Boss-Button Disguises Popular

Hoping to help fans avoid trouble with the boss, CBS SportsLine added a way for employees to quickly disguise that "March Madness" coverage was on their computer. It's popular -- but probably not all that effective.

Monday, March 27, 2006
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Every year at this time, as "March Madness" erupts anew, business writers dutifully report the millions lost in productivity as workers are distracted by the hoopfest.

Perhaps mindful that managers are reading these articles, CBS SportsLine, which is streaming many of the games over the Web, has added a feature to its interface: a "Boss Button."

"Afraid management is lurking?" asks a SportsLine press release. "No sweat. One click of the 'Boss Button' and the live video action on the screen will be replaced by a silent readymade spread sheet!"

Of course, longtime Web surfers know that "Boss Buttons" are nothing new. Web designer Don Pavlish created the most famous one a decade ago (his site,, is still around). The Web site for the popular NPR radio show "Car Talk" has one. So does a site that features time-wasting Web video.

According to CBS spokesman Alex Riethmiller, the idea for the boss button came from Steve Snyder, the general manager for the SportsLine Web site, who "thought it would be a neat, tongue-in-cheek type feature to build into the product this year."

Is it needed? Not really. Windows XP, in use in many offices today offers several ways to quickly clear one's screen. Combining the "Alt" and "tab" keys moves you to your previous screen; combining the "Ctrl" and "W" or the "alt" and "F4" keys closes your browser altogether; combining the "Windows" and "D" keys or the "windows" and "M" keys will "minimize" everything on your screen. Windows also offers an option that makes the "task bar" invisible.

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Reithmiller says the CBS team didn't give the existence of those other options a lot of thought. "It was more of a neat and catchy feature than one that people gave a lot of thought to as to its functionality," he says. "That said, it obviously does work."

But has technology routed around the boss button? In these days of high-tech IT departments, isn't it possible to get caught streaming live video without being spotted by the boss?

"Absolutely," says Anthony M. Townsend, an Iowa State University associate professor and Accenture faculty fellow in MIS.

"We're seeing an increasing use of Internet monitoring technologies, and perhaps this is a good time to remind people that everything you do on a workplace computer is being watched by the organization at all times. The boss button is a cute hook to bring in site visitors, but if you're streaming live video at your desk, it's going to be seen on the network and, bang, you're busted."

Still, Reithmiller says, there's been "quite a bit" of fan feedback about the boss button: "all of it very positive."

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