Events, and / or in today’s case, a general malaise, continue to conspire, sapping all the vigor out of my keyboard, but hey, recycling is IN, right? We’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of yr (justifiably) humble svt‘s favorite electrons.
I hereby stop apologizing for observing the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!
And, I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”
Blast from the Past!
A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…
From last fall, and always in season, especially since it’s back to school time for millions, originally posted October 31, 2007, and titled “mm181: Virtual classroom — real learning?”
The university classroom of the future is in Janet Duck’s dining room on East Chocolate Avenue here.
There is no blackboard and no lectern, and, most glaringly, no students. Dr. Duck teaches her classes in Pennsylvania State University’s master’s program in business administration by sitting for several hours each day in jeans and shag-lined slippers at her dining table, which in soccer mom fashion is cluttered with crayon sketches by her 6-year-old Elijah and shoulder pads for her 9-year-old Olivia’s Halloween costume.
In this homespun setting, the spirited Dr. Duck pecks at a Toshiba laptop and posts lesson content, readings and questions for her two courses on “managing human resources” that touch on topics like performance evaluations and recruitment. The instructional software allows her 54 students to log on from almost anywhere at any time and post remarkably extended responses, the equivalent of a blog about the course. Recently, the class exchanged hard-earned experiences about how managers deal with lackluster workers.
Well, it’s been a long, been a long, been a long, been a long day.
Moderated a meeting on location first thing this morning, which was routine except for the web conference participation: Ireland, Argentina, Japan, the Netherlands, and most places between. Oh, yes, and one of the speakers was connecting from just outside Rome.
Sometimes I really, really like my job.
This afternoon, performed another one of MUDGE’s rare personal appearances: a training class on-site, rather than behind the protection of a telephone call and a web conference. Fortunately, it was an easy audience, and turned out to be quite well received.
Then, after the usual hour-long commute, broken up today by a succession of phone calls (hands-free, of course), arrived home to make silly faces at the neighbor’s toddler grandson, passing by in this generation’s version of a “Daddy Blue Car.”
And then, after a quick change to leisure clothes, off to the lakefront, for a picnic with close friends, and a free evening concert by the lagoon.
Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column — talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).
Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.
So, if this were really a weekly feature, we’d be on number 052 or something, and this is only number 14. Thus, why not two in a row?
The poor sap fallen asleep over his laptop in front of his desktop PC in the illustration doesn’t resemble yr (justifiably) humble svt in the slightest, but it’s what I’ll look like in a few hours.
No, I won’t suddenly get 35 years younger, grow back a lot of very dark hair and become vaguely Asian.
But, I’m working very late tonight, and very early in the morning. Sigh.
As I’ve often noted in this space, I support the enterprise web conferencing application from an end-user perspective. A vendor once described me most flatteringly as the manager of the end user experience for my technology.
So, in addition to working with the other, more technical, members of the team (server administrators and system architects); developing curriculum and reference materials; teaching nearly 4,000 fellow employees in the past six years to use web conferences by attending my training web conferences; besides all that, I’m the guy who gets the call when users have critical conferences that require my professional expertise.
Got the call a few weeks ago: we’re doing an important meeting three times, because the sun never sets on our global enterprise: once for the Asia-Pacific region, once for Europe and once for the Western Hemisphere. 8amCEST, 1pmCEST, 6pmCEST. We’ve had trouble with the web conferencing tool in the past, please help.
I endeavor to honor requests like this. But, of course, I’m sitting in the U.S. Central time zone.
8amCEST (Central European Summer Time) in, yes, central Europe, the origin of the meetings, translates to 1amCDT (U.S. Central Daylight Time).
Jill Smart, an Accenture executive, was skeptical the first time she stepped into her firm’s new videoconferencing room in Chicago for a meeting with a group of colleagues in London. But the videoconferencing technology, known as telepresence, delivered an experience so lifelike, Ms. Smart recalled, that “10 minutes into it, you forget you are not in the room with them.”
Accenture, a technology consulting firm, has installed 13 of the videoconferencing rooms at its offices around the world and plans to have an additional 22 operating before the end of the year.
Accenture figures its consultants used virtual meetings to avoid 240 international trips and 120 domestic flights in May alone, for an annual saving of millions of dollars and countless hours of wearying travel for its workers.
As travel costs rise and airlines cut service, companies large and small are rethinking the face-to-face meeting — and business travel as well. At the same time, the technology has matured to the point where it is often practical, affordable and more productive to move digital bits instead of bodies.
These telepresence studios are not cheap (as much as $350,000 at each end!) compared to the standard issue videoconference suite; just as that first Learjet wasn’t as cheap as a first class airline ticket, until the green eyeshade folks got a look at the productivity gains and the outright savings.
Spent the last 90 minutes trolling the ‘Sphere for good topics with which yr (justifiably) humble svt could wax heroic with strong opinions and typically pithy bons mots.
But when it came time to pull one of them up and start waxing and pithing, I found myself out of steam.
Because I spent the day writing. That pesky day job that pays (many of) the bills.
Writing a draft communication to three separate communities regarding our team’s upcoming (that light at the end of the tunnel might be an onrushing train) upgrade to the web conferencing application we support.
It was a challenge, about 17 pages (no big type! no pictures!) all told between the three documents, although there was much duplication and paraphrasing between them.
So, no glass half full, or glass half empty conversations tonight.
This glass is done.
Check back here next time, because first thing tomorrow I’m headed to the wordsmith station for a fill up. Hope I can afford today’s high priced blend.
Once again, this occasional series has failed in its nominal attempt to appear on any kind of regular basis. Not so much a lack of enthusiasm as simply a lack of news.
