The new state of geek chic?

Would you date this man?
Would you date a 36 year old divorcee who is a left-leaning feminist and self confessed geek? If so you should contact me

I subscribe to being a geek and not a nerd or a dork. I’ve written about nerd values in the past (which I obviously say is geek values now)

In work I’ve been having this ongoing discussion about not wanting to be rich and famous just making the world a little bit better a place to live. Its easy to be singled minded and follow the money where it leads, but the harder thing is to live in your means and try and make the world a little better.

Some have boiled this down to, Do what you love, love what you do. Which is a nice but feels a little generic?

So rethinking this… I’ve started to add to this by describing the geek chic/lifestyle as…

Always living life, always learning and always on the go.

This seems to fit well no matter your siltation.

  • Always living life, can be anything from climbing a mountain, soaking up the atmosphere around you, helping others, what ever; as long as you are living life and pushing yourself, living in the moment and enjoying it.
  • Always learning, is a hat tip, full head nod (or heck a dab if your into that) for lifelong learning. Never too old to learn and if you are not learning then what are you doing? That is unless you are educating/helping others, although the act of helping others is a learning experience too.
  • Always on the go, doesn’t necessarily mean going physical places. It can mean other types of progress like reaching out to more people with works, getting ahead in your career, etc. Getting mentally ahead and never settling unless you are ready for it.

Dyslexics thriving in the workplace

Reading the Dyslexic Advantage
Quite a few people have said good things to me since I posted about reading the dyslexic advantage. On Saturday I finished the whole book and although there are so many great sections the last one had so much to talk/blog about

The last section which is all about work, and so very fitting…

For individuals with dyslexia, good-fitting jobs have several common features. First, they engage strengths and avoid weaknesses. As we’ve discussed, many individuals with dyslexia excel in big-picture reasoning, or the ability to see the overall features, “contours,” or implications of objects or ideas. The occupation or position in which they best display this ability depends upon which MIND strengths they possess, but as a general rule, jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well stress problem solving, troubleshooting, fixing things, coming up with new ideas, thinking about what’s missing or not being addressed, or telling stories (e.g., sales, counseling, coaching, advertising, entrepreneurship).
[…]
In contrast, individuals with dyslexia often struggle with fine-detail processing, mastering routine procedures to the point of automaticity, or rote memory. As a result, they often find that jobs that stress repetition, efficiency, consistency, attention to details, use of procedures, application of fixed rules, or routine processing tasks (especially clerical tasks that involve the manipulation and use of written symbols) are a poor fit.

I can’t tell you the cognitive pain of repetition, I find it super uncomfortable and far prefer the new and unknown. My mind wonders and before long I’m innovating my way out of doing the task as is. Better way to spend my cognitive surplus?

After choosing a job that seems to be a good fit, individuals with dyslexia should work hard to optimize that job environment by being proactive in pursuing opportunities, self-advocating with supervisors and co-workers, building partnerships, pursuing leadership opportunities, and using technologies to maximize their productivity.
Many individuals with dyslexia are especially good at spotting opportunities that others have missed and then aggressively and proactively taking advantage of those opportunities. Professor Julie Logan cited this ability as one of the most common characteristics she’s observed in the dyslexic entrepreneurs she’s studied.
We’ve also observed this ability in many of the individuals with dyslexia we’ve interviewed—and not just in business. Astrophysicist Matt Schneps told us, “One thing I’m very proud of is that I’m very good at taking advantage of opportunities. If I see something I think is useful for me, I think about how I can make the most of it and take advantage of that.” Because of this ability (and strong self-advocacy skills like those we’ll discuss later), Matt has been able to enjoy four entirely different careers over the past thirty years, all with the same employer.

Making and taking those opportunities is a big thing, which I’m certainly hard-wired for. Most people take and give out business cards as a brush off but I take them seriously. I do like to meet or follow up, see if theres a chance for collaboration. I’m also generally interested in the person and if I can connect them with someone else I might know.

