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  • Digital Identity Dilemmas

    Posted on June 15th, 2009 Marieke Guy 4 comments

    On Saturday (5am in the UK) Facebook allowed users to select a vanity URL which will point to their regular profile page. Naturally there was a mad rush to capture the ‘best identities‘ and some people just weren’t quick enough (further discussed by Brian Kelly on his blog).

    Once users have selected a name they are not able to change it or transfer it. Digital identity experts urged users to give some thought to their choice.

    Why a Vanity URL?

    Well firstly having a number for your ID isn’t particularly user friendly. This new approach will make it easier for users to share their profile pages and link to other people’s pages. There may also be other reasons too. Mike Nolan suggests 3 possibles on his blog:

    • OpenID Provider: Facebook are being forced to become more open, and one way which gives the illusion of openness is OpenID. It’s similar to Facebook Connect and an easy thing for them to offer while still forcing you to log in with them.
    • Jabber/XMPP: They’ve already announced that they were going to open up Facebook chat to connect with third party services such as Google Talk. It will be based on XMPP which uses email-like addresses to reference accounts. A username is almost essential for this to be easy to use.
    • Email: Many – especially younger people – already use Facebook mail considerably more than regular email accounts so I imagine they’ll allow you to use your username@facebook.com as an email address. I just hope they’ve got good spam filters!

    Digital Identity

    Digital identity refers to the aspect of digital technology that is concerned with the mediation of people’s experience of their own identity and the identity of other people and things. Wikipedia

    Our digital identity is becoming a big issue. Twitter have recently begun verifying accounts and many Facebook urls are already being sold for hard cash. The problem for many people, especially early adopters, is that they didn’t realise the significance of user names when they started registering for all these services. As Lorcan Dempsey explains the result is a fractured online identity. In in a Facebook note based on an old blog post Lorcan talks about his (and Andy Powell of Eduserv’s) quests to centre their decentralised identity and consolidate their network presence.

    It seems clear that managing our network presences and the relationships between them is becoming of more interest. And this cuts across previous boundaries – between work, family and friends, for example – in different ways.

    Digital Identity for our Children

    Lorcan also touches on the issue of digital identity and naming of children. This resonates strongly with me. Having a Dutch Mother and a Dutch name (Marieke) and an Scottish/English Father I grew up with a pretty unusual name (Marieke Napier). Even my married name (Marieke Guy) is rare and I’ve yet to come across any other online people with the same name. You only need to do a quick Google search for me to see that as far as Marieke Guys go I’m the Webs number 1 (5,020 hits). Having a clear digital presence is quite straightforward for me. I don’t have people queuing up to steal my name and this morning registered http://www.facebook.com/mariekeguy with no problem. No getting up at dawn for me!

    The irony of all this is that I have 3 children who, despite our best efforts to be original but not too wacky, now have pretty common names: Catrin, Keira and Zak. My husband’s name is Andrew, but at University he decided to rename himself Bill (his middle name) in order to distinguish himself from his other 3 friends (also called Andrew). There are moments when while sat at toddler singing-group with 2 other Zaks (or Zacs or Zacks), a Zachary and an Isaac (my son’s registered name) I bemoan that I didn’t call him Andrew – at least there are no babies being called that name these days!

    Anyway it seems to me that my children will have to join the orderly queue when it comes to assigning their digital identity. Or maybe we’ll be doing things differently then and a quick retina scan will do the trick!

    Any other Marieke Guy’s out there? Anyone have problems registering their Facebook url? Anyone totally opposed to the whole digital identity movement?

  • A Support Framework for Remote Workers

    Posted on June 14th, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    Last week Ariadne Web magazine published my article on A Support Framework for Remote Workers.

    The article is the last in a series of three I’ve written on remote working for Ariadne. The first A Desk Too Far?: The Case for Remote Working was a look at the pros and cons of working off-site, the second Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers looked at technologies that can support you if you are working off-site and the third one takes a look at what we have done in the past, and are now doing, for UKOLN off-site workers. It is an attempt to show that if a commitment is made by an organisation to its remote workers then with some little changes the benefits can be huge (happy, motivated staff who stay with you!)

    This article aims to discuss how we, here at UKOLN, have put this theory into practice by creating a support framework for remote workers. It is a case study of what can be done with enthusiastic staff, support from managers and faith in an iterative process. It is also a reality check. Remote working continues to be an aspiration for so many yet the reality is not always plain sailing. However what remote working does offer, if it can be realised, is choice and flexibility; two increasingly required job characteristics that let the best employees work to the best of their ability.

