Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jaunt

Other people ask "why telecommute?", but Glenn Reynolds asks, "why not?"

DIGITAL NOMADS: High gas prices promote telecommuting. "One thing leads to another. High gas prices prompt employers (including the federal government) to allow employees to work from home once a week. Once that's accepted culturally, an elephant appears in the boardroom: If it's OK once a week, why isn't it OK five times a week? (This is what happened with 'casual Friday' -- its once-a-week acceptance lead to the current trend of casual wear every day.) Once telecommuting is accepted, 'extreme telecommuting' -- working from the Bahamas or Paris or an internet-connected shack on the Australian Outback -- becomes acceptable, too. After all, once you're out of the office and connecting to the company over the Internet, it doesn't really matter where you are, does it?"

All is proceeding exactly as I have foreseen. Related thoughts here.

Someone was even more prescient than Glenn. When Alfred Bester wrote his science fiction classic, The Stars My Destination back in the 1950s, fans probably wondered, "what if I could Jaunt" "Jaunting", for those who have never read the book, is a way of teleporting oneself from place to other. The initial problem in Gully Foyle's world -- he's the protagonist -- is that Jaunting is limited by connectivity. People need to know where they are going to go in order to Jaunt there. That fact prevented people from Jaunting into stranger's living rooms. Never having been there, they could never visualize it exactly.

If Jaunting sounds a little like telecommuting, well it is. And despite appearances, the mainstream workplace really has nothing against it. What they expect you to do, however, is telecommute to other places from the office. Once you get to a physical office then it's OK to Jaunt anywhere in the world. IT guys are allowed to take control of hundreds, possibly thousands of remote PCs. Managers sit down to phone and video conferences. The VOIP lines buzz continuously. The fax machines -- if any still exist -- spew out their anachronistic paper. Jaunting is OK. Just do it from the office.

Glenn Reynolds was right when he argued at Tech Central Station that people are required to come to the office not primarily to work, but to be controlled. Union bosses and managers will therefore oppose telecommuting to the bitter end. "Managers because they like to have workers in plain sight (which also makes managers look more important), and unions because it's harder to organize workers who aren't all in one place."

Clearly some managers are against Jaunting simply because it's new-fangled. During a trip last year to Southeast Asia, I met an old classmate who was the personal portfolio manager of one of the richest men in Asia. The old Chinese man had made his fortune in a very traditional line of retail trading. He was very forward looking in some ways, but in others he was positively medieval. Apart from his shares in the corporation, his family had a portfolio of securities traded in every major financial market in the world. My old classmate made trades worth millions of dollars every day on their behalf. But with one handicap. He was not allowed his own direct dial telephone line. Every time he needed to use the telephone he had to walk into the adjoining office and use the bosses' secretary's telephone.

But despite the odd eccentrics, most rational businessmen realize the potential of telecommuting. The first is it's potential to save time. By eliminating the three or four hours of commute time an employer can potentially liberate a large part of the day from the tyranny of sitting in a car and acquire a vastly larger pool of potential talent. There's no reason why companies have to limit their selection of employees to people who live within 80 miles of a building. Finally, telecommuting forces one to concentrate -- I find -- on attending real meetings and doing real work rather than on the task of merely showing up.

High gas prices are now literally pushing the marginal workers out of the market. The buses and trains in Sydney are unusually crowded with people who've given up their cars in favor of mass transportation because they can no longer afford the deadly combination of car registration fees, vehicle tolls, parking charges, installment payments and gas charges that are the running cost of a car. People are actually looking to carpool in a country where one's private automobile is the hallmark of adulthood and independence.

I think Glenn Reynolds is right in asserting that greed will now vie with the urge for control and loosen the manager's grip on workers at the margin. It may encourage them to look for ways to monitor and manage telecommuting more reliably. Or they may allow certain categories of workers to do their business from home.

Of course there will be categories of activity that will have to be performed in person. But for many types of work, telcommuting makes perfect sense. It can save time and heck of a lot of gas. Thirty years from today we'll laugh when we think of how back in 2008 most employers required workers to physically commute to work so that they could sit down at their computers. No longer will they say, as generations once did:

Gully Foyle is my name
I work for a corporation
The freeway is my dwelling place
The office my destination.




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62 Comments:

Blogger Noo said...

One potential downside: security. Hacking will be a problem with more workers using the net. If military lines are vulnerable to hacking by foreign geeks, imagine how vulnerable ordinary businesses are and will be.

5/31/2008 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Kim Lokken said...

A few years ago all of our shop orders were printed on a big printer hooked up to a mainframe (or what we call "Big Iron") and they were hand-delivered by a gentleman. After he retired, the shop orders were issued on-line, and we print them out ourselves on local network printers. Then we had some logistics people who kept track of what was in the storeroom, and when stocks got too low, they ordered a batch of new stuff. Now we have a piece of software that does all that automatically with preset upper and lower limits. we used to have girls take our time card information and punch it in, now you put your time into the system directly. We used to have girls go around putting changes into the procedures, now they are accessed as PDF's on the local intranet. On and on. All these jobs that sound like prime candidates for your telecommuting idea are inexorably being automated. Thirty years from now we will look back at the aborted telecommuting craze of 2008 like we looked at Walt Disney's trite idea of the future in Tommorrowland. My strategy has been to specialize in tasks which require a brain to analyze a problem and hands to carry out the repair.

5/31/2008 03:57:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Here I agree with Lokken.

Moreover, telecommuting/automating and let's be honest, race-to-the-bottom in terms of skilled labor has enormous social implications.

Among them, death of the Western City as a place for bright and beautiful young things to live an endless adolescence in pursuit of consumerism, in either goods or relationships.

If the work can be done anywhere, rest assured it will be done in the most cheap way possible, in India or China, by labor approaching Western Minimum wage.

You'll see the collapse of the white collar "knowledge worker" and with them the collapse of cities economies like say, NYC.

As noo says, however, the only saving grace may be the vulnerability to hacking. Already there are whispers of returning to coinage for currency based on the ease of counterfeiting paper money. The tangible requirements for seignorage make that a much tougher target for counterfeiters.

But really, if everyone can telecommute why not hire cheap people in India/China? This would include most Lawyering (research), doctoring, engineering, pretty much any knowledge worker. Only plumbers and carpenters would not be affected.

