I believe the children are our future

The Word from Wuhan:

Video clips of life under quarantine are trending on TikTok. Children were presumably glad to be off school -- until, that is, an app called DingTalk was introduced. Students are meant to sign in and join their class for online lessons; teachers use the app to set homework. Somehow the little brats worked out that if enough users gave the app a one-star review it would get booted off the App Store. Tens of thousands of reviews flooded in, and DingTalk's rating plummeted overnight from 4.9 to 1.4. The app has had to beg for mercy on social media: 'I'm only five years old myself, please don't kill me.' [...[

"Thank you so much DingTalk for making me feel the warmth of coronavirus even though I am not in Wuhan," read another one-star verdict. "I am giving you five-stars, but in instalments."

Not a lot of app makers respond to criticism by calling their users lazy. But it's perfectly on-brand for DingTalk:

It was designed to appeal to managers, instead of the employees who actually use it. DingTalk promotes unhealthy -- and inefficient -- work-life balance by tempting bosses to monitor employees 24 hours a day and to invade their off-duty time. DingTalk doesn't deserve a pass. It has low ratings because it's a poorly designed app that makes workers' lives worse. [...]

DingTalk is designed around an expectation of 24-hour availability. This is perhaps best illustrated by a rare, and grudging, concession to working parents: Around Mother's Day, 2018, DingTalk introduced "parenthood mode". The temporary feature -- available only from May 10 to May 18 -- muted messages from the workplace and automatically replied "I am with my baby and I will reply later" from 8 p.m.-10 p.m. For one week, DingTalk encouraged working mothers to take two hours offline. How generous! [...]

Controversial technologies like facial recognition are integrated into Clock In/Out as well. The optional "Smiling Clock In/Out" feature is darkly humorous: DingTalk scores the face of employees based on how big their smile is, and later generates a digital poster showing the best-scored smiles to, in the company's words, "thrive happiness in the workplace."

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

9 Responses:

  1. saxmaniac says:

    Ew, surveillanceware. See also: JIRA, Agile.

    Sad part is, some workers actually seem to like it.

    • Eeyore says:

      I guess the sadder part is that JIRA and Agile actually help some people get work done, and that is why they (we? aw, now I'm sad.) like it.

      • k3ninho says:

        I see the agile manifesto (and the flavours of pyramid-scheme certifications it's spawned) as rooted in calling bullshit when someone promises a magical computer system they can't deliver and you can't know they can't deliver -- by being transparent about the current state of the plan and here's where we changed it because something we couldn't anticipate came up.

        JIRA is horrendous workflow management, but your peers rely on you to pull your weight and the business for whom you do work pay you so that it owns your output -- to which end being transparent about that isn't sureveillanceware, it's captive and indenture-for-mortgage capitalism.

        Maybe, with a nod to dcapacitor below, that's my Stockholm Syndrome speaking up: I talk about the benefits of letting adults in teams be responsible for their output (in a 'whole team is responsible for success' way) and expect that self-organising experts come together to find agility in the systems we're making.
        P.S. we don't ask for emoji's as a sign of approval to code review ...yet.

        • Nick Lamb says:

          I'm not sure that replacing LGTM with an emoji (which one?) would substantially alter my code reviews.

          I guess I might feel better if U+1F4A9 (which from experience I can't type here) could be used to indicate that this code is so bad I don't even want to start explaining why it's unacceptable.

      • Andrew Elmore says:

        It has been pointed out that COVID-19 looks like a JIRA issue.

    • tfb says:

      People do like it: it's addictive as fuck. If you're in your early 20s and can stay awake for days at a time because your body still works properly the whole 'at work all of the time' thing is just hugely exciting. It's the same reason war is exciting: I've spoken to someone who flew planes in the battle of Britain (yes, I'm old, yes, I'm British, yes, I was not quite a teenager yet at the time), and one thing that they said was how enormously exciting it was: of course your friends often did not come home, of course you were tired all the time, but the sheer rush of doing it, and of being able to do it, was something not easily replaced.

      And, of course 'sheer rush' is the right term: it's just the same thing as various drugs (whatever they call speed now in my case), and fucks you up just as much.

  2. dcapacitor says:

    With my armchair psychologist hat on, I think some people like micromanagement and constant surveillance in their work because it lifts the burdens of responsibility, foresight and decision making from their shoulders. This style of work allows people to be passive, only responding to incoming requests and interruptions and never having to act on their own.

    There are certain types of work that are actually very well suited for this approach, so I wouldn't say it's necessarily bad that some people prefer it. It starts to become a problem when the expectation of working (or living) this way is applied to self-directed people, learning or any sort of creative activity. When this becomes a societal norm and a default way to act, it can lead to a whole lot of dire consequences...

    I'm a little bit relieved that there is pushback against apps like DingTalk even in China.

    • saxmaniac says:

      Pretty much.

      I had this recently explained to me: Agile is psychologically designed to bring up the productivity of shitty workers, at the expense of your best ones. The results of this are obvious.

      • dcapacitor says:

        If we're talking about shitty workers as a subset of people who like being micromanaged, they fairly quickly find a way to act in bad faith and start creating an illusion of work without doing any actual work by commenting on tickets, responding to emails, participating in meetings, filling out their calendars etc. It's fascinating how much work can go into avoiding work.

        I'm not sure it is possible to bring up the productivity of people who operate this way, but it's definitely possible to bring their performance indicators up.

  • Previously