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Monday, February 03, 2003

The state of internet cafes

During my perambulations round Australia, I had perforce to file my 'dispatches' from a variety of internet cafes. They provided an interesting set of experiences. I thought it appropriate to tell you about some common factors and the implications for the serious blogger.

Firstly, these places were inevitably full of earnest young people from all parts of the World, presumably keeping in contact with home. I did not see any evidence of sophisticated use. For example, most terminals I used had never been used to 'Google'.

Secondly, these establishments were, in fact, 'cafes', most of them actually providing food and drink. This had a significant effect on the usability and hygiene of many of the keyboards. In one establishment, there was so much tomato in the numeric keypad that I had to use the alternative keys.

This reminds me that I never take food or drink near my own keyboards - the risk of accident is too great and the potential consequences too serious.

Many years ago, I was temporarily managing a very large number of keyboard operators during an important technical upgrade. I told the staff that I did not want food or drink taken anywhere near the new machines. There were, after all, sitting out areas within easy reach of each work station and I thought it important that the operators should have a rest from their keyboards periodically.

Almost on bended knees, they entreated me to allow them to have refreshments at their workstations, saying that they would be extremely careful. I relented, fully expecting an 'accident' within the following week.

However, it was only twenty-four hours before a cup of coffee found its way into a keyboard. Fortunately, the damage was reparable, but it did enable me to broadcast the following notice on each screen:
Please do not take food or drink near your workstation. If you drop or tip things into your keyboard, it spoils the flavour.
This facetious comment had the required effect: the disciplined behaviour returned without demur.

There is a lesson for internet cafes here: keep the internet and cafe bits separate.

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