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Toy Penguins and Male Egos Drove Linux Acceptance 548

An anonymous reader writes "Germany's local and city councils have been pioneering the migration from Windows to Linux. Now, one of the IT staff behind one move has revealed how they persuaded workers to accept the changes. Stuffed toy penguins and Linux t-shirts helped to create an open-source love-in at the council offices, and they got a senior chairwoman to demonstrate the new system to the troops. Male ego stopped anyone claiming that Linux was difficult to use, once they'd seen that the 'weaker sex' could master it :)"
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Toy Penguins and Male Egos Drove Linux Acceptance

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  • by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:36PM (#8251866) Journal
    This is hardly new... all it has ever taken to get a guy to do something is say something like "oh, if it's too heavy for you I can ask someone else"

    'cept for those of us who learned the game and call the bluff with "sure, go right ahead"
  • Commercialism? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MoebiusStreet ( 709659 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:37PM (#8251879)
    This sounds suspiciously like how the world of commercial software works :o
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:38PM (#8251887)
    ...is to know your audience. Seems like the folks that put this together did.
  • It's brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The I Shing ( 700142 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:38PM (#8251890) Journal
    To rework a famous old saying, no-one ever went broke overestimating the impact of appealing to the male ego.

    That's brilliant marketing to use a female rep to demo a product to a bunch of men.

    A lot of companies would do well to follow that example, I think.
  • by smack_attack ( 171144 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:38PM (#8251897) Homepage
    The toys made it fun, but the coders made it work. I think marketing droids are also to blame for overhyping linux to some extent during the dot com boom and causing a lot of companies who had good products to die young because they thought they were bigger than life.
  • by djeaux ( 620938 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:39PM (#8251906) Homepage Journal
    Marketing is something Linux needs. Of course, that's the weak point for a lot of open source.

    Tux toys & t-shirts sound trivial, but they loosen people up about something that a lot of non-tech types think is "hard". Setting up the "sexist" argument ("Even the women can use this OS") is even appropriate if that's what it takes to make decision-makers come around.


  • by lowe0 ( 136140 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:40PM (#8251922) Homepage
    And people wonder where sexism in technology comes from.

    Using it to your advantage is not the same thing as working to eliminate it.
  • I hate male ego (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 31415926535897 ( 702314 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:40PM (#8251923) Journal
    I should probably submit this anonymously*, but what the heck.

    I don't know if it is in our genes, or if it's a product of our environment, but male ego resulting from male dominance even affects me a ton.

    I was running on a treadmill earlier this week, and there was a girl who was running on one next to me at the same time, at roughly the same speed. There was _no_ way I was going to let myself stop before she did--because she was a girl. And I recognized this as I was running.

    Seems kind of silly, I know, but that's what was in my head.

    *I've heard that posting anonymously at slashdot isn't really, so what's the difference?
  • by cyberjoek ( 675635 ) * on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:41PM (#8251933)
    If they toys bring in the profit to pay the coders then the toys make it work :-). The "marketing droids" you refer to that caused the dot com boom/bust cycle weren't the only force. The notion that you could sell everything at a loss and make it up in volume was the other major problem. (also that losing money was some how profitable...) -Joe Kavanagh
  • by robslimo ( 587196 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:43PM (#8251950) Homepage Journal
    ...and damned good marketing too.

    Somehow it leaves me feeling a little uneasy, though. I bet I'd be influenced by the same or similar tactics, even though I've read this article. It leaves my ego a bit worse for the wear to know that I (hell, we!) am so easily swayed by savvy marketing techniques.

    Example: even if janet jackson winds up paying fines for her Super Bowl stunt, I'll bet she gets exactly what she intended in terms of sales and publicity. The people she pissed off were never her customers anyway.

  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <<jhummel> <at> <johnhummel.net>> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:45PM (#8251983) Homepage
    Oddly enough, I recently saw this in Doctorow's "East Coast Tribe", but this was something I learned when I first worked in an IT department.

    It doesn't matter if your systems are uber-fast. It doesn't matter if they have a low error rate. It doesn't matter if they are made to be user friendly.

    If the users of those systems perceive they are slow, inefficient, hard to use, great, best machines ever - whatever they percieve, that is the reality.

    So a good IT staff does two things:

    1. Work on their C. I. A. pieces.
    2. Work to help the users percieve their systems as being C. I. A. good.

    Let's face it - this is why Microsoft is on 90-odd% of all desktop systems out there: people percieve their systems as working, as easy to use, and that everything else is inferior whether that is true or not.

