Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Choosing a secondary school

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Hard to believe it, but a whole decade of my life has raced past … never to return … and I’m looking at finding a secondary school for my big girl.

I’m confronted with the dispiriting facts that (a) my local council choice form counts for very little, and (b) schools, great as they are, never fully prepare you for your life ahead anyway.

Yet how could they? The stuff I get paid to do these days hadn’t been invented when I was at school. And before @phillcoleman gets all ‘That was “Fire” and “The Wheel”, Al’, I’m talking about the PC, mobile, and this t’interweb thing I am typing on. I rather hope to get big girl a school like the fantastic one I went to, that taught you ‘stuff’, but also tried to teach you how to learn, and experiment, and have some confidence.

And that led me to thinking about this blog’s title: ‘the Future of Work’. What actually will be the future of work for my big girl?

It’s unlikely to be manufacturing if she remains in the UK. And a good deal of our services sector has had the wind knocked out of its sails as well. Profitable banks? Anyone remember those?

Looking at her primary school education to date, Eco issues are set to become hugely important to this particular generation of millenials. Whilst it has been news to this Gen-X’er that we are trashing the planet quicker than it can sustain being trashed, big girl has been practically brought up with that message.

Obligatory plug for Yuuguu ‘Were already doing our bit to cut travel’ aside, I wonder if this generation will be the one to finally reach that tipping point as described so well by Mr Gladwell. That, ok, so we never used to do remote working all that much, because … well, we never had, but now there are some more pressing matters at hand.

  • Would I do my old commute to work 8 miles to Manchester town centre each way, each day if petrol cost 25 pounds a litre?
  • Would I park my car in the City Centre if the projected 9 billion worldwide populous had made city centre real estate so scarce and expensive that parking contracts were five figures a year?



Using remote tools like screen sharing, telephone conferencing and instant messages is certainly a way of reducing the carbon footprint of transporting people in metal boxes. It cuts it to that of making the electricity needed to power the computers and internet. And things might well get more interesting here in big girl’s working life; I will not be surprised to see much more creative, local solutions to generating small amounts of electricity -just enough to power a mobile internet browser on a phone, or a notebook. Potentially, this could be done by completely clean sources, depending on local conditions: solar, wind, water, thermal.

The development of a measurably greener alternative to business travel might just be the push needed to drag remote working fully into the mainstream.

What do you think?

It’s nice to be able to do this

Friday, September 3rd, 2010
Video will appear here.

I really liked one of the mornings earlier this week.

Fresh coffee and bacon sandwich in hand, I went upstairs to my office, ready to switch the computer on for another day’s work. I took up my little lad with me – mostly to give mum a break for a few minutes before I started work!

He promptly grabbed my headset, and proceeded to pretend to be dad at work. Good lad!

I thought that this is a really nice thing for me personally that yuuguu gives me. I’m a remote worker, so I get to not only claw back my commute time (typically one to one and a half hours each way in my previous tech jobs), but my little boy gets to see me from time to time during the day. He sees me at work. Quite a bit of that is done talking with colleagues using the headset. I tend to be involved in pair programming and aspects of marketing/customer support. And the boy has obviously picked up on this.

It’s nice to not only be able to spend a bit more time with him, but nice that he gets to see what I do for a living; as Dad, I definitely want to set him the example that the world does not owe you a living, you have to earn your way by providing value to others. It’s really nice that he can see some of that at home, as well as just the purely family stuff.

Not sure about the advice he is giving down the headset though. But then again, if you were to ask @phillcoleman, he might just say that little Jakey was making more sense than I normally do ;-)

Have a good weekend, all!

Until next time …

Five tips for your virtual team

Friday, August 27th, 2010

We’ve worked as a virtual company since 2006 at Yuuguu.  It is different working as a virtual team as compared to working in an office – but we’ve learned how to adapt.

Here are five tips that I’ve observed have been useful in keeping the team running well.

1. Keeping moving with Show and Tell

It’s important for projects to keep moving forward. We do this by holding show and tell meetings. The whole team holds a web conference, and using Yuuguu technology, each of us will share our computer screens and show off the latest feature – or problem – to the group.

Doing this creates a sense of urgency and forward motion. It ties in well with our project management approach of setting small, achievable milestones. It’s also invaluable for rapid feedback, support and advice from the people we work with.

