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Office Space turns 20: How the film changed the way we work (bbc.com)
388 points by iamben 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 307 comments



> "Instead of personality-stripping cubicles, organisations would go on to favour open-air office plans..."

Absolutely nothing fundamental has changed. I feel like if "Office Space" were being re-made today, open floor plans would be one of the horrors that it would lampoon.

Not so much the open floor plans themselves, mind you. But rather the surreal absurdism of which they're just an example. Twenty years ago, we understood that "Hawaiian Shirt Day" was superficially supposed to be a morale booster, but was actually a morale sink in practice. Today, open floor plans were initially pitched as "collaboration" aids, but most people have to come to realize that they're really about cost savings, and are counter-productive to actually getting focused work done.

Most white collar humor comes from shining a cynical spotlight on the disconnect between what business leaders say, and what business workers actually experience. And the Kafkaesque situation of most people feeling this way, yet us not being able to openly say so in the workplace itself.

The superficial examples may change, but that underlying theme is still central to white collar office work. Perhaps it always will be.


My idea of an Office Space remake ten years ago was the gang is hired back, kept on for a year and then forced to cross-train their overseas replacements to get a severance package. Not terribly original but definitely what was happening then.

Now I imagine Gary Cole reprising his Bill Lumbergh role but he's shaved twenty years off his resume. He has a man bun he has to dye, rides a scooter to work (which he despises) and woefully misuses modern platform terms and "may mays" in typical /r/fellowkids style.

The main characters are rehired as part of a lawsuit settlement against Silcon Valley's rampant ageism. fRAGILe has taken over (we must acknowledge our weakness to transcend it) and each day is started with a scrimmage that includes mandatory hugs, incense and mediation. No one is allowed to discuss development progress because it brings too much negative energy.

Completely ignored by their coworkers the old gang invent something that makes the company a takeover target. Rather than acknowledge their worth and shatter SV group think about anyone over 25 having a good idea much less give up equity, management gives them all awful reviews and fires them, returning their shares to the firing manager. (It's assumed if you got rid of dead weight you did the company some good and should be rewarded.)


I got a laugh out of frAgile.

https://fragilemanifesto.net/


Outsourced dives into that topic a bit:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425326/


There was a short-lived TV series with the same name and concept (perhaps based on the movie?) that was actually pretty funny at times.

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1593756/


I could see it working as a Silicon Valley crossover


Funny you should mention that. Mike Judge -- the director of Office Space -- also co-created Silicon Valley. (He was also responsible for Idiocracy, Beavis and Butt-Head, and King Of The Hill.)


Idiocracy's "but it has what plants crave" conversation about feeding plants water instead of electrolyte-laden Brawndo is how I imagine most conversations go with anti-vaxxers.

"But vaccines make you sick."


Interesting! I was aware of Beavis & Butthead + King Of The Hill but had no idea he had a hand in Silicon Valley as well.


Yeah, all of those shows do a really great job of capturing the zeitgeist in their own flavor. Office space is iconic but KOTH and Silicon Valley do it consistently across multiple seasons.


Tales from the Tour Bus is a new show he's doing as well. It's hilarious and insightful.


I think Gary Cole's character should get swole and shave his head Bezos style in order to stay relevant. The old gang's invention could happen at a company hack-a-thon, but still be ignored by the SVs :)


So depending on who you have co-write (if anyone) it could go a lot of different ways. Like if you have Seth McFarlane join his mandatory 27 poop jokes would surface as Bill chugging green tea and kombucha drinks resulting in unfortunate digestive issues. I figure this makes him so elusive he ends up as a somewhat mysterious figure because he can never complete a thought. People fill in the blanks for themselves thus solving their own problem but credit Bill with the solution and he gets an undeserved reputation as a genius.

I figure the gang has to do something useful to set them up for a Kafkaesque evaluation where we learn that they failed to meet zero expectations by exceeding them. Everyone's fired and SV's sterotypes about older workers are reinforced as they couldn't even do nothing properly.


I like that, his unfinished thoughts could be quotes from kombucha bottle caps.


So basically Dilbert - the animated series :)


I'll take your word for it! I didn't watch the animated series. It was too painful.


Filbert had a short run as an animated series (cartoon show). I think that was the reference.


I meant the animated series!


Instead of responding to everything s%&t about cubicles, organisations made all those things even worse by going with open plan.

Good heuristic on these trends. "Will everyone absolutely hate it?" If so, it'll get really popular.

Hotdesking. Oh yeah! It'll drive everyone nuts!

What else you got?


Collaborative seating. (Basically a lunch table with a bunch of chairs in the hallway). Bring your laptop, hope you have a cord long enough to reach the outlet. No partitions at all.

Though globally remote is worse. You're expected to be able to jump on cam at all hours. Have your cap nearby to cover up the bedhead.


Though globally remote is worse. You're expected to be able to jump on cam at all hours

I think that's the price you pay for being globally remote. We have some overseas support staff, and they knew before they took the job when they'd need to be expected to dial-in for team meetings, and they all seem to be fine with it.


You can 'dial in' without a webcam. We do it all the time at my job, which went fully remote six months ago. Half the people in our various Webex meetings use their phones to dial in, even.

My boss originally wanted people to use their webcam when joining those meetings when we first went fully remote. That initiative lasted about two weeks before no one did it anymore, including him.

I just wear a headset, and half the time I can leave it on mute anyway (especially if the puppy decides now is the time to chew on her squeakiest toy, or bark at some people running down the path beyond our back yard).


In my remote job we do cam, but everyone wears whatever and nobody minds. Many people are in their pyjamas, I wear whatever old T-shirt I have, etc. That's one way of solving that problem.

However, in my previous company every remote developer had a Polycom phone in their home office and the main office ran a PBX for them. I found that an order of magnitude better, because the phones had much much better sound quality, they were physically on the desk so there was a feeling of "this device connects me to my coworkers" associated with them, and they just lowered the barrier of calling someone by a ton.

They were so good, that we'd routinely just call each other up and keep a line open while we worked, so we could chat about work, what we were doing or just generally about our lives, and we really felt like we were sitting next to each other in a way that Zoom doesn't.


The physical phone thing is also my best experience while working remotely. Like you said we would call each other up and leave the line open for hours. We never used a camera, but I went to the office at least once every other week.

I still miss the phone on my desk, and I've been considering to buy one for years, as a gate with an asterisk multiple choice menu in between :)


Is the webcam a west coast thing? I work remotely for a NYC based company, and in the hundreds of meetings I've had both internally and with people from other companies, not once has someone turned on a webcam (or requested it).


I don’t know. Without a webcam I am missing about 100% of all your nonverbal communication. I can see why one would be handy.

Is it really that hard to put on a shirt for your meetings?


> missing...nonverbal communication

Screen sharing?


I don't think that was the non-verbal communication he was referring to.


I was hoping it wasn't body language, because that's more of a detriment to the meeting, since it's completely subjective. We have an exec that constantly interrupts meetings to ask people about their body language, but the bad part is that he's almost always interpreted it incorrectly, and he proceeds to make mountains out of molehills and waste everyone's time (often while making people extremely uncomfortable). Unless it's a sales presentation where a professional salesperson needs to "read the room", we're better off without cams.


We are east coast and always use webcams. I find it really helps communication.

If the goal is to match the level of communication of being local, then webcams are a must.


East coast company. Turning on webcams is pretty common but by no means universal. It's more common in smaller meetings.


It’s a tech vs non tech thing. Everyone in older companies tend to be used to communicating by phone.


Is the video the real issue with dialing in at all-hours, or is it the "all-hours" part?


Yes.


At my company, we have global meetings daily and not once has anyone turned on the cam. We use Bluejeans and it seems to start with the cam on, but I guess everyone remembers to cut it off before joining.


IIRC, the Bluejeans app remembers your last used setting for video / mic.


We do cams on Thursday stand ups only, just as a team building sort of thing. Voice or Slack all other times.


Remote CTO here. We hardly ever use cam for calls and if we do it's 100% opt-in. We also have agreed upon business hours when people are available and generally book things in Google Calendar if there is a meeting unless it's a (rare) outage that requires immediate attention in which case pagerduty automates the process.


