/ Technology

Techiquette – my manifesto for tech etiquette

So, I consider myself an avid tech user. It’s hard not to be in this day and age. However, it seems some are intent on destroying my enthusiasm by recklessly using their gadgets to annoy others in public.

I propose we abide by a set of rules to promote tech etiquette, or ‘techiquette’, if you will. I’ve outlined just a few examples below to set the ball rolling.

Irritating texting tones from mobile phones

People talking on mobile phones in public places can be irritating at times, but generally it has become a background noise that is, for the most part, ignorable. However, there’s a group of mobile users who have little regard for those around them: the button tone composers.

These are people who have, for reasons only known to themselves, not disabled the keypad tones on their mobiles, meaning that typing even a simple text message is like listening to one of those musical birthday cards, albeit one composed by a drunk bear.

Techiquette solution: I propose that either these people find the silent function on their mobile (and I will be more than happy to show every single one of them), or they try to achieve a recognisable melody when typing a text message.

Sure, the recipient might wonder what ‘sgrdh fhgurbv gheccog ghdget hkwof’ actually means, but everyone on the senders bus will have been treated to a lovely version of Frère Jacques.

Engrossed in ebooks while on the move

Look around any train carriage, and you’ll probably spy at least one fellow commuter tucked into their Kindle. Unlike the mobile, e-readers are wonderfully silent – so what’s the problem?

The issue arises when that person reaches their stop and alights the train… still engrossed in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. They’ll then drift in the vague direction of the exit, still buried in their book, not acknowledging the numerous commuters diving out of their way.

Techiquette solution: There’s really only one way to deal with people like this. Tell them the ending of the book they’re reading. This way, they don’t need to finish it, and they can navigate their way out of the station the usual way, rather than blindly bumping off the walls and other people like a literate pinball.

Pocket screens lighting up the silver screen

Going to the cinema is expensive these days. Tickets are usually £10 or more, and add to that the snacks, drinks, 3D glasses and so on, and a family trip to see the latest Pixar film can cost the same as a week’s caravan holiday in Norfolk. It’s important then, that those two hours are enjoyable and stress free.

But no. Tech has a plan for those of you who like to watch your films in complete immersion, and they come in the form of the lighthouse keeper film buff. A curious breed, these are people who will pay to see a film, and then spend that time playing on their mobile, the bright screen illuminating a radius of at least three rows in the process.

Techiquette solution: I propose that anyone who wants to play with their phone in the cinema must be forced to do so at times that coincide with the onscreen action. Imagine a thunderstorm during the film, with lightning being complemented by ten bright mobile screens being turned on in the cinema. Incredibly immersive.

Poor headphones pouring out rubbish music

Music, as Madonna once noted, makes the people come together. I can only assume from this that Madonna has never caught the 1703 from Moorgate, and sat next to someone with cheap headphones on listening to euro dance music at high volume.

As nice as it is that these people are so enthusiastic about sharing their interest, any music being played through someone else’s headphones is tinny and awful, and most of us would rather listen to a dot matrix printer printing out War and Peace.

Techiquette solution: The obvious answer, which involves a pair of scissors, might be frowned upon by the transport police. Instead, I recommend that we engage with these people. I can guarantee that if you express a maniacal interest in what they’re listening to, they will quickly turn it down, and give you a wide berth next time they get on your train.

So these are my suggestions, but I am sure there are countless other examples that display a severe lack of ‘techiquette’. What are your personal gripes with public tech?


I agree wholeheartedly, but it does not stop there. People taking and making phone calls in meetings are very annoying. Sitting beside someone watching a video in a train is annoying, though it will not be long before all aircraft have personal screens. And so on.

An early memory was my mother saying that the TV must be switched off as soon as a visitor called in, as a matter of courtesy. Maybe is courtesy is dead and we all have to learn tolerance.

I do like your solutions, Jack, and might devise some of my own. That could be fun. 🙂

My mother is just the same wavechange. Telly has to go off if visitors come round even if it’s just immediate family. I think it’s an excellent rule 🙂

Oooh, good point about the TV wavechange. I think I’d like to add to my list ‘people who don’t look at you when they’re talking to you’ – people often carry out conversations with you while still staring at a phone screen, laptop screen, ipad screen or TV in the corner of a pub.