    Once you convince them that a Linux or Mac desktop works just as well - if not faster and more securely - on their desk as a Windows box, and that they can use the same kinds of applications, you're set.

    I've had IT guys whom I respect greatly tell me they'd love to switch to "OS X", but don't want to because they fear the "learning curve". It's not a "noobie" issue at all - perception clouds everything.

    And Brauner made the right calls. To those who had problems, he showed them how it was easy. To those who thought he was being mean, he displayed himself as a "fun guy" with shirts and toys. To those who thought the system was "hard" he showed a secretary doing her job with ease - the person that all my programming teachers taught me to program interface for, since "if a secretary can run it, anybody can".

    Excellent work on his part for recognizing that the human element is as important as the technical one at times.
  • by psycho_tinman ( 313601 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:52PM (#8252075) Journal

    I can just see the marketing people on the other side *cough* those convicted monopolists, remember them ? the guys who claim the GPL should be stamped out ? *cough* making hay with this.. ?

    "Ooh, we don't manipulate you", they'll coo. "We just give you a product that you know and is easy to use". And heck, if that doesn't work, they'll just add a whopping discount on top of it to seal the bargain.

    Maybe I'm just egotistic myself, but if I heard that I had been manipulated into something I wasn't sure about, and if I heard about it later on (with a "ha ha ha. owned!" comment, to boot), I'd be quite wary of the next thing that particular guy tried to foist on me.

    Which brings me to the question.. does OSS really need marketshare like this ? It's just me, probably, but I'd prefer people make an informed choice rather than go "hey, why don't we use this because we don't want to be outdone/look foolish". If you can convince people to install it that easily, they'll just as easily be swayed by the next marketing gimmick, and which side (OSS or the other guys) have more marketing muscle ?

  • have some fun! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 23 ( 68042 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:54PM (#8252097)
    so what's the problem? Dude, don't take yourself so seriously! :-)

    when I'm out running along a well used path in my town, there is no fucking way I can live with a woman running infront of me. At times this put me close to a heart-attack. But I have all the more fun because this kind of stuff. Same thing, when I try to overtake someone who is barely slower than me. heh.

    Man, this is oart of the fun of life! As long as you realize, that your life does not depend on being cooler/stronger/faster/whatever I consider it good-natured fun. After all, where would be in technology without some good ol' testosterone-driven competition?

    plus, women have some fun --uhm, let's call them characteristics to laugh about

  • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:55PM (#8252109)
    This is hardly a technology issue. Human beings are social in nature and therefore we all experience social pressures. It's a fact of being alive. To ignore the fact that women and men are different is assine.

    Using marketing is only natural. It works, and it works very well is all aspects of life, not just technology.
  • by Killswitch1968 ( 735908 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:55PM (#8252112)
    Despite all the claims of 'monopoly' scarcely anyone steps back and REALLY analyzes why open source hasn't taken hold. And the answer inevitably leads to little or no marketing. A good product that no one knows about won't be used.
  • Re:I hate male ego (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @03:57PM (#8252132) Journal
    Gee, are you suggesting that certain human behavior is hardwired into our psyche? Just like every single other mammal on the planet? And you're just now realizing this??

    You can either accept that you're an animal with instincts, and learn how to control them/live with them, or you can deny your basic nature and keep banging your head against the wall. The choice is yours. The upshot on the former is, everyone else is governed by those same instincts, so you can use them to help get people to do what you want them to.
  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:00PM (#8252165) Journal
    How about this approach... "Use the damned software!". Really, I dont know why people seem to think they should have complete freedom on a computer at work. The company owns the machine, and the company chooses the software... so long as the company involved the proper employees in evaluating which is the best software(s) to use... thats it, end of story. Employees really shouldnt have a choice one way or another.

    Ever heard the phrase "you attract more flies with honey than vinegar?" Honestly, I'd rather work for someone who is respectful of my concerns and seeks to answer them (even in a devious way), than someone who just scoffs at them and says "Shut up and get back to work." Even the military, the only employer who can throw you in jail or have you shot for not doing what you're told, tends to be relatively light handed in how it encourages its members to use new systems.
  • by el-spectre ( 668104 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:03PM (#8252198) Journal
    Actually I tend to do what you recommend (say "just ask"). I am after all a rather big fellow. But if they use the blatant "poor wittle me can't do anything for myself" technique, I'm liable to be a jerk, yeah. (nor, for the record, do I want to date someone who pulls that shit :) )
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:06PM (#8252228) Journal
    That's true, but part of the reason that Open source doesn't go in for marketing is that that's not the point. It's software to solve a specific problem, and if it solves other people's problems, so much the better. Marketing will potentially help the end users become aware of the software, but it really doesn't do the software any good or harm if people know about it or not.