    Some of the content of the article is based on posts I’ve written for this blog. I really have found the blog to be a very useful way to record what we are up to and a great way to get feedback from people.

    If you do want some ideas on how to start supporting your remote workers more than please take a look.

  • Amplified Conferences: Are We There Yet?

    Posted on June 11th, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    This year’s Eduserv Symposium 2009, held on Thursday 21st May, 2009 at the Royal College of Physicians, London, was titled ‘Evolution or revolution: The future of identity and access management for research’. Interesting…but not really my cup of tea.

    What was my cup of tea was the way the event was amplified. Eduserv used a company called Switch New Media to pull together a number of resources including the live stream, the programme, live Twitter feed, live blog (Scribble Live) and speaker details. (Apparently Switch New Media were also involved in the amplification of the JISC Conference and the JISC Libraries of the Future event in Oxford).

    The video footage itself was incredible, there were a number of different camera angles, close ups and long shots of the audience. For me the only thing that seemed to be missing was the actual slides (though these were shown as part of the stream footage).

    Eduserv also provided a social network prior to the event and had a number of staff attending to remote attendee needs. For example I saw Mike Ellis from Eduserv ask a speaker a question after discussion with a remote attendee through the live blogging.

    The Eduserv Symposium Home page

    The Eduserv Symposium Home page

    I’ve dipped into a number of streamed events but have to say that this is the first time I have felt like the only thing I was missing was the coffee break banter and the lunch queue!

    The CILIP in Scotland 09 event was also recently streamed and the team were keen to try out new amplified approaches. Ian Edelman, Web manager at Hants Council wrote an interesting post entitled At least I didn’t have to go to Scotland on his experience of the event.

    He comments:

    I did, however, feel dislocated from the action and not seeing the speaker made it more difficult to follow the presentation. Sound quality could have been better. I had to move through the slides myself rather than the speaker doing it, so a couple of times I got out of sync. But all in all it worked and as technology improves the experience should as well.

    Brian Kelly also wrote a blog post on CILIP2.0 event held in London not long before the Scottish CILIP event. In his post the Lessons Learnt from the Amplification of the CILIP2 Event he talks in more detail about specifics (mainly technical) that could have improved the day.

    So are we there yet?

    Live streaming, sharing resources and remote attendance of conference is becoming pretty mainstream so the question is really are we there yet? In the past I’ve tried to follow events but unless I was really keen to see a speaker I’ve always ended up turning off and getting on with something else. The experience just didn’t work for me.

    I’m no expert on the technologies involved in streaming an event but appreciate that not all organisations can pay for a dedicated company to ensure all the pieces fit together, however these days most technologies needed can be used for free. So assuming that the technology isn’t a problem what are the most important factors and what do we still have to learn? Note that I’m talking here as a user/consumer of the event – not as an event provider.

    • Inform people before the event – make sure you let people know what is happening in advance, put the details out there (on your Web site, on your blog, on Twitter etc.) Share tags and location of resources.
    • Involve them before the event – Allow them to be part of the community, join in any social networking, chat etc.
    • Keep it together – Have a main page for the event and if possible embedd all your the resources on it. Link to everything. Something like the Onetag idea might be a start.
    • Give remote people a voice – Have someone monitor Twitter and any live blogging, pass on their feedback to speakers and ask their questions for them. Have a remote contact for the event.
    • Inform people after the event – make sure you continue to let people know where all the resources are and attempt to get any screen casts up as quickly as possible.
    • Follow it up – Try and get feedback from remote attendees, check blog post on the event, have a look at your stats. Take all you learn on board.

    I’m sure there is more too it than that but right now it seems to be very much about making people feel involved.

    I’d add to this list an issue for those actually at an event but relating to amplifying of it – respect your delegates. There can be issues with filming delegates, especially when taking close up footage. There are many ways to deal with this: for example by asking people to agree to be filmed when booking to attend, or by asking them when they arrive. This is could be too dictatorial so another option might be to offer a no-go filming area in the auditorium.

    At UKOLN we’ve been amplifying conferences for some time (See Brian Kelly’s post back from September 2007) but we are always learning. I’m going to try and take as much of this on board as I can when I sit in the other side of the fence and offer video streaming of an event I organise: The Institutional Web Management Workshop 2009. Any feedback will be much appreciated!

