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Microsoft 365 has employee surveillance and analytics built in (twitter.com/wolfiechristl)
981 points by ColinWright 61 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 436 comments

Again w/ Neal Stephenson bring prescient (in this case his 1992 "Snow Crash"):

Y.T.'s mom pulls up the new memo, checks the time, and starts reading it. The estimated reading time is 15.62 minutes. Later, when Marietta does her end-of-day statistical roundup, sitting in her private office at 9:00 P.M., she will see the name of each employee and next to it, the amount of time spent reading this memo...

Y.T.'s mom decides to spend between fourteen and fifteen minutes reading the memo. It's better for younger workers to spend too long, to show that they're careful, not cocky. It's better for older workers to go a little fast, to show good management potential. She's pushing forty. She scans through the memo, hitting the Page Down button at reasonably regular intervals, occasionally paging back up to pretend to reread some earlier section. The computer is going to notice all this. It approves of rereading. It's a small thing, but over a decade or so this stuff really shows up on your work-habits summary.

This isn't even close to satire anymore. I know managers who track which of their employees have read Google Docs they send out, and how long they take to first open it.

In the same vein, I'm part of a reporting chain that uses "Officevibe". Mini little surveys to measure our happiness. Now managers have goals for various metrics.

Of course, that has turned the entire thing into the most annoying game you can imagine. Add in the "beatings will continue until morale improves" meetings on the reports, and I'm now convinced one of the best questions I can ask of a new employer is "how do you track employee morale?".

My organization has also switched to web-based "frequent quick anonymous surveys". I always do them to keep my boss out of trouble for poor response rates, but I skip all of the questions and just add a comment that I don't believe in the anonymity guarantee.

Someday, I'll get asked why that is, and I'll get a chance to quote Seymour Cray's "I think that you just answered your own question."

While going over the latest "anonymous" department survey early last year, one of the HR people slipped up and said something like, "...and Mike had really good feedback at the end of his survey." She then had to admit that the surveys weren't anonymous. A lot of people were pissed. We haven't had a survey since.

Surveys can't be anonymous if they require login or custom URL for each user.

They can be if the results are decoupled from the tracking URL and the results aren't shown live (to avoid a really dedicated manager matching changes in the results to changes in who's responded).

Problem is that as user of the survey you can't verify that results are decoupled from the URL / login.

I saw a great idea for a Slack integration a few years back.

Instead of having these quarterly "how is working here?" surveys that no one likes, you could input a bunch of questions and it would "randomly" (probably not randomly, but arbitrarily) message them to members of your organizations, and anonymise the results.

That meant that instead of having some huge process every quarter where everyone just kind of skips through the whole thing, if they even read it at all, you could get a semi-live feel for how things are going day to day or week to week, and even get relatively-realtime indications about what effect company events were having on employees.

You can easily get into cynical territory, where you know that an impromptu office ice cream and macaron party will bump up morale by 30%, while laying off an entire team will generally drop it by 20%, so obviously you should lay people off on the Thursday and then have an ice cream and macaron party on the Friday, but overall it's a good idea to get a continual sense of the feeling of your teams and what might be troubling or exciting them.

You're basically describing Officevibe.

It emails people with some frequency between weekly and monthly, and it only asks you a few questions every time. Mostly it's a 1-10 scale thing, with cute little graphics.

It also asks open ended questions where you're told the answers are anonymous. That's all well and good, but if your manager can't figure out who's who from the tone of the message, they're a new manager.

And sure, it sounds like a great idea to spot issues. The instant two managers compare scores, or worse, are compelled to compare scores, all bets are off on it's usefulness. Then when you have a meeting where a high level manager painfully asks for input on how to make things better from the entire team while going over each chart in painful detail, the clear goal every individual contributor has is to just pick 8 or 9 and make the stupid meetings stop.

-At a former employer - a vast engineering multinational - we had a big, annual questionnaire to determine how happy we were to work there. 'On a scale from 1-10, how satisfied are you with...'

We were assured the results were only to be used in aggregate and no response would be possible to trace back to the individual who'd made it.

I almost fell off my chair laughing when the report had been compiled - the responses were anonymized. Of sorts. Responses used in aggregate. Of sorts.

The engineer, female, age bracket 40-49 years, $SITE in the office next door wasn't as amused.

As the sample size was one, her every response had been printed in the report.


Where I work our similar reports only will show average number values in context of at least 6 responses. And open ended text responses in context where at least 25 people responded.

So often a direct manager can't see open ended text in their context but their skip level manager could.

They shouldn't have ever reported on a sample size of 1. That's a bad system

Recently had a similar "anonymization" experience in a workplace survey. There were a lot of short answer questions, and people's names were converted into numbers. The same number for each employee, on every question. Not exactly hard to correlate who's who with a few dozen responses from each person. They also failed completely to clean up any names mentioned in the reponses.

Officevibe is not anonymous in certain circumstances. It shows which city (And maybe IP?) the questions were answered from.

If you're working remotely this could easily identify you.

Huh. I am working remotely (well, most of my team is now), but more importantly, I'm the only person in the city I'm in. Not that it really changes my responses, I've kind of always assumed my anonymity wasn't guaranteed with this, though it does make me hate Officevibe just a little bit more.

I should start responding to the survey behind a different VPN endpoint each time. See if anyone asks questions.

Officevibe doesn't track your city, I don't know where he got that from.

Always randomly clicked through it ie Form filler.


Feel your pain

I do that occasionally, but it's never to single out an employee. If I'm sending things out that my reports can't or don't want to read, I'm wasting everyone's time.

You can just ask them if they read it in your one-on-ones or in a direct email/Slack/whatever? Instead of tracking their habits?

Asking which of the fifteen memos they read this past quarter might not be a great use of time when you only have ~30 minutes for the one on one.

It seems managers don't want to talk to their reports.

People aren't always honest.

> If I'm sending things out that my reports can't or don't want to read,

If you have to ask..

They are bad managers that work at bad companies, then.

Spooky reading. Almost strange how many times this sad prophecy about surveillance has been told without us reacting properly. Even now; when we are approaching some of the most pessimistic scenarios foretold, we don't seem to react.

As if that's the only thing people don't react about?

Their jobs got outsourced, the police kills without penalty (especially blacks but any race will do), the lobbies run amok, their wages have been stagnant since the late 70s, their employers get increasingly more power over them, health, housing, and college have skyrocketed in costs, ...

... given all the above, which range from quality of life to life and death matters, and which not much protest has been done, surveillance is close to the bottom of the priority list...

> not much protest has been done

> surveillance is close to the bottom of the priority list...

These are directly related. Surveillance causes chilling effects.

Sure, but so does apathy. Another approach would be to encourage apathy by legalizing pot. Oh...

Astute observation. The people are essentially being pacified with an ensemble of token gesture legislative palliatives and morale-sapping sedatives.

That one has always felt suspicious to me too ...

You're right; there are certainly worse things happening which deserves our full attention and reaction. But perhaps this type of "surveillance state", or the general loss of civil liberties is a key to eroding everything else to its core. In a true "surveillance state", anything is easy to rig for those controlling it...

I’ve seen lots of protesting over the last decade. The strange thing is that it never, ever amounts to anything other than completely trivial placation in the US. It seems like the Europeans are willing to burn their cities down to get something they want every few years, but they often end up getting it. Here, we can have a summer of rage and nothing happens. It spirals into minutia about whether it’s federal, state, or local changes. Some national programs or studies may happen, maybe a few local changes happen, but overall things go on as before. I can’t imagine an actual grass-roots challenge to something like constant domestic surveillance actually having any effect, because I’ve never seen it.

People react, but their reaction is channeled into a false dichotomy. What the elites learned from 1984 etc. is that you do need to provide an enemy for the people, but the people are not united; so you need to provide two enemies, each of which is a champion of one side and a foe for the other, and then let the spectre of this false choice become the defining characteristic of people's identity.