5/31/2008 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger tckurd said...

It's the further invasion into the home-life, off-time that I'm most worried about.

One of the first forms of this I encountered was the pager. With this little wireless gadget, your boss could reach you any time necessary and tell you important things, or make you work.

Next came the cell phone. If we thought pagers were intrusive into off-hours, the cell phone was positively the antichrist of intrustions.

Then, the blackberry. With push email integrated right into SMS and phone, browsing capability, etc. you could be at the office anywhere. How convenient for those who are enamored with the work who want others to be equally enamored.

Dial-in capability, while gaining ground in the 80's, is cheap and easy today with the internet. You don't need all those physical phone lines which were costly and only availble for your high-value employees - you only need an internet connection which are now completely ubiquitous.

I find the regular intrusions into my personal life moderately tolerable given my line of work and the 24x7 nature. However, not all people are probably ready for this. I'm thinking beyond just being a home-wrecking technology, telecommuting as a principle will create levels of worker fatigue and burnout at levels we've never seen.

And soon, it will be 10,000 B.C. all over again. There was no play, just hunt and eat - work all the time. Amazing that we will find ourselves back to our primordial state so quickly after first liberating ourselves from it.

5/31/2008 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

But really, if everyone can telecommute why not hire cheap people in India/China? This would include most Lawyering (research), doctoring, engineering, pretty much any knowledge worker. Only plumbers and carpenters would not be affected.

You haven't thought this through, have you?

Its called language. As in different. While you can outsource across the sea, and is being/has been done, the end product is never as good as is wanted. Mr. Patel over in Mumbai just doesn't understand. Now, the other Mr. Patel who sits 3 cubes down, and who is actually here, does understand.

5/31/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger jcaribou said...

Speaking as someone that has freelanced for the better part of a decade (never going into an office, ever) I can tell you one thing for certain: this will never work.

The problem is, most people (I'd say the vast, vast majority) simply aren't cut out for 'making their own hours' (I base this on actual experience with people that simply can't handle the lifestyle--and it *is* a lifestyle that tckurd touched on in his post) and if given the chance, will spend even less time on work than they likely already do (you mean I don't have a boss *ever* checking over my shoulder to see what porn site I'm surfing?! Sign me up!!).

5/31/2008 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger bombadil said...

I remember my first encounter as an 8th grader with Gully Foyle. If I remember correctly, he learned how to teleport himself by being threatened with death in a space suit.

Thanks for the memory Wretchard.

5/31/2008 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Many people actually do things, like make the lunches, electricity, do services like nursing, or transport the stuff a B2B telecommuter orders. No telecommuting advantage there.

There is also a team synergy in work teams that has been documented as shattering as the team fragments and retreats to their home kitchens or "work dens". And yes, productivity does suffer from lack of supervision and people's "situational awareness" of the many facets of the business that they should know fading as they focus less on what everybody is doing and more on what they alone are assigned to.

Ideally, people that have to be in one place to physically do what they have to do - and the roads and cities they congest would do "4 10s" and not only cut gas consumption way down, but relieve the congestion on roads and in cities. Unfortunately, most such workers would opt for a long weekend starting on Friday so the other four days commute would be just as unpleasant and clogged up.

Other solutions have potential, but downsides, too.

Staggered work hours have been a mixed success. Driving to work at 5 AM means you help the city and highway situation, but it means you get up at 3AM and don't see kids off to school and battle the circadian rythm physical and mental issues that shiftworkers have. And people stuck by bosses in onto such schemes don't like execs themselves exempted so they can meet and lunch with the 9 to 5 exec crowd or do the hard hours while "mothers with children" don't have to if they don't wish to.

Everytime the common sense of relying on buses or mass transit doing most of the commuter people-moving, there is one of those strikes with hundreds of thousands of commuters, or those systems that more often than not degrade into high prices and crummy services and accomodations.

But despite the downsides, the Europeans and Japanese and Little Dragons make it work - both mass transit and being ahead of us in telecommuting participation, so we laggard Americans can probably get there too as long as we learn from them...

5/31/2008 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

All these jobs that sound like prime candidates for your telecommuting idea are inexorably being automated.

Maybe that's because what appear to be prime candidates for telecommuting aren't. A secretary filing time sheets isn't going to telecommute. But a salesman who files his time sheets online is. We're already doing a lot of telecommuting but don't recognize it as such.

Back when I used to go to the bank to transact business. All my banking today is done online. There was a time when a weekly trip to the supermarket was de rigeur. Today I get it delivered from an online form. Time was I knew all my friends and clients. Today I've only met a few new friends in person and do business with people I will never meet. Once you get a reputation with your clients for being able to deliver a product on time, they don't really care if you work onsite or not. So long as you deliver.

The problem it seems to me, is how to exercise effective supervisory control over projects which are physically separated in space. How to measure output, time spent, separating business use from personal use. But these are all network monitoring problems and there is nothing in principle that prevents their solution.

5/31/2008 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger regan said...

Many thanks for the fond memories. I was a US teenager in Manila in the early 60's with a USAID library of scifi (and I believe all of Bester) to plow through. It's a good bet this is the reason my wife looks at me oddly when I go off topic.

5/31/2008 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

It's the further invasion into the home-life, off-time that I'm most worried about.

One of the first forms of this I encountered was the pager. With this little wireless gadget, your boss could reach you any time necessary and tell you important things, or make you work.

Next came the cell phone. If we thought pagers were intrusive into off-hours, the cell phone was positively the antichrist of intrustions.


Maybe if the pager or the cell phone ringing at home is logged as "work" then the supervisor will be careful about making calls that affect his budget -- and intruding on your time. Getting tasks assigned to us by cell phone recognized as work is legitimate.

5/31/2008 05:22:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I have done a fair amount of telecommuting in the past few years. When you are building a database it really does not matter if you do it at home at 0300 or at the office during “regular business hours.”

One of the truly bizarre things about the spread of modern communications technology is that it has become much easier to do the telecommunications part and much harder to actually communicate. Just try to call your local Sear store using the number in the phone book. Just try it. No matter which store you call, you will get routed to the Sears Intergalactic Interdimensional Communications Center. And they have no idea if the paint scanner at your local Sears is operational, or apparently even where that insignificant planet called Earth is located.

