Lightening the Load

iPad Only.
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Me and my backpack and walker. Image by Joe Bustillos.

Me and my backpack and walker. Image by Joe Bustillos.

This past week when I went into the office I left the ranks of the computer-backpack downtrodden. Over a year ago, back when I was ill, I had to carry everything in a bag because I needed both hands to support myself with my walker. It was bad enough to have to use a bag just to carry a water bottle or anything, but going to the office was all the worse because I had to lug around all this heavy gear like some broken down pack mule. I experimented with a few things like using my Mac Mini at work and iPad for everything else, but they were just too slow and I had problems with things running different versions of the software I used, so I gave up. Then I got stronger and didn’t mind carrying the computer backpack as much.

As fate would have it I recently installed some software on the work laptop that made a bunch of stuff incompatible, so I needed to have the thing re-imaged and that made it run much better than it had in the past. That made me think that maybe I could forgo my former pack-mule existence and just carry about my iPad mini like I’d previously imagined. I spent some time making sure that I had all the software and documents I needed on the work laptop and the means to keep everything in sync. When I thought that I’d tested everything and made sure it all worked I went to work without any backpack of any kind. It was glorious. And thanks to my 5.11 Tactical Pant (cargo pants modeled after their military and law-enforcement brothers), everything I needed fit in my pockets. No giant backpack carrying all of my worldly possessions, cables, connectors, adapters and the like. Just my iPad mini, a small external-hard-drive (because I had some image collections I’d forgotten to load on the work laptop), a ziplock baggy with a few iOS connectors, a micro-fiber cloth & Olloclip iPhone camera adapter and my Pencil (an iPad stylus from Paper 53) all fit comfortably in my pants’ pockets.

I know that this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, “So you have a computer at home and a computer at work and you’ve got weird cargo pants to fit your tablet in”… but having carried a laptop to work and back everyday going back to when I first started teaching in the mid-90s… hell, I was carrying my personal laptop going back to my phone company days… so, I’m happy to think that I can give my poor back and shoulders a break and be able to get away with carrying my technology in my iPhone and my iPad-mini. First-world problem, I know, but it’s taken over a year to get here and I’m going to enjoy the freedom to have my hands-free and my back unencumbered.

Not Me. Toulouse, France by theritters, Some rights reserved (Attribution).

Not Me. Toulouse, France by theritters, Some rights reserved (Attribution).

Resources:

5.11 #74251 Men’s Cotton Tactical Pant

Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens Solution for iPhone 5/5s – RED/Black

Walnut + Magnetic Snap Pencil. Made for Paper.

Graphite Pencil by FiftyThree

image: Toulouse, France by theritters, Some rights reserved (Attribution), http://www.flickr.com/photos/theritters/2681776959/

The Frustrated Confessions of a former Tele-Commuter

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The recent kerfuffle about TWiT.tv letting go of news anchor Tom Merritt resurfaced the conversation about whether teams can really work together when some team members work remotely. Turns out that it may have been more a contract issue than an “in the office” issue, but it still is a thing that even high tech companies have prejudices connected to team members not working in the same physical space. It seems counterintuitive that companies connected to technology would struggle with this, the more famous example being when Yahoo CEO, Marissa Meyer decided to pull the plug on their work-from-home program. How could a company based on Internet usage close down one of the cherished promises of the Internet: working from home? Having spent only two-months working from home this past year, I can say that there are real issues that need to be address by any enterprise undertaking having team members work remotely.

If your job primarily requires interacting with data or others via a computer screen than it would seem pretty obvious that the job can be done almost anywhere with a good Internet connection. Small tech start-ups routinely are small teams where no one lives in the same city. Hell, one IBM-er (NOT a small start-up), manages his world-wide team from the Canary Islands and he does it without relying on email! So where does this scenario not work, why is it that Yahoo is calling back all it’s employees and Chief-TWiT, Leo Laporte, cite the need to have the News Director in the office as a requirement?

