Telecommuting and how the Web has altered our ability to think
I realized this week that I've telecommuted for over half my adult professional life. Once in the early 90's, and now since 1999. There was a short on-site stint in a Regus facility in 2000 when the Palm Austin Office got to be about 8 people, but even then I worked from home a couple days a week.
Where my commuting brethren have one set of patterns, I have a different set. That morning commute is certainly a pain, but it provides a useful buffer between "stuff at home" and "stuff at work". Even though you may be listening to a podcast while you drive or doing cross-stitch on the train, your mind is transitioning from one place to the other.
The 20 meter walk from our house to my "barn" is insufficient. So I build in some time in my morning routine to mimic the transition of the daily grind. After the kids leave for school, I read the news on my laptop, tablet or smartphone using Google Reader. I subscribe to a couple dozen industry newsletters, local news, the BBC, and some fun stuff. In all it takes 20-30 minutes to sift through the articles, read a few, and have a cup or two of coffee. Then I'm ready to process the overnight email and start working.
Among the fun stuff are cartoons. Dilbert is required reading for anyone in the industry, and XKCD is loved by everyone who has a math or science background. One that I enjoy for purely aesthetic reasons is Laugh-Out-Loud Cats. Yes, LOLCats. It's not silly captions on cat photos, but a hand drawn single-panel comic involving two cats. The bigger cat, Kitteh, is a cigar-smoking vagrant with a penchant for thievery. The smaller cat, Pip, is full of energy and curiosity. The strip rarely causes a belly laugh, but Pip's antics makes me smile. The creator, ApeLad, does a great job with his work and is a frequent contributor to the shirt.woot e-commerce site.
The strip today had me confused and then it annoyed me. Here it is…
When I first looked at the strip, all I could see were the two empty squares. I thought "How lazy of him to not check that his fonts were missing characters". Then it annoyed me that I couldn't get the punchline. "What 2 two-letter words end with Y and N that would make this caption funny?"
In years of browsing the web, I've become accustomed to seeing those square boxes and trying to figure out what the words are. My brain recognized the pattern and was filtering the square boxes out. I had to go back and look carefully at the image to see it was a checklist with Yes and No answers. You see this because I've brought it up, but would you have caught it the first time?
The Web is an amazing collection of technology and I'm ecstatic to help shape it. I try to explain to my children that this all didn't exist 15 years ago and we used to do all this stuff by driving to shopping malls or pouring through massive reference books. This evolution in our social DNA isn't merely being passed on through our genes, but like a virus it's altering the original host with these new patterns.
Not always for the better, but definitely interesting.