Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Are you still working the same way?

I liked the article "Productivity 2.0: How the new rules of work are changing the game" from Zen Habits and wanted to share it more widely. (If you are following my Delicious, you'd have already seen it there too.) In it they make some good observations and some that I need to adopt.

Here are the 8 rules to whet your appetite , but the article is worth reading in its entirety.

  1. Don’t Crank - Work With Deeper Focus.
  2. Minimize Out Meetings and Planning Overplanning — Just Start.
  3. Paperwork is out — automate with technology.
  4. Don’t multi-task — multi-project and single-task.
  5. Produce less, not more.
  6. Forget about organization — use technology.
  7. Out with hierarchies — in with freedom.
  8. Work fewer hours, not more.
I read about this in the PSU College of Agriculture's Information Technologies eNews volume 108. They do a great job and I always learn a lot from reading their stuff. Vince's Lighter Side and Interesting Links are always worth checking out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can the generations work together?

Several observations make me question if the older generation can work with the new generation (or visa versa). IMHO, I think a lot of the problems are related to a lack of respect and understanding for each other's communication preferences. I am generalizing here and am using 'generations' to identify people, regardless of their age, who use the tools and have the preferences generally associated with the different generations.

Last week when my grandmother passed away, my oldest son chose to be with her at the end while my youngest chose not to remember her that way. This was the right decision for each of them. Soon after she passed, my oldest text messaged his brother to let him know. While he was doing this, my mother (who was just coming back to the room) saw this and made a comment about it. If he had been talking to his brother on the phone, I think she would have understood what he was doing. But she and many others in the generations that didn't grow up with text messaging don't understand the way the others prefer to communicate.

I have to admit that I would rather talk to someone than text them from my phone. This probably has to do with the fact that I haven't become proficient at texting (I need to get a phone with letters big enough for me to see without my reading glasses or get contacts).

Just from my personal observations, I'd say that most people under 25 prefer texting to talking on the phone.

Another story: A year or two ago, my family was heading to South Carolina to go camping, but when we got to the campground, it was full. My youngest son mentioned that one of his friends (not a 'close friend', but one he likes) was camping with her family (who we know pretty well) was camping at a nearby campground this weekend. They texted back and forth and soon we were camping just a few sites away and spent a great weekend with them. My sons' 'network' of friends are so much more rich than mine was at their ages - and even now at my age, that I'm jealous. They make friends when I take them to conferences and they maintain and grow those relationships throughout the year. When they go to the conference the next year, their friends are there and they pick up from yesterday, not last year. How do they do this? They use Facebook and MySpace.

They are much more comfortable sharing more of their life. And because of this, they have more friends, are more connected to them and they have stronger relationships.

One of my biggest regrets is losing touch with many of the friends I've made in the past. My goal for the near future is to get back in touch with many of them and rekindle those relationships - especially if they are using social networking tools.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a coworker and she told a story where someone asked if her daughter's college was closed because of snow. The mother didn't know, but another coworker (younger generation) in the next room overheard and said yes, the school was closed and told them what the daughter was doing this morning. She knew because she was friends with the daughter on Facebook.

We talked about how the younger generations are using email to communicate with 'old people' and use other tools to communicate with each other.

Paul Glazowski wrote Study: Surfing Social Networks at Work Could Be Good for You. I've been holding this trying to think of a good way to get it out to those IT departments that are blocking things like instant messaging, social networking sites, sharing sites and the like and even games because they think they are going to stop employees from 'wasting time'. IMHO, this couldn't be more counter-productive. Yes, there will be employees that will waste time using these tools, but do they honestly believe that by taking these tools away the employees that would waste time with these tools will become more productive? I think not. They are going to bring crossword puzzles, books, or their cell phone to the office or just spend their time hanging around the water cooler. And the ones that are working hard will be less productive because they have fewer tools to work with. The time-wasting employees need to be addressed administratively, not by blocking IT tools.

Another observation is the blurring of the work/personal boundaries for the new generation of knowledge workers. If you are working behind a counter, then yes, you need to be there at certain times. But, if you are a knowledge worker and are most productive at 4:00 AM and enjoy bike riding, why do you need to be at desk from 9-5 during the winter when it gets dark at 5:30? I think the new generation of workers 'get' and want the Freerange enterprise that Kevin Gamble describes.

