Introducing Office Optional: A New Conference for Remote Teams

Headshot series with Sarah Milstein at Sunleaf Studio.A new one-day conference focused on remote workers that will look at the latest trends, tools and techniques for successful distributed teams. Sounds great doesn’t it!!

Sarah Milstein is CEO and co-founder, with Eric Ries, of Lean Startup Productions, a media company that teaches people how to build and scale high-growth startups. She is also co-author, with Tim O’Reilly, of The Twitter Book, and she writes regularly about race, gender and merit-based decision making. She’s going to tell us a little more about Office Optional and her experience of being a remote worker.


I haven’t worked anywhere near my coworkers for 20 years. Sometimes, I worked for companies or with coworkers that were based thousands of miles away. Sometimes, I worked as a consultant and wasn’t onsite often, if ever. These days, I’m running a company with no office at all, and we all work from different locations in several countries. While distributed teams are becoming the norm in more companies, much of our conventional business wisdom assumes that you and your colleagues are sitting next to each other. There simply isn’t enough exploration of relevant tools and techniques for working with people who aren’t in the same building, or the same town, or the same continent.


We’re addressing that problem with Office Optional, a new conference for people who work on distributed teams. We’re bringing together team leaders and members to discuss better ways you can: manage from a distance; collaborate remotely; and find effective tools for both. The event will be held next week, on April 22, in San Francisco. If you can’t make it in person, we’re offering live stream tickets, which we’ve set up, naturally, for an interactive remote experience.

First of all, you should expect to take away not only lots of very useful advice you can implement immediately, but also several Big Ideas. For example, urban designer Laura Crescimano will look at the larger trend toward remote work and its long-term implications, while Lukas Biewald, CEO of Crowdflower, will talk about the vast potential for matching microtasks with a massively distributed global workforce.

Some of our talks covering the human side of virtual teams include Steelcase’s Teryn Rikert helping you recognize key collaboration behaviors and how understanding them will result in better remote meetings. Yammer’s Christina Lucey will reveal a series of experiments her teams ran in three offices, eight time zones apart, to feel like they were radically closer. Lullabot’s Jeff Robbins will share time-zone tips to make working globally much, much smoother.

A number of speakers will talk about specific processes for building trust when you’re physically far apart. And several people will explore the best uses of and setups for in-person meetings. Automattic, the company behind WordPress and one of the world’s biggest fully distributed firms, is sending Lori McLeese and Davide Casali to talk about what they’ve learned in hiring hundreds of remote workers. And because so many of us work from home, we have a panel that’s logged thousands of collective work-from-the-living-room hours debating how to do it productively.

Of course, we’re going to examine the best tools for remote teams. For instance, Editorially co-founder David Yee will talk about getting the most out of group chat, while Intridea’s Patti Chan will review third-party collaboration tools. A series of speakers will show us how their teams make great use of apps and video for remote brainstorming, project management, daily communication and more.

We’ll cap the day with a conversation between The Lean Startup author Eric Ries and Bob Sutton, whose new book, Scaling Up Excellence, provides great fodder for a question so many of us face in distributed companies: How can remote teams spur, rather than hinder, growth in our organisations?

The day will be very conversational, with lots of moderated Q&A after every batch of talks, so you can jump in and participate. We’d love to see you at Office Optional –whether that’s in person or via live stream.

Remote Working: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Last week brought us yet another piece of research on the personality traits needed to be a home worker.

The article in question was published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior and written by Thomas O’Neill from the University of Calgary. The conclusions (here reported in inc. by Laura Montini) offer nothing “earth shattering” however…

One unexpected finding, the researchers said, was that people who indicated that they have neurotic tendencies actually work well remotely. O’Neill had predicted this group of people would have trouble concentrating, but that wasn’t the case.

This got me thinking about the ‘bad’ idiosyncrasies that I now demonstrate after 7 years of remote working. Some are an intrinsic part of my nature, but others I’m sure have developed over time.

A quiet cat

My cat being quiet

The Good

Before I go in to these I wanted to group the characteristics mentioned time and time again when it comes to remote working.

There are all those characteristics that you need to get the job done without someone looking over your shoulder: Focused, not easily distracted, self-disciplined, motivated, committed, an independent worker who requires minimal supervision, hard working, self-starter, management skills, organised, responsible, comfortable with self-imposed deadlines, decisive, a quick learner, prepared, productive, trustworthy.

