Are you reading this at work?

The line between work-life and home-life, professional and personal, is in constant flux.  As organizations search for excellence, re-invent, re-organize, upgrade, and update, the one-time rules on engagement get a bit squishy.  Governing magazine—a freebie for bureaucrats like me—offered an insightful observation on “The Millennial in the Cubicle“, relevant to government, non-profit and for-profit enterprises:

According to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study, 70 percent of working Americans now use the Internet on the job. That means that increasingly both the public and the private sectors are having to figure out how to balance the rights and interests of employees and employers in an environment where opportunities to do too much electronic wandering are virtually limitless, and where lots of employees spend most of the day on computers and tapping away at cell phones and other communication devices for legitimate work purposes.

Are you reading this at work?  One reason I’m working on this blog is to look at applications of social media for my “real work” in local development.  Is this blog strictly “real work” then?  Well, not stricktly.  I may be trading time during the work day that I make up by coming in early and staying late or eating lunch at my desk like I am today.  “Real Work” still needs to get done, but the timeline isn’t banker’s hours.

Complaints about overly restrictive use policies and Web blocking ought to be a wake-up call, say many in public-sector information technology and personnel management. Witt’s generation — the “millennials,” who have grown up texting, Twittering and YouTubing, and often doing all of those things simultaneously — are going to push hard for governments to open up on-the-job technology so that they can work the way they’ve become used to. “We’re going to be seeing a new generation of employees who say, ‘What do you mean I can’t look at my Facebook page while I’m at work?'” says Craig Paull, head of IT for Kent County, Michigan.

Devil’s Advocate:  I got some good advice from a prof back in college.  When you’re working for the government, don’t do anything you wouldn’t want in the headlines of the local newspaper.  There was a big buzz for awhile on “running government like a business”.  I like the idea, but the problem is the stockholders are everybody that pays taxes.  The rules are a bit different on the public dime than in private business.  I understand that.

However… public, private and non-profit organizations are all in business.  They have (or should have) a mission, a vision, strategies and objectives if they want to succeed and provide a value in this world.  If you’re gonna do a job, do it right.

Fundamentally, technology has helped create a layer of employees who view work in a whole new way, according to Lee Rainie, director of the Pew project. “It’s clear that the boundary between work and play is not as bright and distinct as it is for their parents,” says Rainie. “Nobody has done a systematic study, but as the digital generation enters the workforce, they will have different expectations about the work environment and using technology, and different norms about what they owe their boss versus what they owe their friends.” 

Some of the conflicts are generational.  Baby Boomers tend to think about work and life, paid-work and volunteer-work, differently than my Gen X peers.  The Millenials coming after, who the heck knows what they’re thinking. 

Change is, of course, the only constant.  So you may as well embrace it.  Learn to love Social Media.  Adapt your work life to Twitter and Facebook.  Adapt your home life so your Blackberry habit isn’t quite so annoying to spouse and children.  Some people see these tools extending work into homelife.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t only have ideas between 8am and 4:30pm.  If I figure out a problem for a client at 8pm, I don’t want to wait until 8am to get down the details when I can access work remotely and take care of it then and there.  At the same time, I may be pulling up Facebook at 9am to check on my kids instead of jockeying for PC time at home come 9pm.  Tools are tools, for good or evil.

Get ‘er done, but with balance in all things.

A Scholar’s Work

Minnesota Farm

Martin Krieger is Professor of Planning at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning, and Development.  He blogs tips for doctoral students.  I once thought of being a doctoral student—then I got over it, they work too hard.  Prof. Krieger has a PhD in Physics, so that could make him a rocket scientist as well as a real doctor, I’m not that familiar with his work.  Just before Christmas he wrote:

Most very strong scholars live through their work. They are very productive, and their work reflects their strengths in a deep way. There are of course scholars who work very hard, but are not so strong even if they are productive. But these very strong scholars are in a different league.

I’ve been thinking alot about work-life balance for… oh, most of my life.  We know the Company Man is dead.  Nobody my age will work for IBM for 40 years.  We settled that 20 years ago, yet the 1980s are as far away for my kids as the 1950s were for me.

What is it going to mean to “live through your work” in 2010?  Does it mean the gosh-awful 80 hour work-weeks of doctoral students (and professors)?  Or the undergrad working two jobs just to scrape by?  Can it mean more?

