Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
BlogWalk Amsterdam: on full-time employment
As I wrote before, one of my difficulties with 'digital bohemians' as a focus of this BlogWalk was it's connotation: the term assumed lack of full-time employment. I can understand from where it comes: many organisations restrict choices in respect of what to do at work and how (when, where, with whom...) to do it. As a result for many people breaking their ties with any type of full-time employment is the way to do their work in a way they want it.
I don't think it should be like this - that working for an organisation means
selling your soul to the devil sacrificing your values and your preferred working style. The only problem I guess is finding those organisations :)
Why I'd prefer to work for an organisation?
Infrastructure that allows me to focus on my core business. I have an experience of do-everything-yourself work in an NGO. It was extremely rewarding: to do what you believe in, to see how it make the world a better place, to be proud that you did everything yourself and to have pretty good pay as well. However, I spent a lot of time doing things (accounting, for example) that I didn't really wanted to do, but had to as they "came with the job".
At work I'd like to focus on my core business - things that I not only can do well, but I also love doing. For example, I can program (even did freelance programming during my student's days), but this is something that I'd rather leave to someone else. Working for an organisation gives me such an opportunity. I don't have to do accounting anymore, technology infrastructure is just there (sure I can buy hardware, install and update software, and solve most of my own tech troubles, but I prefer not doing it), I have access to on-line libraries and can get articles that I can't find without figuring out what I might need and negotiating the deals, I can bring my input and shape new projects, but I don't have to deal with contracts and legal stuff, I can get my post sent, trips booked and post-its bought by someone else.
Office space: people, serendipity and energy. Although I like working at home, there are good reasons for having an office. It's creates a low threshold opportunity for being with other people (like-minded in some respects, different in others), serendipity of hearing a comment at coffee table that just fits the missing space in the puzzle and energy of working with others.
Of course, you can do the same in a technology-mediated way, but it's not the same (as Carla said at BlogWalk – reading blogs doesn't replace coffee-table conversations). Another alternative would be wifi-cafes and coworking spaces, but I guess it will take a while longer to have critical mass of people working there (enough to have unplanned very work-specific) conversation.
Is there a price to pay?
Sure, working for a company sets a lot of boundaries, many of which don't make me happy (I long for a bit more flexibility, a bit more nature, a bit more fun and struggle with invisible work ). The good point that I can stretch those boundaries – and I prefer working on that (and not on accounting:).
At the end it's up to following your passions and taking responsibility and risks, regardless of the form of employment. I wrote about crafting one's workplace to fit personal preferences three years ago and I still believe in it.
Technorati: blogwalk blogwalkeleven blogwalkamsterdam
Friday, May 25, 2007
BlogWalk Amsterdam: on facilitation and structure
Ton wrote long and thoughtful post on BlogWalk facilitation, and, while I agree with most of it, there is part that I think is missing.
When we started, BlogWalks were a way to amplify conversations we had online. Most of the participants would know each other from their weblogs, not only personally, but, which is more important for this post, topic-wise.
Now things are different – the people coming are more diverse and less connected then before. Also, some of them are not bloggers, but even for bloggers things changed – how many of you moved from reading a few weblogs in depth to scanning many? So, weblog-mediated familiarity with other participants that we are started with is not there.
It's not bad (diversity is always a plus), it's different. And I believe it needs to be reflected in the way BlogWalks are structured and facilitated.
What I missed this time was topical awareness of others – who are the people to talk about topics I'm interested. Days before BlogWalk I went to check links behind each name, but there was a limited picture I could get from it: some people linked to their companies (so how do I know what interests them?), but even for bloggers you can get only that much by browsing a weblog that you see for the first time (before I'd read weblogs of other participants for months prior to the event). We couldn't make it to the dinner (this is how having a baby restricts your mobility :), but given my experiences from other dinners I doubt that this would give enough of the coverage.
In fact, there was something that gave an overview of topics that people wanted to talk about – post-its on the windows wiki. However, there wasn't an easy way to figure out who wrote those I was interested in (I still wonder who wrote the one about the ethics of oil-fuelled travelling). Taking my responsibility for my own needs I tried to take the initiative and to propose a round of a group-wide time where people could announce the topics they wanted to discuss, but Ton suggested that it wasn't necessary and moved on*.
