E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

General Interest

Directory of RSI Software

Every now and then I always keep trying to collect a number of different online resources and helpful tips on something so important for all of us, sitting in front of our computers, as helping prevent RSI, that is, Repetitive Strain Injury. Far too many times I have been exposed to a number of different colleagues and friends who have been suffering from such disorder to different degree that over time I have grown to become more and more conscious about trying to prevent it. So that is why, whenever I bump into helpful resources on the subject, I feel like linking to them hoping that others would be able to benefit from them in order to try to avoid RSI.

And that is why I wanted to create this weblog post today and point you to a recent entry that Jeremy Wagstaff, over at The Loose Wire Blog, created under the title Director of RSI Software. In there you would be able to find a whole lot of different resources and RSI related software that would certainly help you get some more awareness of what you could do to prevent such disorder. Here is a quick rundown on how that software tries to help:

1. "Working out how long you’ve been at the keyboard and reminds you to take breaks;
2. Suggesting exercises for you to perform while you’re taking those breaks;
3. Records macros (shortcuts) to specific tasks you do a lot so you don’t have to use the keyboard as much (especially keystroke combinations);
4. Reduces mouse usage by allowing you to control the mouse from the keyboard (including dragging)
5. Reducing mouse clicks by automating the process (move the cursor over something you want to click on and hold it there, and the software figures out you want to click and does it for you)"

As I said, going through the entire article will help you check out on some of the different options available out there and how you can get the most out of each of them. Oh, and if you are wondering about what my favourite piece of RSI software is I would have to agree with Jeremy as well: Workrave. A very ease to install – use that gives you multiple options to self-regulate your own pauses according to your own needs and quite unobtrusive when it is not needed. And when it is needed with the different breaks, the best there is. It will block your keyboard and will gently advise you to go away from the computer and do something else, like stretching or whatever else.

And best part of it is that it is freeware, so you wouldn’t have to pay any money in order to keep you healthy while staying in front of your computer for all those hours. I tell you, if you haven’t tried out Workrave just yet and if you are starting to feel that little tingling then I strongly advise you download it today and get to use it right away. And in the mean time you can also go and check out the different  options suggested by Jeremy, which I am sure would be able to provide some really good tips, too 

(Kudos to Jeremy for sharing this helpful weblog post with us all and for digging out all these interesting and worth while exploring tools to help us keep sharp at what we do. Thanks, Jeremy!)

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So Close, Yet So Far – About the Impact of Technology in Our Daily Interactions

Fancy doing some really interesting and thought provoking reading on the always fascinating subject of technology’s impact in everyone’s day to day life? Yes, I know, I bet you would. Check out then Thomas Friedman‘s So close, yet so far, over at International Herald Tribune, where he actually gets to share a great story on the impact of technology on him and those around him, specially in a recent trip to Paris where he actually got to interact, if you could say that, with a local taxi driver. I can certainly recommend highly for you to go and read the article because in it you would be able to find little gems like this one:

"[…] The driver and I had been together for an hour, and between the two of us we had been doing six different things. He was driving, talking on his phone and watching a video. I was riding, working on my laptop and listening to my iPod

There was only one thing we never did: talk to each other."

Or this other one:

"I relate all this because it illustrates something I’ve been feeling more and more lately – that technology is dividing us as much as uniting us. Yes, technology can make the far feel near. But it can also make the near feel very far […]"

And there are plenty more! I am sure that by the time you finish off its reading you would agree to some extent with what Thomas mentions and perhaps you could even relate to it, too. I know I have. Not here where I live, though. It is a rather small place still to be noticed by technology with such impact, but certainly in most of my travelling done over the last few years more and more I am noticing that, too.

However, the key message I got from Thomas’ article is that, contrary to what he seems to state, I do not necessarily feel that is a bad thing, actually. Yes, I can imagine when situations like that could be rather annoying as they facilitate providing a strong sense of ignoring those around you, but at the same time there are times when you are actually much better on your own and technology may be providing you with the perfect excuse for it. The key message to me though is to find a balance, because like I have quoted a few months back: "We create our own distractions and just need to learn to manage them".

