The Auto Mouse

Speaking of Lineage, there was a period when the "auto mouse" was a big headache. The auto mouse (or auto clicker) was the software or hardware that automated the mouse's point-and-click, so enabling automatic farming (monster hunting). I was so surprised when I learned it: it even could recognize the screen pixels and execute appropriate routines.

Disclaimer: I was in the Lineage team in the very early days (1998), so my Lineage stories are usually heard from my friends who were in the team or being published.

Playing time was the most crucial differentiator of MMORPG games in the old days, and many thought using any automation was unfair. The company also considered it evil because it would introduce excessive in-game inflations. Nowadays, it might sound a bit odd because auto-farming is instead a convenience feature than abuse. So, I thought it was a forgotten word in the legacy. But last week, I heard a very similar word: the mouse jiggler.

I heard it from a 'The Daily' podcast episode: "The Rise of Workplace Surveillance." We all might know employers use some level of surveillance technology on their employees. But the story was the scariest story that I'd ever heard. There was a story of a VP of a business software company. She worked from home (like many these days), but she found she got far less paycheck. She learned that the company had used surveillance software to record her computer screen every random 10 minutes; it determined her activities, and the company paid only for those active hours. People use the mouse jiggler to deceive that surveillance software - making it think the user is active.

The episode touches on many perspectives. Indeed, the pandemic lowered the bar for introducing this kind of tracking. There were both advocates and opponents; some employees favored this because they believed it assessed their work fairly. For me, I don't want to be in such a company. Not only because I do not like to be tracked, but because it means that the company doesn't have any other method of evaluation but time. There could be some jobs where time is the right measure, but as a software engineer, I don't think it is the right way to evaluate an engineer in a tech company. I know my company also makes employees install similar software that can read and record users' behavior. But I don't believe my company would exploit it that far.

Although the pandemic is still around the corner, I try to visit the office twice a week at least. Not only because of free (delicious, yes, it is) lunches but also because I believe the interaction at the office is still significant/effective for productivity. The after-pandemic workplace couldn't be the same as before. In such a hybrid workplace, flexibility would be the most crucial thing in the new world, and I believe just time is the most inflexible - though how precious it is.

P.S.: Nevertheless, I have to admit that the following video made a tiny scar on my belief.