MY Hines

Electric Leashes

Posted on: January 6, 2010

When my best friend said this to me yesterday when I was pondering what I could post about on my blog, I was quite confused about what she meant. Until she said “you know, the Crackberry”. At that moment, it all made sense. I would have said “Crackberry” first, but now that I think about it, I think the term Electic Leashes is much more appropriate as mobile smartphones are becoming so popular that I sometimes wonder if anyone buys just a plain cell phone. (I know that they do – that’s all that my mom will use.) It also was a timely comment because I have been waiting to demo out a new device – and it’s not a new Blackberry. I’m waiting to try out a new Windows Mobile device.

But when you say ‘Electric Leash’ it does really represent some of the pressing “cons” of these smartphones. Immediately I think about how they are keeping everyone, not just us ‘techie’ people, connected to work more and more. That line of where you work is gone. You can work while at the mall. You can work while waiting at the doctor’s office. You can work at theme parks. Work no longer stops when you leave the office door. Working at home becomes a term that means “not in the building”.

One of the biggest issues I see is that as these devices become more available for use, they are getting into the hands of non-techie people who creates a whole new set of challenges for those of us who must support the devices. In fact, I would say in the last six months I have had to handle more issues/concerns about the electronic leashes out there than ever before. I’m going to include the list of issues that are created when you have to assist someone with their device:

  1. Uncomfortable in use – most often than not, the user is just not comfortable to do anything more than to open up email and look at the calendar. They want nothing to do with troubleshooting the device. I recently got a Blackberry Tour and I felt comfortable downloading applications for Twitter and such. This is not something that non-techies are comfortable doing. But as soon as they see someone else with that application – it’s time to see a techie to do it for them.
  2. Staying up with the Jones’ – despite the fact that they might not be comfortable with doing more with the device, don’t let them see the newest model out there. Now, more than ever, it’s about not letting them see other mobile devices. If someone else – especially outside of their work – has a better bell on their device, they are naturally going to want it too. If you are the techie supporting these devices, you better keep up with the devices and know when the new model is coming out.
  3. It still is up to the wireless provider to get you service – I cannot even think of counting how many times I had to explain that the problem ultimately is because the device is only getting ‘one bar’ and that is why it isn’t receiving email. No matter who your wireless provider is, there are always going to be those areas that the device doesn’t work. But don’t worry – as soon as the non-techie gets in those areas, you are going to know about it.
  4. It takes a village – At least in my set up at work, we run our own internal Blackberry server. So when a device starts having problems, it isn’t just one thing to do to fix it. I’ve now really tried to get the user to start the support call with the wireless provider first. That user knows when they are going to be available. They can know if they have pictures saved on the device. Handing the device to me to fix means I have questions that I don’t have answers too. It’s rough. You wish that you could just fix it all without having to make them do anything – but reality is, it’s not your device to start with and you won’t have the answers.

Then there is the other part of electronic leashes – and it’s about your own use of them. There is a reason why people started to call the Blackberry “Crackberry”. It is so easy to always know what is going on. I think for some part if you embrace the technology you are a bit possessive and like to be in control. That mobile device just makes it easier for you to be in control more often. I couldn’t handle it when my Blackberry wasn’t receiving support tickets on it – I just always wanted to know everything.

So I was really leashed by this device. I would get half way to work and find out that I had left it at home – I was going home to get it. Vacation? Well, the out of office message would say that I wouldn’t return emails until I returned, but if you were asking something really important, often I would be responding. Day off? Well, that five minutes keeping up with email is really nothing, right?

Breaking away from the leash and running free is an experience. I had it happen to be twice – once by accident and once planned. The accident was complete torture. I was in Orlando for the Cisco Live conference and I lost my Blackberry. I almost had a panic attack. I was lost without it. It took over my life so much that I had contacted someone to wipe my handheld, I contacted about getting a new one, and I spent so much time tracking it down. I couldn’t function off the leash. I did find it in the taxi that I had taken to the hotel and lucky the person after me was going to Cisco Live too and told the taxi driver to take it into the main office location because someone was really  going to be missing the device. $50 bucks for the device to be brought back to the hotel and two days later, I had the device back.

The most successful ‘off-leash’ experience was the following year when I went to Orlando for vacation. Do you want to know where the Blackberry was? It was at my house, in the safe provided by work, and it was turned off. (I had a disposal cell phone for the trip.) I was going to be spending a week in Disney World and I could just foresee me answering email in lines. It would be unnecessary for me to do that – but if it was with me, I would do it. Better yet, my mom knew that even if I didn’t take it to the parks but it went to us to the condo, that I would probably sneak it into the bathroom and read email at night when she thought I wasn’t watching. Yeah – I would have. But I survived the week. Everyone survived the week. I’m not going to say that it wasn’t rough not having that connection. I think I missed Facebook more than anything. But it was very liberating and everyone – I mean everyone no matter if they are the highest of the highest – should take a break from their electronic leash.

My rambling post now, brought on by my dearest best friend, is now complete. I hope that it made some sense. It’s all thoughts that came to me when I heard the term yesterday and it stuck all night long.

So, in closing, don’t get burned by your electronic leash. Find some time to run off-leash.

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2 Responses to "Electric Leashes"

Good story, thanks for sharing

[…] keep my email organized on this thing than the Blackberry. Is this the time that I exchange my one electric leash for another? Counts on if I get it […]

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