46 Comments

Summary:

Being detained by U.S. Customs on my way to San Francisco for a conference on the future of work got me thinking about way that many people work now has changed in ways that make the job of governments — and border agents — a lot more complicated.

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I’m writing this from the Vancouver, British Columbia airport, where I am waiting for a flight to San Francisco after being detained by U.S. Customs for so long that I missed my original flight. A border patrol agent flagged me for “secondary inspection” because (as far as I can tell) I work for a company that exists only on the Internet and has writers — like me — who work from countries other than the U.S. Based on their responses to me over the hour or so I was detained, this seemed to confuse the agents I spoke with, and that got me thinking about some of the issues behind the future of work and how it is changing thanks to the web.

Ironically, I have been thinking a lot about those topics already, because I am flying to San Francisco in order to take part in GigaOM’s Net:Work conference on Thursday. The whole point of the conference is to talk about how the Internet is changing the way we work, and how companies and individuals need to adapt to these new realities in order to prosper. Among those realities are the fact that many companies — including GigaOM itself — have an increasingly distributed workforce, and that means employees who work remotely from different countries, both on contract and on staff.

So while I am an employee of GigaOM, I work from Toronto. But I don’t work for the Canadian subsidiary of GigaOM, because there isn’t one — at least not in the usual legal sense; and I don’t work in the Canadian office of the company, because there isn’t one of those either (unless you include my home office). Like many virtual or web-based companies, GigaOM has writers and other staff who work in all kinds of places, including Britain, Canada and a number of U.S. states.

Was it because I am a blogger?

Like many people who get detained by U.S. Customs when trying to enter the U.S., I don’t really know why I was flagged for “secondary inspection,” or why the border agent spent so long assessing my case (releasing me just five minutes before my flight was scheduled to take off). Was it because they were concerned that, by working from Toronto for a U.S. publication, I am somehow taking writing jobs away from Americans? Possibly. Or was it that by coming to the U.S. to take part in a conference, I am preventing worthy citizens from doing that work instead? I don’t know.

The first agent I spoke to wanted to know a lot about the conference. What was it about? The future of work and how it’s being disrupted by the Internet, I said. Who attends these conferences? Different types of people, I said — executives, entrepreneurs, anyone interested in work. Could I attend this conference, the agent asked? Sure, I said.

After being told to go and sit in a special holding area, where I waited for half an hour in the border equivalent of the DMV line, another agent asked most of these questions again: Who do you work for? GigaOM, I said. She wrote the words down on a sticky note. And what kind of company is it? It’s a blog, I said. “A “blog?” she asked, spitting the word out. Do you manage any employees? No, I said. What do you do? I write. About what? The Internet, I said. After another half an hour, with no explanation, she led me to the door: “Have a nice day,” she said, as she watched me sprint for the gate to see my plane departing without me.

The future of work is inherently borderless

I have no idea whether the agents I spoke to know anything about blogs, or whether they are aware of how the Internet is changing the way we work, and the way companies are organized, or how corporations function from a legal perspective. But they seemed to get hung up on whether I worked in an office, or for a Canadian subsidiary of GigaOM, or whether I was a manager, and what my exact duties were. The idea that I could just write about the Internet for any company located anywhere — including the U.S. — and get paid for doing it seemed to take them by surprise.

Am I taking jobs away from Americans by writing blog posts from Toronto, and should the U.S. be concerned about that kind of activity? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that anyone living anywhere theoretically has the ability to do what I do, for any company based anywhere in the world — just like anyone can be a journalist, or write software or develop apps or design products, or edit books or movies or music, or do a thousand other things that only require a PC and an Internet connection.

