Thursday, February 28, 2013

On working remotely.

After the announcement last Friday from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that will effectively end telecommuting at the company I've been thinking again about the pluses and minuses of the whole working out of a home office thing.  I haven't worked out of a regular office since the Spring of 2000 so I have a bit of perspective on the issue.  And it may not be what you would expect.

First off, my situation at Blurb is quite unique.  From the beginning my role was to act as liaison between Blurb, our print partners (now global), and our key suppliers.  That meant going to where the action was, either at the printing location, at a trade show, or at the supplier's headquarters.  I was not only remote from our San Francisco base but often on the road away from my Seattle home.

So the idea of moving my family to a new location only to be absent from there for much of the time is a non-starter.  I even included a provision in my employment contract with a pre-negotiated resolution if the time came that my position would be required to move away from the Northwest.

Years of first managing remote employees around the world and then being remote myself prepared me well on how to manage the sensitive situation I had entered.  To be a successful remote worker takes a bit extra when it comes to making sure it's easy to be contacted, being an expert listener and interrupter on phone conferences, and in general just sensitive to the fact that you need to adapt to others rather than vice versa.

I actually agree pretty much with Yahoo's change of policy.  There are a lot of things that don't happen well when one or more of the key people are not live in the office.  And I expect that more often than not the remote workers don't have all it takes to make this lifestyle work for both the employer and the employee.  So here are a few tips on how to work successfully as a remote based on my personal experience.

  1. Always be available.  Always. Weekends. After-hours. Get used to responding quickly. Use your mobile phone as your office phone. As I like to tell folks "It's like I'm in the same building you are but I'm on a floor the elevator doesn't go to."  I'm always reachable.
  2. Use instant messaging and Skype liberally.  Don't make folks pick up the phone to ask you simple, quick questions.  Also this is your "water-cooler" to keep up with events at the home office that you may otherwise miss.
  3. Be teleconference pro.  Don't expect that everyone will know how to set up a teleconference, especially if you are the only one remote in the meeting.  Set up an account with and always be ready to make a conference bridge on a moments notice.
  4. Be a good listener. When you are remote that means not being distracted.  Listening to proceedings of a meeting via phone, especially with a big group, is a skill.  Don't do email.  Don't start browsing the web for even a few seconds because that's when someone will say, "So Bruce, what do you think?"
  5. Learn how and when to interrupt. Just get used to it, you won't get the chance to chime in with your pithy remarks anymore. But when you need to be heard be ready to jump in, talk for a few seconds and briefly stop to make sure your aren't talking over someone else, and get right to your point.
  6. Working remotely can hinder your upward mobility. It's not impossible to move up the corporate ladder while working outside of the main office but it's a much tougher task.
  7. If you work out of your home office make that place "work only". You need to separate work and home life.  If you don't have a private room to use figure out a way to separate how you interact with your space for work versus non-work.
  8. "Walk home from work."  I'll credit my wife for this one.  When I'm in Seattle we are both at-home workers.  When it's time to end the work day we get outside and walk for a half-hour.  It makes a clean break from work.
  9. Never get up and go right to work.  I've worked out of my home office for 13 years and I have never got out of bed and headed directly to my home office.  I always start my day as if I was leaving the house with a shower and shave.  And, please, don't work in your pajamas or sweats.
  10. Know when you need to be at headquarters.  This is a subtle skill but it's really important.  Have your finger firmly on the pulse of what is going on at the home office and trust your gut when you feel you need to be there live.
  11. Don't rub it in.  A lot of folks would love to have the option of working from home but most jobs are not best suited to do so.  So don't make a big deal of it. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 Stock Photography, Updated for the Art Set. From @TheCut

For Marco Roso, an editor of the post-Internet lifestyle publication called DIS Magazine, stock photography has become an art form — albeit one lacking imagination: "Over the last five or ten years, these [images] have been influencing our culture in terms of everybody borrowing them," he said. And Lauren Boyle, a second DIS editor, noted that these images aren't just purchased to use in ad campaigns; in some cases, they guide the entire creative process. "Before [they] even decide, This is the girl we're going to shoot, this is the look, this is the location, and the mood, they're sourcing from stock images. It's constantly recycling the same thing," she added. A few weeks ago, Boyle peered behind her at the sets occupying the main room of the Suzanne Geiss Company gallery, where she and Roso had wrapped a shoot for, their new stock photography site. To her left, models in shapewear followed boxes of pizza into a crowded hair, makeup, and dressing room.

