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[P]
Time to Telecommute

By Komodo321 in Technology
Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:04:32 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Gasoline is at $1.50 to $2.00 and headed upward. Traffic is worse than ever. Now is the time to advocate telecommuting.


For all the hype, telecommuting hasn't really caught on. But it isn't like the fiction of a paperless office. There is real potential to reduce the number of miles we drive as a nation. Assuming 80 million people burn two gallons of gas per day for 200 days, they are consuming 32 Billion gallons of gas a year, spending 50 Billion on gas alone (never mind depreciation and maintainence costs), while fraying our nerves, colliding with other cars, polluting, and depleting a finite resource.

Federal Express is a good example of the difference between moving mass versus moving information. FedEx has a large fleet of planes for deliveries that need to get across the country quickly. Sometimes its the cashmere sweater that you need to get by Tuesday, but most of their shipments are documents. Its not the paper that is important, its the information on the paper. But because most institutions and the legal system demand a paper copy, we have a big steel carrier-pigeons to move the information on paper. With time (and things like digital signatures), we will move more towards telecommunicating information. The US Postal Service is already suffering from the inreased use of email, automatic bill payment, and competition with package delivery companies.

Some factors that have limited the growth of telecommuting:

1) Employers don't trust employees. If they don't come in to a place where they can be watched, the boss doesn't know what they are doing.

2) The work can't be done from a remote location. If it can, it's shipped overseas.

3) Teleconferencing sucks. Most telecommuting communication is by email or phone. This limits the amount of information that is exchanged in casual, informal ways. The watercooler is important for the company.

Some Solutions

The idea of Regional Pods will catch on as a limited form of telecommuting. Employers will change from having one big, central location to having several smaller offices, and workers will drive to the closest one. This will allow the employer to provide on-site facilities and supervision, will allow teams to work closely, but will shorten many peoples' commute. Many of these pods will be modular - in a large building, with many employers leasing space, where individual tennants can easily expand or reduce their presence.

The culture of management will change. Too many managers don't know how to measure productivity, but they can measure how busy some one appears. As a few companies experiment and develop ways to measure the effectiveness of telecommuters and increase the bottom line, it will catch on. But it will take time for management culture to change.

Frank Wolf, a US representative from Virginia, is trying to get the federal government to increase telecommuting among its bureaucrats, although it is an uphill fight. (New York Times article, requires free registration)

Key questions for K5:

What other factors are limiting the growth of telecommuting? How can they be overcome?

Have you worked as a telecommuter? What was your experience like?

The idea of Historical Materialism states that technology and the mode of production (hunter/gatherer, agrarian, factory, etc) determines culture - the family, religious, governmental, and educational institutions are largely a result of the way people make a living. How would a shift to telecommuting affect these things that we often take for granted??

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Poll
I like telecommuting because
o 300 hours of commute time per year could be better spent elsewhere. 54%
o I would rather not deal with people. 21%
o I am allergic to Muzak. 2%
o Telecommuting is a dot-communist fantasy. Get back to work before the boss sees you!! 20%

Votes: 82
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o federal government
o Also by Komodo321


Display: Sort:
Time to Telecommute | 76 comments (76 topical, editorial, 1 hidden)
Stop Whinging (1.85 / 14) (#1)
by BobaFatt on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:41:37 PM EST

Before you complain about petrol prices, spare a thought for us poor europeans (especialy us Brits). You have it easy, believe me.
The Management apologise for any convenience caused.
Yeah, I know (3.33 / 3) (#8)
by Komodo321 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:59:08 PM EST

I lived in Europe for 5 years and paid $4 a gallon. Even at these prices, kids still cruised their cars in endless loops around the town square on Friday night. So 'high prices' are relative. But any spike in petroleum does place a stress on the economy, and spending more on energy means I have less to spend on other things (which are also more expensive to produce, transport, etc).

And the problem with democracy is that a country often gets the government it deserves - we elected Big Oil, and suddenly there is a refining crisis and prices jump. Oh, my!

[ Parent ]
Relation (2.50 / 2) (#10)
by starbreeze on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:19:37 PM EST

Curious... how relative is the $4? Like... it Europe's economy better so people make more than typical in the US so $4 would be reasonable?

