The usually estimable folks at Apartment Therapy seem to have published their April Fools day item a couple of weeks late with a piece on home offices inside bathrooms. While the reporting is a gently mocking, the fact remains they’re covering bathrooms so large that they have desks and workspaces in them. Isn’t humidity kind of a problem for your files?
One of the things I like about Apartment Therapy is the focus on smaller homes and apartments. I know hardly anybody with a bathroom big enough for anything extra, and those that have it tend to go for steam showers or whirlpool tubs, not desks and chairs.
Many people enjoy a good read on the toilet (some even take calls there) or in the bathtub, and we all know that LBJ liked to take meetings on the can, but seriously, isn’t this absurd opulence and bathroom fixation just the sort of thing that caused the decline and fall of the Roman empire?
I wonder if the AT crew saw this on SNL just last week…
You know you’ve been working on a blog post too long when it gets published in The New Yorker written by somebody else. Marissa Mayer of Yahoo has gotten some flak for calling all her working at home employees back into the office, or else. Surowiecki writes in today’s issue of The New Yorker:
On the simplest level, telecommuting makes it harder for people to have the kinds of informal interaction that are crucial to the way knowledge moves through an organization. The role that hallway chat plays in driving new ideas has become a cliché of business writing, but that doesn’t make it less true.
Not surprising from a guy who made it big with The Wisdom of Crowds, and I wholeheartedly agree. Working at home – if you have a home that supports it – can be a wonderful thing for getting heads-down work done without interruption. It can save commuting time and pollution. Some personality types do their best work alone. Some jobs really can be done in a vacuum. But I don’t think all of that is enough. Telecommuting technology hasn’t yet been able to reliably simulate the hallway chat, the chance encounter, the overhearing, the emergency huddle or the pop-in. And for tech companies struggling to find their place in the world (like Yahoo) I think that’s the stuff you can’t afford to miss out on. Plus, there’s the social cohesion, the team spirit. The classic tech company foosball table is no good if there’s nobody there to play it.
I’ve written before about the importance or unimportance of seating positions in an office and about offices vs cubes. Recently I got a promotion and was offered an office. I chose to stay at my position in the cubes. I didn’t want to give up the desk I had since it is located more or less centrally and gives me a a great view of what’s happening in the office. I overhear things, I see comings and goings, people volunteer information when they hear me asking questions. Sure, I take conference calls in conference rooms to avoid disturbing my neighbors. I also use headphones to block out noise and help me focus when needed, but on balance, I prefer being in the place where things are happening, not holed up and isolated.
It sounds like telecommuting was the rule at Yahoo not the exception, but I find that in many companies working at home is a perk, one awarded only to those deemed trustworthy enough to do the work and not goof off. In these places, the more senior executives are more likely to have the ability to work at home, but those are exactly the people most needed in the office to provide leadership, mentorship, creativity, and coordination.
Do I want an end to all working at home? Certainly not. If you ask CEOs what makes their companies great, they’ll often say that it’s the people or the culture or both. If that’s really true, I think you want to grow and strengthen that culture and develop those people and get the most out of them. And I think that happens best in the company office, although not necessarily holed up in your own office.
So, it has come to this. I am on the verge of buying a Hello Kitty flash drive and sending it to the cloud, aka Salesforce.com. Why would I so such a thing, you ask?
I’ve discovered that Salesforce.com allots you 1,000 MB (that’s one gigabyte in 21st-Century speak) for data storage. That’s what holds your accounts and contacts and opportunities and stuff. If you blow that cap, they kindly offer to rent you 50 MB for $300/year or 250 MB for $1,500/year. The larger plan nets out to $6 per megabyte per year.
On the other hand, I can buy this cute 8 GB drive for a hair under $20. That’s about a quarter of a cent per megabyte, for as long as Hello Kitty can hold on to that cute pink balloon.
If Salesforce sold a flash drive like this, you might expect it to cost $48,000.
Without the cute ears.
What could account for this 2,400x price difference? I’m not so naive to believe that cheap flash memory is as good as Salesforce’s cloud, or that storage is all they’re really charging for, but pricing enterprise data storage by the megabyte still seems awfully out of touch to me.
Don’t forget that for more than five users, Salesforce is already charging at least $65 per user per month. If you’ve got ore than 50 users, they’ll even throw in 20 MB more storage for each user starting with user 51. $65 x 50 user x 12 mos/year = $39,000 a year for a 50 user organization, and you get one gigabyte of data storage. One.
A Flickr “pro” account gets you “unlimited” photo storage for $25/year and a free gmail account has 10 GB of inbox storage, a figure that I bet Google will increase over time, as you may remember it was just a single gigabyte when the service launched. If you pay for Google Apps for Business, your inbox is 25 GB for each user at $50/user/year. (That last plan is 1/3,000 the per megabyte price at Salesforce, just sayin’)
I thought the promise of the cloud was virtually unlimited cheap storage. Google gets that, even Yahoo does. I hope Salesforce gets the memo soon, especially since they hang their hat on being all about the cloud.
So will I launch Hello Kitty to the cloud? Not likely, but I feel better for having vented. Now it’s time to run a big mass delete job to bring my storage use back down to an affordable level.
Do they teach email writing in school? They certainly did not when I was in school, perhaps because there was no email back then. I suspect they still dont’t teach anything about email except maybe how to change the fonts and click the send button. I’m not even going to get into the sins of the body copy or the attached files, but here are some of the most common time-wasting zero-content ill-conceived and sometimes self-absorbed email subject lines:
OK, I’m sure you were really happy to have been invited to that meeting and have all sort of great ideas about what to put on the agenda or how to proceed with the action plan, but consider this: I have more than one meeting today, perhaps a lot more than one. Plus, once today is over, “today’s meeting” gets even more vague. And what do you think will happen when I go searching my email for your message about that meeting?
(name of my company)
This needs some explaining. Imagine that you work for United Encabulator and I work for Weyland-Yutani. You think we should do business together so you send me an email called “Weyland-Yutani” because of course, for you, that’s what the partnership is about, since you already work for United Encabulator. I’m thinking that doesn’t make that message stand out very well in my inbox.
Well, now I know it’s an update. I’m sure it’s the only update in my inbox because it’s about the only project I’m working on, and you are the only person with an update. Stretch a little, give me a second or third word here, just something to hang my hat on.
Everybody know this one. Some email clients just leave it blank which sometimes means you can’t even click on it. This is like sending an attachment called “doc1.doc” or “untitled.xls” – it’s probably just a simple error, we all do it, but really, shouldn’t you be working just a little bit harder on your emails? Maybe proofread them just a bit, eh?
And while I’m at it, what’s up with filenames like invoice.pdf and resume.doc? Do you really think you’re the only one sending those kinds of files?
You would think that search would make all this whining null and void, but I think it actually makes it worse. If I’m looking for a message about some topic or other, I can search on that topic. If I’m looking for an email with some kind of file, I can search for the filename. If you use gmail, the search is pretty good, if you use desktop clients or other services, maybe less so. Either way, getting search results full of crappily subjected messages doesn’t do much to advance the state of the art.
Try this on for size: write subject lines and name files with search in mind. Try to build in info about the topic, sender and recipient, time/date, etc. Length within reason is not a constraint. 8.3 filenames are a long long way behind us. If you’re typing on some phone type device, suck it up and peck out a few more words to make your message matter. Maybe one day search technology will catch up with our lazy habits. Until then, work a little harder when you send a message, and the recipients will stand a slightly better chance of understanding it and finding it again later.