Interviews about “Work from home” policies at Facebook, Virgin and yes, Yahoo!

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When I talk about “remoties”, I frequently get asked my thoughts on Yahoo’s now (in)famous “no more work-from-home” policy.

Richard Branson (Virgin, link to first video) and the separate comments from Jackie Reses (Yahoo, 2.27 into the link to second video) confirm what I’d heard from multiple unofficial mutterings – that Yahoo’s now (in)famous “no more work from home” decree was actually intended as a way to jolt the company culture into action.

I also liked Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook) comments about how a successful remote workplace depends on having clear measures of successful results. Rather then valuing someone by how many hours they are seen working in the office, instead it is better to have a company culture where you measure people by results. This echoes comments I’ve seen from Jason Fried in his “Remote” book, comments I’ve made in my “we are all remoties” presentations and which I’ve heard again and again from various long-term remote workers.

These two interviews discuss these points really well. The entire article is well worth a read, and both videos are only a few minutes long, so worth the quick watch.


HOWTO: travel on the Tokyo metro

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The Tokyo subway and train system is massive; as someone who could not read/write/speak Japanese, I found its a little daunting at first. However, with the following three techniques, I quickly found it very easy to get around.

1) Print out this PDF of the subway map on a *color* printer. Or download the official Tokyo Metro Android app. If you plan to travel by train outside Tokyo, I found this app really helpful.

Carry it always! I found it invaluable when lost, asking for directions, or even just trying to confirm if I was on the correct train going the right direction. When language barriers get in the way, pointing politely to a printout map does wonders!

2) Learn the codes for your planned route.

On the subway map, each route has a different color. Also, each station has a name in Kanji, a name in ASCII, and a letter-plus-two-digit code. For example, in the bottom left corner of the map, you can see the station “Nishi-magome” is on the red “Asakusa” line, and has the code “A01″. To be precise, its really one code per line per station, so some bigger stations have multiple codes: for example, Shibuya has three subway lines, so the same one station is called “Z01″, “F16″ and “G01″, depending on which subway line you are using.
These letter-plus-two-digit codes are clearly posted in every station, and on all maps. I found these codes much easier to remember then the real Japanese names of the stations, so these codes became essential for me to  quickly figure out if I had missed my stop, if we were now arriving at my station, or if I was on train going the wrong way.

For example:

  • from my hotel to the Mozilla office: go from “Z01″ to “Z05″.
  • from my hotel to Hombu Aikido dojo: go from ”F16″ to ”F12″, change platforms, and then go from “E02″ to “E03″.
  • from my hotel to Akihabara “Electronics town”:  go from ”G01″ to ”G09″, change platforms, and then go from “H08″ to “H15″.

3) Get a commuter ticket.

This lets you avoid the hassle of buying tickets at crowded ticket machines, and having to figure out exact fares on each subway trip. If you are in Tokyo more then a day or two, its well worth it for convenience alone!

There’s two big brands of commuter tickets: “Suica” and “Passmo”. Within Tokyo, either can be used on any subway. I’ve been told they both also work on buses, and can even be used in some shops like a debit card also. If you are going outside of Tokyo, “Suica” can also be used on trains in some other cities, check for details here.

  • You can buy Suica or Passmo cards at any train station. Official train company offices seem to want some simple paperwork filled in. Instead I bought my Suica card at a newspaper stand on the west side of Shibuya station. Prices are all the same.
  • when entering the subway, wave the card over the sensor in the turnstile as you enter. (This works even if your card is in a wallet/handbag!) As you walk though, the display on the far end of the turnstile shows you how much credit you have left.
  • when exiting the subway, wave the card over the sensor in the turnstile. As you walk though, the display at the far end of the turnstile shows you how much the fare was for your trip, and how much credit you have left.
  • to recharge your card, look for a ticket machine with the Suica or Passmo logo, press the “english” button on the top-right corner of the display, then just follow the prompts.
  • more details, and photos here.

With a map, a memorized series of station-codes and a commuter card, I found getting around Tokyo on the metro super easy and super efficient.

(UPDATED to add references to the new Tokyo Metro official android app and the Hitachi national rail app. joduinn 25mar2015.)

A taste of Burning Man 2007

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Burning Man 2007 happened in the Nevada desert again this year. While a bunch of my friends, and some work colleagues did go, I ended up not going this year. Instead I stayed at home, working, and living vicariously through video snippets and the occasional news headline. It was interesting to note how easy it is to find street parking, and also commute to work, while Burning Man is going on… and how for days after it ends, the city is packed with absolutely *filthy* cars!

In the news, Arsonist burns The Man early; organisers rebuild on-the-scene

For mechanical inventiveness, there’s a trebuchet for launching burning pianos, Dance Dance Immolation, Spider-walking Transporter, Synchronized flame throwers, and the DMV showing off some art cars.

For large scale, there’s the Oil Derrick being installed, being enjoyed up close, being burnt up close and being burnt from 1 mile away.

…and of course, for spiritual, there is The Last Temple.