2. Hold a regular meeting

I would normally discourage this in an office: for goodness’ sake, there are enough dull, pointless meetings in the world without holding more. The conventional wisdom would be to only meet when there is something to discuss that requires some outcome: ACID – Action, Clarification, Information or Decision.

But working virtually, there is always a point in having a regular meeting – and that is simply to get that human contact, and build that team spirit. Whether it is a project-critical ‘acid’ type meeting, or more of a watercooler chat, we find that meeting once a week on yuuguu keeps us moving together.

3. The Virtual Pint

I must do a full post on this one day. Basically, we use yuuguu at the end of a week to socialise. If your team doesn’t socialise reasonably well, it isn’t going to work particularly well. And the added alone-ness that can come from working in a home office will only amplify that in a negative way. So socialise. Build that right in to the fabric of running your virtual team – it is actually essential for the running of your business!

4. Have an ‘Open Messenger’ policy

We run yuuguu at all times as we work together. If one of us is particularly busy, we use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature to let the team know about that. Otherwise, the ‘open messenger’ policy is the equivalent of an ‘open door’ office policy. We encourage each other to ask questions, ask for help, offer help – just get involved.

Often, I can ask Mike a PHP question, or Neil a marketing question and get an answer faster than I could google it. And of course, the answer comes through the filters of their practical experience, making the most of the wisdom in our team.

It’s all about creating a culture where helping one another is encouraged, and knowledge is shared. Again, that is all about minimising the sense of isolation that can arise in a virtual team.

5. Enjoy the flexibility

I’ve read a lot of articles on managing virtual teams that essentially suggests using time tracking and monitoring tools. I think that’s a load of rubbish, borne out of a lack of experience – and fear.

What you are after is *getting stuff done* not *getting hours clocked*. By using the four tips above, you get the visibility – in a collaborative, empowering way – that you need to succeed. So knowing precisely where staffer X was at 16:13 last tuesday is neither here nor there – the real question is ‘can we ship that work item?’.

Virtual work is really good at empowering people to get stuff done AND create flexibility during the day. Enjoy it! It certainly makes for a better working environment, a better team, and better end results. With employee loyalty increased as a free bonus.


What tips would you share from your virtual teams?



Volunteers and Virtual Teams

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Helping Hands: photo by Penny Matthews via stock.xchng
Voluntary work is the best sort of win-win situation there is. Voluntary organisations get skilled help to achieve their aims free of charge. This keeps donation requirements down. Volunteers get an outlet for skills and interests they love doing, but don’t normally fit into their day job. And the satisfaction of being part of a team making a positive difference in the world.

It struck me that forming virtual teams – teams that collaborate over the internet, using tools like yuuguu – solve a lot of problems with volunteer based projects. If you manage volunteer projects, it would be worth your while to see if this can work for you.

Why?

A virtual team solves three barriers to being able to use a willing volunteer: time, place and (of course) money.

Work with volunteers where they live

By using your social media and traditional advertising skills, you can probably hook up with people who would love to volunteer on your project.

But what if they live far away?

If your project involves some aspect of digital work – designing, producing websites, videos, copy, graphics – then virtual work solves this problem directly. You no longer need to have your volunteer sit in your office to use a computer provided by you. You can direct and review work using screen share. You can transfer files electronically. You can chat using Instant Messages. It’s not uncommon for entire projects to be done in this way – just as we work here at Yuuguu.

Doing this opens your project up to a far wider pool of volunteers; with geography no longer an issue, you can work with anyone willing and able, wherever they live.

Work without a travel budget

A lot of project time – and budget – gets eaten up in meetings. It’s important to spend this money wisely at the best of times, and even more when you are a trustee of a charity. Ok, so you simply cannot build a well in a remote country without getting people, materials and tools on site. But you certainly can hold the design reviews of the engineering drawings virtually. And hold progress show and tell meetings virtually.

There are many possibilities for real world projects to work virtually. The well team could snap progress on bore hole excavation on a camera phone, and use screen sharing to show the remote project manager. Instant Message chat and telephone conferencing can bring together remote construction workers, the on-base project manager and the design consultancy to iron out the unexpected.

By taking the view of doing what meetings you can virtually, you can maximise the budget spent on the real objectives. A massive help – not to mention a right and proper PR boost – for any charitable organisation.