At the office earlier this year our phone system went down one day while I was talking to our Houston office (missed the chance to say “Houston we have a problem”). And it turned out that our phone service was handled through a Byzantine series of arrangements that would have confused someone from 15th Century Italy. Finally got their attention by contacting the local newspaper and complaining to their consumer affairs writer. At one point I offered to set up a shortwave radio network; it would have been easier.

And in the book Gully Foyle’s rhyme ended with “And death’s my destination.” I think he had been trying to talk to someone at Sears. Or maybe MCI.

5/31/2008 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger bobal said...

As for me, I think if Obama gets in, and sinks our defense industry, and the enviros get more of a grip, we all headed Right Here

After all, we've been told "it takes a village."

Until now, I was never much for the idea that 'the machines are gonna fail', but I'm not so sure now. Provide, Provide.

5/31/2008 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger ADE said...

Whiskey

You'll see the collapse of the white collar "knowledge worker"

This is the false 'fixed volume of work' argument. The rising output of Patel in Mumbai will create more demand from Patel, such as his tourist trip to NYC. Moving Detroit to Japan, then China, then India hasn't reduced the number of autos in NYC.

However, just because Patel in Mumbai demands it, doesn't mean he's going to get it - for example, there is only a limited amount of cheap oil.

It is the rising cost of gas that will make changes, be they telecomutting, living closer to work, leading simpler lives.

To insulate yourself from all of this, you need to join the non-globally traded sector; eg become a social worker working for the Government. Yes, there are worse fates than having your job exported to India.

ADE

5/31/2008 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

China 200,000 flee from growing Sichuan lake

China's contingency plan to evacuate up to 1.3m flood-threatened survivors of the Sichuan earthquake got under way today with the movement of almost 200,000 people.

The relocation to higher ground was started as fears grew that a huge lake may flood down from the mountains where water has built up behind an unstable landslide.

It is the first stage of a plan to move up to 1.3 million people who live downstream of the Tangjiashan "quake lake", the largest of the 34 bodies of water formed by the seismic disruption on 13 May.

Chinese engineers have been trying to dig and blast a channel that would allow the lake to drain safely, but their efforts have been hampered by rainfall and the inaccessibility of the location.

Despite flying 30 giant earthmovers to the site by army helicopter, the water has continued to build up behind the newly formed dam. At one point below the barricade, it is 23 metres (72ft) deep.

Officials said it was unlikely to burst today but the risks will increase in the days ahead as heavy rain and big aftershocks are forecast.

5/31/2008 06:18:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

The telecommuting revolution could be of significant benefit to women, as it eliminates the biggest remaining problem they have dealing with men in the workplace.

That problem is the unfair advantages given to women who are above-average in physical appearence and the disadvanteges handed to women who are below-average in looks.

In my line of work, very attractive women have advantages both in getting the job done, but in gaining favor from management.

I don't work in sales, per se, but like almost every job, there is an element of persuasion involved in getting the job done (research). Very attractive women have a much easier time getting top executives and high government officials to speak to them and, more important, to give them material information, which is the gold we all dig.

It's simply biological. A very high percentage of men, who make up an even higher percentage of upper management and other positions of power, cannot help but give far more breaks to attractive women than to women they feel are less so or to men.

I've been watching that happen for 25 years in my profession: during which time women in general have achieved astonishing gains in status and rank within the industry. The old type of sexism that deems women broadly unfit for work has been wiped out.

What remains is the variety that confers important day-to-day favors on women perceived to be physically attractive and merely sets the bar higher for ``unattractive'' women.

And ladies: do not take this as whine on my part. Men have other advantages over women and I don't think the advantages handed to physically attractive women come at men's expense so much. Rather, they come at the expense of unattractive women.

Could be that telecommuting eliminates that. Or it could be that telecommuting doesn't take off BECAUSE powerful men like having hot women around the office etc. while their wife is at home...

5/31/2008 06:27:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

America has 5% unemployment and we whine about a second ‘Great Depression’.

Folks, we are producing more with less. That trend has to continue. Why? Because the Boomers will be retiring and a smaller cadre of workers is available. But, the Boomer lifestyle for consumption will not abate as rapidly and my lifestyle seems to be getting a bit tight around the beltline as well. So, we must either get more productive, import product, or import people.

How does this fit into telecommuting?

It can be more productive. Imagine that supervisor telecommuting into his/her disparate staff member’s office (home to home or whatever). Sharing and managing work. In a lot of business there could be a competitive advantage to having staff close to the customer. And, that staff could create when they have their mojo going – not when they still need three cups of coffee. Obviously, there are concerns, eh.
It imports product. Where do you go when you buy VDH’s ‘Carnage and Culture’ on Amazon? When you buy underwear at the Target site? When you listen to Lawrence Wright’s discussion about the internal friction in the Egyptian Islamist movement? So, when I buy ‘Carnage and Culture’ and ‘The Pentagon’s New Map’ and some Jockey shorts a whole lotta things happen instantaneously. Things that were not so instantaneous fifteen years ago. Basically, the efforts of disparate people and material are ‘rolled up’ to support my need.
It imports people. Some software is now made in India. In effect, those Indians are telecommuting into Redmond, Washington. Is this bad? Even though it may (and probably does) affect me, I think not. I can compete – and with the world of employers at my fingertips I think I will do fine. By the way Wretchard and Kim and Whiskey, you have been imported into my office as my index finger knurls the scrolling wheel. Ten years ago I ain’t got you. Now I do!!!

We are learning to work in the far, far away

We already telecommute.

See.

5/31/2008 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Cost/benefit ratios will probably play a large part in the decision as to whether or not do a job remotely. A call center employee delivers a relatively low-value service and it would be uneconomical to physically transport him all the way to Europe or America. But it is economical to teletransport him from a Third World location because he can deliver an appreciable level of service for the Global Transgalactic Sears Customer Support Center from there. Okay, maybe. Again we see the distinction between the remote provision of services as opposed to "working from home". The Third World Call Center guy physically travels to work, then telecommutes, over office equipment to the requisite part of the globe. He does this to solve the supervisory problem, not because it is physically necessary.

At the other end of the spectrum are those whose time is simply too valuable to be wasted traveling and who work largely unsupervised anyway. What is the impetus for creating remote medical diagnosis or surgery systems? To allow a doctor, who may be sitting in Boston, to instantly shift to a location anywhere in the world to deliver his specialized skill without hopping on a relatively slow jet to do it. In this case the supervisory problem is less an issue and the network log of packets perfectly records what he does.

