Jon H on August 20, 2003 09:23 AM

Woops Jon; hanging around in a dangerous place like a steel mill is "real work", hanging around in a safe place (in front of your TV-screen) is non-work.

Where and why did that idea of danger get into your thinking about "real work"?

Posted by: Mats on August 20, 2003 09:41 AM

Mats writes: "Woops Jon; hanging around in a dangerous place like a steel mill is "real work", hanging around in a safe place (in front of your TV-screen) is non-work.

Where and why did that idea of danger get into your thinking about "real work"?"

The danger will keep you more focused on your work. People tend to be a bit more on-task when they're dealing with things like giant tubs of molten steel and massive machinery that could kill you in a moment if you're not careful.

Nor do such environments tend to have the lots of useless distractions around, like you find when you're doing work on an internet-connected computer.

Why are you so determined to find some kind of anti-labor sentiment in what people say?

Posted by: Jon H on August 20, 2003 10:21 AM

The idea about ”real work” is old but still often in use. Jon tried to make a neutral definition of “real work” but ended anyway up in linking “real work” to danger as opposed to the safety home in front of TV (steel mill – housekeeping). And in economies with only weak market mechanisms, the “real work” concept is still used to determine wages. In Sweden during the 90’s, health-care was becoming some small part privatised. Salaries for nurses, a work that wasn’t considered as much “real-work” as for instance work in the auto-industry work, were increased by about 30% when the more objective market mechanisms got more to say.

What’s that got to do with US here and now? Well, productivity increases, employment shrinks, jobs are outsourced abroad. According to economic theory, that’s fine – we (you!) can consume more of stuff from sectors where productivity is gained, and still transfer worked hours to sectors with relatively constant productivity like basic human care. Hence we can consume more stuff from all sectors.

Only that basic human care is not fully considered “real work”. The autoworker doesn’t want to be in that sector. And the seemingly trivial “real work” issue could thus be seen as the major friction in the major US-market – the labour market.

(Jon, I’ve been in steel mills, as much porno there as on the web actually)

Posted by: Mats on August 20, 2003 02:13 PM

I note in passing that the user in question had a problem dealing with a web app with Safari, while Camino had no problems. For this very reason, it should be *mandatory* that users use the "bug button" (choose "Bug" under View).
Clicking that lets you fill out the most painless bug report I have ever seen, and the developers do follow up on and fix these.

More on the topic, I'll point out that our local public library now offers striking architecture, free wireless internet access to card holders, *and* high quality coffee in the lobby. If yours doesn't, move to a nicer city. :-)

Posted by: Jonathan King on August 20, 2003 08:38 PM

"Jon tried to make a neutral definition of “real work” but ended anyway up in linking “real work” to danger as opposed to the safety home in front of TV"

No he didn't - you're simply being obtuse. What he had to say is perfectly clear to anyone who doesn't have some silly hobbyhorse to ride.

Posted by: Abiola Lapite on August 21, 2003 01:39 AM

It's clear that a steel-mill is so tightly linked to the idea of "real work" that people think that just being inside one means that you are working.

It should also be quite clear that this old fashioned idea of "real work" is hampering the functioning of free markets. For instance via the protection of the US steel-mills.

Furthermore, pointing out the ways in which old fashioned ideas impose huge cost even on modern (post-)industrial societies is not what I would call riding a hobby horse.

Posted by: Mats on August 21, 2003 09:41 AM

Mats writes: "Furthermore, pointing out the ways in which old fashioned ideas impose huge cost even on modern (post-)industrial societies is not what I would call riding a hobby horse."

Yes, it is a hobby horse, when the root of the discussion is a usage of "real work" which applies to a person's *own* judgment of his or her *own* *productive* work in that person's own field of interest.

Posted by: Jon H on August 21, 2003 10:16 AM

Jon, a person does not exist in a vacuum, nor does she have a language that is entirely her own. We are talking about attitudes on work that many people share. Many enough to impact political decisions in directions that hampers economic development.

Posted by: Mats on August 21, 2003 11:25 AM

When I'm sitting in this spot, left hand on the keyboard, right on the mouse, and staring at a spreadsheet open on the screen, that is "real" work. When I'm sitting in this spot, left hand on the keyboard, right on the mouse, and staring at "Brad Delong's Website" on the screen, that is not "real" work. "Real" work in this context is actually producing that which you are paid to produce. What I am producing right now, though possibly valuable to someone, maybe, is not what I am being paid to produce, and so is not "real". Homemaking isn't "real" by this definition, neither is volunteer work. Both are valuable, but "real" work is doing what one earn's one's living doing.

Posted by: rvman on August 21, 2003 12:38 PM

That some people like rvman - <<"real" work is doing what one earn's one's living doing.<< - manage to give the phrase under consideration a neutral "economistic" definition is good.

It doesn't make the problem with obsolete misconceptions about the importance of different kinds of work vanish though.

Posted by: Mats on August 22, 2003 12:17 AM
Post a comment