Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Working remotely, telecommuting.

After working for bi-coastal companies, remotely, since 1999, I am excited to be working for a local company now. While I would consider my remote situation with Netscape, then AOL, highly successful, it took an immense amount of energy and resources to make it work. Furthermore, my ability to impact corporate direction was certainly impeded, and I was not able to pursue all of my career aspirations. Finally, these impediments have been removed, and I no longer have to contain myself.

Role and travel:
The amount of travel you have to do is purely a function of your role. The more self contained and independent your role is, the less travel you have to do. The more broad and people-influential your role is, the more travel you have to do. I fell into the latter bucket, so I had to travel, generally, at least a couple of times per month; sometimes more, but sometimes less. I found regularly scheduled travel to be a nightmare, and preferred a more fluid schedule. The former just made me feel like a commuting chump. The latter made me feel like I was in control of my schedule.

I've managed a global software engineering team, and it worked great. I've also been a programmer while working remotely, and it worked great. The act of software engineering can take place anywhere. Is it convenient when everyone's sitting in one building; sure, but it's not a requirement?

When you get into management and advisement roles, things get a little more difficult, and travel kicks into overdrive. One's ability to influence is still largely a function of physical presence. You have to be there to show others in the conference room who you are, what you think, and why you're taking them in a specific direction. You have to be walking the halls to impact the human side of working together. There are exceptions to these rules, and they generally fall into the "chief" level job categories. There are many successful CEOs that travel non-stop. They're able to do so simply because the buck stops with them. They don't have to influence people to get them to do things, they simply have to ask them to do things.

Throughout my telecommuting tenure, I broke it down like this. In descending order, the most effective means of communication are simply: face-to-face (requires travel), video conference (Kinko's/FedEx solutions, webcams, etc), hardline phone (good 'ol copper-wire twisted pair), mobile/soft phones (e.g. Skype), instant messaging, and finally email.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting you can't influence and impact projects remotely. It's all just a function of your industry and role. Open Source projects are prime examples of massive projects that succeed in an incredibly distributed work environment.

Video-conferencing:
Working at AOL, we had on-campus video conferencing solutions of the million-dollar-per-room variety. While they provided incredible video and audio, using life-size screens, and rooms designed for video-conferencing, there is a new breed of solution coming to the industry that is looking to be much better. Business Week recently wrote a good article outlining where things are headed. One of the great things about most of these high-end solutions is that Kinko's/FedEx can generally link you into the corporate/home-office using their in-store solution. This means you can drive to your local Kinko's office and connect to your companies' video conference solution for roughly $250/hour, rather than spend $1,000 traveling to and fro; great savings.

Peer-to-peer solutions, such as iChat/iSight, are great for just that, peer-to-peer. However, if you have a group conference taking place on a regular basis, it's nice to step it up to wide-angle lenses, and more dedicated hardware.

Availability:
Being remote, you have to be more accessible than your average Joe. Getting creative with call-forwarding scenarios is advisable. You also need to go out of your way to be highly responsive to calls, IM, and email. Lag-time in communication can be a big issue if you're not physically present. All of this can be a drag because you have to stay on top of your availability more so than if you were bumping into people everyday.

Cost:
Don't stay in a role that requires a lot of travel for too long if you have to travel on the cheap. Crappy connections, flights, airlines, cars, and hotels, will drive you into the ground. I was lucky and was able to travel comfortably, and it was still a back breaker. Traveling any lower on the scale was un-imaginable to me.

Upside:
I really enjoyed spending time in some great cities across the globe. Those experiences have been incredible, and I would trade them for anything. If it weren't for corporate travel, my world would be much, much, smaller.

Working remotely, telecommuting.

After working for bi-coastal companies, remotely, since 1999, I am excited to be working for a local company now. While I would consider my remote situation with Netscape, then AOL, highly successful, it took an immense amount of energy and resources to make it work. Furthermore, my ability to impact corporate direction was certainly impeded, and I was not able to pursue all of my career aspirations. Finally, these impediments have been removed, and I no longer have to contain myself.

