February 13, 2004

reflections from droopy eyelids

The last few days of work-like-mad-n-wait-to-be-paid hell remind me why I want to work at an uncompany. Not because of the work itself, or waiting months to get paid. But because life is too short not to work with people you like.

In the past, we went to work, and if we were lucky we made some friends there, which made work ultimately more enjoyable. Perhaps it has flipped. We make some friends and *then* go to work.

I do know, from one recent engagement anyway, how it feels to work with people with whom you fail to connect, where no one is looking past your cornea down into the place where you breathe, think, create, dream. Eyelid deep interactions don't come close to the kind of connections many of us form in this space, without even having eyelids. Well, of course we *have* eyelids, but we can't see one another blink.

I can't find my footing out there. Why? Is it because I've been standing over here for so long?

I know one thing. I'm tired. Bone tired. But I've been thinking lately that I need to appreciate the people and clients I click with, where progress is measured humor and results, in WOW!s or YAH, AND WE CAN ALSO DO THIS.

Where there's a heartbeat.

February 12, 2004

too much work

drowning - going on 30 hrs in 2 dayz. good problem. bad brain. will return to normalcy soon. then i can think. weekend for think. night for work. want uncompany. sos. bye fer now.

February 10, 2004

Uncompany part deux: in search of collaborative space for indies

There were so many great comments in the last post that I want to bring them up a level into a post. One reason, besides the wealth of resources offered in the comments, is because my head hurts so badly at the moment that I've been fantasizing about cracking it open on a rock. You know, just to release the pressure. Like an egg. Crack. mmmmmmmm.

So before I go do that, let's recap:

Laurent offered a take on CVS, tiki, wiki, and tikiwiki but admitted that the non-techy among us (I'll cop) could have a hard time collaborating this way, and more importantly, a hard time getting clients comfortable with the notion: programmers have had a tool like that for years (cvs), and several entities host public servers anybody can use to shape rhizomatic gangs iof developers who are several scales of magnitudes more efficient than the hierarchically organized corporate herds of code monkeys... Sadly enough most non programers have been lured into using broken tools like microsoft software, quark Xpress or flash whose proprietary formats constitute a major obstacle for open groupware.

Elizabeth feels my pain, and is currently cobbling a typepad blog as a workspace, but would like to see something more affordable, and more powerful: I am experimenting with a TypePad blog as a hosted collaborative space. Not as robust as e-Room, but could be a stop-gap measure. I'll let you know how it goes. Yes, Please!

Janet, who's got a way cool blog posts about the possibilities of a centralized collaborative workspace for indies here. I think Janet rocks. Only one of the reasons I think so is because she thinks I'm right: As someone whose been working outside the corporate walls for 18 years, I am with you 100% on the need for such a collaborative workspace. We've all become more loosely tethered these last few years. Fewer of us are in corporations even though we may contract with them. I'm a software developer (FileMaker Pro), so I'm always looking for how software can bridge the gaps between us as we operate as free agents. We sorely need to collaborate with each other freely, quickly and easily (and as you point out, securely). I would love to hear more of your discoveries along these lines.

Gerry, who also rocks, asks what exactly we want this space to do--or what, actually, we want to be able to do there. Janet and Elizabeth, I'm going to put this out to you too as I assemble my own list. What everyone said in comments combined with my last post would be a good start. 1) hosted, 2) secure, 3) lots of storage space, easy drag/copy and drop/paste, levels of privileges for team members set by the project administrator come to mind (and I will think some more).

Gerry asks specifically: Within the spaces, what do you need? Bloggish features would be easy enough, but collaboration tends to be structured differently than the journal with comments design of blogs. If you like Wikis, there are many good implementations, and I have one I've extended to be even more flexible. I imagine you need to upload files and documents as well (i.e. Word docs (ick), spreadsheats, graphics, animations, ...)? What about contact management, does e-room manage that too or did you expect to have a seperate tool for that? Anything else? Maybe describe some specific things that e-room could do that you found particularly powerful.

Gerry offers to go one further, and don't we love him for it? YES, we do. So let's give him a feature list. He says this about that: I'm willing to do a new round of research, but I need more detail about the key features. From your post, I can see that you need to be able to establish "spaces" to work on specific projects (and maybe organize into sub-projects, etc.), and now you want to be able to network between independents rather than exclusively within an organization. Some of the concerns here are privacy and security, you want to be able to control access to potentially sensitive information. This is potentially one of the most challenging aspects of this application, both hard to implement correctly and potentially difficult to administer.

