Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Virtual Meeting Tips

This advice about how to stay together and seem professional during conference calls and teleconferences is all right on the money. Really the best thing to do is to treat a videoconference or online meeting as a meeting meeting. I find that I do well to pretend that I'm actually sitting in the room with people - don't do anything during the meeting that you wouldn't do in a room full of people.

Of course I do wear flip flops during meetings, which I would not normally do during a Real Office meeting. But other than that, I try hard not to get distracted and stay "in the room" even when that room is 2000 miles away.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Praise of POTS

No, not that pot. Sheesh you people. I mean Plain Old Telephone Service. I've taken a step back in time and obtained a super old fashioned telephone line. No VoIP, no schmancy stuff. Just a telephone. What I like about it is that it doesn't compete for bandwidth with all the other things I'm shoving through my internets. It will work when the power is out so I can call people and tell them my power is out. It works when the internet is out, so I can call my internet provider and tell them the internet is out.

Simple. Maybe not the cheapest thing, but it works.

So now I forward the local Skype number I've set up for my local colleagues to the landline when I'm physically in the office, and to the cell phone when I'm wandering the streets. This preserves the illusion of "I'm right down the hall" but rings in my distant location. I can call reliably, and people can call me directly on the real number when all else fails.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Have I already complained about this?

Honestly, after so many posts (more than 600!) I know I'm a bit of a broken record about some topics. I have my little set pieces.

Telecommuting isn't a substitute for childcare.

You can goof off just as easily in your Real Office cubicle as you can in your home office.

Face time is for the birds, except when your manager really values it, and then you have to figure out how to have electronic face time through passive "I'm here" tools like your IM status.

Yes yes yes, you've heard it all before. The thing I want to complain about today is the utterly reproachful tone of error messages in software. Lately, my email has been giving me lots of scolding: You failed to shut your inbox properly. Your account is over its size limits. We're going to stop sending email. When I read these messages, I hear my own voice, but at age 14 sassing back at my poor mother.

"Um, you FAILED to shut your inbox properLY? Duuuh!"

 I love how web apps approach error messages. I love reading things like "Oh heck. It's probably our fault, but something is not right. Sorry, but could you try again?" Would it kill the folks at the giant traditional software companies to adopt a slightly less accusatory tone in error messaging?

As I say to my children: please use nice words and pleasant voices with each other.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Getting Beyond Pitfalls

Telecommuting is pretty much like regular work in most ways - if you goof off, people will notice, you can be unresponsive and annoy your coworkers just as easily from home as you can from the cubicle down the hall. But there are some particular issues that you'll notice when you work from afar most of the time. This piece from Read Write Web has some good ideas for dealing with some of the most common issues you might see.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Far Away Could You Be?

All airfare and needing to be onsite aside (which explains in part why Stella didn't post much last week) here's the question: once you make the break to working from pretty far away, how far away could you actually be? Is there a limit?

This article from InfoWorld says: why not half a world away? I will say that the time difference could get confusing, but if you're really just a contractor and working through project work with a set need to meet with people or otherwise be available, why not just say Phuket?

If I didn't have children to educate, I'd be working from a little beach town in Mexico or the U.S. Virgin Islands so fast it would make your head spin. Just sayin'.