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Isaac Newton Never Changed The Toilet Paper Roll

August 9, 2016

An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force. 

(Newton’s First Law Of Motion

I timed it one day. My best time was about 4 seconds. I’m sure I could shave some time off of that if I really practice. It really depends on how close the spare rolls are. I’ve turned changing the toilet paper roll into my own personal Olympic sport. I’ve had to. And it’s the fault of that 17th Century physicist Isaac Newton. 

I once was manager of an team of email engineers. We had a bright shiny new Microsoft Exhange system. We’d moved 30,000 users off of a Novell GroupWise system. GroupWise had a birthday yesterday. The first version of GroupWise, (known as WordPerfect Office back then) came out on 8/8/88. Yesterday was its 28th birthday. 

Anyway, our new email system was new and untuned. My engineers spent a lot of the first month watching it very carefully. My role as the manager was to report to management. I created what was called the CAM Report. CAM stood for Collaboration and Mail. Originally, I called it the MAC report, but since we didn’t support any Apple products, I had to change the name. I owned both the SharePoint team and the email team. The CAM report became somewhat famous in our company. It started out as a twice daily status update. Gradually, I moved it to once a day and finally once a week as the system started to get burned in. 

The report quickly became rather large. I included information about storage, number of mailboxes, virus attacks, engineer profiles, SharePoint farms, successes, failures. I eventually started including a Table of Contents at the beginning. On an email message. 

Management loved it. My manager knew just about everything he might be asked about simply by referring to the CAM Report. I started having my engineers write portions. I gave them a byline. This increased their visibility throughout the department. The only ones who didn’t like it were the other IT managers. They hated writing reports and now their terse status updates were being unfavorably compared to my verbose, multi-colored books. My distribution list that I sent it to was enormous. One of the managers asked me one day,

Rodney, why do you bother sending this through email. Why don’t you put it on a SharePoint site and just send the link?

Because people wouldn’t read it.

What do you mean?

If I force people to click a link to get to the report, they won’t look at it. Do you look at the email when I send it?

Sure, I scan it when it shows up.

Would you click a link to get to it?

Probably not.

That’s why I send it in email.

There are entire fields of study devoted to how much of a drop off you get when users have to click a link. It’s why many of our programs are designed the way they are. If I go to Facebook, I am immediately presented with the newsfeed. The thing that Facebook most wants me to see. No clicks needed. 

We are all like that. And it’s silly. It takes less than a second to click a link. And yet, studies show that we will abandon a page rather than make that one extra click. 

Isaac Newton was referring to physical objects when he wrote the laws of motion. And a physicist can use math to show you why Newton’s finding are a law (meaning it’s ALWAYS true.) However, we can apply Newton’s finding to our daily life as well. Not just clicks, but things that might only take a second, we often will avoid. Seatbelt laws have gotten many of us to buckle up, but there are some who still do not. How long? One second? Two? How long does it take to buckle your seatbelt? 

We tend to simply not take the time. Not because we are too busy, but because we think, like the people getting my long email, that the extra click isn’t worth it. We are the objects in Newton’s motion equation. 

And that brings me back to the toilet paper roll. I live in house with ten people. Eight of them are teenagers. Teenagers are the perfect example of Newton’s law. They can walk past a dirty sock for . . .well, I don’t know exactly how long because eventually I get tired enough of it, that I make them go pick it up. But, when it come to the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom I decided that it was just quicker to change it myself than try to train my kids.

And for that, I blame Isaac Newton.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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