That can cause problems for governments, obviously, since they are used to seeing jobs as things that can be contained by national borders and put in discrete little boxes for neat categorization, so that the visas can be issues (and taxes can be assessed). But the reality is that many of us don’t live in such a neat and tidy world any more, and while that may look like a threat to some, it’s also a huge opportunity — and that’s part of what we mean when we talk about the future of work.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr users CBP Photography and Wesley Fryer

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  1. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/J3iZUq5S @amarchugg #news

  2. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/JSH2o8qK @amarchugg #news

  3. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/pr4kjfB6

  4. Ray Informatics Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/Ho12CxPB

  5. Crunked On Tech Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/WHn9P6v4

  6. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/dIv3vbbm

  7. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/0YTz5hX1

  8. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/Ef0RcSRW

  9. Roberts Chapman Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/fPkLkiCd

  10. Peter Alexandrov Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/c51bFUWy

  11. SMS TECHNOLOGY Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/qmIrg5iE Via @gigaom

  12. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/QMgt8AAK

  13. Mohammed Maqsoud Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/h6NnZWDa #technology

  14. Mitanshu Saini Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver airport, … http://t.co/hvQloXbL

  15. Marketing that w00ts Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/yQRMgjCp

  16. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/CpwXyJV5

  17. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/WrCzFB8B

  18. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  19. amazinginteriors Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/Krjnazt1

  20. Yasbella Sebastian Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/NQOQH1sz

  21. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/EuvnoHsa

  22. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/QFo9R7Ry

  23. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/BgGaFKhe

  24. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/s0xYgHUO

  25. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/U8VZyNFU

  26. Brad @ The Next Web Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    “@gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/zqq7FKta”

  27. this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  28. Yassine Haddioui Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  29. gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/eqZ3mQ14

  30. Important article and issues. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/s99FyUoc

  31. CherylMcKinnon Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  32. #GigaOM writer detained by U.S. Customs – his thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/tmHqnsCU

  33. Michael McGimpsey Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  34. Karthik Chandramouli Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  35. Terre Chartrand Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    @mathewi from @gigaom was detained at the Vancouver border. Writers, bloggers, this is a good read. http://t.co/9aRNA9bY

  36. Brian Alkerton Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  37. Robert Lendvai  Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  38. Today American Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    [409] Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work
    http://t.co/CKP8dJrx

  39. RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  40. RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  41. Gr8 post from @matthewi I have also been detained by TSA becuase I’m a blogger, working for US org, from someplace else http://t.co/UAEnBQXf

  42. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/fve14mFA

  43. God bless you, Nexus card… http://t.co/555VLbbl

  44. Post from @matthewi I have also been detained by TSA becuase I’m a blogger, working for US org, from someplace else http://t.co/UAEnBQXf

  45. Hannah Curious Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    @mathewi was detained by U.S. Customs – he works for a digital rather than physical entity and that confuses people: http://t.co/yte7jXxN

  46. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  47. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/8VmHWNSp

  48. @mathewi gets detained by U.S. Customs and lives to blog about the future of the borderless workplace http://t.co/LdzSCG18

  49. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/K8RaQSoA

  50. Nathania Johnson Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/nxRRAy17

  51. Javier F. Escribano Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/Mv1jQAbC

  52. RT @mathewi: “Detained by U.S. Customs,thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/U149nzYg. Will new Border deal enable net workers?

  53. I read this with great interest as I have been discussing a job with my current employer that I could do from anywhere in the world. The more I look into it however, I realize that there are many issues and this is just another one.

    1. John Harrington, Jr. Don Wednesday, December 7, 2011

      There certainly are many issues…IT administrators are looking for ways to keep all of their workers (more importantly their devices) under control/well managed. Forethought is the key. Here are some ways to get started: http://bit.ly/uY0mt4

  54. Blame blogging? Great @mathewi post on the future of work – and being detained by US Customs! http://t.co/BXhNBtp7

  55. Leandro Cordioli Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/8zE42IWK
    Interessante artigo: o futuro do trabalho

  56. In which @mathewi gets detained by U.S. Customs for being a blogger: http://t.co/VIjjs1UN

  57. Great piece, Mathew. On the topic, I’m most amazed that contemporary businesses rely on basically 19th or early 20th Century technologies, like telephone calls and U.S. Mail, to communicate with customers. I always say, “You realize we’re in the second decade of the 21st Century, right?”

