Beyond “Unintended Consequences”
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- 3 min
Generally speaking: a solution introduces a new problem requiring a workaround that not only negates the goals of the solution but actually serves to exacerbate the initial problem.
Today, I went to a shared office space and found a note reading “Do Not Turn Off” covering the light switch. The note is there because we have temporarily disabled the motion sensor for the overhead lights. Before today, if the motion sensor did not detect any movement after five minutes, or so I’ve calculated, the lights will go off. The goal is to conserve energy, which is obviously a worthwhile goal. However, the motion sensor rarely detects our very subtle movements. It has made working difficult because we have to stop what we’re doing to get up and move about the room every few minutes.
As a workaround, the facilities managers disabled the motion sensor, but it will only remain off if we do not turn off the light switch, hence the handwritten note. The problem is that now the lights won’t actually turn off. It would have been better if we simply reminded the last person in the office to turn off the lights each night, which we were doing anyway. We now have to keep the lights on for the sixteen hours each day (and forty-eight each weekend) when no one is here. It seems like a waste, right?
This reminded me of the CW and Fox television networks each implemented embargoes on streaming new episodes through their own sites or through Hulu. The CW, for example, had implemented a three-day embargo on streaming its own TV shows to boost the Nielsen Live + 3 day ratings, which is how the network calculates what to charge for advertising against its programs. The thinking was that it would encourage viewers to either watch a program live or within three days on their DVR to boost advertising revenue.
However, enterprising viewers who hadn’t recorded the program or watched it live decided to turn to the Internet to get their CW fix. And since they couldn’t find the program on cw.com or Hulu, they would turn to unauthorized sources, such as torrents.
Now, not only are CW viewers skipping the live broadcasts or DVR viewing, they are even skipping the ads that come with online streams on cw.com or Hulu, hence reducing the overall impressions and advertising revenue.
The CW seems to have backtracked and will now release their streams on the day after the network broadcast.
But what we will do about our lights?