Aside: My ambition is to someday rise to that role, while staying remote. I would love to read your thoughts on how one can pursue and move into a CTO role remotely.


See reply to sibling comment.


Seriously: If you have a blog I can follow, or a book I can read that describes your story of becoming (and staying) a remote CTO, please share.


I don't have anything published but it seems like this is something that could have an audience. I do have extensive notes which I've been collecting to put into some sort of coherent form and publish so maybe it's time to do that.


Another anecdotal data point: I've been remote for about a decade and I've never expected to be on a call (visual or otherwise) outside business hours for my timezone (9-5). I work with folks in SF, London, Tel Aviv, Bangalaru.


I've done globally remote for 10 years with 3 companies. Never been expected to jump in any call that's inconvenient for me.

It would take a lot for me to give it up for an office of any kind.


that sounds great for ergonomics..


I am too social for that, when I see people's faces I want to talk to them. I need to have a corner where I can put my monitor and do that part of my job.

I can always do the social part of my job standing up, away from my desk; but if I have no permanent desk and corner, then I can not benefit from it.


How about "desk utilisation monitoring"? Do an internet search for "occupeye". And then look to see if you've a spy cam under your hot desk.


And yet WeWork is apparently the 4th highest valued company right now (by some metrics) and is a place where people voluntarily pay to be in open plans. No one is twisting their arms.


WeWork is a real estate holding company, not an office renting company. They just happen to be able to monetize their assets by renting space.


> As of early-January 2019, WeWork had a valuation of roughly US$47 billion

Well holy shit, I did not expect that.


Hot terminals?


Whomever came up with the concept of hot terminals and/or desking needs to be strapped to a tree and beaten with a bag of hammers. "Oh we can oversubscribe our desks now? Sweet we'll just make 'em all work a compressed 4x10 schedule to shoehorn as many of 'em in there as we can. Work life balance? Pfffftt overrated."


So basically every possible configuration in which people can be made to work together is intolerably unbearable along some dimension or another.

What have we learned?

There isn't a configuration that is good, productive and cost effective.

Pick any two.


I doubt the cost of an office, whether private or a 6-8 person bull pen style, is more than a rounding error compared to the cost of salaries + benefits for most tech employees. Another commenter put forth a figure of $300/month/person. That’s less than the cost of those shiny new MacBooks seemingly everyone in SF carries around.


It's not just the office space. The commute is very costly as well. Employees add the commute and all the other annoyances to their salary requirements. It's good for the employer and employee to "keep the money on the field" aka maximizing the time happily making value for the customer.


> Another commenter put forth a figure of $300/month/person. That’s less than the cost of those shiny new MacBooks seemingly everyone in SF carries around.

…But nobody is buying a new MacBook every quarter.


If valued employees needed a new MacBook every quarter, the company would find a way to make it happen. For some reason I've never understood, that doesn't apply to office space.


Valued employees also get offices if they want. It's the plebians that get stuck in open offices with four year old HP laptops with busted fans.


"There isn't a configuration that is good, productive and cost effective."

I think you meant cheap. It's quite possible to have expensive, cost-effective configurations.


but is it possible to have expensive, cost-effective configurations that (by default since they are cost effective must be productive) AND are deemed to be good working conditions by all parties?

This is my claim. However you arrange it there exists some suckiness which people inevitably complain about that is a trade-off of having it in that specific configuration.


Rooms for 6-8 people isolated from external noises is a good sweet spot.

Yes, people will complain. But there's a huge difference between "John, could you please turn the volume of your headphones down" and "study after study has proven that open-floor plans are detrimental to productivity and health".


> Rooms for 6-8 people isolated from external noises is a good sweet spot

Sweet spot for me does not depend on the number of people. I used to work for a company in a huge open space with 25+ devs who understood the need for silence.

Now I'm in an open space with 8 people who do not understand the need for silence.

One guy's been on a diet for the past year and eats only raw carrots for lunch. The crunching is so loud I can hear it through my Bose QC15 headphones.

It starts with the screeching carrot peeler, I want to hang myself. The same guy spends all day making obnoxious snorting sounds and doesn't know what a Kleenex is.

Then another colleague decides to go on the same raw carrot diet. Is this a candid camera episode?

Then there's the daily chatter about last night's football game, incessant complaining about whatever the latest company announcement was, other people coming in to the room to yak about their code. Other people fart and stink out the whole room.

I understand the need people to be able to have a chat behind their desk, for professional or personal reasons. But that also bothers others. Conclusion is, open plan doesn't work.

I'm now on the verge of quitting my job for this reason and it's the same reason I quit my previous job.

When I start interviewing for other jobs, how can I ask "do people here understand the need to shut up" without appearing like an asshole?

If I didn't have kids I'd move to outer Mongolia and farm sheep.


>When I start interviewing for other jobs, how can I ask "do people here understand the need to shut up" without appearing like an asshole?

Honestly? I don't think you can. If you're at the point of regularly quitting jobs over people eating and chatting in an office, you may just have to prioritize a private office or remote work. That will limit your options of course but it may be a tradeoff worth making.


I actually like this. I need it.

I once walked into an office for an interview and it was too quiet for the number of devs in there. I knew it wasn't right for me.

I guess listen for the background noise?


> Rooms for 6-8 people isolated from external noises is a good sweet spot.

You just have to pray you don't get stuck with people quite capable of generating a lot of extremely irritating internal (to the office) noise.


The superficial examples may change, but that underlying theme is still central to white collar office work. Perhaps it always will be.

Probably so. Billy Wilder's The Apartment executed a very similar lampooning of white-collar office culture 40 years earlier (if you haven't seen it, see it! It's probably Wilder's best film).


> Absolutely nothing fundamental has changed. I feel like if "Office Space" were being re-made today, open floor plans would be one of the horrors that it would lampoon.

It was remade, essentially into Silicon Valley.


Office Space is kinda being remade today with each episode of Silicon Valley they make.


Economically speaking, aren’t open offices a necessity for a startup in Silicon Valley? I can’t fathom the rent for an office with personal offices for each employee.

The solution that should make everyone happy, of course, is to just make everything remote.


Small team rooms for up to 8 people who work on the same project -- promotes collaboration, no pointless distractions, and cost-effective real estate. Add a library room for people who want complete silence, and enough conference rooms for meetings that don't fit in the team room for whatever reason.


I would never leave the library room, except for meetings. I can't work when people are talking around me.

Edit: What is it about this statement that earned it a downvote?


Not trying to be snarky, but you can't or you won't? At some point do you wonder if it's a problem you should look at addressing?

I'm all about optimizing the work environment, but saying you can't work with talking around you comes across as entitled.


It's not entitled, I just have serious issues focusing when there's other noise around me. I also have trouble hearing when there's background noise (I can't understand what's being said on the tv when the dishwasher is running in the next room, but I can understand it fine without the background noise; same volume).


You can’t or you won’t work standing in a ditch with mud up to your knees?

You can’t or you won’t work in a chair that gives you a mild electric shock every 49 seconds?

Here’s a question: when your work environment is hostile to focusing on work that needs focus, what exactly is the point of distinguishing between can’t and won’t?


The difference is that very few people work in those environments. Many have worked in noisy office environments for at least the past century.

I'm sympathetic to someone who can't/won't work in those conditions. The good news is that, if they're in tech, they probably have alternatives--something which many don't have. Insisting on remote work or other conditions that allow them to work in peace and quiet may not optimize for salary or career. But everyone should at least consider what's important for them.


Keep in mind the person I commented to said they cannot work with any talking going on (and later said any noise). In what world is hearing people talk considered hostile?

I'm in an office today and can hear people talking nearby, is that too loud? At some point it becomes my problem if I'm bothered by something.


This is an amazingly effective setup; I've worked at a company that has this by accident, and nothing compared to it in terms of productivity


Also so much fun. Sometimes working alone is more productive than working in a team of 5 (8 is too much for me), but having 5 people in a room is the best way to learn from others and build something together while not slowing others down too much.