I make $10/hr so this whole $1.67.9 being the cheapest gas I can find, and knowing it's gonna sky rocket isn't thrilling. Especially not that my student loans constitute exactly 25% of my paycheck...

~~~~~~~~~
"There's something strangely musical about noise." ~Trent Reznor
[ Parent ]

Bad.. but good for telecommuting USians (2.33 / 3) (#16)
by slaytanic killer on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:46:26 PM EST

It often sucks. The dollar had a huge rise against the EU countries. So, $4 US bucks for an import can feel at least like $8, relative to your income. I think that the cost of gas in Europe is 4X as expensive in the States, though I'm not certain.

That's why telecommuting in Europe for a US company would be a wonderful experience in many peoples' eyes.

[ Parent ]
Suddenly prices jump? (3.33 / 3) (#12)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:30:46 PM EST

Prices have been climbing steadily for over a year. "Electing Big Oil" has little to do with it. OTOH, it has a LOT to do with things like cancelled solar research and the like. But let's lay blame where it is due.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
IMO, it has more to do with increased demand (3.50 / 2) (#19)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:04:31 PM EST

In the US, a very large segment of the population has voted with their pocketbook and moved out to the suburbs and rural areas and thus forced themselves into the commuter lifestyle. These folks must commute long distances not only to work, but to school, church, the grocers, the cinema, just about anywhere someone that lived in a sane situation could walk, the suburbanite has to commute.

Oil companies now how all of these people over a barrel. They have to sell their house and completely change their lifestyle in order to use less gasoline. I doubt very many US suburbanites are willing to exchange their lifestyle for living in the city.

And because so many citizens of the US have placed themselves in a position that is so dependant on oil, oil drillers, refiners, and distributers are increasingly able to charge whatever they please. Hence, prices are quick to rise (like when news of the Gulf War or the crash of the Exxon Valdez broke) and slow to lower. The bulk of the US is left without a bargaining chip. They can't protest by walking everywhere or taking the bus. They have to grin and bear it and perhaps trade in the SUV for a mini-van.

Fortunately for me, I am currently able to take the bus to work, so if you live in the US, your tax dollars subsidize my gasoline consumption. Cute, eh?

[ Parent ]

'scuse me? (none / 0) (#35)
by tzanger on Wed May 09, 2001 at 08:12:21 PM EST

In the US, a very large segment of the population has voted with their pocketbook and moved out to the suburbs and rural areas and thus forced themselves into the commuter lifestyle.

Whoa, hold up here...

Because I choose to not live in a concrete cage with hundreds of others in a landscape of asphalt, concrete and pollution I somehow brought this on myself?

How about I prefer my fresh air, open space and beautiful view of the land. A couple hour commute once a week doesn't bother me and soon it'll be a 6 hour (one way) commute every couple weeks.

Don't generalize people; just because you may prefer an apartment in downtown doesn't mean that you're somehow better because of it.



[ Parent ]
my aren't we grumpy? (none / 0) (#38)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 11:05:20 PM EST

For the record, I live in a house, not an apartment with a yard and a fence. Urban (or inner city for that matter) doesn't necesarilly mean in a concrete cage with hundreds of others in a landscape of asphalt, concrete and pollution.

Secondly, to the extent that your decision to live where you have decided to live has made you more dependant on gasoline, yes, you have brought this on yourself. To this extent, you have made yourself a captive market that has to have a product. This has left you in a position where you have absolutely no bargaining power with those that decide prices for gasoline.

If that makes you feel inferior, you have my apologies.

[ Parent ]

Inferior, nah, just confused (none / 0) (#41)
by tzanger on Thu May 10, 2001 at 09:31:35 AM EST

For the record, I live in a house, not an apartment with a yard and a fence. Urban (or inner city for that matter) doesn't necesarilly mean in a concrete cage with hundreds of others in a landscape of asphalt, concrete and pollution.

I dunno; I lived in an area like that. And most houses being built these days are 2500+ sq. ft on a 50x70'-ish lot. Having a couple hundred square feet of yard our front and back and a 5' gap between houses isn't exactly my idea of great living.

Secondly, to the extent that your decision to live where you have decided to live has made you more dependant on gasoline, yes, you have brought this on yourself. To this extent, you have made yourself a captive market that has to have a product. This has left you in a position where you have absolutely no bargaining power with those that decide prices for gasoline.

I just mentioned that I do telecommute fairly often. I can also move to alternative fuels (I'm in the power electronics biz so I'm working on a hybrid vehicle just so I can say I've built one) or carpool when I need groceries/etc.

My mom's on a 10 acre farm. She raises animals and various veggies and fruits. I'd say her trips to the supermarket are lower than yours, even if you can walk. And you're dependent on the market for food, which I suppose I could argue is the exact type of captive market scenario. While I don't raise and slaughter animals myself I do have neighbours who do. And if you don't have a vehicle you're in a captive market for public transportation to get around to further-reaching places. Wanna go at 2am? Gotta find a cab. I don't know if you do have a vehicle or not so I can't really push that one too much further. :-)

The only reason I jumped on to your post is because you made it sound like because I've got a ways to travel I'm suddenly caught in some kind of endless loop. A tank of gas will last me 2, maybe 3 weeks. Not because I don't drive, but because I drive smart. I don't make a dozen small trips if I can help it. I'm no more captive in the gas market than any city dweller. Your public transportation costs will rise with the gas prices too. And let's face it; you can't walk/bike everywhere, especially if you've got to haul something back.



[ Parent ]
then explain the allegations of claims of superior (none / 0) (#44)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:05:06 AM EST

I dunno; I lived in an area like that. And most houses being built these days are 2500+ sq. ft on a 50x70'-ish lot. Having a couple hundred square feet of yard our front and back and a 5' gap between houses isn't exactly my idea of great living.
Now we are speaking of grass and yards and trees? Those didn't get mentioned in your original description of urban dwelling, a concrete cage with hundreds of others in a landscape of asphalt, concrete and pollution.

My yard (at least the back) is closer to a hundred feet square than to a hundred square feet. I've never measured, so it is quite likely that a hundred feet square might be underestimating. It is certainly large enough for my kids to have fun playing in but not so large that I spend more time than I'm willing too in keeping it up. I've got space for several large trees, a good sized shed, a turn around for the driveway. The neigbors houses are considerable further away than five feet.

I do own a house that has a yard less than 100 square feet. There really aren't all that many of those in most good-sized cities in the US. Of course, when renting it out, the small yard is typically seen as a feature and not a flaw. I've yet to meet a renter that hasn't been grateful of the small yard. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

And you're dependent on the market for food, which I suppose I could argue is the exact type of captive market scenario.
Yes and no. Apples and oranges, here. At least currently, food distribution in the midwest isn't controlled by a few companies that generally collude with each other to fix prices. Not to mention, that if food prices do skyrocket, you find me complaining about the high cost of food. I fully realize that I'm making a choice with my lifestyle to depend on others for food production and as such I'll take the lumps with the benefits.

And I think that's the core issue, I find it irritating that a good number of people that choose to live commuter lifestyles also choose to complain about the consequences of those lifestyles. So, heh, if you aren't one of the people complaining about the high cost of gas, just blow me off. This thread started off by someone complaining about the high cost of petrol.

And if you don't have a vehicle you're in a captive market for public transportation to get around to further-reaching places.
True, but who said that I don't have a vehicle? Not to mention is that part of the point is that there aren't many far-reaching places I'd be interested in going outside of walking distance. Sure, they come up every now and then, that's one of the reasons I own a mini-van.
Your public transportation costs will rise with the gas prices too.
Nope. Actually fare is going down from eighty cents a trip to fifty cents a trip next month. More people riding due to higher gasoline costs == lower fares because the increase in income more than offsets the higher cost due to raising gas prices. Of course, it also helps that public transportation in my city is subsidized by local, state and federal taxes. But that, in my opinion, is a good thing. Polution here in the tri-state area is bad enough when a significant number of people take the bus. If everyone drove, it would be far worse.
And let's face it; you can't walk/bike everywhere, especially if you've got to haul something back.
You do have me there. If I go shopping for a sizable item, I'm much more likely to drive. But again, living in the city certainly doesn't prevent one from owning a motor car.

[ Parent ]
Prices - two trends (3.33 / 3) (#20)
by Komodo321 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:05:18 PM EST

The price of crude oil was trending upwards last year, and that gets passed on as higher gasoline prices. But since December, 2000, the price of crude oil on the world market has not changed much, while the price of gasoline has risen sharply. How much of this is due to uncontrollable fluctuations of the US refining market, and how much to manipulation of the market?? I don't know, but both mechanisms are plausible.

This weeks Newsweek has an article called Big Oil at the Table that lists and analyzes the 'unprecedented number' of high-level officials with ties to big oil. Given these ties, and clear signals that the Bush administration will not be eager to investigate or otherwise 'intervene' in the market, there is ample reason to suspect that we might be seeing collusion and price-fixing, not free markets and competition. No proof of anything, but there is nothing to inspire confidence.

[ Parent ]
Heh (2.00 / 1) (#39)
by regeya on Thu May 10, 2001 at 12:45:27 AM EST

I know it sucks that your gas prices are so high, but don't think for a second that Americans will stop whining about our gas prices soaring; don't think for a second that we'll feel sympathetic, since the people of the formerly-large-now-diminutive Empire have had opportunity to have their say about gas prices, but haven't.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

Speaking as someone who currently telecommutes... (4.77 / 9) (#2)
by phunbalanced on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:42:09 PM EST

I find it amazing. But I think it lends itself well to my job.

To explain, I work in the IT field, and the reason I like telecommuting so much, is not simply because it is easier to not commute to work, etc... but because of the schedule. I can work hours whenever I want. I work from 10pm till 4am sometimes.

Anyone that's ever coded a mod_perl site, or something of the equivalent (any code for that matter), can atest to the fact that, sometimes you get on a roll, and sometimes you don't. Telecommuting, in this way, improves my efficiency greatly.

Whenever I start to get on a roll with my code, I can just keep working. Hungry? Stop for a second, walk to my kitchen, make some dinner, come back, continue on till the wee hours of the night. And there's no one waiting to bitch at me in the morning when I don't get up till Noon.

Now, back to one of my original points though, I question if this is suitable for all types of jobs. (and no, I don't mean obvious things like for example, a steel worker) For example, a para-legal could probably do most of their work via telecommuting. That's all fine and dandy, but when their boss calls at 9am, they better be awake with the information needed. Am I making sense here?

Basically telecommuting is great for this reason. Your life suddenly becomes (24x7) your life, and you aren't under any sort watch. If you are motivated, then you will do well, keep your job, and have one of the best experiences of your life. If you are not, then you require the regime of 9-5, if that's what you want.

Well, that's all rambled together, but that's my experience, and I love it.

me.

Where to start (4.00 / 6) (#7)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:58:24 PM EST

1) Telecommuting and flextime are perpendicular concepts. A coworker of mine telecommutes but has to be available to answer the phone from 9-5 on the off chance he gets a tech support call. Similarly, I asked to switch from 9-5 to 8-4 so I could spend more evening (and less morning) time with my children.

2) You, my friend, are an HR disaster waiting to happen. There are fairly strict laws on what a company can require you to do. And since they don't want companies claiming "He did it of his own free will", many of these laws are expressed as restrictions on the worker--hours spent working in a row, total for the week, safe work environments, etc. If your company is big enough to have an HR department, don't let them know about these "rolls" you get on (especially if you don't take 15 minute breaks every 4 hours). They'll have you back chained to a desk in no time.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
true but... (none / 0) (#9)
by phunbalanced on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:11:53 PM EST

I suppose I should have mentioned, that I only answer to one person (the CEO) in the company. HR isn't going to bother me. ;) In truth, what you say makes perfect sense, so I just won't tell anyone then. Besides, after this coding is done, my hours become even more flexible.