    1. Telephone calls are almost always the BEST way to conduce business. Actual person-to-person conversations gets things done and decisions made far quicker than any “technology.” And please name some form of electronic communication that was invented in the 21st century. Even text messages are really just an update of the telegraph system.

  58. SourceMarketing Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/8ZMdTbxq #business #sourcemarketingdirect

  59. RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  60. RT @alexwilliams: @mathewi gets detained by U.S. Customs and lives to blog about the future of the borderless workplace http://t.co/LdzSCG18

  61. Welcome to customs. I hate to break it to you, but customs getting into Canada treats Americans the *exact same way* if you’re traveling there for anything that can be even remotely construed as business related. They act as though you’ve murdered their whole family in front of them.

    The reason they’re treating you that way is because if you’re entering the country for work, you need a work Visa (which I’m guessing you didn’t have and probably didn’t need).

    While it may just be security theater, most of them take their jobs very seriously. I can’t blame them – if you got into the country without a Visa, were supposed to have one, and it was later traced back to them, they’re not only out of that job, they’re out of pretty much ANY job that requires any kind of security clearance with the government ever again. If your way of life depended on you not making a certain mistake, I’d be willing to bet you’d err on the side of caution too.

  62. “But the reality is that many of us don’t live in such a neat and tidy world any more.” http://t.co/LSZm3fwr

  63. My experience is that they randomly hassle anyone traveling to the US for any reason other than tourism. Just about any wrinkle beyond a standard 40 hour work week “confuses” them.

  64. RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  65. Discover Online Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    [TechResearch] Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the … http://t.co/Bc4mXUvY #ID

  66. TrackDaddy Prod. Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/hcJaZyyg

  67. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/qxytsps8 #business

  68. so true & interesting…the world of work is changing: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/36Wn7hqO

  69. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouv… http://t.co/N9zNAZDj via @gigaom

  70. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/HEeij7f9 (via @gigaom)

  71. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  72. Deb Tech’s Only Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/3Bznn5vB

  73. TimC is right – its the same way getting into Canada. The Canadian customs… sometimes you just wonder: Are they just stupid?

  74. Great post by @mathewi on Web-based workers/bloggers “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/iFQmdn6L

  75. I don’t get this. Magazines, books, and newspapers have existed for 100’s of years and yet the concept of an independent contract journalist/blogger is foreign to some people? How do authors, who have no company that they work for and have no real way of being organized into any occupational category other than “author”, get by with all of their “research trips” and signing tours? What I think is really at the crux of this, is the growing inability to make concepts connect across different contexts. It’s as if no one is capable of thinking outside the box. I’m betting that “Sanitation Engineers” must get grilled for potential nuclear secrets all the time, based on their current mode of thinking.

    1. I get exactly what you are saying and as a teacher I see it all the time. In my opinion, this is the consequence of 20 years of an educational system based on standardized testing. Thinking outside the box does not work on standardized tests. Creative thought, curiosity, and (true) inquisitiveness are also not measured, and therefore, not encouraged. Also, security functionaries are famously unimaginative throughout history, so you’ve got that too…

  76. What about background checks for bloggers? Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/UGCkF9XQ

  77. Very relevant, great read – Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/sBgVK6x6

  78. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/EdlKNwrX

  79. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/4AiHntac

  80. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/fqteYb4B

  81. I had very similar problem in Calgary flying to SFO – working for “branch” in Canada and trying to go to meeting. They wanted to know who I worked for, how long that branch has been part of US ownership, where my pay comes from, wanted to see my ID badge, etc.

    Suffice to say, I don’t think you got called out for being a blogger.

