Oil: Its status and options

Recently, Eric Britton of ecoplan (and the dynamo behind the Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge) asked some of us for comments regarding possible long-term energy policy issues and options. His specific request was:

Given what you know about the long term needs, trends and prospects, (and please do specify a bit, is that out to 2020, 2030, 2050 and/or beyond), would you help us to understand what you think governments and policy makers at various levels, the key industrial and financial groups, and others should be concentrating their attention on in the next 3-4 years, say from 2007 to 2010?

Here’s my initial response to Eric’s request:

Continue reading Oil: Its status and options

The Snarl factor

What got me started investigating telecommuting in the 1970s was snarled traffic. As LA’s population grew so did the traffic jams. We all looked forward to the opening of a new freeway between home and work. It was only later, sometimes as soon as a few months, that we learned, or relearned, Parkinson’s Law of freeways: Traffic grows to clog the roads available. Over a period of three decades it always seemed to take half an hour to forty minutes to get to the office 16 miles (26 km) away, regardless of the number of “improvements” in the freeways. Now, of course, a forty-minute commute is on a good day. That is, it would be if I were still commuting. The snarls keep increasing.

But there’s another snarl problem. Continue reading The Snarl factor

UNAIMIT lives!

Roughly two decades ago, when I was still in charge of the Information Technology Program of the Center for Futures Research at the University of Southern California, my associate, Omar El Sawy, and I cooked up a seminar for prospective entrepreneurs. Omar called the seminar project UNAIMIT, an acronym whose meaning I have forgotten. The idea was to engage the seminar attendees into developing a plan for a new technology-based business. We decided that the fledgling business would be a custom, high tech shoe factory.

The technology twist was that there would be a small laser scanner that would develop a 3 dimensional computer model of the prospective shoe purchaser’s feet. This model would then be sent to another computer that would select the shoe components, shapes, colors and sizes in accordance with the model and the customer’s fashion decisions. An automated, customized, guaranteed-to-fit pair of shoes would be produced at an affordable price! The engineering details would be handled after the seminar.

Continue reading UNAIMIT lives!

Telework and Telelife: Tell it to the judge

One of the key components of a successful telework program is the set of agreements between employer and teleworker. We have always insisted that such agreements are absolutely necessary even for try-it-to-see-if-we-like-it programs.

Just as if to emphasize this credo, Patti Waldemeir’s article Courts define area between life and work in the 25 January 2007 Financial Times makes it clear [you may need a subscription to the FT to read it]. Telework governance has reached the age of litigiousness.

“When work is no longer a place, what are its boundaries?

In America, this is the kind of existential question that judges and juries simply cannot resist. So now, in the early broadband era, US courts are trying to set some hard and fast guidelines for the work-life divide.”

Therefore, in order to preempt a situation in which you find youself or your teleworking employees in court, consider adopting the following rules for agreement between employer and teleworker, at least for starters:

Another misguided survey

On January 17, 2007 the Los Angeles Times Business section had an article titled: Telecommuters may go nowhere — careerwise on its front page. The article’s focus was in the third paragraph:

“Telecommuters are less likely to get promoted than peers who head into the office every day, according to a global survey of 1,300 executives released Tuesday [January 16th] by Los Angeles-based executive search firm Korn/Ferry International.”

On the other hand, the article ended with:

“Despite their hesitations, 77% of the executives said they would consider taking a job in which they regularly telecommuted . . . .”

Hmmmm. What’s sauce for the gander . . .

What the survey really shows is widespread ignorance about proper management of teleworkers in general and telecommuters in particular. Continue reading Another misguided survey

The word gets around

In an October article in Network World on the impact on telecommuting of increasing commute distances the following statement was made:

The growing travel times for physical commuting may encourage more businesses to offer telecommuting options if workers consider time traveling to work as wasted. A survey of 1,400 CFOs said offering telecommuting as an option was the second best way to attract top job talent. The best way was offering more money. Continue reading The word gets around

E. M. Forster revisited

One of the issues we worried about in our first test of telecommuting in 1973-74 was the impact of telecommuting on land use. In particular, we were concerned that the location independence feature of telework might induce people to move away from the cities to rural — and particularly to scenic — areas in such numbers as to destroy the primary reason for their move. That was more thirty years ago.

Continue reading E. M. Forster revisited

Déjà vu and progress in Asia

As inventors of the Internet we Americans can sometimes grow overly complacent about our positions as world leaders of high tech applications. Recently I received an indication of my backwardness in the form of an email from a colleague and long-time friend in Indonesia. My friend prompted this exchange by sending me a news item about the email-induced outflow of jobs from London to the more rural communities–all in response to London’s burgeoning gridlock. My reply was: “This is pretty funny since I remember a similar article in The Times, although without the email link, about 30 years ago. Oh how time flies — or not. What has email done for Jakarta traffic so far?” Continue reading Déjà vu and progress in Asia

The march toward telepresence

For years I’ve been saying that available levels of information technology were perfectly adequate for enabling many, if not most, forms of telework.The traditional excuse that “we simply don’t have technology that’s powerful enough to allow telework” was, and is, a red herring for all sorts of useful telework cases. Foremost among the excuses was that telework, via videoconferencing, was too expensive, particularly where face-to-face interaction was felt to be necessary. I used to agree that videoconferencing was too expensive and that therefore some few types of tele-interchange were not practical. After all, high quality videoconferencing setups in the 80s and 90s used to start at $20,000 per seat and go up from there.
Well, no more. Continue reading The march toward telepresence

A rose by any other name. . .

Today I had occasion to address a session of the 11th International Workshop of the International Telework Association on the topic of telework and business continuity (aka disaster preparedness). I used Skype so that I could communicate with the audience in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada while I sat in my office in California.

One of the questions after my talk was about what this subject should now be named since telework and telecommuting were allegedly sooo 20th century. My response was that I coined the terms telework and telecommuting in 1973 and have seen no reason to abandon them Continue reading A rose by any other name. . .