Blackberry: Time/Money-Saver Or Productivity Trap?

One interesting fact coming out this week is that Barack Obama appears headed for severe technology withdrawal as he gives up his Blackberry and email communication in general. Poor guy. As if having to deal with the economic crisis and the Iraq war aren’t enough — now he’s got this! Anyway, the fallout has sparked a debate over that the Wall Street Journal blog The Juggle. The key question: is the Crackberry a useful device that helps you save time and money or is it a life-disrupting distraction that should be limited dramatically at worst, and eliminated altogether at best?

Personally, we like our technology and will only give it up when they pry it from our cold, dead hands. Then again, we do admit we can be obsessive. There is also something to be said for how you use a device. A tool is just a tool. You can use scissors to make delightful paper dolls, or you can run with them. That said, Blackberry users do tend to develop addictive and dependent behavior around the device. It’s much rarer for people to complaint about how they can’t stop using scissors.

What’s your take on the issue? Are Blackberries and products like them a positive for users and those around them or are they more likely to be a hindrance?

No BlackBerry for Obama: Setting “CrackBerry” Limits [Wall Street Journal]

FREE MONEY FINANCE (Photo: Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

    All they need to do is just make all of his messages public.

  2. Jonbo298 says:

    He could keep his BB, if he wants it to be public. Unfortunately I’m about to dive into the world of BlackBerry on Friday with the Storm. I don’t know if I’ll be able to be the same again.

    • dveight says:

      @Jonbo298: You won’t be. I was completely happy 2 months ago with my normal cellphone that I used for calls, watching movies, and listening to music. Then my company issued me a Blackberry. Don’t think I can ever go back to just my cellphone again.

      Ignorance was really bliss in this case.

    • blackmage439 says:

      @Jonbo298: You and DJ Barrak are completely missing the point. The reason for a President to not be allowed email is a matter of national security, not privacy. Imagine what would happen if a President were foolish enough to send sensitive military data via his Blackberry, and had the device stolen? In short: shitstorm.

      Paper provides the most security, and in a locked-down building, little room for interception or theft… unless you’re one of Nixon’s cronies.

      • Miguel Valdespino says:

        @blackmage439: Another reason is the archiving issue. Presidential communication is supposed to be kept for posterity.
        However, I don’t see why they can’t accomplish all of those functions. There must be a system out there that can have high-level encryption and physical security and be configured to connect to a controlled and archived server for e-mail. It could also be set to not use the standard communication system. After all, the President’s entourage already provides secure communication wherever he goes.

  3. Elvisisdead says:

    Time suck at all hours of the day and night.

    I’ve had one for the last 7 years or so, and now treat it as a read only device with no notifications enabled. If it’s important enough, they’ll call.

    • Starfury says:


      I do not have or want a BB or similar device. I have a cell phone with text/internet turned off. If it’s important my friends/family can call me. E-mail is less important and I don’t check my work e-mail after I leave.

      The lawyers I work for have these and there are a few that are totally addicted. I even talked to one that left his in his desk when he’d go home for the weekend.

    • i_love_life says:

      @Elvisisdead: I wish my boyfriend would do that. He doesn’t even have a blackberry, but the voyager. It is so annoying to be out to dinner and have him receiving e-mails about work situations, and when I get upset he gets mad at me. I certainly believe it is a life disruption, but if more people are like you guys then it’s a convenience.

  4. SadSam says:

    I think the BB is a great tool for when I’m out of the office on business or at a seminar or traveling (again for business only). Otherwise I check my BB when I get up and I may check it once a day on the weekend (but I try not to).

    I figure I’m in the office for at least 10 hours a day that’s more than enough time.

  5. Kitteridge says:

    Don’t have one of these and don’t want one. Someone who owns one apparently has a hard time ungluing his or her eyes from it, even if they’ve been reasonably sane before owning one.

  6. bsalamon says:

    wait, didnt the Obama campaign jump on McCain for not using a blackberry?
    “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos”

  7. Anonymous says:

    Nix it. I had a Blackberry for two years, then made it a point in my contract that I *wouldn’t* have one when I switched jobs. Now I sleep easier at night, without the blinking red devil light going beside me…

    In fact, I suggest the google phone – it only checks gmail (personal mail?) as most corporate servers won’t allow you the pop/imap access it needs to check your work mail.

  8. NikkiSweet says:

    I love my BlackBerry, but I’m not addicted to it. I love the fact that if I’m not at work, everyone can get a hold of me, and my work emails get sent to me if they’re urgent, but I’m not checking it every 15 minutes throughout the day.