Not really, most office space is constantly renovated and reused as companies cycle and grow. Cubicles and rooms are easy to build once and amortize, and they can be very lightweight these days.

Construction doesn't have to be heavy permanent walls either and many places have fully configurable wall construction that is more than good enough to offer privacy and sound insulation.


It's not so much the cost of construction as the cost of real estate -- it's hard to build an office as small as single desks or (yuck) bench-style side by side seating. Offices have tighter constraints on egress/ingress than rows of desks so you can't use space as efficiently.

Plus, offices/cubes are not flexible at all -- when you start to outgrow your building full of offices (or even cubes), you can't easily squeeze desks together to make room while you seek additional space.

We have some small "phone rooms" that are about as small as you can build an office, and they are super cramped and uncomfortable, I wouldn't want to spend a full work-day in one.


It doesn't have to be an office per person. Small groups up to 8 people can work well and very doable without a big loss in usable square feet.

I suspect most companies that absolutely need every inch of continuous desk space have bigger problems. Organic growth isn't difficult to manage, it's the crazy VC fueled hiring sprees that create real estate issues.


What downsides of a large open office are eliminated with an 8-person room? 8 seems like a lot of people if you really want the peace and quiet of an isolated office, and it doesn’t seem like a 50-person open office is going to be much louder or worse than an 8-person office.


1. 8 people make less noise than 80 people.

2. Physical security and confidentiality is much better.

3. If teams hold 'stand up meetings' or suchlike without using meeting rooms, they won't disrupt other teams.

4. People who have to make calls all the time (customer support, sales etc) don't disrupt other people.

5. Fixed walls remove the temptation to salami-slice square-footage-per-employee, protecting good working conditions.

6. Climate control becomes simpler and has a better chance of working.


Up to 8, that's more of an upper limit.

Sound levels rise with the size of the crowd. More people making noise, more conversations more of the time, more space to spread the sound, and less individual accountability means people talk louder to be heard and are less considerate of their neighbors, creating a feedback cycle that ends up in a very rough environment.


I don't know how true this is for others, but on-task discussion doesn't grate on my nerves like random off topic conversations. If someone is talking about some aspect of the project I am working on right next to me, I can handle that MUCH better than someone in another department 4 cubes away bloviating about what their kid wore to prom or who the Piggers beat the previous night ("YOU SHOULDA SEEN IT MAN!!").

I know that isn't the case for everybody, but I think I'd be quite comfortable in an 8 person war room as long as folks were actually working on stuff.


How big would these rooms be? Because while I don't agree with the cold accounting calculations that lead to startup mgmt. preferring open office plans, I understand that it truly maximizes empty space. To guarantee an office for each employee- I'm not sure how it can be sustainable unless you're working in an office park with enough cheap space.


Doesn't need to be 1 per individual, can group together small groups. Most "open plans" tend to waste lots of space on excessively wide desks, meeting areas, decorations, etc.


> they can be very lightweight these days

You mean "noisy".


Someone should start a business renting shoulder-high partitions that you put between desks.


How would they help?

I've been at companies whose answer to complaints about open space was exactly this: shoulder high partitions. Yay, the cubicles are back.


They’re still preferable to full openness.


We used to macgyver particians out of white boards and project posters.


> The solution that should make everyone happy, of course, is to just make everything remote.

Except there exist a set of people who enjoy the camaraderie of talking shit with their colleagues in the office while they go about their worker bee lives.

You will inevitably make those people unhappy with that move and then they will come here on HN and categorically declare how terrible working remote is (for them, but they will omit that detail).


> Except there exist a set of people who enjoy the camaraderie of talking shit with their colleagues in the office while they go about their worker bee lives.

We are working through this right now. Our current office lease is up and the new space is not done yet. We let people also be fully remote, so we decided to go fully remote until the other space is completed. Quite a few people are very unhappy about even this short couple months of being forced remote.


I'm pretty much fully remote these days. But looking back to the long-term job in the computer industry I first had after school, I would not have liked or probably particularly flourished in being stuck in my apartment all day. (To be sure, I'd probably have moved into the city and found different patterns but it's still a bit hard for me to imagine.)

I'd also note that I've known lots of people who basically had jobs that didn't require a lot of in-person interactions but still preferred to come into the office. Of course, that can be largely solved by paying for rental office space for them.


>The solution that should make everyone happy, of course, is to just make everything remote.

http://conferencecall.biz/


Adding cubicle walls to a row of desks barely increases the footprint.

And I'd rather have cubicles than open-plan. Give me at least a smidgen of privacy.


If that was legitimately a concern then why not just have everyone telecommute? Then you get an office for every employee and $0 in rent.


Last time I dealt with this, 20 years ago. The cost of an office for a tech worker appeared to be basically nil. Less than 5% of wages, benefits, insurance. Place I'm in is a 1500sqft warren. Costs $300/month per tech monkey.

Gonna pay $12000/mo for a code monkey? Costs $300-500/mo for him to have an office? The extravagance!

I'm back to an old observation by Scott Adams; Ask yourself why the secretaries chair doesn't have armrests. Cost isn't an issue, the price difference is $50. This is all about status and class not money.


That's... exactly what I was suggesting.


Your comment reminded me when I first started working I could 'win' casual days which meant a golf shirt instead of a tie.

Oddly enough, I think in some cases it has gone too far in the other direction. When I see people barefoot in a public restroom wearing a t-shirt full of holes I don't think about getting work done.


> When I see people barefoot in a public restroom wearing a t-shirt full of holes I don't think about getting work done.

Why not?


an open floor plan with a small team is great but anything over 5 is just too much.


Similar can and has been said for games like DnD. 8 players or more is stretching.


I think engineers are paid too much for Office Space to still work. SWE jobs aren’t normal office jobs anymore.


What does pay have to do with a job being an "office" job? Are corporate lawyers and accountants not office jobs?

If you work in an office, then by definition, you work an office job.


Accountants usually don’t have lavish perks or doctor-level paychecks though. The lifestyles of all of the big2+elite startup engineers I know is miles different from the characters in the movie.

I watched the movie much later than most people on this website and was most shocked by the fact that he was neighbors with a construction worker. That sort of class co-mingling seems vanishingly rare in my social circle.


> Accountants usually don’t have lavish perks or doctor-level paychecks though

Accountants absolutely have lavish perks bestowed upon them by the "Big 4" - annual week abroad in foreign destinations for team building.

> doctor-level paychecks though

Neither do devs. In Europe, accountants are paid better than devs. With better hours(except at quarter end) and a straightforward career path..and no-BS job interviews.

Chartered accountants (still talking about company employed- not sole practice) earn even more - like 30% more than a senior dev.


As a Chartered Accountant who qualified at a Big Four firm in London, this is the first I've heard of any of these things.

Though it is possible to make more money as an accountant, there are far fewer directors and partners than there are senior devs.


It blows my mind how little developers seemed to be paid in Europe. I guess it's just a matter of supply and demand? With the massive cost differential I am amazed we don't see more remote/out-sourcing from California to the UK. Sure there are disadvantages, the time difference, culture, etc but it's basically half the price, or better?


My friends at Google’s London offices are paid comparably to my friends at Google’s Kirkland (Seattle) office.

All my other UK friends at low-profile companies are paid a fraction of that (certainly less than half, arguably for the same work, even in London).

The only explanation I have for it is entrenched low salary expectations and also knowing you’re competing with India, whereas on the US West Coast (which is where I live now, though I graduated in the UK) employers have already decided to hire local instead of elsewhere so you don’t feel an unstated pressure to compete on-price with others. The fact Amazon and Microsoft are local also helps.


How many accountants or lawyers do you know? There are two accountants in my family and they are extremely well compensated, one a CFO.

Regarding class co mingling, really? Your statement seems like a projection. Where does it come from? I doubt you have spoken to many of your neighbors, much less asked what they do.

My neighbor is literally a construction worker.


>My neighbor is literally a construction worker.

Ditto. Which is very handy from time to time. :-)


Have to agree.

I live in a building with lawyers, bankers, sales people, construction workers, paramedics, and so on.


