The myth of the widescreen myth

Rafe Needleman has a problem with wide screens:

For most people, the world of work is in portrait mode, and wide-screen displays offer scant benefits.

Now, I’m not going to say the author is an idiot, as the first person commenting on the original article stated, but I am going to say that his experience is extremely limited and falls under the very common trap of extending his experience to everybody else’s. First of all, he seems to be working exclusively out of a laptop:

The column came about because my new MacBook has a wide-screen display (as do almost all new laptops). It’s gorgeous and great for watching videos, but it does not help my productivity one whit. I have to scroll more when I’m reading and writing, which slows me down.

Now, I’ve been in the “world of work” for many years now, and I know that working from a laptop implies a lot of compromises, including screen size. Equating all wide screens to the skimpy vertical resolution monitors that laptops have to use to guarantee portability is just nonsense. The author probably has never sat down in front of a desktop with a 22″ wide screen monitor or, even better, a two-monitor arrangement that you can use for real work.

He also seems to be complaining about websites that go too wide:

Like reading a page of text or a book, most Web sites are set up with strong vertical orientation. That works for text-based material, since wide lines of text, longer than about 60 characters, become hard to read (the reader has a hard time finding the beginning of the next line).

He does have a point there, however any web developer/designer who doesn’t know how to use the property max-width is not even worth his/her weight in mud and shouldn’t be in charge of creating websites. The problem here is not the width of the screen, but of design. Most web designers/developers do not take into consideration the diversity of display devices out there. This doesn’t mean the wide screen format is bad, just that most web designers/developers are bad.

Honestly, there is no productivity booster like a wide screen. Even if vertical resolution is compromised most applications will allow you to move their tool bars to the side, letting you use more vertical space for the work area while having your tool icons flanking your documents. In this arrangement you can often fit more tool bars, which means having more tools at hand.

Yes, you still have to scroll more. Big deal, your computer has an up-arrow and a down-arrow key that makes this action very easy. You can even do so using the track pad and with a bit of practice it’s quite intuitive. And, of course, if you ever decide to get serious about your job an invest in a good monitor instead of hunching over the paltry offerings of your laptop then you won’t even have to do that.

So, the problem is not the screen width, but habits. A wide screen can, and indeed does, increase the productivity of most computer workers, at least the ones who are serious enough about work to learn to use them to their full capability.

WoW players discriminated at work. Should employers think creatively?

Apparently some employers are discriminating against some online gamers. To be fair, the source of this news is a post in a forum that has been picked up and repeated throughout several blogs probably making it much more of an issue than what it really is. Nevermind, we are going to latch on to it.

From the forum post it seems that some employers don’t want to recruit World of Warcraft players because their mind is never 100% on their work. Of course the first thing one ever thinks is “whose is?” I mean, we all have a life, family, friends, hobbies, threatening Russia mafia trying to collect gambling debts, etc. and the mind will tend to drift from work to other lesser pursuits at various times during the day.

Sure, WoW may not have the mainstream appeal of traditional time-wasters like “Dancing with the Stars” (now, there’s something employers should discriminate against), sports (golf included), and general office gossip; but as far as obsessions go it could be much worse. In fact, if anything, employers should be encouraging their employees to get hooked on WoW.

Hear me out, here are the reasons why it’s good for an employee to play WoW:

  • WoW players are used to constant grinding (think mindless repetitious tasks)
  • WoW players can wait for hours on end for the last member of a raiding party  (think endless meetings that lead nowhere).
  • WoW players require little in way of stimulus, some XP and a new armor will do (think unpaid extra time)
  • WoW players know how to persevere to attain a goal, like killing a real tough boss (ok, bad example, tell them the real boss is a competitor’s CEO)
  • WoW players are used to interact with mindless NPC characters that give the same answer over and over (think complains to HR)

There are so many advantages to playing WoW over going to work in real life and, at the same time so many similarities, that one of the best moves a company could do is move entirely into virtual existence in WoW. Players Employees could be paid in XP and loot while grinding through reports and spreadsheets, or battle promotional campaign monsters.

WoW Workplace

Hey, have you seen the new elf in Marketing? She’s hot! — ok, so maybe not even then they’ll be totally focused on work. Screenshot by Juanpol

Sure, you would still need to give them some money to send kids to school and that sort of thing, but they’ll be happy whith much less as long as the loot is good and they’ll spend much less time in unproductive activities like chit-chatting about Letterman, commenting football games or discussing politics.

Should employers discriminate against World of Warcraft players? – Boing Boing