Witness it in the people who hate Trump or Clinton or Biden or anyone else that is put forward: you can divide an entire country on it right down the middle, and meanwhile their policies in reality (not policy positions! implementations!) are basically indistinguishable. The same thing would happen regardless of who is elected, for the most part, because the election is a show, a pressure release valve to make people think they've done something.

Even now we have people who think that electing Biden will help solve the problems you've pointed out. People ostensibly on the Left are mad about four years of rhetoric that has been riling them up, and have pulled the lever for "change" to resolve this. And yes, you will _hear_ less about blacks being shot by police for four years - that's part of the strategy, which the media cooperates / coordinates with. The actual number of incidents may not change... Instead, it will be time for news stories and events which angry up the Right for a few years, again forcing them to direct their resources and energy at fighting some spectre that won't change anything instead of directing their efforts inward to truly root out corruption and decay.

There is no protest. Protests are just the establishment throwing a different sort of parade, celebrating their power by demonstrating what they can allow to happen without facing any consequences themselves. Go ahead, yell in the street, burn down a city - nothing changes because nobody is listening and your actions ultimately only hurt people lower down the chain.

Surveillance did not stop the summer of Antifa and BLM rioting. It will not stop a summer of redneck riots if that's in the cards either. Surveillance probably does stop people who actually stand some chance of causing real change; but if that is a functional, working thing, you won't hear a word about it.

Everything's to the point except it wasn't Orwell who taught elites proper sheepherding. They've been doing it throughout all the known history.

Good point, yes. 1984 just gives us that crystal clear image of everyone hating Goldstein - whereas in this reality half the people hate Goldstein and the other half hate Steingold (or whatever you'd put in as a convenient narrative opposite, not intending to reflect any individuals in reality) and neither of them realizes that their hate should be focused on Big Brother himself.

(A quick google shows me that Steingold is famous for bagels, and nobody hates bagels)

What is teaching if not summing up history in a concise presentation :-)

And marx taught us about false consciousness.

That's a very bleak outlook. I hope you are wrong, but fear you are right.

I hope I am wrong too. It is bleak! It might be the six months of grey rain that I'm looking at out the window, it might be a year of heavy burden bearing down on me, or it might just be a heroic dose of Depressive Realism.

You are not wrong. I came across this poem in the Chinese Book of Songs. It is an acknowledgement of everything wrong happening around us, and over which we have no control; a way to keep your sanity and function. Something akin to rational anarchy.

Don't escort the big chariot; You will only make yourself dusty. Don't think about the sorrows of the world; You will only think yourself wretched.

Don't escort the big chariot; You won't be able to see for dust. Don't think about the sorrows of the world; Or you will never escape from your despair.

Don't escort the big chariot; You'll be stifled with dust. Don't think about the sorrows of the world; You will only load yourself with care.

Thanks for that. It's always good to be mindful that this is hardly the first or the last time that this will happen to me or anyone else :-)

Sometimes things have to get quite bad before enough incentive to fix them appears.

In conspiracy culture, this is called predictive programming. We are shown the ideas in films etc, so then when it appears in reality, we don't react in shock and reject it. Rather we shrug and are resigned to its appearance in reality.

This also correlates to the idea of boiling frogs. Apparently, if you turn up the heat slowly the frog will stay in the warm water and be boiled, as opposed to jumping out, which is what happens if you place the frog directly into warm water.


Overall, results seem inconclusive. I don't see that Hutchinson's result (frog becomes increasingly active as water is heated by 1°C per minute) contradicts Heinzmann's (no movement as water is heated by 0.2°C per minute).

Goltz's finding that "a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water" seems... unsurprising.

There is a joke in the same vein where scientists try and train fleas to learn and obey commands to jump. They find that the hardest fleas to teach how to jump on command are those with all legs removed: they’re the most stubborn and refuse to jump when asked 100% of the time.

I did say 'apparently'. :) Good research though!

By the time everyone can tell conspiracy theories from conspiracy practices it's already too late.

It's all based on three words: 'already', 'will', and 'we'. 'We are already being tracked by our smartphones - So we will be wearing implanted radio chips soon".

Reject 'we' by not using one and you're not being 'aready' tracked, and hence 'will' not accept whatever coming after this.

But it requires some bravery, which is known to be eradicated in people these days.

Well, conspiracy has a bad name, but really I think that's the only domain you can understand the possible reality of what's been planned and undertaken in this world nowadays.

It really should be a bad term - of course very powerful people conspire to ensure that they get the best they can. And that would mean writing legislation, defining what education is, etc, etc. Its all very obvious...

I remember a naval officer survivor of a rocket or torpedo hit (post WWII) describing what he was going through at those moments. He basically was tracking the thing with his eyes as it approached, practically mesmerized, not incapable of moving but locked in awe of that unstoppable thing approaching, knowing fully well that he should take cover immediately but practically doing nothing.

I think we're doing the same, in a sense asking privately "bring it on; let's see what this would do... to _them_ " as if we're watching a tornado from the safety of the TV not caring of the results; and like that navy officer not able to defend the ship, locked in awe (or ignorance?) of our own peril.

It isn't a prophecy it is reading in what you want to see from it. Snow Crash was over the top camp when it was first written.

Well, I haven't read Snow Crash, but this excerpt is neither "over the top" nor camp, and appears quite prophetic given 2020.

The main character of Snow Crash is named Hiro Protagonist. The above is meant to be absurdity, like the full body scanner in Airplane 2.

You mean like the ones we have now?

It was an absurdity at the time.

Well, I haven't seen Airplane!, but this example is neither "over the top" nor camp, and appears quite prophetic given 2020.

> hitting the Page Down button at reasonably regular intervals, occasionally paging back up to pretend to reread some earlier section

How long does simple key logging last before they add eye tracking?

…or Apple Watch-like pulse tracking, etc., and then who knows if/when Neuralink becomes practically, widely deployable and useful. I think we’re just a bit beyond the technical capabilities of the Thought Police right now in terms of sensing — their telescreens could hear breathing in quiet rooms, but on the other hand Orwell didn’t seem to foresee people buying their own pocketable ones with GPS & cell triangulation, etc. (they didn’t necessarily know everyone’s exact location all the time) — but perhaps we’re quickly surpassing their analytics abilities (particularly bandwidth — finite human staff are less of a bottleneck) with AI.

If this happens, two^W three can play this game. If this ever becomes a thing, I'm definitely going to open a business, selling 3D printed heads with animated eyes.

Elevator pitch for VCs would be about machine learning - neural networks generating consumer head nodding behaviors that match the read phrases, as well as rising simulated body temperature in righteous awe or anger upon "reading" certain pieces of spam. And how all that behavioral data is somehow valuable (lol).

You'll need that fake head to be vascularized too. Photoplethysmography is a thing. >smile<

Okay so now I'm just meant to hire someone who looks like me to read my e-mails for me? Definitely going to have to try to expense that.

You can outsource it. Better yet, set up a startup to offshore it. Or - ding ding! - AI it, providing Virtual Work as a Service.

You can have virtual cubicles full of imaginary AI-generated people automating bureaucratic busywork being generated by AI management algorithms.

Maybe I should write a novel about this. (Or am I too late?)

> selling 3D printed heads with animated eyes

I figure it's an arms race that will play out in the software space. More generally, it's deep-fakes vs deep-fake-detectors.

Eye tracking is already live in production.

Had the joy to see some contractors at work. The webcam is recording 24/7 to ensure their face is in front of the screen.

If the employee looks away for a second, the screen flashes something about no user being present.

If somebody else shows up in the field of view, for example me walking by, the screen flashes something about an unauthorized user.

The session is locked out after a few notifications.

Higher education 'anti-cheating' technology is just like that.

They're trash.