Battlefield remote medicine operates on the same idea: getting the most out military medical assets without the cost of securely transporting them to the front. Ditto for the operators of armed UAVs, but in this case it is pilot assets. Skilled pilots and surgeons have too highly valued a skill to be used up in travel time.

What rising fuel prices will do is change the cost/benefit ratios for some jobs. When they get high enough we'll invent ways of accurately collaborating and recording our participation over a larger network. Some things can't be done this way. But even in police work it has had it's impact. One of my clients long ago was a company that monitored security cameras overlooking certain facilities. They were telecommuting. But again, they were telecommuting from the office. What the physical office did was solve the security and supervisory problem, not the delivery of the actual services.

5/31/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

“Battlefield remote medicine operates on the same idea: getting the most out military medical assets without the cost of securely transporting them to the front. Ditto for the operators of armed UAVs, but in this case it is pilot assets. Skilled pilots and surgeons have too highly valued a skill to be used up in travel time.”

Wretchard, whether the medic telecommutes from home (maybe a specialist in spinal injuries) or telecommutes from a work site (retrieving his client’s personnel and medical records from CONUS based servers) is rather irrelevant. Time is the important cost – far more a factor than the price of fuel. You can take some of my money and I can recover. I can’t recover wasted time. I despise those who waste my time.

All that the increase of fuel costs is doing for the growth of telecommuting is giving valuable employees a business rule to demand change. Do you want to keep the payroll specialist that knows your needs enough to allow him/her to schedule face time a bit tighter? Or, do you want to force that individual to sit in an office where he/she has to jump to whatever duty you holler about right now. I think the unskilled manager is the one that is in the biggest trouble.

But, then again, they are the ones being challenged in the Flat World right now, eh.

5/31/2008 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

I see telecommuting as growing a lot, but not nearly as much as some would see it.

Why? Too much of the informal social aspect (in a good way) of working at the office is lost.

Established teams can be split up to work remotely, but helping grow new teams? Not so much.

In my 13 year career as an engineer at electronics designer & manufacturer, the value of unplanned informal communication could be overstated -- far more is learned (about problems or opportunities) thru the casual serendipity of hallway conversations, or overhearing your colleagues in the next office, cubicle, or breakroom. Much of the value of being able to either receive or give unplanned help is lost with telecommuting.

Speakerphones, three way calling, email, and even IM'ing are not remotely the same thing. Lest I sound like some Luddite, I was doing mainframe-based online chat in college back around 1984, used COmpuServe a fe years later, then was on the Web early, and was one of the early users of the pre-AOL IM tools like ICQ and Powwow -- cool tools all, but the novelty wore off.

How do the new peopel in the organization get up to speed when everyone is distributed? Not too well. When it comes to more particular technical skills, that missing piece of acquiring and extending them is the rubbing off of real world experience form the gurus, not to mention all the organization's undocumented knowledge.

Face-to-face is so much more efficient.

I agree that jobs which can truly be done in relative isolation of telecommuting are potentially not that important or irreplaceable. Specific jobs such as in the computing field might work that way, for already established proefssionals, but again, it will be that much harder for newer people to get up to that level of competence in the first place.

I see telecommuting increasing, perhaps as more of an extension of the flex-time concept, but not so much a full time thing.

5/31/2008 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Bookyards said...

For anyone who wants to read Alfred Bester's book The Stars My Destination, a version in word can be downloaded from here
http://rapidshare.com/files/119208572/Bester__Alfred_-_The_Stars_My_Destination.doc.html
a version in pdf can be downloaded from here
http://rapidshare.com/files/119208786/Bester__Alfred_-_The_Stars_My_Destination.pdf.html

5/31/2008 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Jeffrey Zeldman Presents Fish tacos FTW nom nom nom

You can look at Twitter as text messaging or as micro-blogging.

If it’s text-messaging, of concern only to your closest friends, then content such as “Dude, where are you? We’re in the mezzanine” is perfectly appropriate, and “Fish tacos FTW nom nom nom” is practically overachievement.

If it’s micro-blogging, then you may be obliged, like any writer, to consider your reader’s need for value.

Writers inform and enlighten. They create worlds, ideologies, and brochure copy.

In 140 characters, a good writer can make you laugh and a great one can make you march.

You thought I was going to say “cry.” That, too.

Not everyone who blogs is Dostoevsky, and with ten Twitterers for every blogger, the literary riches are spread thin.

Fine writers are using Twitter—they’re using it even more than they’re using their personal sites, because it’s an even faster means of distributing what they have to offer, which is jokes, poems, and ideas.

5/31/2008 07:10:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Crap :)
should be
"value of unplanne dcommunication CANNOT be overstated"

ALso,
Wretchard said:
"Ditto for the operators of armed UAVs, but in this case it is pilot assets. Skilled pilots and surgeons have too highly valued a skill to be used up in travel time."

Actually, wrt UAVs, fully skilled pilots on UAVs to a large extent are extreme overkill -- actually a waste of their time. WHat's at work there is in effect "union work rules" --- political resistance to letting non-pilot/non-officers at the stick of a plane, even a UAV.

5/31/2008 07:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bret said...

So even wretchard has fallen for the concept of static personal transportation technology. That gasoline powered cars are it forever and gasoline will get ever more expensive.

All types of transportation costs have fallen over the decades and centuries. On average, not withstanding the occasional blip to the contrary, transportation costs will continue to fall, including the personal time component thereof.

5/31/2008 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger Boghie said...

Imagine a European Union that hasn’t adjusted to the modern world.

Europe 'needs 75 years' to catch US

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2005/03/12/cneucham12.xml

(I don't think the xml can be anchored in blogger?)

Can you see the unions, guilds, and government flaks of the European Union dealing with the problem of telework? How would you unionize the labor force? How would you guarantee your 23 hour work week? How would you even guarantee your tax base?

The funniest thing about this post’s current conversation is that we are so far ahead of the game that the rules seem rather second nature. It is hard to find the problem with some elements of telecommuting. However imagine living with European productivity, European research and development, European employment guidelines, European statism. The article states that the EU is trundling around somewhere in a Carter era. That their bureaucratic pledges and five year plans will catch up with America by 2072 – but, only if their true income growth exceeds that of America’s by ½% every year. Folks, they never exceed our growth. Well, actually, they did grow their CO2 pollution faster than we did since signing the Kyoto agreement.