For the employer the question is how to track employee productivity and for the worker how to interact with coworkers. The first one seems like it should be relatively easy to deal with, but may require the manager to do more than look to see who is sitting in their cubes to get a sense of whether the employees are doing their jobs. This is where the yearly employee improvement plan and review might come to actually mean something and should be more carefully constructed and considered. On the worker-interaction end of the question, my office actually began a two-day-a-week-work-from-home plan because we needed the time away from each other to focus on the paper-work because we enjoyed each other’s company so much that we weren’t always getting the paperwork done. But when my work-from-home stretched from two-days to two-months I missed the energy that I get from my coworkers when they discuss what they’re working on or when we’re troubleshooting some problem. But the real hassle working-remotely was when I tried to participate in meetings where most of the team was meeting physically somewhere. I very much believe in the tools like Skype and Go-To-Meeting/Go-To-Training as far as staying connected. But the problem with mixed-some-present-some-remote meetings is that unless there is an individual monitor set up for every remote person and that what slides the presenter is using is directly piped through something like Go-To-Meeting, then those remotely sitting in are reduced to the largely ignored peanut gallery. You would think that this wouldn’t be a problem for a work group that’s been teaching purely online for five-years, but it really was a point of failure. But just like manager’s not being able to manage their groups by tallying butts in seats, one cannot conduct mixed meetings without putting extra effort into providing the means for those attending remotely to have a real presence in the meeting.

One monitor per remote participant

One monitor per remote participant

And just like teaching online, it is not enough to have the tools and just convert what you normally do to something more “techy.” It requires some work-culture changes and more focused uses of technology to get the job done. When Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur interviewed the remote IBM-er, Luis Suarez, he shared that he carefully chose his communication tools, including in-house blogs, collaborative platforms and twitter, so that his managers and coworkers were always in the loop on what he was working on. But he added that it’s not about the tools but on the office culture that understands the job they are trying to accomplish and that just clearing one’s email inbox is not the job. That’s the last point in Chris Pirillo’s five steps that are essential to having a successful virtual workspace experience:

  • In Virtual Offices, Close Communication is Key
  • Define Goals for the Virtual Offices of Your Team
  • Train Your Virtual Offices Team Well
  • Set Performance Standards for Your Virtual Offices
  • Foster a Collaborative Mindset Among Virtual Offices

I completely believe that teams spread across the globe can do great work, but it requires extra work by all parties. Most of us already think about work differently from a place to do something to something we do… we just need to be more focused that we stay connected with team members using the tech we’re already using.

Resources:
- http://joebustillos.com/2013/12/06/twit-drops-anchor/
- http://inside.twit.tv/blog/2013/12/5/changes-at-twit-part-1.html
- http://allthingsd.com/20130222/physically-together-heres-the-internal-yahoo-no-work-from-home-memo-which-extends-beyond-remote-workers/
- http://fract.al/team
- http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/01/luis-suarez/
- http://twit.tv/show/netnight-amber-and-leo/204
- http://www.lockergnome.com/windows/2013/04/25/virtual-offices-successful-office-365/

Inkling by Wacom [video]

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Uploaded by Wacom on Aug 29, 2011

Wacom introduces Inkling, a new digital sketch pen that captures a digital likeness of your work while you sketch with its ballpoint tip on any sketchbook or standard piece of paper.

Me: Looks great, maybe I’ll actually use a more natural interface with a pen versus a mouse on my macs. [sigh]

Book Book for iPhone

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This is kind’a scary. Long ago I decided that I should not be ashamed of my continual attraction to computer/iPad/iPhone cases any more than what I’ve noted of the attraction of my female friends to all things shoes and accessories. So here’s my latest acquisition in the world of iPhone 4 cases, the Book Book for iPhone4 by TwelveSouth. My one and only venture in filio/wallet type iphone cases was Griffin Tech’s Elan Passport Wallet, which I only used once or twice and then exiled to the “was a good idea at the time” drawer.

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