“The Race for Space” by Public Service Broadcasting

I was happily surprised by this as a gift recently.

For me, the intermixing of old original broadcasts with original composition music worked well as an idea. Choosing which broadcasts to include was just as important as composing the right music.

I liked how the composers framed the album around 9 pivotal moments events from 1957 (launch of sputnik) to 1972 (Apollo 17, the last Apollo departing the moon). Obviously, there was a lot of broadcasts to choose from, and I liked their choices – some of which I’d never heard before. Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon” speech, a homage to Valentina Tereshkova (the first female in space), Apollo 8’s “see you on the flip side” (the earthrise photo taken by Apollo 8 is still one of my favourites), and the tense interactions of all the ground + flights teams in the final seconds of descent to land of Apollo 11 (including handling the 1202, 1201 errors!).

All heady stuff and well worth a listen.

“REAMDE” by Neal Stephenson

(At 1,044 pages, this book looks daunting. I’ve enjoyed other Neal Stephenson books, especially Cryptonomicon, so I didn’t let the size of the book deter me when I was buying it. But I find reading a long book with complex intertwined plots needs continuity – no point in picking it up and trying to resume after leaving it unopened for weeks! Even though I bought this book over a year ago, I only finally had time to read it in the last couple of weeks. Aside, in this day-and-age-of-laptops-and-kindles, I was amused by the odd sidelook I got whenever I settled into a nearby coffee shop and produced this weighty hardback ink-on-paper tomb!)

Wikipedia has a great summary here, but obviously be warned that it has lots of plot spoilers. Without giving too much plot away, I liked the book. From my perspective, I really enjoyed how Neal can interweave different stories. While there were many different interwoven stories here, the ones that are top of mind for me were:

  • the hacker-and-former-girlfriend-get-kidnapped story
  • the spy-tracking-jihadists story
  • the massive on-line game business story

All very different stories, yet the detailed coverage of each make me think Neal has a great understanding of hackers, encryption, different-business-market-economies-of-massive-on-line-games, Soviet-veterans-of-the-confict-in-Afganistan, internet-cafes-in-developing-worlds… the list goes on and on. I even found the way computer issues were covered to be accurately describes (typically a pet peeve for me!). In the midst of all the other drama, I was greatly amused by the image of a super-important invulnerable character (Egdod) walking in unattended mode back to home base, while various other T’Rain players were attacking him / defending him / rubber-necking the impossible sight of Egdod moving through their world. And somehow, someday, I need to find a way to use the throwaway joke about “Your org chart?”, “No, orc chart”.

The book was a great read, and I’d recommend it.

“We are ALL Remoties” (Feb2015 edition)

Since my last blog post on “remoties”, I’ve worked with ProCore, and Haas, UCBerkeley (again!) as well as smaller private discussions with some other companies. Every single time, I continue to find people eager for passionate conversations, and clear “ah-ha!” moments, which I find very encouraging. There’s also plenty of volunteering stories/ideas of what did/didnt work for them in their past. All this helps me continue to hone and refine these slides, which I hope makes them even more helpful to others.

You can get the latest version of these slides, in handout PDF format, by clicking on the thumbnail image.

Remoties are clearly something that people care deeply about. Geo-distributed teams are becoming more common in the workplace, and yet the challenges continue to be very real and potentially disruptive. Given how this topic impacts people’s jobs, and their lives, I’m not surprised by the passionate responses, and each time, the lively discussions encourage me to keep working on this even more.

As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or good/bad stories about working in a remote or geo-distributed teams, please let me know – I’d love to hear them.