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How much time do you surf at work?

By farl in Technology
Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 08:43:17 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

How much time do you spend net surfing at work? Aside from the fact that the net surfing might be your job, or have a distinct relevance to your job, it is a fairly safe bet that no matter what, you spend time at work distinctly NOT working.

I know my average day at work is like that. Although in my case it is allowed based on how busy I am. If I am busy, forget the surfing. If I am not, I can amuse my self accordingly. There exists a certain level of trust in my job that my boss allows me to decide which time is which and act accordingly. Even so, I still find my self abusing this by the simplest of all means - by justifying it with "I'm just taking a mental break".

Lately I have been wondering how common this is on a larger level. And I have come across articles which talk about this issue and similar ones of basically goofing off on company time. What I am interested in knowing is amongst computer industry people, and those of us who have easy access to the net, how much time do we waste this way.

Of course, I don't believe it is waste. I truly do use it to clear my mind. And no, I am not just rationalizing here again (well a little bit I suppose), but rather I work in a field that requires detailed, 100% perfect error free work. Commercial Real Estate does NOT forgive errors in leases. Clients tend not to be friendly when you mess up even the smallest little detail. And with 60 page leases, its VERY easy to do. Of course that 100% perfect never happens, and that is why we have checks for our different stages to catch the errors. Aside from that, the detail level is still demanding (as in most jobs really) and after an hour or three of this I really need my ten to twenty minutes to take that break to relax myself. Its not really the stress, but rather I get so caught up in the leases I am doing, I begin to read what I think I wrote, and not what I really wrote - the typical proofreading mistake. So the break clears my mind so I can catch my own errors, and not look like the total idiot to my peers and clients.

I find that the ten to twenty minutes turns into longer and longer though if I am not careful. Take this article for example. It is being written on exactly one of those breaks. And its taking a little bit longer than it should because I'm trying to get my ideas accurately across. (Can't wait for that edit function to be included in the next build Rusty). So here is another twenty minutes taken up.

How long do you goof off at work and what fields are you in? I would be interested to see how prevalent this is or if it is just me.


>> This was posted to Culture-Technology becuase its Technology affecting our culture. I know that this idea applies to more than the Net, but that is the aspect I'm bringing up here.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Do you goof off?
o A lot 42%
o Sometimes 24%
o A little 7%
o NEVER! 1%
o ALWAYS! 9%
o What's a job? 15%

Votes: 177
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by farl

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How much time do you surf at work? | 28 comments (28 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
My day (3.40 / 5) (#1)
by retinaburn on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 06:53:59 PM EST

My day goes like this:
8:30 - 9:30 (perhaps 10am)
I check my mail, at least skimming everything. I work as an intern and reading the internal news/notes is (hopefully) informative about what is happening around me. Alot of it I don't care about it or isn't all that relevant.
I also get comics in my mail Dilbert, Get Fuzzy, User Friendly, and PennnyArcade. The funny thing is I spent countless hours finding source code on the Internet and hacking it to get the link to the current cartoon and the grabbing the image and sending it to a list of people...all on work hours. (Granted I had nothing to do for 6 weeks though).
I spend this time reading the list of news my company is kind enough to provide. This involves everything from technology to patents to video games to general news.

Then if I happen to see an interesting news article I will submit it to K5 and to /. (where it is promptly rejected ...only to later be posted by someone else).

Then throughout the day when I get bored I will surf through k5 and perhaps freshmeat to see what interesting things other people are doing.

I think that people surf at work for two reasons:

1. To fill up time in a boring day
2. To take up time in a busy day

Both are valid reasons, What did people do before internet invaded the work place ?
Watercooler perhaps ?

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho

Way way too much (3.37 / 8) (#2)
by interiot on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 07:03:21 PM EST

The company I work at has the standard warning "We reserve the right to monitor any network activity". At first, I thought "no sweat", but now I'm really hoping they don't check the logs often.

I think that's a clear sign that I'm reading the web too much. That, and my girlfriend of three years is thinking about breaking up with me because she thinks my ass is gonna get fired soon.

So I waste time finding articles that console me.

Surf and Be Happy
Work Surfing Dominates U.S. Internet Use
Recreational Web Surfing at Work Is on the Rise
Personal Web Surfing At Work Common

Yes, everybody's doing it to some extent. Yes, it's valuable to read Kuro5hin, et al. You learn all sorts of skills related to presenting arguments. You learn about the world around you. Reading slashdot teaches you how to cut through the BS in arguments. But it clearly doesn't make it right. You can't seriously impact your productivity for the sake of exploring new ideas.

