Thursday, 28 May 2009

Instant messaging - A quick solution

I needed to arrange for something to be changed on a client's web applications and through my contact on my IM tool I was able to make the request and have confirmation of the change within a short period of time.

I could see that the developer was in the office which had an advantage over e-mail. Althought the response wasn't immediate from the developer, a quick message came through to confirm it was updated within a reasonable time and I could acknowledge it. 

One of the things I've noticed with IM tools is that messages tend to be a lot shorter as well and therefore when time is important quick updates and assistance be arranged.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Using my workspace

Activity - Updating tasks on shared workspace


Technologies - btworkspace(based on Microsoft SharePoint)

is being used to store shared documents in folders labeled for each project. Tasks are also their,


I updated some tasks stored on a central workspace with comments based on information that I had received. I also created some new tasks for colleagues to review. The benefit of this is if my co-worker needs an update at any time on where projects are currently at he can just read it.

I had briefly experimented with a product called Konolive which had the clever idea of linking IM to a shared workspace for storing files. At the time of writing though it is too inconsistent for me: didn't smoohtly integrate with the workspace tool and my colleaguing trialing it struggled to install it.

Withdrawal from Instant Messaging - too may interruptions

I was talking to a software development partner and I had noticed that they were no longer on skype. I had found it useful in the past to see when they were on skype and logged on. In fact I found it strange that they weren't there anymore, I was even wondering to myself if they had gone out of business! This on reflection seems to me to be a good case of where the sense of their presence was quite real to me.

I had a call scheduled with their MD and discovered that they were still very much in business and after we had finished our conversation I asked him if they were on skype any more. He told me that they had decided not to use it any more as it had become too distracting for them with too many people trying to talk to them througought the day.

This seems to be a re-occuring problem with Instant Messaging (IM).......
  • won't it just prove too distracting to people
  • anyone can contact my staff anytime
  • People will never get things done, never achieve their work goals.
I actually asked someone to remove MS Messenger from their PC in an organisation I ran because they were too busy messaging their friends around the world......... was that the right answer? I certainly have expereinced the problem. 

The reality is that by providing IM you are creating another communciation channel for people and therefore it needs to be managed in a way that is effective for you and your organisation. Everyone already has a number of communciation channels available: The phone, e-mail and the person sitting next to them. These also can be disruptive to a person acheivng their work goals.

What needs to happen is that we need to have clarity about how we will use these different tools and have agreement with our collaborators. I've known people:
  • choose not to answer the phone at certain times
  • not to instantly respond to e-mail
  • switch their phone off in meetings
  • wear a distinctive hat or headphones when they don't want to be interuptted by colleagues in their office
  • put a do not disturb sign on the door
  • encourage staff to only use the phone for reasonable personal use
All of these methods translate into Instant Messaging, at least in principle.

IM has the added benefits of 
  • making your office bigger - your physical office is limited in space
  • opening contact with other time zones
  • letting people know when you are in
These can create problems by making your contact pool larger and so you need to learn to use do not disturb on your IM tool at times. 

In my view I would also encourgage people to think of IM as a little less than instant so that people feel comfortable completing their current tasks before responding. 

Finally we need to work with people who we trust to be responsible. If someone is focused and shares our commitment to work goals then we can trust them not to be messaging friends to the detriment of their work goals. Sure they might take a break at times that's healthy but they won't neglect their work and they will experience the benefit of being part of a larger group of people.

Adding colleagues to your online office

Activity Adding new IM contact and testing it works

Partcipants Me and 1 client. 2 miles away

Installed yuuguu client


I recently had invited one of my clients to join me on Yuuguu. They installed the client and gave me a quick hello to check it was working. It occurred to me it is nice to do a quick introduction to someone once they are on. One of the benefits that occured to me was the fact that we will know whether each other is at their computer when we need to call. This will be really handy as we are both often out and about.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Working at different time


Activity - Following online meeting with software development company a workspace is being set-up to support online meetings by having a single source of information.


Participants - 3 software development company team members, 2 client participants, 1 consultant


Technologies - btworkspace(based on Microsoft SharePoint)

is being used to store shared documents in folders labeled for each project. Tasks are also being set-up and assigned to different people within the group.

The workspace will notify people in the group when activity occurs. I am curious to see how much activity takes place.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Online meeting 7 May 2009

Activity - Meeting to review a number of software projects being developed

Participants - 3 software development company team members, 2 client participants, 1 consultant 

Technologies - skype was used as a telephone conferencing tool, yuuguu was used to webshare the consultant's screen who was acting as facilitator.

The facilitator shared the screen showing the agenda. The agenda had previously been sent out using outlook as a meeting invite. 

Joining the meeting - participants were given a skype in number to dial which was a normal uk phone number. As each member joined they were added to the conference in Skype. The 3 people from the software company were sitting in an office in Louth around a speaker phone, the consultant in Grimsby and 1 client in Hull. One thing I have noticed about skype is that it doesn't do the announcement "Mr Smith has joined the meeting" I miss that although I guess it does save some money on phone calls and often the call quality is better. The last partipant, located in York, I instant messaged on Yuuguu and asked him to phone at a conveniant point so that he could join in the meeting about 30 minutes in.

I sent a link to the Yuuguu site and pin number via Yuuguu to all the participants except one who I e-mailed (they have Yuuguu but it has stopped working for them)

During the meeting
I started to share my screen and showed the agenda. 

As we discussed certain solutions I showed the particular screen shot that related to it on screen. This seemed quite useful as we were all looking at the same thing. 

In contrast at one point we discussed another document that 2 particpants had printed and I didn't have a copy. They each had something that looked different it transpired after about 5 minutes of discussion. 

On a different point it was quite distracting when I moved off the main screen to add a note to something else. I learned to use the pause button in Yuuguu which keeps the screen at time of pasuing in view while you go off and do something else.


I spoke to two particpants after the meeting who both said they found it really productive. They also said that it would have:

  • Benefited from having all documents shared, the same version in a shared workspace
  • Been useful to be able to note actions on screen as we agreed them
  • Seen all the agenda on one screen