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  • Making your Slides All Things to All People

    Posted on November 25th, 2008 Marieke Guy No comments

    I’ve just run a presentation ‘Think Tank’ at work. This was a very informal brainstorming session where we could talk about how my organisation, UKOLN, can progress with its approach to presentations.

    We discussed our current thoughts on UKOLN presentations, what we liked about other presentations and how this could be applied to our own presentations bearing in mind things like layout, content, colour, animation, branding, fonts, images etc.

    The session went well and there was lots of useful discussion.

    One predicament that came up was how much information should you put in a presentation? (Should you fill it with data or keep it minimalist? What exactly should a presentation do? Should it stand alone as a resource or only work when presented by a presenter?)

    Today, especially in academia where sharing of knowledge is the goal, presentations are increasingly being made available and used after an event has taken place. There is a fashion for ‘amplified conferences’, whereby the outputs (such as plenary talks) can be amplified through use of a variety of network tools and collateral communications and services like Slideshare have made this ‘sharing’ even easier. Even if slides aren’t going online they often end up in conference proceedings.

    Remote workers frequently come to slides after they’ve already been presented. For example here at UKOLN this happens a lot with our internal staff seminars.

    So what do you do? Your slides now need to be all things to all people.

    Having given it some thought there are a number of options:

    • One approach might be to add extra information to the ‘notes’ section in PowerPoint. This could then help those coming to the slides after the event. This information can also be captured by Slideshare.
    • Another might be to create a document to accompany any presentation. In his book Presentation Zen Garr Reynolds feels that most people currently produce what he calls a slideument (slides + document) which in reality doesn’t work. He suggests it would be better to create two separate documents: a slide presentation and a written document that sits alongside it. This is an approach that my team leader and I have been experimenting with through the use of introbytes or briefing papers that we hand out at events (instead of print outs of slides!)
    • You could also try creating two sets of slides. One for use on the stage and another for uploading to a Web site before or after the conference. This will allow you have simpler slides and possibly more of them for on stage and less ‘more information based’ slides for other use. These could be in a more controllable format like PDF. You’ll also feel better about editing your live slides at the very last minute as they are a ‘different set’.

    Are there any other ways we could deal with this catch 22 situation?

  • Wifi Worries

    Posted on November 24th, 2008 Marieke Guy No comments

    After much deliberating my husband has finally allowed me to set up wireless at home. (I’m not under the thumb honest….I let him make all the technology decisions…it’s his little treat!)

    Probably the main reason he has let me do it is to save on heating costs. The plan is that when it’s really cold I’ll work in the warmer south facing rooms. I’m not quite sure if the savings will be substantial (at the moment I have a PC and a laptop plugged in so am using more electricity) but in the summer I’ll be able to get outside to work which will be great.

    So what’s it like then? Well although it is great here are a few not so great observations I’ve made in the past hour:

    Security Issues

    I’m a little concerned about security. My feeling is that I’m not as secure as I would be if I were working from my desk (albeit in the same house) or my office. You need to log on to the wireless connection but is that enough? Badly secured wireless connections mean any one can use the account. To access the University network I use Virtual Private Network (VPN) so that’s one step in the right direction. I’m going to take my laptop in to the office on Monday and make sure that all my security software is up to date.

    The Demon blog suggests issuing a simple set of ‘do’s and don’ts of remote working. This makes sense. Although we have a number of policies relating to the contractual elements of remote working we don’t have much user focused information. I think I’ll suggest this to my IT services team.

    Connection Issues

    The connection is definitely a lot flakier. It takes me longer to open messages and view pages on the Internet. If I wanted to download anything I think I’d go upstairs to do it.

    Health issues

    What about health? Some people have claimed that the electro-magnetic waves are dangerous, especially for children. I tend to turn everything off when I’m not using the PC, including the router/broadband connection. Does this sort out the problem?

    Ho hum…

    On my lunchtime walk into town I noticed that a nearby pub (The Tavern) is having a refurbishment and announces that it will be offering coffee and free wifi when it reopens next week. I live in a pretty small town so this is exciting stuff. I guess there will be even more issues working from there, but I’m looking forward to checking it out!

  • Behind every Cloud is another Cloud

    Posted on November 18th, 2008 Marieke Guy 2 comments

    There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about cloud computing, an umbrella term used to refer to Internet based development and services. The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet. My colleague Paul Walk has identified a number of characteristics define cloud data, applications services and infrastructure in his recent blog post Any any any old data:

    • Remotely hosted – Services or data are hosted on someone else’s infrastructure.
    • Ubiquitous – Services or data are available from anywhere.
    • Commodified – The result is a utility computing model similar to traditional that of traditional utilities, like gas and electricity. You pay for what you would like.

    At the moment use of the cloud provides a number of opportunities:

    • Cloud computing works using economies of scale. It lowers the outlay expense for start up companies, as they would no longer need to buy their own software or servers. Cost would be by on-demand pricing. Vendors and Service providers claim costs by establishing an ongoing revenue stream.
    • Data and services are stored remotely but accessible from ‘anywhere’.
    • It enables services to be used without any understanding of their infrastructure. They are supported remotely.

    The last point in particular could have significant effect on us remote workers.

    At the moment if you work from home it is difficult to get the type of IT support that you would get in the office. This is something I touch in in my recent Ariadne article. If we begin to rely more on services that are hosted in the cloud this will mean that in theory we will need to rely less on our on-site IT services team. In a way everyone will become remote workers and support will be dished out in the same way – from the Internet.

