Category: "Living the Life"
On my recent trip to D.C. I hooked up with an old college friend and his wife, both of whom are attorneys for different government agencies. The wife, who is the more technically astute of the two, was a regular telecommuter; the husband an occasional one. Neither do so anymore because the security restrictions have become overbearing, and the implementing technology confusing and policy restrictions on telecommuting have become onerous.
Most importantly though… The nail in the coffin of their telecommuting days… A new policy on "snow days"… Telecommuters must use PTO to not work on any days that the office is closed, and all non-telecommuting workers get a day off, due to weather making it unsafe to drive to work.
We know managerial resistance is still the biggest reason that distributed work is still the next big thing. And of course a good chunk of our consulting revenue comes from organizations needing help in developing and implementing distributed work programs. But it's still discouraging to hear that the message just isn't getting through the way it should. Could there be a leadership issue here?
-- Jim Ware, Managers Continue to Resist Telecommuting in the Future of Work Weblog
A leadership issue indeed, and all too prevalent.
A friend asks why he bought new licenses for Microsoft Office, when Google Apps have all the features he'll ever need. Todd, maybe you felt that you needed to suffer. There are so many alternatives now, though Microsoft Office is the standard in the business world, and if you must send editable DOC, XLS, PPT, etc files out, you need M$ Office, as true interoperability and format preservation are still dreams. But Todd, what about OpenOffice.org for your Windows and Linux machines, or NeoOffice for your MacOSX machines? What about Zoho if Google Apps left you longing for more?
I feel very lucky that we've managed to convince our latest customers to use open source and self-hosted blogs, wikis and collaboration software. We have an instantly updated knowledgebase and a record of how each decision was made.
Oh, well, Todd, remember, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
Powercast, which first came out of the closet at CES in January of this year, winning best Emerging Technology for 2007, has been getting some press this weekend [Engadget, CNN Money Business2.0, Ben Metcalfe - no not April's Fool].
While Philips was the first partner announced, the Business2.0 article states that over 100 companies have now signed-up. I'm hoping that one of these will come out with a cigarette lighter Powercast transmitter, filling the company car with energy giving rays of life for our cell phones, Palms and Bluetooth headsets.
Powercast is the first [I think] commercial application of an idea that has been around for a very long time: beaming electrical power over radio waves. While existing in science fiction and comic books for as long as I can remember, the problem of efficiency and loss has prevented a practical product until now. Powercast technology uses a transmitter, small enough to be plugged in just about anywhere, and a very small, relatively inexpensive receiver suitable for wireless sensors, mobile devices, cell phones and computer peripherals, with the result being the transmission of 6 VDC over about 1 meter between transmitter and receiver, automatically "trickle charging" the device whenever it is in range. Using very low power [wattage] making the FCC happy, the receiver regulates the input, providing a constant voltage as required by the device. This would be much more convenient than inductive rechargers, such as from SpashPower or the eCoupled technology, which haven't seen much uptake as yet by the device industry. With the inductive charging technology, also around since before the turn of the century before last, you must place the device to be charged within the magnetic field of the charger - perhaps a few millimeters, essentially touching, hence the SpashPad. With Powercast, you only need to be within one meter, and you can keep using
the device whatever device is being charged.
While Powercast isn't the dream of having your smart phone powered by the cell tower, it will
- help road warriors trim down the number of power converters they need to carry about
- encourage the use of
bothBluetooth and may even help bring actual UWB and Zigbee devices to market
- make life easier for medical implant users
- help us aging, forgetful types
- eliminate that old excuse "I can't talk right now, my battery is dying"
One question that must always be asked is what health risks may be posed by such a device. Powercast has a series of FAQs available as PDFs, including one on health and safety. Be warned though, that after asking the standard identifying questions of name, email, company, phone number, and address, you are not brought to a download site; rather, the PDFs are emailed to you. Somewhat annoying [I hate the practice of forcing email to do file transfer], but it does force one to provide a valid email address if you want to get the information. While I can understand the desire of a company to understand who is gathering information on them, this seems to fly in the face of current open marketing practices. For example, there isn't a link to their corporate blog.
OK, rant over, back to health issues. According to their FAQ, which while somewhat generic, discussing RF hazards as a class, seems reasonable. Powercast uses RF and is no more dangerous than any other RF device, such as TV, radio, Bluetooth, etc. Their range of commercial devices seem to put out 0.5 watts for a USB transmitter, up to 2 watts for an unspecified application. Powercast claims that most devices are well below that 2 watt max, which is half of the 4 watts produced by a CB radio and on par with devices such as cordless phones and walkie-talkies. I guess this means that the tumor I'm [not] likely to get behind my ear from my Bluetooth headset will just a grow a wee bit faster.
