Virtual Room Mates

It gets lonely being a remote worker and some times it might be nice to have someone else there other than the house cat, dog or spider.

cam by mofetosLately there seems to be a bit of a trend for virtual room mates. Basically setting up a PC/lap top and Web cam, linking up and having a colleague or friend beamed into your home office (and vice versa).

This touches on elements of telepresence, a concept I’ve mentioned in the past and hope to do more on in the future, but it needn’t require expensive technology or be tricky to set up.

Scott Hanselman has documented his effort at virtual camaraderie on his Computerzen blog. He talks about the steps he went through making a portal using Skype and a Web cam.

Phil (in Washington) and I (in Oregon) are trying an experiment. I’m going to be his office mate for a little while. We’ve each setup dedicated machines in our respective offices with inexpensive but high-res web-cams on each monitor. We’ll keep them going during work hours so folks can stop by 42/3839 (his office number) and say hello. Certainly we’ll mute it here and there when appropriate, for privacy.

Johnathon Wilson comments on his set up on the Harvard Buisness blog:

I’m on a team of software engineers that is very ‘cubey.’ …I found myself in a situation where I needed to be remote at least some of the time. I still have my computer at work, in my office cube (right in the middle of things). I set up a web cam there along with speakers. I have second cam at home, and I simply skype in to my own cube at work. Skype can be configured to auto-answer, if desired, so my ‘cube’ skype simply picks up when I dial in…I also pipe my home desktop onto my cube’s monitor (using VNC). This combination is very close to actually being there in the cube. People walk right up to my cube and talk to me, just like they do when I’m in the office. Because my code’s up on the screen, we can work through issues there at my desk just like normal. Similarly, people glancing at my screen can see exactly what I’m doing (coding), so there’s never a question of whether I’m actually doing my work from home.

Is anyone else out there having a go at this? If so what set up are they using?


One thought on “Virtual Room Mates

  1. I’m working from home one day a week at the moment and the other day we had a webcam set up in the office on top of a bookcase in the corner, giving me eagle-eye access to what everyone was up to, which was excellent for feeling more connected to what was going on in the office and didn’t leave me guessing about whether someone was around or not to answer any questions I had. Sadly it went away later in the day to fulfil its real purpose to be Strawcam but it was good whilst it lasted 🙂

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