So, what is my take of facilitating BlogWalk – more structure or less? I'd say as much as needed. If we can create conditions (e.g. as Ton proposes) for awareness of each others interests and taking responsibility prior to the event, as well as structure the space to facilitate conversations, then "no structure" and "no facilitation" is perfect. If not, then there is something else to do.
Specific things that we could do better this time:
- A couple of rounds of a group-wide time (e.g. one in the beginning to announce "I would like to talk about X,Y,Z" and shorter one in the afternoon – to get on the same page before breaking into free-floating discussions again). We could think of alternative ways to create an opportunity for 1-to-all communication moments (e.g. ask people for a keyword intro to put on a wall and scheduling 5 silent minutes to look at it). Also, emphasising a bit more that signing your post-it makes it possible for others to discover you. Actually I believe that creating a space/time for a group-wide communication is something for a facilitator to be responsible, since it's difficult for a participant to take initiative in that respect (it's much easier to start one-to-one conversation in the corner then get attention of everyone).
- Name tags. Or printed intro of people with photos. Anything that helps to connect a face to a name during the event.
Even if there are reasons not to create a group-wide time slot, we could do something like printing out the list of participants (+making sure the photos are big enough to recognise people), hanging it somewhere on the wall and asking people to add their initial "I'm interested to talk about X" post-its next to their names. (I could even think about it before the event, but it's easy to get your expectations formed by previous events, where something like that wasn't needed :)
Another thing we could do is to facilitate awareness and communication prior to the event (and a follow-up of course). Ton suggest some ideas, but I guess we'll need a bit of discussions and experimentation to see what really works - getting a diverse group of people on the same page in a technology-mediated way without much facilitation is a nice challenge to work on.
*Ton did a lion share of work organising this BlogWalk and I value his input a lot. But in this case I felt that he acted as a facilitator who makes decisions about (no) structure rather than as a participant (as he suggests in his post).
Technorati: blogwalk blogwalkeleven blogwalkamsterdam
Saturday, May 19, 2007
BlogWalk Amsterdam: Digital bohemians redefined
I has been unsure about the title from the start – I didn't have enough context to place it (of course, my own fault, the whole thing was just googling away). I went to Blogwalk with Ton's redefinition of it:
Digital Bohemiens are (relatively) young people, fully adapted to the digital lifestyle. They see a city as their home, and are connected in European and global networks. They flock to conferences as their meeting places.
However, at the meeting Sebastian brought in the context – the term came from the book, which had much more emphasis on being lack of full-time employment than I expected
Gabriela writes pretty much on how I feel about it:
We had a sort of identity problem: we couldn't figure out if we, as a group, belonged to that Digital Bohemians category. In the original book that inspired this title, digital bohemians are living in a metropolis(Berlin) and are freelancers. Part of us have permanent jobs (actually most of us!) - don't we qualify?! I guess this bohemianship is more a state of mind than anything else: flocking together at such unconferences on our own expense seems to be one of the features; having a digital lifestyle, trying to keep in touch with what's going on, being open to try new things are some of the others.
I guess most of us agree that "there is something in the air" – the nature of work is changing, boundaries (work-life, geography, etc.) are getting blurred, authorities are challenged and technology has something to do with it. Talking about "digital bohemians" is one way to address it, but I could also think of calling them mobile professionals, knowledge networkers or neo-Bedouin.
I don't know what would be a good term (I'm not comfortable with digital bohemians since there is non-employment connotation from the book and a general feeling of alternativeness and counter-culture). I can talk about my own perspective on the ingredients of it:
- Passion-driven and values-driven work that becomes part of life rather than separate "I work to earn money to have a roof over my head and something to eat".
- Flexibility in respect to work focus, time, space, tools and people to collaborate.
- Personal responsibility. Distributed authority and decision-making.
Technology is secondary – it's just enables more flexible and distributed way of working, but as always – it's only what you make out of it.