This is what it looks like for students: use your laptop webcam to scan the room with your webcam, remove anything deemed suspicious; provide proof of identity (student id), wait for the software to register your face, name, and identity; test opens take test, do not look down or it locks, do not look away or it locks, do not refer to your notes or it locks, do not have people walk behind you or it locks, do not have pets walk behind you or it locks, do not have posters of movies behind you or it registers as a person and locks, do not accidentally click another tab or window or it locks, do not use any of the built-in windows accessibility tools or certain 3rd party accessibility tools (dragon software) or it locks, do not use a mac or it locks; fail test.

Single parents, individuals living with many people in the home, and anyone who does not have access to an isolated quiet, alone work space is screwed.

And it's completely asinine. Just ridiculous.

Please tell us where this is happening, so that we can avoid ever working there. Pretty sure this would be illegal in most European countries.

The software is made by a US software company.

You have to onboard user accounts to them, install the authentication software on a laptop, and it will open a remote desktop to an AWS workspace. The session is constantly tracking the user's face and gets terminated if they look away for a minute.

Contractors are disconnected regularly because their face stopped being recognized, or they can't login in the first place after 5 tries.

Recall one contractor that contacted support because they couldn't login, support told him that their face was too dark.

>The session is constantly tracking the user's face and gets terminated if they look away for a minute

The hell did I just read?! Can't tell if this is satire or real at his point but anyway let me just beat your employee tracking system by propping up a photo of my face in front of the webcam.

Wait, is your fancy system looking for features of life like facial twitches and eye movement to not be fooled by a photo?

Fine, here's a deepfaked avatar of my face acting alive powered by nvidia's latest deep learning magic.

See where this is going?

Had the pleasure of applying to reddit earlier this year.

Was sent a link for an online test (hackerrank if I remember right) for which I needed to keep my camera ON.

Wow I would hate to work there.

Unless this is some kind of top-secret government consultancy thing that is totally unappropriate.

The work involves reading and reviewing some documents. Some confidential documents but nothing fancy.

It's minimum wage, hourly contracting with no benefits.

So in other words, easily swapped out for something far more humane. Sounds like the best path.

which country was that? and what work did the contractors do?

Not long. Software as an industry feels particularly devoid of ethics these days. If Bloggins doesn't build this for his employer the guy in the next co-working space will.

There is no coherent "software industry" as a unitary entity with shared norms and standards. There never was.

Since all you really need to get started is a laptop, there are rather millions of more or less atomized software shops and developers attached to other industries, other streams of revenue and capital, other entirely disconnected cultures and social norms.

Given that its already deployed in academic contexts, I suspect that the more invasive employers are already using it. Finance, defense, etc.

Having worked extensively in both finance and defense, your assumptions are way off base. This kind of monitoring is the purview of corporations like Amazon, Walmart, McDonald's, and others who treat employees like machines. Defense and finance have highly skilled brain workers and they aren't micromanaging performance metrics like this. They are tracking information access for security reasons where appropriate, and in the case of finance, tracking results insofar as it relates to risk and profit, but they're not monitoring grunt-level input metrics the way you imply.

"Former JPMorgan colleagues describe the environment as Wall Street meets Apocalypse Now, with Cavicchia as Colonel Kurtz, ensconced upriver in his office suite eight floors above the rest of the bank’s security team." [0]

What really scares me is the number of people that adopt this strange Panglossian view dismissing every abuse of power as a one-off that cannot possibly reveal widespread systemic failures.

[0] https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-palantir-peter-thiel...

That would be illegal in EU

Are you sure. The EU mandates much MORE monitoring in most cases. Self driving cars may need to have camera's on occupants to monitor them during driving etc. A lot of the safety stuff in EU is MUCH more nanny state and CCTV is much more widespread it seems. Also very power data collection and centralized databases about everyone in the EU (ie, I don't think "states" or localities issue local ID's).

I think the point was that while the various governments in the EU deploy surveillance systems en masse, private companies can not.


And no - CCTV is not widespread at all. There's far more CCTV in the UK than there is in the EU where I live now.

States do indeed issue local IDs. There is no common EU ID card and no common EU passport.

There isn't even a common immigration database for Schengen - although that's planned for 2023. (It was supposed to be 2022, but it's been delayed by a year.)

Spying on employees is very restricted. Anything that would even come close to it would be strongly rejected by the unions.

Seems very feasible: https://webgazer.cs.brown.edu/

The GSuite apps (when you’re paying) tell you who looked a spreadsheet, doc etc and when they did it. Missing is how long

But that's not a feature primarily for management, it's a feature for the document creator.

When you send around slides or a doc, there are times when it's actually pretty useful to see who took a look or not -- so if it's important you can ping them. It's not perfect, but it helps.

Privacy-wise it's not a whole lot different from being able to see who's currently viewing the document, which has existed forever.

There's a big difference in how they are being presented and to who the numbers are presented to.

Also comically missing is what document version they looked at. At best, it might say you saw version "Friday".

you can opt our at the employee level, at least at my company which ive done

Steps please. Asking for a friend.

It wasn’t that prescient. GroupWise allowed that in the 90s. I knew a few psycho manager types who were angry when I moved them to Exchange because they would track who opened their messages and yell at them if it wasn’t fast enough. :)

Snow Crash was satire of a genre of sci-fi story, so while it may have popularized some ideas I don't think it was trying to be prescient. Entertaining though :)

My wife worked in a GroupWise shop in the early 2000's and apparently there was tracking-related political intrigue and drama. >sigh<

I was thinking of this passage when I took some mandatory online corporate “security training” a few weeks ago. They required scrolling through all of the text on each page and looking at it for a minimum amount of time (a few minutes) before you could click through to the next page.

Buahahahaha. I need to read that book again.

I just started Diamond Age... Good times.

For all metrics my rule of thumb has always been to just do my job as best as I can and ignore the metrics. If a manager ever says anything about them, I ask them what they think of my actual performance. Then when they say they are happy with my performance, I suggest that they are looking at the wrong metrics. The few times that has failed i flatly tell them that I will not do anything to game the metrics, and I'm just going to keep doing my job as best as I can. So far that has always kept them busy until I got a promotion, switched companies, or the short sighted manager got fired.

I tried that strategy for a little bit.

I also tried the strategy where I prioritized hitting all the metrics (which usually takes very little work relative to your job) and then did my job.

The second strategy led to better reviews, faster promotions, being more well liked by my boss, and an overall more pleasant work experience. I recommend the second strategy.

There's a third strategy for the no-BS, independent types: opt out. Contracting/consulting avoids a lot of that. You're not a worker bee that the company "owns/rents", you are a vendor providing a service. It's usually fairly concrete what you're providing, and it's fairly clear if they are satisfied (if they aren't, they stop paying you). As a bonus, it's expected that you set your schedule (as a 1099 requirement), so you get a lot of flexibility.

Of course, if you're contracting for a company that thinks in terms of "resources" that will trickle down into contractors, too. Sometimes team perks like the quarterly see-a-random-movie are "members-only", which doesn't feel great. But then, nobody complains much if you take three weeks off to go hiking.

This has not been my experience consulting at all.

Unless you're working for a small company directly for the owner you will be dealing with someone who has to convince their boss the project was a success or you were responsible for the failure. And you need to care about a lot of metrics and outcomes to make that you are successful as measured by those metrics, or that it doesn't look like you are responsible for the failure.

Just doing a great job doesn't cut it. No client ever really wants on day 90 what they signed up for on day 1. For most clients the person who is signing your checks, the person you work with on a day to day basis, and the people who will be using your apps will be different people. They will all have different ideas of what success and failure are, and they all have other people they are responsible to. And all of these tensions need to be managed successfully, and this involves a ton of BS that is completely unrelated to what a naïve engineer would describe as "delivering value".

In a normal job your boss is usually your friend, and looks bad if he throws you under the bus. This is not the same for a lot of consulting engagements where people are highly motived to blame their failures on you.