Regarding the perpendicularity of flexible hours and telecommuting, you are very right, however, it's hard to keep ones hours "flexible" when you have a boss or other, keeping track of every hour, when, where, and what you were doing, etc.

Now step back, talk on the phone/im/email to your boss a couple times a day, and work how you want. I think you'll find telecommuting lends itself better to this.

[ Parent ]

Work Time Limits (none / 0) (#33)
by sigwinch on Wed May 09, 2001 at 07:13:54 PM EST

2) You, my friend, are an HR disaster waiting to happen. There are fairly strict laws on what a company can require you to do. And since they don't want companies claiming "He did it of his own free will", many of these laws are expressed as restrictions on the worker--hours spent working in a row...
Do you have a reference to the actual laws? A formal cite would be nice, but even a vague name that I can search on will do. It just seems too preposterous.
If your company is big enough to have an HR department, don't let them know about these "rolls" you get on (especially if you don't take 15 minute breaks every 4 hours). They'll have you back chained to a desk in no time.
In the U.S. at least, this is unconstitutional. If it is lawful for me to exert myself for N hours in solitude, then by free association I am also allowed to exert myself for N hours in the company of others. The mere fact of association is by definition irrelevant, and may not be an element of offense.

It is also a violation of anti-slavery laws. Except in support of voluntary agreement, the law may not compel the time, manner, or place of work. Just as the law may not compel me to pick cotton for "society's benefit" for 15 minutes every 4 hours, it may neither compel me to arise from my chair and walk around the office for those same 15 minutes. It is the essence of liberty that each person decides for themselves what work to do, and that no other person makes the decisions for them. It is the essence of slavery that other people decide what work I am to do, and back up those decisions with force.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Technology isn't there yet (3.50 / 4) (#3)
by scorbett on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:43:21 PM EST

It's hard to beat the effectiveness of face-to-face meetings for some tasks. Email and IM are fine for trivial communications, but it's nice to be able to walk over to the next office and talk something over with a co-worker. Maybe when video conferencing is ubiquitous we'll see a rise in telecommuting.



Absolutely (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by leviathan on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:31:20 PM EST

I find that the paperless office is a much more likely reality for me than everyone telecommuting, despite what the author asserts. I print out very little; when I do print out it's usually for lengthy meetings. Still, I get peeved that I can't grep a paper document.

Telecommuting on the other hand seems an attractive option until I think how much work I do face to face, particularly within my team. I can't really see it happening over a video link. Plus, you're much closer to the grapevine for that essential need-to-know bit of office gossip on quite what, or rather who, your bosses secretary gets up to after work.

--
I wish everyone was peaceful. Then I could take over the planet with a butter knife.
- Dogbert
[ Parent ]

Depends on the job (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by theboz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:34:13 AM EST

I go to work and sit in a cubicle every day, and basically the only person I speak to in person is a coworker. I see my boss maybe once a week, and rarely have to go to meetings. Most of my communications are using email and the telephone, including dialing in to meetings over the phone, so I could do my work from home for the most part.

The only thing that really is stopping me is the fact that I would have to get DSL from my employer, which would probably cause the DSL I have now to get disconnected. I don't want to lose my static IP or the ability to run servers. Pretty much now I will work from home on occasion if I really just need to stay in bed or do something that requires me taking time off to stay home but I can still dial in. I think a lot of jobs can be ok for telecommuting, but it has to be examined on a person by person basis.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

I telecommute (4.00 / 6) (#4)
by DesiredUsername on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:43:49 PM EST

Kind of. Actually, we have no central location that I could be "tele-ing" into. I just brought all the stuff I need home with me and do it in the basement.

I'd say that the major downside for me is the converse of the major upside: no way to walk over to someone's cube and talk to them. On the one hand there's the obvious benefit of fewer interruptions. OTOH, I can't go light a fire under a slow-moving coworker (get me those damn CD's NOW!).

Play 囲碁
Why I Can't Telecommute (3.75 / 4) (#5)
by ignatiusst on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:45:40 PM EST

I think, for me (and I would guess for many), the primary factor as to why telecommuting won't work is this: I am a procrastinator.

If my boss allowed me to telecommute, I would put everything off until the last hour and then rush to get it done on time. I know this is true of many people, though few will admit it. Just look back on your college/high school days.. when did you ever not do a project at the last hour.

Aside from that, I don't know enough to telecommute. I can only imagine how much time I would waste on the phone (or waiting for a return call) with my boss trying to find out how to take that next step towards finishing the job.

The idea of a Regional Pod is interesting, but that seems to me to take away a lot of the advantages of telecommuting (ie: working in your slippers while watching Gilligan's Island re-runs.. hehe..).

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift

I would need a waldo to telecommute (3.66 / 3) (#6)
by georgeha on Wed May 09, 2001 at 12:52:47 PM EST

I would have a hard time telecommuting since I support large (limosine sized), expensive (USD $250,000) printers in a heterogenous environment.

Things I have done this week that would be very hard by telecommute:

  • Replaced a floppy in a Sun Ultra 60.
  • Checked the displays of these printers (can't be xhosted out for safety reasons.
  • Mnay f2f meetings with managers for a bad NT problem.
  • f2f meetings with peers discussing lpr.
  • modemed files from a non-networked computer (non-network for secuirty reasons.
If I had a waldo, I could have done some, butnot all of these.

Thanks,

George

Ok, I'll bite (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by Komodo321 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:41:56 PM EST

What's a waldo?

[ Parent ]
Mechanical hands (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:53:02 PM EST

Have you seen the movie Dave? If so, recall the scene where he controlled a pair of mechanical hands by placing his hands inside a pair of gloves rigged with sensors that detected his actual hand movements and translated those movements to the mechanical hands.

IIRC, a waldo was first described by Robert Heinlein in a sci fi novel and eventually somebody built one that worked.

[ Parent ]

OK, but, (none / 0) (#22)
by Happy Monkey on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:34:23 PM EST

Where's a Waldo?
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Etymology of "waldo" (none / 0) (#34)
by sigwinch on Wed May 09, 2001 at 07:17:44 PM EST

Bingo. It was in the pair of novellas Waldo and Magic, Inc., published as a single volume.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Hard to explain... (none / 0) (#57)
by theboz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:36:48 AM EST

It's similar to a buttfor.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Thoughts (4.66 / 9) (#11)
by slaytanic killer on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:25:52 PM EST

I think this a very interesting subject, because it cuts to the heart of business processes. Knowing the limitations of telecommuting helps one understand normal work processes. Even if just by contrast.
What other factors are limiting the growth of telecommuting? How can they be overcome?
  • Not enough interfaces
    Oftentimes, teams do not work in a vacuum. You often need instant feedback from a designer or a customer. Joel on Software had an article on the theory of getting quick feedback in programming; and this could be applied to other things. Oftentimes the interfaces available aren't geared towards designers, and there are those who work better on napkins.

    Computers are just not fully interdisciplinary yet. Reality is.

  • Technology is young
    This has many consequences. Very experienced people may not be used to it. And the flux in the computer world guarantees a perilous upgrade cycle for companies who wish to take advantage of it. Some might have enough money to hire someone who can make these decisions, but not be able to actually recognize her in an interview.
    Have you worked as a telecommuter? What was your experience like?
    It was great. Phone, email, and scanners were used quite often to scale over the problems. Iteration times for releasing designs had to be quick, since we did not want to go too long in one direction only to find there was some small but influential error that would waste a lot of our time and their money.

    On the upside, it made our requirement-gathering process and communication much more specific. Some large conglomerate companies like GE artificially limit the amount of cash they give to new teams, so the teams learn to be efficient. (This of course is done within reason.) Everyone should go through something like this. People and teams make their processes much better because the processes have to execute very well and nearly independently.

    Complex tools are shoved in favor of fundamentally sound, usable ones.

    Setting up one's own infrastructure is not a bad thing. It does not waste time. Blindly following an infrastructure certainly does, since structures gain in power the more people understand them. So people should learn some logistics. It is fun, and definitely helps them in any situation.

  • Some reasons not to telecommute (3.90 / 10) (#14)
    by yosemite on Wed May 09, 2001 at 01:38:42 PM EST

    • Living close to work (it's ~6 mile drive to work for me; I don't think it's ever taken me more than 15 minutes to drive it).

    • Spending 8+ hours a day at home alone can get very lonely, even if you have an otherwise active social life...

    • Never underestimate the bandwidth of a face-to-face conversation.

    • There are lots of distractions at home (TV, refridgerator, pets, stereo, games, the web, etc.). Sure, a lot of these exist at work, too, but with no-one around to catch you, distractions can be a lot more tempting.


    --
    [Signature redacted]

    Regional Pods, War Rooms, and the Water Cooler (4.40 / 5) (#18)
    by dram on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:02:53 PM EST

    The idea of 'Regional Pods' seems to work well with a war room work setting. Everybody comes in and each regional pod works on one project or one part of a project. The only downside to this would be that you might not have every skill you need living close to one of the regional pods.

    The water cooler is important, especially to the members of a team. It is a place where they can causally talk about problems and solutions in a stress free environment. This cannot be done through telecommuting and even with regional pods it might be lacking.

    -dram
    [grant.henninger.name]

    The problems of telecommuting (4.60 / 5) (#21)
    by jd on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:11:16 PM EST

    The first problem is that it's perceived as very difficult, expensive, and requires lots of complicated stuff. The only real thing in that that is a problem is the perception.

    Let's say that you opted to use VIC/VAT for conferencing, and SSH for remote operation. The installation on Windows, the Apple Mac, and Linux is no harder than any other program. The cost is about $50. (The software is free, most computers have a sound card built-in, so all you need is a cheap camera and a cheap microphone.) The idea that you need a dedicated line is stupid. ISDN??? You could use a 56K modem, perfectly well, for everything from work to teleconferencing.

    The second problem is that of distractions (fridge, etc). Most computing jobs I've been in, there has been a ready supply of coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, sodas, cake and all sorts of interesting food-like items. If this isn't a distraction for work, then it's not a distraction at home.

    The third problem is face-to-face talking. This is reasonably-well replicated with videoconferencing. Yes, you notice the difference, but it's not a difference that matters. So long as the need for visual and auditory clues is met, this is also a non-issue.

    The last real problem is that the home is boring after a while. People just NEED to get out and about. So hook up the system to your portable, link in a wireless modem, and go down to the beach, or something! Here, sure, the company would need to meet the costs, but if they can get an extra few hundred work-hours out of each person, for minimal extra pay, it's worth it!

    The question then is "would anyone do the work?" The answer I'd give is "yes, if the work was worth doing." People are easily distracted from stuff that (frankly) is stupid, inane and pointless. They're much more likely to keep focussed, if companies spent more time getting things done right, than done quickly.

    Not quite that simple (4.40 / 5) (#26)
    by Anonymous 242 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:14:15 PM EST

    Let's say that you opted to use VIC/VAT for conferencing, and SSH for remote operation. The installation on Windows, the Apple Mac, and Linux is no harder than any other program. The cost is about $50. (The software is free, most computers have a sound card built-in, so all you need is a cheap camera and a cheap microphone.) The idea that you need a dedicated line is stupid. ISDN??? You could use a 56K modem, perfectly well, for everything from work to teleconferencing.
    First, most business PCs do not have a soundcard. Sure, most home PCs do, but without some sort of middle layer of hardware, most home users are empatically not going to be able to voice conference over tcp/ip. Hence it is most likely that two dedicated lines will be needed, one for voice and one for data.

