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((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) June 15, 2000


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1. CONTEST: Submit & Win XMetaL 2.0! 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Health Lessons for Computer Professionals 3. NET NEWS: * U.S. House Certifies E-Signature Bill * Domain Expansion May Be Near * Motorola & Firms to Transform Bar Codes

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. CONTEST: Submit & Win XMetaL 2.0 Contest!

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In this week, Eric Cook looks at some of the health issues faced by computer and Web professionals. Are the demands of the info- economy turning you into a sleep-deprived zombie with sprained wrists? Learn what you can do to protect yourself and your well- being.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. FEATURED ARTICLE: Health Lessons for Computer Professionals

Call it "geek-macho" - with the explosion of the information economy over the last few years, the longtime hacker ethic of no sleep, junk food and staring at a monitor for days on end has been adopted as a lifestyle by tens of thousands. Apocryphal stories abound of startup employees sleeping under their desks, and of promotional coffee mugs that state "You can sleep when you're dead." The goal is to work as hard as possible, and to demonstrate to your boss, your clients, and the guy in the next cubicle that you're going to do whatever it takes to get the job done. If that means that you've got to stay up for a week straight and strap yourself into wrist braces, well, then so be it.

But for all this "work harder longer" bluster, it's entirely likely that these work habits are actually counterproductive, in the short and long term. As a recent Industry Standard story pointed out, "the new economy may be in the hands of people incapable of operating heavy machinery." &lthttp://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/06/12/sleep.deprived.idg/index.html&gt

What does all this overwork result in? In the short term, sleep deprivation can drive your quality of work down, and can impact negatively on your decision making. Long term, you can be ruining your health, cutting your potential lifespan (or for the more capital-motivated readers, cutting your potential total number of wage-earning years). Numerous studies have documented the relationship between sleep deprivation and car accidents. If you're too tired to drive to the 7-11 safely, how good of a job can you be doing in writing a business plan, tracking down errors in your database or setting up a Web server?

Think the risks attributed to lack of sleep are overstated? Ok, how about RSI (repetitive stress injuries) or Carpal Tunnel syndrome? It's hard to get much typing done when your arms are numb, cramped or in pain. OSHA (the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) studies suggest that "work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for more than 1/3rd of all occupational injuries and illnesses that are serious enough to result in days away from work." Although OSHA's recommendations for workplace ergonomic standards are not yet implemented, it's possible that employers could be held liable (at least to a degree) for their workers' RSI, and that employees can demand either compensation or a change in working conditions. So it's in both your and your boss' best interests to make sure you're not working yourself to the point of damage. &lthttp://www.osha-slc.gov/ergonomics-standard/faq-overview.html&gt

So what can we do to take better care of ourselves? I say "we", because I'm including myself in the target audience of this article. I know as much as the next guy that I need more sleep, more exercise and a better diet. But sometimes I also lose sight of the big picture, and need to remind myself just how important it is to pay attention to all of these issues.

>More Sleep

One of the first things to do is get more sleep. I know, I know, you're under deadline, you'll rest when you get vacation, there's not enough hours in the day and another pot of coffee would suit you just fine. I understand all of those excuses - I've used them all myself. Regardless of how convincing or snappy your excuses sound though, they don't change the facts - lack of sleep makes you less alert, less productive, more moody, and more accident prone. Doesn't sound like a model employee, does it?

The National Sleep Foundation, an non-profit research group, recently released the results of their "2000 Omnibus Sleep in America Poll." The findings, though unsurprising, were somewhat discouraging. Though health experts recommend 8 or more hours of sleep a night for adults to function properly, the omnibus poll found that "on average, adults sleep just under 7 hours during the work week," and that a full third of adults sleep only 6.5 or fewer hours a night. Why are people sleeping less than they should? Almost half of the adults surveyed stated that they "sleep less in order to accomplish more." &lthttp://www.sleepfoundation.org/pressarchives/new_stats.html&gt

The NSF's also probed Americans' self-analysis of the effects of lack of sleep on their work performance. Again, the numbers are discouraging - 51% reported that sleepiness on the job "interferes with the amount of work they get done," 40% said the quality of their work suffers, 68% said that sleepiness interferes with their concentration and 66% said it "makes handling stress on the job more difficult." Almost 20% admitted that they make "occasional or frequent work errors due to sleepiness."

All of this adds up to more than enough reasons to get more sleep, both for your own sake, as well as for the sake of your job and quality of living. The occasional deadline crunch is inevitable - but nobody is especially effective after 72 straight hours on the job.


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***********************************************************adv.*** >RSI

RSI is a catch-all condition category, including the fairly well- known Carpal Tunnel syndrome (affecting the median nerve in the wrist), as well as a variety of other related afflictions including Tendinitis, Bursitis, Tenosynovitis, DeQuervain's Syndrome, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Trigger Finger/Thumb, Myofascial Pain Syndrome, and several other conditions. You'll also sometimes see RSI referred to as CTD, or "Cumulative Trauma Disorder."

