How to sabotage your workplace, WWII-style

office sabotage

In 1944, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA) published the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, a “Sabotage for Dummies” guide filled with handy tips for resistance members in Europe. In 32 pages, it listed a number of acts of anti-Nazi disruption that could be carried out by ordinary people without military or spy training.

don burke and sean dennehey

CIA employees Don Burke and Sean Dennehey, who revealed the connection between 1944 sabotage practices and 2015 office behavior.

At the Enterprise 2.0 conference in 2008, CIA employees Don Burke and Sean Dennehey gave a keynote presentation where they talked about the Simple Sabotage Field Manual and made a very important observation:

What the CIA’s predecessor considered to be office sabotage techniques during World War II are normal office behaviors today.

Take a look at the sabotage tactics from the section titled General Interference with Organizations:


Here’s the text from that page:

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of per­ sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­able” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

If you’ve worked in an office for even one day, the odds are pretty good that you’ve seen at least one of these acts of sabotage.


The Simple Sabotage Field Manual has more tips for killing productivity, including my “favorite” pro-tip for managers, “Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.” If this trick didn’t work, there’d be no market for an entire line of “I survived another meeting that should’ve been an email” products.


Another office sabotage tip from the manual involved misusing carbon copies to slow things down: “In making carbon copies, make one too few, so that an extra copying job will have to be done”.

For you younger folks, carbon copying was a method of producing multiple copies of a typed letter in the days before photocopiers, never mind computers. This video shows how it was done (as well as why you should be thankful that we don’t live in the dark ages anymore):

Today, carbon copies live on in their descendant, the cc: field of emails (“cc” is short for “carbon copy”). And instead of making too few copies, the internet-era version is to send emails that are cc’d to as many people as possible. In its more innocent form, the sender is just trying to be inclusive, but is likely filling other people’s inboxes with messages that don’t necessarily apply to them. In its nastier version, it’s a way to snitch on someone or throw them under the bus by cc:ing their boss and ensuring that “the wrong words go in the right ears”. No matter the intent, the effect is the same: it disrupts work.

simple-sabotageIn their new book, Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors that Undermine Your Workplace, consultants Robert Galford, Bob Frisch, and Cary Greene revive the notion of modern organizational behavior mirroring WWII-era organizational sabotage. They’re quick to point out that most of these acts are carried out with the best of intentions:

Saboteurs make you think that what they’re talking about is relevant and important when in reality what they’re saying is tangential, unimportant, or even inappropriate. They don’t know they’re doing it, so their earnestness and honesty helps make their case. And the people on the receiving end are instantly, innocently swept off course because they believe what they think they see or hear.

It’s not 1940s occupied Europe, so we can’t simply turn over our work saboteurs to our neighborhood friendly occupying army or take them behind the office and have them quietly shot, as tempting as it may seem. After all, we’re supposed to be more enlightened these days, and besides: we probably report to some of those saboteursThe first step toward making our workplaces more productive is to recognize these behaviors for what they truly are.

web horizontal rule


If you’re not spooked out by downloading a file from the CIA (and likely adding another item to their file on you), you can download a scan of the book from them. It’s a 2.5 MB PDF file.


Black Friday / Cyber Monday specials for developers and aspiring developers

Here’s a quick list of the some the Black Friday / Cyber Monday specials for developers and aspiring developers:

swift 2 for absolute beginners
Apress have a Cyber Monday ebook sale in which all Apress ebooks have been reduced in price down to $10 each, and all Springer books are just $20 each. The sale runs until Monday, November 30th at 11:59 p.m. (they don’t say which time zone, but for safety’s sake, assume it’s Eastern).


Packt are offering their ebooks at 50% off from now until the end of Cyber Monday.


fluent python

O’Reilly’s Cyber Monday sale gets you 50% off all their ebooks and videos. It runs until Tuesday, December 1 at 5:00 a.m. Pacific / 8:00 a.m. Eastern. If you spend more than $100, they’ll increase the discount to 60%. Just use the coupon code CYBER15 when checking out.

laughing squid store

The Next Web / Laughing Squid Store has a Black Friday coupon code — BLACKFRIDAY — that gets you 15% off everything in their selection. The code expires Saturday, November 28th at 7:00 a.m. Pacific / 10:00 a.m. Eastern.

code school

Code School has a $75 off deal for their 6-month subscription, bringing the price down to $99. This offer’s good until Monday, November 30th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern.


This is how many companies use agile methodologies

so far so good

Click the comic to see the source.

Alternate title: This is me and regular expressions.


Sometimes when I make changes to the code…

Sometimes when I make changes to the code, it ends up like this…

jenga fail

…and other times, it works out a little better:

success dog


Monica Rogati’s “Techdel Test”: A Bechdel Test for tech conferences

Data scientist Monica Rogati won the internet with this recent tweet.

