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  • feedwordpress 21:13:25 on 2020/07/19 Permalink
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    Corner Office Interview 


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    If you pick up a print edition of the Sunday New York Times today you’ll see the Corner Office interview with David Gelles in the business section.

    (Hat tip to Mary Conrad for the picture, I haven’t seen it in person yet.)

    A quote that seems to be resonating with people,

    This column is called Corner Office, and most people who choose to have offices are usually the bosses. And I’ve been to the offices of billionaire C.E.O.s that have their own private bathroom, beautiful art and couches. But these are all things that you can have in your house. What I love about distributed organizations is every single employee can have a corner office.

    Sometimes my corner office has been the corner of an airport floor next to a power outlet! I’ve also heard from colleagues that feel like their office feels like an unsupervised day care center since the quarantine started. The point I want to make is there’s a world of possibility that opens up when you move from the finite space of a shared office, and all the politics of dividing up the scarce resource of desirable space, to the infinite game where people can define their own “office” as the place where they will be most productive, and do so however they like with no penalties or restraints.

    If you had the best space in the legacy office, you probably liked it and may even have had motivated reasoning around ineffable things that happened in the office like “culture” that would be impossible without it, but the average experience of an entry-level worker was not as positive. Now there can be a much more even playing field. At Automattic we have a home office allowance people can use to buy equipment they need to make their home work area comfortable and productive, and it’s the same if you’re leading a team of hundreds or if it’s your first job.

    If you’d like to hear the entire conversation they’ve posted the original audio and interview that was distilled into the print version.

     
  • feedwordpress 18:41:58 on 2020/06/26 Permalink
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    Combating Epidemics With Internet 


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    In 2006 David Eagleman, who wrote one of my favorite books, Sum, wrote a letter published in Nature:

    Kathleen Morrison, in News & Views (“Failure and how to avoid it” Nature 440, 752–754; 2006), notes that societies have often prevented collapse by adopting new technological strategies. In today’s world, where one of the most-talked about prospects for collapse is an epidemic of infectious disease, it is worth remembering that perhaps we already have the technological strategy to avoid it — the Internet.

    Remote working, made possible by the Internet (‘telepresence’), is already a key component of national and business pandemic plans. Telepresence can inhibit viral transmission by reducing human-to-human contact. Prepared organizations can leverage telepresence to allow continued productivity and functioning of supply chains during an outbreak.

    He explores these ideas as well in his Long Now talk in April 2010, in which he talked about Six Easy Steps to Avert the Collapse of Civilization. Here’s an excerpt from that talk covering telepresence and telemedicine. Both videos have had under a thousand views so far. When you watch this remember that it was April, 2010!

     
  • feedwordpress 18:39:23 on 2020/06/05 Permalink
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    Follow-up Questions from WCEU 


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    Matias and I just finished up the discussion and Q&A for the online WordCamp Europe that is going on right now, which was originally happening in Porto.

    As soon as the recording video is up I’ll put it right here.

    There were more good questions than we had time to get to, so at the end I suggested that we continue the conversation here, in the comments section! Comments are the best part of blogging.

    So if you have a question we didn’t get to, please drop it below. If you don’t have a Gravatar yet now’s a good time to make one.

     
  • feedwordpress 23:54:33 on 2020/05/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , livestreaming   

    Stream Like a CEO 


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    When Bill Gates was on Trevor Noah’s show it was amazing how much better quality his video was. I had experimented with using a Sony camera and capture card for the virtual event we did in February when WordCamp Asia was canceled, but that Trevor Noah video and exchanging some tweets with Garry Tan sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, even after I was on-record with The Information saying a simpler setup is better.

    The quality improved, however something was still missing: I felt like I wasn’t connecting with the person on the other side. When I reviewed recordings, especially for major broadcasts, my eyes kept looking at the person on the screen rather than looking at the camera.

    Then I came across this article about the Interrotron, a teleprompter-like device Errol Morris would to make his Oscar-winning documentaries. Now we’re onto something!