Role and travel:
The amount of travel you have to do is purely a function of your role. The more self contained and independent your role is, the less travel you have to do. The more broad and people-influential your role is, the more travel you have to do. I fell into the latter bucket, so I had to travel, generally, at least a couple of times per month; sometimes more, but sometimes less. I found regularly scheduled travel to be a nightmare, and preferred a more fluid schedule. The former just made me feel like a commuting chump. The latter made me feel like I was in control of my schedule.

I've managed a global software engineering team, and it worked great. I've also been a programmer while working remotely, and it worked great. The act of software engineering can take place anywhere. Is it convenient when everyone's sitting in one building; sure, but it's not a requirement?

When you get into management and advisement roles, things get a little more difficult, and travel kicks into overdrive. One's ability to influence is still largely a function of physical presence. You have to be there to show others in the conference room who you are, what you think, and why you're taking them in a specific direction. You have to be walking the halls to impact the human side of working together. There are exceptions to these rules, and they generally fall into the "chief" level job categories. There are many successful CEOs that travel non-stop. They're able to do so simply because the buck stops with them. They don't have to influence people to get them to do things, they simply have to ask them to do things.

Throughout my telecommuting tenure, I broke it down like this. In descending order, the most effective means of communication are simply: face-to-face (requires travel), video conference (Kinko's/FedEx solutions, webcams, etc), hardline phone (good 'ol copper-wire twisted pair), mobile/soft phones (e.g. Skype), instant messaging, and finally email.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting you can't influence and impact projects remotely. It's all just a function of your industry and role. Open Source projects are prime examples of massive projects that succeed in an incredibly distributed work environment.

Video-conferencing:
Working at AOL, we had on-campus video conferencing solutions of the million-dollar-per-room variety. While they provided incredible video and audio, using life-size screens, and rooms designed for video-conferencing, there is a new breed of solution coming to the industry that is looking to be much better. Business Week recently wrote a good article outlining where things are headed. One of the great things about most of these high-end solutions is that Kinko's/FedEx can generally link you into the corporate/home-office using their in-store solution. This means you can drive to your local Kinko's office and connect to your companies' video conference solution for roughly $250/hour, rather than spend $1,000 traveling to and fro; great savings.

Peer-to-peer solutions, such as iChat/iSight, are great for just that, peer-to-peer. However, if you have a group conference taking place on a regular basis, it's nice to step it up to wide-angle lenses, and more dedicated hardware.

Availability:
Being remote, you have to be more accessible than your average Joe. Getting creative with call-forwarding scenarios is advisable. You also need to go out of your way to be highly responsive to calls, IM, and email. Lag-time in communication can be a big issue if you're not physically present. All of this can be a drag because you have to stay on top of your availability more so than if you were bumping into people everyday.

Cost:
Don't stay in a role that requires a lot of travel for too long if you have to travel on the cheap. Crappy connections, flights, airlines, cars, and hotels, will drive you into the ground. I was lucky and was able to travel comfortably, and it was still a back breaker. Traveling any lower on the scale was un-imaginable to me.

Upside:
I really enjoyed spending time in some great cities across the globe. Those experiences have been incredible, and I would trade them for anything. If it weren't for corporate travel, my world would be much, much, smaller.

Working remotely, telecommuting.

After working for bi-coastal companies, remotely, since 1999, I am excited to be working for a local company now. While I would consider my remote situation with Netscape, then AOL, highly successful, it took an immense amount of energy and resources to make it work. Furthermore, my ability to impact corporate direction was certainly impeded, and I was not able to pursue all of my career aspirations. Finally, these impediments have been removed, and I no longer have to contain myself.

Role and travel:
The amount of travel you have to do is purely a function of your role. The more self contained and independent your role is, the less travel you have to do. The more broad and people-influential your role is, the more travel you have to do. I fell into the latter bucket, so I had to travel, generally, at least a couple of times per month; sometimes more, but sometimes less. I found regularly scheduled travel to be a nightmare, and preferred a more fluid schedule. The former just made me feel like a commuting chump. The latter made me feel like I was in control of my schedule.

I've managed a global software engineering team, and it worked great. I've also been a programmer while working remotely, and it worked great. The act of software engineering can take place anywhere. Is it convenient when everyone's sitting in one building; sure, but it's not a requirement?