  • We are Café Commuters!

    Posted on June 8th, 2009 Marieke Guy 1 comment

    In the past few months we’ve talked about remote working, remoter remote working (from Canada), working beyond the office and working just about anywhere in the world!

    For those less hell bent on travel, working from your local coffee shop can be a very relaxing and therapeutic alternative to the hum drum of office life. Lori Thiessen and Gregg Taylor of Coffee Shop Office, Vancouver have perfected the art!

    Gregg and I were delighted when Marieke Guy of UKOLN asked us to write a guest post for her blog. Like Marieke, we are advocates of remote working. Upon Marieke’s suggestion, we will tell you a little about our café commuting experiences.

    Gregg and Lori at Esquires on the launch day of their project

    Gregg and Lori at Esquires on the launch day of their project

    Gregg Taylor is an award-winning career coach and employment trends expert in Vancouver, British Columbia. For almost 20 years, Gregg has been the President of Transitions Career and Business Consultants. As his company has grown, office space has become somewhat cramped and the noise levels have increased. Gregg began to take ‘out-of-office’ work days in order to focus on specific projects outside of the hectic pull of his office.

    Unfortunately, Gregg didn’t have internet access from his home so he began using his local coffee shop which did. What was also great about working from the coffee shop was that there weren’t the distractions found at home like the Kilimanjaro-sized pile of laundry. And the coffee was always piping hot and the staff handled the clean-up.

    One day Gregg was looking around the coffee shop and he saw that other people were hovering over their laptops like he was. He struck up conversations with different ones and politely asked what they were working on. Some were students working on homework. Others were business people taking an ‘out-of-office’ work day. Still others were writers working on their latest creation.

    //www.flickr.com/photos/latteart/2547757031/ by confusedbeeOver time, Gregg developed friendships with some of these fellow cafe commuters. In fact, Gregg has enlisted the help of a couple of these cafe commuter colleagues (a marketing person and a self-publishing specialist) for the Coffee Shop Office project.

    His friends and colleagues are now so familiar with Gregg’s alternate office, the Esquires on West 16th and Oak in Vancouver that they will ask him if he is going to be at the head office, the satellite office or his coffee shop office. He’s even held staff meetings at the coffee shop because it is a half way point between his two offices and it is easier for the managers to meet in the middle.

    My experience as a café commuter was pretty much nil until Gregg asked me to help him with the Coffee Shop Office project. I was intrigued with the idea though and I knew that the coffeehouses of 18th century London were often used by their patrons for conducting their own business. Lloyd’s of London, the international marine insurance company, began during this time in Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse in London’s dockyards. The idea of investigating the current remote working trend sounded very interesting and great fun so I was excited to join Gregg in this venture.

    Most of my work history consists of administrative jobs that required me to be in the office supporting the work of others so I’ve had little opportunity to sample the café commuter life. When I was a student, I was generally too financially embarrassed to splash out on several coffees a week and I didn’t want to sit in a café nursing one small coffee for several hours at a time. The café owner needs to make a living too.

    Since 2007, however, I’ve taken the plunge into the entrepreneurial world. Scriptorium Ink is my little concern and I do writing, editing and research. I’ve met with a few prospective clients at the coffee shop because I don’t have a ‘proper’ office and my home office is, well, in my home. Until I bought a laptop, I was chained, or rather cabled, to my home office. With the laptop came the freedom to work from virtually wherever I chose.

    Gregg and I conduct most of our project meetings at the Esquires coffee shop. The barista/owner knows us very well by now as do most of Gregg’s coffee shop office colleagues. They are very kind and often inquire about the progress of the project.

    One of the hazards of being with this project is the urge to eavesdrop on conversations in coffee shops. I’m so curious to know what other cafe commuters are doing around me that my ears are continually flapping. I’ve heard an accountant advising a client, someone being instructed in Hebrew, a wardrobe consultant conducting a first interview with her client, and a photographer discussing some creative ideas with his assistant just to name a few.

    Gregg and I are proud to be part of this diverse and wide-spread community. We are also pleased to network with other café commuters to exchange stories as well as share information to make remote working easier and viable for more and more people.

    Thank you, Marieke, for this opportunity to share our café commuting stories.


  • The Highs and Lows of Remote Working in the UK

    Posted on June 5th, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    I’ve had my first guest blog post published on the Coffee Shop Office blog.

