March 31, 2008

Amusing and Terrifying Headline: "Companies go 'topless' at meetings"
— Gabriel Malor

No thanks, boss, I'd rather you didn't. Oh, laptopless. That's a different story.

Distractions from laptops and other devices are causing many San Francisco companies to say they are going "topless" -- no electronic devices at meetings.

Many companies are banning electronics during meetings after getting increasing complaints of sidetracked workers slowing down productivity, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

"Laptops, Blackberries, Sidekicks, iPhones and the like keep people from being fully present. Aside from just being rude, partial attention generally leads to partial results," said Todd Wilkens of Adaptive Path, a San Francisco design firm.

Having to make eye contact will probably be a new experience for a lot folks. Let's be honest, nobody likes meetings and most people are skeptical about their usefulness. Half of every company or firm meeting I've ever been in is spent simply helping the slowest person catch up. Once whoever is in charge decides that meetings are supposed to give everyone a complete situational awareness of activities in the office, you might as well hang up a sign: "Not Doing Anything Today."

That's the whole point of having a laptop or other device that connects to the outside world. Now, you can get some actual work done while everyone else is getting filled in on the Important Action Alerts. Or, y'know, play a little Text Twist, check your email, and make dinner plans.

Posted by: Gabriel Malor at 06:36 AM | Comments (26)
Post contains 248 words, total size 2 kb.

1 Damn I was actually thinking of getting a real job just to go to meetings.
Thanks for crushing my dreams......

Posted by: Kyle at March 31, 2008 06:39 AM (LoJT5)

2 Someone break the banner at the top?  No logo or anything showing for me (IE7). Just a gray box of nothing. 

Posted by: DCA at March 31, 2008 06:43 AM (OEnTM)


I was wondering about that. I've been at home with the kids for years, but people were starting to carry laptops into meetings and such when I got out. Seemed like a great way to get more work done, since meetings were usually the worst use of time.

IM-ing one of the other people in the meeting always seemed like a good way to cause lots of trouble.

Posted by: MamaAJ at March 31, 2008 06:56 AM (X6Zdh)

4 I thought those kinds of meetings only existed in the movies.  These must be big or "important" companies where actual suited-up grown-ups work.  I don't even bother bringing a pen.  A feather boa would get less stares than a laptop at my very!!! serious!!! office meetings. 

Posted by: Joanie at March 31, 2008 06:57 AM (Z9tCp)

5 I'm ok with the no laptop rules, but not being able to text my sarcasm to coworkers during interminable meetings? (AKA yak-fucks.  And that's the chatty kind of yak, not the animal kind, you sick pervs.)  No way.  The worst offenders at my company are usually the senior management staff who called the meeting to begin with.

Posted by: Charybdis E. Scylla at March 31, 2008 07:15 AM (e59Bv)

6 If topless is short for "laptopless," it should be written as 'topless to denote the missing letters.  Compromise on this point is unpossible.

Posted by: Daryl Herbert at March 31, 2008 07:36 AM (YvLui)

7 Our meetings generally consist of a manager letting us know how badly we suck, and how badly upper management sucks, and how badly the weather sucks, and how he once got drunk with Jeff Bridges.  I take notes.  By the end of the meeting I have a stream of consciousness full of crazy taken down on my notepad.  I figure someone should document his past, so that when he finally flips his wig and holds up a Dunkin Donuts I can write a book.

Posted by: coleman at March 31, 2008 07:52 AM (7Vb+X)

8 I had to do this at my staff meetings.  People just got down right rude about it.  I had a guest speaker in and my people were on their laptops sharing notes about their vacation schedules.  I had to interrupt and make everyone put the damn things up.  What ever happened to manners.  I banned em after that unless they were relevant to the meeting.  Thing is I am really laid back and most crap doesn't bother me but somewhere along the line we have common courtesy.

Posted by: UncleZeb at March 31, 2008 08:25 AM (/DoLk)

9 Better just to ban meetings. I would rather we just gave each other root canals.

Posted by: Leslie at March 31, 2008 08:35 AM (OLbi5)

10 I had to dedicate two paragraphs on my last syllabus to "leave your distracting technology in your dorm room," because the frosh were texting and surfing the 'net instead of  working on their grammar. I've also taken to answering cell phone calls and closing laptop lids during lecture -- or announcing what websites are being surfed.

"Excuse me, but could you surf "Lesbian Spank Inferno" on your own time? We're working on the APA format now."

A flood of mid-semester grade warnings -- you're not actually present if you're surfing the 'net or texting -- helped stem the tide, as well.