>Unless you're working for a small company directly for the owner

These are the only clients I take as a consultant. As an individual, you aren't going to be able to have that many clients at once; there's no reason, then, not to target the ones that make the job more satisfying. You do often wind up working for small (<50 employees) businesses, but at the same time, this also means your work has a greater chance of having a bigger positive impact across the board.

Everyone has their different wants, of course, and there are plenty of headaches that come from being a 1099 worker. But there's no reason it has to be a slog, either.

It really depends. Like many "software" discussions on HN, it depends what type of software you work on. It depends on the companies you work for. It depends on your reputation and the types of jobs you take. You can have folks swearing that their 20 year consulting/contracting career was a breeze arguing with people who complain about bad customers and unpaid invoices.

I've had customers that want every minute accounted for. I've been pressed to cut my rate for time spent in meetings. I've also had years where the invoices were paid and no questions were asked. I often developed good, personal relationships with clients, even the ones asking me to cut my rate for meetings.

It depends what the company is looking for. It depends on if you oversold yourself, or failed to manage expectations. It's easy to promise too much to get the job. It helps to work with people who are current/former engineers because they understand realities better. That's not always the case, but generally.

" failed to manage expectations"

This is my point. If you think hitting some metrics on a annual review is hard because it's BS, managing the expectations of 4 different stakeholders is a whole different league of dealing with "BS".

Or to put it a different way, if you're entering consulting to escape politics you are in for a world of hurt.

*this mostly apply to the finding your own clients and running whole project version of consulting. The just showing up as an embedded 1099 worker by applying to or getting recommended to a job does involve a lot less politics.

At my current company, as an employee, I have 4 people I could call 'manager' and I'm not even talking about higher level managers and VPs.

I agree that being a 1099 hired gun can spare you from a lot of politics. It's nice to have a list of tasks the customer wants, bang them out, and walk away with a satisfied customer and a pile of money.

That said, I spent over half my career at two companies which did everything from staff augmentation to full product development. In my experience I did not detect a level of politics comparable to that at a large valley company. Granted, those companies were outside the valley and owned/run by a very smart, personable, experienced leader/engineer/salesman. It helps to do the investigative work up front and define success criteria in the initial statement of work. A lot of customers balk at paying for the upfront work, but it was a pretty firm requirement when you wanted us to take on a project. I was lucky to get hired into a design services firm early on and benefitted from the wisdom of a building full of independent contractors working for an engineering for hire company.

But, like I was getting at originally, I think it varies. There are some types of work that are hard to scope initially or where the customer exhibits child-like behavior. If you can, you can learn to identify those situations and avoid them. It helps when employment is tight and you can turn down work.

When you talk about the level of politics at the company are you talking about the internal politics dealt with by an employee or the politics dealt with my the account principal who was managing the account?

I've worked for two other consulting firms besides mine, one 150 people, one 36,000 and everyone I've talked to who managed client accounts in both those companies has similar experiences.

Sorry just incredibly curious how a company got around having to deal with politics, while doing consulting. Would make a huge difference to my current company.

Among employees at the consulting firm there were absolutely zero politics and it was by far the best crew of people I've ever worked with(author gazes wistfully off into the horizon). It was a group of very smart, somewhat cynical folks who really just concentrated on getting shit done. There wasn't a hierarchy or a career path. You were just a Senior Engineer charging by the hour. Things did get a bit weird when the owner hired a salesman to run the place for a while and he started over-promising and spending too much on marketing, but that problem sorted itself out fairly quickly.

I wasn't aware of any significant politics between us(account management, which I would say are sales, PMs, and the owner of the company) and the customers. There were political struggles inside big customers(i.e. DirecTV) when a VP would have to justify paying us, but that's not really something we got involved in. There were arguments over billing rates and such, but I wouldn't call that 'politics' it's just doing business. I consider 'politics' to be things like dog and pony shows, massaging peoples egos, playing one faction against each other, etc. There wasn't any of that.

It sounds like you were "an employee at a large/very-large consulting firm" as opposed to "1099 independent contractor one-man shop", and I would expect your experience to be the same as an employee.

Contracting/consulting comes with an entirely different set of problem/challenge, though.

I feel like this suggestion is akin to remodeling your house simply because the walls are the wrong paint color.

That no longer will be possible in the UK next year as government changed IR35 rules. Clients to be safe will declare you a deemed employee and as a bonus they'll be able to use tools used on employees plus you get no employment rights.

That legislation seems short sighted to me, the less flexible the workforce is the worse off we will be. If they were worried about losing tax revenue they should have started treating dividends as normal income.

Been there, done that; the problem is the hassle over unrelated overhead (like chasing payments, in one case for almost a year...) and the uncertainty (it’s feast or famine, most of the time).

A good part of the reason I'm independent these days is hatred of the annual review.

Of course the pay bump helps :)

I know autistic developers who are not unwilling but unable to use the second startegy. They cannot comprehend the insanity the manager wants from them. Regardless, they get shit done so it's the manager who has to change strategies. I say if you openly do not care and stick to #1, the world will align.

maybe it's the managers that are autistic

That is because the system (organization) prefers its nodes to be legible rather than illegible. It might hear that some nodes are "more productive", but that is illegible and unauditable from the system's point of view. In light of this, I see no reason why employees shouldn't conform to the metrics; yes, some "true productivity" is sacrificed, but that is the price of legibility. That has always been the price of legibility, whether you're a state or a company or a community. For large organizations, that is a price they often choose to pay.

Start by hiring good people that you don't need "legibility" from. Or fire managers who have no real use other than to "read".

What does legible mean?

its taken from James Scott's Seeing Like A State and in this context legibility is the characteristic of a supervisor to be able to ascertain all the characteristics they consider relevant at a glance.

If you work at a company where bullshit flows uphill it's a winning strategy. If your manager's manager likes those kind of stats it certainly makes their job easier. I don't know how long I'd want to work at a place like that though.

I've worked on 5 fortune 500 companies and every single one worked like that.

This was far less true at smaller companies where the owners/founders were directly involved.

Are there large companies where it doesn't work like that?

i've worked for 3 fortune 500 companies and have managed to get them all to either treat me like an individual, or to even change policies at a higher level. The trick for me is to always be open and honest while not coming across as hostile, but also showing no fear of reprisal. This means being open about your own weaknesses in front of your managers and team mates, which only works if your strengths outweigh those weaknesses. I don't think everyone can pull it off, but so far I've managed to get myself in a position where everyone I interact with is always willing to hear me out. I don't always get what I want, but when people listen to your ideas then sometimes they start to think its their own idea, and then it begins to spread.

I have a low tolerance for bs like this. I usually articulate why its bs to my manager to give them a chance to fix it and if they are unwilling to i get a new job. No point in staying to deal with that kind of bs, life is short.

Ah, if it's about faster promotions, I can be only happy that my pay was rising acceptably throughout years of using strategy #1. I briefly tried strategy #2 but it was a near-instant burnout for me, hence decidedly not a "pleasant work experience".

Are there many employers that do this? It’s crazy.

> For all metrics my rule of thumb has always been to just do my job as best as I can and ignore the metrics. If a manager ever says anything about them, I ask them what they think of my actual performance.

I was like this once. But metrics are not always going in pair with actual performance or logic for that matter. And sometimes manager's hands are tied, even though your performance might be good, manager sees your good work etc. That happened to me actually, long story short I was given a lot of complicated cases which resulted in "bad performance" based on case/time ratio and by newly implemented corporate performance enhancement program I was downgraded "temporarily" to do grunt work that I magine was like in primary school punishment: "so I had time to think about my behavior". After a month I've given my resignation letter, without even having next job (which turned out great move, but that's other thing) I was so fed up.

I think this works for some roles but not others. The CEO can choose what criteria to use, and so the people reporting to the CEO can make your argument. The manager of a team of CX reps might not have that power to chose the criteria, so the people reporting to that manager are just as powerless. Then there’s the whole spectrum in between.