Trust me, most of the software engineering world in real life is nothing like Big N and elite startups. Silicon Valley is a weirdness magnet that's not representative of the rest of the country.

Enterprise Java and .NET shops are all over the US, and those are much more like Office Space. In fact, I'm fairly sure Office Space was filmed in Texas, not California.


Exactly. Whenever people here talk about the “typical software developer’s” career or salary or working environment, they point to top outlier employees at top outlier companies and pretend that’s how the average tech worker lives. For every level 7 Facebook or Google engineer diving into a swimming pool full of RSUs, there are probably 100 mid level programmers at HugeConsultancy body shops and medium sized zombie Enterprise Java companies working shoulder to shoulder and sharing apartments. Helps to keep that perspective.


In Europe it's pretty normal for software developers to live next-door to a construction worker. If the construction worker is very experienced or a contractor he may even earn more than you do.


Not everyone is living in the US though. For us EU residents it’s still fairly relatable, even though salaries have risen here as well, it’s nothing like the US.


I think Michael Bolton was the only engineer, at one point he says something like "they better not fire us software guys", the main character was in finance or something, whoever cares about TPS reports and I'm not sure if Samirs was mentioned. Apart from the ability to hack the system they're generic office drones and their job titles aren't really important.

I think with trends like cubical farms, open plan offices and hotdesking software development companies lag behind other industries.


Peter's job self-given job description: "I sit in a cubicle and I update bank software for the 2000 switch. You see, they wrote all this bank software and to save space, they put 98 instead of 1998. So I go through these thousands of lines of code and uh, it doesn't really matter. I, uh, I don't like my job. I don't think I'm gonna go anymore."


... and Samir was "one of the best programmers they have" (per Pete). He was the one who wrote the (admittedly buggy) computer virus at the center of the plot.


No, Michael put the decimal point in the wrong place... I think Samir had the database access...


What is the best alternative to open space btw? I hate them too, but I wonder what else one can do. Sitting in a 2 people office all day is also not great, is it?


I have worked in the open office all my career but couple of years ago I got contract job on the customer who gave me tiny office with small window. That silence was amazing, if I wanted to talk to someone I could just walk out of office and knock the door or book a meeting. Otherwise, I could just code. It was the most productive time of my career, too bad it ended and I returned back to modern times.


> Sitting in a 2 people office all day is also not great, is it?

Why isn't it?

The only better thing I can imagine is a single office. Closely followed by home office.


Once you're sharing space, you're sharing space. In some ways, I'd think a shared office creates more pressure to interact with the other people in the office than in the case of an open office plan.

An office with a door is IMO clearly the best option for most employees. I don't even really buy the collaboration argument. Every place I've worked that had offices had at least an informal open door by default policy. You shut the door if you needed to really focus on something or have a private conversation. But otherwise people felt free to wander by.


I feel some people start talking all the time in the smaller offices. They don’t feel observed and then just talk all day, about everything, private and work stuff. When I’m at work I want to work and socialize at points I chose. People seem to be more cautious in open space


I had the opposite experience. Every single time I had to spend time in an open office environment.

There is just one person you need to tell to be quiet in a small 2 person office. There are countless people you want to tell to shut up in an open office. This is also the reason so many people work with their headphones on. For some time I had those massive over ear headphones with me while I traveled through our offices. I didn't even listen to anything. Just put them on so I didn't have to listen to the environment. It's hell...


Really? Sounds like you found a common sense solution. People can be so dramatic.


It's not a solution. It's a workaround which reflects a problem that is being sold as an improvement. Which also makes it a bigger problem.

This can't get enough drama to become recognized as a problem.


I see where you're coming from. We don't have open office, but I still deal with noise pollution; however I don't see the big issue with using headphones. There's health concerns (which can be mitigated), but I don't see any other big problems. And come on, there can always be too much drama. Anyway, I apologise for my tone, I just think it's worth considering.


Are you talking about the Panopticons?


It's my opinion that open-air office design fit depends on the person. Some people are too easily distracted, and some are "charged up" by social interaction. One-size-fits-all doesn't work.

Maybe slide-able walls could be a way to be able to focus when needed, but also interact heavily when needed. I haven't tried sliders myself. Any opinions on them?

The boss in the movie is average, not "toxic" as the article claims. While he is annoying, he's not loud or blatantly abusive. It's relatively subtle "abuse", and common behavior.

I've had much worse bosses, included a Trump-like boss who had one foot in marketing and one foot in tech. He was technically clueless, rash, ADHD, embellisher, media-savvy, forgetful, termination-happy, etc. Crazy days. (Even if you personally believe T is a great President, working for him may not be. Compare it to Steve Jobs: rough on employees although {arguably} he produced great results.)


I'm not sure how programming is improved by constant social interaction. Distractions per research are a huge hit to productivity just because of how long it takes the brain to reach the same state again. If you're in PR or a job that is by nature social, then maybe it has its benefits, but for knowledge workers, there's plenty of research showing deep thought requires deep focus which isn't (generally) properly sustainable with a lot of external stimulus.


Hey, why aren't you wearing your Hawaiian shirt, dude?


(I'm pointing out the fact that one of the reasons Hawaiian shirt days are a bust is because it ends up being a continuous peer pressure situation when some employees don't participate. Seen it happen to so many people whose workplace enacts some kind of "[something] t-shirt day".)


I rarely see a comment on HN whose assessment and opinion are more foreign to my personal experience than this one.

Open plans are much better than cubicles. The transition to open plans and standing desks has been a boon for social interaction in teams, more role-crossover, and just more physical movement in general.

Office Space is a timeless and incredible film, but one aspect of it that seems almost like fantasy is the idea that people primarily working on software might sit down in cramped cubicles and prefer fake privacy to real social interaction.

edit: Look, I know that some people like cubicles. If you do, that's fine. But if you actually seriously like small, cramped, stuffed cubicles in Office Space (or The Matrix) - which absolutely existed in the late 90s and early 2000s in IT and seem to have largely disappeared - I'd really like to hear why. If you do like cubicles: how do you move? Do you really have the discipline to get up and walk around every once in a while? Or do you end up having much less body movement than open plan participants?


I've got to say, I'm not sure I ever met a software engineer who prefers open plan to individual offices. You said cubicles, but I'd argue that cubicles would be better than the proverbial nothing that open plan is.

I'm certainly happy that I have my office, and if I need to talk to people, their offices (or their open plan, unfortunately) is usually not very far. But a lot of the time, I just need and want to focus a lot, and for that open plan is absolute cancer. My office seats two people, but it actually helps that the other person is not directly in my team.

I don't see what standing desks have to do with it, as offices can have standing desks as well, and ours do.

The last time I sat in open plan, I felt like an animal in a cage, to choose a seemingly paradoxical wording. It wasn't the walls closing in, but the distractions.


You found one right here. I work in videogames, I'm a programmer/engineer, I love my standing desk and open plan office. It's a huge game changer in terms of morale and quality of the life for the team and company, since the whole company has moved to open plan and standing desks by default. (and we're not a small game developer).


Count me in as well. All of my career has been at VC-funded startups in SF with team size between 8 and 30, and the idea of me sitting in an office by myself is honestly laughable.


People often don't consider the ostracism and uncomfortableness that a standing desk preferred policy makes for those with hidden disabilities. There are many people for whom standing desks are good for their health. There are other people for whom being peer pressured to stand is extremely uncomfortable and that are too embarrassed to share the details of why. At least in closed offices people can work the way they are most comfortable without the pressure of other people seeing them work.


Is peer pressure to use a standing desk a common thing? I’ve worked with plenty of people who use standing desks some or all of the time, and I’ve had enthusiasts casually recommend I give it a try sometime, but I can’t imagine any genuine pressure to do so. All the standing desks at offices I’ve been at are adjustable, so even if they’re the standard issue desk there is a big problem if people are pressured to stand.


Most of my team use the desk in "sat" mode 80% of the time. For me personally I'm about 70% sat, 30% stood, there's definitely no ostracism for people sat on our team.


