Death of the Desk: Paper Cuts

Command and Control.

As a web developer and digital publisher, on a good day, 70% of my time is spent amidst the organized confusion you see here. You would think that since I’m in front of the computer for most of the day that I should be already a paper’s width away from zero paper consumption right?

Wrong. The other 30% of my day is spent conjuring a plan to take over the world with the next greatest digital widget. Any good developer, or world conqueror, will tell you that this involves seemingly endless meetings about meetings about meetings — all necessitating intricate notes and death ray sketches scrawled feverishly on page after page of paper. So, how can an aspiring mastermind replace all of this paper without destroying the world they plan to conquer?

I find that the easiest first step into the murky depths of unknown waters is to test things out with a toe — use something you know and that is easily retrieved or sacrificed. Enter the laptop. Laptops have the portability, accessibility, familiarity, and social acceptance that anyone needs to go paperless. While this seems like a no-brainer, laptops also have some pitfalls.

  1. They block the full view of your body. Body language is essential to good communication, which is one of the reasons you opted to meet face to face in the first place. Obscuring others’ views, creates an unnatural environment that mutes or filters non-verbal communication. Camouflage isn’t necessary to take the world by storm.
  2. They are noisy and distracting. This is especially the case when in small group meetings. The clicking and clacking of typing is just as annoying as two people “quietly” having another conversation across the table. After the world is mine, side talkers will be banished.
  3. They make the user seem disengaged from the conversation. Think of this in the same way you would think of an embedded photo journalists involvement in the outcome of a war. If you’re going to sit there showing off your super-geek level typing skills, then stay out; take good notes and let the generals work.
  4. It’s hard to quickly be creative when the need arises to make doomsday device diagrams, untraceable ransom notes, and re-mapping territory borders for countries like “New Ambrosia” and “Crenshawville”.
  5. Ghosts in the machine. Batteries die and Windows crashes — even Apple products. Nothing kills megalomania like running out of power. Thanks for the silent chuckle.

Just as Napolean’s army fell to Russian winters and World War I screeched to a halt because of Christmas, there are many unanticipated subtleties that dissuade me from using the laptop as replacement for paper. In future Death of the Desk posts, I’ll share some perks, pitfalls and easy ways that I’ve used to embrace tech at work and survive in the digital battlefield.