One of my problems is that I have a Pavlov's dog thing going. If I get bored or stuck while doing my work, I quickly check to see if any new stories are in the queue. Except that's not how it works; you get bored, you're supposed to work around your current problem, or find new work if you don't have any.

I'm stuck, and the solution is very simple, but it doesn't seem easy at all.

I'm just relating my experiences in case someone else has similar ones or just wants to use me as an excuse to maintain their habits. Sorry for the mopey slant.

A lot, but... (3.60 / 5) (#3)
by mattw on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 08:03:22 PM EST

Like yourself, I spend a fair amount of time 'goofing' off. Probably split between reading non-work-related tech stuff, reading news sites (go kuro5hin!), and chatting on irc (especially about work- private server). Anyhow, I justify it too -- that by spending time that way, it keeps my head clear so that I can focus a lot when needed. In other offices, they have nerf wars in the halls, etc.

Now, to the real point: I've read lately that people who are information workers have a true maximum capacity that is lower -- that diminishing returns start at just 4-5 hours, and that working 5 days is more productive than 6. I have to say, I feel that connection -- I can get pretty much the same amount done working 5 hrs and just letting myself run wild the rest of my 8 I'm 'counting' as I do trying to focus constantly and do work for 8 hours. It is just easier -- I assume part of that is my subconscious mind doing some of the work for me during my respites. Anyhow, intersting topic, and I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone has to say.

[Scrapbooking Supplies]
Your first task on getting a new job... (2.85 / 7) (#4)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 08:44:38 PM EST

...is making sure you are friendly with the sysadmins so that they'll tell you if any logging is going on.
Re: first tasks (3.50 / 4) (#5)
by farl on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 08:57:35 PM EST

mine tend to be

1. download hotline
2. download irc of some flavor
3. customize email
4. customize browser
5. trash all the crap off the HD
6. work


[ Parent ]
Well, um, this is off the record, right? (2.75 / 4) (#6)
by spaceghoti on Fri Nov 03, 2000 at 10:20:30 PM EST

Seeing as my department is spiralling into decline (things haven't been the same since our senior manager took a transfer; whatever else he might have been he was a great organizer), I spend a lot of time on the web. People who have been following the Freedom and Politics sections are probably sick of seeing my posts. *grin*

My day starts out with arriving at work, checking company email. Opening my browser and looking at my telnet logs through TinyFugue while the browser opens. Yes, it takes that long. Once the browser is open, I check personal mail. Then I go back to my telnet window and open a session for my other personal mail. I run through a large list of comics, beginning with Sluggy Freelance through Sinfest and finishing with Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet. Lots of comics in-between. I check weather, I do online banking, I browse ABCNews.com. I chat with friends in telnet (mostly MUDs), I do a little coding online (again, MUDs) and lately I've been reading Kuro5hin and Slashdot, though I'm far more active here than there. Lucky you!

At any point in the day I will be pulled away from my computer to handle any number of technical issues dealing with software, hardware or network support. Ah, the joys of being a LAN Admin for a small development group. For the most part, real work takes up maybe 10% of my time. There just isn't enough for me to do, but that's a common complaint in this department right now. So excessive web usage isn't censured since there's little else for us to worry about. If we pick up and get busy again, then you'll be seeing a lot less of me. Here's hoping, eh?

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

Too much! (3.40 / 5) (#7)
by h0tr0d on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 04:08:51 AM EST

At this point in time I surf the web way too much at work. Don't have any bw at home so I don't even like getting online. So I prefer to do the majority of my surfing at work. Yes, it makes for a good break when I need to get my head clear and it's nice to do when there's nothing going on(like that ever happens!). However, like yourself I find myself spending more time at it than I should. Of course my current attitude toward work isn't a very good one. The company seems to be on a supersonic downward spiral. Most of the good people have left the company and the bad ones have all been promoted. Yes, I'm trying to rectify my own situation but don't want to rush it. So I find it very easy to end up spending 20 or 30 minutes on the net when I had only intended on 10 minutes of surfing fun. This factor became very apparent when K5 came back. It wasn't so bad while K5 was off the air but it's gotten worse ever since it came back. Lately I've tried to relegate myself to reading more than posting just because I have so much work to do and very little motivation to do it. So I'm trying to limit my internet time in the hope that I will become more productive. No dice, so far, but here's hoping.