When you get into management and advisement roles, things get a little more difficult, and travel kicks into overdrive. One's ability to influence is still largely a function of physical presence. You have to be there to show others in the conference room who you are, what you think, and why you're taking them in a specific direction. You have to be walking the halls to impact the human side of working together. There are exceptions to these rules, and they generally fall into the "chief" level job categories. There are many successful CEOs that travel non-stop. They're able to do so simply because the buck stops with them. They don't have to influence people to get them to do things, they simply have to ask them to do things.

Throughout my telecommuting tenure, I broke it down like this. In descending order, the most effective means of communication are simply: face-to-face (requires travel), video conference (Kinko's/FedEx solutions, webcams, etc), hardline phone (good 'ol copper-wire twisted pair), mobile/soft phones (e.g. Skype), instant messaging, and finally email.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting you can't influence and impact projects remotely. It's all just a function of your industry and role. Open Source projects are prime examples of massive projects that succeed in an incredibly distributed work environment.

Video-conferencing:
Working at AOL, we had on-campus video conferencing solutions of the million-dollar-per-room variety. While they provided incredible video and audio, using life-size screens, and rooms designed for video-conferencing, there is a new breed of solution coming to the industry that is looking to be much better. Business Week recently wrote a good article outlining where things are headed. One of the great things about most of these high-end solutions is that Kinko's/FedEx can generally link you into the corporate/home-office using their in-store solution. This means you can drive to your local Kinko's office and connect to your companies' video conference solution for roughly $250/hour, rather than spend $1,000 traveling to and fro; great savings.

Peer-to-peer solutions, such as iChat/iSight, are great for just that, peer-to-peer. However, if you have a group conference taking place on a regular basis, it's nice to step it up to wide-angle lenses, and more dedicated hardware.

Availability:
Being remote, you have to be more accessible than your average Joe. Getting creative with call-forwarding scenarios is advisable. You also need to go out of your way to be highly responsive to calls, IM, and email. Lag-time in communication can be a big issue if you're not physically present. All of this can be a drag because you have to stay on top of your availability more so than if you were bumping into people everyday.

Cost:
Don't stay in a role that requires a lot of travel for too long if you have to travel on the cheap. Crappy connections, flights, airlines, cars, and hotels, will drive you into the ground. I was lucky and was able to travel comfortably, and it was still a back breaker. Traveling any lower on the scale was un-imaginable to me.

Upside:
I really enjoyed spending time in some great cities across the globe. Those experiences have been incredible, and I would trade them for anything. If it weren't for corporate travel, my world would be much, much, smaller.

Moving on.

I've finally moved on from AOL. I can't believe it, but it has been nearly seven years since AOL bought Netscape (my previous company). My new company is Me.dium; out to change the world. The upside is that Me.dium has a very good shot at doing so. Many huge hurdles, but none of them insurmountable; at least at this early stage in the game when there is literally no hindsight yet.

It was a trip seeing the following in my email client, after so many years of "get mail" succeeding.




Moving on.

I've finally moved on from AOL. I can't believe it, but it has been nearly seven years since AOL bought Netscape (my previous company). My new company is Me.dium; out to change the world. The upside is that Me.dium has a very good shot at doing so. Many huge hurdles, but none of them insurmountable; at least at this early stage in the game when there is literally no hindsight yet.

It was a trip seeing the following in my email client, after so many years of "get mail" succeeding.




Moving on.

I've finally moved on from AOL. I can't believe it, but it has been nearly seven years since AOL bought Netscape (my previous company). My new company is Me.dium; out to change the world. The upside is that Me.dium has a very good shot at doing so. Many huge hurdles, but none of them insurmountable; at least at this early stage in the game when there is literally no hindsight yet.

It was a trip seeing the following in my email client, after so many years of "get mail" succeeding.




Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TV, Tivo, the net, and political ads

I just caught the tail end of a political advertisement on television as I was skipping commercials while watching a sit-com. I had the same out-of-touch feeling I had several years ago when Tivo first came out and I realized I had no idea what movies were playing in theaters anymore, because I was skipping all commercials, which included movie trailers.

I used to get some sense of election issues and races from television, but that's no longer the case. I'm pretty pro-active when it comes to knowing the issues, so I tend to do a lot of research on the net that gives me the data I want. Politicians and campaign initiatives are going to have to shift a significant portion of their traditional television "ad-buy" to the net to catch my attention. Snail mail political mailers still get my attention though; they're some of the only snail mail I read anymore.