A second key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they engage interests. While everyone works better on tasks they find interesting and enjoyable, individuals with dyslexia are often especially dependent upon interest to produce their best efforts. In contrast, when tasks fail to engage their interest, they often struggle to perform well and remain focused. This is largely because many of the rote or automatic skills needed to perform routine tasks require more focused attention for individuals with dyslexia. This need for heightened attention can be difficult to sustain unless there are things about the job that are especially interesting. When work heightens interest and mood, dyslexics typically respond with greater creativity and performance.

Absolutely, like most people I assume but I guess I actively find my mind drifting away to more interesting things. Focus is difficult when not in my wider area of interest. I mean I’m curious about lots of things, so its really got to be something poor/bad for me.

A third key feature of jobs that fit individuals with dyslexia well is that they focus on results rather than on methods. Many of our interviewees mentioned that they often perform tasks in unconventional ways—frequently of their own devising. For example, more than half told us that they solved math problems differently from how they were taught by using unconventional methods that made more sense to them.

This is something I’ve known for a long while, I can’t help but find alternative ways to do things. This is why if you tell me a task without the bigger context/picture I find it frustrating as hell. I’m always thinking about the final impact not the individual steps to get there. Those are just details to me. Reminds me of Do you have humility, a sense of craft and can you hustle?

Jobs that allow flexibility can open the door to success for dyslexics. It’s often while devising new methods for routine tasks that dyslexics come up with innovative approaches that save time, effort, and expense and improve outcomes for everyone.
[…]
There is evidence that this kind of flexibility is often more easily found in positions very near the top or the bottom of the structures of large organizations but in shorter supply in the middle. Professor Julie Logan has found that although many large corporations have CEOs with dyslexia, fewer than 1 percent of middle managers in such firms are dyslexic.

Now this is very interesting detail… Be interesting to look into the stats for the BBC via the BBC’s Neurodiversity project.

Some large companies, like his former employer Intel, manage to maintain their flexible attitudes despite their size. Douglas Merrill also told us that supporting this diversity in thinking styles was one of his primary goals as chief information officer at Google. Douglas worked hard to give employees the greatest possible flexibility in choosing the work habits and technologies that allowed them to be their most productive. When a company shows this kind of flexibility, it’s likely to be a good fit for individuals with dyslexia. Of course, there’s no employer that can provide more flexibility than oneself, which is one reason why so many dyslexics start their own businesses.

And theres a long long list of successful dyslexic entrepreneurs. Interestingly the guardian piece pretty much says the same thing as I read in the dyslexic advantage.

Its a great book, I do wish it was more dyslexic friendly to read but the content is certainly incredible.

Is slack actually a roach motel?

Trello into Slack via IFTTT

I have mixed feelings about Slack. Its good but I worry about the deadend nature of it. A clear sign of this is IFTTT’s recipes involving Slack. Every single recipe has Slack as the output (action), not a single one has Slack at the input (trigger).

This is the notion of the roach motel or walled garden, right?

I have been looking at alternatives; before anybody starts; YES I know IRC, yes I have used IRC in the past and more recently. I get it but I always find it not a great environment, especially for modern work, due to the obscure never-changing syntax and behaviors. I also know people who use slack via IRC and I have tried using Slack with a Jabber/XMPP client but its painful for anything but talking to individual people I found.

I looking at others and found…

But recently someone suggested trying Telegram groups and channels. Then using existing tools like Trello, Google Docs, etc.. for permanence? This may run back to the small pieces loosly joined way of working, which isn’t so attractive. But allows for diversity of uses, clients and services. Dare I say something to think about when thinking work 2.0?

Part of my worry is slack trying to be the end point for everything. Its seductive and easy like Facebook is, but scratch one of the sides and you find the walls are more concrete than expected. Yes there are permalinks, bots and markdown content but it feels very hidden?

Finding your passion & purpose?

I’ve recently been talking to a few women via some dating sites and I got into an interesting conversation about passion. I asked one woman what she was really passionate about? She had a hard time deciding what. So after a long time chat, I sent a link to Steven Kotler on Forbes. I was kind of surprised I hadn’t written about it previously. Although I do share 8 traits to be great with friends.