Then there are those characteristics that stop you from feeling isolated: Sociable, extrovert, networked, positive attitude, communicative, articulate, collaborative worker, team player, forthcoming, frank, unreserved.

Then finally there are those characteristics that help you cope with a different way of working from most people: Adaptive, flexible, open-minded, innovative, creative, original thinking, cutting edge, tech savvy.

So I think I have a fair number of those, however I also have a few that don’t seem so great.

The Bad

I definitely do have neurotic tendancies, I worry too much and my husband sometimes says he thinks I have mild OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). I am very driven to get stuff done, maybe too driven, and I find it hard to relax. I always have to have a project on the go, I always have to be busy. This article on 4 Winning Personality Traits of the Successful Telecommuter sums it up nicely:

To be a successful telecommuter, you have the type of personality that feels compelled to finish what you start, no matter how much it may inconvenience you to do so. When you begin a project, you will never rest until that project is finished. You may be sick as a dog but will keep working until the job is finished, knowing that the deadline is too critical to miss. You simply refuse to fail. You are someone who will stay up all night if that’s what it takes to complete a project.

Related to this I tend to block out the world and get so focused on work that I wonder if I am letting my family relationships slip. I tend to take on too much and tend to say yes because I know I’ll fit stuff in – at the expense of all else!

I also wonder if I’ve become less of listener, maybe because I don’t have to listen quite so often. That seems strange as I spend most of my day with my headphones on in calls, but quite a lot of the time I work independently with no-one to bounce ideas off. Maybe I could do with spending a little more time letting ideas mull around, waiting for feedback. One of my biggest issues has always been that I act too quickly. That might sound like the answer to an interview question (“so what’s your biggest flaw?” “well, I’m just a little too perfect!“) but it can be a problem, Over the years I’ve learnt to let things rest for a little longer – don’t publish that report yet – you’ll get some more feedback in the middle of the night that it might make sense to include. Remote working doesn’t help here. You spend a lot of time waiting for people and you can’t pop your head round their door to ask them to hurry up. It can leave you frustrated and impatient.

One other strange thing – since working at home I now find that I work best in silence, in fact any noise drives me mad (this article on Radio silence and the remote worker picks up on this). I just can’t stand my cats miaowing or next door’s builder drilling. I wear noise reduction headphones most of the time to stop the non-silence getting in. I do wonder if I’d ever be able to return to an open plan office. As well as a silent room I also need a tidy room and find it hard incredibly off-putting if there is a mess around me – back to the OCD there.

My final concern is that I’ve become a bit of a ‘settler’. This article entitled Remote workers need more than just the right personality – they need ground rules talks about the possible negative effect on career advancement.

The old adage out of sight, out of mind can be especially true for those who are working offsite. Telecommuters run the risk of being passed over for promotions and job opportunities. This can happen because of an unsupportive attitude on management’s part, who may perceive the choice to work from home as lack of career commitment. But it is also true that not all jobs, especially the higher up the corporate ladder, can be successfully managed from a remote location.

Have I given up the ghost when it comes to career moves or are things just on hold for now?

The Ugly

And the worst thing of all…I’m now a serial snacker. Maybe it isn’t a personality trait or characteristic but it is an issue!

So what about you? What’s your good, bad and ugly?


Tactical Travel Tips

I now work on an EU project leading on dissemination and community building.

This basically means I travel a lot (this year I’ve been to Luxembourg, St Petersburg, Athens and am off to Helsinki next week). This is probably not as much as some people but a lot more than I used to. Also most of this travel is in Europe rather than in the UK.

St Petersburg

St Petersburg

As I move kicking and screaming into the frequent flyer bracket (I don’t like flying and it’s not doing my eco-credentials much good!) there are a few lessons I’ve learned that I thought I could share with you…

Apologies if some of these are obvious but I’ve learned the hard way!


Data Roaming is still bloomin’ expensive!

photoI turn off every mobile data switch the moment I sit down on the plane. So this means switching off mobile data, 3G, data roaming, Bluetooth, push data and all related things. I also switch off updates – updates always tend to pick their moments! This stops me accidentally accessing data when confused and lost in foreign cities. This has meant I’ve avoided ‘bill-shock’ (this is apparently an actual word now – unpleasant surprise of a very large phone bill) so far.