Work whenever your volunteers can

Another huge benefit is this: your volunteers will generally have day jobs. These jobs will clearly have first priority on their time; after all, you aren’t putting food on their table. So volunteers can be limited in when they can work. By forming a virtual team, you can reduce the burden of working at different times. Certainly, using yuuguu, you can send instructions and questions to volunteers who are offline, and they can pick these up when they come online. As soon as they do, yuuguu ‘Presence Indicators’ – traffic lights that say when you are working – will help you catch up quickly and efficiently. Much more so than email.

By opening up this flexible working, you can again include more volunteers than before – people who would love to help, but simply cannot work during your normal office hours.

Rain

Friday, August 13th, 2010
Video will appear here.




Good overview of Social Media tools

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

social-map-2010
This will be a useful tool for many of you, courtesy of Overdrive Interactive. Click the link to download two pdf files, which help to untangle the maze of Social Media tools on the web today.

Each pdf contains clickable links to all the sites for Social Media and Search Marketing that the authors felt were the most useful.


With an enormous number of tools out there, all with slightly different audiences, uses and – if you like – local customs, it can be difficult to get past the super-popular ones. We all know that we should tweet and facebook in business these days. But looking further afield has its advantages. Your specific business might well have ready-made groups of prospects, partners or co-workers elsewhere. It would be wise to introduce yourself!




Tip of the week: Break up long messages

Friday, July 9th, 2010

Yuuguu’s Instant Messages are most often used for fast, frequent communication between a team. These messages tend be short and to the point. But each message can actually be very long indeed, making Instant Messages ideal to hold in-depth meetings.


The key to using long messages effectively is to keep them readable. And that means breaking them up into paragraphs. This simple video shows you how.

Video will appear here.




What we mean by ‘like being in the office over the web’

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

I came across a nice review of Yuuguu the other day on a site discussing tools for teamwork. I commented on it partly as a thank you, and partly as I think there’s much more to Yuuguu for collaboration than the review picked up on. Yuuguu is far more useful for teamwork than simply a screen sharing facility.

The thing is, when we started yuuguu we were clear that we were building a team collaboration app. It’s grown a little since then, so it is also good at other things. But back in the day, we had a metaphor of ‘just like being in the office’. So, I took the time to explain how yuuguu features came about as a response to the question ‘What would you do in an office – and how would you do it over the internet?’

This is what I said. Hope it helps you get more from yuuguu!




We designed Yuuguu ground-up as a collaboration tool. It gets used for all sorts of stuff like web conferencing, sales calls, demos and what have you where it works very well. But it really is best at the remote teamwork application you talk of.

We started with the idea of ‘what do you do when you are in an office?’. We realised that the value of being in an office is that you can look up from your desk and see who is in, who is busy, and who looks free to help. So we added presence indicators to yuuguu – green and red lights by the side of everyone’s name which say ‘available/busy/do not disturb’.

You would then next perhaps shout or walk over to a colleague you thought you could work with. So, on yuuguu, we added instant message chat. You can send a quick ‘got a sec?’ kind of message by clicking your colleague’s name, typing the message in the drop down box and hitting enter.

You would then give them some context about why you wanted their advice. In the office, you walk over to your desk and start pointing at work on your computer screen. This is where the screen sharing and remote control features came in. We made sure that you could show your screen to up to 30 people, so you can do group-work with yuuguu. We later added ‘web share’ which is where people can view your screen share with just a web browser, without downloading the yuuguu app itself.

Of course you need to talk whilst you’re doing this, so we added low-cost, no-set-up voice conferencing using real telephones. We later added Skype integration, as a lot of people were wanting to work that way.

About the way in which you share your screen and the other person can accept/decline, we made it that way as a privacy control. Nobody can just ‘log in’ to your computer and see what you are doing unless you explicitly allow them to, and are fully aware of it. We saw that as much more appropriate to professional teamwork. That said, we’ve been asked to change it a few times, so currently we support a button ‘Please show me your screen’ which turns things round a bit. We might well make a more remote login style thing in the future.

Tip of the week: Add a little Smiley

Friday, June 11th, 2010

No self-respecting Instant Message chat is complete without its quota of smileys, or ‘emoticons’ to give them their more grandiose name. You can use them – or switch them off – in Yuuguu.


This video shows you how.

Video will appear here.




Tip of the week: What did we say?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Yuuguu’s Instant Messages are a great way to conduct meetings. What’s more, they provide an easy way to find out what was discussed. So, if you’re the wrong side of your morning coffee, and need to find out what was said yesterday, the ‘Recent Chats’ feature is just for you.


Now what colour was that button, again?


Video will appear here.