While no longer being frustrated by my Bluetooth mouse or cell phone dying at the worst possible moment would be great, I imagine that the real future for this technology will be empowering the ever increasing flow of data from wireless sensor networks, from active RFID and Zigbee to smartDust.
My take is that Powercast will be helping us live the TeleInterActive Lifestyle™ to its fullest, and fueling our data management consultancy as those terabytes become petabytes and the Googolplex of data being generated needs analyzing [no, not Googleplex, but almost].
One debate that has come up since the earliest days of proselytizing the TeleInterActive Lifestyle has been whether or not having remote access, and especially mobile and wireless access to your business and personal data, adds to or detracts from your effectiveness in either personal or business situations. Our contention has always been that it's a matter of focus.
As hand-held email devices proliferate, they are having an unexpected impact on family dynamics: Parents and their children are swapping roles. Like a bunch of teenagers, some parents are routinely lying to their kids, sneaking around the house to covertly check their emails and disobeying house rules established to minimize compulsive typing. The refusal of parents to follow a few simple rules is pushing some children to the brink. They are fearful that parents will be distracted by emails while driving, concerned about Mom and Dad's shortening attention spans and exasperated by their parents' obsession with their gadgets. Bob Ledbetter III, a third-grader in Rome, Ga., says he tries to tell his father to put the BlackBerry down, but can't even get his attention. "Sometimes I think he's deaf," says the 9-year-old.
-- from The Wall Street Journal Online, BlackBerry Orphans, by Katherine Rosman, 2006 December 8; Page W1
Good Morning, Silicon Valley picked up on this WSJ article too...
Of course, for a while at the Balsillie home, Jim was being told to park his BlackBerry at the door when he came home. And of course, he snuck it in. Adults -- what are you gonna do with 'em?
-- from GMSV, C'mon, Mom, I know you're texting in there and I really need to go by John Murrell on 2006 December 8
The opposite is also true. I know 5 year olds who can't imagine not being able to contact their parent at any time during the business day via mobile phone, IM, or email. And the ability to order a meal to be picked-up on the way home from, well, wherever, has no doubt saved many a middle-class family from starvation.
One friend of mine is very much opposed to allowing work into her home after hours - but to meet those long deadlines, she'll be at the work place for 12, 14 or even more hours a day, balancing that with taking afternoons off for soccer games. Which balance works better: longer away but fuller attention, or partial attention in each place?
Since the beginning of this blog, the image that we've tried to evoke is that of pre-industrial age community living. You might be sitting around the fire, listening to a story being told by your child, while mending a leather harness. The problem with this image as an analogy for modern work practices is the level of the brain's involvement. You might be able to divide your attention between something that requires dexterity and even attention to detail, but doesn't require understanding words. But try to read something and listen to someone speak... it doesn't work as well.
As we've said before, thank the designers of all these wonderful devices that they remembered to include the off switch.
At tonight's PMI meeting, the main presentation involved customizing and deploying project management methodologies within an organization. One of Leon Herszon's key points for the Model of the Unified Project Management Methodology was that a modern PM methodology needed to be web-enabled. Discussing this point with the speaker made it clear that this was a read-only web portal/intranet and that the benefits of the read-write web such as blogs, wikis and forums, or of Web2.0 technologies weren't recognized.
A post-meeting discussion with a PM who was having problems with communication among distributed workgroups and stakeholders through muliple time zones was very interesting in light of the previous observation. Some points from that discussion:
- synchronous communication, whether voice [teleconference], video or text either inconvenienced or left out one group or another
- attempts at asynchronous voice/video communication using recordings of teleconferences didn't work well, and even where the capability was given to record feedback, the results were inconsistent and could led to further isolation of some groups
- recordings of teleconferences are difficult to track, the thread of the conversation is easily lost, and current search tools aren't effective
- in our experience asynchronous text communications such as building support through blogs, developing documentation through wikis, and providing support and conversations through forums overcame all of the above difficulties
- collaboration and online PM tools such as ServiceCycle and dotProject enhanced access and communication for all users
- building information communities [as discussed with Rick Mortensen, CEO of MARVELit in an upcoming Mer^ienda podcast] using portlets and dashboards might streamline communication and effectiveness among distributed workgroups even more
- MMORPGs can replace interpersonal team building boon dogles to make everyone feel included, so what if you're a high elf instead of a Malibu racer - maybe Second Life could help even more
- Open Source Solutions, such as those linked herein and others can allow an organization to quickly and cost effectively prototype business processes and supporting tools, i.e. methodologies, to solve remote, asynchronous communication challenges
As I've been up since 5 this morning, so if the above isn't that coherent, well... We can discuss it later. And for anything not linked, like phpBB, there's always Google.