Thursday, September 27, 2007

JargonWatch: "Ask" as a Noun

After the Steering Comm meeting, we re-grouped to try to determine "What is the ask?" from the project sponsors.

The conference call covered a lot of ground, but we had trouble determining what was the ask from the client.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Clay Shirkly on Social Groups and Scale have to find a way to spare the group from scale. Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. In conversational contexts, Metcalfe's law is a drag. The fact that the amount of two-way connections you have to support goes up with the square of the users means that the density of conversation falls off very fast as the system scales even a little bit. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.

This is an inverse value to scale question. Think about your Rolodex. A thousand contacts, maybe 150 people you can call friends, 30 people you can call close friends, two or three people you'd donate a kidney to. The value is inverse to the size of the group. And you have to find some way to protect the group within the context of those effects...

This hits home for me. The internet offers scale in certain ways, and those things can be useful, but as human beings, we are evolved or created (I don't think it matters which you believe) for human-scale interactions. Last night we had our bi-weekly small-group meeting for our new church. Small groups is a key technique large churches are using to make people feel connected and known. Then today I was taking super-dull, mandatory corporate CBTs. These kinds of training are terrifically boring under the best of circumstances, but if you take them with real, live other people, the tedium can be offset by the chance to meet other people and have real discussion (like rolling your eyes in boredom, for example!). Then on my drive home today, I was discussing with my friend Ted how un-fulfilling teleconferences and work-from-home can be, in terms of meeting the human desire for interpersonal contact.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Idea: Industry-Standard Corporate Email "Disclaimer"

It is SO tedious, not to mention a terrific waste of storage and bandwidth, for corporate emails to go out with the usual, completely unenforceable legal disclaimer "this email is blah intended only for blah and is the property of blah corporation and if received by accident should be blah returned..."

What if there were an accepted industry standard disclaimer? Instead of every email spelling out the claimed rights, couldn't it just reference the standard? Just as copyright notices don't try to summarize copyright law (okay, maybe some do). Instead, you could have a much briefer notice like "This email protected under ISO Disclosure Standard 10,000.17."

Monday, September 17, 2007

IM in the Workplace

I guess I've finally joined the 21st century. We use Instant Messaging in the workplace at my new employer. I'm not a big fan of IM, since it seems to me to combine the worst features of phone calls and email, without their respective advantages. Few things are more tedious than staring at your computer screen, waiting for your correspondent to finish typing a message.

The major use of it seems to be to multi-task during conference calls. That has its place occasionally, of course ("I know u r on a call, but get off and meet me in the war room, we've got a production outage!"). But maybe I'm just a dummy, but as soon as I get sucked into an IM exchange, I tune out of the conference call. If the call is a waste of my time, that could be good, but if it isn't, I may wind up wasting everybody else's time asking for repeats. Conference calls are painful and inefficient enough, without IM making them worse.

A frequent secondary usage of IM'ing is within a conference call. This I find more useful. Typical case is a boss to employee: "I know you are right, but they're not getting it. Try explaining more slowly."

A tertiary usage that I find especially convenient is posting one's status and contact info. I typically work from home 2 days/week, so I update my IM status line to say "TUE: Work from home. Home office 999-999-9999."

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Cringely on Telepresence

Video conferencing has been around for a couple decades, but telepresence is different from that. You can see the entire other side of the conference table, for example, and the people who are sitting across from you appear to be life sized. They can see you and you can see them. When another person speaks to you they can look you in the eye. Body language and emotions are easy to detect and the sound of each participant seems to come from his or her direction. You can watch the people who aren’t talking to see if they are even paying attention. It really is tele-PRESENCE and the fact that you are looking in a video screen is forgotten after a minute or two.