  82. OriginalSignal Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work: Being detained by U.S. Customs on my way to Sa… http://t.co/HdpeA815

  83. I don’t think customs gives a crap about bloggers or virtual workplaces. You are not being singled out. You were being asked questions to see if you got nervous/angry/evasive. They could have asked you about any topic at all. They want to find holes in your responses and then grill you on them to see if you are hiding something.

    That’s how it’s always been when coming to the USA; US citizen or not.

    US Customs does not give a crap about the future of the workplace.

    1. True, that multiple people asking repetitive questions is standard security practice. The idea being to trip you up and flush out what you may be hiding. A similar fluster the interviewee practice is common in job interviews.

      I would suggest that you may have indeed been singled out. Go back and read some of your “net neutrality” posts, which are of a heavy political tone I personally find somewhat out of place in a technology blog. An American citizen making such posts should pretty much expect to end up on some lists. A foreign national? Working outside the country? Count on it. All those get the consumers to spend more analytics you folks constantly crow about come back with a reality bite. Welcome to the real world. You are free to post whatever you want, but you are also free to enjoy the consequences. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with whether these practices are right or not. But that is the state of things. And to become indignant over a reality check shows either cluelessness over reality, or some youthfull unearned sense of entitlement to be separate from it.

      1. So you’re saying you believe U.S. customs harasses people because of things they write on blogs about foreign policy? That’s a pretty frightening view of the world.

    2. I have done similar law enforcement jobs at airports around the world. Basically your looking for the unusual, the odd or something that doesn’t fit. These are possible indications of nefarious activities.

      Knowing a fair bit about alert lists on the IT and policy side I can assure you that unless your a crim or associate, attached to terrorism, controversial, formally been caught out for breaking the law or currently suspected you won’t be on a warning list. Anything above that is paranoid.

      The people doing this work in my experience are dedicated, have specialist skills, usually well educated (degree or above) trying to find the small amount of bad in the vastly bigger numbers of good.

  84. BRAND INFECTION Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    I had the same problem last year when I wanted to go to San Francisco for holidays and visiting the Web 2.0 Expo. To me it seemed the problem was due to my “weird” name (arabic first name, I’m European) and being a blogger and webdesigner myself. I thought I’d be one of the few, was pretty furious to having missed my plan and once again answering stupid questions like “Do you have relatives in Russia?”…but it seems others have similar problems :)

  85. Go read @mathewi on Web-based workers/bloggers “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/p7oEXb1S

  86. Hey Matthew, I feel your pain! I just joined GigaOM as a full time employee and by complete coincidence had my interview for US citizenship on my second day at GigaOM. The interrogation officer, I mean immigration officer did not believe me that I only have one phone number, my cell and that I do not have a desk number. She kept asking the same question in multiple different ways, hoping for another answer. Someone needs to bring this department into 21st Century… As part of the routine interview questions she also asked me if I was or ever have been a member of the communist party. Does it even still exist really!?

    1. The communist party? Aren’t most of those countries allies or bankrolling half the western democracies?! You should have answered: Yes, but I didn’t inhale!

    2. Sorry to hear that, Jo — that is ridiculous.

  87. border Customs are all a-holes sometimes, it’s like they purposely try to get you miss your trip. there’s not much more than that really, just pray that you meet someone with a brain and don’t bother you just because they can.

  88. After spent time detained by US Customs, @mathewi is not angry, publishes a great post on the future of work http://t.co/YbKJO1GK

  89. RT @Rosental: After spent time detained by US Customs, @mathewi isn’t angry, publishes great post on the future of work http://t.co/mb2L081c

  90. Chris Albrecht Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @ryanlawler: In which @mathewi gets detained by U.S. Customs for being a blogger: http://t.co/VIjjs1UN

  91. If you are a working journalist you require an “I” visa to visit the USA. Unless you have one of these you probably should have been denied entry. By the way, Kim Kardashian got into trouble in Australia for this type of offence http://www.gossipcop.com/kim-kardashian-australia-immigration-department-watch-list-visa-tourist-work/

    1. An I-type visa is for journalists who work for foreign entities who are working in the U.S. — I’m an employee of a U.S. company who works in Canada and visits the U.S. periodically.