My simplistic view on it is…

  1. Make a long list
  2. Search for overlapping items within the list, those overlaps are hints to your passion
  3. Indulge yourself and be public about it

Its interesting stuff and I still think Google Schemer was way ahead of its time on this.

I also got talking about my work/life balance and reflected on the fact I don’t really have a work/life balance because what I do is what I love. People recently have asked me if I’m going to Berlin, Bucharest, etc for work or pleasure? I usually ask, is there any difference? Although I guess at the customs gate, I have to be very clear and questioning about this all.

I found this video kind of sums up my feeling on this.

The problem with work-life balance is that it traps us in a career or job-oriented mindset, working for either a paycheck or purely to climb the latter. Find purpose instead, says Dan Pontefract. Pontefract’s latest book is “The Purpose Effect: Building Meaning in Yourself, Your Role and Your Organization

Theres tons of junk and hookey out there (just have a look through thoughtcatalog) but I found these things pretty reasonable. I guess part of the problem is stopping enough to think about all this stuff. Its certainly not something most people think about.

A workspace with such a view?

IMAG3085
Imagine if you’re workplace had such a view…

The blog I wrote about my Airbnb hosting experience to date seems to have gotten quite a bit of interest.

A few friends have decided it might be for them but I also received a email about vrumi from Claire. Vrumi is different from places like Zipcube because its tackling the long tale of usually forgotten spaces; spaces like my own living room!

Could my flat be the perfect place workspace during the day?

London is full of rooms that lie empty during the day because their usual inhabitants are out at work, away at university, or have left home altogether. There are all sorts of spare rooms – box rooms, underused dining rooms and sitting rooms – gathering dust. And there are rooms that were designed for a specific purpose – a home gym or music room, for example – which don’t get the use they might.

What if all this empty space, in a city in which property is at a frankly eye-watering premium, could be put to work? And why stop at London?

Its basically Airbnb for workspaces and is about to include Manchester.

Sunset over Manchester

I like the idea and think its a good one but not quite for me personally. Don’t get me wrong I know quite a few people who have been inspired by sitting in my flat looking out the windows. A few of my Airbnb guests have sat and marvelled at the view, while others have felt inspired enough to get a ton of work done. Heck when the Tesco delivery people come, they always say something about what an amazing view.

But I have a small flat and its really made up for me. If I was in something slightly bigger, I might have considered it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vrumi grows and grows with the price of space going up, the nature of work changing and coffee shop culture clashes a real thing. It looks like you can rent a space cheaper than places like ziferblat, and likely have a better experience?

Take back your lunches

lunch

How long do you take for lunch?

Personally, I take a full hour…

I consciously take my full hour or sometimes a little more, to balance the amount of time I sometimes work (I quantify my work time with hamster time tracker, so know how much time I have worked)

I very rarely eat at my desk, although many of my colleagues do it regularly. To be fair I have mentioned eating at the kitchen table (we have communal kitchen tables on each floor) but they always blame meetings or not enough time.

Take Back Your Lunch. In the best of worlds, that’s something we all ought to do every day. At the very least, I want to urge you to take back your lunch on Wednesday, and then on every Wednesday this summer, wherever you are. To find out where people will be gathering – or if you’d like to organize a Take Back Your Lunch Meetup in your city or town

Sounds good to me, reminds me of some of the early breakfast meetups there use to be in London.

Forget the pecking order, collaborate

Simon Lumb while talking about leadership in the northern quarter today mentioned.Margaret Heffernan: Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work

Organizations are often run according to “the superchicken model,” where the value is placed on star employees who outperform others. And yet, this isn’t what drives the most high-achieving teams. Business leader Margaret Heffernan observes that it is social cohesion — built every coffee break, every time one team member asks another for help — that leads over time to great results. It’s a radical rethink of what drives us to do our best work, and what it means to be a leader. Because as Heffernan points out: “Companies don’t have ideas. Only people do.”

Even before I watch the video I’m in agreement. This reminds me of my favourite cluetrain rule.. #7

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy and the result of which heterarchy

I’m sure one day I’ll bring all my favourite management and leadership clues together into some kind of manifesto or at least a blog.