Peer pressure to stand??


Open plans are much better than cubicles. The transition to open plans and standing desks has been a boon for social interaction in teams, more role-crossover, and just more physical movement in general.

My $DAYJOB is for a big multinational corp that has embraced this insanity... my floor is all "open plan" except for a smattering of offices that are reserved for the elite VP level folks. But some of the other floors are cubicle based - sometimes I go down there and just wander around and dream of how nice it would be to have one of those cubicles.

"What cruel twist of fate", I wonder to myself, "led to me being banished to the eldritch and grotesque horrors of the land of endless noise, constant distractions, free-roaming viruses and germs, and - most terrifying of all - sheer and utter hours of non-productivity?"


The personal website in your profile says that you live and work in a converted school bus, which is, "as much an engineering and teaching platform as it is a home". No judgements, but maybe you're just not the typical office dweller?

Me? I don't want "role-crossover". I'm a coder, who wants to occasionally enter a state of flow by getting to code uninterrupted for longer than 3 minutes.


> The personal website in your profile says that you live and work in a converted school bus, which is, "as much an engineering and teaching platform as it is a home". No judgements, but maybe you're just not the typical office dweller?

Perhaps you're right. But I will say this: when I tell people about (or show them) the bus, nearly everybody - I'm talking 90%+, say something like, "oh, I've always wanted to do that!" So maybe buses are more popular than cubicles. I don't know. :-)

> Me? I don't want "role-crossover". I'm a coder

I mean, OK. But much of the world has long since moved on to a DevOps style of engagement. I find it much more difficult to have awareness of the entire operation without frequent (even forced) social interaction with colleagues.


It's also possible that you're the one that's completely out of touch in a school bus shaped bubble. Devops is big, but no most people have not "long since moved on to a DevOps style of engagement." Also, 50% of the 90% of people who say they would prefer working out of a bus are probably being nice. Finally, as you can see from the unscientific poll here, most people do not prefer open offices.

Of course I could be wrong, but you could be too. Don't cite anecdotal statistics with such an air of uncertainty.


> The transition to open plans and standing desks has been a boon for social interaction in teams, more role-crossover

The social interaction results in less work. Most of a programmers job is staring at a wall of text and trying to concentrate, anything that distracts has a serious impact on productivity. As for role crossover, I've got enough on my plate without being concerned about what other people are dealing with. Some cross-over might be good but there are many areas of a company that are completely disconnected and crossover is just noise.

> but one aspect of it that seems almost like fantasy is the idea that people primarily working on software might sit down in cramped cubicles and prefer fake privacy to real social interaction.

It's not so much fantasy as a portrayal of the time, the cramped cubicles are presented as bad because they replaced actual offices.


> Most of a programmers job is staring at a wall of text and trying to concentrate, anything that distracts has a serious impact on productivity.

That is an extreme overgeneralization. For instance, plenty of programming jobs involve a significant amount of time spent on collaboration and communication with designers, other programmers, customers, and stakeholders. That’s perfectly normal, and I would argue that in many cases those are the product development teams that will make the best products.


> plenty of programming jobs involve a significant amount of time spent on collaboration and communication with designers, other programmers, customers, and stakeholders.

Unless all of those people just happen to sit next to each other or they're shouting across the room then an open plan office does nothing to help that anyway, you'll have to organize meetings to collaborate or do it in other formats. For customers and stakeholders you'd be lucky if they worked in the same building at all.

Face to face communication is not the only form of collaborations and IMHO it's the worst and least scaleable one for technical fields. And when you're collaborating through a mailing list or something similar (that doesn't involve interrupting each other) that's just another wall of text.


Sounds like we’re talking about vastly different sizes of company, or vastly different levels of bureaucracy. If a company wouldn’t seat together people who need to collaborate, I don’t think the choice of office plan is the most important problem to solve.


So, you have 15 people who try to work. And 5 people sitting close together, who are loudly collaborating around a white board.

You do realise that these people will disrupt the work of the 15 people around them?

That's what daily life is in an open office.


It sounds like you need to spend more time designing -- alone and with peers -- or installing tools, so that you don't spend so much time starting at a wall of text.


What is your experience? Per your profile you work on a bus, not an open plan office with 50+ people.

The health benefits of standing desks are speculative and unproven. What's healthy is walking away from yout sit-or-stand desk. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-truth-behind-standin...

Why would a cubicle be more cramped than a seat at a cramped table?

Why is a cubicle privacy "fake" but a bullpen office "real" social interaction -- where you can't speak freely because dozens of people are eavesdropping on all your conversations?


I can't disagree more. Having worked in cubicles (at Netscape), those were far superior to open office. We could get work done and we still were able to socialize and have cross-team interaction. These days I eschew open office, preferring to work from home. At most open-office environments, people trying to get work done wear headphones, which is like a virtual cubicle (minus the personal space).

The reboot of office space would have everyone in an open office, that is for certain.


> people trying to get work done wear headphones, which is like a virtual cubicle (minus the personal space).

And strategic positioning of computer screens (+ books and fillers) to kill line-of-sight to other people. My last open-office job, almost everyone did that quite naturally, probably even unconsciously. Not always possible, and were we sitting in the ridiculous shoulder-to-shoulder setting I see in photos of some hip software houses, I'm not sure how long I would last there.


>foreign to my personal experience

Yes! I'm so glad you took the time to acknowledge that your personal lived experiences aren't necessarily representative of the experiences and perspectives of office employees as a who-

>seems almost like fantasy is the idea that people primarily working on software might sit down in cramped cubicles and prefer fake privacy to real social interaction.

Oh. Erm... I hate to break it to you, but a lot of us _do_ prefer this!


> Oh. Erm... I hate to break it to you, but a lot of us _do_ prefer this!

Literally the cubicles from Office Space?


Omg I would definitely take those cubicles over an open office.


Yes - I’d love that compared to the open plan layout with constant distraction and interruption.


My preference is actual office (which I currently have and share with one coworker), cubical (the higher the walls, the better), open space (no, just no).

Different people have different preferences.


> Literally the cubicles from Office Space?

I worked in the high cubicles like that once and they were not that bad. A full wrap around desk allowed me to have a PC, Sparc Station, and some test servers in my space. It was fairly quiet, but someone could get your attention by calling your name.


Yes, I have worked in both and I would prefer the cubicles from office space to open plan.


Those cubicles are actually pretty nice.


Open office plans are great if you want to plan a skiing trip with your coworkers who are incidentally also your friends. If you're the sort of person who wants to keep it professional in the office, they're a nightmare. Blurring the line between work and personal life is encouraged by companies because it gets people working longer hours (on paper anyway, since so much more time is burned socializing.) Thanks, but no thanks.


Very ironic. People in my office work just 8 hours yet the open office plan leads to a lot of those 8 hours be some sort of socializing or chatting - wasting the company's time and money.


Great point. I never realized that open floor plans made it harder to keep things professional. You're absolutely right.


Think of it this way: everyone has a moment when they just want to take a break and goof off for a minute. It's normal, and a part of keeping a healthy and productive mind. Now consider how many other people will a person taking break affect. In a regular office, or even cubicle setting: probably just themselves, maybe someone else to whom they walk to. In an open-office plan? Everyone within earshot. With multiple people taking breaks at random, if you don't have someone with a strong personality telling everyone to shut up and get back to work, you can easily have half a day or more wasted just on talking bullshit. Individual cubicles or offices are a natural dampener for this.


If you're an extravert. I'm not; I hate open plans. Give me a cubicle any day.


I'm an extrovert, and I hate open plans. Sometimes I feel being an extrovert makes it worse, as I get tangled up in conversations. It's still good and important to have conversations, but we just have them in the hallway, or visit our offices. That way you can go back.


You can be an extrovert and also hate open plans because they are incredibly distracting 90% of the time.


You can also be an introvert with good “distraction management” skills who prefers an open office.


I love how in open plans everyone is attempting to shut out the rest of the space using headphones. That was the only way I could concentrate. At that point you've isolated yourself that you might as well be in a more isolated workspace.


Not to mention that a lot of introverts self select for jobs like programming, engineering etc...