Television ads are dead. HBO and iTunes win.

TV, Tivo, the net, and political ads

I just caught the tail end of a political advertisement on television as I was skipping commercials while watching a sit-com. I had the same out-of-touch feeling I had several years ago when Tivo first came out and I realized I had no idea what movies were playing in theaters anymore, because I was skipping all commercials, which included movie trailers.

I used to get some sense of election issues and races from television, but that's no longer the case. I'm pretty pro-active when it comes to knowing the issues, so I tend to do a lot of research on the net that gives me the data I want. Politicians and campaign initiatives are going to have to shift a significant portion of their traditional television "ad-buy" to the net to catch my attention. Snail mail political mailers still get my attention though; they're some of the only snail mail I read anymore.

Television ads are dead. HBO and iTunes win.

TV, Tivo, the net, and political ads

I just caught the tail end of a political advertisement on television as I was skipping commercials while watching a sit-com. I had the same out-of-touch feeling I had several years ago when Tivo first came out and I realized I had no idea what movies were playing in theaters anymore, because I was skipping all commercials, which included movie trailers.

I used to get some sense of election issues and races from television, but that's no longer the case. I'm pretty pro-active when it comes to knowing the issues, so I tend to do a lot of research on the net that gives me the data I want. Politicians and campaign initiatives are going to have to shift a significant portion of their traditional television "ad-buy" to the net to catch my attention. Snail mail political mailers still get my attention though; they're some of the only snail mail I read anymore.

Television ads are dead. HBO and iTunes win.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

ASKO W6222 Clothes Washer

We recently bought a new washer (ASKO W6222) and dryer (ASKO T712), and although we knew we were buying highly efficient units, there's a fringe benefit with the washer that I wasn't expecting. The washer heats its own water, something it can do given how little water it actually uses, so it doesn't pull hot water from the hot-water heater. We have a small, 40 gallon, hot-water heater and we used to have to think about timing laundry with other hot-water activities, such as my spouse taking a bath; no more!

ASKO W6222 Clothes Washer

We recently bought a new washer (ASKO W6222) and dryer (ASKO T712), and although we knew we were buying highly efficient units, there's a fringe benefit with the washer that I wasn't expecting. The washer heats its own water, something it can do given how little water it actually uses, so it doesn't pull hot water from the hot-water heater. We have a small, 40 gallon, hot-water heater and we used to have to think about timing laundry with other hot-water activities, such as my spouse taking a bath; no more!

ASKO W6222 Clothes Washer

We recently bought a new washer (ASKO W6222) and dryer (ASKO T712), and although we knew we were buying highly efficient units, there's a fringe benefit with the washer that I wasn't expecting. The washer heats its own water, something it can do given how little water it actually uses, so it doesn't pull hot water from the hot-water heater. We have a small, 40 gallon, hot-water heater and we used to have to think about timing laundry with other hot-water activities, such as my spouse taking a bath; no more!

Saturday, October 7, 2006

House paint - Benjamin Moore Eco Spec

We just completed a major remodel on the back half of our house, and for the second time, we had the painters use a low VOC paint from Benjamin Moore called "Eco Spec." We are so impressed with this product. The paint quality is fantastic, and you can move back into the painted room the same day in which it was painted because there are no rapid curing solvents used in the paint. Good for the body, good for the environment, and you can mix whatever colors you like.

House paint - Benjamin Moore Eco Spec

We just completed a major remodel on the back half of our house, and for the second time, we had the painters use a low VOC paint from Benjamin Moore called "Eco Spec." We are so impressed with this product. The paint quality is fantastic, and you can move back into the painted room the same day in which it was painted because there are no rapid curing solvents used in the paint. Good for the body, good for the environment, and you can mix whatever colors you like.

House paint - Benjamin Moore Eco Spec

We just completed a major remodel on the back half of our house, and for the second time, we had the painters use a low VOC paint from Benjamin Moore called "Eco Spec." We are so impressed with this product. The paint quality is fantastic, and you can move back into the painted room the same day in which it was painted because there are no rapid curing solvents used in the paint. Good for the body, good for the environment, and you can mix whatever colors you like.