    Second, bandwidth costs money. Take a small company of fifty code monkeys working at home. Fifty people video conferencing uses a lot of bandwidth.

    Third, have you worked over a 56k modem? Sure some apps do just fine. If you want to run an X app on the company's big honking Solaris box, forget it. X vacuums over 56k modem. (Also remember that 56k is only the downstream speed, upstream speed is only 33k.) I won't even start on PC Anywhere or Citrix WinFrame. Drive mounts over a 56k line also leave quite a bit to be desired.

    The second problem is that of distractions (fridge, etc). Most computing jobs I've been in, there has been a ready supply of coffee, tea, chocolate drinks, sodas, cake and all sorts of interesting food-like items. If this isn't a distraction for work, then it's not a distraction at home.
    As far as this goes, I wholeheartedly agree with it.

    Of course some homes have things that some workplaces don't have. A sexy wife that doesn't work. A child that is quite noisy when not taking a nap. A television.

    The third problem is face-to-face talking. This is reasonably-well replicated with videoconferencing. Yes, you notice the difference, but it's not a difference that matters. So long as the need for visual and auditory clues is met, this is also a non-issue.
    Yes and no. Meatspace can convey some forms of information far more quickly and effiently than video or teleconferencing. For most meatings, voice and/or video are certainly good enough, albeit usually slower. I've been in teleconferences that could have been cut in half timewise if the meeting had been in meatspace.
    The last real problem is that the home is boring after a while. People just NEED to get out and about.
    Uh, that would be what RealLife(tm) is for. Work is work whether at home or at an employee's site.

    Telecommuting is a mixed bag. Some things are great. Others not-so-great. So much depends on the nature of the work being done and the culture of the people doing it. I'd say that the vast majority of non hardware IT jobs could be done over the wire with only weekly (or even less frequent if the people involved are highly mature) or so meatspace meetings. But it also isn't as easy as it sounds at first, there are a large number of logistical problems that can't just be glossed over.

    regards,

    -l

    [ Parent ]

    Who does the stupid stuff? (4.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Elkor on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:21:35 PM EST

    A couple of responses:

    face to face talking: More conversation goes on at work than meetings. How often do you turn to a coworker and ask: "Hey, have you ever tried doing <this>?" and then had an interesting discussion on the relative merits/problems inherent in the system? Better yet, have you had a coworker pop into your conversation and provide their own valuable insight? With telecommuting, you lose that spontaneous interaction with coworkers that often produces some interesting information and projects.

    Next, what about the boring work that needs to get done? Accounting is pretty boring, but without it nobody gets paid.
    Also, at work a vendor comes by and restocks the soda area, delivers paper and pens, gets toner for the printers and other supplies. The secretary comes by to remind you about the baby shower for the coworker during lunch and collects At home, you have to do it yourself. Does that happen on personal time or work time?

    The logistics involved aren't quite as simple.
    Rather, they aren't so simple unless you redefine the parameters of what your work environment and corporate culture is.

    Regards,
    Elkor
    "I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
    -Margo Eve
    [ Parent ]
    Videoconferencing really does suck (4.50 / 2) (#30)
    by Kellnerin on Wed May 09, 2001 at 04:41:30 PM EST

    The third problem is face-to-face talking. This is reasonably-well replicated with videoconferencing. Yes, you notice the difference, but it's not a difference that matters. So long as the need for visual and auditory clues is met, this is also a non-issue.

    I don't telecommute, but my office is the Boston branch of a company whose corporate HQ is in New York. We have monthly meetings at which we have to present projects to the brass for approval. Since cutting expenses is on everyone's mind, there's less splurging on the Delta Shuttle and more meetings via video. And these meetings are miserable.

    First, there's the technical shortcomings of videoconferencing. Even over a good connection, there's often a lag in transmission, so you're left hanging for a second or two (which can feel like a long time) after you're done speaking, before you get any kind of reaction. That can be very disconcerting, especially if you're the kind of person who relies on feedback a lot, or cracks jokes when you're nervous (that no one laughs at until a beat later). Then there are times when the sound cuts out, and you're reduced to writing notes and holding them up to the camera, or you have someone sitting too close to the mike and rustling papers distractingly. All of this gets in the way of smooth communication.

    Then, there's the fact that most conference rooms weren't designed for this kind of thing. They generally have a large table in the middle surrounded by chairs. The video unit is then relegated to the corner, conceivably where everyone can see, at least if half of them turn around in their chairs. But if you have almost everyone in one room, and only one or two people "on video", conversation tends to center around the table, leaving the people on screen out, until someone remembers they're there, or they clear their throat to get everyone's attention [insert scraping of chairs turning around]. Or else, there'll be conversations held in one location that people around the table can hear, but doesn't carry as far as the mike, and then needs to be repeated ... I can't even imagine how bad things get when there are more than two locations involved (combining the worst of videoconverencing with telephone conference calls over speakerphone, people cutting in at the same time, not to mention dwindling screen real estate, blah).

    No doubt the technology can improve somewhat, as well as people's use of it, but for now, it's really undesirable. And what are you going to do, video-page your coworker all day instead of just calling a quick question over the cubicle wall?

    --Stop it, evil hand, stop it!--
    [ Parent ]

    Contract work (3.00 / 1) (#23)
    by weirdling on Wed May 09, 2001 at 02:36:49 PM EST

    I think the key may in the future be contract work. Essentially, if the requirements are well known (pipe dream), contractors can be hired to do the work.
    However, at my job, I could telecommute right now, as I'm working on a new project that doesn't require help from other workers, but I'm still maintaining the old project, which does require that they be able to reach me easily and almost hourly, so here I am...

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    Restrictions on Telecommuting (4.66 / 12) (#24)
    by Elkor on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:09:35 PM EST

    I gave the article a +1, because I thought it was interesting and well written while not being overbearing. However, I feel it is also a little vague. It seems that the objective is to figure out how to let everyone telecommute (TC for short).
    Are you proposing telecommuting (TC) as an alternative for EVERYONE that drives to work? Or just for a specific class of workers?

    For the purpose of this commentary, I will only address Telecommuting, not regional pods, because, in my mind, they are very different beasts.

    Obstacles to TC:
    TC won't work for all classes of workers.
    People who work in manufacturing plants are not likely to be able to take advantage of TC since they need equipment and assembly lines to do their jobs. People who work in resteraunts or stores also can't TC, for obvious reasons.

    Companies don't see the savings of the employees TC'ing, but they would realize the costs of implementing a TC plan. Companies are, in general, out to make or save money. That it took their employee 2 gallons of gas and 45 minutes of his/her time to get to work probably doesn't concern them. What DOES concern them is reducing overhead costs and producing viable products.

    Employers don't have a good grasp of the advantages of TC, as applied to their line of work. They have been doing their work their way for years now, it is ingrained. In many places, they won't want to change for fear of screwing up their business model, and then screwing it up again when they have to change it back.

    Workers don't want to do it. As hard as it is to believe, not everyone wants to work out of their own home. I rather like going to the office. Not as distracting as home, and the equipment is better (computer, desks, etc) and I get social interaction I wouldn't get working at home, alone.

    I think in order to be able to argue effectively for TC, we need to be able to:

    1) Define the scope of who can benefit from TC.
    2) Present the cost savings and advantages that companies can realize by allowing TC.
    3) Convince workers that TC is a good idea, as well.

    Right now, the costs probably outweight the savings.

    Costs for Workers:
    Harder to work at home. I don't know about you, but when I am home I tend to get distracted, doing laundry, watching tv, etc.
    Additional filings to realize savings of working at home. If I have a home office, I get to make deductions from my taxes. But I then have to keep track of those expenses. Other people might not HAVE a set-up at home for a home office (hard as that may be to believe). Thus, to take advantage of this, they would need to make one.
    Either having to provide your own equipment to work, or take Company equipment home which then needs to be brought back to fix or install new software on.

    Individual Savings
    No travel time. As was pointed out, people can save gas and time by not having to drive to work.
    More time with family. Instead of day care, you can be home to take care of your kids.
    Dress Code. Why wear a suit when you are the only one at home?
    Flexibility. Why work 9-5 when you would rather work 10-6. So long as you can get the work done, the employer shouldn't care.

    Costs for Companies:
    Loss of Collaboration. Many has been the time that I or someone has overheard someone else talking about a problem they have and been able to become involved in the conversation and solve the problem. Without a central working environment, it is almost impossible for this to happen. Out of sight, out of mind would prevent people of thinking "hey, maybe bob knows the answer, let's ask him."
    Implementing TC practices. Establishing standards of productivity. Being able to implement "best practices" among employees.
    Implementing security Giving people the ability to access central databases to compile work, access QS9000 documents, get e-mail, etc, etc. Many companies don't have this, and it would be a cost for the them to implement.
    Reimbursement vs higher salaries. Companies would have additional expenditures of either reimbursing employees for their home office expenses (extra phone line, DSL, power, office space value, equipment etc) or give individuals higher salaries to compensate them for absorbing the costs themselves.
    Set up/Breakdown. Coupled with above, when an employees joins or leaves the company, the company needs to pay set-up/termination costs for services at the employees home as well as recover property that was delivered to the employees home and then redeliver/set it up at a new employees home to replace it. Central offices avoid all these costs by having pre-established infrastructures that can be easily expanded.

    Savings:
    Lower Rent. Companies won't need as much office space (often billed at over $20/sqft) to house the employees.
    Lower Utilities Companies pay different (often higher) rates for services such as water and electricity. With fewer people using bathrooms, and less equipment drawing current, not to mention lower AC/heating bills, this could be a substantial cost savings.
    Hiring Perk. Offering employees the ability to work at home will be attractive to many two income families by allowing one (or both) of the parents to stay at home to take care of the kids. These parents might be willing to accept a lower salary for the privelege, thus further reducing the salary overhead.

    So, what did I miss?

    Regards,
    Elkor

    -------------------------------------------------
    "I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
    -Margo Eve
    Make a House Call to See Your Doctor ? (2.66 / 3) (#28)
    by Komodo321 on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:24:48 PM EST

    Excellent overview of the pros and cons, including a few things no one seemed to have considered.

    No, I wasn't suggesting that everybody stay home - some work is suited for TC, while some obviously isn't. I don't want to make a house call to see my doctor.


    [ Parent ]
    *head spinning* (3.50 / 4) (#29)
    by The Queen on Wed May 09, 2001 at 04:24:07 PM EST

    My darling Elkor,
    Knowing that you have composed this mammoth post while you're at work, I think you should strike off the 'distractions' objection. ;-)

    Otherwise, well done! (Where's Jabber, he should get in on this!)

    Some days I'd love to be able to telecommute, for the sole reason that I don't have much to do. (Waiting on info from a client, waiting for approval on a design, etc.) On those days I think it'd be great to just be 'on call' at home, where I could get other shit done, sit around and scratch myself, whatever. I'm one of the lucky (?) few who has nearly the same workstation set-up at home as I do at the office, so the quality of my work wouldn't be an issue. I mean really - I'm a web designer, that job was practically MADE for telecommuting! Right?

    [ Parent ]
    Buested.... (3.25 / 4) (#31)
    by Elkor on Wed May 09, 2001 at 04:48:21 PM EST

    Ah, your Majesty,

    Good to see you here. :)

    Yes, you are correct, I did write most of this while at work, but a lot of it was done during my lunch break.

    As for the distractions, by redefining the ways of judging quality/throughput of work from a time basis to a results basis, most of the distractions become moot.

    If an employer pays you per job, then if you get it done in 5 hours, you get paid the same amount as if you completed it in 10.