Meanwhile the majority of people, and certainly the majority of the executives and sales guys, are extraverts and simply can't understand why programmers hate open plan.

Also I think there is an asymmetry.

I think introverts can easily 'get' what extraverts prefer, because honestly extraverts are the majority[1], so when you are an introvert, you get to know extraverts pretty well because you live in an extravert world.

I don't think the reverse is true. Extraverts don't 'get' what introverts like because they don't have to, they are the majority and their preferences dictate how everything is built. Their preferences are the default, and are what is considered 'right.'

[1] They used to say the split was 75% extravert/25% introvert. Later studies report a 50/50 split but extraverts are more outgoing and vocal, so they may still be overrepresented in public debate/discourse.


You are literally the first person I've ever heard of who prefers open plan for development.

There is a time and a place for social interaction in the office. But when I'm coding, I need to concentrate. People talking to me, talking to each other, walking behind me or around me, every bit pushes me further off the rails and takes me longer to get back into flow state. Cubicles aren't perfect, but they're a fuckload better than open plan.


"You are literally the first person I've ever heard of who prefers open plan for development."

Are you really naive enough to think that because in your small sphere of experience, people don't seem to like open plan, there aren't millions of people who love open plan? For an engineer that doesn't seem like logical thinking.

Your anecdote isn't data. I'm an engineer, I love my standing desk and open plan space. I know many engineers at our company who feel likewise, it's a huge improvement.


> Are you really naive enough to think that because in your small sphere of experience, people don't seem to like open plan, there aren't millions of people who love open plan? For an engineer that doesn't seem like logical thinking.

> Your anecdote isn't data. I'm an engineer, I love my standing desk and open plan space. I know many engineers at our company who feel likewise, it's a huge improvement.

You go off on him for stating what his experience is (backed by almost everyone else on this site, by the way) and then turn right around and do the same, just from your minority perspective, with the added idiocy of essentially stating you're somehow stating facts. Do you realize how hypocritical that seems?

You should take the downvotes to heart, honestly. Normally I think they don't really signal that much, but in this case (and all your other arrogant comments) they clearly signal that your view is the clear minority and your comments are very out of touch with reality.


-4 downvotes "clearly signal" something? It's meaningless noise in the grand scheme of things. Also, I wasn't using the fact that I prefer standing desks and open-plan spaces as "data," I was providing a single example of an engineer that prefers these things because the OP said he had never heard of a "single" engineer who liked this, which is clearly wrong.

Also, you don't seem to understand data or statistics yourself. The amount of people who would A) Be using HS, and B) Choose to comment on a post like this:

Is clearly not representative of engineers/programmers across the world. Most engineers at my company don't use HN period, and out of those that do, most won't comment.

I work at a company where standing desks were greeted with excitement across 90% of the engineering population and there was even friction between engineers because some people got them first and others had to wait. Again, just because you think HN represents the whole engineering world, doesn't make it the case, it's a bubble here.

Again, if you actually read my comment again I never said I was stating a fact. I'd love for you to show me where I said that! My point was that there are clearly engineers who prefer standing desks and open plan spaces, unless you're somehow asserting that I'm the only guy in the world that likes this...


I agree with you, but most I've met would prefer to set expectations with a private office. Preferably with a door and social contract to leave alone unless needed.


"I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don’t know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance.

"He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important.[...] But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing - not much, but enough that they miss fame."

--Richard Hamming, "You and Your Research " http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/YouAndYourResearch.html


Yes. But unfortunately, most of us aren't researchers, we are code monkeys, paid for contributions to company's project - contributions that mostly require concentration, not cross-domain research thinking. Note that when Hamming talks about working on "right" vs. "wrong" thing, he's talking about practical, mundane stuff vs. ground-breaking, world-class research. Not many of us here are paid for the latter, and as much as we do it, we probably do it outside work setting.

Even though, an "open-door" office is still infinitely better than no office. You get to focus in between visits, and the visits are less frequent simply because the other party needs to lift their butt and walk to your office.


> The transition to open plans and standing desks has been a boon for social interaction in teams, more role-crossover, and just more physical movement in general.

Two thirds of these qualities (social interaction/role crossover) are exactly what I don't want when trying to program.

In my experience, companies where social interaction/role crossover are required aren't working on any complex problems.


I worked for a small tech company that, like many, was valued extremely highly in 1999, but the owner didn't listen to advisors and so we fell down the cliff with the other tech companies. He was dejected, along with most of the company, for most of 2000/2001. The company still had steady revenue from government stuff, though, and those of us left kinda did what we want for several months with no guidance. I watched Office Space nearly daily (the owners stayed home watching whatever and rarely showed up) during that time. It was a weird, shared misery. I wasn't the only one. We even ordered some red staplers and had them floating around for a while. We also, for whatever reason, printed out tons of Jeff Goldblum face shots and hid them all around the company. 10 years later and the owner was still swearing whenever he'd find one.


I'd certainly give credit to Mike Judge for "Office Space" and "Silicon Valley" but he well and truly hit the nail on the head with the prescient "Idiocracy".


Agreed; the others are nice and all, but nothing beats the Time Masheen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3dhSnEtdWw


In some ways the world of Idiocracy is far superior to ours. In no future of the real world would the government be willing to find and give authority to whoever is deemed the most intelligent person on the planet.

If we did that today things would look very different.


That was supposed to take place generations in the future.


If only.


This previous thread has some pretty good discussion and critiquing of Idiocracy:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18488520


I've wondered about its premise, actually. Anecdotally where I live (the Netherlands) I don't feel that "smarter" people get fewer kids than "dumber" people do. Is there any data about this? Say, #kids vs education level?


Lots of interesting reading here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertility_and_intelligence I believe long-term fertility is largely eugenic, favoring those with desirable genes. Whether or not intelligence is viewed as desirable long-term, or if there is a shift, or short-term course-correction; that's going to take many generations to discern. In the US at least there is a perception that in the short term fertility and intelligence are negatively correlated. This is likely due to them erroneously viewing poverty as a proxy for intelligence, and there is a positive correlation between poverty and birth rate - https://www.statista.com/statistics/241530/birth-rate-by-fam...


Studies [1] have been done, and from what I can see at a cursory look most show a negative correlation, especially for female IQ. I think the disparity between high income to low income counties in the US would show this relatively well.

[1] https://www.gwern.net/docs/iq/2013-boutwell.pdf


It wasn't supposed to be a documentary, sadly


I fail to see how the "nah-gonna-work-here-anyway" joke is a racist microaggression. Being unable to pronounce a name and making a joke about it could happen just as easily with a name like "Tom Snuffaluffagus." I see a distinct difference between joking about a difficult name and joking about the physical attributes or ethnic history of a person of color.


I think you're asking a genuine question so I'll give a genuine answer - because people do not control their names, just as they don't control their physical features or ethnic history. The names that are "easy" are typically names that stem from the English language.

Just as saying you feel "uncomfortable" around a person of color or someone wearing religious headgear is a microaggression, so is making fun of someone's name because you find it difficult to pronounce. It is likely easy to pronounce in that person's culture, just not for you. And they've probably heard a million jokes about it so are unlikely to find it funny. Therefore your "joke" provides humor to you and others who feel like you, at that person's expense.

Yes, you can legally change your name but it takes a lot of time and effort and could cause you a lot of grief with your family and professional confusion.


When you pay at a supermarket, often the cashiers are supposed to say thank you for shopping with us mr/ms Lastname.

I’ve had many be unable to pronounce my last name and simply spell out the initial or fade into a mumble, is that a micro aggression? Mine is a simple last name to pronounce for native English speakers. Do I call these people microagressprs?


Sometimes you step on someones foot and its a mistake. Sometimes someone doesn't care if they step on your foot or actively try to do so.

Having a conversation that goes "well I stepped on a foot by accident once does that make me satan?" is ridiculous.

Its really not that complicated guys.


> When you pay at a supermarket, often the cashiers are supposed to say thank you for shopping with us mr/ms Lastname.

Wait, what? That's creepy.