Prevention is key; it's much easier to defeat RSI before the fact, than repair the damage afterwards. There are some simple things you can do right away. First off, examine your typing technique. According to the Harvard RSI Action page, &lthttp://www.rsi.deas.harvard.edu/&gt, "one of the most common mistakes people make is to contort their hands to perform key combinations, such as a shifted letter...Control and meta [keys] present the same problem." Make sure that you're using both hands to type these characters.

Examine the angle of your wrists and arms, and the position in which you're sitting. If your wrists are resting on your desk or a wrist pad, you're probably putting undue pressure on them, as well as holding your arms in an awkward position. You should be sitting straight, with relaxed shoulders. For more details, the Harvard RSI Action page features additional information and descriptive (if somewhat scribbled) diagrams.

Take frequent breaks. During these breaks, and especially before you start working, try gently stretching your arms, hands and wrists. These stretches need not be elaborate, nor do you need any sort of extra equipment to perform them. You can find some suggestions for easy stretches to do at home or in the workplace at the Global Ideas Bank. &lthttp://www.globalideasbank.org/BI/BI-105.HTML&gt

Some people find relief by using ergonomically-shaped or alternative keyboards. You can find more information about these at the Typing Injury FAQ page &lthttp://www.tifaq.com/&gt. Another frequently suggested alternative for those with RSI is voice recognition software. Voice recognition has made great progress in recent years, and is finally starting to become a viable option for many people. We published an overview of some of the software available last fall in this newsletter. &lthttp://webreference.com/new/991108.html#review&gt For all the hype surrounding voice recognition, however, you'll definitely want to try before you buy. You'll also want to be aware that some people are finding that the slow, deliberate and clipped manner of speaking that some software requires can also create strain - of your vocal cords. &lthttp://pcworld.com/consumer/article/0,5120,16766,00.html&gt

>Exercise & Nutrition

Of course, any discussion of health issues would be lacking without at least mentioning the need for regular exercise and good nutrition. These certainly aren't issues that are specific to computer professionals and are too large to tackle in any depth here. All the same, they're obviously important to your well-being, and can have a direct bearing on the sleep and strain topics we've already looked at. Exercise can help you need less sleep, and to sleep more deeply and effectively. Strengthening and stretching your muscles and joints can help safeguard against some of the damages of RSI, as well as alleviating some of the pain you may already have. You programmers out there - you'd like your applications to run flawlessly, and as fast as possible; why not direct some of that focus back at yourself, and tweak your diet as well as your code for "optimal results"?

For those looking for dieting and exercise information with a geeky bent, the Hacker's Diet has been a popular choice of health conscious programmers for years. Created by John Walker (also one of the founders of AutoDesk), the Hacker's Diet "treats dieting and weight control from an engineering and management standpoint, and provides the tools and an understanding of why they work and how to use them that permit the reader to gain control of their own weight." &lthttp://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/&gt

>Wrap Up

Bottom line? We all should probably sleep more, eat better and work less. You already knew that, of course, but it's always good for you (and me!) to get a reminder now and then. Not yet mentioned, but equally important, is to take some time away from your computer and away from your desk, to get out and just live a little. Keep your sense of perspective about the importance of your projects to the world at large and in your own life - don't wake up out of a sleep-deprived state 10 years from now with nothing to show for your time except a flabby waist and a series of pointless all-nighters at failed startups. We all owe ourselves more than that.

Additional Links:

Sleep Foundation 2000 omnibus "Sleep in America" report: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/NSAW/poll.html

Driving While Sleepy Factsheet: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/activities/daaafacts.html

Additional RSI Information: page http://www.engr.unl.edu/ee/eeshop/rsi.html


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About the author:

Eric Cook is an assistant editor at WebReference.com, and could probably use a nap. You can contact Eric at: ecook@internet.com.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: U.S. House Certifies E-Signature Bill, Domain Expansion May Be Near, Motorola & Firms to Transform Bar Codes

>U.S. House Certifies E-Signature Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives late Wednesday passed an e- signature bill by a 426 to 4 vote in favor of the measure. If the "E-SIGN" bill passes the Senate, electronic contracts would gain the same legal status as handwritten signatures in the U.S.. The legislation would set national standards for e-signatures and documents, granting them the same legal validity as written contracts. http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article/0,,4_395001,00.html InternetNews.com, 000615

>Domain Expansion May Be Near

New generic top-level domains (gTLDs) could hit the Internet as soon as the end of the year, the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers said in a report issued Wednesday. The ICANN board of directors will consider the adoption of a policy to create new gTLDs at its next meeting in Yokohama, Japan on July 15-16. Though there are still many issues to work through, the new gTLDs could go into effect as early as December. http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,,3_395261,00.html InternetNews.com, 000615

>Motorola, Firms to Transform Bar Codes

Led by Symbol's (NYSE:SBL) bar code scanning technology, a coalition of Motorola and several smaller firms will create a registry of universal product codes for executing tasks to enable companies' wireless phones, cable TV set-top terminals, and other Internet-enabled appliances to access the Internet via one-scan bar codes. http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,2171,3_395201,00.html InternetNews.com, 000615

That's it for this week, see you next time.

Andrew King Managing Editor, WebReference.com update@webreference.com

Eric Cook Assistant Editor, WebReference.com ecook@internet.com

Catherine Levy Assistant Editor, WebReference.com clevy@internet.com

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