      1. If you are not a US citizen, then you have to have a visa and can be stopped randomly if you look suspect to the agent. As a journalist you should expect trouble at borders. Working for a foreign subsidiary of a US company makes no difference, it’s about taking jobs from citizens.

  92. Salazar @ Teelook Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/4iPGXLe4

  93. As a working journalist you require an I visa to visit the US, without this you should be denied entry.

  94. I don’t think the reasons you were selected aren’t as sinister as you suspect. These guys are performing threat assessments on everyone, and to a lesser degree worrying about labor issues. When you look at the way you describe yourself, it’s easy to take it as nondescript, bordering on evasive. If you said you were a technology writer working for an internet publication that has staff distributed in multiple locations, you’d probably get fewer hassles. Your description of the conference is a little vague – if you’d said it was about technology influences on workplace practices it would give them something more tangible they could understand. Giving them a couple of URL’s would probably help prove your legitimacy. A key indicator is where you use the word disrupt (which they will probably read as interfere) and they ask if they could attend the conference. I think they’re just trying to figure out if you’re some sort of internet based terrorist on his way to a terrorist meeting.

    If you want some fun, after they stamp your passport, ask them why they *all* have guns. (Don’t offer your own ideas) Do they seriously think they’re going to get into a shootout in the arrivals hall of a major airport in the middle of 500 people where every passenger is prescreened and aircraft pre cleared?

  95. Martell Thornton Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work: But I don’t work for the Canadian subsidiary o… http://t.co/s8fwCxuU

  96. By killing a few thousand people, bin Laden forever changed the very fabric of ‘freedom’ in the USA. A small example: http://t.co/mvTqdJ3z

  97. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/5iaOz44C via @mathewi

  98. Duncan McFadzean Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    http://t.co/4eyXybip // future of work seems alien to US.customs

  99. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work: Ironically, I have been thinking a lot about t… http://t.co/cuZGTny8

  100. What?

    Do you know what the purpose of customs is? The answer to all your questions is no. No they didn’t care that you “took an US job” and no they didn’t care that you were attending a conference than a citizen could have attended in your place.

    They stopped you cause your story stinks. It has nothing to do with not fitting in a neat box or anything like that, it just has to do with the box you do fit in is full of holes.

  101. Lyndon Johnson Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @ryanlawler: In which @mathewi gets detained by U.S. Customs for being a blogger: http://t.co/VIjjs1UN

  102. Tech the Future Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  103. Border patrol agents need to be educated. My daughter was interrogated to the point that she was about to cry when returning to the U.S. from Niagara Falls. We parents were interrogated by one agent, and she was interrogated by a separate, young, male agent. When someone has all the proper identification, and when the border agent tries to bully a citizen just because of his position of power / control, he should be reported and forced to undergo retraining. Matthew’s customs agent falls into that category.

  104. Chris Barnhart Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    [GigaOM] Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver … http://t.co/nFUGTXUM

  105. My guess is that they were trying to figure out whether you had the right visa or not. Had a Canadian friend who commuted between Vancouver and the US weekly who got detained and eventually blocked from coming to the US because whatever visa he had didn’t match the title on his business card.

    The comments from others about an I-visa for Journalists are amusing since so many journalists look down upon bloggers as trespassers on their turf. Does a blogger need an I-visa?

    1. In any case, the I-visa is for foreign journalists travelling to work in the U.S., not for employees of a U.S. company. As far as I can tell there is no visa that fits what I do.

  106. Steve Woodgate Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    @paulwiggins is a blogger a journalist? http://t.co/AdkUnLXs should this guy be required to have an “I” visa ?