This is actually one of the privileges I’m most thankful for. That I have been able to make it work in an industry where I (and my managers) have the agency to decide how I should be evaluated. I have friends who aren’t so lucky, even when they push hard for the people below them to be evaluated more sanely.

I agree with this. I think it's also important to regularly check it with your manager and ask about how your performance is being perceived and if there is anything they could suggest that you improve upon. Keep the feedback loop tight so that both of you can address any problems as quickly as possible.

Absolutely. I left that part out, but if there is something I need to change to do my job better, I most certainly do that as best as I can. The thing is that those conversations have never been directly tied to metrics.

Of course, they're almost always very qualitative discussions. If you have a track record of discussing improvement points, hopefully both you and your manager will be able to agree that any metrics that might appear during year end reviews are mostly extraneous.

f*ck that.

block as much as you can.

delve.office.com and I think it was vortex.data.microsoft.com

umatrix lets you block lots of other parts. Microsoft sites are a cesspool of tracking and cross-tracking.

I wish there was a comprehensive list.

I also wonder how much CCPA and other laws could help with these issues.

All privacy policies say you are entitled to make a privacy request, but none of them provides guidance or a form.

It would be nice to have CCPA advice or even form letters.

In the kind of company that uses that, you also don't get to install anything you want on your computer.

For example I can only log into my company's online office suite from the company-provided Chrome installation, and no addon can be installed unless whitelisted by IT.

Then a DNS Sinkhole it is! Pi-hole on the Raspberry Pi 0W is tiny.

I’d imagine the company owned laptop doesn’t let you set custom DNS servers.

what about filtering outnthose requests on the router?

You don't have access to the company's router obviously.

And you're usually not working from home in that case, and if you are you're connected to the company's VPN.

That won’t work on the company VPN I’m afraid.

Yeah since working from home I've seen a LOT of chatter blocked by my pihole when the VPN is off. Also browser.pipe.aria.microsoft.com, telemetry.microsoft.com, trafficmanager.net, hockeyapp.net, self.events.data.microsoft.com . And this is with uBlock origin also adding up blocked stuff constantly (so that's not even reaching pihole).

Some of them (like trafficmanager.net) do seem needed for proper operation but most aren't.

Even when I'm just working locally on a document... I really don't like this either. Nor do I like those 'helpful' O365 reports about my habits and how to spend my time.

I think the issue with this can be when the metrics are being consumed by people you don't directly work with

This can be applied to other areas in life too. As an example, Instead of using a smart watch for tracking sleep we can simply base our decisions on how our body feels, intuitively.

I feel like we are losing touch with our own bodies, feelings, nature and other people. We are relying too much on data for a lot of things where it doesn’t make sense

git is even worse than whatever these tweets suggest Office 365 does. Git stats have been used against me on performance reviews even though there's no context to the situation. I went from a programming role to an ops role because the ops person left the team and I was the only one left that could do the work, so my number of check-ins dropped, but my contributions that improved the ops section weren't acknowledged.

Any company can create bad metrics if they want. The only solution is to either play the game, or change companies.

That said, I fail to see how effective employee monitoring would be via Office 365. I don't know who would be evaluated on number of emails sent per day, unless they were some sort of support personnel. And if so, they are already being monitored by other means. Any other type of evaluation sounds absurd, ex. number of Word docs opened or created, number of spreadsheets opened, number of presentations created, etc.

I used to work at a company which used GitPrime, a product which tries to use git statistics to create graphs and productivity rankings for management, but of course it lacks any context.

The easiest way to shoot up the ranking was to avoid any work where you'd not be instantly coding. Never fix a bug where you need to spend time tracking down the issue, never take on the more complicated pieces of work, never use your time to help out junior team members. Instead focus on simple work and trivial refactoring. The statistics are vaguely interesting and I never had it used against me, but the old quote applies: "when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."

> never use your time to help out junior team members.

Yeah, I'll be honest, if I had this sort of metric forced on me, I would completely ignore everyone, not just junior devs who (quite often) ask for my help on finding the right tool to accomplish a task. I can bang out code all day, that's easy as shit.

But I think I'd quit before I'd sink to that level.

I once saw something similar where a co-worker on a newly formed team wanted to keep design documents in a git repo. Those types of documents can have dozens of small changes, or in this case commits, each day. It was also painful to read and edit. Luckily our manager stopped the practice early before it took root.

Another anecdote, I was once in a tech lead role and spent a lot of time pairing and guiding others on their development work. My commits were low but impact was high. Low commits counted against me during promotion review.

I once saw something similar where a co-worker on a newly formed team wanted to keep design documents in a git repo. Those types of documents can have dozens of small changes, or in this case commits, each day. It was also painful to read and edit. Luckily our manager stopped the practice early before it took root.

There's a thing now called GitOps, where you manage your infrastructure by tweaking things in a Git repo then Puppet/Ansible/Terraform/Saltstack/whatever runs them automatically. Easy way to get "number of commits" way, way up in a plausible way.

I have a colleague who creates a Jira for every tiny thing that for most people would be just a routine part of their job. He literally spends more time fooling around in Jira than he does actually doing his real job. But he looks great in the stats...

Design docs as text files (eg Markdown) in Git doesn't actually sound so terrible to me. Counting impact by number of commits is obviously dumb.

It added another tool to manage on top of an internal wiki and a few collaborative document editing. Wiki was basically markdown and it had its own version control mechanisms built in.

I love companies that do this!

An acquaintance of mine told me at a networking event his company started using git stats to do performance reviews. And he pretty much anticipated how it would pretty much end mentoring, documentation and deep debugging (don't bother fixing something, rewrite the offending part of the code as much as you can and hope the bug goes away!).

I ended up poaching 5 seniors engineers from that place, and got a referral bonus for each of course.

Good ole Gitprime! The source of so many bad memories. I used to be on a 4 person team and Gitprime was used to stack rank us for every quarterly "performance" review. Woe to the one who ended up ranked at the bottom...

>when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

I see this get thrown around a lot but it's not really true. If a metric can be gamed then I agree it's a flawed or poor metric, but there are definitely good metrics that make good targets as well.

Concrete example: I used to work in aircraft maintenance putting Search and Rescue aircraft into the sky to go pull people out of lakes or out of crevasses, etc. One of our KPIs/metrics was the number of hours spent in what's called the "Red" state, i.e. you have no serviceable aircraft that can fly if a callout happens, meaning the region is lacking airborne SAR assets.

There isn't really a way to (legally) game this metric. Either your aircraft is serviceable or it's not. The only way you could cheat is to just lie on your statistics and release aircraft for missions that are actually not serviceable, but that's going to bite you in the ass sooner or later, would require a conspiracy of 10+ people to lie on official airworthiness documents, and doing so is a federal crime not to mention a big ethical no-no.

Our monthly target was zero. I.e. we tried to go each month keeping at least one serviceable aircraft at all times. We only hit that target a few times while I was in that job but it was rewarding, and on months where the Red indicator was particularly large I would drill down with senior staff to determine if it was an anomaly or if there was a trend starting, and we'd address it.

And yet it's still a good measure because it's directly measuring what was our primary objective (i.e. can you put aircraft in the sky to carry out rescue missions or can you not?)

That doesn't provide a way of measuring your individual performance only that of the team. Analogous to that for me would be amount of downtime in our system but that's a whole team metric not an individual one.

In most cases the measurements are proxies for your "share" of the job. In these case they are almost always bad. In all my years in tech I've not seen a way of directly measuring what I do.

> That doesn't provide a way of measuring your individual performance only that of the team


Team metrics can be useful. It is important to know if, say, a team is missing deliverables more than another team. Then you can potentially track down _systemic reasons_.

On an individual level? Can't do it, there's not enough context.