DIS and friends — including artists Harry Griffin, Frank Benson, and Ian Cheng — rotated in and out of the Soho space for three weeks, along with passersbys, to produce enough material for a fully functioning stock-photo site, which launched February 18 (the show closed Saturday). "The New Wholesome," one of the first shoots, directed by (two more) DIS editors, Solomon Chase and David Toro, was based on taking the images a person would get upon searching the word wholesome, like "vegetables, appliances, mothers, families," Chase said, and "mixing them in different ways. We did wholesome-looking Asian women making out on top of a washing machine with a lot of cash."

True to stock-photo form, Chase made nearly identical pictures, but kept swapping models, so the same images would be available with, say, a white woman or a black man: "There's a boy with long hair and a couple of black women who were bald ... Like who BIC'd their heads and they had wigs and wigs off." He went on, "In each situation, it's applicable to different clients in a way, even though probably a lot of them aren't applicable to anyone." DIS's "Smiling at Art" plays on the stock-photo trope of people smiling at art, while Benson's "iChiaroscuro" revises the light/dark contrasts of chiaroscuro using iPads. Shawn Maximo's "Neighboring Interests" portrays familiar scenarios (like falling asleep in class) with surreal aesthetics. 

Now that DISImages is online (with a comprehensive search and tagging system), Boyle hopes the photos will be bought and downloaded as art, and also to accompany editorial pieces and in the commercial world. "It takes away that elitism of artists creating images because anyone can buy one," she said. "It could be sold a hundred times, so it's infinite, indefinite." Click ahead to see some of DIS's new stock options.

America’s Long Fashion’s Night Out Epidemic Finally Over
 Take a look at the slideshow here.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Turn the Publishing Industry Upside Down, with Seth Godin. From @motleyfool

The video below is taken from an interview that Motley Fool analyst Brendan Byrnes recently had with Seth Godin, author of The Icarus Deception. Godin is also a talented public speaker, marketing guru, blogger, entrepreneur, and respected thought leader.

Seth's forward-thinking and contrarian views are critical considerations for finding success in life, business, and investing.

It's the same approach our own chief investment officer, Andy Cross, took when selecting The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013. I invite you to uncover his market-beating thinking in this new free report. Just click here now for instant access

Friday, February 8, 2013

LinkedIn eyes future as professional publishing hub. From @cnet

LinkedIn spent much of 2012 transforming itself into a place where workers could stay and play a while -- a strategy that paid off handsomely. But the year ahead will be all about making the site the preferred destination for professional content, a transition that could make Wall Street's darling even more bewitching.

The professional network today reported earnings that blew the Street's socks off, so to speak. LinkedIn's stock is trading up close to 10 percent on the after-hours market because the company floored everyone with fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 35 cents, revenue of $303.6 million, and net income of $11.5 million.
Then in a call with investors and analysts, CEO Jeff Weiner upped the company's long-term sex appeal with this statement: "One of the things that we're increasingly focused on in 2013 is going to be the opportunity to support content marketing."

Wait, what? What's sexy about content marketing, you ask? Money -- and potentially lots of it.

Read on here.....

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A complete photography guide on iOS. From @TUAW

The Photo Guide bills itself as the most comprehensive guide to photography on the App Store and I am inclined to agree. This US$4.99 app is a 250 MB download stuffed with information on all aspects of digital photography. The guide covers cameras, from point-and-shoot to DSLRs, with plenty of info on the capabilities of the cameras built into each iOS device. There's information on filters, composition, HDR photography, lighting, you name it.

Aside from all that great information, The Photo Guide also has several nice features. For example, there are many sample photos that you can tap to enlarge and examine closely. The app keeps track of what you've read and what you haven't, and features a very comprehensive search function. As in any photo book, there are a lot of technical terms. Those are hyperlinked to definitions and explanations.
The app deals with cameras and shooting more than post processing. If The Photo Guide is missing anything, I would have liked to see some videos demonstrating various concepts in the 'How-To' section.

While this guide is aimed at beginning photographers, there is much useful information for the more seasoned amateur.We've looked at other guides here at TUAW, such as Master your DSLR Camera which is $4.99 and there is the free Photography 101 that includes some nice videos.
I don't hesitate to recommend The Photo Guide to digital photographers. It took a lot of work to put this information together in one place. The photo examples are excellent, and the text is concise and clear.

The Photo Guide requires iOS 5 or greater and is optimized for the iPhone 5. It is a universal app, and works happily on most modern iOS devices.

See a gallery of screen shots here...