Hunting for Remote Working Jobs

When I was made redundant from my previous job I discovered that finding a new remote working job wasn’t going to be an easy task. Back in 2012 I did a scout of remote Working policies at universities – most had little to offer. The future looked bleak! Luckily I started work for Open Knowledge!

Since then finding a remote working job has become a little easier. There is now quite a few websites dedicated to employing people

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  • Remotive – apparently “remote + productive = remotive”. This search site contains mainly developer type stuff (with partners from InVision, Zapier, iDoneThis, Sqwiggle, HelpScout, Ghost, Formstack, Blossom, Customer.io & CloudPeeps) but there are some other jobs on there.
  • We Work Remotely is a site 37Signals on the back of their excellent ‘Remote’ book. You can also follow them on Twitter.
  • Working Nomads – “A curated list of remote jobs, for the modern working nomad.” Mainly tech jobs.
  • Remote Employment – Flexible home based jobs working from home. This used to be pretty good for more general types of job but seems to be suffering from a tumbleweed moment :-( These were the guys I won my award off back in 2009!
  • Skip the drive – US focused but has a cute Telecommuting Savings Calculator on the site
  • The Guardian Jobs – They aren’t that clear on whether remote means from home or the middle of the outback but there are some interesting jobs here!

Other ideas

Most of these are shamelessly stolen from colleagues (thanks to people who will remain unnamed):

  • Check out this Skillcrush post on the 25 best sites for finding remote work.
  • Look for tech startups and non-profit-sector / open source tech organisations – they are leading the way in remote working
  • Some general careers sites will let you do searches (and setup saved searches and notifications) and will have an “allows remote working” filter (or if not you can just put keyword “remote” in your query).
  • Good sites to look at include Hypothesis, MySociety, Mozilla, Ushahidi, Akvo, Automattic, Canonical (although check out Glassdoor.com, lots of dodgy reviews). Wikimedia. Not edX itself but some third-party consultancies based around edX. RedHat claim that 25% of their employees are remote if you feel like going corporate.
  • If you’re happy to work for a commercial company then Flexjobs have recently released their “Top 100 Companies Offering Telecommuting Jobs In 2015

So happy hunting!

Time team

Time zones can be a bit of a nightmare for distributed teams. At Open Knowledge our staff stretch from the US to India with quite a few places in between. Sometimes when an all-staff meeting isn’t going that well it’s worth reflecting that someone might have got out of bed early for it while another person is ready for a good night’s rest.

Our fantastic systems guy Nigel Babu has put together a useful app for us all to use. He found it via a blog post from Doug Belshaw – a fellow remotie!

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The app lets us see what time everyone else is on and where they live, you can also use arrow keys to try out different times – very useful for meeting organising! All the code is available on Github.

Just as an aside I use Worldtimebuddy to help me work out more general time zone queries. There is nothing so frustrating as missing an important meeting because you were working in the wrong time zone!

Teachers, Children and Technology

The week before last I presented at the OER Schools conference in Leicester. The event was organised to support a landmark decision by Leicester Council to give blanket permission to teachers in the Leicester area employed by the council to share their learning and teaching resources under an open licence. All slides and videos from the day are now online.

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One of the workshops I attended (led by Miles Berry, Principal Lecturer, Subject Leader for Computing Education at University of Roehampton) was looking at OER resource building in the area of computing – the idea behind it was to get students and teachers thinking about attribution and licensing). Some of the tools we looked at during the session made me reflect on a post I wrote about Children and technology back in January 2014.

The new UK Computing curriculum was published in September 2013 and aims to teach children “children computer science, information technology and digital literacy: teaching them how to code, and how to create their own programs; not just how to work a computer, but how a computer works and how to make it work for you.

This is a significant rethinking and requires work beyond Powerpoint and spreadsheets! In the workshop I attended we were looking at KS1 and KS2 – for a full description of what is required to be taught at those levels see this PDF. At the start of the session Miles pointed out the curriculum clearly states that the should be time in the day for non-national curriculum activities. While many teachers laughed out loud at statement Miles suggested that they should use reference to justify work that they felt was appropriate – such as teaching about open content and licensing.

So here are some of the tools that we looked at or were mentioned during the session:

Coding tools

I mentioned Scratch in my previous post but here are a few tools that build on it:

  • Enchanting is a free and open-source cross-platform educational programming language designed to program Lego Mindstorms NXT robots. It is powered by leJOS NXJ (Java for the NXT).
  • Scratch Junior is from the MIT who’ve worked on Scratch. They’ve redesigned the Scratch interface and programming language to make it developmentally appropriate for younger children and released it as an app to be used on ipads and phones.
  • Snap (formerly BYOB) is a visual, drag-and-drop programming language. It is an extended reimplementation of Scratch (a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab) that allows you to Build Your Own Blocks.

