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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

George R. R. Martin’s mountain cabin

George R. R. Martin about his time writing in his mountain cabin:

My life up here is very boring, it must be said.  Truth be told, I hardly can be said to have a life.   I have one assistant with me at all times (minions, I call them).  The assistants do two-week shifts, and have to stay in quarantine at home before starting a shift.   Everyone morning I wake up and go straight to the computer, where my minion brings me coffee (I am utterly useless and incoherent without my morning coffee) and juice, and sometimes a light breakfast.  Then I start to write.   Sometimes I stay at it until dark.   Other days I break off in late afternoon to answer emails or return urgent phone calls.   My assistant brings me food and drink from time to time.   When I finally break off for the day, usually around sunset, there’s dinner.   Then we watch television or screen a movie.  The wi-fi sucks up on the mountain, though, so the choices are limited.   Some nights I read instead.   I always read a bit before going to sleep; when a book really grabs hold of me, I may read half the night, but that’s rare.

Bill Gates would do something similar during his time as CEO of Microsoft. He called them Think Weeks.

Gates’ Think Weeks started in the 1980s; the first ones were quiet visits to his grandmother’s house. As they evolved, no visitors were allowed to the cabin during Gates’ Think Week (other than someone who dropped off two meals a day at the cabin, and on year a Wall Street Journal reporter) and Gates’ cabin was stocked with Diet Orange Crush and Diet Coke.

I would like to do something like this for my photography some time.

Mike Davidson on working remotely

Mike Davidson:

First, let’s dispense with the easy part: despite what you may read on Twitter, remote work is neither the greatest thing in the world nor the worst. We are not moving to a world where offices go completely away, nor are we going through some sort of phase where remote work will eventually prove to be a giant waste of time. In other words, it’s complicated.

I worked remotely for about a decade. I now find myself working remotely again. A lot has changed since the first period that I worked remotely – as Mike points out in his post – but some things still remain the same.

Things that are improving:

  • Internet speed
  • Real-time chat tools
  • File sharing
  • Video / audio conferencing
  • White boarding

Things that will always be the same:

  • The need to over communicate
  • Distractions hurt productivity
  • Most meetings are terrible
  • People need to see people

I’m going to address each of these quickly.

That chatter that happens in office can sometimes bear fruit. Since these serendipitous interactions will no longer happen you have to create those interactions through deliberate action. Over communicate with your team about what you’re doing, what your ideas are, etc.

I feel there are less distractions working remotely than in an office though I can see how some would disagree. I suppose it depends on experience. In my experience, working in an office is like going to public school – a huge amount of time is “wasted” on chit-chat. Some, but not all, of that chit-chat moves into your chat client of choice. You have to be OK with this.

Meetings do not have to be terrible. There are some simple rules that I like to follow that help them suck less. Namely; Be certain you need an actual meeting, rather than an email or chat. Always give people enough time in advance to prepare. Always have an agenda. Always have action items. Follow up on those action items weekly or as appropriate.

Some people need to see people more than other people need to see people. 🙂 Finding some way to “get together” now and then is really valuable to the entire team.

I’m bullish on remote work. I think it is the way of the future for a large number of jobs though I totally understand people that would not want to do it. I cannot see it slowing down. I only seeing it becoming more and more normal and acceptable.

How the people of CERN work

Jeremy Keith, after visiting CERN in Switzerland:

“According to most established social and economic theory, nothing should ever get done at CERN. It’s a collection of thousands of physics nerds—a mixture of theorists (the ones with blackboards) and experimentalists (the ones with computers). When someone wants to get something done, they present their ideas and ask for help from anyone with specific fields of expertise. Those people, if they like the sound of the idea, say “Okay” and a new collaboration is born.”

I love this way of working. It reminds me a lot of how Valve works and also how this little team is being set up.