So that is the whole point to me about Thomas’ article, that sometimes it is good to be left alone thinking about your own thoughts and some other times it is good to talk (with others). The key thing is to be able to distinguish when to do what and for what purpose and whom is it going to have an impact on. Because whether we like it or not, Thomas’s article is not bringing forward anything new in this scenario. For quite some time now, there have always been plenty of distractions around us and it has been up to us to decide when we would need to focus and when not. And if it has happened in the past for a number of years I just cannot see how technology is going to have such an impact. If it is used properly, that is.

As a wrap up to this weblog post let me now point you to a letter to the editor where a couple of folks have been commenting as well on this particular article. Check out Letters: Being good, Technology and Society. And specially read the commentary from Rhonda Kelner, whose last paragraph reads as follows:

"IPods, cellphones and laptops should certainly be shut-off at times, and used with great caution, or not at all in some situations, but these gadgets don’t necessarily stymie human interaction and attention. Indeed they often stimulate conversations about technology."

Just brilliant!

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Five Questions: Brian Truskowski – Emerging Technologies and Jams at IBM

A couple of weeks ago there was one worth while reading news article over at SignOnSanDiego where Brian Truskowski, Vice President and Chief Information Officer for IBM, was interviewed with five different questions where he actually got to talk about what IBM is currently doing around the area of emerging technologies within Web 2.0 and social software in order to enable knowledge workers to share more knowledge and collaborate with one another, along with customers and, perhaps, in a smarter way, and since it seems to be a recurring question that I get every now and then I thought I would link to it so that folks out there, who may be interested in finding out how such a large corporation is making use of all of these emerging technologies, would get a chance to find out some of the latest happenings in this subject.

Thus in Five Questions: Brian Truskowski you would be able to find not only some very interesting facts about the IBM adoption of weblogs, wikis, social bookmarking, etc. etc. but at the same time you would be able to read nice gems like this one:

"These [technologies] are all better ways to connect people to each other."

Yes, indeed, something that I have been mentioning myself all along myself and for which I never get tired of reminding everyone. It is all about people, about making connections, about engaging in different conversations and whoever else says otherwise then I guess they would need to think again and figure out if they get it or not. There is always a good time to get started at some point though, just in case people out there may want to dive in.

In that same article you would be able to read how Brian mentions Jams as a way to engage IBMers and customers alike to drive through further on innovation and if you would remember not long ago I created a couple of weblog posts where I was actually mentioning the InnovationJam and how I actually managed to participate in Phase I of the initiative chiming in submitting ideas and collaborating with other folks.

Unfortunately, there was a second phase for InnovationJam that it actually took place while I was at the workshop in Cincinnati so I couldn’t participate as active as I would have expected. Yet, there have been thousands of conversations going on and at the moment, and as part of the catchup, I am actually reading through the archives of the event so that I can get some idea about what got discussed and where do we go from here. And by the looks of it not everything may be lost, because one of the new capabilities from the second phase of Global InnovationJam is the fact that there is still now one massive InnovationJam Wiki still up and running and which is still collecting, till end of the month, some further input on how to improve the quality of those ideas and make them actually into real opportunities for everyone to expand further on.

How cool is that? So even though I may have missed out on the overall event, Phase II, I still get a chance to participate with hundreds, if not thousands, of other folks expanding further on those ideas and see how things would move further. And yes, indeed, there are several ideas around the topic of Web 2.0 and virtual worlds and the impact they are having in the enterprise, but I guess that would be the subject for another weblog post …

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How to Save Thousands on Audio Conference Calling

A few days ago Melanie Turek shared a very interesting, and worth while trying out, tip over at CollaborationLoop around the subject of How to Save Thousands on Audio Conference Calling where she wrote a quick overview of a service she has been using for three years already and with some very good experiences and that could save you thousands of $$$ in audio conferencing fees. We all know that we spend a good part of our day in different conference calls having to attend different meetings or collaborating with our colleagues through some audio conferencing where we would need to dial in a number with a pin code in order to access it. Of course, for each of those calls there are some expenses involved and although I am sure that most people reading this weblog would say how much they have made out of VoIP applications like Skype, there are still plenty of knowledge workers out there who still prefer to use the regular phone in order to make those phone calls, which in a way is a very understandable thing thinking how pervasive the telephone has become over the years.

