Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Thing They Haven't Changed Yet

It's never nighttime on the Starship Enterprise. They very rarely beam themselves onto a planet's surface to find it's the dead of night and everyone's sleeping. Come to think of it, who are the people on the other shifts, and why isn't the First Officer the one to man the ship when the Captain is sleeping? ...

2:35 am. Laptop boots but Skype still churning, nothing seems to be online. In that half-funk between sleep and psyching yourself into presentation mode, I hobble over to the router. No blinking lights. Pick up the phone. No phone line.

On the one hand, you can't really blame the ISP for choosing 2 am as a good time to do standard maintenance. On the other hand, I'm supposed to be speaking to Tokyo, Sydney and Mumbai at 3 am.

Fast forward 20 minutes, an all-night coffee shop, after ordering some decaf to pay my rent, hooked in with my laptop, earphones and mic.

"We're getting a little background noise," says our host in the US.

"I'm having a few technical difficulties, sorry I can't do much about that," I answer. I've asked the waitresses to turn down the background music, but there's not much I can do about the coffee grinder and putting up the chairs to mop the floors.

While I narrate, my colleague shows the demo from his laptop, in his home, 30 kilometers from my coffee shop. The host in the States and some unknown people in the Far East ask questions, and 40 minutes later we're through. It went well.

Looking 2 tables over, I wonder about the lone geek with his laptop. What's his excuse at 4 am? I go home.

The host has thanked us several times for being flexible for the international sales meetings. We tell her this is infinitely better than having to fly to other time zones.

Truthfully, there really is very little in life that beats international web or video conferences for just general coolness. There's something about having 20 people from 12 countries in a virtual room together, speaking to one another and asking questions. You'd think by now the cool would have worn out, but no matter how many times I do these calls, it just cools me out all over again...

On Starship Enterprise, nobody seems to think it's even the least bit cool to talk to beings from different planets or to just beam yourself around.

When someone teleports in, the host never says: "How is your spacelag? Gosh, what time IS it on your planet?". Of course, the answer would be something like "It's 37 minues past the hour, " because on any given planet, it's every hour, but it's the same minute, everywhere, except in those weirdo time zones that are half-hours. Or where they don't have minutes.

Nobody wears a watch in space, because there's no time of day. Indeed, there's no standard length of day. You have to start wondering what kinds of work shifts they have to work out, with all kinds of different beings whose bodies are adapted to different sleep patterns. I'd be really surpised if any other planet came up with a standard of 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day...

Anyway, even if I can't time-shift, I can sleep-shift, and I can location-shift. Thank goodness for all-night coffee shops.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Here a tweet, there a tweet.

I have to confess, I'm a sporadic tweeter. Some days I'll be on twitter regularly, reading all your tweets, and tweeting a bit on my own. Some days I'll just follow a few people. Most days, to be perfectly honest, I just can't be bothered.

It's easier to admit this behavior because it's quite obvious at this point that many people are occasional tweeters. You see it all the time, a sudden spurt of 5 or 10 tweets in a day, then for a week, nothing.

Or then there are the occasional tweeters, who put up a tweet every week or two. I'd ask what the point of that is, but actually, those are people I probably will never un-follow, since they are no trouble.

In fact, I don't see myself changing my habits any time soon. When I am on twitter, it's on days when I don't have a lot to do, and it's nice to see what the latest geek-speak is.

The true mystery is that even when I've been off for a couple of weeks, I don't get that feeling like I "missed" something important and can't follow the new conversation. On the other hand, I feel like when I am reading the tweets, I am getting information I needed. Truly mysterious.

I suppose it's no different than what Yossi Vardi discovered with ICQ: being in communication is a basic human need. Wherever the conversation is, it brings us human value to be part of it. Apparently, the business value is secondary, and comes mainly as part of the "being in communication" rather than some specific tweets that you just can't miss.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Annual FB Birthday Report

As another birthday passes me by, I am overjoyed to report that. like last year, I got lots of birthday greetings. Unlike last year, I really know almost all of the people who greeted me on FB or by email. I didn't get even one birthday tweet, which I also consider "in good taste". Twitter doesn't seem the right forum to get or give birthday greetings.

Two main trends appeared this year. One is that I got fewer greetings. I don't know about you, but as I have more and more friends and contacts, it becomes more difficult to check in and birthday greet everyone every day. So I definitely got fewer greetings than last year, but the ones I got were a bit more meaningful, that is, from people that I feel more warmth towards.

The other change noted was that social networking, for some people, has become a substitute for real relationships. I saw a griping youtube clip on this a couple of years ago, saying that FB is for people who don't want to talk to you. In other words, if I don't want to talk to you, I can send you a Hatching Egg or an e-card, and I got out of my obligation to actually speak to you on my birthday.

I am sure lots of people wanted to talk to me and just couldn't get through because my phone was busy talking to the people who did get through. Almost all of my good friends had the good taste to actually call. Those who didn't probably forgot my birthday, which in my book, is totally cool. I don't usually tell anyone my birthday either, so if you don't pay attention to Plaxo or Facebook, I expect you to forget.

Unfortunately, in a few cases, this year, I definitely identified a few cases of people who left two-word wall postings because they were too cheap, too busy, or just didn't want to call. I'm not really insulted by that. It's just a trend, from my perspective, towards people becoming further from the people that they had originally intended to be closer to.