Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cloud Computing and Co-working, Hand in Hand

As an independent design professional at the moment, I enjoy a lot of personal freedom.  With that personal freedom comes personal responsibility, and sometimes I struggle with that.  Luckily for creative workers like me, there are tools out there we can use to impose structure on our otherwise fractured and whimsical minds.  In my case, that tool is Elance.



Every since I was fortuitously granted a contract to work with Silicon Valley Startup Trymph, Inc on their word games Spell Me Right and Unscramble This, my work day has always begun with a little plug-in on my computer, Tracker, opening and inviting me to choose which job I will bill my time towards that day.  This program, like the little floating bit in TRON, hovers over my work, taking stock of my performance with regular screenshots.  This keeps me on task, and I know that the work I've done is the work I'm billing, and, more importantly, my client knows this too.



The only problem with working online and all that personal freedom, aside from the inevitable slump between jobs when one job is finished, before another is found, is the loneliness.  I sit in my room and enjoy loud music to overpower the construction going on outside my window, but the construction workers aren't the best company for my profession.  In the global flattening of the world Thomas Friedman describes, I can see a global realm of opportunities, and only perhaps at lower hourly rates to compete with my third world brothers and sisters in the healthy sibling rivalry that evolves in the age of cloud computing.



We come to believe in this realm of virtual servers, virtual desktops, and virtual workrooms, that we can live in a virtual wonderland of opportunity, given the realistic drop in value as the relative lower value of third world workers comes to be recognised as the equal service it may be in some cases.  While everything is going "to the cloud" with remote hosting, even the people are being co-located in the computational heavens, as Elance touts their online work management system of Startups and Freelancers as "The Human Cloud".  Someday we may all be living in the clouds together, but unfortunately I can't ascertain that at the moment.



In the meantime, we are still human, and no human is truly in the cloud(s).  We are in front of our computers (or hopefully away from the computers being inspired to return to the computers and share), and for long periods of time this experience can be quite isolating.  While the work we type, swipe and click away may take us further into our individual professional development, the worker in question must prairie-dog their head above the relative cubicle walls to analyse their surroundings.  Who in this office community will help shepherd your individual work in the right direction?



Because I have no cubicle walls to prairie-dog, and working alone, for me anyway, has it's limitations, I must engage in the community of similar workers with similar feelings and similar longings and needs.  This movement out of my home and into co-located desk space is commonly called the Co-working movement, and I embrace it wholeheartedly.  Going back to what I was saying about Elance as an online work management solution, co-working spaces like HUB Sydney are the other side of that fortuitous coin.



On one hand we have the global supply and demand of work through online platforms.  On the other hand with have inherent human needs for community and companionship.  People must come together to realise their full potential.  Anyone who has played in a team sport, sung in a choir, acted in a play, or served on a board of directors will tell you that.  We already know it.  It takes events like Marissa Mayer, CEO at Yahoo, repealing the work at home policy to get her workforce back together work as a team and pull the company in a new direction.



The exciting part of the coworking movement is that we don't know where that direction is going until we find that local office like WeCo and see what opportunities lie ahead that could not have been realised otherwise, "because working from home sucks".  The more I write this, the more I realise how important it is that we leave our homes as independent workers and join forces as co-workers in arms.  We can't even begin to realise the problems we will solve until we start sharing together and forming the common ground for their solutions.

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