    Illustration by Steve Hardie

    For normal video conferencing a setup this nice is a distraction, but if you’re running for political office during a quarantine, a public company CEO talking to colleagues and the press, here’s a cost-is-no-object CEO livestreaming kit you can set up pretty easily at home.

    GEAR GUIDE

    Basically what you do is put the A7r camera, shotgun mic, and the lens together and switch it to video mode, go to Setup 3, choose HDMI settings, and turn HDMI Info Display off — this gives you a “clean” video output from the camera. You can run off the built-in battery for a few hours, but the Gonine virtual battery above lets you power the camera indefinitely. Plug the HDMI from the camera to the USB Camlink, then plug that into your computer. Now you have the most beautiful webcam you’ve ever seen, and you can use the Camlink as both a video source and an audio source using the shotgun mic. Put the Key Light wherever it looks best. You’re fine to record something now.

    If you’d like to have a more two-way conversation Interrotron style, set up the teleprompter on the tripod, put the camera behind it, connect the portable monitor to your computer (I did HMDI to a Mac Mini) and “mirror” your display to it. (You can also use an iPad and Sidecar for that.) Now you’ll have a reversed copy of your screen on the teleprompter mirror. I like to put the video of the person I’m talking to right over the lens, so near the bottom of my screen, and voilà! You now have great eye contact with the person you’re talking to. The only thing I haven’t been able to figure out is how to horizontally flip the screen in MacOS so all the text isn’t backward in the mirror reflection. For audio I usually just use a headset at this point, but if you want to not have a headset in the shot…

    Use a discreet earbud. I love in-ear monitors from Ultimate Ears, so you can put one of these in and run the cable down the back of your shirt, and I use a little audio extender cable to easily reach the computer’s 3.5mm audio port. This is “extra” as the kids say and it may be tricky to get an ear molding taken during a pandemic. For the mic I use the audio feed from the Camlink, run through Krisp.ai if there is ambient noise, and it works great (except in the video above where it looks a few frames off and I can’t figure out why. On Zoom it seems totally normal).

    Here’s what the setup looks like all put together:

    After that photo was taken I got a Mac Mini mount and put the computer under the desk, which is much cleaner and quieter, but used this earlier photo so you could see everything plugged in. When you run this off a laptop its fan can get really loud.

    Again, not the most practical for day to day meetings, but if you’re doing prominent remote streaming appearances—or if your child is an aspiring YouTube star—that’s how you can spend ~9k USD going all-out. You could drop about half the cost with only a minor drop in quality switching the camera and lens to a Sony RX100 VII and a small 3.5mm shotgun mic, and that’s probably what I’ll use if I ever start traveling again.

    If I were to put together a livestreaming “hierarchy of needs,” it would be:

    1. Solid internet connection (the most important thing, always)
    2. Audio (headset mic or better)
    3. Lighting (we need to see you, naturally)
    4. Webcam (video quality)

    We’ve put together a Guide to Distributed Work Tools here, which includes a lot of great equipment recommendations for day-to-day video meetings.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:48:16 on 2020/05/27 Permalink
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    Celebrate Seventeen 


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    May 27th, 17 years ago, the first release of WordPress was put into the world by Mike Little and myself. It did not have an installer, upgrades, WYSIWYG editor (or hardly any Javascript), comment spam protection, clean permalinks, caching, widgets, themes, plugins, business model, or any funding.

    The main feedback we got at the time was that the blogging software market was saturated and there wasn’t room or need for anything new.

    WordPress did have a philosophy, an active blog, a license that protected the freedom of its users and developers, a love of typography, a belief that code is poetry, fantastic support forums and mailing lists and IRC, and firm sense that building software is more fun when you do it together as a community.

    We have relentlessly iterated across 38 major releases since then, and here we are.

    If you’d like to celebrate with me, put on some jazz, eat some BBQ, light a candle for the contributors who have passed on, help a friend or stranger less technical than you build a home online, and remember that technology is at its best when it brings people together.

     
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