I am Lorenzo and I am the inventor of the Liberty Mouse Mover.
Here is now it all came about. For a while I thought that I finally had my dream job. I was able to work from home, the pay was good and the job was pretty interesting. The best thing was that in the morning I was able to walk my son to school, and over lunch I could take my dog out for a brief walk also. Everyone was happy. Until I realized that I was being watched by my employer. Well, actually it wasn’t by my employer, it was by Microsoft Lync. Lync is a type of software that is packaged with Microsoft Office. It is advertised as a chatting tool, but what it is really used for is for your boss to keep an eye on you! After a few days on the job, I found out that whenever I had to leave my desk to go to the kitchen to refill my coffee cup, or to the bathroom, my Lync window changed color from Green to Yellow, with the words “INACTIVE” and number of minutes I had been inactive.
I then realized that I could populate my own Lync dashboard will all the people in my group, and I could see who was active and who was inactive. You can see from the sample image below that Richa has it set up like this and is watching the others. In this example, Tulasi has been away from his desk for 15 minutes and Rajesh is just “Inactive”.
This got me worried. If I could do that, then what is the boss doing? Does he have a dashboard with everyone’s face on it, and is he checking who is active and who is not?
That sounded so petty to me… Would bosses really do that?
But not too long after that, I was away from my desk because I had to run to the store as we were out of milk, and when I came back I see a lot of message from him with comments like “Hey Lorenzo, where are you?” and “Are you not working today?” Of course I was working, and I had to explain that I just stepped out to go to the store. He then told me that its OK, if we step out, but we should keep that to a minimum incase people try to reach us during the work day. He also said that we are supposed to be working the regular “8 to 5” shift for the same reason – to be available. So for the next week or so I kept my absence away from my desk to a minimum, and guess what? Nobody called me again that week.
This got me thinking “Was it just a coincidence that my boss happened to try to get a hold of me when I was at the store that morning?” Or maybe he did have a dashboard of all the group members that he kept watching on Lync to make sure that all the windows were green and not Yellow-INACTIVE. Suddenly I got really nervous. Is this what my job is going to be like for ever? Am I going to be watched all the time? What about my productivity? I know for a fact that my productivity is better than the group average but he still checks up on me!
That is when my nervousness turned to anger. That is just not right. I’m an adult! I don’t want to be watched. Besides, that is not the way the job was advertised. When I was hired, they touted the advantages of working from home, at your own time, and now he is telling me that I need to keep 9-5 office hours.
So then my anger turned to invention. The say that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Well in my case, it was anger. I was really mad that he could be so petty so as to watch me all the time. So I did some digging and found out that you can actually set Microsoft Lync to show the “INACTIVE” state to come at at a different time. I did that and I felt a bit better. But that is not the solution. What if I had to be away for longer? Plus, my company issued computer has a 5 minute delay for a screen saver. Once the screen saver is on, the screen and keyboard are locked, so I really have no way of knowing whether my Lync status is set as ‘INACTIVE” or “AWAY” the second the screensaver is on. So that is when I came up with the Mouse Mover – a device with a platform that rotates underneath the mouse. My first prototype was made from a plastic tupperware box that held the motor, and a wooden frame that held the mouse.
That evening I showed it to my wife and she was thrilled! She said two things: “Can you make one for me?”, and “Everybody would want one; you need to build more!” So I first went looking on the web if there is something like that out there, and there really isn’t. There are software solutions out there (see the Comparison page) but I didn’t like them at all, because the IT department can always find out if you installed something on your work computer. Besides, the rules of employment specifically prohibit you from installing new software on the company computer since it is a huge security risk. Other than the software solutions, I couldn’t find anything out there. So I designed my own. First the wood and plastic, and then the final plastic version that is shown here. I wanted something compact, elegant and safe.
After using the mouse mover for a few months, I have to say that “I got my dream job back”. I am no longer stressed, I feel free and safe. Sure, once in a while I do come back from a break and there is a message waiting for me, but they are so few and far between that I don’t worry about that any more. At least I know that when the boss is watching me, he doesn’t see any INACTIVE signs on my Lync Window. He’s happy and I have my Liberty. Hence the name Liberty Mouse Mover.
I really hope you like the design.