    If you are paid a salary, then that salary could be construed to cover any work your accomplish in a week. Don't accomplish enough work? Well, you lose your job or get a lower salary.

    I am at work. I am accomplishing my tasks.
    More specifically, my workstation is performing millions and millions of computations on a simulation and I am waiting for it to finish.

    There's nothing for me to do. :)

    Regards,
    Elkor
    "I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
    -Margo Eve
    [ Parent ]
    paid for time versus paid for work (4.50 / 2) (#40)
    by pavonis on Thu May 10, 2001 at 01:40:27 AM EST

    If an employer pays you per job, then if you get it done in 5 hours, you get paid the same amount as if you completed it in 10.

    I think this idea may prove critical to the growth of telecommuting. Obviously, some jobs depend strongly on the sheer number of hours worked- almost anything that involves interaction with customers, for example. Others depend entirely on getting certain tasks done, and I've certainly seen offices where salesmen (especially good salesmen) can take whatever hours they want, as long as they meet quota.

    A lot of other jobs, though, that might be amenable to a sort of contract-employment basis- you get $X for completing this task, or $Y per year and are expected to complete these tasks- are typically treated as 9-to-5 office jobs. You can see advantages to either system, but I suspect we use the latter simply because it's how mechanized, industrial-revolution type jobs worked, and habits are quite hard to break.

    Instead of being paid per task accomplished, good employees are rewarded by higher salaries, if they're rewarded at all. But there are definitely pressures on the system to change; you see a lot of white-collar workers doing mandatory unpaid overtime to get a job finished, and an increasing number of skilled people becoming independent contractors to companies they once worked for.

    For jobs that can be easily divided into specific tasks for which values and expectations can be set, in which those tasks are accomplished by individuals or possibly small groups, a kind of contract relationship with its own full-time employees can offer a company a lot of advantages- many of the ones associated with more ordinary capitalist competition. The employees may be more strongly invested in getting a job done on time or well, they may need less watchdog-style management, they may be more innovative as they look for new services to 'sell' the company. On the down side, there's a lot of complication associated with administering this stuff, and it certainly doesn't work for every project.

    But at any rate, if a person is being employed soley on the basis of her output as opposed to the time she spends in the office, telecommuting becomes almost a given; the issues about wasting time and supervision largely go away.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Restrictions on Telecommuting (3.00 / 1) (#64)
    by Erisson on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:57:52 PM EST

    One thing that got missed was a recent court case where a company was held liable for a slip-and-fall injury by one of their employees working from home. I'm sure there's ways around this by putting something countermanding it into the employee's contract, but it's something that people are leery of. I work for a PEO, and we generally won't touch insurance policies for companies with telecommuters, but will do forklift operators, construction sites, etc. Erisson

    [ Parent ]
    Good point.... (3.00 / 1) (#68)
    by Elkor on Sat May 12, 2001 at 12:46:10 AM EST

    But what were the details of the case?

    Was it voluntary or madatory TC? (Sorry, no office for you, how about working from home for a few weeks while we get things set up?)

    Was it a company set up work zone at his house? ("We'll send over some contracters to set up your office. No, don't worry about codes, we'll take care of that.")

    Or was he just doing something plain stupid on company time and the court system is being bone headed?

    In any case, you are right, something like that would also be a consideration. OSHA is/was making rumbles about creating requiring their standards being enforced on home offices. What a pain THAT would be.

    Regards,
    Elkor
    "I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
    -Margo Eve
    [ Parent ]
    Telecommuting? No thank you. (3.00 / 1) (#70)
    by timefactor on Mon May 14, 2001 at 06:48:32 PM EST

    I am one of those in the hard-to-believe-it-but-don't-want-it camp. My home is for my family and me. Work is for work. That separation is very important to me and worth the effort I must make to maintain it.

    - I cannot believe in the existence of God, despite all the statistics. - Borges
    [ Parent ]
    Wish I could.. but I cant (2.00 / 1) (#25)
    by unstable on Wed May 09, 2001 at 03:12:28 PM EST

    I work as support for a warehouse... terminal goes down I walk down there and fix/replace it. if it wasnt for that and the printer I also have to run I could telecommute.

    My friend (solaris admin for $bigcompany) he telecomutes about once a week. that gives him some days he can work from home but he also still have the person to person interaction for most of the week. If only I had his job (or at least his pay)





    Reverend Unstable
    all praise the almighty Bob
    and be filled with slack

    Telecommuting is great, part time. (4.25 / 4) (#32)
    by Sax Maniac on Wed May 09, 2001 at 06:19:09 PM EST

    As a programmer, I happen to be pretty lucky that I can telecommute on an as-needed basis. It has really changed my life, and most of my co-workers do the same.

    First, the cons. It does take a non-trivial amount of equipment and money to do it properly. That means you need a decent PC that can run whatever office software you need.

    (As a programmer, I can get by with a Linux distro: Netscape for mail and web, and X and ssh server for work, etc. I don't need much else. So sofware isn't much an issue for me.)

    You'll also need a decent broadband connection- I have a 256K SDSL, which is good, but faster would be better. A 56K is only good for very occasional telecommuting. Our office is pretty much split between DSL and cable modems. The cablers have faster speeds, of course, but get nailed at night when everyone come homes from work and starts downloading movie trailers. A good connection is not cheap, but you should have one anyway as a stress-reducer. ;)

    The pros: your life is simpler.

    I can save almost an hour of commute time by just working from home. Some days are very busy, as I both take and teach night classes; staying at home really relieves the pressure on such days.

    My car is lousy in the snow, and I live in a state notorious for awful drivers and worse traffic. Staying off the roads at the slightest sign of lousy weather can shave 3 hours off the commute. Just not having to stress over it is a great thing.

    Then, there's the odd days that happen every once in a while: some guy is coming to fix the gutter at 11am, or a package will be dropped off. Being able to be home makes scheduling this stuff so much easier.

    For the the folks who have kids, they depend on telecommuting to balance their schedules with their spouses. Snow day and have to be home? Kid sick? Oh, time to leave work early, I'll be working from home. I know when I have kids, I'll definitely need this.

    I don't think I could stay at home all week. Some folks do, of course, but they're more senior engineers who have a lot more experience than I do. I really need the face-to-face time to design software properly. All my books are at work, so when I'm at home, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage, and have to rely on web sites for docs.

    To sum up: if you can't telecommute full time, partial is great.


    Stop screwing around with printf and gdb and get a debugger that doesn't suck.

    Telecommuting should never be done lightly (4.83 / 6) (#37)
    by turtleshadow on Wed May 09, 2001 at 10:36:02 PM EST

    I've worked for a very large company for several years now. Telecommuting is something that can often be "done" in many of our staff's positions.
    However there are often cultural and logistical problems for workers and manager's to overcome in order to do telecommuting "correctly."
    • Good "team phone skills" are crucial. I can't remember a week going by without asking someone to mute their phone on a conference call. Adults taking turns to converse is more exasperating than doing the same with 2 year olds. Somehow people forget fact that most phones are poor at full duplexing. Lastly its hard to run a meeting when 12 teamembers keep announcing their arrival into the conference call as they are 2,3,5,8,10 minutes late.
    • Never allow key decision makers to telecomute on/near days near of key decisions. It hurts the business when your workers are needing to get signatures or approvals when you can't find somebody on the week/quarter/day that something is really due. Reliable FAX, email, and all important chain of command are a must here. Conversely your project may be in trouble if key workers are asking/demanding relocation of the work to their home to complete the work for any reason other than sound family or personal reasons when they've never stated such intentions before.
    • Proper training for the group is required not just the telecommuter. The business based group has to know how and when to properly invoke the remotes. I've been bothered at very inappropriate hours. Rule of thumb if you'd be embarrased come to my house to knock on my front door due to the hour then you better not page me. Telecommute != always available.
      Conversely remote workers who have skewed hours better not reverse the contact just as closing time or as business opening happens. "O gee you have a bus to catch, Well I sure dont have that problem!"
    • Defensive Shields are often raised by remote workers more effectively. You can't just pop in and bushwack the boss for a raise, you cant cruise by and see if the techie is actually slaving away on that deadline. There's some sort of human reaction at being at home for people to screen calls, pages, cell phones, faxes more stringently. Often these are a bother at work so the worker retreats to working remote/home -- only to find these increase.
    • Never let a worker easily convince you that they can most effectively do work from home starting at 7 a.m. EST when your customers are all on PST. Timezone shifts are important considerations likewise. Its bad mojo for the undertrained telecommunter to groggily handle that East Coast customer call at 7:00 am MDT from home. -- "Say that again Sir CEO, I was letting the dog out."
    Basically telecommuters for the better can reduce some overhead costs and improve morale and productivity as all work moves through the org quickly and decisively as everyone knows the rules and what to do.
    Or telecommuters for the worse plunge it into chaos as work is assigned over hard to hear cracking phones, to distracted hard to reach workers by boss' who may also be distracted and possibly hard to reach.

    In sum; Your customers & co-workers should never know that the person they just talked to was remote, the service/product rendered should never be impacted by a person working at home nor differ from that which could be supplied from the office. -- thats not telecommuting that's sound business sense.
    Turtleshadow


    Perhaps [OT], but ... (3.50 / 4) (#42)
    by kostya on Thu May 10, 2001 at 09:55:59 AM EST

    What about public transportation?

    I agree that telecommuting should be considered by more companies (I'm in the process of configuring my remote station for where I work), but in regards to fuel prices, public transportation seems to be a more viable solution.

    Perhaps this is obvious to our European K5ers, but don't underestimate the American love of The Car. Even in American cities where public transportation is available, many people choose to drive in (for various reasons) even when the public transportation is just a short walk from their house.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    Problems with public transportation (none / 0) (#58)
    by theboz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:48:53 AM EST

    I live in Atlanta and we have a public transportation system called MARTA. I've never taken a bus, only the trains, but I can see why people don't like them. The majority of people that take public transportation are either poor or students (same thing now that I think about it) and you also get more criminals and insane people. In fact, 75% of the time I take the train I'd say that there is someone in the same car as me that is mumbling jibberish and laughing, talking to themselves about very strange things, or talking to someone that isn't there. Also because the train goes through the south side of Atlanta where there is a lot of criminal activity, there have been some problems with people there, although nothing has happened to me as of yet. Also, it smells horrible. I don't think they get cleaned a lot so there are people that wet themselves and such that get on the train. They often smell like urine and feces. Sometimes you just don't want to sit on the seats because you don't know what was there earlier as it's completely filthy.

    I don't take the train a lot, only when I am going downtown or when I want to go to the airport. It's an ok means of transportation, but I wouldn't use it every day.

    Stuff.
    [ Parent ]

    Wow, Atlanta has changed (4.00 / 1) (#59)
    by kostya on Fri May 11, 2001 at 12:21:29 PM EST

    I lived there back in the late 80s and MARTA was so spiffy cool. And clean. But things change I suppose.

    I hear you on the crazy people. In Boston, the T (that's what we call it) is pretty safe and clean. Except for the Orange Line, which primarily serves the poorest section of Boston. Even still, the lines are very clean and they don't smell. The only time the other passengers get questionable is late at night.

    Last night, coming back from the theatre there was this guy who was just wearing dirt--I mean, you could have washed him, and I think he would have changed colors. He has this bag with styrofoam and bubble wrap that he had hooked into his belt-loop that he used as subway-lumbar-support, I guess. He had this deck of cards that he kept shuffling with uncanny precision. As he shuffled, he mumbled all sorts of incoherencies. Then he would stop and use a piece of chalk on his hands to absorb the oils so he could keep shuffling and not mess up the cards. Very strange.

