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German state parliament bans laptops - Pirate party show up with typewriters (crackajack.de)
137 points by fgribreau on Sept 26, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 47 comments

While this is an interesting way of disobeying and a nice idea in general, I have to admit that it also feels a bit overreacted. The reason why laptops are banned (as outlined in this document: http://fraktion.piratenpartei-sh.de/2012-09-19-bericht-aus-d...) are that people used them during the parliament hours for social networking or games and that the clicking of the keyboard and the fans and harddrives of the laptops created a distracting noise. Tablets are specifically allowed.

I can understand that the noise that a set of laptops generates can be distracting. On the other hand does a tablet not really help if you want to type down thoughts or parts of what's currently being said. So the smart thing to do would be to only allow very silent fanless laptops (my MacBookAir, for example, seems to make no noise at all, except when watching YouTube videos).

I sincerely doubt that it makes sense to try to ban the clicking of keyboards. That's like trying to ban the shuffling of paper. Bringing a typewriter which makes really loud typing noises doesn't sound like such a good idea in that context. A foldable bluetooth keyboard + would have been the better idea; that way they wouldn't show disobedience, but instead they'd display that there're other ways in which one can be silent and still use a keyboard in there.

If government officials don't care about parliament sessions and are playing games during them, the noise of their keyboards is the least of your problems. I think typewriter is a great way to express that. You can't play games on it, unlike iPad.

You know, this view is probably the minority here but I think that the way we conduct meetings has changed.

Whenever I hold a workshop or longer meetings, I always try to give 5-10 minutes on every hour so people can "reconnect" with their email, news, social network, or whatever it is that is trying to occupy their mindshare with me.

I've noticed a marked increase in engagement whenever I allow this. I know that the people there should be paying attention, but in practice they are incapable of it.

Isn't that the way you should hold meetings/workshops anyway? even before the era of social networking?

Hah, not in the ones I attended. They were under the impression that those in attendance or participating should pay attention always, with a couple mandatory bathroom breaks.

> the clicking of the keyboard and the fans and harddrives of the laptops created a distracting noise. Tablets are specifically allowed.

Why not just ban the noise itself? Why deal with the inevitable complexity of attempting to capture the causes of the noise in a system of arbitrary categories, and suffer the collateral damage of suppressing activities and objects that aren't generating noise, while still subjecting yourself to non-laptop-related sources of distracting noise?

The real reason why they are banned: Because the majority of the parliament wanted it that way and voted for the rule. I don't get the outrage at all, why shouldn't the parliament get to decide how they run their own sessions?

The tyranny of the majority is a major detractor of democracy.

Not quite the majority of parliament - it's the 'Ältestenrat', the 'Council of Elders' composed of representatives from the different political fractions that decides on these procedural rules. So perhaps about 15 people for a majority?

Why shouldn't the minority that didn't support the rule get to ridicule it?

Er, instead of banning laptops, why not address the actual problem, and just ban noisy keyboards...?

Some keyboards are very soft and basically silent. I'm sure they'd quickly identify suitable models which people could use.

Given that they allow tablets, it's clear they don't really care very much about people goofing off with social networking and games...

There were probably typewriters used there in the past. It's good way to make the law seem silly and a waste of money, because the government ran fine in the past with something much noisier. Buying a certain kind of keyboard to adhere to a stupid law would make disobeying pointless, since it is also a waste of money.

tablet + keyboard seems like a solution

More on why they're banning laptops : http://fraktion.piratenpartei-sh.de/2012-09-19-bericht-aus-d... (in German),

Google-translated version: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&...

Maybe it's a bad translation, but banning laptop with noisy fans and clicky keyboards seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Seems like a waste of tax payer money to me. Just put up with the fan/keyboard noise. Done. Maybe crank up the speaker volume for whoever has the mic.. There are people out there who struggle every day with shitty cars that break down all the time because they can't afford anything better. I just loaned my jump start battery to one. Wasting people's money on preventing fan and keyboard noise seems like a real let them eat cake moment. If they think that's a real problem, they are too well equipped to actually feel real problems.

Different people have different tolerance levels for such noise. I'd suggest you not presume that all people disturbed by such noise are 'over-sensitive whiners'.

An example. I can take a football (soccer ball) full in the face from 3 meters, without a complaint. It wasn't intentional. Shake it off.

I cannot concentrate with such noise in my periphery, particularly when the background is not "busy" with other activity. My nervous system wants, demands that I pay attention to it. Part of the... "heightened alertness" that serves me well, in other contexts. Perhaps also somewhat the result of a childhood in which such noises could proceed very traumatic events.

So... those of you with a "Why can't they just put up with it?" attitude: There are those of us who have tried -- often pushed too hard to view this as entirely our fault -- to do so. For years. Decades. It doesn't work for us.

Why should you then "put up with us"? Well, in my case, I tend to notice 3 or 4 times as much as many of my neighbors, and to relate it ("cross reference", whatever) to things they've long since forgotten, if they ever knew. In my case, at least, what you are "disturbing" is a very deep and full and "well-intentioned" attention. It takes all my concentration to perform this well.

This attention catches and fixes problems before they become "established policy", or "code", or whatever, depending upon context.

I don't care how you lead your life. Just don't presume that it gives you the right to infringe upon mine and my well-being. Don't assume that you understand my experience and motivations.


If one were to bring in a desktop computer with even noisier fans and keyboards into the parliament chamber, would that be OK? If a member just had a bunch of loose fans running at his desk, and banged away all day on a disconnected keyboard, would that be OK?

Why not just ban the thing causing the problem itself, and not worry about contingencies that are orthogonal to the problem (e.g. what kind of larger-scale devices the noise-making items are embedded in)?

