The world is a fascinating place — my office, not so much. So why do I spend so much time inside that cube? Well, it's where my work is done. Why? It's where my computer is. Why? Because it's where our network, our filing cabinets, our desks, and our coat hooks are. Huh? In truth, it's because it is where our habits and history tell us to go each morning.
Time to think outside the box, er, cube — especially now that we are gearing up for the LensWork Roadshow travels.
So, just in case any of you are interested, here is a quick rundown on the steps we are taking to be mobile and productive — and to meet the deadlines on our publishing schedule for LensWork and LensWork Extended while we are away from the office.
To keep in touch with each other, we are using a wonderful new software called Unison. It's a combination of:
- Instant messaging — both real-time asynchronous chats
- Popup notifications
- Skype-like audio and video calling
- Conference audio calling
It runs on PCs, iPads, Android tablets, and smartphones. Very functional and great quality. For staff discussions, we've stopped using Skype entirely because of Unison's quality and ease of use. Even the phones and our cell phones are being used less and less.
We've moved all our production files to cloud-based storage using Box. Box is sort of like Dropbox on steroids, expanded for serious team collaboration on large-file projects like publishing. Essentially, this is a remotely accessible replacement for the in-house servers we've used in the past. This is a radically new workflow for us, but it seems to be functioning pretty well in our first couple of weeks with it — at least we are smoothing out the few wrinkles as we go.
For the last several years, we've worked intensely with Microsoft OneNote to manage all our projects, task lists, and group collaboration. Up to now, we've store all our "notebooks" on our local servers. Fortunately, one of the key components of OneNote is the ability to alternatively store notebooks in the cloud at Microsoft's Skydrive. This allows all of us to have access to the same notebooks and share information fluidly no matter where we are. Real-time syncing allows us all to have the most up-to-date information on the production workflow for the magazine and LensWork Extended. I even have access to these notebooks on my Nexus tablet — albeit with a reduced feature set.
All this cloud stuff is great, but what if there isn't a Wifi portal nearby? That has ceased to be the limiting factor it once was now that Verizon 4G LTE is available so widely. In 2011 during our Roadshow in northern California, we ended up using our smartphones as Wifi hotspots more than we did Wifi connections at hotels. It's not possible to be connected everywhere, but it's more and more likely that connections to the Internet are not a limiting factor in our travel plans. Between Wifi connections available in so many places and 4G LTE where there isn't, there just aren't going to be many times when we are completely snookered.
Exchange server and Outlook
Email is still the most common way to stay in touch and we use it voluminously. Fortunately, by using an Exchange server and a neat little app called Touchdown, we can sync our Outlook email, calendars, tasks, and contact lists from any device we are using — and via 4G if we are outside of a Wifi zone. What is particularly handy about this is that when I am on my computer, I have the exact same data as I have on my phone or laptop — no more post-travel email cleanup.
I've mentioned before how dependent I am on audio notes — my stubby little fingers just don't type that well. I've used dozens of audio recording methods, devices, and workflows. I particularly use audio to record voice email responses and to send the staff notes and ideas via email. Two key tools allow me to do this now so easily that I almost feel guilty. On my Android devices, I use NetMemo, an app that allows me to start a recording with one tap, speak, and then conclude the recording and email it with a second tap. Two taps and I'm done! Fantastic — no cumbersome file transfers, no manual email attachments. The second tool I use constantly when I'm at my computer is NCH's Express Dictate. This software allows me to record audio and send wherever I need it to go with a single click to preprogrammed destinations.
Typing without typing
Elsewhere, I've also mentioned DragonSytems NaturallySpeaking voice recognition transcription software. I speak, it types for me. Lots of people use it and it's even more popular now because of the iPad app version. While I'm mobile, I use it all the time because of one aspect that is often overlooked: its ability to transcribe directly from a recorded audio file — an MP3, for example. I simply record a dictation to an audio file using "Dragonspeak" (See Jim run period go comma Jim comma go exclamationpoint), then simply upload the audio file to my computer and have NaturallySpeaking transcribe it to text directly from the MP3 — while I go have lunch. You have no idea the lengths I'll go to so as to avoid typing.
In my next Tech Blog post, I'll outline mobile strategies for my photography. There are some new developments there, too, that are amazing.