Think of one of those self made rich bastards that Kim decried looking for a smart employee who spoke Arabic to alter a business-to-business application that spanned into a reinvigorated Iraq. He/She puts an add in Monster.com. Finds and hires a SAP configuration manager from France who speaks Arabic while courting another in Iraq who recently worked in Halliburton’s server farm. Viola, the birth of a telecommuting ‘giant’. Could a Carter Era European Union 'managed' company do that?

Who does the Frenchie answer to regarding EU rules and regulations? Maybe the Frog gets mad and goes black market or moves to some pretty part of Czech Republic or Turkey.

5/31/2008 07:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"The value of unplanned informal communication could be cannot be overstated -- far more is learned (about problems or opportunities) thru the casual serendipity of hallway conversations, or overhearing your colleagues in the next office, cubicle, or breakroom. Much of the value of being able to either receive or give unplanned help is lost with telecommuting.

Speakerphones, three way calling, email, and even IM'ing are not remotely the same thing.
"
---
Agree w/C-4 and newscaper:
Son's place of work brings him into contact with AF Officers, Boeing Rocketdyne, Textron, Cray, Dell, etc employees, as well as those from 2 Universities, student interns, physicists, astronomers, webmasters, AF security, network security, etc.
Continual text messaging is in addition to this interchange, not in place of.

5/31/2008 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Next week I go out for a month at my favorite office. A coffee shop in Haleiwa, HI
on the North Shore of Oahu. Got a place up the shore in Waialua to park for the evening. A nice commute in the morning. And I can stay put if I like. The reception is good. The view is too. Got a new laptop for the occasion. I've been wrestling with vista for the last couple days. I'm a little afraid some my programs won't make the changeover from my xp laptop. However, I got the wireless working today so I can go online at the coffee shop or where-ever.

I'm going to bring along my garmin. It makes going to new places a breeze. I'll slap into the windshield of my rental and go.

I missed the surf/snorkling days. Don't do much camping hiking or mountain climbing anymore. This electronic stuff is great fun for a middle aged guy.

You pretty have have to move around if you work on the internet. What happens to everyone is that they press out and press out on the internet. But if you stay in one place too long the internet presses back in on you and you get middled. No if ands or buts about it.

5/31/2008 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

My only reservation is that likely I should have done this in January. The weather in January is temperate if rainy. June is hot & humid.

seems they don't believe in air conditioners there.

5/31/2008 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Boghie,

(I don't think the xml can be anchored in blogger?)

Sure why not?

Europe 'needs 75 years' to catch US

5/31/2008 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

There is one big downside to telecommuting – one cannot smell through a computer. In a face-to-face environment, one can smell an emotional reaction to what one has said, with the effect that one can tell when one is over a certain line or straying into a taboo subject. Even telephone conversation has an advantage over text messaging in that one can hear the breathing on the other side to gauge the reaction to what one has said.

In contrast, internet communication relies upon the sheer ability of text to convey information, with the effect that cultural misunderstanding is not only possible but likely. It is no accident that “flame wars” are constant in an electronic atmosphere. Such “flame wars” were also common in previous centuries between scholars (usually theologians) whose only communications with one another was through letters or eventually printed pamphlets and books. A family that relies upon electronics for communication will generally fall apart; a family that uses electronics to fill in the gaps between times of meeting one another face to face generally stays together.

Likewise, telecommuting is an excellent means for a business to “fill in the gaps” and market itself in an impersonal way. I think electronic communications revolution could very well put the New York Stock Exchange and the New York Times out of business. What telecommuting can’t do is replace the importance of listening to voice tone, breathing patterns, and the all-important smell of body odor. A sense of smell is absolutely necessary to assess how far one can go with one’s ideas. It is especially important to gauge the likelihood of violence or some other negative reaction. To navigate human interaction without smell would be much like navigating through crowded New York streets while blind. It can be done, but it is much more difficult.

I think we will see the rise of an “electronic piecework” economy, much as the garment industry once farmed its production to women who lived and worked in their own homes. This would neither make the world a better nor a worse place to live; it would just be different. The unions would hate it while worker owned cooperatives would love it.

5/31/2008 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Telecommuting isn't a panacea. I've done quite a bit of it in several positions for over ten years.

It's more difficult to manage workers that aren't on site. Things usually work better if there is still some face time. Real outsourcing can reveal cultural differences that aren't understood by those in the relationship.

From the worker's perspective there's a certain out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem. If you're not in the office they don't think of you for various things, like promotions and increased responsibilities.

Telecommuting works best for senior workers with a track record. Even in that case it's possible for senior workers to have life interfere. Things that would be obvious in the office, like not coming to work for a month, may go unnoticed with a telecommuter. Obviously that's bad for the company but it's likely to result in termination when the company catches on. If the worker were coming in to the office the problem might have been resolved without a termination at an earlier time.

As a telecommuter and remote worker I love it. But it has its own unique problems.

5/31/2008 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

I think far too many people are sanguine.

First, government revenues depend on wealth created, and to a large extent on the average person's wealth, since corporations can always shift revenue and other tricks to minimize taxes unlike wage earners.

So shifting wages from the US to Mumbai with the difference being pocketed by the corporation as profits means less wealth for the government. Any government jobs will be protected patronage class anyway. No average person need apply.

Secondly, of course business will use the lowest cost possible. Yes using Indians or English "speaking" Chinese means more costs, in time and money (which are of course equivalent) but for the same reason manufacturing fled to the lowest cost (China) for almost everything, so too will services.

Why pay Engineers or Programmers $70K a year when you can pay three men in India who are perceived to be "smarter" around $10 a year, together? The cost savings is that significant, your competitors will do it, so what if there are inefficiencies? Lower labor costs always kills capital investment.

Yes it is a zero-sum game. The Indian or Chinese workers will not earn enough to employ workers in the US to make up for manufacturing and service jobs.

About the only service job that is not hands-on (i.e. plumbers and repairmen) that won't be outsourced is entertainment. That's about it. You'll see gutting of the US science and technology as no one can compete with Indian and CHinese PhDs working for $12 per hour.