  107. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/bhMsDdnX via @gigaom

  108. Andres Waldraff Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/BXcO60mo via @gigaom

  109. Wendy Cheuvront Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/KYqV6wBV

  110. 블로깅매체와 일의 미래 RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/XLxsdFh9 @socialhow회사분들보세요

  111. RT @Karen_C_Wilson: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/5iaOz44C via @mathewi

  112. Work really isn’t defined by the confines of a border: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/JTtwTXyq

  113. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/5Co2S2aG

  114. In Barry’s Amerika US Customs goes out of its way to harass people: http://t.co/a82HO1vL The Audacity of the Police State. #obama #p2

  115. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  116. Whoops . . . cut off the link on that last one – http://t.co/HWZpGhIP

  117. Hugo Rodger Brown Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/MVTwCgxN via @zite

  118. Mike Mccormack Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work: The whole point of the conference is to talk a… http://t.co/FhOSG76O

  119. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work — Tech News and Analysis http://t.co/rmdfY60S #ucoms

  120. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/5mSMCvfV < Happens everywhere

  121. Lots of people get pulled aside for secondary inspection. Sometimes they just do it randomly, even to travelers with legitimate work visas. It happens. Your situation is probably nothing special, especially since you eventually did get through. (Too bad about missing your flight. That happens to seasoned travelers occasionally too)

  122. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/AS2iTcM4 /by @mathewi /via @gigaom

  123. chuq von rospach Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/X26RBwxn

  124. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work — Tech News and Analysis http://t.co/DINIRXHC

  125. Immigration officials from both the US and Canada suck. But it’s designed that way.

    What I would do is work towards getting an I visa AND sign up for one of the “Trusted Traveler” programs like Nexus Air.

  126. Pierre Phaneuf Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @rezendi: “But the reality is that many of us don’t live in such a neat and tidy world any more.” http://t.co/LSZm3fwr

  127. kevin fitchard Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/vGX5TsTd >> @mathewi is a suspicious looking character…

  128. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/mVwvTCOa via @zite

  129. RT @rezendi: “But the reality is that many of us don’t live in such a neat and tidy world any more.” http://t.co/LSZm3fwr

  130. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/fNazz49U

  131. Canadians have problems to cross US border: http://t.co/1HBhf2ba so whole this NAFTA thingy is a scam obviously.

  132. James Bryce Clark Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    “Detained .. thoughts on the future of work” from GigaOm’s frustrated non-terrorist @mathewi: http://t.co/mJwR9hyr HT @datachick

  133. Been there “@mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zNrvHMC4”

  134. Asheesh Rastogi Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  135. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/tUJ6rPtP

  136. Jonatan Feldman Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/k4UlgbFI

  137. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/StkYRImZ via @zite

  138. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/hPlrMJUu #Ingram

  139. RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  140. RT @mathewi: this is how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  141. Great post by Mathew Ingram.

    He used to write for the Globe and Mail, now he writes for GigaOM. What he writes… http://t.co/Iz56UV5J

  142. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/Zo3TDOCh

  143. Steven De Costa Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/AhjU8Sqg

  144. Nathanael Boehm Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @starl3n: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/AhjU8Sqg

  145. in case you missed it earlier, how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/zYeoybLp

  146. RT @mathewi: how I spent my day: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/Eh5XbkuT

  147. RT @mathewi: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/hq8RdaeF

  148. I naively said “I’m here to meet with some of my international co-workers in Vancouver. We work virtually from home on the amazon compute cloud.” when I entered Canada. Instant 3 hours of interrogation in immigration.

  149. bet it was some content you have written, not your blog job.

  150. Alexander J Baldwin Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @Ed: RT @mathewi: “Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work” http://t.co/DykIoHkz #BorderlessWorkforce

  151. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  152. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/IqpnREzl

  153. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  154. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/3pCUFa3Q

  155. I had my first encounter with border cops almost 40 years ago. The mentality was the same. Within the dominion at the time, they were not required even to tell you their name. In the United States, that also was true – perhaps a global affectation. In the States, apart from border cops, only the CIA could refuse to ID themselves.