  9. altryan says:

    I recently developed a crackberry addiction when I got one for my job, and at first it seemed like a miracle… and now I am answering emails at dinner, looking at reports during movies, and sound like a human submarine cause the damn thing goes off about every 5 minutes. It has made me more accessible and productive outside of the office… but Im thinking that maybe this isnt such a good thing for me.

    However, as President, Obama has marketed himself as a “man of the people” and input on issues from people outside of washington and close to the source make him a much more accessible leader and I for one think he should be able to use (highly secure) blackberry if he so chooses.

  10. picardia says:

    The reason behind Obama not using the BlackBerry any longer has little to do with whether or not it is a timesuck; the reason he has to give it up (along with ALL e-mail) is because any electronic communication he uses could conceivably be hacked. I am sadly so addicted to my online life that even the thought of this kind of restriction makes me want to hyperventilate.

    • mtaylor924 says:

      @picardia: It’s not so much the hacking issue (they can always use super-NSA-type encryption) but rather that the president’s written communications can become public record and/or subpoenaed by Congress. Even if it’s just a note to a friend saying “How ’bout those Cubs!”

      Sadly, the line between work and personal disappears once you reach that level, so he basically has to filter everything he writes, types, texts, etc.

  11. celticgina says:

    My eldest child is going on interviews for internships and has been warned by her friends to “just say no” to being given a BB. Apparently it means that they can yank your electronic leash at all hours…..

  12. CapitalC says:

    But now instead of his communique happening on his BB, a real live PERSON delivers and takes his messages!

  13. m4ximusprim3 says:

    I have actively resisted being given a blackberry from work. I work my ass off while I’m here (gawker addiction aside), and forget the place when I’m not.

    If you’ve got too much work to handle, delegate. Don’t let it take over your life.

  14. Ein2015 says:

    There should be a poll on this article… seems to fit the other articles with polls.

    I love my iPhone. I think the iPhone/crackberry/Android/etc is good stuff. I can’t wait for the next generation so I can see what all this awesome competition will bring.

  15. CaptJax says:

    Can someone explain why Obama needs to give up his BB? The White House relies on email for a significant portion of their communication.

    Why can’t Obama just connect his BB to his brand new presidential email address? He’s already beholden to the Presidential Records Act so why does it matter if emails come from a laptop or his BB?

  16. Paladin_11 says:

    He has to give up his Blackberry for two reasons. One, all of his electronic communications are a matter of public record. That makes even his private conversations via text messages or email publicly accessible. And two, Blackberry is a Canadian company and the bulk of their servers reside outside of the US. We can’t have Presidential communications traveling through unsecured systems, no matter how much we love our Canadian brothers and sisters. (and I for one do. Canada is probably the best friend a country could have)

    • mtaylor924 says:

      @Paladin_11: Your first reason is spot-on. But the fact that RIM is Canadian probably has very little to do with it. He uses a Blackberry now – don’t you think his various Senatorial and campaigning staffs would have made him kick it long ago if security were an issue?

      • Paladin_11 says:

        @mtaylor924: There’s a world of difference between what a Senator, especially a junior Senator knows and what the President knows. But that’s besides the point as the second reason was just a joke anyway. See the website I referenced above. ;-)

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had a BB for years and I tell everyone that gets one that the first thing to do is turn off notification (vibrate or tone) for incoming emails – you’ll check plenty often enough, there’s no reason to feel like you have to read them immediately.

  18. DeafChick says:

    I love my blackberry but I’m looking to upgrade. It’s worth it if you’re using it a lot.

  19. rorschachex says:

    I find smartphones, in general, distracting. When I first started working I was in a regular office, so I had my phone with me at all times and it definitely lowered my productivity. Now I work in a DoD secure office, so I’m not allowed to have my phone on me and I feel I’m much more productive (save for the incessant e-mails, etc. on my computer).

  20. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    I have refused to get email on anything other than a PC for 7 years now, and I will continue to do so.

    If it’s not important enough to pick up the phone and call me then it’s not important enough for me to want to see it when I am not in front of my work.

  21. cmac says:

    My guess is you can basically guess someone’s age/generation by their comment above.

  22. exconsumer9 says:

    I find that I have difficulty with just the phone and email. Some people get it in their heads that they need perpetual contact with you. If you allow that kind of relationship to develop, they no longer have any reason to be concise, clear, or think ahead about what they want to say. The closer you get to constant real time communication, the less likely you are to arrive at some kind of end. Why decide on a plan of cation when you can endlessly negotiate?