I do use wifi on my phone if available – but even then feel a little bit paranoid.

If you do want to use data roaming there is apparently an EU cut-off regulation you can opt in to. EU regulations mean providers have to warn you when you’ve nearly used €50 (approx. £50 incl VAT) of data in a month when roaming overseas. When you hit this mark, your mobile provider will cut off your mobile internet service until the next billing month begins, unless you have already pre-arranged a higher limit.

Lower costs are likely to come in by December 2015 if legislation approved by members of the European parliament’s industry committee is rubber stamped by full parliament on 3 April.

There is lots of useful guidance on data roaming about, I found the Roaming Expert website helpful.

I also now use Mapswithme on my phone – this allows you to download maps of cities in advance and then navigate them as if you are online.

I always check a hotel has wifi before I book. I connect with home using Skype or facetime. I try to never call.


IMG_2300I warn my bank where I’m going. I’m with Lloyds and there still doesn’t be a way to do this online but I visit the bank every now and then and tell them about my forthcoming trips.

I also have some spare Euros that I keep so I don’t have to rely on a cashpoint as soon as I arrive. I take 3 bank cards as a back up. I store all my receipts in a particular place and photograph them too. I upload photos to online storage while away in case I lose my camera or phone.


I prep in advance so that I don’t have to do too much complicated stuff while I’m away. So I draft blog posts, papers etc. and have them pretty much ready to go. You can’t rely on the quality of a connection when away from your computer. I now use LastPass (after a disaster a few years back) – this means I don’t spend hours trying to figure out passwords because I’m on my laptop. I ensure updates on my laptop are all done before I go!

I now have several adaptors and sometimes take an extension lead if I’m going to a conference.


I’ve finally got BA to realise that I’m a vegetarian after selecting this option on their website many times, but I always take a few snacks with me just in case. I also empty my water bottle out for security and fill it up when I get through – saves cash! I try and find veggie friendly restaurants in advance.


If I’m arriving late at night I now get the hotel I’m staying at to book the taxi. This saves me having to fork out lots for a dodgy taxi. Planing routes from airport and hotel is useful too!

With work colleagues in front of the Acropolis

With work colleagues in front of the Accropolis


I download iplayer programmes on my laptop so I can watch them in my hotel room – beats foreign programmes and BBC World news on a loop. I also stock up on my laptop on downloaded papers I’d like to read.

I try to schedule my travel so I have some time to have a look around, there is nothing more soul destroying that visiting a beautiful place and only seeing the airport.

And finally I have a gig glass of wine on the plane – this stops me worrying about crashing and all the things I’ve forgotten to do!

Travel suggestions from other people have been published on this blog before. Take a look at:

My Experiences of Being a Home Worker

Portrait of Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly was the line manager who consented to my working from home and who encouraged me to write a blog about my experiences. Now 6 years down the line he too has started working from home and I’ve managed to persuade him to write about his lifestyle change for the blog.

Brian works for Cetis, an organisation that specialises in technology innovation and interoperability standards in learning, education and training, as an Innovation Advocate. He previously worked at UKOLN as UK Web Focus from 1996-2013. Brian has worked across the UK higher education sector, having previously worked in IT service departments at the universities of Loughborough, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle.

Brian is a prolific blogger and has also published peer-reviewed papers in areas including web accessibility, standards, digital preservation, institutional repositories and open practises.

My former colleague Marieke Guy kindly wrote a guest post on my UK Web Focus blog which was published during Open Education Week as part of a series of guest posts covering a variety of issues related to open education.

Marieke invited me to reciprocate by writing a guest post on her Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog about my experiences of being a home worker. I am happy to respond to that request by writing this post.

My Move To Home Working


On 24 April 2013 I announced that “My Redundancy Letter Arrived Today“. On the 31 July 2013 myself and many of my colleague at UKOLN were made redundant.

In my final week at UKOLN I wrote a post on . I’m pleased to say that on 28 October 2013 I was able to write a post which announced that I was Starting A New Job! That was the day I began work as Innovation Advocate at Cetis, University of Bolton.