    Commercial software on the other hand, is simply to make money for companies. This is not a bad thing; simply the way the market works. The fact that it solves a problem is simply a means to an end. Marketing is definitely essential here, since it increases sales.
  • by Patrik_AKA_RedX ( 624423 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:07PM (#8252237) Journal
    How about this approach... "Use the damned software!".
    You're missing the point. That approach doesn't provide the free publicity.
    does male ego really apply that much to intellectual persuits?
    Is there any subject in existance where the Male Ego doesn't apply?
    Most people are sheep. They follow the rules of society without thought and most of them wouldn't even realise they are following set rules.
    Men and women have their roles to play, and any deviation is seen as weird and undesirable.
    Wear a pink shirt and tell other males you don't like beer and football if want to see this in action.
  • by Titusdot Groan ( 468949 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:09PM (#8252261) Journal
    No, you don't want to date somebody who pulls that shit -- but you don't want every other women within earshot saying "asshole" under her breath :-)

    The "sure, but just ask" sends the dual message "not a sap" AND "not an ass".

  • Re:Sex Sells (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:11PM (#8252285)
    Anyone watch that "The Apprentice" show.

    Yeah. I've never seen anything more tragic and discouraging on television. The most amazing thing about that show is that it almost perfectly mirrors the modern workplace.

    For that matter, so does Survivor: a group of people get together and decide who to ostracize. A fine example for society.
  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:14PM (#8252310) Homepage
    Don't blame the marketer for putting himself in the marketee's mindframe.

    The sexist attitude exists in the males they're trying to convince. Not necessarily the marketer. The technique was actually trying to change this perception by preying on the mistaken attitude.
  • by AoT ( 107216 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:18PM (#8252353) Homepage Journal
    It seems that having a strong woman be an example is a good balance; the sexism is only implicit for those who are more conservative and therefore less likely to want to switch in the first place. As long as you don't run around the office shouting about how linux is so easy even a woman can use it.
  • WTF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vwjeff ( 709903 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:19PM (#8252374)
    So the secret to acceptance of OSS is a stuffed penguin?

    Yay, a penguin, it's cute. What does that have to do with the use of software? I'll tell you. It shows the intelligence of the people buying into this.

    Look at what the software has to offer...Please!!!
  • Re:I hate male ego (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KjetilK ( 186133 ) <kjetil @ k jernsmo.net> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:21PM (#8252403) Homepage Journal
    Hehe. Take it from me, unless you're a world class athlete, there is always a cute little 18 year-old girl who do it better than you. Get over it. :-)

    I learnt this fact of life allready when I was 16, and I think it probably helped me avoid a too-inflated ego...: It was at the end of one of my first mountain triathlon, and after three hours of running a was totally exhausted. Just before the final hard climb, there was this girl, one year younger than me, who just parked me completely.

    You bet, if you meet one of those one the threadmill next to you, and you awaken her competition instinct, you'll find yourself dying at the end of the threadmill at the end of the day... :-)

  • Re:It's brilliant (Score:4, Insightful)

    by temojen ( 678985 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:24PM (#8252448) Journal
    That's brilliant marketing to use a female rep to demo a product to a bunch of men.

    A lot of companies would do well to follow that example, I think.

    You mean like beer companies?

  • by katarac ( 565789 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:25PM (#8252454)
    It seems that most commercials and tv shows over-compensate for female equality. On the rare occasion that I catch a new prime-time "family" sitcom, the dad is usually a big idiot and the mom is the one who holds the home together. Especially in commercials when the wife will leave the man of the house in charge of dinner, and he doesn't know how to boil water or something. It's pretty lame. Personaly, I've found that this formula only works on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and maybe a couple of other, genuinly funny, shows.

    That's right, The Simpsons can do no wrong.
  • Re:Commercialism? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CaptainTux ( 658655 ) <papillion@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:27PM (#8252490) Homepage Journal
    Getting people to adopt anything new requires some commercialization and good marketing. Linux is no different. What it seems you're intimating here is that if Linux uses the same marketing techniques that commercial vendors use then it's somehow wrong and takes something away from Linux. It doesn't.

    The fact that vendors use commercial techniques to sell people on Linux does not take anything away from the fact that Linux offers it's users freedom, stability, and distance from vendor lock-in. Commercial marketing isn't unethical. Commercial marketing isn't bad. Using your taking away freedom from your installed user base is both.

