Don’t tell me no

In which I accept your challenge.

Messy desk at work

Other than riding my bike up the street the wrong way I’m a very good boy. I try to stay out of trouble for a number of reasons, like it is a cramp on my lifestyle to be in prison and I’d have to explain why I’m entangled with the Po-Po to my family. Neither of these are particularly attractive options.

As a result I try not to break the rules, I’m scared of being caught and of the consequences. Instead I prefer to push against the boundaries of bureaucracy and see how far I can bend them to my will. I am much happier to teeter along the edge of genius and failure.

The other option is to find the loophole in the rules and exploit them. I subscribe to Alexander the Great’s Gordian knot solution, if the laws of the game are ill-defined then use that to your ability.

Being told ‘no’ or having blocks put in my way just make me even more determined to explore these limits. Working for one company our business unit was allowed a Twitter but we weren’t allowed to access any social media sites. This was at the insistence of the central web team who thought that by giving us what we wanted but preventing us from doing anything would inevitably lead to me giving up.

If you do something like this to me I have one instinct, prove you wrong. I know a number of managers who give me an “impossible” task because they are aware that I relish the challenge, especially when artificial barriers have been placed in my path.

It is rules like this that I don’t want to break, because petty rules lead to petty punishments, but look for a work around that relies upon the rule maker having to announce their clear intentions. In this case it was that they didn’t want us to have a Twitter account but they didn’t want to sound obstructionist.

Computer says no…well unless it’s Skynet I refuse to take that for an answer

Doing what I do, which is to look for the loopholes, I came up with a solution. The rules of the game were that we couldn’t post to Twitter by using any social network (so Buffer or Hootsuite were out) but it didn’t say we couldn’t post to Twitter. The only other stipulation was that we were not allowed to use ‘personal devices’ so firing up the Twitter app on my phone was out. Damn rules.

As well as my tenacious attitude to finding lay exemptions (maybe I should get into tax avoidance) I also love how modern technology is a disruptive tool.

One of the best tools on the internet is IFTTT (If This Then That) and using this and my own ingenuity I was able to devise a system that:

  • Send an email from my work email to a specially setup Gmail account with the tweet in the subject field
  • A rule in IFTTT that would detect any emails to the Gmail account from my work address
  • This was connected to the Twitter account and would post to it our account
  • For some additional points I also connected it to a Google Doc that would capture our tweet and keep a log

For a few months we got away with it, mainly because the digital dictators had no idea how we did it. In the end there was only one way for them to handle the situation. Like many jobsworth mandarins who are scared by something they don’t understand they killed it.

In the end we lost the war of the Twitter account, but I still came away feeling like I had won the battle.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Breaking the Law.”

Author: geekergosum

Ah, so you worked out the riddle. You just needed to use dwarfish and the doors to Geek Ergo Sum opened. Or perhaps you just used Google. Either way you are here, on my little corner of the Internet.

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