How is that creepy? It is normal to use someone's name to address them.


I think he was specifically referring to people making a joke about the name, rather than those who are merely unable to pronounce it.


> When you pay at a supermarket, often the cashiers are supposed to say thank you for shopping with us mr/ms Lastname.

Where do you shop? Also I would be pretty surprised if people did this was outside the US.


Safeway is the most notorious.


>It is likely easy to pronounce in that person's culture, just not for you.

Often names will live on long after the family has left the culture. In my own case, my original family name was difficult for anyone in my own family to pronounce. Some number of generations ago (all records are lost so this is mostly an assumption) the name itself was Americanized so that the kids who never grew up in the original culture nor who knew the language could pronounce the culture.

>because people do not control their names, just as they don't control their physical features

This one also stands out to me because there are numerous physical features or other uncontrollable things which our society, to some level, tolerates judging or making fun of. Being short. Being bald. Having a disgraced member of society as a family member (someone who isn't just a criminal, but committed a crime that is harshly judged by society). None of it is fair, but it is still allowed to a large degree.

Even more complicated, when we get to personal relationships, judging based even on things like ethnic history is somewhat allowed. Part of me wonders, if I can judge someone I consider acceptable to pair bond with on some criteria, why can't I also use that exact same criteria as a source of humor? If I can't use it to do little things like make a joke, then it seems even more wrong to use it to make larger judgments of a person.


> The names that are "easy" are typically names that stem from the English language.

To be fair, most "English" names don't actually stem from the English language, they've just been thoroughly domesticated (Michael, for instance, or Schmidt).


> Yes, you can legally change your name but it takes a lot of time and effort and could cause you a lot of grief with your family and professional confusion.

It took me 45 minutes at the Births/Deaths/Marriages office. If I recall, it cost $60.


> "No way! Why should I change it? He’s the one who sucks."

Relevant quote from Office Space


And how much time did you spend updating your new information with the government, your banks, your work, and other services that you interact with?


Add an extra 5 minutes for every official form in the future where you have to answer "Did you previously use a different name?" and provide documentation for it. Add more time if your name change happened in a different country and you need to provide officially translated documentation.


And it took me 3 months, $180, and being ordered to publish a notice in the local newspaper who was really uninterested in following through and then charged me another $170 for it.

It's different everywhere and it's usually not easy.


Did you publish your name change in the Diarrhea Times?

https://sludgefeed.com/full-first-issue-diarrhea-times-natha...


okay what

And if I had gotten to choose the newspaper, I would have chosen one that is more friendly and more representative of the local community than the glorified blog operated out of another state that I was ordered to use


In what country?


It shows that Samir Nagheenanajar doesn't quite fit in to that society (people can't remember his name), and that people take him a little less seriously than they do others, due to something that has nothing to do with his life choices and (almost) can't change. And it's something that comes from being born in a different culture with a very different language. "Nagheenanajar" isn't a difficult name in India, but it is in Silicon Valley.

"microaggression" doesn't mean malicious intent, it means one of an endless series of small unpleasant things that pile up over time to make an impact.


Your comment actually serves to highlight how inappropriate it is to suggest it is racist.

1. The character was originally written as Iranian, then rewritten to be Jordanian. He is not Indian. I don't see why the name would be easy in India. They hired an Indian actor to play him, which is probably the only questionable thing in all of this.

2. The name isn't a real name. You can try to search ناجحينانجر‎ (Nagheenanajar), ناجحينانذر‎ (Nagheenanadhar), ناجحين النذر‎ (Nagheen al-Nadhar) or ناجحين النجر (Nagheen al-Najar) and see that you won't have much luck. At best it is a full name (both first and last) in and of itself. It's clearly written to be difficult to pronounce. I imagine the actor sat in a room and practiced for a couple of hours to be able to say it as easily as he did.

3. I'm from that region of the world, my first language is from that region of the world and I can tell you whole heartily that that name is extremely difficult to pronounce. I tried about four times and gave up. It's only when writing it in Arabic script that I was able to make sense of what I was reading. At best, the Latin spelling used is a butchering of the Arabic spelling.

Anybody with a name like that would know it's difficult to pronounce as well, I don't think they'd be upset - and I don't think they should have a right to suggest that others are being offensive when they have difficulties as well.

There are real applications when people are being dicks (some people would intentionally mispronounce my father's first name, which is pronounced as it reads and is four letters long..) but the Office Space name was intentionally made to be ridiculous.


You're really focusing on the idea its a joke about his name and that makes it racist. That's not what is being implied in the film.

Instead, realize its a joke about not being in the boys club because he's not like the leadership, he's different and yeah he has a silly name so fuck 'em.


>he's different and yeah he has a silly name so fuck 'em.

He wasn't being fired for his name. Because he was being fired no one cared about his name. That's the joke.


(long time since I saw the movie) From what I'm reading here, the audience and characters don't know and aren't expected to know that.

The name is hard for them because it is foreign to them. To turn the name into a joke that they are 'never gonna work here anyway' explicitly links the racist prejudice against them to their name.

The name was probably especially ridiculous because they wanted to make the pun above, but the point is the racism surely, not the everyday humour in linking a foreign person's name to their non-employment?


If I go to India then, should I expect them to not make fun of my name or pronounce my name perfectly?

Once any name, culture, ethnicity, becomes large enough in size in a population then people will start learning how to pronounce their name and about their culture naturally. For cultures or ethnicities that are small in size in a country, then naturally people are gonna have a harder time, because they are not as exposed to those people. It would be a net negative in time for a whole population to learn about a small subsection of the population, because it would waste more time for the general population overall than is worth saved through hurt feelings and a feeling of being unwelcome.


> should I expect them to not make fun of my name

Absolutely yes. Anything else would be rude.

> or pronounce my name perfectly?

Basic courtesy demands that they make their best effort.

> a net negative in time for a whole population to learn about a small subsection of the population

That's a strawman. No one's asking anyone to do a deep-dive on other cultures.

> it would waste more time for the general population overall than is worth saved through hurt feelings

I don't think good manners take that much time. Learning and remembering people's names is universal table stakes for interpersonal interaction. A polite society is its own reward - within reason, cost benefit analyses like that are kind of silly.


> > should I expect them to not make fun of my name

> Absolutely yes. Anything else would be rude.

It is not rude to poke fun or laugh at different cultures that are weird to you. Go to japan as a white person, and if you walk around a major city a lot of Japanese people will giggle at subtle things you do that are culturally different to what they are used to. Maybe I shouldn't have used the phrase "make fun of", but you get the point. Laughing at someone's name because it sounds weird is the same as laughing at jokes that poke fun at the stereotype that British people are very polite, it is difference in culture and weirdness that create humor that is perfectly fine and normal.

> Basic courtesy demands that they make their best effort.

I have never heard somebody not make any sort of effort to correctly pronounce someone's name. Very few people purposely want to mispronounce someone's name. This was not even the point of the argument either. The argument was whether it is disrespectful to mispronounce someone's name regardless of the effort put into trying to pronounce it. It is disrespectful to not put any effort into pronouncing someone's name, we are on the same page for that point.

> That's a strawman. No one's asking anyone to do a deep-dive on other cultures.

Pronouncing foreign name's is not some easy task. It takes time and research, and practice. Most people do not meet enough people who have those type of foreign names that can be practiced, to justify the time sink it takes to learn them.

> I don't think good manners take that much time. Learning and remembering people's names is universal table stakes for interpersonal interaction. A polite society is its own reward - within reason, cost benefit analyses like that are kind of silly.

They do when you have a country with a very diverse background of ethnicity and names like the United States has. Furthermore, Indian's represent a whopping 0.9% of the US population, immigrants when they represent such a small part of a nation should be the ones to lean into their new nation, not the other way around. Hell, their are white European names I mispronounce, it is not disrespectful by any means.


