Living in the Cloud

Created: Wednesday, 15 February 2012 Written by Gary Elsbernd

Once upon a time, boys and girls, we had a computer.  In my case, it was an Apple IIc with a floppy drive and 128k of internal memory.  It was a large and bulky thing with a lot of wires and a heavy green-screen CRT monitor and stuff, and even though it had carry handles and was billed as “portable,” we left it on a desk at home.  If we wanted to do something on the computer, we had to go home to that desk.  When we wanted to show what we were working on to someone else, we either printed it out or copied it to a floppy disk and prayed that the person we were sharing it with had the same kind of computer with the same version of software.  If they didn’t, we were out of luck.

Fast forward 30 years. Today, I am no longer tied to a single device. The internet has become my “PC” – Personal Cloud.  I have two laptops, a chromebook, two tablets and a mobile phone.  They all access my data real-time through the internet, so synchronization is not an issue.  My email, contacts, calendar, documents and music are all online.  Regardless of what device I’m on, or even if I own the device, I can securely access my data to get the job done.  The software is a service in my cloud, so I don’t need to install a program on a local device.  As long as I can get a browser and onto the internet, I have everything I need.  Jumping between devices isn’t an issue when the contact I saved on my phone is automatically available on any device I use to access the internet.  My family is the same way, so we can share a device and the customization is done online for us.

One efficiency tip I’ve heard over and over through the years is you shouldn’t maintain multiple calendars.  Everything should be visible at once.  With Google Calendar, I can see a combined view of multiple private and public calendars, and give people access to mine.  Iif I schedule something on my calendar, it is automatically available to my family.  Group calendars, such as for Boy Scouts or the Marching Band, are included in my view so I know how many conflicting events I have.  When someone asks if I’m free on a given day, I no longer have to tell them I’ll check with the paper calendar at home and get back to them.  My calendar rides in the cloud.

I review and edit papers with my college daughter on Google Docs.  She writes the paper and adds comments and questions, then sends me the link.  I can see her paper and we can even interact real-time within the document.  After I make suggestions and comments, I can watch her make the edits.  I do the same thing with organization meeting agendas.  People on the list can add to the collaborative agenda throughout the month so we don’t have to remember to bring something up.  This was nearly impossible before the cloud.

I’ve nearly gone paperless at work.  I take notes on my tablet using Evernote and can access them on any device anywhere.  The tablet is smaller, lighter and more portable; the battery lasts all day.  The tablet is large enough that typing isn’t an issue, and the autoprompt and autocorrect can actually increase your speed once you get used to it.  One of my favorite advantages the tablet has over paper is the ability to take a photo of the white board we’ve been brainstorming on directly into my notes.  When I’m back at my desk, I can review the notes online and sort by tags or do a full-text search through hundreds of notes to find the information I’m looking for. When I’m away from my desk, all of my notes are always with me, either through my laptop, tablet or phone, or even someone else’s computer.  Try doing that with paper.

The only reason I switch between devices now is for convenience (laptops are easier to type large blocks of text, tablets for watching movies, etc.) or for a tool that hasn’t been ported to the Internet.  I’m starting to resent applications like Axure that require a dedicated installation at one device. In the cloud, I don’t have to worry about whether my software is up to date, or if my version is compatible with yours.  The cloud updates for all of us.  I also have not run into a cloud-based application that costs more than $10.  $600 for Office? When Google Docs is free?  Sure, it does things I can’t do in Google Docs, but the price difference has caused me to rethink a lot of application loyalties.

To be fair, the risk online is greater.  Servers could be hacked, the system can go down, the cloud is outside my control.  If I don’t have access to a wireless network, I have to work tethered to my phone.  If I don’t have a 3G connection on my phone, I’m out of luck.  But really, if I am that remote, I don’t really need to be on my devices.  The risks have to be weighed against the convenience and capabilities, and for me, that decision is easy.