    Anyway, I was held for hours – released into the UK with my passport stamped that I had to be out of the country within 30 days. I dealt with three coppers all told. All just as ignorant of anything except what they were told to watch for.

    Useless.

  156. Jeffrey Rodman Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @DaveMichels: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work — Tech News and Analysis http://t.co/rmdfY60S #ucoms

  157. I’ve been “customsed” more than a few times. I reside in the US, and I always dread leaving the country because it is likely I will be hassled. While I know your piece was not about H-1B visas, immigration and all that I do feel there is a relevant segway. Why does the US place so many hurdles in the way of skilled, employed, tax paying, house buying, economy expanding, completely legal immigrants? The “stealing jobs” argument has been disproven so many times it has become cliche among those “in the know”.

  158. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  159. Brandy Luscalzo Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work:
    I’m writing this from the Vancouver, … http://t.co/9kVjtPos #gigaom

  160. Darren Barefoot Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Here’s @mathewi on being detained by US Customs. I’ve been there–it ain’t fun. http://t.co/QecLeW6P

  161. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/Xtrd1Zhm

  162. Peter Vander Auwera Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/fhwRTWxr

  163. RT @dbarefoot: Here’s @mathewi on being detained by US Customs. I’ve been there–it ain’t fun. http://t.co/cfVgaAMg

  164. RT @petervan: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/wNQKywWI

  165. burritojustice Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RT @dbarefoot: Here’s @mathewi on being detained by US Customs. I’ve been there–it ain’t fun. http://t.co/QecLeW6P

  166. RT @petervan: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/cZnKGc1r

  167. RT @NoFxtAbd: RT @petervan: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/HbQ35Igv

  168. Customs, and especially their agents, couldn’t care less about American jobs and whether you’re taking them away or not.

    They’re looking for unusual things…people and actions that don’t fit the profile of “normal.” Not all work can be done so fluidly (without borders, done anywhere, multi-national, etc.). And I doubt they meet many people who have such work freedom or work for companies that match the profile of GigaOM:

    – Multi-national
    – Highly distributed workforce
    – No official offices in most countries it operates in
    – Blog!!! (see Lieberman’s recent fearmongering)

    To us, it’s normal. For customs agents, it’s unusual and thus suspect.

  169. Frequent Traveler Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    There are many factors that play into this. US Custom agents fall into a couple of categories.
    1) What side of the bed the woke up
    2) I got picked on as a kid growing up and now is my time for pay back
    3) I hate business people that travel internationally since they most likely make lots more money than I do
    4) You don’t look right. My gut tells me you’re a douche bag and therefore require second screening
    5) You come form the middle east and I believe you may be carrying more than $10k cash
    6) Where we’re you? what do you do for a living? how long where you out of the country?…. welcome back home!

    I like number 6. But, have had to deal with two second inspections during the past couple years and I travel abroad 8 to 10 times year.

  170. @mathewi (a Canadian citizen) is detained by U.S. Customs – considers the future of work http://t.co/420UOckt

  171. “You write? For a blog? From Canada?” Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/zdvijoZb

  172. RT @Rsquared: “You write? For a blog? From Canada?” Detained by US Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/4HQhmPZQ

  173. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  174. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  175. Great piece Matthew. Ironic that this happened on your way to a Future of Work conference, but at least it inspired this real world example of how the world of work is changing while some pockets are still adjusting to the new reality.

    Next time when customs agents ask what you do, just say “famous author”. When they look at you puzzled, you say “you know, like Hemmingway”. Then grab your passport and be on your way.

  176. This always comes up for visa applications for business trips, where it is easier to just say you are a tourist, since your meetings are all in hotels and you can (and do) do your work from anywhere, any time. Govt employees will be the last people on earth to ‘get’ this change (which has already occurred).