  • by tuffy ( 10202 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:34PM (#8252568) Homepage Journal
    1. Drivers, drivers, drivers. Not enough hardware makers are bothering with drivers for Linux. Kudos to all the Linux folks writing drivers, but Linux is always at least a step or two behind. However, this problem may be solved if the project that allows Windows drivers to work under Linux is successful.

    Frankly, I don't want most hardware makers to be writing lots of Linux drivers. I want them to build their stuff to use documented protocols (USB/Firewire/IDE/etc.) correctly so that their hardware Just Works everywhere. That way, I can pick up a piece of new hardware and have it run without any obnoxious CD loading, file downloading or kernel module installation whatsoever.

    That's the sort of ease-of-use we should be encouraging.

  • Re:Janet Jackson (Score:3, Insightful)

    by emptybody ( 12341 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:35PM (#8252577) Homepage Journal
    She has won.

    She was disappearing from the public radar.
    She was loosing her celebrity status.

    On Tuesday following the half time show she was:
    on the cover of 8 different magazines at B&N
    on the cover of a number of local papers
    in the headlines on more magazines and papers
    on every news cast
    in various articles inside the various media formats

    her name continues to be brought up in obscure places like slashdot.
  • Re:WTF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eddiegee ( 236525 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:38PM (#8252604)
    Well I have to agree that its is sad that people are swayed by toy penguins and t-shirts. But tactics like these are not for techies, but for the office paper pushers who will go totally limp the moment you mention all the technical wizardry that makes "Linux Oh So Much Better Than M$" The penguins and cute tshirts are a foot in the door to get these users to have a good first impression of Linux. Talking about stability and security won't do any good to these users. Until they actually use Linux its all just talk. The first time one of their pals using Windows bitches about the Outlook Virus of the Week they will then start to "get it"
  • by dnoyeb ( 547705 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:41PM (#8252640) Homepage Journal
    No, its not trying to change it, its trying to take advantage of it. Akin to the traditional Republican technique for gathering Southern White votes in America. Appeal to racism.

    And how do you think this would rub those that do not have the same shortcomming? Such as women? or non-chauvanistic men?
  • by IchBinDasWalross ( 720916 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:47PM (#8252703)
    It's photoshopped. If you zoom in on the "LINUX" on her panties, the color of the text is #FFFFFF. That doesn't happn in real life.
  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:48PM (#8252716) Journal
    No, but the flipside of the "marketing" they are pushing is that women can't do things with computers that aren't "easy".

    I think a lot of Slashdotters have read more into this story than they should...

    They deliberately choose a spokeswoman based on pushing the "If she can do it, so can I" male ego button. The reverse of that, which you suggest they also pushed, does not hold true. If the implicit sexism didn't exist, their approach simply would not have worked.

    In no way would insulting a guy's ego by demonstrating that a woman can use Linux increase their sexist ideas. If anything, it demonstrates that yes, in fact, a woman can use Linux, when they cannot (yet).
  • Not a great idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @04:56PM (#8252796)
    I cant imagine this being a very successful company, when they have to use bribes and sex to encourage the employees to use a tool you've mandated.

    Right, that's a good management style. Make unilateral, completely unpopular decisions with no effort to win people over or assuage their fears. Great management style. In general, having employees not hate management is a good thing. Especially since all it cost here was a couple of t-shirts and stuffed toys.

    How about this approach... "Use the damned software!". Really, I dont know why people seem to think they should have complete freedom on a computer at work. The company owns the machine, and the company chooses the software... so long as the company involved the proper employees in evaluating which is the best software(s) to use... thats it, end of story. Employees really shouldnt have a choice one way or another.

    Again, treating your employees like shit is a great way to kill morale and drive them away from the company. I'm assuming you're not a manager.

    So instead, you get this boneheaded company in germany, that is now going to have a number of mail employee's that have no clue how to use the software, and thus loose productivity, because there ego refuses to let them be beat by a girl?!?!

    Management wouldn't do it if they didn't think it was a good idea, and that's another issue. They were doing what they had to in order to overcome linux-phobias. And they did a great job.

    Besides that point... does male ego really apply that much to intellectual persuits? I mean, do most people think men are better then women at using a computer because of genetics? I doubt the number is high.

    Really? There's not a perception that males are better at computers than females? Because as it stands, 90+% of CS grads are male, for whatever reason. The old "no girls on /." joke is so old, yet true, that it's just taken for granted. Yes, many men are unwilling to admit a woman can do ANYTHING better than they can. And you'd be surprised, evidently, about their distribution - it's not all neanderthal plumbers, but doctors, lawyers, and computer engineers too.