If you’re not familiar with what’s often called the Bechdel Test (or the Bechdel-Wallace Test), it’s an idea that appeared in Alison Bechdel’s comic Dykes to Watch Out For, and it points out a major problem of representation of women in popular fiction:

bechdel test full comic

Click the comic to see it at full size.

As in the comic, the Bechdel Test is typically applied to movies (although you can apply it to any popular fiction medium). It’s been observed that if passing the test were a requirement, many Oscar nominees would be disqualified. If the Techdel test were mandatory for tech conferences, we may have to cancel a lot of plane and hotel reservations.

If you’d like to know about which movies pass and fail the Bechdel Test, there’s a site for you:

All right, tech conference organizers: you know what your next challenge is!


Businesses see the benefits of — and are hesitant to deploy — unified communications

unified communications

Call it the “UC conundrum”: While 7 in 10 IT and business decision makers can see “significant and even enormous benefits to be realized from the deployment of UC”, more than a quarter of IT decision makers and 4 in 10 business decision makers are “somewhat or very fearful” of actually deploying it at their organizations. These figures come from a recent survey conducted by Osterman Research on behalf of ConnectSolutions, a cloud-based unified communications provider.

This “I want it, but I don’t want it” reaction isn’t all that different from the thought process we go through when making pricey personal purchases. Think back to the last time you were thinking one over: perhaps a 4K or Ultra HD TV for your home theatre, or the latest high-end smartphone or tablet (I’m sure there are a number of readers having this internal debate right now about purchasing a Surface Book or iPad Pro). You’ve already figured out the benefits that will come out of that purchase, but are unsure of the added value you’ll get over your existing setup.

The problem is that a lot of UC functionality is already addressed, if in a piecemeal fashion, by systems that employees are using right now. Basic voice is covered by existing office voice systems, mobile devices, and voice chat applications, email is most often handled by a separate system, instant messaging can be done via SMS, Skype, or many other ways, teleconferencing is done with third-party applications such as GoToMeeting or Webex, many teleconference applications also do desktop sharing, and so on. A UC system brings all this functionality into a single, centralized, manageable unit that’s more likely to be safe, secure, and more efficient, but that doesn’t solve any immediate problems. As far as many people are concerned, UC is just incrementally better than systems they already have.

Selling UC to customers requires providing them with a solid value proposition. That means explaining the benefits of a single platform over a hodgepodge of solutions accreted over time without thinking of the larger IT picture, which run the gamut from uniformity and interoperability to manageability and security. You may find that this is easier to “sell” to organizations with distributed/remote workforces or distant customers and partners, where having several modes and channels of communication is highly valuable. Along with the value proposition, you should also take the various deployment models into account (on-premises, cloud, and hybrid), and look at the viability of the UC platform’s partner ecosystem.

Reading list

this article also appears in the GSG blog

Florida Swift Kick Tampa Bay

Share your Swift tips and tricks at this week’s Tampa iOS meetup: Wednesday, November 18!

swift tips and tricks meetup

Hey, Tampa Bay iOS developers — here’s your chance to shine! At the next Tampa iOS Meetup (Wednesday, November 18th at 7:00 p.m.), a monthly gathering run by me and my friend Angela, we’re having a “Swift Tips and Tricks” night, where we’ll take turns sharing tips an tricks that we’ve either discovered on our own or found through others while programming in Swift.

Have you ever wanted to present something at an iOS meetup, but it was on a topic or technique that could easily be covered in ten or even five minutes? Well, this meetup is your chance to be an iOS rock star, as short presentations is what it’s all about! Whether you’ve been building apps since the Objective-C days or picked up Swift a couple of weeks ago, you’ve got knowledge to share with your fellow developers, who in turn have knowledge to share with you! Join us for an evening of demos, information exchange, and that buzz that you get when you’re in a room of smart, interesting people, one of whom is you!

Me and Angela at BarCamp Tampa Bay 2015.

In order to help kick off the event, I’ll start by presenting some tips and tricks that I’ve picked up while working on my own apps, and I’m sure Angela will be doing the same. After that, it’s everyone else! We invite discussions and questions throughout the meetup, as it’s the best way to learn.

Here are the event details:

  • What: Tampa iOS meetup, a new gathering in the area that complements the Suncoast iOS Meetup and Tampa Bay Cocoaheads, both worthwhile gatherings. We want to make sure that if you can’t make one local iOS event, there’ll always be another one in the near future!
  • When: Wednesday, November 18th, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Energy Sense Finance, located at 3825 Henderson Blvd., Suite 300 (just west of South Dale Mabry)
  • If you have a tip or trick that you’d like to present, let us know! Drop us a line in the comments section at the bottom of our Meetup page or email me at We’ll provide a projector, and if you need one, a Mac to present on.
  • We’ll have provide some snacks and drinks. No idea what they’ll be, but I’ll post details as I found out.