The most interesting bit is in my opinion, that the debt of the region is already really high.

But as laptops are now banned from parliament, every member of said parliament shall receive a tablet, because he/she has to be able to keep working with digital files in parliament.

Being a citizen, things like this make me sad.

The regions debt is 27 billion euros, spending or saving 100.000 euros on tablets doesnt make any real difference.

Incredible that I'm getting downvoted for this. So if you have 100,000 $ student debt, you should stop sending holiday cards and use email instead, to save 40 cents?

In large organizations some costs are just to minuscule to warrant any mindspace. In this case the spending doesn't even seem evidently frivolous, why shouldn't every parliamentarian have a tablet? In the Netherlands they replaced paper with tablets and even managed to achieve cost savings.

That's exactly the attitude that got them to 27 billion euros deficit in the first place!

Not really, no. That’s exactly the wrong focus. It distracts from the issue, it derails the conversation. That’s exactly the reason why conversations about revenue, spending and debt are always so tiring, pointless and unproductive.

If you want to reduce a 27 billion Euro deficit, it makes no sense at all to focus on the details of whether it’s a good idea for the state parliament to spend a few thousand additional Euros. Such spending or saving will neither increase nor decrease the debt in any sort of significant way. It’s a cheap talking point that clouds the issue and gives people hours of material to talk about the debt without coming even one millimeter closer to any sort of solution.

What are the biggest sources of income? Is there some way to increase them in such a way that paying off the debt in a realistic time-frame would be possible? What do we spend the most on? Is there some way to reduce what we spend on to reduce the debt in a meaningful time-frame? Those are the central questions.

How much do those tablets cost? Maybe 100,000 Euro every two years or so, so 50,000 Euro per year (and that’s a generous assumption). If the parliament wouldn’t pay for them (and assuming that the debt stays otherwise constant) the state would pay off its debt in half a million years. Even if you can find 100 similar small issues, paying off the debt would still take several thousand years. (Oh, and by the way, the debt isn’t constant, so at best you could hope to impact the growth of the debt some insignificant tiny bit.)

There is nothing wrong with arguing for or against whether the state should pay for tablets for members of parliament – but putting this discussion into the context of the debt is utterly ridiculous and pure cheap polemics. The important questions are: Do they need tablets to work, can they afford them themselves and what constitutes a fair and good payment of parliamentarians that produces the best outcomes (e.g. attracts competent people or allows even otherwise poorer people to participate in the parliamentary process). Again, talking about the debt in this context makes no sense.

The attitude that got them there was slinging a few billion here for an infrastructure deal, a few billion there for a bail-out. It takes more than a handful of iPads to add up to a billion, you know.

They probably spend more money on chairs in a year than they do on computers.

If an iPad allows them to be more effective, then it's probably a good thing to buy. It's false savings when your thriftiness gets in the way of productivity.

It's not the amounts that matter, it is the care that is spent on deciding whether or not an expense is warranted.

Given there's only so many hours in a day, I'd rather they focused on ways to shave energy costs by 10% than fret over which brand of Made in China pencils would save them a nickel per box.

An iPad would not even make a dent in the expense accounts of most politicians. Their photocopying bill would massively eclipse this, so anything that reduces the amount of paper required could save enormous amounts of money.

I'm guessing that, like in other Western countries, medical and retirement benefits are the large plurality/majority of the budget. Not purchases of electronics or other line items.

It's akin to a software company buying $400 Dells and a single monitor to work on to "save money."

There is no way the region ever pays that back, better spend now, when the system crashs they at least got some things.

Things add up, you know.

The German finance minister played Sudoku on his iPad during a heated Greek bailout debate.

Tablets and smartphones are allowed, just laptops are not.

Oh, in that case he's off the hook I guess, there's nothing to see here, move along.

As somebody who distaste the bailouts, I hope he did it to tell Greece that enough is enough.

Malicious obedience via retro tech.

Is the proper term for this sort of protest "malicious obedience?"

"Malicious obedience" means following orders when you know the result will be disaster. So, sure.

It may also be called "work to rule", I think.

I have heard it referred to as "Malicious compliance" but I haven't witnessed the concept referenced enough that I would expect a universal term for it.

> only mobile computers that run silently without a fan or no mechanical keyboard and hinged screen (from google translate)

While `run silently and no mechanical keyboard' has at least some merit, what's the point of mentioning hinged screen?

There are some dual-(hinged-)screen tablets http://blog.laptopmag.com/msis-dual-screen-tablet-video-hand...

If they aren't using those laptops (or tablets if they have any) to read the legislation that's being discussed or anything like that, but for any other stuff, then there's really no reason why they should have those laptops there. They need to focus on the new laws being passed, not checking Facebook and Twitter.

Yes, but consider how doomed you are if you need to treat your parliamentarians like irresponsible children to keep them on task.

But I think there's probably a more charitable explanation that everyone is too polite to say: large chunks of the business being conducted may in fact be bullshit, and deep down they know it.

Isn't that up to the voters to decide?

Snap of photo of the representative checking Facebook while legislation is being debated, and make it into a campaign ad when the next election rolls around.

But honestly, I'm sure this is nothing new. Legislators have been daydreaming, doodling, passing notes, and reading books during debates since time immemorial. It's not like attendance is even mandatory in the first place.

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another image (of pirate party member angelika beer) https://pbs.twimg.com/media/A3t_kZLCUAA3i1R.jpg

That's quite a misleading title.

I thought Germany had banned laptops nation-wide for some reason.

Maybe they should come with their portable enigma machines

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