  • by Teancom ( 13486 ) <david@gnuconsulting . c om> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @05:03PM (#8252865) Homepage
    To see a woman demonstrating software? I mean, I assume they didn't put her on the stage and say thinks like "Hey! *Even* women can go this!". It was a 'by example' thing. So the women and non-chauvanistic men would be offended...why?
  • by Bob Uhl ( 30977 ) <eadmund42@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @06:08PM (#8253651) Homepage
    Yeah, well despite all the lipservice for equality, there's still plenty of cavemen who think only a man can do such-and-such.

    The American record for the mile is 3:47.69; the women's record is 4:16.71. That is worse then the men's worldwide record of 1895.

    There's plenty of thing men can do that women do more poorly, and plenty of things that women can do that men do more poorly.

  • FUCK YOU! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @07:01PM (#8254127)

    This post could have been from 1999.


    You are a fucking GENIUS!
  • by stor ( 146442 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @07:32PM (#8254383)
    you don't want every other women within earshot saying "asshole" under her breath

    Actually, I do. Assholes get laid. "Nice guys" don't. Sorry.

    Speaking as a "nice guy" I call bullshit.

    Every woman will have a different set of criteria for finding you attractive or unattractive.

    I really ought to write a book or at least a HOWTO. In the meantime let me suggest two behaviours that will help:

    1. Honesty. This is a challenge: the most important thing is to be honest with yourself which is _really_ difficult. I'm lucky enough to have been with women who've told me honestly what I needed to improve on. I'm still working on it ;)
    2. Assertiveness. From my experience most (not all) women don't like a guy to be too submissive. They like a dude to have a spine. This doesn't mean you should be nasty and forceful, just don't be a doormat. Some women like to wear the pants in a relationship but most seem to not appreciate being forced into that position.

  • by InadequateCamel ( 515839 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @07:36PM (#8254419)
    An appeal to racism (lacking an example, I assume you mean something like "the Blacks are taking all our money and jobs"?) is very different than what you are calling sexism here.

    To put it differently, is this out-and-out sexism, or is it just marketing a stereotype?

    A similar discussion took place here a few weeks ago when a woman accused salesmen of being sexist because she would be ignored in tech stores if her husband was present. The counterpoint was that the stereotype (as in learned behaviour by example, not discrimination) is that women are less interested and thus know less about technology and "geek toys".

    I know two women who can use Linux. TWO.

    As is mentioned in the adjacent post, if the product was marketed in a "Hey look! I can do this, and I'm a woman! A BLONDE woman, at that!" then that is sexism. But by having a woman carry out the demo as a professional it goes against the stereotype, the learned behaviour, and the message is all that much clearer. For those who don't have such a stereotype it is EXACTLY the same as having a man do the demo, except her voice probably doesn't carry quite as well :-)

    My 2 cents
  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @08:19PM (#8254705) Journal
    The problem *really* is, most "marketing" is centered around lying or pushing around half-truths, so people hear only what they want to hear about a given new product.

    If "marketing" really equated with "teaching people about the product", advertisements would point out all the pluses AND minuses.

    Linux lacking "marketing" is probably partially because open source developers don't stand to benefit in the long run if everyone goes around heralding their unfinished work as the ultimate solution to a problem. Folks find out it's not, and then they're soured to the whole project. Developers, unlike businesses, are just concerned with building the best product they can build. Marketing is about generating *sales* and bringing in the maximum amount of *profit*. These aren't an integral part of the Linux requirements for existance.
  • by greymond ( 539980 ) on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @08:20PM (#8254716) Homepage Journal
    That Sex sells...

    Any chick no matter how ugly can get paid for sex, and any guy seeing any chick doing something nerdy/geeky, makes her automatically attractive in the mind, if not physically by definition.

    I'm glad to see that a mighty superior all-powerful MS killer OS is getting people to make the switch by using squeek toys, scratch and sniff adds, and hot chicks in longerie. Yeah god forbid they try and get a larger user base by making the actual OS appeal to average non-techys UI desires and creating a more user friendly environment. Oh wait this is slashdot you don't care abotu those things here....
  • by autocracy ( 192714 ) <slashdot2007NO@SPAMstoryinmemo.com> on Wednesday February 11, 2004 @10:30PM (#8255582) Homepage
    Yeah, and how did you find out about Google? I've certainly never seen an ad. Do they make those?
  • by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Thursday February 12, 2004 @03:17AM (#8256096)
    What is your record for the mile?

    You are talking about the extremes there. How many women at your workplace can outrun you in the mile?

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.