This has serious implications. It is certainly likely to provoke protectionism because ordinary people did not sign up to be dirt poor to make corporate profits fatter. If even service jobs go to India, or China, or Vietnam, there's nothing much left.

The classic pre-revolutionary state is where rising expectations are suddenly dashed by lowered incomes and more miserable life: France up to 1789, Weimar Republic, etc.

Part of why Obama exists as a candidate is that his protectionism is very popular. People know they can't win against $12 an hour for skilled labor such as engineering, programming, etc.

5/31/2008 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I do not think it is possible to completely restore a religion once it has been broken. While the sacred texts may still exist, a lack of continuity in the priestly tradition can cause the meaning of the words to become distorted. Every typographical error in a text becomes important whenever there is no community of awareness that knows what fits and what doesn’t. For example, imagine future generations who are utterly ignorant of the urban geography of ancient Jerusalem and then imagine them attempting to explain how a camel is supposed to pass through the eye of a needle.

To quote a certain infamous hedgehog from the Incredible String Band, without an ongoing religious tradition, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes, but you never quite learned the song.

Relying upon sacred text alone can be considered to be a religious version of telecommuting.

5/31/2008 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger elfman2 said...

mcdaddyo said: "What remains is the variety that confers important day-to-day favors on women perceived to be physically attractive and merely sets the bar higher for ``unattractive'' women."

There are exceptions. I decided in college that I'd never hire an attractive female programmer after all the help I saw them getting in computer lab. There were several who'd just have to look confused and a geek or two would magically appear over their shoulder. No way could they develop the analytical skills to design good code like that. One day I hope to have a shop full of butt ugly women programmers!

5/31/2008 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

What would happen to the concept of telecommuting if the UN or the European Union should manage to wrest control of the internet from America?

Europe is already trying to beat Microsoft into submission and into giving away all their trade secrets.

If America wants to telecommute, we need to firmly show Europe (and India) that their wants and desires stop at our borders, no matter how unfair it seems to them.

5/31/2008 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger eggplant said...

Elfman2 said:

"I decided in college that I'd never hire an attractive female programmer after all the help I saw them getting in computer lab. There were several who'd just have to look confused and a geek or two would magically appear over their shoulder. No way could they develop the analytical skills to design good code like that."

I've also noticed that excess testosterone can lower a guy's IQ by at least 15 points. Put a gorgeous intelligent female engineer with 10 young male engineers and she may add 130 IQ points to the group. Unfortunately the collective IQ of the 10 young males will have dropped by 150 points so it's a net loss.

It's unfair but that's how people are.

5/31/2008 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Alexis @ 5/31/2008 09:57:00 PM
Check this 1994 post out!

ASCII Is Too Intimate
---
Sometimes Crowds Aren't That Wise

5/31/2008 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I've lurked this blog for a long time (I find the topics and commentary fascinating), but never have anything to contribute. This subject however, I have experience with; I have "teleworked" 100% from home since 2002. I had actually never even met my boss until this year (I didn't even know what he looked like - it was nice to finally meet him). While that may not be too unusual in some situations, I do it for a very large company that has been fairly resistant to this type of thing. I'm honestly not sure some people would function well in a similar arrangement (i.e. people that require close supervision or constant direction). In fact, when I describe my situation to people, many of them ask me how I keep from "watching TV all day" (I think many executives are wondering the exact same thing when they craft policies that prevent telecommuting).

If it does become common, one thing I'm sure of is that detailed metrics will be used; executives will need some type of reassurance that their employees aren't slacking off. They may be fairly benign and as simple as current projects and their status, or they could be far more draconian (imagine software that tracks and produces graphs of keyboard and mouse activity, emails read/sent, calls made/received, etc.) Such software would not be difficult to produce, but I would not like to work for Big Brother.

As for one poster's question about telecommuting and the ease of outsourcing, I have already witnessed one failed attempt at aggressive outsourcing, and am currently watching a second (much less aggressive) attempt. Communication, culture, and attitudes are a very big deal, and you can easily forget that when you typically deal with a small subset of people who are all share the same general characteristics (I have lots of good stories regarding that)

5/31/2008 11:45:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

Why the scare quotes around "mothers with children"? Is that bizarro world to you, people with families and children? In fact the very phrase is redundant. What is your point? The entire sentence that was taken from makes no sense, really.

5/31/2008 11:46:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Redundant?
Consider unfortunate mothers victimized by kidnappers!

6/01/2008 12:19:00 AM  
Blogger lgude said...

I've watched my son and daughter in law telecommute for 10 years in jobs involving various forms of Internet advertising. They make it work lots of ways - recently an 80 person telleconverence with a European client observed by top management got done from home. My son an I went on hyperalert to keep the 5yo and 3yo from getting in a screaming fight. I noticed in passing we were working but didn't get paid. Another time I drove myself to the airport while my son continued a teleconference with people in 20 locations all over the US from the passenger seat. He even sent an email inquiry on his Blackbury, got the response and put the information back into the teleconference. I notice that both of them do a lot of flying to get face time and engage in other ways. My point is that whole new skill sets and structures develop. Lots of winners and losers. I don't pretend to see what it will lead to, but I think the more pessimistic views are often, not always, based on seeing the impact on older ways of doing things. It looks like net loss, but the new advantages that MAY emerge are not yet apparent. I think the dangers are real, but so are the opportunities.

6/01/2008 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

The Global Village

ht:Rufus

You people are all too damned serious around here. Lighten up a bit.

6/01/2008 12:57:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

McDaddyo: Men have other advantages over women and I don't think the advantages handed to physically attractive women come at men's expense so much. Rather, they come at the expense of unattractive women.

Actually, they come at the expense of the organization. The Peter Principle, you know.

Alexis: To quote a certain infamous hedgehog from the Incredible String Band, without an ongoing religious tradition, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes, but you never quite learned the song. Relying upon sacred text alone can be considered to be a religious version of telecommuting.

The Christian sacred texts alone allow human beings to own other human beings, and allow people to stone other people who were born with certain preferences. Sometimes a reboot is in order.

6/01/2008 05:41:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

I am an applications developer who works for a contracting firm. I have been with my current client now for two years. The first year was characterized by me driving down about two-1/4 hours from home on Monday morning, checking into a hotel Monday afternoon, and checking out on Friday morning.