> Laughing at someone's name because it sounds weird is the same as laughing at jokes that poke fun at the stereotype that British people are very polite

No if you don't know the person very well I think both things are rude. When you laugh at someone in their face, for their name or some other aspect of their culture, there are two possibilities:

1. They know why you're laughing and the joke is old for them, and not funny.

2. They don't know why you're laughing, and you've just made them very uncomfortable.

Degree of familiarity with the person matters. It's the same as if you're overweight, you wouldn't like strangers commenting on it. But people close to you are a different matter.

> a lot of Japanese people will giggle at subtle things you do that are culturally different to what they are used to

Also rude. It's not something I'd do (I hope) and I'd ask anyone I knew doing it to knock it off. Giggling and mocking isn't helpful either. Depending on how bad it is, how well you know the person, and how long they're staying, you may want to tell them (in private) what they're doing wrong so they can improve.

> it is difference in culture and weirdness that create humor that is perfectly fine and normal.

I don't disagree about that. I've seen comedians do funny bits on cultural quirks and differences. I don't think that type of humor works outside of people you know well, or in the abstract as comedians do. At the 1-on-1 level it just makes people uncomfortable.

> Pronouncing foreign name's is not some easy task. It takes time and research, and practice.

Are we talking about different things? I'm not suggesting someone sit down with baby name books from different cultures and learn all the pronunciations. Here's a sample script:

Person A: Hey, nice meeting you. I'm <foreign name>.

Person B: Hi <foreign name>. I'm <local name>. Did I pronounce your name right?

Person A: Almost. It's <repeats name, slower>.

Person B: <repeats name>. And how do you spell that?

Heck, I think that exchange would not be out of place at a Dale Carnegie training seminar. It'll help you remember the new person's name, and they'll feel nice that you made an effort. If they have a genuinely difficult name, like the apparently fictional "Nagheenanajar", they'll understand that you tried and that's enough.

> Indian's represent a whopping 0.9% of the US population, immigrants when they represent such a small part of a nation should be the ones to lean into their new nation, not the other way around.

Who said it should be the other way around? Knowing how to pronounce an Indian colleague's name and knowing about the origin of Diwali are different things. The first is something you should try to do for any human being. The second is 100% optional and only for people who are interested.


> "microaggression" doesn't mean malicious intent, it means one of an endless series of small unpleasant things that pile up over time to make an impact.

Disagree. For a series of small, unpleasant, but otherwise unintentional, things, we have plenty of established words - including the very word "unpleasant". The term "microaggression" was created in order to enable blaming and condemning people at high enough granularity that a narrative of constant oppression could be established. Note how the word "aggression" absolutely does imply intent.


So I can't profess to know much about PC/inclusive language (or whatever the kids call it these days), but:

The way I see it, is its an unwanted highlighting of an ethnic difference, in a non-inclusive way.

The same way that unsolicited comments on certain physical features of is giving unwanted attention to those features. Especially if those features are a sensitive subject (e.g. part of the sexual dimorphism).

Of course you can do it when you have the other persons trust, or invitation.


Not all jokes about silly names are racist, but in the context of the scene the dismissal of the name is implying "and this guy is foreign, we didn't even bother learning his name so obviously he's fired."


It does seem like one could make a plausible case that Office Space has had the biggest impact on real world life of any movie of all time. Just skimming down the list, it doesn't look like there's anything on the AFI or BFI top 100 even comes close. Maybe 12 angry men has had a real influence on juries in some unseen way, or maybe The Social Network has also had a big influence on what careers people choose, but there's nothing that immediately seems super obvious as surpassing it.


> Maybe 12 angry men has had a real influence on juries in some unseen way

At least one highly visible influence:

"Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that seeing 12 Angry Men while she was in college influenced her decision to pursue a career in law."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/12_Angry_Men_(1957_film)


Just today read an article on The Social Network being nearly 10 years old now. Of course it's a Sorkin script (with the commentary that's to be expected), but the article mentions how much more sleazy Facebook is perceived today than it was even at that time. How much different would the script be in the light of what we know now? Can't find the link

I like Sorkin's work and even tend to agree with his points, he just gets a bit self-righteous and preachy in some of it.


I think the movie is more about social class than it is about Facebook itself, especially considering how fast and loose it played with the reality of the situation.


Ten years ago everyone criticized Facebook for being a walled garden. Today everyone is criticizing Facebook because the walls around its garden aren't high enough. Go figure.


What? I don’t buy that. Apple is criticised for being a walled garden, I don’t think I’ve ever seen strong criticism toward Facebook for that; I assume you’re conflating them somehow.

Facebook was criticised for a few things; constantly changing the UI, selling personal data (although this was mostly opaque and treated as a rumour that wouldn’t harm _you_ really) and being a monopoly.

Now it’s criticised for aggressive targetted advertising, which may have had a hand in polarising people and even allowing some companies to highten fear and aggression to the point where it subverted democracy in some nations.

It’s also criticised for stifling free speech and siding with governments de jour in heavily censored countries like Iran.

I mean. I was an adult using Facebook before “the social network” movie came out; but maybe I misremember?


I can see the analogy: in the early days Facebook was invite only and at some point a lot of people were curious and wanted to get in. Now we want it to stop spilling out onto us.


Was it really still invite-only in 2009? I thought it opened up well before that.


It became available to the public in late 2006. https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook/welcome-to-facebook-...


Supposedly "birth of a nation" led to a revival of the KKK.


Yeah that's definitely fair. There have been a lot of movies that have been very successful (for better or worse) at changing how people think about and contextualize the past.


Wall Street had a huge effect on college grads going into finance jobs.


A coworker at a previous company had a red Swingline stapler on his desk. He told me that at one point, the company was giving them out to any employee who had to change desks more than some number of times in a single year.

They eventually stopped this practice when they moved so many people that they ran out of stapler budget. (But they didn't run out of moving budget!)


I'm a little disappointed that the piece highlights unusual work environments like Google and Facebook and cites them as examples that things have changed in the last twenty years. A big part of what made the film work for me was that it took on the common case, not the exceptional. I understand that a lot of developers work for these top-tier companies but I suspect the majority work in environments that, even today, still look a lot like Office Space.

The gist of the article is that little has changed and I am tempted to agree. My work environment is better, but not everyones. My partner reports to an ineffective manager and a VP who emails over the weekend, expecting to see work product early the next Monday morning; there is a clear implication they should be working during the weekend. A friend of mine was complaining recently about a manager asking them if it was "good for the company" to be upgrading various software products on a schedule or if it was more about making their own job easier. And so on.


The thing I remember most about Office Space is how the questions asked in Contextual Inquiries sound exactly the same as the questions asked by "the two Bobs".

In the winter of 2008 (the real estate crash) I was in charge of designing a new UI. I sent a UI/UX team to do a contextual inquiry of our biggest users. Unfortunately our Finance customers freaked out at the contextual inquiries because they thought we were getting rid of their jobs!

You tell me if this sounds like a Contextual Inquiry: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkmuI5W694o


One time I proposed shadowing one of my company's data analysts to get a better handle on what their job is so I could write code with better knowledge of how the software is actually used.

The business analyst, whose job it was to bring the requirements from the DAs to the software engineers, started acting very threatened...


There's a great between-the-lines take in this movie. Bill Lumbergh is dating Peter's girlfriend on the Saturday. That's why he forces him into work ... and why the girlfriend also leaves a message.


Wasn't it a different Bill Lumbergh that she had actually seen?


Yeah, there was another Lumbergh at a similarly named company. Intertrode?


Not Jennifer Anniston's character. The original girlfriend whom he went to the hypnotist with. She was cheating on him.


Right you are!


Isn't Lumbergh at the office when he calls Peter multiple times?


Makes sense. I never picked up on that.


Office Space is similar to Dilbert in how well it describes certain aspects of cubicle life. I'm lucky to work for a good company, but they all have aspects of these worlds that describe them too well.


Frankly, open plan offices exhibit far worse versions of all the same things found in cubicle life. Really it’s just companies that respect basic human needs enough to foot the bill for private offices.. and everyone else who either engages in rationalized cost cutting or cargo cult bandwagoning.


My buddy recently left for another job where they have offices and it looks so much nicer. I'm sure he can concentrate much better.


The only real benefit of open plan offices is that they are slightly less ugly.

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