I’m probably guilty of it myself at work, as my eyes wander to the screen every time an email pops up in the corner. But it’s something I actively try to stop, as I think it’s really rude to stare elsewhere when you’re having a conversation.

Incidentally, forget leaky headphones – how about the kids who play their music out loud with no headphones whatsoever? At least people with headphones are trying to keep it down. I think the solution for people who play music out loud is to replace all of their music with songs from hit children’s musicals such as Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, etc. Then we’ll see how loudly they play it on the bus =)

Mary Poppins sounds an interesting idea. Personally I would go for an introduction to classical music. Wagner is not my favourite composer but can be relied on to make an impact. 🙂

Michael Gilson says:
31 May 2012

Logging into a social networking site the day after a day with friends to see:

15:20 In the Red Lion watching the football with James, Tom and Michael #COYS
18:32 cheeky stop off at newsagents for a beer on the bus with James, Tom, Michael and Steve
20:05 checked in to Vodka Revs with James, Tom, Michael, Steve, Alice, Chloe…

These are my actions and I have nothing to hide, but must it be documented and if documented must it be done, while we are doing it. All be it these are my friends and I shall be bringing up their disregard for Techiquette!

I also enjoy watching business men on trains playing angry birds on their tablets… but turn off the sound!

I like all the ideas, especially scissors for poor earphones playing europop.

Never, ever have I hear someone else’s music on the train that I actually recognised or liked. Some guy swore at a woman on the train the other week saying “can you turn that effin rubbish off, it’s annoying everyone on the train”
To which some random person replied “oh you’re so rude”, to which he replied “so is forcing us to listen to that rubbish”

I find it’s mostly people with iphones and their fashionable white earphones. “look at me, I’ve got an iphone and you can all listen to my brilliant music!” 🙂

I agree with all the points in this post so far. As a commuter, I find loud music through leaky headphones extremely frustrating – even if I like the music.

But of all the ideas mentioned, actual ‘social’ etiquette is my biggest bug-bear. I find it a bit insulting when I’m out at the pub with people and they’re sitting there playing ‘Draw Something’ while you try to have a conversation. And I think phones at the dinner table should be banned entirely!

Recently I was at a family get together and the teenagers in the room were all sat on Facebook on their phones, posting about how boring the party was. I couldn’t believe it – a few different levels of rudeness there!

I have always liked the concept of aversion therapy applied to behaviour correction. As the Mikado declared, “My object all sublime I shall achieve in time – to let the punishment fit the crime . . . ” and he proceeded to reel off a string of deterrents for various social offences. It’s time to revive some of these Victorian attitudes and apply them to the current lack of social etiquette, especially in public places. People who spray the walls with their tags in three-foot high images should be suspended in harnesses from the Spaghetti Junction flyovers and made to repaint them using one-inch brushes. The mobile phone user who cannot talk quietly should be made to sit on a high stool on the platform and perform the “Mind the Gap” announcements with a megaphone for every train arrival between 0500 and 2400 seven days a week for two months [or until their voice fails whichever occurs first]. And shoppers who remain affixed to their device as they go to the till or through the checkout should have their entire shopping load confiscated and be made to collect up all the discarded till receipts, put them into descending order of total price and sum them on an abacus with missing balls before being allowed to carry on with their shopping. There is no further sanction suitable for people who giggle as they play moronic games on their gadgets or shuffle through their apps in idle expectation as they wait for the curtain to rise in the theatre – they have already condemned themselves to a state of mental attrition from which I hope there will be no recovery, albeit at the risk of perpetual misery for the rest of us.

Sophie Gilbert says:
31 May 2012

Once piece of tech I would avidly use is a machine that disables all noise/light polluting devices within ear/eye shot when I’m in a public place, any public place, you name it. “Polluting” means reasonable users need not worry. They use to have these things that scrambled radio signals, can we have something similar on the market for pest technology please? Even better, for pest users themselves. Like “mute” on the doofer. I know, I’m dreaming.