When it came to re-up my contract, I said NO. The client came back and said I could work at home three days per week and be onsite two days per week. This arrangement has worked well.

It is very possible to reduce the amount of time one is needed in the office, but I don't see the ties ever being completely severed. I do have paperwork to fill out, process, and sign. I do have to meet with my (ab)users and colleagues to discuss needs.

Telecommunications is a big help but as Newscaper contends the chances of accidentally learning important information is higher onsite and amongst one's colleagues than it is via telecommuting.

6/01/2008 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Teresita said...

Phil: They may be fairly benign and as simple as current projects and their status, or they could be far more draconian (imagine software that tracks and produces graphs of keyboard and mouse activity, emails read/sent, calls made/received, etc.) Such software would not be difficult to produce, but I would not like to work for Big Brother.

Now imagine software on the employee end which sends emails and keyboard interrupts at random, maybe streaming prepared pitter-patter, while "calls" are made to other idle peers on the network where they stream audio .WAV files of the conversation between Michael and Vito Corleone in The Godfather. The eternal war between copyright holders and the people who trade their files teaches us that for every action there is an opposite and even more ingenious reaction.

6/01/2008 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger MaYHeM said...

Alot of you sound a little paranoid and old fashioned.

Yes, not all jobs are designed for telecommuting, but there are a good portion that could benefit from it.

As a software engineer, I see huge advantage in telecommuting. And I do it every day. Just not in the way I desire. It seems to happen during my 'off hours'.

As was stated, telecommuting and all the technologies that enabled it, allow my 'boss' to reach into my personal hours.

But it also enables me the freedom to work 'less' at the office. There will always be benefit to going into the office for fellowship. Reaching someone electronically (phone, email, chat, whatever) is never quite as easy as when you can put eyes on them.

Drawing on a whiteboard together is just better than web conferencing.

What has to happen? Employers have to let go of the reigns a little bit. Too long have they had dominion over the worker, whipping the backs bloody to ensure we work ever harder.

These technologies were supposed to free us? Instead, they've created a desire for more productivity. You can't mush a sled dog from Texas.

6/01/2008 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Kim Lokken said...

Bush-McCain tells us that talking to our enemies like Obama wants to do is appeasement and we need to go around with a big stick instead. O RLY?

The Bush administration wanted to confront the Syrians last year with the intelligence and use the issue to pressure them to dismantle the facility. The Israelis decided they couldn't wait -- and bombed the suspected reactor site on Sept. 6, 2007.

The United States feared the Israeli attack might trigger a wider war, and insisted on American-Israeli silence to avoid humiliating Syrian President Bashar Assad. In the end, the Israelis were right in their prediction that Syria wouldn't retaliate. Instead, according to U.S. intelligence, the Syrians scrambled to hide traces of the reactor they had secretly been building.

6/01/2008 08:08:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Look, everyone, Kim just changed the subject again. I wonder if she'd campaign 8 hours a day for Obama if she were allowed to "work" away from a supervisor whipping her back bloody to make sure she even works at all.

* * *
Why the scare quotes around "mothers with children"? For those of us who have to cover for them, "mothers with children" are notorious for coming in late and leaving early to do "kid stuff", and for calling in sick at least once a week because they have to stay home to take care of little Hubert.

I had lunch last week with a friend who is dealing with such a mother right now, and sympathized with her frustration.

I worked with a woman who was a "mother with children" who did telecommute, and it wasn't any better. She consistently missed deadlines, wasn't available to make decisions when needed (she was out on the golf course), didn't know who the players were when she attended functions, and when she *was* in the office, spent time screaming at her kids on the phone -- so she was telecommuting from work to home, too. She was also the boss's daughter.

These females do NOT do the same quality of work or put in the same amount of effort as normal people, but boy, you sure can't tell them that because then it's some kind of racism. Essentially, they want top dollar for just showing up occasionally, AND the support of the whole infrastructure and everyone around them to "help" them when they're in a crisis mode, which is very very frequently.

I wish the HR types would come up with some kind of demerit for "abusing support for mother's with children" so maybe these females would start to get a clue that their behavior is NOT professional, not appreciated, and very probably not even very good parenting.

6/01/2008 08:51:00 AM  
Blogger Foobarista said...

My company is nearly 60% offsite and telecommute now. We come in 2 days per week for meetings - which are still best done in person - while the rest of the time we work from home.

I still think the idea of 100% telecommute is extremely tough to get right, and I've never seen it done successfully. There's lots of social interaction and important hallway discussions that are hard to do if everyone telecommutes all the time.

That said, 60% appears to work well.

6/01/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Teresita,

That would be true except for one thing; in this situation (telecommuting for a very large company) the playing field is not level. I am using their hardware and software (they push out software and updates remotely), and they set all the rules. When I am VPNed on my work PC I cannot even connect to my own LAN (they have the firewall configured very carefully).

Are there ways around their restrictions (and theoretical metrics)? Certainly, but taking that road would violate agreements I signed when hired as an employee. In that situation, I think a more ethical solution would be to find a better job.

6/01/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"and when she *was* in the office, spent time screaming at her kids on the phone "
---
Now THAT's a workplace horror I'd never even imagined.
One shudders at the thought.
Good parenting, indeed.

6/01/2008 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger EIA said...

I am a software developer for a large software company, and I have been 100% telecommuting for years. I live on the East Coast, my boss (whom I have never met in person) and a few team members are in company HQ in California, and there are several other team members scattered all over the country and the world. I have a nominal desk in a satellite office an hour's commute away, but I haven't visited it for more than a year. While there can be issues with getting "disconnected" from the workplace (in fact I engineered a transfer from a previous team where they weren't giving me enough concrete assignments - a little slack is nice, but too much is worrisome), in general, one can adapt, and be productive.

Oh, yeah, and ditto on the language/cultural issues of outsourcing. The quality of outsourced code can often leave much to be desired. At one point, outsourcing was a management fad - an overused hammer applied to everything that looked like a nail. It was touted as a panacea that would allow managers to avoid all the nasty issues of actually, you know, managing; and save money too. Bunk. It is more properly viewed as just another tool in the management toolbox, with upsides and downsides, to be used when appropriate. In my company, we outsource the dreary code maintenance for products that are no longer under active development, and that suits me fine - I get to do the more interesting new development work.