I’ve been working with the team that is preparing to roll out the latest and greatest version of our software, IBM Lotus Sametime, testing, preparing the teaching curriculum, and generally filling the gaps in a very extensive task list. The effort has been lengthy, not least because of its magnitude, especially when measured against the minute size of the team. Really, there are just two people in the enterprise with full time responsibilities for the Sametime collaboration tools; thankfully the other is a tremendously gifted, spirited and hard-working technical architect who works out of his home office in Colorado.
Finally, the light at the end of the tunnel has resolved itself: it’s NOT an oncoming train, and we believe we’re mere weeks away from D-Day.
It’s been a time.
Meanwhile, I’ve suspended my classes in preparation for an entirely new approach to the educational process; after more than 650 of them in the past 5-1/2 years, for nearly 4,000 students, management has decided to turn over training responsibilities to our division’s Learning & Development group. I have mixed feelings about this, as I’ve grown rather fond of the process of teaching (NOT fond enough to follow the curriculum to that particular group!); 650 one-to-two-hour classes is probably more than enough for a while.
You may recall that this teaching is all conducted on-line, using Sametime web conference technology, together with a telephone conference call. Such remote teaching has its own challenges; there is much reduced feedback available, since there are no faces nor body language to read.
Just finished a very long day, the first day attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.
I don’t go to so many conferences. In fact, in the nearly four years of employment at the Heart of Corporate America (not its real name), as well as the three years of contractor status that it, this is only the second conference that I have attended under the HCA aegis. How ironic that it is also located in Boston, the site of the event that I attended last summer. Of all the towns in the world…
But, I do like Boston, even though, as alluded to last post, I feel stranded in the middle of a desert, located as we are in a concrete jungle of a redeveloped industrial district. Boston is a wonderful town in which to be a pedestrian — but not in this corner, not that I could pedestre very well anyway. [Looks like I may have coined another word — the ‘r’ is silent; but it does sort of look like pederast, doesn’t it. Oh, well, back to the drawing board.]
Although I title this Day 1, the event’s organizers, as is often done apparently, treated today as Day 0, Monday being the more popular business travel day than Sunday. The sessions today were lengthy tutorials. A choice of two each, morning and afternoon. 9am to 12:30pm; then 1:30pm to 4:45pm. Then a further two hour panel discussion that finally ended at 7:30pm. The real action starts tomorrow. I’m already worn out.
I do take copious notes. Now, many of my fellow attendees today, perhaps most of them, brought their laptops to the sessions. There were even power strips scattered along the floor, for the first half-dozen lucky people each who got to them.
Now, yr (justifiably) humble svt would have been happy enough to note take via laptop, but as there were no tables, just rows of chairs, and as I, uh, don’t have a lap for said laptop, just a short slippery slope as it were, that might result in a potentially lethal slide for same, I took my notes the old fashioned way, pen on notebook page, six tightly printed pages to be exact. I have a lot to show for 8-3/4 hours of conference. But it all has to be transcribed.
I wanted to keep up with this daily; perhaps even transfer some of this post into the event’s blog that I’ve heard exists although I haven’t found it. But, as I type this it’s already 10pm; had too much to eat at the hotel’s surprisingly good restaurant (surprising mainly because they have no competition for at least the half-mile radius until another hotel appears in this wasteland called the Seaport neighborhood); and I was up early. Never sleep well in anyone else’s bed except my own, and the hotel is justifiably proud of its comfortable bed. I’m just a crotchety old curmudgeon.
Anyway, there are six pages. Let’s see if I can summarize, while it’s all still fresh.
We have written appreciatively on the topic of working from home (most colorfully, courtesy Stanley Bing, here; more philosophically, here).
Telecommuting is a fancier term. Telework is the jargon chosen by Stephen Barr of the Washington Post, reporting on a bill working its way through Congress to permit federal employees to do so.
Telework Bill Cleared by the House
Federal Diary | By Stephen Barr |Wednesday, June 4, 2008; Page D03
A bill that would permit many federal employees to telecommute at least two days every two weeks was approved by the House yesterday on a voice vote.
Under the bill, federal agencies would be required to create and implement policies to enable eligible employees to work from home or away from their regular office as long as telecommuting did not hamper their performance or interfere with agency operations.
Telework advocates and union officials have been pushing for expanded telecommuting programs in the government for two years, and the House action enhances the chances of Congress sending a bill to the president this year.
Similar legislation has been approved by a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, but a committee report has not been released, a step needed before the bill can come to the Senate floor. There are some differences between the House and Senate bills that will have to be resolved, but a compromise is likely because the concept of expanded telecommuting in the government has drawn substantial bipartisan support.
There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.
Blast from the Past!
A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…
From our early days, originally posted August 29, 2007, one of our series called, over-ambitiously, Web Conferencing Week. The entire group can be found on its own page elsewhere on this site.
WCW006: Quiet before the storm
Web Conferencing Week
Late summer doldrums here at the Heart of Corporate America (HCA, not my employer’s real name).
One might hope that the lull in formal activities would provide some time for reflection, and so in fact it has.
As I’ve explained before (here and here and here, for example), as do most people in corporate surroundings, I wear a multitude of hats:
member of the IT technical team supporting collaborative tools (email, instant messaging, web conferencing);
teacher of our instant messaging and web conferencing tools to our internal business clients (more than 3,500 served in five years, thank you very much!);
“manager of the end-user experience” as defined by our vendor’s on-site support manager — while not in the direct flow of help desk activities (at least not yet), the canniest of my 3,500 students, and their underlings and bosses, know me well enough to contact me if they have issues, and since no one on the team, or in the support arena in general has anywhere the amount of experience with our tools as have I (over six hundred classes, all conducted using web conferences, plus countless mission-critical meetings facilitated throughout the enterprise), the answer to my correspondents’ questions is probably at the ready.