On a pure "lines per code" metric, the most important members on my team would have an abysmal metric. But if they didn't do their jobs, the productivity for everyone else would drop enormously.

>That doesn't provide a way of measuring your individual performance only that of the team.


Is there a clause I'm unaware of in the saying I quoted that stipulates a target/metric must be an individual one only?

When I interview for a job, I ask what their KPIs are. If they have an answer at all, I withdraw my application.

That’s a bit extreme. I would ask them to explain why they chose the KPIs, because that’s where you’ll get the bullshitters to break down very obviously.

Half of your post was reasonable.

The second half.

We have "Inner Source" as a kpi now. Meaning we constantly ask projects where their code is, how others can use it and where an internal community can develop. I like this kpi.

What about “whether you're doing the work”, or “whether your team benefits from you being in it”?

So you only work for companies that don't do any kind of performance reviews or promotions?

I want to work for companies where the management knows that performance reviews and most other HR things are a bullshit formality. I should be continually getting feedback from a proper human relationship from my boss. If I am letting them down I want to know right away, not next quarter.

Most of these processes are designed to compensate for managers who don't know what the hell they're doing and shouldn't be in charge of anyone.

I've worked at companies that had promotions/reviews and no official KPI.


Ill have to start doing this too.

Gamification has consequences.

I have seen git commits change over time because someone started to look at stats. You absolutely get what you benchmark for.

>That said, I fail to see how effective employee monitoring would be via Office 365. I don't know who would be evaluated on number of emails sent per day, unless they were some sort of support personnel.

Nobody cares for effectiveness above a certain company size. Even if the company crashes the managers will still get their bonuses and golden parachutes...

Uh, no, bonuses and golden parachutes during a failing company go to execs when that happens. Middle and even upper management below the exec level rarely gets shit if the company is doing poorly.

Combined with that, many employee's know how to work the metrics to make themselves look more productive than they really are.

So you end up with work being done to fit the metrics, not necessarily work that is of highest need or more impactful to the organization.

I have seen plenty of bad metrics lead to managers no understanding why their dept's appear to be "hitting all the numbers" but also no performing in the way they desire at the same time

After my performance review, I talked to my boss and my boss's boss, and asked them if that's really what they wanted me to do, ie. fulfill these arbitrary metrics or if they wanted me to work on whatever made the team better. They said no, of course not, but a good engineer should be able to fulfill those metrics and make the company better. I explained the situation, that the ops person left and they haven't hired anyone to take over, so I'm left holding the bag and they refused to acknowledge it, so I quit.

As a manager myself, you have terrible managers. They should be able to acknowledge the facts of the situation and not put the blame on you. To the opposite, good work, such as taking over something critical when someone left the team should have been rewarded. Metrics are useful, but to only rely on them is what lazy or incompetent managers do.

What was the point of saying all of the above? In the real world there's many bad managers and new managers are assigned to existing projects all the time. Any tool which provides more misleading metrics is bad news.

Proving that the initial problem can be reduced to a people problem is useless.

The point is that some metrics are useful tools, and that some managers are tools.

To be more specific about metrics, something that measures what your users care about, or is beneficial to your company is actually useful. Sometimes the most important metric is a zero or one, which is did you ship? Measuring commit frequency seems intrinsically useless.

my guess is they're trying to say that the person was in the right, their managers in the wrong (and they are a manager themselves) and if they run into the situation again, they know what to look for. Also, in the event this person is beating themselves up over the situation (thinking this is the norm, thinking that maybe they made the wrong decision, etc.) it would appear it is intended to put them at ease that they did the smart thing and it isn't like this on every team.

Why not just ignore the DevOp work and focus on what counts. If no one is measuring ops then it doesn't matter. Someone will get upset the issue will go above you and they will magically hire someone.

If you are covering up for something (no staff) than you will look bad. Push the problem up. Make the people above you look bad instead of taking every bullet.

> you end up with work being done to fit the metrics, not necessarily work that is of highest need

Obligatory reference to (generalised) Goodhart's Law:

"When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure."


The overall commits/engineer graph plotted over time was one of the metrics used to justify first round of layoffs at Uber last year. Not necessarily at the individual level but to come up with an aggregate reduction target.

At least git is Free, transparent, auditable software, designed to track the work itself, not surreptitiously log each device you glance at a document on and MS only knows what else.

> At least git is Free, transparent, auditable software, designed to track the work itself, not surreptitiously log each device you glance at a document on and MS only knows what else.

Yeah, GP's comment was completely off base. O365 is user-hostile tracking-ware by design. git is just a tool with incredibly high granularity. We don't say scalpels suck because psychopaths use them to torture people.

> Git stats have been used against me on performance reviews

That sounds awful. Sorry that happened to you.

I've been an engineering manager, for a time, and I used Gitprime to track stats.

It was never used for performance reviews or in making promotion decisions or anything.

What it was used for was to manage upwards and demonstrate to the upper management how decisions affect the team, to indicate when we needed to spend on hiring and had room to onboard new people, etc.

I don't see metrics as "surveillance," unless they're used that way. They can be used for good. But I think as you and others have pointed out -- it requires context and transparency: you can't just rely on metrics for reporting on a person.

Tech managers: you need to bring your people up, develop their skills, and pay attention! Metrics are useful but only relationships bring context.

(I eventually returned to engineering as I didn't find I enjoyed management much)

if you use a full 0365 stack there are a lot more datapoints to use than just emails sent, or documents opened/created.

you have login times to see if they are late, chat metadata to see time to response on dm, idle status to see if keyboard / mouse went inactive. meetings attended, page views on the intranet, etc. if your a full stack o365 shop, then you can essentially log any and all activity for most employees, and therefore target kpi's that you want. even it admins to a degree will have these logged. powershell sessions opened, commands executed against the stack, every single click 8n the web gui in o365, every single action in azure. they are all logged and assessable, I used the same data for security monitoring before I moved to a Google shop

At least you can git squash all your slacking into one commit and merge.

Ha! I worked at a place where every Monday I had to count the number of commits each team member made and put them on a weekly report.

Once the company got bought, my new boss in charge of all developers across all divisions asked me to not mention that again so he doesn't have to do that. Once I moved on, it sounds like ParentCo took a more active role in the development and hopefully they stopped that.

Yeah that was a shitty approach. Stuck at same sort of place. I did an order of magnitude more commits than my peers last year. I had to explain that it's because commits are cheap which makes experiments and rollbacks easy, not that I'm code jesus or something.

or make a bunch of tiny commits and change the dates to make it seem like you've been productive.

I don't want to see tools built for surveillance, although that's a lost cause at this point.

But the tool doesn't force managers to use it, and the absence of a surveillance mechanism, someone who seeking an excuse will invent a metric for the purpose.

The only cure I've found for toxic culture is to remove someone from it. Usually me.

> or change companies

Definitely that.

Not trying to go off-topic here, but has anyone here actually used git in the workplace? I'm 3 for 3 on jobs that don't believe in version control, and other companies in my city haven't known what it is, I'm constantly asked about having it on my resume skills section. I've been told everything from "it's not enterprise ready and there's no SLA" to "open source is communism".

What type of living hell doesn't have version control?

Git is the first thing I set up when I start a new side project, every job aside from one which let me set it up, have used version control. I will say Plastic SCM sucks and no one should use it though. One of my side projects ran into massive issues with my contractor due to no one, including myself understanding how plastic works. GitHub for life

> What type of living hell doesn't have version control?

I've worked (thankfully not as an employee) for a well known BANK which did not have any kind of version control whatsoever. None. Not even folders with dates.

"Where's the latest release?"

"Oh, it's in John Doe's flash drive over there"

I am not kidding.

After a lot of pestering by my company (which was working on a consulting role), they spent big bucks on some unknown version control system used by hardly anyone else. It followed the old Source Safe's "lock" mechanism. Except you had to use their own software and navigate to each file in question (no searching). Imagine how amazing it was to work on a java project and sloooowly open each folder in the reverse DNS package convention until you got to the file you wanted. Very slowly, because all actions happened on the server.