I’m enjoying my new job. However there has been one significant change: after working in an office at the University of Bath for over 16 years I am now a home worker.

House Renovations

Network boxBetween leaving UKOLN and starting at Cetis I did do some consultancy work and updated my professional skills by completing a MOOC.  But I was also able during the three months to complete the renovations on my house.  As well as replacing bathrooms which still had their original 1970s decor one of the bedrooms was converted into my office.  My office is now just 10 metres from my bed – there have been no 45 minute bus trips  on cold and wet winter mornings for me this winter :-)

During the house renovation (which included a new kitchen and bathrooms and new ceilings in the bathrooms and living room, dining room and kitchen) I was able to use the work to have computer cabling installed with network points provided in most of the rooms throughout the house.

On the advice of a former colleague I also had a cupboard build which housed various IT boxes including the router and a NAS (box). This was build in the living room, so that the WiFi router was more centrally located, with a strong WiFi signal being available throughout the house.

This box is shown. What can’t be seen are the network cables (CAT-6) which go into a void behind the wall and are then hidden behind the coving (which was installed during the renovation work). The cables go up into the loft and then down into all of the bedrooms so that a network point is available in all of the rooms. Note all of the network points are currently enabled, however, as I only have a router with 8 network points and three of these are located by the TV and are connected to the TV, YouView box and XBox.

My home officeIt’s not all fun and games though! The bedroom which is now my office contains a Dell All-in-one PC with a large screen and small printer as shown.

The office also contains IKEA bookcases around two of the walls. I also had wooden shutter blinds installed in the room which can provide an additional level of privacy. The upstairs office, incidentally, is located on a ground floor since the house is built into a hill. Next to the office is a door located at the end of the upstairs corridor which opens to a parking area.

In brief, I am very happy with the work which was carried out to the house last year. In particular my office is a pleasant place to work.

The Software Environment

Although my physical environment has changed significantly my online environment has many similarities to my previous working environment. I am continuing to make use of several Cloud services to support my work, such as Google Docs and Dropbox, although I still also make use of MS Office products.

I am finding that I am using Skype much more than I did previously (it is interesting that this proprietary system is now a de facto standard for many). In addition to Skype I am also making use of Google Hangouts with this tool being used for regular online meetings with my Cetis colleagues.

Working Practices

I have been aware for some time from reading Marieke’s posts on her Ramblings of a Remote Worker blog that the biggest challenges in remote working (and especially in home working) are concerned with issues such as the lack of regular face-to-face meetings with colleagues and the ad hoc meetings with others and, on another level,working in the place one lives.

I do continue to feel the need for intellectual stimulation from interactions with my peers. But this is a reason why I have felt it important to cultivate my online professional networks. Channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn help to provide such intellectual stimulation as well as the social intercourse which is needed.

In Marieke’s blog posts she has given her thoughts on working in one’s home environment. I try to ensure that my work does not completely dominate my life. One decision I did make when I was offered the job at Cetis was that I would work four days a week, with Friday as time for myself or for other professional interests. I do try and take regular exercise; I try to take a walk to nearby shops to buy some milk or bread two or three times a week.

To sum up in a tweet:  “My experiences of being a home worker: enjoying it; need to be disciplined; don’t think I’d like to go back to being an office worker!

Get Sqwiggling

sqwiggleSo we are all pretty familiar with Google Hangouts and Skype, but it seems there is a new kid on the block. Sqwiggle is an “always-on online workplace for your remote team to work together throughout the day and feel more connected“. Its features include file-sharing, chat and instant video, though it currently can’t support file sharing. Sqwiggle is optimized to use minimal bandwidth throughout the day with even the largest teams and unlike some of the alternatives puts a lot of emphasis on presence, for example it sends photo snapshots throughout the day to keep you connected to your team. There is a useful feature comparison sheet available from the Sqwiggle site.

Sqwiggle in action

Sqwiggle in action

Unlike Google Hangouts it costs (think Skype premium) but then for that cost you get user support. There are some nice testimonials on the site from Zapier, Go Fish Digital, Terracoding, Hippo Education, Gamevy and others.

The team have just released a music video showing you all the places you can sqwiggle from. You have to admit – it is a good verb!

