By telling people that wearing headphones is a signal that someone wants to be left alone, you're asking people to make assumptions about those of us wearing headphones with no intention to make a statement about our availability.
I wear headphones constantly, as do two of the guys I work with directly. We simply want to drown out office white noise, and wearing just one ear doesn't work for that. If Ryan is wearing headphones, that means he is secretly watching The Daily Show on the clock and there is no better time to interrupt him today. Sometimes my department will focus on changes to system audio, then everyone has headphones on.
Try learning how to ask someone to leave you alone. Or, put a sign up on your desk that says "I'm "not here' today, email me instead", one of our guys does that, its pretty unambiguous.
It was great for company culture. /s
Is it unreasonable to make yourself unavailable to your co-workers all day, every day? Yeah, probably. Is it reasonable to have some period of uninterrupted work time? Most definitely.
Again, I'm not suggesting that every workplace must be monastery-quiet, but somehow being able to signal to your co-workers that you don't want to be disturbed doesn't seem unreasonable to me.
Wearing headphones while ordering your drink?
* No headphones, you get your drink as you wish
* One headphone, I make your drink and shoot you a meaningful glare
* Two headphones, I secretly make your drink decaf
If you sell me a decaf drink, you're doing a bad job and deserve to lose it.
Being almost literaly forced to use headphones/earphones to perform one's job definitely says something about the working environnment.
I think/believe it's a given we - programmers, sysadmin, or computer guys* - should be given a noise-free environnment to work in.
Personnaly I can't focus on programming or any cognitive task (except my playing the guitar) while listening to music (even classicial, lounge, etc.).
* in fact, everyone who needs to think hard about problems should be. Heck... everyone working in an office should be entitled to a noise-free environnment when needed.
More often than not I have them on playing nothing, it both helps with the noise and sends the message that I don't want to be bothered.
AKA not forced. I use earplugs instead of loud music to counter outside noise. I rarely need them, though.
A tacit unwritten condition to get a job done is still a condition.
On a side-note I find earplugs don't really work on the long-term. Sound is drowned out but not enough (for me). Moreover, if one has develloped tinitus, earplugs will make bearing it worse over time.
Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bButG4EWSfE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQK0fW6-7jA
As my desk is in the far back corner of the office, and the light is visible from anywhere in the room, people know if I'm heads-down on something, away from my desk, or available for interruptions without having to come over and potentially interrupt me by asking. I can change the light by scanning my building ID card or using a web interface.
Note that this was done as an experiment to learn a bit about electronics, and a bit of an evolving joke to see how much random technology I can cram into a project. While I may be socially immature, I'm not as bad as "YOU CAN'T TALK TO ME WHEN THE RED LIGHT IS ON". I think it is useful, nevertheless, as an ambient cue when I am really trying to focus on a problem.
Listening to music is definitely helpful to me when it comes to focusing on the task at hand, but it shouldn't come at the price of diminished capacity for collaboration.
Put in some good quality shooter's earplugs to block out most of the room noise. Then headphones. Turn the headphones to the minimum volume necessary to hear the music. So now you have no background noise, and a nice, low soundtrack to help kick out some work.
You'd think it's pretty obvious though that when you have earphones in you're focused, you don't want to be interrupted, sadly though, that's not the case for where I work. I'm still spoken to even when I'm not listening, I'm working, it's okay to email me or poke me but don't keep talking. I'm not listening.
I got the idea from this HN discussion:
Things I've tried:
- earphones (J2)
- inner ear phones (X10, e2c)
- noise canceling over ear headphones (QC2)
- earphones / earplug + ear muff (J2 + H10A)
The last option gives the best noise protection. I've experimented a bit, but J2 buds or regular ear plugs are most comfortable with noise protection earmuffs on the outside. The inner ear phones are not comfortable with an additional over ear headphone.
For $30 I can achieve a level of noise isolation where I can't hear myself typing, or someone speaking directly at me 12" away.
 J2 ear buds ($8): http://goo.gl/vQZb4
 3M Peltor H10A 105 dBA ear muff($22): http://goo.gl/6P24g
2 headphones = both ears covered
The rule would have been less weird if it was:
no headphones, you can talk to me.
headphones, do not talk to me.
> 1 headphone = one ear covered
No headphones, I'm sitting in a quiet productive environment and you can talk to me
1 headphone, I need to pay attention to the world while I'm trying to focus on a podcast or something
2 headphones, work environment so fouled up and loud I cannot concentrate and I'm not in a situation to fix it / am feeling too lazy to fix it.
I thought this would be some cool project that detected my headphone jack input and play some music or a error message if not detected.
I can appreciate individuals who don't have the capacity to swap context throughout the day, but only when they can be mature enough to explain themselves to me like an adult; and I certainly don't need a visual accessory to que my interaction with them.
But even that is a context switch, and context switching is expensive. Your 30 second interruption results in 15 minutes of lost productivity (these are just made up numbers). A passive signal that you are not to be disturbed at this time sends the same message without the context switch or, more important, the need to switch back into the work.
For me, there's no workplace behavior more obnoxious than someone walking up to my desk and blabbing on about something while I'm in the middle of a critical section of code or on the verge of a breakthrough (these are the cases when I'm usually wearing headphones). Headphones, at the very least, signal that you should get my attention before speaking, and that I'll be with you in a moment because I can't afford an immediate context switch for your "problem."
Also, I don't think 'one headphone, two headphones' is quite right. Maybe the site means earphones?
"Drop the 'The.' Just 'Head Phones Rule.' It's cleaner."
"The Headphones Rule" more obviously means "a regulation pertaining to the usage of headphones".
"Headphones Rule" is very common slang meaning "headphones are superior".
(spoiler: for MBA types, headphones = bad employee)
This has made HN front page. Regardless of whether it's suppose to be serious, funny, or facetious, I think it's working [by causing us to discuss it]. Look this discussion is actually a great thing we are having... some folks think this is a great idea while others don't. Many may have gone on never thinking that others might disagree. For those that despise it as passive/aggressive... this is your chance to let those who like this idea know it's not as cool as they may think.
How is someone supposed to know in advance whether you 'like'? isn't that the whole point of the headphones?
or was this supposed to say "if you like"?
Now that I work at home I find I often have to add noise.
no headphones, I can talk to you.
1 headphone, take it off: I require your full attention.
2 headphones, you're fired.
Of course you have the right to fire your psychologist in that case.
1. I don't understand. Is the wearer of 2 headphones not allowed to talk, or is he not allowed to be verbally addressed?
2. If all the girls are wearing headphones, how the fuck...? Am I RIGHT?!