July 25, 2012

Team Meetings

I think one of my favorite parts of my job is how I get to try new things and experiment with tech. We get to pilot new processes, and we try to find better ways of doing things -- even if that sometimes means everything is terrible for a little while.

One of the things we tried (which I am increasingly grateful for, over time) is the Community Team changing the frequency of our meetings. We went from a twice-weekly afternoon call to a daily morning/afternoon call. Furthermore, we stopped using Skype (which would slow down my machine) and switched to Google Hangouts, which are low-res but fast.

Switching the frequency of our calls changed a lot of things. It reminded me of the early-run CHAOS roundups, which were daily and featured us talking about what we'd accomplished in the last 24 hours. Those were weirdly stressful; I always felt like I had to have something to show for my time. However, over time, that feeling faded, and by the time Community Team switched to their daily meetings, I think I had a decent idea of how those should go.

The nice thing about Community Team is that we're not quite so...achievement-oriented in our mission. This isn't a good or bad thing; it's just how the teams' responsibilities are by nature. This means our meetings are more about planning, coordination, and policy. Plus, with the team shifting towards project-orientation, daily meetings mean I at least know who's working on what without necessarily having to be in a meeting that I don't feel I can contribute to.

The daily meetings were tough at first; we had a lot of stuff that we'd all been putting on hold to talk about, so the first two weeks were spent with us getting a better sense of what the meeting rhythm should be. We managed to work through the backlog (which frustrated some of us, I know, because the meetings would run an hourish) but once that was done, the process got much better. Nowadays, we usually have twenty-minute roundups, and we'll stay "after" to chat about project-specific things as needed. Beyond that, we meet less frequently now, all of us working on our own things and not needing team input at much.

Intra team communication is a tough rap. It is a struggle to find the right thing to do. I think the most important factors to making it work are: (1) buy-in from everyone that there's a problem; (2) a willingness to stick to the plan, even when it's tougher and less efficient at first; (3) an understanding of what needs to be communicated and how. I think the second is the toughest; when things get annoying or break or people forget, it is sorely tempting to abandon ship and return to the status quo. DON'T DO IT! A little pain early on will save everyone tons of headaches later down the road.

We hold regular events in chat with our moderator staff. Lately, these haven't gone quite as we'd hoped, so we're going to try something different: mod-casts! Stay tuned....

July 24, 2012

Internet History

I recently read The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser (formerly of MoveOn.org) which details how so much of our lives is held in the cookies of our browsers, and how companies all over the world can have access to the data we store in those cookies. We're moving towards a more personalized world, and our private information is quickly becoming commoditized.

While I felt the book was somewhat fear-mongering and extreme in some places, the basic gist I did agree with: we're seeing an internet where each of us can go about our days without having to see anything we don't want to see. That's a little scary as a concept, right? A world where nothing upsets us or forces us to reconsider our notions?

At the same time, a world where I can find exactly what I need, based on who I am and what I'm likely to be looking for, is immeasurably useful. Google wants to become a company that will run the search for me that I don't even realize I want to run, finding me information and data that I want or need the very moment the thought occurs to me.

As something of a research junkie, this would be amazing. I'd never have to struggle for information that I wanted or needed ever again. On the other hand, I often serve as a research aide to my novelist and author friend(s). My search history spans topics as diverse as East Asian organized crime, piloting jet planes and small aircraft, Rocky Horror Picture Show traditions, Indian wedding traditions, the manufacture and contents of methamphetamines, and hockey. (Yes, hockey.) So who I am to the internet is kind of a mixed bag, though apparently there's a strong emphasis on crime and criminality. Though, I could just be a mystery novelist.

Still, this does raise the question: who does the internet think we are? And what about those of us who have been using the space for extended periods of time? I've been online since I was twelve, and there's no such thing as a total delete online. So, who does the internet -- or Google, or Yahoo, or Acxiom -- think I really am?

July 16, 2012


Apparently, I took an impromptu 3-week hiatus from this blog. Whoops.

I think I've decided that I'm going to (generally) update this blog three times a week, on Tues/Weds/Thurs. I'm not sure I can keep up a more intense pace.

A big part of what kept me away was work. Since I usually write these posts on my lunch break, it's tough to make the timing work out when I have calls and meetings and stuff to handle. I shoulda put a sign up or something, I guess.

Another part of it is my inability to commit long-term to anything lately. I've developed something I call Internet ADD. I find myself to focus on things for long stretches at a time anymore. It's frustrating; I used to be able to do this. I wonder, though, if maybe it's not an inherent part of my personality. After all, I'm a reasonably creative person and that means having to be able to make nontraditional connections.

Focus is really tough for me. I find environments that are lacking or trying in some ways incredibly detrimental to my productivity. Music really doesn't cut it for me, most of the time. I should try busting out the WAM -- that is, the Mozart, not the George Michael in neon shorts. My colleague loves him music, and he and my other office-mate are wont to play their stuff on the big speakers. Sometimes I like their choices, most of the time I find it killing my productivity slowly.

I also don't really like a lot of strong lighting. I have a strong preference for recess lighting. Lighting in warmer Kelvins -- the 3000-ish range -- with the yellower light, helps keep my headaches away. I also really like just a generally quiet space to work in. People have conversations around me doesn't bother me so much, but when we still had our ping-pong table out, the shouting and flying ping-pong balls were really difficult to contend with.

Finding a way to focus is probably my biggest challenge. Usually what works is a deep-dive immersion step, usually accompanied by a change of location. That's not always feasible, or even the right choice, but it's helped when I need it most. Also helpful: an occasional work-from-home day. My apartment is quiet and my internet is strong. Assuming the construction dudes shut up, I find I can do a pretty solid deep-dive without sacrificing my sanity/comfort.

There has to be a better way. I wonder what it is and how I could find it.