I might just get out my laptop or iPad next time I’m sitting next to an irritating person on the bus or train and pull up this topic, in the hope that they might understand they are a nuisance. Thanks for the topic, Jack.

The people who annoy me are those who receive an incoming call, don’t realise its their phone despite having their own annoying ringtone, and then look at the phone for a while before answering it. By this time, the call has gone to voicemail, annoying also to the caller.

It’s some users of digital cameras at a paid-for public display or performance that really gets me techy. They don’t seem to understand the meaning of “no photography” and then, as if to confirm their ignorance (in all senses of the word), they proceed to spoil the enjoyment of other members of the audience by failing to operate their camera discreetly.

Firstly, there’s the keen amateur carrying a large SLR, complete with a massive, view-blocking telephoto lens. With gigabytes of digital storage at their disposal, so no risk of them ever running out, or even a short respite whilst they find a dark corner to change film, the entire performance is then accompanied by a cacophony of irritating noises: “click” … “click-click” … “click-click-click” … “click” …”click-click”. I sometimes wonder if they have ever stopped to consider why their quality digital camera should make any noise at all, since it doesn’t have any moving parts. If it were me, I’d have taken it back to the vendor and had it repaired under warranty; even my mechanical Olympus OM1 is quieter.

Then there’s the snap shooter, who doesn’t make as much noise, but doesn’t know how to turn off the automatic flash on their camera. Does it not occur to them, that when they are sitting 150m from the arena or stage, that their puny flash is going to have no effect what-so-ever on illuminating the subject, but is still sufficient to cause temporary blindness to those sitting nearby?

I don’t recall this level of inconsiderate behaviour by old-school amateur photographers, when both film and flashbulbs were too expensive for anyone with a camera to be but a passing annoyance. And I have no clever solution to these modern developments (no pun), other than to shop them to an usher or member of security during the interval, but that’s not really etiquette either and the damage to my enjoyment of the event has already been done.

Any ideas for more immediate and effective relief?

I once had a chap come into my office and stand I front of me, he said “how are you doing” I said “I’m fine thanks yourself” only he wasn’t talking to me, he had a Bluetooth ear peace in and was taking to someone on that. Idiot

I like the idea of an ‘ear peace’. That sounds very appropriate. 🙂

I had heard the term ‘techiquette’ and it does not seem to be in common use, but suffice to say it’s not a word that Jack has invented for the purposes of this Conversation.

I am not convinced that attempts to teach netiquette were very successful and most users have evolved their skills of communication via computer through experience, learning from their own mistakes and those of others.

Techiquette, which I see as considerate use of technology, could be taught to youngsters by parents and teachers. There is considerable scope for adult education, since it is not just children who make nuisances of themselves.

It might need a few prompts from others. I religiously switch off my phone before meetings but since this Conversation started, I realise that I am forever using my laptop when talking to friends and have received and ignored comments about this being irritating. Message received – at last.

Patrick says:
10 June 2012

With reference to the idiots that pay to go and see a film in the cinema then constantly play with their mobiles (with their over-bright screens, which is very distracting). I have asked them to either turn them off or thrown some screwed up paper at them to get their attention if they are further afield.
However I feel that the cinema ushers have the option of telling the perpetrators to switch the things off, to confiscate them, or to boot them out of the cinema as they may be commiting an offence by recording the film!

My biggest irritant is similar to Jack Turner’s ‘e-book reading on the move’ provocation, but to my mind far more prevalent. That is the use of mobile phones on the move, be it for conversation, texting, playing games or whatever.

No one seems capable of using mobile phones and moving at the same time. Yes, they move while they talk or text etc, but their attention is solely devoted to the instrument, and anything else happening around them is ignored. Even if they’re looking ahead, you can tell that their eyes are glazed and they see nothing.

My technique when I encounter them is to stop dead, almost daring them to run into me. They usually wake up at the last second and take evasive action, but the implication is that they expected ME to avoid THEM, rather than us both politely taking mutual avoiding action.

And don’t get me started on those who cross the road talking on their phones and totally oblivious to the traffic!

Of course the phone users take avoiding action, even if at the last minute. They have probably discovered that lamp posts do not have the courtesy to get out of their way. 🙂