Prentiss mentions SocialText, which I haven't had a chance to check out, but I will. You too. I think the enterprise solution, SocialText Workspace, might be the closest to what we're talking about--maybe even beyond. There's also a great post over there exploring various angles of "Enterprise Social Software," but when I see the word enterprise, I know it's going to cost--probably more than a band of indies can cough up...

Gerry comes back and points to some great related writings in Tutorville:

Reputation System for Charities and Grantees?

E-Democracy as Special Interest Group

Who Owns Internet Utopia? And How is it Governed?

Chaordic Community

He also points to this post for a deeper look.

Gerry then sees us a PR and Marketing solution and raises us a place for sales and PM: Personally, I think that the sales and project managment roles can be virtualized too. What you end up with is sort of a "virtual agency" where the sales, marketing and PM roles have the bulk of the customer contact and the work product is delivered through the PM role and these overhead roles get an appropriate piece of the action.

I AGREE! YES! And so does Laurent, who says this could make for an exciting project.

WSHEW!!! Ya'll are kicking some collaborative butt over here.

As a side note, I also got an email from Jason Fried about Basecamp, and he says they'll be adding a lot of what we're loooking for. I said that's awesome, quick Jason, quick!

Okay, discuss. I need to sleep on all this.... Thanks for your participation and brainpower and enthusiasm.

February 09, 2004

The Uncompany

Gerry Gleason and Prentiss Riddle have asked me what I'm looking for in a collaborative space. I'm so excited they asked! Now, can I do justice to an explanation?

First, let me say that e-room is the only collaborative tool I've used, but I used and loved it long time. Of course, when I used it, I was inside the enterprise of Ketchum, and we used the full-blown version. There were many cool things about using e-room to service a client using global resources within the then-vast Ketchum network.

A dedicated e-room became the little organization used by the team to do, save, deliver, review, modify, and complete work, securely, with the client invited in (or not) as appropriate, to make changes and approve deliverables.

Now I find myself with my own business (of 1) this last year, with some of the same clients, without the talented resources to share my overflow of work with, and without access to the expensive technology. This lack of secure workspace, in my opinion, is the ONLY thing big agencies and consulting companies have over the little guys right now. We have the rates on our side. We now have the talent on our side (since they've had to cast off expensive senior talent). We've even got the NETwork -- but we don't have a good way to work together across that network.

We lack a centralized office from which to work, a place to assemble teams for specific clients, a place to upload work, a place to review work {writing, designs, media lists, messaging, etc.}, a place to drop notes on specific projects that don't slide down your inbox, a place where if one of us drives off a cliff we're not asking their spouse at the funeral if they wouldn't mind us stopping over to check the hard drive, a place to invite clients INSIDE to review and finalize changes, a place to store signend NDAs so our asses aren't exposed, a place where knowledge grows AMONG the deorgged bunch of us who are out here in blogspace and orkutspace, either working for others or working for ourselves, who could easily join forces and deliver AMAZING work quickly if we *had* a place to work.

Here's a quick screen clip from inside a sample e-room. This particular e-room is set up for a project team. The only thing I did was add the press release folder to show what kind of folders you might use. You can delete the folders that come in the templatized room and make your own, or you can use some of what they pre-populate the room with:

In an e-room setup, you can copy and paste files from your hard drive into the folders hosted at e-room.net. You invite team members. You assign them privileges--can they read, write, edit, delete, etc. It tells you if someone else is in the document. It's easy to make new folders and to edit documents and to track those edits. You can vote on versions, you can leave notes for your teammates, etc. Everything's safe up there. Create a client review folder and let them in to do their thang too.

I think that an affordable, elegantly simple, hosted, collaborative solution is lacking for bigco castoffs across the net, in blogland, and on orkut, who could share on some good projects if we had a way to work together.

Forget outsourcing to other India and forget paying a BigConsulting $250/hr. The brains for that stuff are sitting in their livingrooms here, in Trinidad and Tobago, in Australia, along the East Coast, in Boulder, freezing in Toronto, conference hopping from Boston, and ready for work here, here, here, and all over the net.

Intersource it to us!

But we need a place, space, somewhere to work. We need an uncompany. The only way to be safe from another reorg is to deorg. [[domains ripe and ready.]]


February 08, 2004

You mean, who do I know?

I just couldn't take the orkut login page anymore. We're not all: blonde, white, 22, American, Californian, peppy, happy, hairy, single, hookin' up, up til 4, kidless, cool, white, white, young, or young.

So I made my own:

There MUST be something cheaper

Can't get away with less than $300/month. That just stinks. Where's the SMB and indie pricing on these things? Is there a model that would let us sublet our extra space? Come on Blorkoogle, you must be working on something related to collaboration?

When you see something so clearly

A Well Imagined Star - found it at Taran's place.