Netbook vs. Tablet: It’s All about Fit

jamieSo which one do you prefer? Netbook or tablet? Or is it horses for courses? Here’s a guest blog post exploring the issues in more detail.

Jamie Lee lives in Charleston, South Carolina, in the US and works for Telogical Systems. He is a full-time tech consultant as well as a writer for eBay (where as Jamie puts it “you can find the world’s best selection of new and used tablets, netbooks and other travel friendly computing devices“). You can catch Jamie on Google+.


I am a laptop kind of guy. Always have been, and, well, I will be for the foreseeable future. I use my laptop in the office and when working from home. I listen to music on it and it’s my go-to device for business and recreation.

Even though I feel like I have found the device that fits me and the work I do, it’s difficult not to acknowledge new technology in the marketplace that makes laptops look old and clunky — namely, netbooks and tablets. If you are in the market for a small computing device, you may find yourself looking at the options and scratching your head. I know … I have been there. Given that I have used both fairly extensively, I find that, like my laptop, it really boils down to personal fit.

Following is a breakdown of each, along with their pros and cons.

laptopNetbooks: Netbooks are really just smaller, more portable versions of laptops, complete with keyboards and screens. Current models tend to range from 10-inch screens at the smallest to 15.6-inch screens for the largest. Not only are most of them smaller than your average laptop, but they are less expensive. Lower-end models, like models of Acer’s Chromebook series, can be purchased for less than $200, and higher end models can cost up to $1,000. You can buy a popular mid-range device, like the Lenovo ThinkPad or the HP Pavilion TouchSmart, for less than $500.

  • Netbook PROS :
    Much like laptops, netbooks provide a combined screen and keyboard setup, enhanced usability of word processing applications like Word and Excel, and they are intended for more basic tasks – like checking e-mail, browsing the Internet, light entertainment and light productivity – albeit in a smaller package. Given the increase in popularity of tablets with touchscreens, some netbook manufacturers are making devices with similar screens that eliminate the need for a keyboard or mouse. Like tablets, extended battery life for these devices is a plus. If you conduct virtual meetings regularly or use programs like Skype for phone calls, netbooks often provide webcams.
  • Netbook CONS :
    While netbooks are great if you are looking for a mini version of your laptop, including similar functionality and operating systems, size can be a detriment. Smaller devices have tiny keyboards that can be difficult to use. Keep in mind that these aren’t intended to be high performance machines and generally have less RAM (Random Access Memory) and HDD (Hard Drive) space than their laptop counterparts. These performance constraints aren’t a big deal for users who don’t expect a lot from their netbook, but power users and gamers may quickly find that a netbook doesn’t meet their needs.

If you are looking for a device somewhere between a laptop and a tablet, consider a netbook. You will have limited functionality, but a similar look and feel on a smaller scale and at a lower price. Keep in mind the limitations when it comes to RAM, HDD, and graphics capabilities. If you are fine with these aspects, a netbook may just be the device for you.

$_57Tablets: The iPad started a tablet revolution, and these rectangular computing devices with touchscreens and apps galore are only increasing in popularity. Top tablet manufacturers often offer a “mini” version of their primary model, and screen sizes can range from 7-inches for Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD and HDX to 10-inches for Google’s Nexus tablet. Tablets and netbooks are priced similarly, and you can spend anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to nearly $1,000, depending on the size, memory, connectivity, and other features.

  • Tablet PROS:
    Tablets tend to be smaller and lighter than netbooks, and manufacturers are focused on usability and versatility. From the touch screens and scrolling features to advancements like high density display that Apple introduced with its iPad 3, they are great for watching movies, reading books and entertaining kids. While netbooks rely on programs, much like a laptop, tablets allow you to use apps that are easy and cheap to install, and the selection is extensive and ever-growing. You will also find additional functionality in some tablet models, like the ability to take photos or HD videos.
  • Tablet CONS :
    The one area where tablets tend to fall short is productivity. Most don’t have a built-in keyboard, but rather a touchscreen. This can be remedied by purchasing additional equipment, but even then, I find it to be a subpar experience when using word processing software. Like netbooks, size can negatively impact your user experience if you purchase one that is too small.