Full-time employment? I'll write another post on why I think it shouldn't be part of the equation.
Technorati: blogwalk blogwalkeleven blogwalkamsterdam
Friday, May 18, 2007
Work, us and our kids: childcare at conferences
Update: Was originally posted on 11 May, but then something went wrong, so I have to post it again.
[As a follow-up for Reboot 9.0: conversation about work, us and our kids?]
Last year at SHiFT I thought that it would be a while till I could go to another conference - having a little one around doesn't make things easier and it will be a while till I can go away for more then a few hours. This year I was very happy that Robert decided to go to Reboot as well - this (and the fact that we can drive to Copenhagen) made it possible for me, since we can take turns in taking care of Alexander during the conference.
We knew that having kids around would be accepted by others (Ton was pretty convincing about last years at Reboot), but in the process of booking I also found out that there is more this year:
[email from Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, the rebootguy]
Since so many people said they enjoyed the presence of kids and it really adds to that human feeling - us being there as humans and not as a profession/business - i've chosen to set up a kids corner this year including a nanny to watch the sleeping kids and alert the parents when they wake up or play with the kids that are a bit older. It's not gonna be 100% full service one nanny per kid, but a hint in the direction that it's encouraged to bring kids.
Yesterday, an email from Stephanie took it one step further:
We have had a daycare at a conference in the lab once and it was very well received. We were able to use more female keynotes than ever before , which makes me wonder if the biggest player in women in the top levels of academia is not the proverbial 'glass ceiling', but rather the 'simple' problem of scheduling family and work.
Stephanie's comment clicked with something else from "where are the women speakers?" discussion - difficulties of attracting women speakers
I want to share what I feel is an interesting and frustrating statistic: the ratio of men attending to those invited was about 1 in 3, yet for women it was 1 in 19. Here is a graph illustrating the invitation process:
You can see that although proportionally more women replied to my invitation (80% of women invited replied, as compared to 68% of men), the proportion who said they would attend was much lower, and the proportion who could actually attend was even lower. Basically, only one of the 30 women I invited who wasn't somehow involved in the planning was able to attend the event. I don't really understand why.
I guess one of the reasons why women can't come to conferences is because they might have an "additional" need for childcare. I first became aware that this could be part of a conference package at BlogHer (e.g. childcare info for BlogHer'07), but only after becoming a mother myself I realised that this is something that could make a difference.
On a side comment - to make a difference it should be visible at a conference web-site - who knows may be there are women who would come to Reboot if they find out that it's actually kids-friendly?
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Reboot 9.0: conversation about work, us and our kids?
We (the whole family ;) are going to Reboot.
And pretty much inline with my current feelings I proposed a session - Work, us and our kids
When work-life boundaries are blurring, where are the kids in this picture?
We don't have a work-life balance anymore. We work from home (ever heard those little voices on the background during a phone conference?); our partners become our colleagues; we bring family to conferences...
I'm a mom of a 4 months old - just back to work, trying to figure out how he fits in the picture (or, to be more precise, how my work fits around him :)
I'd like to hear about your experiences of mixing kids and work and to think together where are we heading:
- Do you mix kids and work or do you keep those two worlds apart?
- If you do, then what and how? Does it work?
- What does it change? For you? For your work? For your kids?
- Is it good or bad?
- What do we need to have a healthy work-kids balance? What kinds of employers? Partners? Kids? Working conditions? Homes? Technology? Mindset?
I guess I'll be posting more on my own experiences and thoughts so far, but I'd love to hear any stories you might have.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Officially I should be back to work
Last week it was our first time at day care. Just a few hours, to try it out. When I came Alexander had tears in his eyes - I ended up crying too...
Another story is from ten days ago - Alexander and me joined a project meeting for half a day. It was fun: surprisingly I was able to work while he ate, played and slept. Lucky us - the project crowd was prepared for this and Robert was there as well, so we could share parenting tasks...
I'm slowly getting back to work. Slower than expected: we taking it slow with the day care and Alexander doesn't like to drink from a bottle, so I have to be around every few hours.
But my mind is back to work. There were moments when I wasn't sure it would ever happen :)