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BOFH and the office security access upgrade

I don't care what the app says, I'm not dead!

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 24 "So we just need you to open the app, and scan this QR code," I say, pointing at the Boss's screen.

"OK, and from the dropdown list, under purpose of visit, select Work, then Normal Hours. No, you just selected Work, Overtime."

"The letters are so small!" the Boss complains.

"Not to worry. Just press cancel, then scan the QR code again," I say.  "Now, Work, Normal Hours, and then under expected hours of work, type in 7.5. Right, so now it generates a list of everyone in the workplace and you just click on the checkbox beside each person you think you'll interact with today."

"There's hundreds of names and I don't know who I'll interact with today!" the Boss gasps.

"That's OK, you just need to click beside the people you think you're going to interact with today, not necessarily the people you do interact with. We deal with them later. Right, so now you just need to answer the questions about recent travel, symptoms you or your close personal contacts have had, and then click on the Sign In button at the bottom. And you're done!"

"It's a little bit clunky," the Boss comments.

The Boss is wrong – the app's not a little bit clunky. It's a lot clunky. Employing the principles of Lumbering Design, the PFY and I have built what is arguably the worst illness tracking app imaginable. That task itself is not for the faint-hearted, as the testing regime is brutal. We have, however, still managed to implement as many of the most-hated features as we can.


"What's that?" the Boss asks.

"That's just the app giving you a reminder of the importance of social distancing, even though there's not a current outbreak or anything."

"Does it do that often?"

"Only every hour or so."

>Bing! Bing!<

"That's not been an hour!"

"No that's just a health check warning, asking you if you have issues with smell or taste, and asking for the number of times you've coughed or sneezed in the past two hours."

the Fellowship of bastards meets

BOFH: Pass the sugar, Asmodeus, and let the meeting of the Fellowship of Bastards … commence



"I'd have thought that was obvious. If it spots an increasing trend it'll mark you as potentially infected and send an alert to everyone in the company who has been within 25 meters of your location. In real time."

How did we get to this stage? With less than a month left in the year the Board decided to make 2023 the "Year of the Wellness Focus" – and what better way to achieve this than by implementing a company health app?

A health app that they didn't want to pay anyone to develop.

Enter the IT Director with a brainwave …

"Won't that get quite annoying?" the Boss asks, apparently confusing the words quite and extremely. "Can I stop it alerting people?"

"Sure – simply get a health check and send the result to HR and they'll reset your profile."

"Do I have to get a health check straight away?"

"Only if you want your access card to keep working," I say. "It's linked to our security system."

"So what's to stop me entering zero into the coughs and sneezes counts?"

"Well obviously the phone's listening for coughs and sniffles."

"It listens to us?"

"Yeah, you know, like Google, Apple, Huawei, the NSA, GCSB, etc. If you're worried about it you just need to lead an uninteresting life – so in your case maybe now's the time to buy that MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner!"

"Who told you to listen to us?" the Boss asks.

"The board did!" I reply. "We told them about all the gaps in other tracker apps …"

"We were only too happy to help," the PFY adds. "Our app has masses of extra safety features that the government one doesn't have!"


"Yeah – we created a bunch of codenamed features to improve safety and the board approved them all!" the PFY blurts.

"Codenamed features like what?"

"My favourite's LEPERBELL," the PFY says smugly. "When you're marked as infected or potentially infected it'll unmute your phone, turn the volume to high and play the warning tone."

"What warning tone?"

"The six minute extended mix of 'Infected' by The The – though we may have to change that for copyright reasons." 

"Any other features?"

"Oodles of them. We kept chucking out ideas and the board kept approving them!"

"Like what?"

>Bing!< >Bing!< >Bing!<

"Like that low battery alarm. All that tracking and messaging can really take its toll."

"I've only had the app installed for an hour!"

"Yes, but it's all in the name of safety. I'd acknowledge that low battery alarm if I were you – you don't want the app marking you as potentially dead, as it feeds back into the payroll system."

"Oh, right."

"There you go. And now you just need to click on CONFIRM, and then answer the 'Are you Sure?' question."

"But it's a double negative question."

"Is it?" the PFY asks innocently. "Did I mention you've only got 15 seconds to answer?"

"This is ridiculous."

"It's what the board wanted."

"So if I leave my phone in my desk drawer none of this stuff happens. I won't come near people and it won't hear me coughing," the Boss says, exiting the office on a high.

A high which lasts until he realizes he's locked out of the office.

A high which comes back when he realizes he can use this as an excuse to leave the building.

A high which goes away again when he realizes he's locked in the stairwell.

On a Friday afternoon.

With no phone.

And the holidays looming … 

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