But what happens when you face yourself with a huge bill having to cover for all those different audio conference fees you have been paying for a while? I mean, I can imagine that this would become a nightmare for companies who encourage their workers to connect through those audio conferences. So what can we do then? Well, we can do what Melanie says. Try out FreeConference, a free (As in free) audio conferencing system that allows you to save a good chunk of money of expenses for all those conference calls. Here is a quick quote from Melanie’s article that describes how it works:

"The site offers free reservationless conference calls, as well as a robust service that lets you schedule and control calls from the Web (also free). It also offers low-cost 800-number conferencing, but believe me, the real deal is the free stuff. Sign up is simple, and the Web-based scheduling option is especially good."

Yes, I know, there is a catch, like in almost everything that is free: "callers usually must make a long-distance call to dial in" but like Melanie mentions with those same VoIP capabilities it would become almost free and widely available to everyone. Later on in the article she gets to describe a couple of glitches of what it takes to use FreeConference but like she describes herself they are not major showstoppers that would prevent you from making use of it, which is a good thing. It is probably not a service you would want to use to host confidential business conference calls but certainly for those "day-to-day meetings" it would be quite handy to make good use of such service.

So I think that after reading Melanie’s article I am going to give it a try and see how it works. If I get such a good experience as she is having at the moment I am surely going to start switching some of those daily audio conferences into FreeConference and I am sure that phone bill would sound a lot better … and cheaper!

Thus from here a big thanks to Melanie for sharing such a great tip and let’s see how it goes. I shall let you know what my experience would be like over the next few weeks.

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The Greater IBM Connection – Bringing Social Networking to the IBM Enterprise

A few weeks ago a colleague of mine, Jack Mason, invited me to check out a new IBM initiative that is coming up later on this year (Around September / October timeframe) and which is supposed to bring social networking into the IBM enterprise. But with a twist. Indeed, the actual initiative is called The Greater IBM Connection and right at that moment when I was first exposed to it I was very excited about the whole thing. And big time! Why? You may be wondering. Well, because this initiative will actually shape a good chunk of IBM’s adoption of social software within the enterprise. Something that I weblogged about not so long ago. Indeed, The Greater IBM Connection is an IBM sponsored initiative that will put together in the same social network current and former IBMers, who have decided to try out other adventures but who would want to still keep in touch with everything IBM related. That is right, this would be the beginning of a massive social network between current and former employees who would still want to keep in touch and take advantage of the actual network. Here is an interesting quote from the weblog’s About page:

"The Greater IBM (blog) is a channel for people who have worked at IBM and want to remain connected to IBMers past, present and future in a new kind of network that will serve new kinds of relationships"

Thus as you can see from that particular quote this is a social network initiative to help get together people who currently work in IBM and also those who have left the company but who would still want to get in touch in one way or another. That is why Greater IBM will be providing a number of different venues for those folks to get together and keep in touch: a weblog, a Google group, an e-mail address, Instant Messaging and, finally, one of the most interesting and exciting emerging new social network offerings out there: openBC. Yes, that is right, Greater IBM will also be making extensive use of openBC along with a link to LinkedIn, at some point in time, but the main platform would be going, though, through openBC.

I have already got my own profile set up in openBC and have signed up to the Google group, thus I am half way there, because my next item on the list is to also take active part on the GreaterIBM weblog where every now and then I would also be sharing some insights about the initiative itself along with where we are and some other topics related to social networking in general. Thus, as you would be able to see, I have taken up the role of one of the Core Connectors and that means that I have already joined the initiative and have started working in some of the different areas, like reaching out to those of you that I know keep on reading off my weblog and that at some point you were working in IBM. Yes, I am reaching out to you, folks, who would still want to keep informed about what is actually happening inside IBM but may not have a way of doing so. Well, here is GreaterIBM coming to the rescue. Now you will have a chance to hook up. And I would be more than happy to help transition that move. Even better, if you feel that you yourself would want to become a Core Connector, drop me an e-mail and I will help you out become one, too!