  177. It’s really simple. When you enter a country, you have to prove you are not intending to remain there permanently, or to work without the right to do so. Normally you get the benefit of the doubt, especially if you’re clearly on holiday. If have reason to believe you may plan to remain, or to work without a visa, then they ask questions.

    If you say you work for a US company, but you live in Canada, and you’re travelling to the US for work purposes, they probably had reason to believe you intended to stay given that’s where your employer is…

  178. Oh, and was it Customs or Immigration who detained you? Very different things. One worries about what you’re bringing into the country, the other about you being there :-)

    Were you travelling with checked luggage?

    1. It was the Customs and Border Patrol — and no checked luggage.

  179. RT @GraceMcDunnough: RT @petervan: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/wNQKywWI

  180. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  181. Bridges M Consulting Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    ‘Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work’ BY @mathewi http://t.co/vCknOWcp

  182. @mikebutcher somethings don’t change. check this out. http://t.co/wBMlzg0t

  183. This post from @mathewi sounds familiar. Been there, done that… Too often. http://t.co/lTWPAwcs

  184. invisibleinkdigital Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/p7yl2n9c

  185. RT @Rsquared: “You write? For a blog? From Canada?” Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/zdvijoZb

  186. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/ioVZzSZv #writing #socialmedia

  187. I’ve experienced confused customs agents… RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/3TR7wBq8

  188. Toddington Intnl Inc Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    The lack of geographical constraints on information workers poses unique challenges to immigration law enforcement http://t.co/hfH2ypkT

  189. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/J3E7AueN via @zite

  190. Interesting Read! Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/C8EMphH7

  191. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/w2E15BUk via @zite

  192. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/dFvlimu0

  193. Jessica Stillman Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/zRV7MygF

  194. RT @gigaom: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/rvHrgjqt

  195. Anyone else experienced this? Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/nOXWiQSJ

  196. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/hZ8pIA9v

  197. The locationless company, the future of work and why governments need to overcome 19th century thinking: http://t.co/zh4lRqb6

  198. RT @sgauder: Anyone else experienced this? Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/nOXWiQSJ

  199. http://t.co/fhWLpoaB knowledge workers know no boundaries.

  200. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/WwdCXRv9 via @zite

  201. RT @EntryLevelRebel: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/zRV7MygF

  202. Need to rethink work permits RT @TomLasseter USCIS doesn’t always inspire confidence @zhongnanhai Detained by USCIS http://t.co/aXCSJD9R

  203. Ron M Zettlemoyer Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    RT @EntryLevelRebel: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/zRV7MygF

  204. The clash of paradigms: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work http://t.co/VyGix8cu via @zite

  205. You wouldn’t have missed your plane if you showed up earlier. Everyone knows to arrive 4 hours early for an international flight to be safe.

  206. RT @dbarefoot: Here’s @mathewi on being detained by US Customs. I’ve been there–it ain’t fun. http://t.co/QecLeW6P

  207. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work: http://t.co/9cX92LY7

  208. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work by @mathewi http://t.co/LKr9w5Fs (via @summify from @melle @alexwilliams)

  209. RT @davidcrow: Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work by @mathewi http://t.co/LKr9w5Fs (via @summify from @melle @alexwilliams)

  210. “The Future of Work is Inherently Borderless” RT @acroll RT @Mathewi: Detained by US Customs http://t.co/ATOANf7c

  211. fascinating article by @mathewi on the complexities of #futureofwork – working cross borders and its impact on US http://t.co/EQKWOGFZ

  212. Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work — http://t.co/rMFg6yAS

  213. Jerome Gentolia Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: Some thoughts about the future of work — Tech News and Analysis http://t.co/4EtHuj79

  214. RT @ericrumsey: “The Future of Work is Inherently Borderless” RT @acroll RT @Mathewi: Detained by US Customs http://t.co/ATOANf7c

  215. chris arkenberg Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Detained by U.S. Customs: thoughts about the future of work [buried lede: The future of work is inherently borderless] http://t.co/HEUdMYxf