Time for a rework

Rework in Bologna

Something caught my eye while reading about, The Five Trends Shaping the Future of Work.

This is a generation of employees with technological fluency that is willing to live at home longer until they find a company that they truly want to work for. In other words, organizations must shift from creating an environment where they assume that people NEED to work there to one where people WANT to work there.

Need and Want… I believe this to be true in the creative classes, but certainly not for many out there unfortunately. Now thats something we should be working to change…

Interestingly from Stowe Boyd,

A recent report published by TINYhr, based on over 200,000 anonymous employee responses to ongoing engagement surveys, paints a pretty bleak picture of employee happiness.

Some highlights from the report, if you want to call them that:

  • Only 21% feel valued at work.

  • 49% are not satisfied with their direct supervisor.

  • More than one in four do not think they have the tools to be successful.

  • 66% of all employees don’t feel they have strong opportunities for professional growth in their current organizations.

  • 64% do not feel they have a strong company culture.

Work is due a massive refresh, and I mean all types of work for all people.

Working from the Northern Quarter

Three Amigos

Pretty much every week I tend to work away from the office. When I first started getting back to work from #mybrushwithdeath, I would work from home quite a bit but now I’m back full time (since early last year) I’ve found myself working out of the Northern Quarter every week. (for those outside Manchester, the Northern Quarter is like the East end of London. Its full of run down shops and a independent vibe)

Some would say, something like yeah yeah working from the Northern Quarter, yeah yeah really!

But to be honest I tend to get a ton of stuff done on those days when I’m in the Northern Quarter. Maybe even more than I get when I’m at work sometimes. How can that be? I have no idea, till I heard Paul Fenwick on ITConversations.

Situational effects

When I’m in my office, I’m much better at working.

When I’m in the cafe, I’m much better at thinking.

When I’m at home, I like to think I’m better at working on my talks but i’m much better at mindcraft…

It isn’t that I work more effectively out of a coffee shop like North Tea Power than Media City UK. I’m actually experiencing a different kind of workflow while in North Tea Power, a creative work flow. This explains why I wrote most of my techpaper for Perceptive Media while sitting drinking tea. So from my point of view lots of things getting done including adhoc meetings, lovely lunches and interesting discussions.

Of course I’m not saying I don’t get this at work but its certainly quite different…

I’d certainly like to get RescueTime installed (they claim to be creating a official x64 version for Linux very soon) so I can get a better grasp of what I am doing differently… But in the meantime, I’m certainly reaping the benefits of being able to work in different environments, I’d highly recommend more people do the same if ever possible

How I roll at work

I recently filled in a group of people at work about how I work, and I thought it might be interesting to readers of my blog…
I have the Thinkpad X220 which is a BBC R&D laptop and running Ubuntu 11.10 (as of this week, but its going back due to hardware problems).
I switch between the BBC R&D network and the BBC R&D wireless network when I want raw (un-proxyed) internet access. This actually works well because I don’t need to use my BBC desktop machine unless I need to accept a calendar request and send it to my gmail (which is pain, more details about this soon).
I’d hoped to get Gnome Evolution working with the socks5 proxy as it should be able to deal with my Calendar as it has Exchange support but currently no Socks5 support (why I have no bloody idea!). So I’m trying out sockisfy and Tsocks… But right now I’m using Mozilla Thunderbird 7.1 with the IMAP interface to get emails when I switch to the R&D network.
This also means it limits the time I’m in my email and means I get more done… (Something I know from using Rescuetime in the past and tracking my usage at work) I tend to switch to the R&D network about 3-5x a day for about 20mins each time but most of the time I’m on the non proxied wireless network.
This means I automatically get disconnected from IRC, Tweetdeck, Gtalk, etc when changing to the R&D network but I do have the essential things like Twitter and Gtalk on my mobile phone which is always connected to the Wireless network. I could change the proxy settings but I kind prefer it that way, although I did add foxyproxy to Firefox because it was a pain not being able to browse a site someone sent via a BBC email without digging around the preferences.
It does seem a bit of crazy way to do things but I quite like it and means I’m not watching and replying to emails all the time. Now I just have to wait for the Thinkpad X220 to be fixed…

How I work…

Ian @ BarcampLondon5 - Day 1

A survey went around R&D today and after answering all the questions there was a blank area for other comments…

I’m sure I haven’t thought of all the weird software/network combinations that are in use. Please use this box to add any info you think I need to know.