    The post is a little look at the ‘remote working situation’ over here in the UK (in comparison to that in North America/Canada).

    Gregg Taylor and Lori Thiessen from Coffee Shop Office have returned the favour and written a guest post for me, which will be published next week.

  • So What is Remote Access Anyway?

    Posted on June 3rd, 2009 Marieke Guy 3 comments

    In response to my blog post on 12 Ways Remote Workers can Prove they are Working Luck suggested:

    Why not to use remote access software? You access your office PC from home and work remotely. The monitor may be turned on and so your manager will see that you are really working.

    Hey, I’m willing to have a look at anything my readers suggest so here goes…

    To date my experience of remote access software has been limited to a brief experience I had a good few months back when our IT systems team used Microsoft remote assistance (for XP) to fix a problem with my PC. The process was completed in tandem using instructions in a word document and over the phone. I just had to ‘invite’ a systems person to help me, set up security measures i.e. a password and we were off and running. It was all pretty straightforward.

    Looking more closely into remote access isn’t so straightforward. I’m not really clear on the difference between remote access, remote desktop and remote assistance and Wikipedia isn’t really helping. So far I’ve come up with:

    • Remote administration – taking over someone’s desktop remotely
    • Remote access – the ability to get access to a computer or a network from a remote distance
    • Remote desktop – a software or operating service feature allowing graphical applications to be run remotely on a server, while being displayed locally.
    • Remote control – see remote access

    There seems to be a lot of overlap between the use of these terms. The main thing I’m concerned with here is how can you (or someone else) control your PC if you are a long way away and suddenly need to get in to it.

    As the PCStats guide puts it: “the ability to access files and information on your computer over the Internet is useful for work and play, as well as being just plain impressive in a geeky kind of way.”

    The guide talks about technologies that enable this kind of access which tend to fall into one of two categories:
    1) accessing files remotely
    2) accessing and controlling the desktop remotely

    File Access

    As a remote worker I often need to access files that are stored in a different location. I tend to use Virtual Private Network (VPN)to do this. I’ve talked about this more in my articles (for example Staying Connected: Technologies Supporting Remote Workers).

    Remote Access

    Remote access of your desktop brings your entire desktop over to the computer you are currently using. So it’s like using your computer as you would if you were sat in front of it.

    Ideally, the entire working environment of your computer is brought over the wire to wherever you are currently sitting, eliminating the need for synchronizing files between laptops and desktops. Whether you are working away from home or office, or simply allowing users to access their data from any web enabled location it doesn’t matter.” (PCStats guide)

    There are lots of commercial programmes that can do the job for you including Access Remote PC, Team viewer, 01 and remotely anywhere. A good list of remote desktop software and comparison of their features is available from Wikipedia.

    Obviously there are a few issues with remote access. The main one is security, it pays to make sure you are using a secure system. Also remote access of a computer is often a lot slower than if you were sat at your machine and there is sometimes a lag. The slower the connection (or the further away the computer you are trying to access is) the less responsive the mouse and key strokes. That said remote access is usually necessary for a particular task or in an urgent situation rather than a long-term solution so a time-delay is only a small issue.

    So that’s my brief introduction to remote access. There is a lot more to cover but I’ll save that for another day…

  • Terminal Wanderlust

    Posted on June 1st, 2009 Marieke Guy No comments

    //www.ontdesign.com/)Browsing blogs I’ve noticed a bit of a trend of people using remote working to live globally. For those working in technical areas most work is carried out by email rather than face-to-face or using the phone. VOIP technologies like Skype and Vontage allow people to set up ‘local’ numbers that then forward on to another Skype number or even a mobile number. As I discussed earlier this month the time zone issue is something you can overcome if you are willing to work flexible hours. For some people the only limits are connectivity, the country’s communications infrastructure and the cost of living there.

    I’ve read about people who are doing this and not even telling the organisation they work for or the clients they deal with!

    This sort of remote working takes Amanda Hill’s Remote remote working and Paul Boag’s Beyond the office working to another level!

    Oh if only I were 10 years younger, didn’t have a mortgage, or a family, or cats, or a vegetable patch….. ;-)

    The term Terminal Wanderlust is one I first heard used in Generation X by Douglas Coupland.

    A condition common to people of transient middle-class upbringings. Unable to feel rooted in any one environment, the move continually in hopes of finding an idealized sense of community in the next location.

    I used to think it applied to me…I think it still does but responsibilities are like sticky mud….