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Hiding In Plain Sight

March 2, 2018

Rodney, where were you last Tuesday?

I was working from home. Why?

No, I mean from 11:45 to 2:23.

Ah. . .I have no idea. What’s this about?

Well, I noticed that your Skype status was showing you as AWAY. I have a screenshot if you don’t believe me.

I thought it was a joke. The look on my manager’s face said he definitely was not joking. I wasn’t sure how to respond. It wasn’t clear if he was accusing me of not working, or if he was just curious what I did with my time.

I never did figure out why he felt the need to track my movements that closely. But, it did give me an appreciation for the power of the Skype status. Like a lot of companies, we use Skype. And since our teams are spread out across the United States, Skype is often the best way to contact people for an informal question or status update.

Skype does a pretty good job of figuring out what status it should show. The options are

  • Available
  • In a meeting
  • Conference Call
  • Presenting
  • Busy
  • Do Not Disturb
  • Be Right Back
  • Off Work
  • Away
  • Offline

Some of the status like Available, In a meeting, Away and Offline are set automatically. When I’ve joined in an online meeting, Skype let’s people know. If I’m away from my desk for more tahn 15 minutes, Skype sets my status to Away.

But, other status are set by me. Busy, Do Not Disturb and Be Right Back are options I can set myself. And they make pretty clear sense. But, I can actually force any Skype status, including Appear Away.

Why would I want to Appear Away? I mean, my manager once called me out for that very thing. I work with a lot of engineers. The engineers don’t typically like to talk to people. They like to focus on systems and networks. They will often set their status to Appear Away to keep the number of interruptions down.

You can still reach out to someone who’s status is set to Away. In fact, if you suspect they might be hiding, it’s not unlike the old school answering machines. you know, the ones that were in people’s house and they could hear you while you left a message.

Are you there? Pick up if you’re there. Seriously, I just have one quick question. . .Hello?

There are times where I’ll set my status to Appear Away. I often work late into the evening. I sometimes think if I were betere at my job, I wouldn’t need to work late. I will often make my status appear Away just so that I don’t have to explain to someone why I’m still working at 1:00am. After all, that’s what email time stamps are for.

Now, if you could figure out how to make your status appear Available when you are actually away, it would be a solution for my over inquisitive boss types.

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

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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