To which I wrote

I have machines on multiple networks…

One on the R&D network,
One on the BBC internal network
One on the plain Internet.

I tend to keep the BBC internal one (running Windows 7 – which I have Admin rights) at work because its useless outside the BBC due to the constraints placed on it.
The R&D one has two profiles on it. One profile is setup for the R&D network and the other is setup to use the plain internet wifi. This means I don’t need to carry around multiple machines just one and user switch profile on Ubuntu 11.04.

The software I use is Thunderbird for email mainly on the R&D network because Evolution (my usual mail client) doesn’t support Socks5 proxies. I tried to get Evolution working because I really wanted to get the BBC network/Exchange calendar working in Evolution but it wouldn’t work without root access!

Its important to have a plain internet connection because I tend to work at home and from different places. The Webmail without the SecureID pass has made life a lot easier but I really would like to have some kind of 2 step authentication. I’ve enabled it for my Google Mail account for example.

I tend to send emails for calendar requests to my gmail, just so I can sync my Google Calendar with my BBC calendar. Google Calendar Sync seems to fail maybe because I have too many items or it might be the two step authentication? End of the day its not as reliable as send it to my gmail.

Its interesting because things are really starting to change and it starts with the change of outlook on the systems people use and work with everyday. Gone are the days of strict control of the employees machines… This surely has to be a good thing?

First steps in Media City UK

Media City UK

Usually on Fridays I tend to work from home or rather from a lovely tea place (called North Tea Power) in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. Unless of course I’m required to be in for a good reason.

However my boss suggested I might want to try working from Media City this week? I thought about it and come last Friday morning after seeing my NHS nutritionist, I took a ride down to Media City.

Entering Media City was a little confusing mainly because I was riding and had to find a specific car park with spaces for BBC Staff. I found the right car park after a while and parked up in a car parking space. I’m really hoping they sort out proper motorcycle parking because I don’t really like the idea of parking my scooter in a massive car parking space. Car drivers have a tendancy to run over motorcycles and to be fair I don’t really want to use up such a big space. I don’t believe it will always be like that, thankfully.

Adhoc desks

After wonder out of the Car park and along to the BBC buildings (Dock, Bridge and something else) I headed to Dock where R&D North will be based. I was greeted by a friendly smile from BBC Workplace security guards. A lot of the security from Oxford Road are in the new Media City office, so its a familiar faces instead of whole new faces.

In the building, I can’t really express the feeling of new and shiny but at the same time the feeling of home. There’s a lot of strange but bold shaped furniture but I like the way its all pretty easy to move about and reconfigure. Most of them also include power points and Ethernet which means there very useful as places to plug in and get some work done.

Power and Ethernet everywhere

I was sat on one such table and had a couple of adhoc meetings with people on the desk. Nothing major just a couple of quick chats about upcoming projects… The furniture suits it perfectly. I know they won’t be everyones cup of tea but there pretty good for me.

At this time there is wifi but its locked down using 802.11x, which I have quite a bit of experience with when Ravensbourne College did the same 10 years ago. I didn’t really bother to see if I could get it working with Ubuntu directly but this guide makes it sound easy enough. There should be public-ish wifi at some point soon, but not yet. And of course R&D will have there own network along with there own wifi.

There’s some really nice touches like the welcome to your meeting room card, meeting room names based on BBC TV shows and the sometimes slightly odd wall paper

Its funny because Media City just like New Islington needs shops and services. Right now the Lowry outlet mall is the only place to get drinks or food but that will change. Talking about Food the restaurant isn’t bad, can’t quite see how it will be big enough for everyone once they move in but I guess there’s always the idea of having other food places in the other buildings. And of course there will be the usual food/drink outlets flocking into the area at some point.