Let’s go back back to the future. Look at 2010 thru the lens of 1910, when the majority of US population (54%) was still rural. Before the industrial revolution, the norm was life on a farm or in a small shop. You lived with your work—you got up, did the chores, had lunch with the family, rested on Sunday, got stuff done.  The farm was (and is) hard work, but it’s a life worth living.

It’s easy to work your life away; easy to live for your work.  To live through your work, though, that seems to me something more—to find expression for your life in what you do for a living.  To be strong in your chosen vocation is going to mean going the extra mile, but we can adapt schedules and communication tools to recreate the seamless farmyard where sometimes we’re balancing “real work” on Saturdays so we can picnic with the family Thursday afternoon.

Sounds like hard work, but work worth living.

Tell us about your broadband access

Screenshot of SW MN

Screenshot of SW MN

Two broadband ISPs serve my home in a small town in Southwest Minnesota, Frontier Communications and Mediacom, apparently at Broadband Tier 2 with potential residential download speeds of 1.5 to 3 Mbps and uploads (1st Generation Data) at 200 kbps to 768 kbps .  So says a new project here in Minnesota.

Connect Minnesota, a non-profit subsidiary of Connected Nation, is releasing results of their broadband mapping project.  As I gushed in January, I learned about the project from Blandin on Broadband, who explains that “The maps are being created to help the Ultra High-Speed Broadband Task Force make recommendations to the Legislature regarding a vision for broadband access in Minnesota.”

The idea was Connected Nation (CN) contacted ISPs (internet service providers) who provided them with broadband service maps, which this firm then tested from their office in Texas.  They also asked people to test their own connections, which info was supposed to keep the ISPs honest.  I clocked our cablemodem-linked network at the office at 7286 kbps d/l 512k u/l.

Connect Minnesota has posted PDF & gif maps showing infrastructure, availability and speed on the ground, as well as an interactive map here.  The screenshot above is from the interactive map (which is a bit clunky & times out relatively quickly IMHO).  They have an address finder so you can easily pinpoint your home location and inventoried service providers, although it is unclear which providers provide which speeds.

It’s nice in theory but I wonder how much the ISP info really got tested.  CN did move their testing from Texas to Chicago after some criticism tho the biggest holes in the donut are Outstate Minnesota.  Come out on the Buffalo Ridge and try your gee-whiz gizmos.  A quick lookup for a co-worker who lives out in the country looks like they mapped the Frontier service area, not necessarily where DSL actually works.  It would be nice to have different types of service providers—Cable, DSL, wireless—as separate layers but I expect they were trying to keep it simple.  The interface should be relatively easy for non-GIS types to navigate and provides some good information for consumers and policymakers.

Minnesota’s Broadband Taskforce is meeting today to look over the report for themselves, which I expect Blandin on Broadband will fill us in on ASAP.  Myself, I’ll have to try the site at home and see if it loads at all for anybody still on dial-up 🙂 .



Following the pied piper of social media, you can now find me at LinkedIn:

RT @BrickandClick Retweet @cheeky_geeky LinkedIn is my Rolodex. Facebook is my scrapbook. Twitter is my lifestream idea generator (hmmm)

I’m looking at my claim on my professional name @ LinkedIn as more of a defensive mechanism than an offensive move into new public policy career space.  I am more and more convinced of the old saw: It’s who you know as much as what you know.  So for those in the know, John Shepard be there on the Rolodex of Web 2.0.  All 3 dozen of us.

Mostly it’s another bee in my bonnet on the topic of work-life integration.  There’s some buzz going on there.

As for Facebook, yeah.  Scrapbook.  that’s good.  I’m leaving lots of scraps on there.  Not keeping track of my Friend-count to see if I’m scaring ’em away.

Twitter, tho, that is becoming my idea drug of choice, in multiple flavors @johnshepard, @jcshepard, @johncshepard.  Watching The Matrix In Code.  Good ideas.  Bad ideas.  Data, data, data….


Edit 4 Feb 09: 8 Twitter Networking Tips: From Online to In-the-Flesh 

1. Use Your Twitter Profile As You Would a Business Card, 2. Let Your Twitter Feed Be Your (Ongoing) Portolfio, 3. Grow Your Twitter Network, 4. Get the Lowdown, 5. Tweet Yourself Up, 6. Ask for Help, 7. And Help Others, 8. Plan a Tweetup.

