This is a post drafted a couple of weeks ago, while I was still doing the commute.

I wonder sometimes, what the people on the trains I take actually do. While there's some variation on who's aboard, there's a very common and consistent cast of characters on each leg of my journey. God only knows what they're doing.

One fellow, I've spent the winter thinking of as "the short dorky one." He's white and pretty pale, has darkish-blond with hair that's seems too long, under 5'6," and wears glasses that are several years behind current styles, his teeth are noticibly in a poor condition. I should also point out that my commute is largely "pre-rush hour," and that I see this fellow around 6:20 in the morning.

Today, he wasn't wearing the oversized and a bit more than "slightly worn" jacket and I noticed two things: first he was muscular in a way that suggested he put some time into the appearance and, two his entire right arm was covered by a tattoo. I would have never pegged him as the type, and none of the fantastic stories I would have thought to tell myself about him included either of these details.

Most of the time, my primary reaction to my fellow commuters is annoyance when they won't stop talking or using their cell phones. Sometimes, I'm just confounded.

Welcome to life.

The Internet in Real Life

In many ways, I think you could say, I live and work in a bubble of the technical future that, as Gibson said "isn't evenly distributed," yet. I have developed a set of tools and work flows that enable me to work nearly anywhere and on a moment's notice. I work for a company which great and open internal infrastructure that allows us to securely communicate and collaborate in whatever way we think will best serve the projects we're working on. And I know enough to be able to automate the boring parts of my technological experience. In all, pretty good.

Here's the thing though: despite all of this technological infrastructure, all this know how and frankly awesome connectivity: all of the tools we use to collaborate technologically: chat rooms, wikis, paste-bins, version control systems, instant messages and email all work better when you're in the same room. Examples:

I was sitting in a talk with a coworker, and we were both logged into an IRC room from our laptops, where we were able to share some useful examples, links, and other commentary without being (very) disruptive. In day to day work, I (and my coworkers) spend a lot of time using chat rooms to communicate and share information with people who are only a few feet away, and in the end we get a lot done.

There are probably a lot of reasons why this is the case: digital relationships are almost always supported by real life relationships, there's a level of hard to document interstitial and context setting that we do in real life that is difficult to efficiently create digitally, but that can be accomplished without second thought *in real life, and so forth. But, having made this realization, I think there are a few conclusions to be drawn about collaboration technology:

  • It helps to centralize information flow. So much collaboration technology is "pull" based, and there's no good way to ensure that people know you've done something that they might consider without pushing information to them in some manner. Even so, create one place where the people you're working with can see what you're working on.

    Use something like an IRC channel, or an xmpp MUC room, combined with a service like notifixious or something similar. In a lot of ways, the incessant emails Facebook sends achieve the same goal.

  • Communities come together to work on something specific and concrete, but inevitably they bond and endure for other reasons and other kinds of conversations. While creating "off topic" silos is awkward, creating the space for people to get to know each other is essential to making people work together well (and thus use collaborative technology better.)

  • Focus most of your attention on "getting things done," and less attention on the "how things are done." There are so many technological solutions, so many options, and so many different contexts that it doesn't really matter how things get done as long as they do get done. The right and preferred tools will arise and present themselves when needed, and as long as things are getting done using the right tool doesn't matter much.

Onward and Upward!


One of my favorite meme's on twitter is the "OH:" meme, where folks post little snippets of things they've heard in the world that are (usually) hilarious. This post will be, I think, a collection of the best little quotes I've heard, heard about, or seen recently.

"Chicken is easily divisible"

"If you're hand is one space off on your keyboard and you start typing server, you start typing awesome. servers are awesome."

"I will be eagerly awaiting the New York Times style piece on the growing trend of the 'ZOMG WE'RE NOT EVEN DATING GUYS' rings."

"The emacs makes the text, I am but a humble servant."

"We should get facebook married so everyone would know its the fakes."

"If [company] were a musical, there'd be a song here. Thankfully it's not."

"Caffeine is like liquid naps."

"For epic lulz you should switch your keyboard [with blank keys] to Dvorak."


pass the quark

Overheard at a Sunday dinner with the family:

`momtron <http://www.twitter.com/momtron>`_: Could you get the Quark [for my potato].

tycho looks quizzical.

`momtron <http://www.twitter.com/momtron>`_: In the fridge.

`dadtron <http://www.twitter.com/dadtron>`_: It's a yogurt cheese.

tycho: right. I was about to say... They're awfully small, and besides, they're all over the place.

`dadtron <http://www.twitter.com/dadtron>`_: Maybe.

`momtron <http://www.twitter.com/momtron>`_ *sighs*