I’ve added Media City UK to Wovox.com but so far its struggling with my picture uploads and the rotation. Hopefully I’ll get the shots on there pretty sharpish.

Our public gardens

The public zone is pretty nice and there’s plenty of seats for the summer months. Its nice having the tram so close but I do wonder how it will be day in day out. I’m already looking forward to riding it so I can finally regularly read my kindle and mix on pacemaker. But I don’t fancy some of the delays I’ve heard in the past. This is certainly why I’ll keep my scooter for those days when I need to get there quickly or the tram isn’t working so well.

The balcony

The Balcony areas look great and alot more useful than the ones at White City. I can’t wait to get some wifi out there and maybe a run of power and work out there all day during the summer months. Actually surprised there’s not already power of some kind out there?

Don’t get me wrong not everything is perfect, but I actually like the colour scheme and the general feel of the place. I’m still wondering how it will be when you have to run across to the canteen during the rainy months. Everyones skeptical about the hot water taps but I’ve seen and used them in Germany and Holland in hotels, and they are extremely effective and always hot when I need to use them. The lack of microwaves in the coffee area is a pain but they have there reasons.

Dock House signs

I’m sure things will change when it comes to Media City but I guess I won’t really find out till I’m settled in properly, which looks to be pretty soon. We missed the 1st wave because our floor wasn’t done for various reasons but we’re in the 2nd wave and we got our induction next week.

Exciting times… (you can see the whole set of photos on flickr in this set)

Inbox zero?

Not likely…

My inbox at work
24k of unread messages

I’m planning to put all the unread messages from while I was away in the DMZ folder and then pretty much dump them all in the trash bin once I go back to work. So if you’ve contacted me during the time I was off due to the bleed on my brain, then tough luck. I won’t be answering back sorry… There is no way I’m going to run through 24k of unread messages from May – October

BBC’s World have your say, hearts blogs

World have your say

Although this is work stuff, I can't help but say at long last the World Have Your Say team have got there blog and its now live. Yes I did have a hand in its path out of the BBC firewall and on to the internet. Now some of you may say well the BBC has had blogs for a long time now, so whats the big deal? And I somewhat agree, but except for a few good examples like Island blogging and the Urdu blog. IMHO, Our part in the blogosphere has been kind of hap-hazard. (my own words not the BBC). Without going into details or pointing fingers, its quite true that we've not really jumped into the pool. Or rather we have rarely engaged with what blogging is truely about. Yes we've done blogs but not really let it take us away. Some would say this is a good thing but I personally think there are some places where we could be doing this. Which leads me on to World Have Your Say. See Mark Sandell almost says it all in this one entry. But what Mark does not say Kevin _strange attractor_ Anderson says in his entry about the blog. A couple of quotes from Cluetrain comes to mind.

73: You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!

This team gets it, they not only have decided to get rid of there traditonal BBC pages and presence. But there shoes are off and there starting to paddle in the pool, ready to jump right in.

I don't think its a bad thing to say that somethings had to be held back for the launch. These would include a blogroll, categories (was working on this today) and even trackbacks. But trust me keep an eye on the blog, because there's going to be some suprises which I simply can not mention here. Honestly I'm really excited about World have your say. Much more so that the Nick Robinson's blog, which launched in Dec 2005 to a lot of praise and cheers. Oh by the way Paul Mason's official BBC blog is worth checking out if your a Newsnight fan. I don't believe he's blogging anywhere else now?But I could be wrong.

Obviously this isn't the end of the blogs in the BBC, there is more to come. Its no secret that I'm working on the World Update blog which is written by Dan Damon. Dan is very fired up about his blog too and has also in the past been known to use Typepad to host his own personal or unoffical BBC blog. I feel he will also take a deep dive in the pool of the blogosphere and will be frankly honest about his experiences. I'm also looking forward to being able to subscribe to his blog and not have to read a stupidly long page.

So generally its a good day for the BBC and the Blogosphere. I'll be interested to hear what others think.

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