Image finding tools

We did quite a bit of work around finding usable images online. I attended a Jisc Digital Media workshop on this a while back, which gave me a good grounding. Other tools mentioned that I’d not come across include:

  • Photo pin which uses the Flickr API and searches creative commons photos, very user friendly
  • Pixabay which is great for Clipart
  • John Johnston image search which gives you the embed code and allows you to stamp an image (and add the attribution to the actual image)
    In

    Other stuff

    Other sites mention here are:

    Conclusions

    The OER Schools conference was an excellent event and for me is the first time I’ve really felt that open education and OERs is becoming mainstream and part of people’s everyday working practice. Open education, and open learning and teaching practices in particular, has a great deal to offer the distributed world that we live and work in. Young people need to learn about the brave new world we live in and be able to embrace the opportunities it brings. I’ll be looking out for any new work in this area!

    Miles has made his slides on how ‘to create a medium term plan to teach an aspect of IP or open licensing to primary pupils’ available from Google docs.

OK:FM – Connecting through music

We all know that being a remote worker gets a bit lonely – it’s great to be able to reach out to colleagues when you can. I’ve written before about our efforts at creating our own watercooler spaces at Open Knowledge. In that post I said:

One of our team is a DJ on the side and he shares Spotify playlists with us most Fridays. These playlists are great and get us talking.

The fab Christian Villum who creates our playlists has now taken things one step further! He, and his OK:FM posse, are beginning to pull together our own OKFM radio station – be it an online station that exists through crowdsourced playlists!!

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He began by asking the staff to suggest songs for the Open Knowledge “Songs About Change” playlist. I think the topic was chosen in response to our recent summit.

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Christian then compiled all the suggestions (see some of our suggestions below) into a playlist, so that we have a proper soundtrack for the weeks to come! Here’s the Spotify playlist for Changes.

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The plan is to collaborate on future playlists on areas we are interested in! And there may even be a Twitter account for OK:FM in the pipeline. Watch this space! Music really is the universal language!

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Open Knowledge Summit: Working on our blindspots

Last week our internal Open Knowledge Summit took place at Downing College, Cambridge. The summit is a meetup of all Open Knowledge staff, where we put our laptops away and spend time working in groups on different key topics. As a dispersed organisation getting together physically at least once a year is essential to ensure we can function as a united and effective organisation.

Amazing work colleagues is what it's all about!

Amazing work colleagues is what it’s all about!

While the previous two summits I’ve attended (written about here: July 2013, January 2014) have focused on our mission and external face this year we spent 5 days looking at how we work internally. Our sessions were kindly facilitated by Penny Handscomb from Omidyah Network, Fiona Thompson (our interim CEO) and Dirk Slater, founder of Fabriders (who facilitated last year’s retreat).

OKchange

Open Knowledge is an usual organization, made up of a dispersed team and as such many issues that might not be so significant in other organisations get amplified. We also have to add into the mix that we are a non-profit with a core mission around openness and community building. Key issues for us are: building trust (of our management and of each other); internal communications; clarity around responsibility; rethinking of organisational structure; transparency of processes (including financial) and staff employment contracts.

You little RASCI!

One of the tools that we dedicated considerable time to during the week was RASCI, a form of responsibility alignment matrix. This is a way of ensuring clarity around strategically important decision-making. It can also be used for task implementation. RASCI stands for:

  • Responsible – The person responsible for the decision
  • Accountable – The person ultimately answerable for the quality of the decision (the buck stops here…)
  • Support – Those allocated to help complete the decision making process
  • Consulted – Those consulted about the decision (two-way communication)
  • Informed – Those informed about the decision once made (one-way communication)

In the past quite a lot of confusion in the organisation has resulted from failure to specify a responsible individual and from misunderstanding by staff around who would be consulted.

In the Hopbine pub for a board games night. We liked 'open data man' in the Dweebies card deck!

In the Hopbine pub for a board games night. We liked ‘open data man’ in the Dweebies card deck!

Personal and Organisational Values

We carried out a series of enlightening exercises looking at values (both personal and organizational) and seeing how conflict arises when we feel our values are compromised. Here we had a look at the ladder of inference which leads us to jump to conclusions. During the week there was some great sharing as we started to recognize when this was happening!

Although I won’t share our list or internal organisational values here are a couple of my favourite quotes from the session:

blindspots

Mistakes are your friends, learn from them

Integrity is to do as you say and say as you do

Pick your battles

Conclusions

I’d be lying if I said that the summit was easy, or even that enjoyable. It was hard work, complicated and at times extremely uncomfortable. In some ways it reminded me of the our Google Hangouts Christmas party – awkward but necessary. Asking difficult questions of yourself, or of your organization, is not a simple task but it can move you to a different, and hopefully better place. So by the end of the summit it felt as if we were all finally on the same page. The plan is now to take what we’ve learnt, sprinkle it with a little goodwill and move forward! Fingers crossed!

Our annual cheese competition. This year I won with a Wookey hole Cheddar!

Our annual cheese competition. This year I won with a Wookey Hole Cheddar!

More images from the summit are available on Flickr

6 tools to help you manage your work more efficiently

Happy 2015 Everyone!

moniqueWe’re going to kick start the new year with a look at some new tools to help you be more efficient in the new year.