Now you may be wondering what that group of Core Connectors is, right?  Well, over at More Alumni Core Connectors For Global Rollout you would be able to find some further information details on this very same subject.but I am going to share over here some key pointers as to what the Core Connectors would be like and what would be expected of them:

"Connect With Other Connectors

  • Attend one of the core connector briefing events/mixers planned for EMEA, AP & Americas in Sept/Oct 

    • Nominate alums and current IBMers who should be invited as core connectors

Drive Viral, Organic Growth Through Personal Invitations

  • Invite former and current IBMers into the network, especially those with large social networks (Super Connectors), interests in using net for business innovation (Sales/New Business Drivers) and those interested in social networking itself (Mavens)

    • Encourage new members to invite their contacts into network

Build the Network’s Practical Value Through Introductions & Advice

  • Make introductions  to connect members for business and innovation opportunties

  • Help new members take advantage of network features like events, member searches, job opportunties, and other IBM innovations we’re planning to integrate into the network

Catalyze Collaborations & Create Projects

  • Start Innovation Initiatives related to one’s work (i.e. I’m going to focus on building two subcommunities: one around nanotech and another related to virtual communities such as Second Life)

    • Start and participate in the forum dialogues, post news, share ideas"

So, there you go, that is one of the initiatives I will be spending some time from now on helping getting things together and where I hope I will be seeing some of you very soon. If you feel that you would want to keep in touch with your former colleagues and continue building up on those relationships and if you feel you have been made up to become a core connector, do not hesitate about it, contact me right away and I will hook you up with the initiative. For the time being I will be keeping you folks updated both over here and over at the GreaterIBM weblog on how we are getting along. I hope to see you soon over there ! More to come later …

Oh, if you are a current employee from IBM and would want to hook up with this social network but haven’t found a way to do so just yet inside the Intranet do let me know as well ! The more, the merrier.

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Global InnovationJam Is Now Over!

After 76 hours of uninterrupted and frenetic activity. After 53.000 participants (IBMers and their family members and IBM’s customers and business partners) got together to share over 37.000 posts spread around four different Forums and after nearly 3 million web pages viewed and about 67 participating companies in addition to IBM the Global InnovationJam is now over ! Yes, indeed it is all finished ! Well, at least, for now. Earlier on today the first phase of the InnovationJam just concluded after a mind-blowing experience of connecting with several thousand people coming from several dozen countries across timezones and geographies. I tell you, folks, I have participated in several IBM Jams in the past but as far as I am concerned this has been one of the best. At least, that is how I have felt it over the last three days that has taken place.

The incredible amount of great topics discussed is going to be difficult to surpass. There have been hundreds of discussions on multiple topics covering the four different Forum areas that I mentioned earlier on this week, plenty of them related to how emerging technologies could be used to ensure businesses start adopting some of the most relevant and worth while exploring social software tools, like blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, web syndication, (people) tagging, podcasting, etc. etc. At the same time there have been plenty of people collaborating on how these same new emerging technologies could actually help fix some of the different issues related to Going Places, Finance & Commerce, Staying Healthy or A Better Planet, along with many more ideas on other traditional, although out of the box, thinking for solving some of those different issues. Again, just mind-blowing.

But the hard work actually will start from today onwards. Because this event has just been the first phase, out of two. In early September, from the 12th till the 15th, there will be a second phase where we will get together "to refine and rate the ideas" that have been put together in phase 1. So there is now plenty of work ahead of the folks responsible for the Jam in gathering and analysing all those ideas so that they could then be put together for that second phase I mentioned earlier on and continue venturing into taking some of those ideas into completion.

From a participation perspective it looks like there has been lots of different contributions although not many people have been weblogging much about the event, while it was taking place, apparently. At least, that is what Technorati  says. I guess everyone was at the Jam reading away, chiming in, collaborating and sharing some of those great ideas. We shall see how things go from here. One thing for sure though is that if I have been able to make it to phase one I am surely not going to be missing out on phase 2. Thus stay tuned for some further insights as I will be sharing some thoughts along the way as more new information becomes available. Now it is time to go back to our daily routine, relax from all the frenzy, reenergise ourselves and get ready for phase two, because it will be as exciting and interesting as phase one. No doubt!

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