    Of course, that just doesn't compare to my two "super-doozie" stories:

    1. A guy was so darn drunk, he passed out with his knees on one seat, his face, planted and drooling, in another, with his butt sticking up at the apex. Imagine how your body is when you sit in a chair, and then just keep that position and push you forward out of the chair. Except this guy got UP onto the seats and then passed out like this. I have no idea how or why. It had to be the most uncomfortable position any man could think of, drunk or sober. The MBTA cops came and got him at JFK/UMASS. He was barely coherent. He left a pool of drool--no joke.
    2. This gargantuan man sat at the end of the train with several grocery bags. He kept mumbling and talking very loud to people who were near him--he seemed mentally challenged. Then he opened up a gorcery bag, pulled out a 2lb package of ground beef, peeled back the shrink wrap, and started eating. He wasn't very tidy either--so bits were on his mouth and on his belly (he was real big). My wife and I moved to another car at the next stop. Sure, he was harmless, but the ground-beef sashimi was hard to stomach ;-)
    Those stories aside, I still dig public transportation. Additionally, I take the Commuter Rail to work, which is actual deisel trains and everything. And those cars are REAL nice. They make the subway seem like a hovel. The drunks on those trains are hilarious--shouting to one another at each stop, wondering if they should get off here and hit bar X or wait till the next and hit bar Y, then shouting to the rest of the car, "Aneeeshhbody waanja drink with us?" Those guys crack me up. Hit a bar, get drunk; catch the Red Sox in the bleacher section, get drunk; hit another bar, get drunk; catch the train and try to find another place to get drunk ;-)



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Consider the numbers (none / 0) (#71)
    by nichughes on Wed May 16, 2001 at 05:24:39 AM EST

    Taking the UK as an example (only because I know the rough numbers, public transport accounts for about 10% of the volume of road transport. I'm guessing that the gap is wider in the USA) here's why mass transit systems can only be a part of the answer.

    If everybody telecommuted just one day per week on average the number of peak-time car journeys would drop by almost 20%.

    To achieve the same reduction in road use from public transport you would have to increase its capacity by 200% - i.e triple its current capacity.

    So where is all the money for such a huge infrastructure going to come from? How much of the landscape would you have to bulldoze to build it? Would it not make more sense to use the existing digital infrastructure?

    The facts that it side-steps the widespread reluctance to use public transport and also saves everybody a lot of time should also not be ignored. Even so the key point is that any plans to meet all or even most of our current transport needs through public transport are unrealistic.

    [ Parent ]

    Casual exchanges of info (3.50 / 2) (#43)
    by kostya on Thu May 10, 2001 at 10:22:14 AM EST

    3) Teleconferencing sucks. Most telecommuting communication is by email or phone. This limits the amount of information that is exchanged in casual, informal ways. The watercooler is important for the company.

    I agree with this. Conference calls are rough. If you want to telecommute, there should be a standard for the level of telephone you have in your house. Additionally, you should have a separate business line. Nothing worse than someone clicking off for call-waiting when it is a personal call ;-)

    As for casual exchange, don't you think that instant messaging has filled this niche? I've worked at companies where IM was required to be up and running on your machine. They used it for casual chatting and "heads-up" messages.

    At one company I contracted with, we ran an IRC server. Everyone of a certain level of responsibility was required to be logged in with some sort of alarm turned on to messages directed at them. This allowed impromputu meetings to convene on various problems. When the sysadmin was at the cage at Exodus, the senior developers where located in Boston and Florida, and management was located in another office in Boston, IRC was very, very useful. I found it preferable to the phone because I could cut and paste solutions and man pages. I could also send files to people, wherever they were--also very convienent.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    Making Telecommuting work (none / 0) (#45)
    by pranshu on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:08:34 AM EST

    some of the things we do to mke telecommuting work:
    • Internal IRC server which everyone is on
    • We mostly have partial telecommuting, it's different for everybody but some are in the office one week and at home the next or only in for part of the week - almost everybody is in at some stage. The physical contact is important.
    • Performance is results oriented not by how many hours are spent in the office.
    • We have an internal disry system accessible to all.
    cheers,
    simon

    There's really only one reason it hasn't caught on (4.00 / 1) (#46)
    by bediger on Thu May 10, 2001 at 11:22:18 AM EST

    There's really only one reason why telecommuting hasn't caught on, and you already stated it up front:

    Employers don't trust employees. If they don't come in to a place where they can be watched, the boss doesn't know what they are doing.

    I guess it's really not a matter of "trust", though. It's something called "faith in supervision effect". See this press release for details of a book on the topic. My take is that middle managers, from supervisors-of-grunt-level to director level, feel a lot better about the soup if they can stir up the pot. This keeps them from allowing the looseness of telecommuting - the middle management just feels less satisfaction if they're not in close control. It's well-known to industrial psychologists that middle management attracts a lot of borderline personality disorders, too. So, a nearly subconscious feeling of being not-in-control, combined with psychological problems equals not allowing telecommuting (or any other basic improvement, like employee empowerment).


    -- I am Spartacus.
    Lack on infrastructure. (none / 0) (#47)
    by coffee17 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:16:12 PM EST

    Sure, there are increasing amounts of people who might have a fat pipe from their home, but what about the machines? Many users are idiots and will find ways to break the work machines, and if their work and home machine is the same thing it's even worse. As the unix admin in a mixed M$/linux company, at least I deal with slightly more educated users, there is still the time where a developer can't get their machine working properly, nor on the net (and no matter how many times you ask if they've kicked lose the cable, they'll check it and not notice it) which requires someone with tech karma to visit them. If we're all in one company, it takes me 1-2 minutes to walk over, and either plug in the cable, or ideally fix something they broke. If we're all spread out, it would be me driving 30 minutes, fixing it, driving 30 minutes back. Or, hiring a contracter to drive the 30 minutes (in the case of people far away) look at the machine, show they are more clueless than the user and not solve it, company flies me out, and] I fix the problem (there has been two cases of me being flown from sili con valley to new york to fix problems, simply because others failed, and it was easier to lose two days of me on site, plus the thousand dollar last minute plane tickets than to continually have a machine we needed up ASAP stay down).

    And this is just to support developers and the occaisional custom product we ship to important customers. Now, if you start moving people like marketing and accounting (they give the biggest headache to the windows IT people, headaches to the point that I'd probably refuse if told to setup a linux box for them) telecomute, you have to have more mobile IT people than dominos delivery people. Now instead of 3 IT people supporting 100 you need about 12-15 to support the 100. In silicon valley, even if you hire mostly newbies, that will still add 250-500K to your burn rate.

    So, if we can't have everyone telecommute, why not just make it so for very special individuals? Well, most places will, but only on an as-needed basis. We have one remote user in New Jersy, and it's a headache, and she ends up being here about 5 days every two months anyways. But if you start allowing people who live 20-30 minutes away, instead of 6+ hour plane rides away, you've opened the flood gates. Everyone wants to know why they can't work from home, and you've just demoralized every single person who can't telecommute.

    Or perhaps I just see all this as a matter of protecting my job (if I became a drive 30 minutes to each house to handle support I'd quit in an instant).

    Modular offices are not cost effective. (none / 0) (#48)
    by coffee17 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:30:52 PM EST

    Sorry, but this idea seems even less feasible than mass telecommuting. The people who do need to actually work at an office, and need to see people f2f, do not need to see random people at the company, but specific people. accounting sees accounting, research talks to reseach and product dev, product dev talks to research and testing and service, etc... which means that you can not try to geographically disperse the offices, as likely people within a group are randomly dispersed, so for some it will be more of a drive to get to the appropriate modular office. If people just came to the closest modular office, there would be issues of not being by the appropriate people (unless it just happened that everyone in a group lived near each other (it isn't so in my company)). Additionally the modular offices are probably going to have a fair need of intercommunication with certain other modular offices. Also, one know needs at least one support person per office, unless you want to have someone be at office during certain hours and if something breaks in one you say drop everyone depending on that and wait for the appropriate time. I don't think that will fly well with most managers. Also, it's not cost effective to rent many small offices (not even addressing interconnection infrastructure), but the real estate is simply set such that if you are getting a lot of land, you pay less than if you're just getting a bit of space.

    The solution in my mind, is to get quick and efficient public transportation which has decent schedules. I try to take the bus from time to time, but while I only have to wait about 10 minutes for a bus in the morning, if I'm going home any time after 6pm, I have to wait about 30 minutes to get in a bus which is standing room only. If I wait after 9pm (which happens on occaision), I have an hour wait time, and the event which made me break down and buy a car in the first place was I stayed until 12:10. next bus was at 1:00am, so I putzed around on the net, and started waiting for the bus at 12:40am. It never showed. I waited the entire time (including pissing in near by bushes fearing missing another bus) until 1:55 when the next bus came by. That is unacceptable. Currently, I will use about $40 in gas per month, or I could by a $40 bus pass. given that I've already shelled out the $800 for the car, and the $420 for 6 months of insurance, do you think I'll take my convenient and fast, altho wasteful car, or public transpo? If public tranpo hadn't been so bad, I'd have not gotten the car, but if pigs had wings, they might fly; so what? When my current car dies, I'll re-evaluate public tranpo (fortunately my company is moving to within biking distance of my place, and my car should last me 'till then).

    re: modular offices (none / 0) (#53)
    by Anonymous 242 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 08:36:27 AM EST

    It all depends on the size of a corporation. For small companies, modular offices obviously crate more costs than they crate benefits. For large companies, modular offices are a necessity. Once a company reaches a certain size, it becomes prohibitively expensive to locate in one area, let alone one building. There is a large gray area in between, where companies do need to sit down and think things through to decide whether or not a modular office is a good idea.

    Another defense of modular offices is distribution of talent. Given a normal distribution of talented workers in multiple cities, it is often easier to find 20 talented workers in five cities than it is to find 100 talented workers in one city.

    Aside from these points, your comments do have much to commend, especially the point about public transportation.

    [ Parent ]

    How about moving? (2.50 / 2) (#49)
    by coffee17 on Thu May 10, 2001 at 02:40:08 PM EST

    Look at most amerikan workers. Most of our car-time is spent going to/from home and work. Why don't more people actually try to move near to where they work? OK, if they've shelled out the money for a house, it is more legal hassle, if not loss of money to move, but what about people in apartments? there are people at work who have apartments and commute ~1.5 hours each way. that's out rageous. Heck, one lady who has such a commute is looking at buying a house 20 minutes further away, when she knew that our company was going to be moving about 10 minutes still further (but closer to me, ha ha), but she apparently has her heart set on a 2 hour commute. Bah, if amerika had gas prices around $5-7 a gallon, I think that might be enough to beat some sense into people's wallets (AKA their brains), and they'd at least consider caltrain.

    maybe I've somehow been infected with a foreign meme which makes me want to live near where I'll most often be (sadly I have no life, so work is the clear winner over entertainment (the people who have the worst commutes also seem to have no life, so it would appear they could move easier). Heck, when I was in seattle, I timed a job move with my lease running out, and got a job, then got an apartment nearby, and was able to live downtown and still just have a 6 block walk to work. Now that was nice.

    I walk to work! (none / 0) (#50)
    by msphil on Thu May 10, 2001 at 07:47:17 PM EST

    It's actually the reason I chose my particular overpriced apartment complex over any others in the area. I'm, literally, two blocks from the office. It cuts out the whole need for a second car. (And my wife's commute is all in-town, about 10-15 minutes each way.)

    Not bad for Orange County, CA!

    [ Parent ]