This post has been written by Monique Craig, a passionate blogger and marketing specialist who works for Oneflare, an online marketplace which connects customers with local service providers.

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All remote workers will at some point in their freelance operation face one great challenge – getting things done without any external supervision. If not for the deadlines that remind us about our work, we’d probably just end up flooded by everyday activities and forget that we had any projects to complete at all.

Fortunately, technology comes forward to help remote workers improve their concentration and their productivity – here are 6 new and lesser-known tools that can revolutionize the output of any freelancer who longs for that spark of inspiration to come their way.

MindMeister (http://mindmeister.com/)

This tool is perfect for brainstorming – after signing up, you’ll get access to a board where you’ll be able to create a mind map. You can add links, images and other media, connecting the dots in different ways to reflect your priorities. Once completed, the map can be easily shared with other people. Once they sign up, they’ll be able to see the map and edit it. Bonus point? The tool features a small chat box for real-time feedback and discussion.

MindMeister

IDoneThis (http://idonethis.com/)

This is an app that takes the ‘to do’ list making to the next level. Instead of writing things down, first you need to actually do these things and then capture all your completed tasks in the app. It’s perfect if you’re working with a team and want to track the project progress. The app will create a history of all your ‘dones’, which you can later show to your supervisors, without wasting time to compile a coherent list of tasks completed in a certain time frame.

IDoneThis

Habit List (http://habitlistapp.com/)

We all lose a lot of time on unproductive habits. This tool will be perfect for either those who want to get rid of a habit that disrupts their work schedule or those who find it hard to establish a good habit that promotes productivity.

If hitting a gym three times a week or performing a backup procedure at the end of each working day is a challenge, the app can help you face it. Habit List will simply keep you motivated by giving you a buzz for repeating a desired action. Before you know it, the things you couldn’t get used to will become your new habits.

Habit List

Producteev (https://www.producteev.com/)

This tool will provide you with a wide range of functionalities to keep your projects on track. You can create, assign and schedule tasks for yourself and your team members, later tracking their progress. It works across all kinds of devices and operating systems – the tool works great especially for dispersed teams, which can be updated at any place and time.

Producteev

Pocket (https://getpocket.com/)

Integrated with Google, Pocket is an app for easily saving all kinds of web content – articles, video, images. All your items will be stored in one place and you’ll be able to later view and organize them on any device – even offline! Perfect for those who get easily distracted by cool web content and lose lots of time browsing it.

Pocket

Crate (https://letscrate.com/)

This tool is a great alternative to other file sharing platforms, like Google Drive or Dropbox. With its intuitive drag and drop navigation, you’ll never lose time on searching and uploading your files. A single file or a collection – called a crate – can be shared by means of a single URL. If you’re a cloud enthusiast, you’ll simply love this tool.

Lets Crate

Nobody promised working in remote to be easy. Still, all tools listed above might be just perfect for seasoned, as well as beginner freelance professionals wishing to improve their productivity and get more things done in less time.

Seasons Greetings and enjoy your offline time!

Sometimes you end up in a situation when you are working more but there seems to be less time. I think that happened to me this year!!

In January I moved from working part-time to being full-time. As my children have got older my hours have crept up and this year it was hard to say no to full-time work. Working from home means that the hours I work are flexible (a total necessity for me) but now work seems to eek into every part of my life. Since our last house move 3 years back my computer sits in a part of the front room, so it is now permanently on and permanent seeable – even when I’m cooking, helping the children with homework or even reading a book on the sofa. Add in phones, ipads and laptops and I seem to be unable to switch off. And as a homeworker interaction with humans, other than via Skype, seems to go down as my online time goes up.

kids

I realise all this isn’t ideal. Not only that it goes against the advice I’ve oft given out about the work/life balance.

However it is not only me that is always online – my children (now 7, 10 and 12), despite our efforts to ration, seem to be connected a lot more too. It’s hard to moan about all of this, after all my career has been built on the Internet, but I think I am really starting to see the value of taking time out to think. I just don’t know when I can schedule it in…

The upside of all this extra working is that we’ve had a few nice holidays this year and I have turned off the electronic appliances for those. Next year my husband and I are off to Iceland for 5 days – which I’m really excited about. I’ve also tried to participate in more offline/out of work activities. I do Zumba, Tae-kwondo, support our school and am in the local Friends of the Earth group – but often work puts a kibosh on these due to travel time.

I suppose a question for me right now is how can I keep my head clear in a world that is pretty much all online these days? I’ll be giving it some thought over the Christmas break. I’d really appreciate any suggestions!

Still I hope this hasn’t been too somber a post. Work is good (I’ve finished off LinkedUp, still co-ordinate the Open Education Working Group and now work on Europeana Space and PASTEUR4OA) and most of my friends and family are well. And time plods on, real fast…

As Dr Seuss said: “How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

But then I think of the adage – old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. ;-)

Hope you all have a great Christmas and Happy New Year!