Fooling the Boss

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{"A friend of mine, who recently began working from home, told me that he was terrified to step away from the computer in case the boss tried to iChat him. As a seasoned work-at-homer, I mentioned that bathroom breaks were acceptable even for us lowly freelancers. "Well," he began with some hesitation, "what if I need to take the dog to the beach?"

Ah ha! Now that is a different kettle of carp.

Obviously, my friend was in need of an iChat auto-responder. Here's what I've come up with:

My goal was to use tools to identify a chat initiated by the boss, select that chat's window, accept the chat, and type a series of responses that make it appear that, as much as I'd like to chat with my superior, I'm too busy with more important business matters.

I used two tools for the job -- Pygmy Software's free "," -- a utility for creating auto-responses in iChat -- and Script Software's $20 "," -- a very cool macro utility.

iCAR is necessary because it can auto-respond to any message iChat receives. Regrettably, it can only issue a single auto-response and a single reply would be unlikely to fool a savvy boss. What it will do, however, is select an incoming chat and make it active -- something I couldn't make iKey do.

I configured iCAR so that it would auto-reply when my status was Available, Away, and Idle. I set the Timing so that it would reply to every message. Finally, I asked it to trigger an AppleScript as a response and left the AppleScript selection field blank. The idea here is that I didn't want iCAR to do anything once it had selected and accepted the chat and a blank AppleScript does nothing except alert my computer (not the boss') that it failed to carry out its job.

I then turned to iKey where I created a sequence that goes something like this:

Wait until the front window contains "nameofboss" -- nameofboss is the name that appears in the iChat window

Wait 8 seconds -- so it looks like I'm responding quickly but not inhumanly so

Type "Hang on a sec, I'm on the phone..." -- busy yet casual response

Type Return -- to send the first response

Pause 50 seconds -- long enough to communicate that this is a long call but that you'd really like to talk with the boss as soon as possible

Type "Sorry, I'm still on the phone..." -- second response

Type Return -- to send second response

Wait 2 minutes -- you're trying to get off but you just can't

Type "I'm really sorry, this is going to go on for awhile. I'll get back to you as soon as I can." -- the payoff

Type Return -- to send the third response

Wait 5 seconds -- brief pause

Type "Bye!" -- end it

Wait 4 seconds -- briefer pause

Type Command-W -- this ends the chat before your boss can ask any questions

I attached the sequence to iChat and configured it so it would repeat 10 times.

The caveats:

Before you leave your Mac, make iChat the active application. iKey may not see your boss' chat window if it's running in the background.

Should your boss try to contact you later in the day and be greeted with this same scheme, you are so busted.

Should your boss log out of the chat before the sequence is complete he's going to be suspicious when you continue to send him updates on how your call is going.

I did this largely as a joke (and I do like a puzzle) and anyone who seriously thinks they can fool their employer with such a cheesy trick deserves to lose their job.

It's possible (even likely) that this could be done more elegantly with AppleScript. If you've got a better solution, I'd love to hear it. Please forward your comments using the Comments link below."}

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