    WTF is Amerika? (4.00 / 2) (#55)
    by theboz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:27:27 AM EST

    I don't understand the purposeful misspelling of words like America or calling the current president "dubya", the term USian, or any of the other ignorant things people seem to use to act like they are some great intellectuals around here.

    But, onto the subject of the article, there are valid reasons that people live far away from work. I live in Atlanta, and since it's a big city there is a lot of crime. I took a job here last June and got an apartment close enough to work that takes me about 20 minutes to get there when traffic is bad. It's not quite close enough to walk or ride a bike but I don't have to take any major roads to get there. Anyways, since moving in to some of the nicest apartments in the area, I have had a car stolen within a month of me moving in, and I have had the apartment across the hall from mine get busted into by the police because they were looking for the guy that lived there, who apparantly murdered someone. I don't think that a lot of people, especially those with families, would be ok to live somewhere like that. So, most of my coworkers live outside of Atlanta in cities that take them a while to drive to, but there are good schools and safe neighborhoods. There are lower crime rates and stuff, but another major issue is the prices of houses. A house that costs $300,000 here will be about $120,000 an hour's drive away. With that big of a price difference, it's no wonder people will go with the houses further away.

    Of course, for people like you or me, it is better to live close to work. Personally I just keep a shotgun around, an alarm on my truck, and lock the door at night and I'm fine. I'll probably move when I get married though.

    Stuff.
    [ Parent ]

    amerikans (none / 0) (#60)
    by coffee17 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:07:29 PM EST

    I don't understand the purposeful misspelling of words like America

    it's intended as a negative rub. For me,as someone currently living in the US, I've started using it now that I have made up my mind, and should be out of this country for good in early June.

    Additionally, the shortening of american to 'merkin should be obvious (www.m-w.com to find out what a merkin is).

    or calling the current president "dubya",

    this is intended to point out bushes "dumb good ole boy" aspects.

    the term USian,

    it's much shorter to type than american. It's similar to the common shorthand for xtian instead of christian. Granted I don't take this to it's extreme (WhaLevelRU?) of shortening everything to the level where most people can comprehend the writing with effort, but some contractions are common place enough that they are increasingly accepted (even most newspapers use thru instead of through).

    or any of the other ignorant things people seem to use

    Hmmmm, you begin with "I don't understand ..." and then finish by calling the things you don't understand "ignorant" ?! that's too funny. It would have made more sense for you to call the things you don't understand, than stupid (while looking up what a merkin is look up the differences between stupid and ignorant).

    ignorant things people seem to use to act like they are some great intellectuals around here.

    And how could you mix up anti-american sentiment with trying to sound like an intellectual? Are you trying to troll, not capable of comprehending people not liking the country of ignorance and disappearing freedoms, or ... ?

    [ Parent ]

    About the U.S. (none / 0) (#62)
    by theboz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:37:44 PM EST

    I have to be somewhat defensive of the U.S., because that's where I keep all my stuff. (I modified a quote from "The Tick" if you were thinking that was gibberish.)

    it's intended as a negative rub. For me,as someone currently living in the US, I've started using it now that I have made up my mind, and should be out of this country for good in early June.

    I can see wanting to leave for somewhere better, but it's a bit childish to blame a whole country for problems. The government has plenty of problems, big business has plenty of problems, etc. But, the U.S. is still much better than some other places. I won't go into details because that's a matter of preference, but the U.S. is not completely hopeless yet, it just has some pretty big problems that need fixing.

    Additionally, the shortening of american to 'merkin should be obvious (www.m-w.com to find out what a merkin is).

    Actually, I first heard that on one of those shows of Gallagher(sp?) when he was doing the stupid stuff he does before smashing fruit with a mallet. That one has been around for a while I think.

    or calling the current president "dubya", this is intended to point out bushes "dumb good ole boy" aspects.

    I don't really like that. It's not that I like Bush, it's that I have always just had a certain amount of respect. It's juvenile just like calling someone Barry-wary or Silly-Billy. I am perfectly ok with saying that Bush doesn't have a grasp of the English language, or that he is pissing everyone in the world off, or whatever, but to resort to name-calling without saying what's wrong with him I just don't like I guess.

    the term USian, it's much shorter to type than american. It's similar to the common shorthand for xtian instead of christian. Granted I don't take this to it's extreme (WhaLevelRU?) of shortening everything to the level where most people can comprehend the writing with effort, but some contractions are common place enough that they are increasingly accepted (even most newspapers use thru instead of through).

    I think Christians are offended by xtian, so I'm not sure I like either as an excuse to belittle or misname a group. In any case, I type fast enough that I don't need to abbreviate things so I won't really make a judgement on that. As far as newspapers using the word "thru" instead of "through", that just proves how full of shit they are, which will show through since they are too lazy to report correct information as it is.

    or any of the other ignorant things people seem to use Hmmmm, you begin with "I don't understand ..." and then finish by calling the things you don't understand "ignorant" ?! that's too funny. It would have made more sense for you to call the things you don't understand, than stupid (while looking up what a merkin is look up the differences between stupid and ignorant).

    I don't think I was clear enough. What I didn't understand was why do people use these terms when they are incorrect. It's not that I don't understand how USian can be short for American, or that people from North and South America get offended sometimes, but I don't see the point in trying to piss off people that are normally called Americans. I also think these terms originate with ignorant people that only know the U.S. from what they see on TV rather than anything realistic to judge the country by. Also, it's a big country that I have lived all over. Different regions here are as different as France and Sweden, only the language is the same in most cases. I have lived in both the city and on a farm and many places in the middle, and it's like night and day. This is one reason that Bush got elected (I don't want to argue about if it was fairly or not, I don't know really), because he seemed to be better able to do what the rural people wanted. Gore seemed to be better suited for people that live in urban areas. Of course, I felt neither was good enough for me so I would have voted Libertarian had I been allowed to vote. The point is that there is a lot of room for change without leaving the country, although the federal government is too big and has overstepped it's bounds and kept growing.

    ignorant things people seem to use to act like they are some great intellectuals around here. And how could you mix up anti-american sentiment with trying to sound like an intellectual?

    Anti-American sentiment is in fashion, especially in many European countries. It's just like people in the U.S. are doing about the Chinese now. I don't think the majority of Chinese people are bad just because their government sucks, nor do I think their government is as bad as our government and the media makes it out to be. That's not to say that I am against the sweatshops, murdering innocents, and other attrocities that they do, but just that they don't affect the majority of the people or else there would be an uprising. Plus, I've never been to China, and I haven't seen how things are except on TV. With that limited amount of knowledge, I can't condemn the whole country because of my ignorance. I wish people would stop doing that about the U.S. too.

    Are you trying to troll, not capable of comprehending people not liking the country of ignorance and disappearing freedoms, or ... ?

    Yes, I am trolling. I am John Saul Montoya's 'merkin cousin. And yes, the government is stealing freedoms, and a lot of people are ignorant due to their public bullshit education and lack of motivation. It is still no reason to condemn the entire country. A lot of good things came from the U.S., and there are a lot of good people here now. Of course some people suck here, but that's no reason to ridicule all of us. There's a big difference between the statement, "African-Americans have a higher incarceration rate than European-Americans" and, "Them damn niggers is always in jail." I agree with some of what you say, just not how you present it. And, I may end up leaving the country myself to go to Mexico. If that's not a land that the people have stereotyped out of ignorance I don't know what is.

    Out of curiousity, what country are you going to?

    Stuff.
    [ Parent ]

    continuing about the U.S. (5.00 / 1) (#67)
    by coffee17 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 07:36:11 PM EST

    But, the U.S. is still much better than some other places.

    That I will easily grant you. But I'll also grant you that squash probably tastes better than an excrement sandwich, but that still doesn't mean that I want to eat squash. to the best of my knowledge, I only have one life, and while I will pragmatically try to find a "good enough" location, that still will not stop me from being pissed off that there is no truely good location.

    It's not that I like Bush, it's that I have always just had a certain amount of respect.

    And the main point here, is trying to show just how little respect I have for GWB. Heck, I'd be calling Gore Bore if he were elected, and was for Browne. The fact that so many people voted for two candidates who I thought were joke candidates shows that there is either something horribly wrong with the american system, or with the american people. I'll be nice, and assume that the problem is with the American system, but given that, and looking at many of the issues, mainly being the fact that main stream media are just corporate puppets, and the non-mainstream media doesn't get enough exposure (by definition?) ... let me just cut right to the end and say that of the many likely causes of problems if it is the system, it appears beyond fixible to me. If it is the people, then it would probably best for me to move on.

    I think Christians are offended by xtian,

    if they are ... that's pretty stupid. christ's name in greek begins with chi which looks like an X in English, and his name has been abbreviated as X (by xtian theologins) for over a milenia (I seem to remember it originating in 300CE or 500CE... either way, a milenium is safe). Similar xtian writers also pioneered the term "xtian." During all this time, xtian was always meant just as an abbreviation. I don't see too many xtians getting bent out of shape when they see "xmas" and don't understand why they get mad at xtians, other than the possibility of the common matyr complex.

    Anyways, US is a common abbreviation used by americans, I don't see why USians is bad, other than it being awkward to read the first few times (I feel this way even at the times that I growl in frustration at "amerikan").

    Different regions here are as different as France and Sweden,

    in my opinion, it's mostly minor differences. I grew up in a midwest suberb, went to school in pasadena, CA worked in austin, TX; seattle, WA; and sunnyvale, CA; and hitchhiked from Seattle to LA. Other than the fact that you can't get hired for a sysadmin job with long dyed hair and piercings in the midwest they seem pretty similar. They work, they go home, they watch network/cable television, and believe the news they see on TV or read in the papers (which it seems you also dislike). Other than slight differences in what is acceptable business behavior, decent/indecent, main hobby/activity and main scape goat all the places are terribly the same.

    "African-Americans have a higher incarceration rate than European-Americans" and, "Them damn niggers is always in jail."

    Granted. I would also say that that's a bit too bold to use when talking about american vs. amerikan. possibly 'merkin might be comperable to nigger. but in my mind, at least the way I intended it, saying amerika instead of America is more comparable to saying black vs. African-American. Probably a bit stronger than that, but comprable.

    I grew up in the midwest, and have spent my entire life in this country. As much as a hate a lot of it, too much has rubbed off on me. Additionally, I have distaste for people who move to a country without being able to speak the language, so unless I want to put off my plans long enough to learn a new language I'm limited to a few countries. Out of simplicty I'm planning on moving to canda (had a place to stay in toronto, altho was thinking vancouver might be more to my liking). Perhaps that should be was, as certain things have changed in the last two hours which will at least make it much more convenient to continue living here. ... sigh, damned money grubbing capitalist (/me kicks himself).

    Canada isn't a horribly large change over the U.S. but their government seems to be less against canadian freedom of expression than our government is against our freedom of speech. Additionally, I'm not aware of common seizure of property without trial going on in canada, and in general while canada has been forced to be fairly anti-drug (lots of references in parliment to "our neighbors to the south"), they are not nearly as bad as the US, and it only looks like the US will get worse. Personally, I don't like there being a war against me (drug user) and think it is as stupid as the communist witch hunts in the 50s and 60s, or if there was a sudden "war on libertarians" or a "war on linux" ... I harm no one, and the vast majority of drug users harm no one, but we're the current scape goats, and blind patriatism implies that we'll continue to be scape goats until something big happens to shake people up.