In regards to retinaburn's comment about what we did before the internet. Yeah, the water cooler or where ever the common hang out spot was. Back then I used to interact with my fellow employees alot more. Of course, it seems like they were worth interacting with back then and they just aren't worth my time anymore. I wonder if this is one of the signs that technology is going too far since it is the reason that I no longer hang out with my co-workers. I guess the important question is why do I no longer find conversation with my co-workers stimulating? Is it because I have discovered K5 and other sites where groups of similarly minded people(I don't mean group think, I mean independant, intelligent people) gather and discuss the world at large? Or is it because my co-workers spend most of their time on AOL or in front of the boob-tube feeding on the mind numbing propaganda spewed out by the mass media?

Sorry for getting so far off topic, you just got me thinking.

-- It appears that my spleeing chucker isn't working again.

Bang On! (none / 0) (#26)
by mrnoodles on Tue Nov 07, 2000 at 02:47:21 PM EST

I think you're spot on with your assessment of the situation: we spend more time online because it's easier to 'network' with like-minded people.

It's easy to get caught up with surfing the 'net every day and find that you're spending more time doing that than you are working. But employees and employers have to realize that work is done in a social environment, and a good social environment will produce better (read: happier) workers. I spend a great deal of time online seeking out people with similar interests to mine, and people with intelligent and interesting opinions. I do this because I can't get these things in "meatspace" here at the office.

[ Parent ]

a LOT (3.50 / 6) (#8)
by DesiredUsername on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 07:19:45 AM EST

I spend a great deal of my day surfing. And not just reading the news or whatever. I spend time reading online books, posting comments to K5 (and others), and even doing some non-work-related programming (my next frivolous project is to figure out why xfishtank requires an 8 bit display, dammit).

So what? I'm easily the most productive person in our (less than 10 person) office. Subtract the 30% of my time that I spend online, the 10% I spend helping the nominal sysadmin and the 10% I spend with administrivia, conversations, bathroom breaks, etc and I *still* get at least twice as much work done as any other person there.

My point is not to be self-congratualtory. My point is that comparing work time to goof off time is not a meaningful measure. The comparison should be work time to pay amount. Let's say I spent 5 minutes per week doing real work. Let's also say I was paid $500/week. If those 5 minutes of work produced at least $500 of value to the company, then I am "productive". If I spend my full 40 hours working diligently but the value I produced was only $100 (because of poor quality or whatever) then I am NOT "productive".

Play 囲碁
posted on my office door... (3.14 / 7) (#9)
by eMBee on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 07:54:38 AM EST

this <a href="http://www.ctoons.com/studio/pcpixel/images/000623.gif">strip says it all...

i can't tell you how much time i spend not working. work, private projects, voluntary work for various organisations, are all mixed. i do private stuff at work, and work at home, i come to the office when i feel like it, stay as long as i want
in short: i do what i want, when i want and where i want.

greetings, eMBee.
ps: oh, i am a web application programmer.
Gnu is Not Unix / Linux Is Not UniX

bug (3.00 / 1) (#10)
by eMBee on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 07:56:08 AM EST

when i previewed this, the link was still working. :-(

greetings, eMBee.
Gnu is Not Unix / Linux Is Not UniX
[ Parent ]

more than I should / not as much as I could (3.00 / 4) (#11)
by newht on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 11:51:03 AM EST

I've only been at my new job for about a month. My official title is junior sys admin, but since the 'senior sys admin' left in September, I'm all there is.
What in the wide world does this have to do with surfing at work?
Well, I spend roughly half my day surfing. Granted a large part of it is work related (I'm really not qualified as a sys admin, but I'm learning all the time :), but you wouldn't know that from the downright sinister looks co-workers give me when they pass by my half-cubicle (Yes, I have to share a friggin cubicle with someone as well as a large printer and two scanners that other folks constantly need to use) and see my doing nothing but reading and clicking. I try to throw them off by keeping a deeply-concentrating/maybe-he's-really-constapated frown on my face.
Seriously though, the biggest problem I have surfing at work is all the damn multimedia/flasshy graphics on most pages. how the hell do i get quicktime.apple.com to look work related, or theonion.com for that matter?? Sites like kuro5hin and /., being mostly text can be easily explained away as technical reference sites and the like, but I'm open to advice anyone has on more media oriented websites...


btw: my monitor can be seen by anyone walking past, and I can't do a thing about that.

hope it's not too obvious, but ... (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by gregholmes on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 12:24:29 PM EST

Turn off the image loading? Some sites would then be garbage, I know, but I was surprised how many were still quite usable.

I was very surprised that even some major regular news sites are quite legible even with lynx.