Tablets are currently the “in” device, and it’s not surprising. They are easy to use and extremely versatile. That said, if you are looking for a device that supports your productivity, or even your creativity, you may be disappointed in a tablet. It is not necessarily that the tablet won’t allow you to do the work or access the programs, but rather you may find it more challenging to complete tasks efficiently on a tablet instead of a netbook (or laptop).
It is clear that a tablet is the best bet for many in the market for a small, lightweight computing device, but don’t make the decision to hastily. It is important to consider what you plan to use it for, as well as your workflow preferences. You may just find yourself sticking with that good old laptop.

Meet me at the Watercooler

I’ve recently had a guest blog post published on the Digital Epiphanies blog about how we at the Open Knowledge Foundation facilitate virtual informal discussion.

I’ve mentioned the Digital Epiphanies Project before when I was interviewed as part of their research. It’s an EPSRC- funded project that is attempting to enhance understanding of the “paradoxical and double-edged effects that new technologies and digital practices are having on work-life balance“.

I’d like to repost some of the thinking in behind my blog post here, for those who missed the original.

As those of you who read my blog will know the Open Knowledge Foundation is probably fairly unique in that it is a truly virtual organization. Our staff sit on 4 different continents and over countless timezones. We communicate primarily using online tools and face-to-face is rare for us.

To support our remote/virtual working we have a suite of tools that we utilize, some are for administrative purposes, such as Xero for expenses and Toggl for timekeeping, others are to help us with our work, such as Google drive for documents and Google hangout for meetings, and Trello for project management.

Watercooler moments

The area that always proves to be the most tricky to facilitate is discussion, especially informal discussion, or the ‘watercooler’ discussions as people like to call them. In the past the term ‘watercooler moment’ referred to a controversial event in a television programme that people would discuss at work the next day. These discussions took place next to the drinks dispenser or watercooler. Being able to discuss those exciting TV moments in a group has slowly disappeared as an activity due to changes in television watching (the rise of streaming services and playback TV), but the need to chat hasn’t. Every organisation continues to need a watercooler.

Prior to my joining the Open Knowledge Foundation they had tried out other IRC chat services. Most had faded by the time I started. People do use things like Twitter and Google Plus but these tend to support discussion with external people, not internal colleagues They’d been trying for some time to answer the question: how do you create a chat space internally?

The current service of choice is Grove is an IRC server that has rich functionality. It gives you archives of your chat history, search, user accounts, channel access management tools, GitHub integration. You can also chose to use the web client or a desktop app, and get notified when someone mentions you by name.


At the Open Knowledge Foundation we have quite a few ‘chat rooms’, some for work team chat, some for cross-team chat for example on community or tech, and we have a watercooler room. The watercooler room has the byline ’100% social chat. No work stuff’. I’d have to say that this isn’t always the case primarily because the boundaries between work and pleasure are pretty blurred for many of us. This is partly because most of us work for an organisation that is fighting for a cause we passionately believe in: the opening up of knowledge. Politics, technology and the state of the world are fair game. However there are cat pictures, silly web links and lunch dates on there too! The quality of the conversation aside encouraging informal chat remains difficult – people are busy and prioritise work activities. Unfortunately, as many of us know, the bonds created by ‘just having a chat’ are those that build better working relationships.

After our last all-staff meet up the subject of social chat came up (again). Suggestions were made that we use a more feature rich platform for our non-work related communications (Diaspora or an inhouse tumblr were mentioned). There seemed to be a reluctance to change platform, but people were all up for social chatting.

So the question isn’t how do you create a chat space internally? It is how do you get people to use a chat space and share a side of themselves that isn’t work facing? Or how do you get people to take their eye off work even for a minute in a virtual organization?

OK, so here are a couple of things that bright sparks at the Open Knowledge Foundation have been doing. 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. We even ended up with a staff-playlist at our face-to-face event.

Someone else has started a form of virtual Chinese whispers called ‘Eat poop, you cat’ (don’t ask!), which requires people to draw a picture for a sentence. The sentence gets passes along a virtual queue of people and there is lots of silliness involved. We are almost ready to complete our first game, the results hold be interesting and hopefully funny!

We also had a virtual Christmas party in Google hangouts with virtual party hats and real Christmas carols.

These activities can result in more chat on and actually give us a much needed break from work.

So what activities and services are you using to make sure that the watercooler remains an important destination?