Back to the title of this article - if you find yourself with the characteristics of the 'older generation' (regardless of your age), it is time to explore the advantages of the tools the 'younger generation'. It is hard for us to change our work habits, but by taking small steps, it can be done. The first step is to work to gain an understanding of the tools.

I think this is the longest post I've ever written. Maybe I ought to change the title of the blog to "Ramble On"... but that's already taken...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tools for Scheduling

I was recently asked the following question:

Do you know of any software or online program that would allow us to manage our meeting rooms?

Things I would like for it to be able to do include:
  • Work with 3 rooms, 2 of which can be combined
  • View the schedule online
  • Request space online, to include # of people, name of meeting, contact for additional information, purpose of meeting
  • automatically let the person making the request know if there is a conflict
  • option for moderator to respond to requester for additional information
  • identify an individual or two to "approve" requests
  • moderator approve request
  • automatically post to schedule once approved
  • automatically respond to requester that it is approved/denied
My suggestion was to use Google Calendar and Google Forms. With these, they will be able to do everything in your list except the automatically responding.

This is just one example of where you could use Google Docs and Google Forms 'in the wild'.

While I don't think this is exactly what they were looking for and certainly not an ideal solution for what they want, it is free and it does what is needed. Is there some solution already made out there for them that comes closer to what they want.

Do you know of other ways/suggestions to address this common issue? If so, email me or post a comment.

Social Networking

Ning, http://www.ning.com/, is a site that allows you to create you own social network website and social networks. After getting a Ning ID, you can create, join, or request to join, these groups.

Even without a Ning ID, you can browse or search for groups from the Ning home page. This link, http://www.ning.com/?view=search&term=farming, will show you the results of a search for the term 'farming' on their site. Unfortunately, since Ning sites are community-based you may need to search to find an active Ning site where the members are asking and answering questions, uploading content, etc.

Agriculture Online, http://www.agriculture.com/, where you can also find the Successful Farming magazine, has a special feature on this site called Farmers for the Future. As part of this effort, they've created a Ning site for young and beginning farmers. The site has a forum and places for photos, videos and blogs. Check it out.


If you are a geek, you might want to check out the NCSU Web Developers network that just started at: http://ncsuwebdev.ning.com/

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Discussing Google Docs

Earlier this week, my counterparts Pete Flores from Texas and Duane Rigsby from Ohio recorded another podcast. In this one we discuss Google Docs. You can find it at Tech Know Talk.

We developed the script using Google Docs and held the conversation using Skype.
Pete recorded the conversation using PowerGramo Skype Recorder then edited it with Audacity.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts about the pros and cons of podcasting, please comment below! I'm still weighing the costs/advantages of it. Is this a medium that you would like to see more or less of? Is it a medium your audience would like to use to hear from you?

Monday, November 03, 2008


Recently, I came across an old (last year) class done in a blog about using 'Web 2.0' tools. It was set-up as part of the UMD Library Learning 2.0 program to encourage staff to experiment and learn about the new and emerging technologies that are reshaping the context of information on the Internet today. The objectives of this program are to encourage exploration of Web 2.0 and new technologies by UMD Library staff and to provide the staff with new tools (that are freely available on the Internet) to better support UMD Library’s mission of promoting learning and research.

I believe all of the content is still very applicable. When I talk about computing in today's environment, these are the key points I try to hit. I use almost all of the tools mentioned in this class almost on a daily basis - they are that useful. If you haven't adopted or at least explored these tools, you owe it to yourself to do so. They can make you more productive, and efficient.

Below are the topics (with links to each page) each 'lesson' is very short, but be warned - once you get started, you might not be able to stop :)

Introduction to Learning 2.0
Safe computing
Grab yourself a blog in 3 steps
Explore Facebook and MySpace
Learn about instant messaging
Make life "really simple" with RSS & a news reader
Finding Feeds
Podcasts, Smodcasts
You too can YouTube
Discover Flickr

More Flickr fun
Google Picasa Web Albums

Play around with image generators
A thing about LibraryThing
Roll your own search engine
Tagging, folksomonies & social bookmarking in Del.icio.us
Getting not-so-technical with Technorati
On Library 2.0 & Web 2.0 ...
So what’s in a wiki?
Playing around with PBWiki
Web-based Apps: They're not just for desktops
Discovering Web 2.0 tools