The Perils of Work Life on the Web

Using common web apps for work and non-work makes for an uncomfortable mix.
Saturday, December 17, 2005

It is quite possible these days for a company to fire its IT staff and move all internal applications to web apps offered by other companies. It is especially easy to do this at start-ups that don’t even have IT staffs to fire. My boss at my new job decided to go this route as well, claiming we’d be “eating our own dog food” as well as saving on IT costs. Our list of web apps includes Gmail, Kiko, JotSpot and Backpack. I was more than willing to give this approach a shot, but then I realized its drawbacks.

My problems:

  1. I am fanatical about not mixing my work life and personal life.
  2. I have a single online handle I have used since 1990 that I don’t want to relinquish.

I don’t mix work and personal life: I don’t want personal email going to a work account, and I don’t want work email going to a personal account. I don’t much like taking personal calls on my mobile phone at work, and I certainly don’t want my personal IM logs stored on a work machine. The problem with using these web apps for work is that I use some of them in my personal life as well, thus mixing the work and personal information. On a web app like Backpack, I could create a new account for work, but then I cannot use my standard online handle that I have used everywhere since 1990. Plus, Backpack does not allow multiple email addresses to be tied to one account, so I forked over my personal Backpack account to my work email address. Applications like Gmail give you the ability to handle multiple personalities, but I have to remember that when sending personal email from Gmail, I need to switch the “from:” field.

It is these small annoyances that make a great idea become a nuisance. Hopefully more web app companies will come up with good solutions to my problems.