Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cool technology of the week

Last week I started a Cool Technology post which I intend to do every Friday.

As part of my flexible work arrangement research, I've been testing video conferencing technologies. The coolest technology is Cisco's Telepresence infrastructure. John Chambers demonstrates it here

I've tested H323 software and hardware, Video IM chat, and iChat via Jabber. The big question raised by all of these technologies is best described in this email sent to me by Paul Gray, Professor Emeritus of Information Science, Claremont Graduate University:

"Being retired, I receive my copies of Computerworld in batches from my office. Hence I only now read your September 15 article on flexible schedules. I was pleased to see that you found the need for initial meetings important in your thinking. I thought you would like to know that this concept is not a new idea. When we first proposed telecommuting (Telecommuting-Transportation Tradeoffs: Options for Tomorrow, Wiley 1975) we quoted results that we found in the literature on the dispersal of government workers out of central London and central Stockholm in the 1960s. The dispersal was the result of, for example in London, of the concentration of office jobs that wound up depopulating the hinterlands of young people. Everybody complained that they could not be moved out because they needed continual face to face contact with people in other agencies. Studies were done that found that once there is an initial meeting, which coupled a human face and body language with voice and correspondence, people were able to work in dispersed mode with no loss of effectiveness. However, they did need periodic (typically 6 month) refreshing of the initial contact so that the ties would be maintained"

It may turn out that audio via phone, combined with desktop sharing/whiteboards/IM will be good enough without video. My full report will be complete in January.


jessica lipnack said...

A tad worried that I already ref'd you to this in one of your early posts but, hey, it's Thanksgiving so you'll forgive.

We did a study with two biz school profs that was pub'd in Harvard Business Review, "Can Absence Make a Team Grow Stronger?", that proves your last point with one important addition. Results showed that 86% of teams studied used teleconferencing; 83% used shared screens. So that's the winning combo but here's the proviso: they also made use of the "right" behaviors--exploiting differences of team members (the more different, the more better :) and intensive communication. One tiny departure from your 1975-friend's view: they didn't use face-to-face for the kickoff. Horrifying to my mind but true.

And to your last post, and more importantly, if you haven't already, visit Candle Cafe in NY and buy their cookbook. Best vegan food I've ever had - except for that at a small conference center in Wales (Pengethley Manor). Surely your group needs an offsite.

Bernard said...


Can you add some tags to your posts? That way it's easier to catch up with the cool technology ones if I miss a few.