Some Clarifications to Posting on Interruptions

March 8, 2007 at 5:03 pm | Posted in Attention Management, interruption science | 1 Comment

I’d like to add a few clarifications to my previous posting on interruptions.

  • Interruptions cannot be assumed to be bad.  To determine the cost you have to ask the value of each interruption
  • Any survey of interruptions needs to level set on the term and clearly state the definition they picked when quoting results.  Some might consider any phone call with valuable information as an interaction rather than an interruption and not even count it, where others may count everything
  • Interruptions must be viewed as a complete system that includes the interrupter and the interruptee (if that is indeed a word).  The net value of the interruption (cost/value to interrupter + cost/value to interruptee) is what matters, not just the cost to one party
  • Calculations must include the time it takes to resume the interrupted task, not just the time of the interruption

I’m not saying the study I was commented on violated these.  The methodology wasn’t stated in the document I read so I can’t be sure.  I’d assume someone who went to all the trouble to measure that many interruptions would have thought of these rules, but I would have appreciated them being stated when quoting the statistics.  And the number seems awfully high to be treating interruptions as a system and as having possible value.


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