The cloud is where I live, and where everyone will live in the future.  The cloud democratizes computing, in that everyone has access to the power and reach of the Internet. The cloud allows for faster and greater collaboration and sharing and connects us as never before.

Quote subtlety in social media

Created: Monday, 04 July 2011 Written by Gary Elsbernd

Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other social media structure, posting quotes is a fun pasttime. Quotes can bring back a feeling or memory from another time. Quotes can point out how often the same themes and principles come up. Often quotes from television, movies, songs or high profile people in the spotlight can spin a tale that’s fun for you and your followers to unravel.

I started using Twitter to goof off with my college friends. We would send obscure quotes from the 80s and 90s to see who had the most useless trivia in their heads. The harder it was to guess, the more respect the quoter would get. Also, the longer the quote thread could go without revealing the source, the more fun we had. Quotes that were too popular or too simple brought mockery. ]

When, however, an obscure quote or line is posted, the best way to show that you understand is to reciprocate with a quote or line of your own. For example, the correct response to: “We were below the hard-deck for just a few seconds. I had the shot. There was no danger, so I took it.” would be, “So you took it? AND BROKE A MAJOR RULE OF ENGAGEMENT???????” not, “Top Gun!” Try to respond to clever with clever.

Don’t spoil the fun for everyone else.

Status Challenge

Created: Wednesday, 05 August 2009 Written by Gary Elsbernd

Years ago, as a writer friend of mine was struggling to maintain his creativity in a university IT shop (yes, I’m talking about you, Kevin), I thought I would help out by giving him random phrase to work into his weekly status updates.  As I got more and more random, he had funnier and funnier status updates.  I like to think I saved what was left of his sanity.

Recently, a series of deadly boring teleconferences resurrected this game.  Holly, a colleague of mine, was giving her status update when I instant messaged her to work the word “hiccup” into her update.  Without missing a beat, Holly spoke of the server hiccup that required a restart.  Thus, the Status Challenge was reborn.

Every week, I will twitter a word.  Your challenge is to work it into your status (update, meeting, report, whatever) without arousing suspicion.  This week’s word was “crawdad.”  You may choose to use the word as a folksy metaphor “We’ll wait for that crawdad to grow a bit first”, an interesting comparison, “I love that idea more than crawdad gumbo!”, or as an intentional malapropism, “That really sticks in my crawdad” to work it in.  However, if someone calls you on what you’re doing, you get no points.  Award yourself points for using the word, more if no one comments, and even more for style.

If you want to play, follow my twitter @gelsbernd, but let me know by sending me a DM with #statuschallenge in the message.

Good luck!

P.S.  Don’t play this with Jason – he wants to suggest impossible words such as “vas deferens” – look it up.

40th Anniversary of the Moon Walk

Created: Tuesday, 21 July 2009 Written by Gary Elsbernd

There is so much being made of the 40th anniversary of the moonwalk going on this week (rightly so).  Here’s some more facts you might not have heard:

The Boy Scouts of America teaches young people to be good citizens and trains them to become leaders. These qualities are also found in the U.S. astronaut program.

Of the 312 pilots and scientists selected as astronauts since 1959, at least 207 have been identified as having been Scouts or active in Scouting.  The list includes:

  • 39 Eagle Scouts
  • 25 Life Scouts
  • 14 Star Scouts
  • 26 First Class Scouts
  • 17 Second Class Scouts
  • 13 Tenderfoot Scouts
  • 3 Explorers
  • 10 Webelos Scouts
  • 25 Cub Scouts
  • 1 King’s Scout
  • 2 Wolf Scouts
  • 32 with unknown ranks, including 27 who were Girl Scouts.

Of the 27 men to travel to the moon on the Apollo 9 through Apollo 17 missions, 24 were Scouts, including 11 of the 12 men who physically walked on the moon’s surface, and all three members of the crew of Apollo 13.

All three of the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire, four of the seven who died in the Challenger launch explosion, and five of the seven who died in the Columbia re-entry explosion were Scouts.

 

This week makes me proud to be both an American and a Boy Scout.