Later on they were bragging on how they were able to create a branch in less than a week. Merging was a day long affair with all code contributors present.

EDIT: still, that was over a decade ago. I didn't know there were companies involved with software in any capacity that still don't have version control in 2020.

Note Chris Shaffer's comments on the use of git/github analytics for employee monitoring:

"As an (I like to think) good boss, I might use Git statistics to steer interventions with under-performers. If they're committing zillions of lines of code, it's maybe an efficiency or expectations problem. If they never push commits before noon it's maybe a motivation problem."

Though he backtracks a bit regarding his own personal approach:

"But it's always just one data point, and almost always one that colors a response to an issue that exists independently. I'd never determine that someone was an under-performer based on their Git commit history."

Yes, git is more or less universal in San Francisco / Silicon Valley companies.

The only places I'm aware of that don't use it are game companies, which tend to use source control systems like https://www.plasticscm.com/games specialized in better handling of very large binary blob asset files like textures, movies, audio clips, etc.; and Google, which has the monopoly-scale dev budget to be able to suffer heavily from "not invented here syndrome," so they built their own proprietary in-house SCM.

And every company that works in tech, develops software or performs automation that I can think of in Australia and New Zealand.

I can't imagine working somewhere without git, I think the last time I worked somewhere that used something else was a mix of git and cvs back in maybe 2010ish?

Google’s monorepo hit scaling issues with Perforce so they replaced some (eventually all?) of its components.

> I'm 3 for 3 on jobs that don't believe in version control,

Any version control?

Because if so ... wow. That's bad, I thought that sort of practice went out in the 90s.

Most places I've worked in the last decade use git. A big bank used private instances of bitbucket or stash or something. Another fintech was on github, a smaller company had gitlab or something set up. All git.

Outside of git, one of the tech behemoths had several of its own systems going, clearcase and something in rational team concert. Even the tiniest, worst-run places I've been to in the last 15 years or so have at least used svn or something, and going back to the beginning of my career, 20 years ago, there's always been PVCS or SCCS or something...

Honestly I would find it hard to claim that any serious sort of software development at all was going on if there wasn't some sort of vcs!

I only used git and MS team foundation server once. Never going to use that again, you cannot imagine how slow that monster was. It had VS integration, but it was such a bad product overall.

Used SVN previously for private stuff and I think it is still spread in many companies. I liked it, just all the small folders are a PITA and git is faster for larger repositories. It had far better tools than git in my opinion, TortoiseSVN. Heavy, but practical.

I would always use git now, even if only locally.

Yes, git is pretty much the default at tech companies nowadays, although some large companies use more "exotic" source control systems like mercurial.

It's also well supported out of the box by Azure Devops (aka VSO aka TFS) so I would expect to see it in more traditional, non tech companies as well. The idea that it's not enterprise ready is ridiculous.

That's the thing, it's not the existence of the tools that's the problem, it's how they're used. Nobody railed against the manufacturers of punch clocks for their products, but these days most employers have come to realize that this is a poor proxy for measuring productivity and don't use such tools.

The gospel of metrics in tech management is toxic.

If you were running engineering, what would you use instead? How would you determine salaries and bonuses?

Going by completely subjective metrics is pretty unfair, everyone has some amount of bias.

Human judgement. A manager stupid enough to be worse at evaluating engineers than metrics are would struggle to keep himself fed and warm, and is therefore not a realistic threat.

They might have not been any indication for you but i used it as an additional marker;

When there is a team member where you feel something is off from a performance perspective and they should do the same things as other colleges and there is a hard difference between them, it helps you that your gut feeling is not that off.

Lots of shiny new tools to close more sales in the war against g suite.

Yet I'll have to wait several more years for a fix for the bug in Office web mail client that incorrectly says there is new mail on the browser tab, when in fact there is no new mail.

Employee tracking features or not, MS 365 is orders of magnitude worse than g-suite in every regard.

Employees don't want these products, so they have to go after managers who can crow to their managers about monitoring productivity.

I respectfully disagreed. I felt MS365 is superior than GSuite. Google Drive have reoccurring issues that drove my boss and me crazy and apparently it is a common issue. Outlook have features that I want to use that Gmail don't have.

My boss is considering to moving to MS365 because GSuite showing its ugly head often and that have a impact on our productivity.

> I felt MS365 is superior than GSuite.

Wow, talk about a low bar!

Less snarkily: G suite works for low complexity tasks (let's not get int G drive which seems designed to add gratuitous complexity). Channeling Clayton Christiansen, it's a "minimill" that does a tiny part of the job, not well but adequately.

And it could be argued that most people don't need the capabilities of MS Office. Certainly no one person needs most of the features. There are definitely small problems for which less is more.

Much as I hate using MS365 (back-compatible nightmare of poor UX decisions, too many features for my particular use case) my heart, and productivity, sinks when I have to use the gsuite tools.

It's interesting that nobody has managed to really upend this market, not for lack of trying. There must be huge institutional inertia.

I will concede Google Drive is garbage. But even in that garbage product there aren't as many glaring bugs that have been around forever.

The worst example: you can't use the browser's back button in the MS 365 mail client! Instead of using the back button like any other web app, you have to hit ESC to drop from message detail back to the inbox or folder. The back button instead goes to the next message in the queue.

MS 365 is full of mind-boggling UX decisions on top of annoying bugs that have been around for years.

> The back button instead goes to the next message in the queue.

That must be a feature: one could use the back button to open many mails and even reply to them in order to game the employee 'evaluation' metrics.

But the desktop apps are best in class, Word and Excel in particular.

What class is Word best in?

I use it a quite a lot and think it is okay, but it has all sorts of problems and behaviors that don't make a lot of sense.

I used it daily for my work. I prefer Word due to their mail merge for creating certifications (sometime, I have to make 150 certs and mail merge made it so easy). Also, I use it for form creations, Word's table structure is superior and flexible than LibreOffice Writer and Apple Pages.

Yea, it does have their quirks. I am aware of those and I know how to work around it or with it. Microsoft Word been around more than 20 years and it have legacy codes in Word to ensure it works with older format and few other oddities.

Track changes. It is an industry standard for legal documents.

`vimdiff new.tex old.tex` is _infinitely_ faster, easier, and so on. Using git provides a far better backup and restore functionality, with searchable history, and multiple branching versions. I've met exactly one lawyer (a barrister) who uses tex and loves it -- it's particularly good at making trial bundles with complicated paginations and cross references -- but he does have the advantage of being an IP barrister with a PhD in particle physics...

But I don't want or care to go to the trouble of setting up tex, git, vim or whatever else. Microsoft has solved that problem for me.

I couldnt imagine working somewhere that relies on email and not using outlook. Gmail is barely tolerable for person use.

The MS account switcher is also terrible. Maybe it’s because I have a mix of outlook-based emails, Azure AD emails, and full O365 emails, but the fact that you can’t easily open an outlook tab for each account is horrible UX.

FF Containers are a much better way to handle this issue then attempting gmail style account switching

Can't remember the tools name, but there is an official MS browser pluggin for using multiple accounts

If you're using Chrome or Edge, setting up multiple profiles is a good way to handle this, as well as separating work and personal stuff. I use profiles to have Teams open for multiple organizations..

Firefox containers, or delete cookies. It is because of how cookies work and not terminating a session upon logout.

> The MS account switcher is also terrible. Maybe it’s because I have a mix of outlook-based emails, Azure AD emails, and full O365 emails, but the fact that you can’t easily open an outlook tab for each account is horrible UX.

I dont like Office 365, but its lightyears ahead of GSuites. Just look at GMail - it can't even handle threads and mail is commonly all messy and unreadable when multiple people start replying. Generally for anything slightly complex GSuites fails.