Blogs vs Twitter II


Had an A-Ha! moment on the Blogs vs. Twitter debate this week, late in the day Thursday catching up on the day’s twitter traffic after a mildly productive afternoon.

I’m thinking of Twitter like a stream and the blogosphere as lakes and oceans.  Fishing moving waters requires different techniques than still waters.  You have different gear, different approaches.  It would never occur to me to try to catch every fish that swims by.  Just the one that happens to be in the pool that i can reach.  just. right. then.

I am also a slow learner.  So I’m going to give an example.  The material is political, but my point is about the social media tools.

  1. First, I noticed a tweet by a Brit I follow re: a muslim cleric spouting off in support of spousal abuse.  Political topic, trying to stay away from that on this blog for now.  A quick retweet @JohnShepard, don’t think much about it.
  2. Over on JohnScout, I had written a post touching on the newly inaugurated president’s time as a Cub Scout in Indonesia.  This islamic nation has the largest number of Scouts in the world. I had referenced @JoshuaGodinez‘s blog  in that post, then saw him tweet about muslim Scouts in Scotland and their special Oath.  Hmm.  Maybe a topic for a follow-up post, so a quick retweet.
  3. Then, I noticed another headline on Geert Wilders.  For a few months I’ve seen the Dutch parliamentarian in the news.  He made a film, Fitna, about the dark side of Islam.  Many people are unhappy;  Thursday there were several tweets about charges filed by Dutch courts.  Again, at face a political topic, but Freedom of Speech and cultural issues—this is getting closer to what I’m willing to tackle at  However, by this time I was late for dinner.  So I did the re-tweet thing.

It’s not about the ends but the means. 

Perhaps the world is a better place for me not taking time to blog this political topic.  Who knows, perhaps we averted a new Crusade.  Either way, the Twitterverse is good for quickly bringing in data and sharing it.  Not alot of processing is going on in 140 words let alone 140 characters.  This blog is about 400 words, more or less.  It takes time to process data into information.

I used twitter like a stream.  Topics come, topics go, here’s the link, read it and see what you think.

First Thoughts on FaceSpace

Web 2.0 Social Media is the big buzz, the promised next generation of the internet where the use of the tech may actually emerge from the shadow of tech for tech’s sake. Maybe.

I resisted getting on FaceBook until early last year, hoping to use it to help keep up on various political campaigns of interest. Can’t say as I’ve been impressed with facespace in the campaign space. This may be more a reflection on poor organization of the campaigns I was interested in. Lots of folks were impressed by the Obama phenomenon online. And now there’s a lot of folks calling for the GOP to get off our duffs and get with the 20th century online (e.g.,

Technology is a tool (the medium, not the message) and we’re all familiar with the waves of adoptation of tools. The GOP was better for awhile. This year I guess it was the Dem’s turn. No different than the corporate world. I am confident the national organizations will adopt whatever the others have—they are really good at buying the guns that won the last war.

I am impressed, however, with the potential of FaceBook in personal & professional space, outside the campaign space, and the potential for applying Social Media back to all types of organizations.

Let’s take FaceBook at “face” value. The site started out to let college kids take their socializing out of the bars and online. Very similar to what MySpace and dozens of other electronic bulletin boards have been doing for years. I use MySpace & to keep up with my interest in Americana music. FaceBook offers a different, unique critical mass. I followed my wife & teenage stepdaughter onto FaceBook, and since then have found my mom, my dad, my sister, her husband, sisters-in-law, cousins, cousins’ kids, high school buddies, Scout Troop, etc. and so on. It’s a big old small-town family reunion online.

A re-creation of community.

A tool is useful if it creates value beyond the cost of using that tool. Social Media takes time to be of value. The Care and Feeding of FaceBook is a huge potential timesink, but also provides a useful way to keep up with folks who are important in my personal life; potentially useful in my professional life.

For a lot of people, community is the sine qua non. I’m not a lot of people so my thoughts have limited usefulness in the larger world.

And the larger world is a very different question. There are huge numbers of people floating around the different group pages, fan pages, etc.. Some people have hundreds or thousands of FaceBook “friends”. How do you keep up with that many people?!? At that point I don’t see the forest for the trees. This simple conundrum didn’t really sink in for me until I got on Twitter the first part of December…