    In parallel there has been significant backlash against cloud computing:

    • Use of cloud computing means dependence on others and that could possibly limit flexibility and innovation. The ‘others’ are likely become the bigger Internet companies like Google and IBM who may monopolise the market. Some argue that this use of supercomputers is a return to the time of mainframe computing that the PC was a reaction against.
    • Security could prove to be a big issue. It is still unclear how safe outsourced data is and when using these services ownership of data is not always clear.
    • There are also issues relating to policy and access. If your data is stored abroad whose FOI policy do you adhere to? What happens if the remote server goes down? How will you then access files? There have been cases of users being locked out of accounts and loosing all access to data.

    I suppose at this stage it might make sense for us not to put all our eggs in one basket so to speak. My colleague Brian Kelly has offered some thoughts on his blog on what outsourced services might actually work in the cloud.

    So what do you think? Do those behind it have their heads in the clouds?

  • Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers

    Posted on November 16th, 2008 Marieke Guy 2 comments


    I have just had an article published in the latest edition of Ariadne. The article looks at the technologies that support remote working, from broadband to Web 2.0 social networking tools. It covers:

    • What Do Home Workers Want?
    • Connecting – Broadband, Virtual Private Network, Wireless
    • Communication Technologies – E-mail, Telephony, Voice over Internet Protocol, Virtual Meetings, Online Chat, File Transfer, Blogs
    • Collaboration Technologies – Wikis, Shared Applications, Project Management
    • Social Networking
    • Technical Support – Security Technologies
    • Case Studies
    • Putting It All Together

    It is an introductory piece, so if you are interested in any particular areas you will need to delve deeper, or follow the blog, but hopefully it will offer a starter for 10 for people who have just become, or are thinking about becoming, remote workers.

  • Who's the Bestest Broadband Broker?

    Posted on November 13th, 2008 Marieke Guy 1 comment

    This week the Gadget show looked into the best broadband deals.

    They tested each provider for speed and download limit. Much to my husband’s delight our current provider Zen came top for customer service, they’ve also recently won the Which award for the best Broadband provider.

    O2 won the title of best all round deal, being both cheap and fast. Sky also came highly recommended.

    Deciding on the best broadband supplier for your area can be difficult, but broadband finders such as broadband.co.uk and broadband finder will allow users to search for broadband providers using their own specifications. Many will assess what type of usage allowance you will need (light, medium or heavy) based on your Internet usage activity and the speed of access you require. The Gadget show also recommend Simplify Digital, as you can actually speak to a real person on the phone! Limits on broadband range from 1Gb a month to 30Gb or unlimited use.

    Unlimited use is an interesting one. The Gadget show are currently running a campaign attempting to stop some of the UK’s Internet Service Providers advertising their broadband services as having unlimited downloads. Many put a block on users who have over excessive use. The Consumer Choices blog provide a good explanation of the issues.

  • Blurred Boundaries

    Posted on November 10th, 2008 Marieke Guy 4 comments

    The update of some internal work policies led to me reading one on Home use of equipment. I was surprised to see that the policy states:

    Equipment purchased or leased made available to an individual member of staff for use at home should be used solely in connection with work. There should be no personal use of such equipment.

    This policy was written in 2000 and in line for updating. I’m sure management would be very reluctant to enforce it. However it got me thinking about the blurred boundaries between work and play for remote workers and the sticky predicament it could put people in.

    A few thoughts:

    • I can hardly swing a cat in the room I use for work, let alone squeeze another PC in it!!
    • Sometimes I log on to do something for home but get sidetracked into doing something for work.
    • Having two PCs set up for home and personal use would be time consuming to maintain – I use Skype for work and to contact my parents-in-law, I’d have to have it set up on both machines
    • I often use my own digital camera and mobile phone for work use, is this OK?
    • I use my own phone for work and often get calls out of hours and on my days off because I use my home number
    • I use many applications for work and home use (e.g. Facebook), should I be doing this? Should I have two user names?
    • What about work out of hours? What about my lunch break – am I allowed to do my online banking then?

    I want to maintain work/home boundaries but it is tricky (the issue of when to switch off is something I’ve discussed before). The boundaries are blurred and the rise of ubiquitous computing is only going to make them more so. I am a responsible person who knows where to draw the line (for example if I want an external hard drive to store family photos on I buy it myself, work only pays for stuff I need for work).

    I think organisational policies are going to have to be pragmatic and move with the times. No matter how hard we try there are points when…
    work = play
    play = work.

    What do people think?

  • What Kind of a Person Blogs?

    Posted on November 4th, 2008 Marieke Guy No comments

    ….apparently a neurotic one according to the latest research. Oh sorry, that only applies to females…great.

    Researchers from the British Psychological Society asked 300 hundred students about their blogging habits and asked them to complete the Big Five Personality Inventory.

    Around 20 per cent of the students blogged, mostly about their personal experiences. Among female students only, those who scored highly on neuroticism (i.e. anxious, insecure characters) were more likely to blog. This is consistent with work on internet usage that also found an association with neurotic personality types, but only among women. The researchers surmised that nervous women may blog to “assuage loneliness or in an attempt to reach out and form social connections with others.”

    Funny how that research makes me feel a little anxious…