It's so bad, that I'm thinking my next company has to use Microsoft stuff again - sort of an interview criteria. I'm only semi joking because Outlook and Co seems like a low bar to beat.

Small nitpick, but as of last month, G Suite has been officially renamed as Google Workspace.


Maybe if they have time, they fix also the many graphics bugs in (and around) Excel (one funny bug I found just make the left side of the Excel window broken, even the Startmenu, but just on a horizontal FullHD monitor.)

> MS 365 is orders of magnitude worse than g-suite in every regard.

You clearly have never sent/received a calendar invite from a g-suite email to a non-g-suite email. The experience is abysmal.

That hyperbole...

Make a script to send out @ mentions across multiple channels, start sending automated "project update" status emails daily, and generally add to useless chatter.

"Look Boss, I'm a good employee. Office 365 spy says so."

Facebook employees are evaluated on many things, including number of reviews that they participate in. My friend said that lead to a lot of engineers adding "+1" comments to as many reviews as possible, or requesting "Thank you"s for responding to emails.

LMAO that's the funniest thing I heard all day, primarily because where I work that's not evaluated at all.

More power to the managers, but all good when your managers are likable people.

> [...] requesting "Thank you"s for responding to emails.

What does this mean?

Facebook has an internal tool called thanksbot that you can use to “send thanks” to people, and these are recorded and can be discussed at performance review time. Ideally only in situation where it actually matters (thanks for the refactor that made our service use 50% less gCPU!) but obviously anything can be gamed.

I’d love to know as well. Thank you @rubidium for starting this comment tree and also @ping_pong for additional insights. Clarifications and/or corrections are totally welcome as this my comment is based on pure speculation.

It sounds like if employee A sends an email to employee B and employee B sends a response to A, employee B expects (implied or explicitly stated in their response) a "thank you for your time/response" email from employee A. Just a guess though.

Sounds like the comment section of LinkedIn posts






Give the script to everyone you know as well.

Automated metrics deserve automated data.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Only the finest hand-collected artisanal metrics are worthy of MY data.

I suppose you could hand-craft some of the script-generated responses if you want.

Why not use GPT-3 or some other GAN and train it on stuff you have actually written?

Then you can have high-quality, automated data to feed the metrics machine.

this, but unironically

> Automated metrics deserve automated data.

Exactly this. And remember that it applies to any automated data collection. (After all, automated data collection is automated data collection.)

So, this would only work if you use basic vbscript and not powershell which is enabled =per account, regardless if admin or not. But it does not take into account browser clicks, refreshing pages and general browsing.

This was a very brought up topic at MSFT.

Couldn't you just use browser automation tools for this? It wouldn't really make sense to use the tools that are watching the behavior to automate the behavior

Yes, you could, but that wouldn't be as fun.

That was my first thought.

Why the heck is this still legal anyway? Bosses should not be allowed to spy on people. If I actually fail to do the job in time repeatedly - ok, go ahead and fire me, that would be fair (I won't even resist if I see that's even partially my fault), but don't freaking spy!

Anyway, I would prefer to be unaware I'm being watched - I get kind of paralyzed with anxiety and can't think when somebody's watching over my shoulder and I know they do.

I am pretty sure that the individual-level data would be illegal to collect on employees in Norway under labor law. According to the linked Twitter stream, author says it would be illegal in Germany and Austria. Probably for many other European countries as well.

Sure it is illegal in Germany or at least the Workers' council needs to approve it :)

But in other countries the laws are different. Managing a VPN solution you can't imagine how easy it is to get a data protection officer in the US approve a manager request for remote working data of an employee, reasoning being "to check if he worked from home as he told me and not from another place"

Different tenants per geographic regions have different standards.

Why would it be illegal?

The employee is doing work for a employer on a platform provided by the employer.

Because being an employer doesn't give you carte blanche to do whatever you want to an employee.

In the USA, it seems like it might as well. And somehow most employees have been convinced this is suitable. Whether it should is another question.

Because then less people would want to be employed and would rather stay on unemployment benefits burdening the state and the other employers? Or maybe because slavery was abolished 200 years ago?

I knew a guy who worked night shifts because he wasn't getting notoced by the shift supervisors when he went out for a smoke. There were less shift supervisors on night shifts.

Good point! Said platform should also electrocute an employee lagging behind. You know, for motivation.

See how broken your logic is?

Your counterexample is a straw man argument where the example approaches abuse.

My reasoning of why employee surveillance is fine is that there's a genuine purpose/need (measuring employee productivity) while personal privacy is retained (e.g. don't import personal information into the corporate 365 environment and personal privacy is retained). I'm not saying the metrics provided by 365 are correct, but I don't see the legal argument against it.

Read the GDPR or national equivalents in the EU and that will show the legal argument - literally that there are a group of laws defining that this isn't allowed in those jurisdictions. Whether or not you're convinced or not is of no consequence to the laws.

Can you point to a particular clause or section that indicates this wouldn't be a compelling usage (e.g. performance management of employees) of personal data?

You along with all of the other commenters have just responded with the generic assertion of "European privacy rights aka GDPR, duh." But then you don't actually support your assertion whatsoever.

GDPR is not a blanket prohibition on collecting data.

"Why the heck is this still legal anyway?"

Because the bosses run the world, as people seem to like being bossed around.

Workers have achieved a huge lot in outlawing things bosses wanted throughout the history. I would love to participate in a fight against this one if people would organize.

Another thing to fight against are requirements to explain resume gaps and discrimination against people who have them and people already seem starting to raise against this.[1]

The society still has a lot of work to do...

[1] https://www.boredpanda.com/annoying-job-interview-questions-...

Join the IWW and start organizing your workplace!

Developers are sometimes part of it. We have a lot of security companies where FUD means higher sales. They pay well though.

No, capital runs the world. The people who have little don't want to risk losing it and the people who have a lot have no reason to risk losing it.

> No, capital runs the world. The people who have little don't want to risk losing it and the people who have a lot have no reason to risk losing it.

The 401k was a really clever trick. I wonder if it was intentional.

Go ahead start your own company.

I tried a few times. I'll gladly be bossed around for 8 hours when I make this much money..

Bosses pay for lobbyists that fight regulation to keep shit like this in check

those metrics are so useless it probably doesn't even count as spying.

but seriously totally get how you feel.. it's been my first few months with an IT-managed laptop, and even with the creepier stuff off (hurray european laws) i'm nowhere near used to it

I know employee surveillance is useless, that's obvious, but that hardly really matters to the person being watched.

For certain jobs like in finance, compliance has to spy on people to check they aren't manipulating the market.

some track how long you stay in the bathroom using the RFID badge that they gave you

NFC RFID badges have a range of 10-20 cm. Unless an employer is requiring badging in and out of the bathroom or is using UHF RFID badges (is there even such a thing?), your assertion is unlikely to be true.

Leaving and re-entering your office, buzzing the locks on the way?

Although it's plausible, I would think that offices with a layout that requires badging out to reach an external restroom are rare. Seems as if there would be fire or disaster evacuation concerns.

Not really, in case of a fire alarm all doors unlock anyway.

When I was a consultant I visited many offices where I needed a badge to go to the loo. It's really common in shared office buildings, the toilets tend to be in the elevator hall outside the badge perimeter. Don't think they were monitoring it though.

My building has the toilets in the fire escape stairs which you can push button out to but badge back in from. You would have some difficulty measuring time since you don't know who pushed the button but you could certainly measure frequency.

It depends upon the office. Where I work, we rent space in a building, and the restrooms are shared by multiple tenants on the floor (each floor has a set of bathrooms), so I (and my fellow coworkers) have to badge out and in to use them.

The face recognition cameras catch you on the way out, the camera catches you on the way back in.

So you are saying that a sensor on both sides of a doorway frame should be enough to capture all RFIDs passing through? If they dont already ask you for the ID to open doors on the way....

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