    Lastly for clarification, when *I* use the term amerika or amerikans I am intending any disrespect to land solely on the shoulders of our government, not directly on the people (only indirectly on the people if the current state of afairs is actually due to them, as opposed to it being due to a corrupted system).

    [ Parent ]

    crime (none / 0) (#61)
    by coffee17 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:32:16 PM EST

    I live in Atlanta, and since it's a big city there is a lot of crime.

    Of course some cities are better/worse than others. But, thank you for pointing this out, as I hadn't really taken crime at much of a value. Perhaps I've been lucky, but after I left the suburbs which I grew up in, I've lived in cities, and never in the "best" areas (however, never in the worst either), but have never had my car nor home buglarized; nor been robbed, pickpocketed, or anything. I leave my car unlocked 24/7 and no one's taken it to joy ride, nor stolen the crappy radio.

    I wonder for how many people who consider crime to be an issue have actually been touched by crime (my sister has had multiple cars broken into and stolen, thus she currently tries to live further from the city core), as opposed to people who are overly paranoid (IMHO) of crime (my parents were a great example of this, living out in the suburbs, but getting horribly mad at seeing the front or back door unlocked for even a few minutes because "someone could break in with a gun and take everything and kill us." (yes, they can have a gun, but a locked door which is ~33% glass will stop them; but only if locked)). You seem to have a healthy enough attitude about it considering that you've been less lucky than myself in regards to crime.

    [ Parent ]

    I used to be the same way. (none / 0) (#63)
    by theboz on Fri May 11, 2001 at 01:50:08 PM EST

    When I lived with my parents in the house they live in when I was in high school, I didn't have to lock any doors, kids could play in the streets without worrying about being kidnapped or hit by a car, and it was really safe. Well, it still is but it is near farmland and forests.

    The bad thing is that where I moved to is not a high crime area of Atlanta. I live in a place that is known for being the "old money" area called Dunwoody. It used to be safer, but as the city grows the crime increases and then people end up moving further away, which causes the city to grow, crime then grows, and it repeats a bad cycle.

    My attitude towards crime is that I hate it and hate criminals, but I won't sit around hiding in fear about it. I'll just take whatever precautions I can and live life, and make sure everything is insured. If by some strange chance my life is in danger, I will try to get away, and if that's not possible try to defend myself. I have had friends and family that are/were military and police so I have learned a bit about not being afraid, not panicking, and how to take care of situations. Life is too short to be afraid in my opinion.

    Stuff.
    [ Parent ]

    Some explanations (none / 0) (#65)
    by error 404 on Fri May 11, 2001 at 04:45:05 PM EST

    "Amerika" is a slam, the idea being to distinguish America the Beautiful from whatever the speaker is accusing the country of being now - I've seen it used by lefties to refer to the fascist police state they consider it, and righties to refer to the commie police state they consider it.

    "Dubya" is a reference to the language skills or intelligence of a certain individual. But that individual has been referred to as "W" for some time in an entirely neutral way, to distinguish him from another prominent individual with a very, very similar name.

    "USian" is a response to certain individuals (mostly Canadians) who object to the use of "American" in exclusive reference to citizens of a certain large country on that continent.

    I don't use any of those terms.


    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    [ Parent ]

    "Amerika" = 80's Miniseries (none / 0) (#66)
    by BootyCall on Fri May 11, 2001 at 05:54:46 PM EST

    I thought the term derived from the Miniseries that aired in the mid-80's (86?). The series was a fantasy of what the US would be like if it was taken over by the Soviet Union. That would explain the negative, fascist associations that the word has now.

    I was too young to watch it, but I remember hearing about a scene where someone's leg was sawed off or something.

    Incidentally, the miniseries was spoofed on Saturday night live as "Amerida"--what the US would be like if it was taken over by Canada. Eh.

    ----
    Love the dolphins, she said. Write by waste.
    [ Parent ]

    It's a good thing (4.00 / 2) (#54)
    by jude on Fri May 11, 2001 at 09:14:01 AM EST

    The main factor limiting telecommuting is mangement. Management should cease being a supervisory role to become merely one of bookeeeping to keep track of employee benefits and chart the progress of projects. Intelligence and productivity need to be moved out of the hierarchy and into a "network" of online collaboration. Telecommuting for many jobs is more efficient, more flexible, and far better for the environment that cubicle habitation. The old school of management is on the way out simply because the facts point out it's glaring inefficiencies and resource squandering ways. The dinosaurs probably did not voluntarily lay down and die, however, so you can't expect your boss to either.

    Telecommuting, I believe, would allow us to live less externally regimented lives. For those who can sensibly balance responsibility with leisure this will be a good thing and should improve family life and work productivity. For those who cannot work without supervison it will be a waste of time. For those who drive themselves harder than a supervisor ever would it will mean eventual burn out. For the vast majority, however, I believe it would be a good thing, even for those who still must commute to their jobs because they can do so quicker and safer with less crowded roadways.

    In a broader cultural sense I think it would move us away from industrialism toward a more agrarian style of existence. People would not need to cloister together in cities to live so they would be in close proximity to a spatial point where they had to earn their bread and butter. The human race might even learn to enjoy something other than making money for a change.

    Ending mass labour (none / 0) (#76)
    by miggsectomorph on Tue May 22, 2001 at 02:22:53 PM EST

    Hopefully. I thought it was put pretty well by one social commentator: "Ending mass labour will mean the creation of a new cultural renaissance". This I go along with. Money as an end in itself is a classic case of circular reasoning. I like the idea of management as a sort of 'coach' rather than as a judge or director. As you point out, a hierarchy invites all sorts of notions like comparative value and worth and therefore rank and pecking order and with it social exclusion and inclusion. These are dangerous patrician virtues to combine with a technological mind set. It makes bosses into little despots who make their employee's lives hell - because they need to feel like successful dominators to give meaning to their existence. I am glad today that the options are open for us in technology to vote with our feet, but I am not happy that it often has to come to that. You are right when you talk about hierarchy at large - but I still see value in it for some cases. However, only with strict consent and the ability to 'flatten' it should it be any one individual's need. So I see the overriding behavioural code as essentially 'flat', with the option to create 'pyramids' if the need arises. No chance of that happening any time soon! As you say, bosses are too comfortable where they think they are: 'on the top of the heap'. Pretty smelly and disgusting don't you think. Ectomorph

    [ Parent ]
    I've got a better idea (5.00 / 2) (#69)
    by pookieballs on Sat May 12, 2001 at 10:11:34 PM EST

    I'd like to see the following:
    1. An immediate halt to all federal funding for highway construction and
    2. The conversion of funding previously earmarked for road construction into public transportation funding
    3. The complete replacement of interstate trucking (or trucking over a distance of 100 miles) with long distance rail service
    4. A sharp increase on gasoline taxes (on the order of a couple dollars)
    I live in outside Philadelphia, where we have some of the crappiest public transportation in the country. I work about 40 minutes by car from where I live, and I'd love to take a train or other transport there. It would take me an extra two hours each way by train because all trains go in to the city, requiring me to go to center city, change trains, and go out again.
    What we could use would be a ring of rail lines to allow commuters to go in something closer to a straight line. And SEPTA (the local transportion authority) is in no way able to pay for it. Admittedly, I should be living closer to where I work, but for a variety of reasons (my fiancee works an equal distance in the opposite direction, among others) this is the best place to live.

    What about other means (none / 0) (#72)
    by bitva on Wed May 16, 2001 at 12:59:47 PM EST

    Why not, find other means of transportation. I've heard people say trains and busses and what not, but I'm buying a scooter (Vespa to be specific) 80mpg can't be beat.

    Now, for people who live >= 30 miles this might not be practicle.

    That's where Hybrid cars, Electric vehicles or even the new Toyota Echo come into play.

    WE NEED TO SPEND MORE MONEY ON THIS KIND OF TECHNOLOGY!!!
    I would rather have an electric car than build a structure in space.


    We're theAngel City Bombs and you're not, so FUCK YOU!

    Electric cars (none / 0) (#75)
    by miggsectomorph on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:57:49 PM EST

    Of course I would like that. As long as the energy production chain is not made less efficient by doing that, which I don't believe it is. Ectomorph

    [ Parent ]
    Telecommuting cons for employees (3.00 / 1) (#73)
    by red on Fri May 18, 2001 at 09:40:00 AM EST

    An interesting study was discussed in this article. For those of you who LONG to telecommute, these findings may make you a little less gung ho. It DOES blow the "telecommuters are slackers" stereotype out of the water though.


    From: Chattanooga Times / Chattanooga Free Press , May 15, 2001, Tuesday

    A recent study by the Boston College Center for Work & Family found that telecommuters are, in fact, less satisfied with their jobs than traditional office employees and workers with flex-time options.

    Telecommuters say they are likelier to work during their vacations, that they have more difficulty striking a balance between their personal lives and work and that they are less satisfied overall with their lives.

    One problem is that telecommuting and other flexible work arrangements are handed out to employees as privileges rather than entitlements, said Leon Litchfield, who led the two-year survey of 1,353 workers and 151 managers at six large U.S. corporations.

    "So when employees are granted this, they're so grateful they feel like they have to put out and bend over backwards to be productive," Litchfield said. "And that manifests itself in people working a lot of extra hours."

    Litchfield was concerned to learn that telecommuting appears to be putting more pressure on an American work force that is already toiling 43.4 hours a week, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Flexibility in the workplace, after all, was supposed to have the opposite effect.

    "Now is the time to figure out what we can be doing to address this," Litchfield said. "It's going to come back and hurt the companies if workers get burned out in the long term."

    His study also found that telecommuters:

    -Are less likely to get the same pay increases as other employees;

    -Have worse relationships with their co-workers and bosses;

    -Are less likely to get good performance reviews and promotions, and are less committed to their jobs.

    A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management showed that 37 percent of U.S. corporations now let workers telecommute, up from 20 percent five years ago.

    For employers, it has proven to be a win-win situation: The ability to work from home is so valued by many employees that it has made the difference between retaining and losing them. At the same time, it has made workers more productive and helped companies save money on office space.

    AT&T, which has 56 percent of its managers telecommuting at least one day a week, estimated that their increased output is worth about $100 million a year. Another $25 million is saved on real estate, the company said.


    Also, what HR is saying:

    KPMG Peat Marwick -1997 study

    A study of 106 human resource executives at some of the largest U.S. companies found nearly one-fourth have employees who regularly telecommute either part- or full-time. Fifty-three percent of those said workers enjoyed "increased productivity and job satisfaction" and one-third reported "lower real estate costs and reduced employee turnover."


    I think it depends ... (none / 0) (#74)
    by miggsectomorph on Tue May 22, 2001 at 01:52:17 PM EST

    ... on the employer and the type of work. I don't believe that I am at work to be appreciated, although I might like to be. If I were to be at work to be appreciated, then strict telecommuting would be a rather futile exercise. If I were to be at work for money only, then I'd still not want strict telecommuting. There are certain ways that you can influence people if you can see them face to face that you can't do remotely. However, that depends upon the type of communications involved. I think it's a matter of degrees: I'd mostly like to lie in bed if I feel like it, but I think I'd get bored seeing others running around doing fun things. The thing I definitely don't want is the type of job that forces you to be there all the time. I do also want telecommuting sometimes even now. But I do want to be able to meet up with the people I work with fairly often. As per usual, the subtlety of even something as simple as this is lost on the majority. Ectomorph

    Time to Telecommute | 76 comments (76 topical, 0 editorial, 1 hidden)
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