    I do some freelance work in the creative field (video editing) and leaving yourself open to constant revisions is a deadline killer. Which is, in the end, a customer satisfaction killer.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Mine has been wonderful for me. I work in a satellite office and I don’t work directly with anybody in this office. Also predominantly all of my communication is via e-mail.

    SO,If I want to go browse the bookstore down the way I can walk down there with my BB and if somebody needs something I can walk back. If I want to “work” in the park or a neighboorhood pub I can bring my laptop along and only open it up if I’ve checked my phone and there is something I have to do. This device has given me a ton of freedom.

  24. MeOhMy says:

    Because they want his legacy to be documented by eloquent, wordy documents.

    Otherwise it’s going to be like this:

    Obama: Dimi, wtf r u up 2 in s. Ostia?

    Medvedev: OMG it wuz all grga! Talk 2 sakashavililili (sp?) f u wanna no da truth.

    Saakashvili: STFU Dimitry! Y don u leave us alone!

    Obama: Guys settle down. U can both haz cheeseburger.

    Saakasvili: LOLOL.

    We simply cannot allow the documents of history to be written by pairs of thumbs.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’m a 24 yr old tech geek/software developer, but absolutely refuse to get email over a smartphone. I have a smart phone, but have never enabled email. Mainly I got one because I wanted voice, gps, music and easy text messaging w/ a qwerty keyboard (I’m absolutely retarded when it comes to the regular dial pad for entering text). Email is a wonderful communication medium, but should be more of a leisurely messaging system that I can refer to later if need be. Gimme a call if its an emergency…generally a verbal conversation gives more information simply because you can clarify any points that may be misunderstood. Also I can listen to the urgency in a person’s voice to put additional weight to the nature of the emergency.

  26. yikz says:

    I’ve had a Treo and an iPhone. I’ve skipped the Blackberry. I spend less time in the office, more time with my kids, more time on the golf course, more time at home in the mornings. I don’t need to drag a laptop around, I can do quite a bit with a phone that has access to my email.

  27. synergy says:

    As a person who uses a cellphone that only makes calls and only uses it for emergencies, I’ve found several people I work with who have Blackberries extremely annoying. They are constantly distracted by it and having it doesn’t seem to improve their productivity. The opposite, in fact. People need to learn to disconnect.

  28. nightlawyer says:

    Tip to all Consumerists (this is not legal advice – it’s what I think I may know as a consumerist): Only unopened emails less than 6 months old are protected by the Wire Act, necessitating a warrant for retrieval. If you have 1) opened emails, or 2) unopened emails over six months old still in your mailbox, they may be subpoenaed if they relate to an “ongoing legal matter.” This is a very broad standard and is not limited to criminal matters. For example, if somebody sues you and can somehow show your emails are relevant, the emails could be subpoenaed. For more information, check out the awfully named and terribly outmoded Electronic Communications Privacy Act. As the name implies, the it applies to electronic communications in general. If you wouldn’t want certain emails, text messages or other electronic communications to to become public, some have said you should delete them from your mailbox or better yet not send them because this law also applies to the people you communicate with. Check out the law and see what you think.

  29. Meathamper says:

    BlackBerry is one of those neat gadgets that are just overhyped. Hell, I can send and receive email just fine with my 3G Sony Ericsson K610i, and my other phone, the BlackBerry Storm, can barely hold a charge because it’s just this big 3G smartphone that’s so fucking big. What ever happened to the RAZR?

  30. wildness says:

    Can be a useful tool when used properly. But, in the hands most it is nothing more than either an addiction (crackberry) or a leash around your neck (the best way to prevent your work from making it a leash is to answer emails only every third hour or longer).

  31. crazedhare says:

    Ode to Blackberry:

    As I have pointed out many times, my kid is sick in a cancer hospital in Memphis. My office is in Manhattan. Without my Blackberry, I would have to be in Manhattan or lose my job (and we are a single-income family). So, having said that, I enshrine my Blackberry and worship it like the precious life-affirming dream-object it is. I even tried to take it into my C-Section when I had the baby (since it was then allowing me to work from my home – 2 hours away from the office – during my pregnancy). I love, I need, I sing the praises of Blackberry. In preparation for Thanksgiving, it is definitely one of the top things I am thankful for this year.

  32. Parting says:

    Just like iPhone : flashy accessory for some, working pda for others.

    You’ll rip my Blackberry from my cold dead hands. I might bight you before that.