[ Parent ]
Personal Stylesheets (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by interiot on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 04:03:03 PM EST

I had that same problem too. Graphics and colors make it clear that you're not reading documentation. So I wasted time and wrote this personal stylesheet that removes a lot of distinguishing marks. It works in IE5+ or Mozilla with a bit of tweaking.

Personal CSS's are nice because 1) they're fast (compared to modifying proxies), 2) you can remove as much distinguishing marks as you want, and 3) compared to lynx,   table structures, javascript, scroll wheel, etc. still work.

[ Parent ]

Why didn't I think of this... (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by jonr on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 10:13:23 AM EST

Actually, I did, I just didn't relise that this would be this effective! Thanks, I'll buy you a beer if you ever come to Iceland : J.

[ Parent ]
Probably an hour/day, not counting lunch (3.20 / 5) (#13)
by gregholmes on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 12:28:24 PM EST

Since I'm 'just' a tech writer, that will be hard to justify if I'm ever called on the carpet for it. But I wouldn't be able to do a fraction of what I can with web pages if I hadn't found great resources on the net, and many times I find them with MLP style stories on K5, ./, etc.

Let's get real. (4.10 / 10) (#14)
by floydian on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 12:48:06 PM EST

Firstly, I'll admit that I spend many work hours on the net. And, very likely, most k5 readers do as well. But we should ask ourselves: why is this? At least in my case, it's out of pure boredom. I feel stuck in my MS support job, and usually surf the web as some sort of escape from this reality.

But, let's get real. I think we should see (excessive) surfing at work as an indication that there is something wrong with our job. Sure, we may justify it by saying "Oh, but I'm learning lots of stuff by visiting k5 or slashdot", but the reality is that we are mostly just wasting time. And I'm not talking about our employer's time, but rather our own time. It is, after all, our own life that is being wasted by clicking away on any remotely interesting story that we may see.

Maybe this discussion should get us to start thinking about our direction: if we're wasting OUR valuable time, maybe it's time to look for a different job.

Well... (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by AgentGray on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 02:15:15 PM EST

probably too much.

I come in to work, check all my mail, and then head straight here.

That's about it.

It used to be the same thing every morning, but there were a bunch of other sites added in there. The rest of my surfing is for company use. What's the latest and best technology we might want to use? Developer tools? Software? I also try to keep current on what's happening.

I try to be done by 9:00 every day (I come in at 8:00). So far, I've been a good boy and have gotten everything done by 8:30. I'm pretty sure that they know about it, but my level of productivity is pretty high.

There are some days where all I do is check my mail. Yes, they can be busy, and when you're in MIS, MIT, or whatever there is always something to do.

The key is not to spend too much time on any one thing. Take a break for a couple of minutes. I don't mean surf. Look away from your monitor. Read something on paper.

You can pick one place to get everything you need. K5 seems to work for me. Other tech/discussion sites might work for you as well.

Digital Soma (2.80 / 5) (#16)
by Sunir on Sat Nov 04, 2000 at 05:39:01 PM EST

Sometimes I think that surfing has become a kind of digital soma (ala Brave New World) to placate us bored proles so that we shut up and do the job.

I not prepared to delve deeply into this topic, but you can watch this animation to see what I'm hinting at.

"Look! You're free! Go, and be free!" and everyone hated it for that. --r

oh humm (2.50 / 2) (#18)
by radar bunny on Sun Nov 05, 2000 at 06:59:56 PM EST

i work retail managment and we have bridal registry. The computer that runs it on the sales floor is OS/2 and even comes with a web browser and networking utilities. I figured out how to shut dwon the bridal registry and get online with it--- freaked out the GM the first time i got caught
I was proud and like "hey check this out."
she just shook her head " you 're going ot get us all fired aren't you?"

i've only done this a few times now -- like when its pouring down and we're all totally bored. But i think it goes to shwo that when geeks are bored -- we will keep ourselves busy with whatever we have.

You probably will get fired. (4.00 / 2) (#24)
by jtown@punk.net on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 05:24:59 PM EST

Back in high school, I worked in a deli in a supermarket for a few months. A friend and I figured out how to reprogram the digital scales and used that info to make an index of all of the food items that had already been programmed in as well as add the regular items that had never been programmed. It also meant our department manager could enter the correct sale prices on various foods and get proper labels rather than use the generic "Deli Item" label for things that weren't pre-programmed. Everyone in the department thought it was great. Now all of our labels matched the food items and there was no chance of a pricing error. Heck, it should have made the higher-ups jump for joy since they could now get more accurate item tracking when looking at sales data. However, once the store manager figured out who had "tampered" with his scales, we were on the fast-track to unemployment.