Posted by: crankyprof at March 31, 2008 08:36 AM (mlPw2)

11 Leslie, I agree, I finally retired because I had to attend a meeting and I just could not bring myself to go sit through 3 days of table dancing so everyone could look good for themselves.  Meetings usually suck.  With the exception of the ones about diversity training of course.

Posted by: UncleZeb at March 31, 2008 08:42 AM (/DoLk)

12 The definition of a meeting:

    An event where the minutes are kept, and the hours are lost...

Posted by: Rich at March 31, 2008 08:50 AM (q/R92)

13 We just got a memo -- we don't have meetings anymore -- the word has too many negative connotations. We have "hubs of understanding."

Posted by: crankyprof at March 31, 2008 09:12 AM (mlPw2)

14 cranky, I have a strict policy of not taking classes from professors who ban laptops or turn of the wi-fi.

Posted by: Gabriel at March 31, 2008 09:16 AM (PRetR)


Yesterday, at the casino I frequent, they rolled out their promotional giveaways for April: "We're Going Topless."

You can win a convertible.  Sadly, I was thinking about our damn-hot pit boss shedding that businessy suit.

Give me all the Hillary jokes you want, but pantsuit + cleavage = teh hawt.

Posted by: Johnny Coldcuts at March 31, 2008 09:23 AM (e3YS3)


Oh fuck, forgot to de-cloak from the masquerade ball.

This Johnny Coldcuts costume was getting a little ripe.

Posted by: marchand chronicles at March 31, 2008 09:24 AM (e3YS3)

17 I don;t turn off the wifi, or ban laptops. I don't object to note-taking, and we do use the wireless to go to class-appropriate sites (Bedford, in particular, has some good grammar and writing tutorials) -- but surfing celeb gossip sites, watching porn or online shopping in class is rude and disrespectful -- not only to me, but to classmates.

So, if I catch undergraduates doing it, I give 'em a zero for class participation for that day. If you're not present because you're jerking around on the 'net, it's going to earn you a bad grade.

Posted by: crankyprof at March 31, 2008 09:25 AM (mlPw2)

18 I've been to many meeting where everyone brings their laptop, and at best it's only helped in one or two of them. Mostly it distracts people as they zone off into their own work and/or surf the web. You get better participation and feedback when people have to pay attention to the other people in the room. And sometimes this feedback is that the meeting isn't really needed. 

Posted by: Maetenloch at March 31, 2008 10:10 AM (KjTXS)


Having to make eye contact will probably be a new experience for a lot folks.

That's considered sexual harassment in a lot of places.

Posted by: TallDave at March 31, 2008 01:41 PM (kv6le)

20 The president of my company checks his Blackberry incessantly during meetings.  I'd love to meet the crazy person who tells him he has to leave it in his office.  Someone must have had the guts to speak up to him recently, though, because he finally changed his ringtone from this shrill ringing that literally made people jump in their seats to something much more quiet and tolerable.

And I have to say, the last time I taught a college class, it was in a new basement classroom that was nicely wired for all my needs, but there was no cell signal down there. It was a delight to watch all the students come in the first day, yank out their phones before class, and get this confused look on their cute little faces.

Posted by: K at March 31, 2008 03:16 PM (snOiD)

21 I probably don't realize what a blessing it is to have a boss who loathes meetings and refuses to have any but the most strictly necessary dealing with the business at hand kind.

Posted by: Desert Cat at March 31, 2008 03:20 PM (Q8AsJ)

22 I suggest handing out water pistols full of indelible ink at the door.  First one to emit a beep, chirp, or click noise gets his fancy threads ruined by an ink dousing.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at March 31, 2008 03:30 PM (tvnQf)


This will not stand. The term 'topless' cannot be taken by Corporatespeak. It must retain its only meaning- femmes stripped to the waist, as God intended.


I hate this Orwellian appropriation of perfectly good words for evil use.

Posted by: along came Jones at March 31, 2008 03:37 PM (aJtCl)


I used to work for Bell Atlantic, before they changed their name to Verizon.

Anyway, they liked to have meetings an awful lot.

After being in a whole bunch of these, I developed a rule of thumb for meetings:

If no more than 50% of the time spent at the meeting was a complete and utter waste of time, then it was a successful meeting.

I mean, some are more useless than others, but, on average, you really can't expect much better than that.

Posted by: Lewis at March 31, 2008 04:53 PM (23X4s)

25 "Excuse me, but could you surf "Lesbian Spank Inferno" on your own time? We're working on the APA format now." Yes, thank you, Jeff, that's quite enough. Oh dear God, I've internalised him.

Posted by: cheshirecat at March 31, 2008 08:07 PM (dklVT)

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