6/01/2008 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

Nahn-Cee, that does not correspond to my own experience. Many of my coworkers are mothers (with children even :^)) and they are all hardworking, productive employees.

Nevertheless I do not at all doubt what you are saying, because you are an honorable, thoughtful contributor here. I only wished to point out that the scare quotes and the very phrase "mothers with children" are pointless and idiotic.

Foobarista: "That said, 60% appears to work well."

Yes, it is difficult if not impossible to have complete telecommuting because some things can only be done in person. But there is an awful lot you can accomplish over computers, and many people are productively telecommuting these days.

6/01/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

My sister and brother in law just came back from Oahu. They say the islands are now regularly being blanketed with volcanic smog from KILAUEA

Doesn't sound good.

6/01/2008 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

For all the good aspects there are in "tele-commuting," the hurdle I foresee is in the problem of people having their workstations at a distance from the IT genius back at the office.

In 1969 and spring of 1970 I took a couple of courses learning Fortran. Learned enough to write some extremely rudimentary programs. I wrote the statements on a sheet, took the sheet to a room with ten VW-sized machines designed for punching holes in Hollerith cards. Each machine had a hopper of blank "IBM" cards. Each tap on a keyboard key resulted in a loud BANG as a contact allowed a mechanical punch to hurtle through the card and sever the paper fibers, creating the famous "Chad."

The clatter was considerable.

The stack of punched cards had to be carried then about a mile-and-a-half distant to a building where after genuflecting and making a donation to a stern temple guardian, you handed them to a cotton-gloved monk in a consecrated lab coat.

24 hours later, if the proper sacrifices and incantations had been done, you could log in on an "intelligent" IBM selectric terminal anywhere on campus, and play your little game of tic-tac-to.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I've been fooling with computers --- working with and teaching computer graphics on Windows, Unix, and Mac systems--- for a LONG TIME, and I still regularly fetch up against problems with the computer that reduce me to shrieking, weeping, hysterical, puppy-threatening vexation. Sometimes screw-ups come down to a single ampersand in a document title. ("illegal characters!")

I purely pity the suffering person who has to work with a WINDOWS system, who may have to install and upgrade software, load documents upward & down via a flaky internet connection, while sharing the connection with the family for phone calls, faxes, and other internet activities.

Frequently, instructions for installation expect the reader to be able to assess the operating system, the currently installed versions, and be able to grasp and deal with possible conflicts. I've known a LOT of people who can work unsupervised with a few applications --- meaning they don't have to keep asking for help to get their work done with that application. But those same people are at sea when asked to deal with installations, setting permissions, configuring the internet connection or email server link... When I worked on a ranch for a few years, I used ALL my Red Cross wilderness emergency response training in caring for the critters. But we were ALWAYS calling the large-animal vet. I wasn't about to castrate the male yearlings.

A man's gotta know his limitations.

Telecommuting truly needs a high-bandwidth internet connection, AND a reliable cell phone connection not subject to sharing with teenage children. And at the employer's end, it needs a savvy and diplomatic IT staff. I've met a lot of system administrators who were extremely patient and generous persons, but it only takes one ill-tempered lout to reduce the telecommuters to impotence.

... AND eat into profits.

6/01/2008 10:36:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

NahnCee said...

What would happen to the concept of telecommuting if the UN or the European Union should manage to wrest control of the internet from America?

And how would they break it so telecommuting doesn't work? Any way that I could think of would break it for everyone.

Assume they can, then.

I know what I, as an IT guy, would do.

Stand up a dial-in server. Buy each telecomuter a modem. Problem solved.

Granted, video streaming is going to be problematic, as are really large attachments in email = but the larger problem is getting Telecommuter Terry to connect to the corporate network is solved.

And .. you can get a lot of 'oomph' out of a 56k line.

I'll bet if 'the internet' is broken in such a way .. it won't be long before some smart guys get back to work on modem technologies and figure out a way to get more bits out of a POTS line.

6/02/2008 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/02/2008 07:58:00 AM  
Blogger Kirk Parker said...

Mad Fiddler,

I have a two-word solution for you: Terminal Services.

This won't solve remote-end networking problems, but since the client does come with all recent version of Windows, pretty much all the rest is thereby located on your servers instead of on the remote PC. I'm sure there are java-based things that work comparably for custom line-of-business applications, that might not even care if the remote PC is Windows, Mac, or even Linux. (Not that there aren't Term Serv clients available for MacOS and Linux.)

6/02/2008 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Brian, you silly boy. The issue isn't whether or not they'll break it (which, of course, they will).

The issue is that they'll tax it, using all those lovely dollar-minutes for the greater good of the rest of the incompetent but starving world.

6/02/2008 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

NahnCee said...

Brian, you silly boy. The issue isn't whether or not they'll break it (which, of course, they will).

The issue is that they'll tax it,


Same answer then. POTS lines are cheap, nearly everyone has them. If you don't they're easy to install and subsidize.

I actually like this better than relying on 'the internet' but I''m sorta reactionary that way.

6/02/2008 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Newscaper: Much of the value of being able to either receive or give unplanned help is lost with telecommuting.

I would liken this aspect of telecommuting to the Soviet practice of dividing classified science or engineering projects into subtasks, the reports about which were directed to one central manager. As with high level cryptography, the individual workers were never allowed to see the coalesced results.

Imagine the tremendous loss of spontaneous problem solving when the various team members cannot "group-think" through a problem. Albeit, texting and IMs can assist in this process, Newscaper's point still remains quite valid.

Mad Fiddler: puppy-threatening vexation

Bwahahahahaha!

I, too, endured the days of having to dimension Fortran arrays where failure to do so would crash a program because automatic default values had yet to be invented.

For amusement, I even taught myself the special commands on a keypunch machine to spell out numbers and letters with the punched holes on an IBM card.

6/02/2008 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger newscaper said...

Zenster said:
"Imagine the tremendous loss of spontaneous problem solving when the various team members cannot "group-think" through a problem. Albeit, texting and IMs can assist in this process, Newscaper's point still remains quite valid."

Another way to put it is that you can only IM a colleague if you *know* you have a problem you need help with. Or you have a vague awareness but can't ask quite the right question.
A big part of the issue is those Rumsfeldian "unknown unknowns."

6/02/2008 07:16:00 PM  

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