The issue isn't what you're doing so much as the fact that you're doing something that your "superiors" don't understand. My friend and I didn't get fired because we improved efficiency and accuracy in our department. We got fired because of a control freak who didn't understand what we were doing. He feared our ability to understand and manipulate the "high tech" equipment in our department and the easiest way to eliminate his fear was to remove us from the picture. Once we were gone, he could pretend that he was the smartest person in the company. Of course, we were officially fired for not wearing ties. Yeah. Like you're going to get me near a big spinning blade with a strap hanging from my neck.

[ Parent ]

I was lucky (none / 0) (#28)
by tooth on Wed Nov 08, 2000 at 07:53:25 AM EST

I did a similar sort of thing, but I was lucky and it scored me my current job, so if your management are smart and can understand what you are doing, or see potential in your abilities then you are lucky.

(warning, this will probably bore you) I'll try to keep this quick. I used to work in the two different warehouse of a large "wal-mart" like company in australia. Basically over the course of six months or so, I figured out several ways to break out of the lock-in menu, figured out info on the database (never seen RDB before) wrote heaps of my own sqls, broke root once or twice (they don't know, shush ;) and in the end eventually got caught (should have made my .sh_history read only, and not linked to /dev/null haha :)

So, after that, I got a sturn talking too, a job interview, and then hired as a trainee programmer and warehouse info-giver (?), pretty cool hey? Best part is I'm sharing a flat with the sys admin that caught me ;)

Anyway, trying to get back on topic... I do surf the web at work, and probably too much. But mainly when it's a bit quieter, or I'm "day-dreaming". I've found that this really helps me to finds solutions to problems, let the brain tick over in the background, though it can sometimes side-track me too.

-- There are only two types of penguins in the Antarctic.
[ Parent ]

Beyond surfing (3.66 / 3) (#20)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 01:13:24 PM EST

I not only surf, I nap. Seriously. I actually share an office with my boss, and a while ago he told me to take a nap on the provided couch if I'm tired (I started just a couple weeks ago).

If I'm frazzled, I'm not going to be thinking well. If I'm not thinking well, my code will reflect that. Unclear code that takes me forever to debug and will never be understandable by someone else is a bad thing. I'd rather take some time out and work better the rest of the time than try to work through my frazzle.

Most often I'll find myself going back and forth, breaking up my coding with surfing or chatting. It works.

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]

I wish (3.00 / 1) (#21)
by ubu on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 01:43:38 PM EST

My boss called me out on the carpet last week because someone caught me dozing off at my desk. I just titrated up on my anti-depressant, and I was extremely sleepy, but it doesn't matter. "That might work at less professional workplaces, but not here," my boss warned gravely. He asked me not to bill for 40 hours that week, too, despite the fact that I'd put in well over 40 -- a 15 minute catnap notwithstanding.

Live and learn, I suppose.

As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
lucky you (3.00 / 1) (#22)
by barooo on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 03:13:12 PM EST

Someone got canned at my last job becuase they got caught napping in the atrium above the cafeteria on their lunch hour

Apparently the owner had a thing about "professionalism". Supposedly he's also had people fired for not having their shirts tucked in (not in systems though)

[G. W. Bush makes] one long for the flashy showmanship of Calvin Coolidge, the easy eloquence of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the simple honesty of Richard Nixon.
P. M. Carpenter
[ Parent ]
Disabling SMS? (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by puzzlingevidence on Mon Nov 06, 2000 at 04:14:51 PM EST

Since most of us on Win NT systems are logged by SMS, it would be really helpful if any kind individual could clue us in on how to identify and disable such logging.

Anyone know?

A man may build a throne of bayonets, but he can not sit on it. --Inge

Surfing time (3.00 / 1) (#25)
by Eponymous, Showered on Tue Nov 07, 2000 at 02:29:34 PM EST

Surf the web on company time? Are you kidding? I simply don't have the time. What with usenet and irc...

Almost all the time. (none / 0) (#27)
by CrayDrygu on Tue Nov 07, 2000 at 03:29:43 PM EST

I'm the sysadmin for Town Hall in a small town (14k people). We've got a Unix server (SCO OSR5, for what it's worth), and beyond changing daily backup tapes, it doesn't need much adminning. And when something goes seriously wrong, we have a contract with a company to take care of those things. Most of what I do deals with helping users with the odd problems that pops up, and even that doesn't take too much time.

So while there are certainly days when I don't even get a chance to sit down, I usually spend most of my time sitting at my desk and surfing the web, reading usenet, or chatting on a MUCK.

How much time do you surf at work? | 28 comments (28 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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