Monday, March 19, 2007

A life called Infosys - The bulletin boards

In my last post in this series, I mentioned about the bulletin boards. While the clubs and canteens are important to the life called infosys, the bulletin boards are perhaps the single unique feature that really sets apart, the life at Infosys.

So what are the bulletin boards. For all users of MS Outlook, they are nothing but a set of officially set up public folders open to all employees for posting anything as long as the "anything" complies with a certain set of restrictions. As for non MS outlook users, imagine it as being like a wall where every employee could come and post his / her thoughts, only that this wall is not a real one but a wall in the virtual world of the computer network.

So with the context of the bulletin board set, its now time to bring it to life .. at least in words.

My first encounter with the bulletin board was when I was looking out for a rental flat in bangalore. Me and my roommates to be were all new to the city and also new to the concept of renting apartments. The brokers charged a hefty commission and most of us were without any cash as we hadn't yet received our first salary. Then we came across a bulletin board folder dedicated to real estate, buy and sell .. So what was this folder, a virtual market place with buyers and sellers all posting their messages, views and reviews about anything and everything that could be bought or sold legitimately. For us as the new comers it was just the ideal thing we could ask for and soon within a couple of weeks of searching we were in an apartment that was almost perfect. Thanks to the bulletin board we directly contacted the owner, had already got reviews on the area and the location. All we had to do now was to sign the contract and move in.

As days passed by I discovered that the bulletin board was more than just about buying and selling. There were various folders which served different purposes. If differently put, the purpose was pretty much discussion and a place to put opinion , but the topics were many and hence grouped logically very much like discussion forums on the net.
Thus there was a board each for sports, heath, entertainment, events, buy / sell etc. As if they were not enough there was also a general board for everything under the sun. Not to mention the fact that being in the information technology industry there is the need to collbarate and share information / knowledge on the technologies itself. Thus there were a whole lot of boards for each and every technology that people worked on.

Soon my day, usually started with checking emails, followed by getting to work. Every now and then I felt the need to stretch and relax for a minute and there were the bulletin boards. I gradually starting depending on them for the time I chose to sneak away from work. The best part was that my boss wouldn't be able to spot that I was not quite working as it would seem like I was reading my mail.

Thus to serve my break time reading, there were the cartoons like Calvin and Hobbes (till some one discovered that posting cartoons on the boards was a potential copyright violation and it was stopped), there were the discussions like "is Lara or tendulkar the best batsman", "Why can't the canteen cook better meal?", "Why should there be a dress code?" and so on. I realised that apart from a few fruitful discussions most threads would start with some useful knowledge sharing which was soon hijacked by a set of totally useless yet entertaining comments and then the thread would take a whole new direction.

One example best illustrates the entertainment value of the bulleting boards. I recently read one thread where some one complained on the non availability of whole milk in the coffee dispenser in a particular DC while other DCs had that facility. The argument was that tea with milk powder does not taste as good as with whole milk. While I agree with the argument itself, what discussion ensued later is probably still doing rounds in the email forwarding zone. The discussion soon turned to the sources of getting whole milk in the campus, which in turn pointed to a need for Infosys to enter Animal husbandry and then the most hilarious twist was the question whether the animals would be made to wear identification badges like all human employees. Thankfully though Infosys does not seem to interested in entering that business ..

Apart from providing entertainment the bulletin board also served as a vent for pouring out the frustrations and the stress of the work. It also served as a place to share information. A place to even form a network. I think a whole lot of clubs would have had their roots starting out in a thread on the bulletin board. I myself know of one such club and the number could not be down to just that. Apart from real clubs there were also virtual clubs. A good virtual one which I came to be a part of albiet for a short time was a Mithun da fan club were all people were hell bent on proving that Mithun made up for the most entertaining action hero with all his stylish antiques. Now for most people who have grown up avoiding his action flicks, the number of people who responded to this club would seem incredible but I guess the entertainment value of the club was to blame for that.

A description of the bulletin board would be incomplete without talking about the types of people who could be found posting on the boards.
So here is a guide

1. Information seekers - The people who would more often than not start new threads. They represent the need of a bulletin board in the company.

2. The guides - These are the people who share useful information based on the context and are very valuable to the sustainance of the bulletin boards. Usually a post seeking information will be met with a post from someone from this group.

3. The misguides - These are the people who are very important to the side effect of the bulletin boards - entertainment. It is a very useful side effect as described in my above paras but not necessarily a desired one as far as the management goes. Put simply the misguides provide the twists to the threads so as to take the discussion to new levels. My example above demonstrates the result of posts by the misguides.

4. The experts - These are the people who are not really experts on any particular subject but they are the experts on the bulletin board itself. They are in a way an advanced form of the misguides. Like misguides they too provide twists and turns to most topics but theirs grip on the art of misguidance is at a completely different level. They are the ones who check the bulletin board messages like their own mailbox and consider it their duty to reply to every post to the best of their abilities. Thus no thread can go without having a comment from the experts. Gradually these experts by their ability of misguidance become so important to the entertainment proposition of the boards that their absence is also felt.
I remember once when one of these "experts" was on leave for a week. Within a day there were postings asking where he was. In short some of the experts also end up developing a fan following for their posts. They may also be thus refered to as the "the celebraties" of the bulletin board.

Of course with these varied types it is important also to point out that no person can strictly fit into one single category. Most people take all roles from the information seekers to misguides.
Its only the "experts" who are few and even they occasionally wear the shoes of the information seekers or guides.

With this I salute the bulletin board and the people that maketh the boards a reality


  1. good one! this can be a beginner's guide to BB for new joinees :)

  2. Comprehensive. Frank. Entertaining.

  3. Awesome!!!
    Am throat deep in the ocean of nostalgia. Miss you infy & BB.

  4. Hi, good post. I had presented an idea to nandan around infosys bulletin board. Here is my blog post for the same.