Goodbye from Ramblings…

So this is it…the end of the Ramblings of a Remote worker blog. Now the time is here I’m not actually sure what to say! I guess thanks and goodbye are probably the main things! Here’s a few photos from over the years to fill the space that words can’t.

remoteworker

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Closing Census

So I’m going to be officially closing my blog tomorrow (Friday 11th September). It will be my last day of remote working and I’d like to make sure all the loose ends are tied up before then. Today I wanted to share a few stats on the blog and on my work related to remote working (a bit meta there!), so here goes…

My blog has been running for quite a while, pretty much since I started working remotely back in 2008.

The blog has been running since 17th September 2008. That's almost 7 years, or 2551 days to be exact - 6 years, 11 months and 26 days!

It was pretty easy to write stuff at the beginning. I was actively encouraged by my line-manager (Brian Kelly) and it was a great way to support the team at UKOLN. Remote working was a new thing and there seemed so much to learn and not a lot of useful information out there. Over the years it has become harder to find topics to cover. My move to Open Knowledge and working as part of a distributed team gave me lots of new fodder, but often I’ve struggled to stay on topic and have strayed into the areas of e-learning and social media more generally. Here’s some of my favourite topics courtesy of Tagxedo:

talk topics

To be honest remote working is so normal to me now that I’m pretty scared about returning to an office! I’ve been having dreams/nightmares about turning up for work in pyjamas! I’ve mentioned my fear of being ‘home institutionalised’ to people – can I function normally in a more traditional working environment? We shall see – I hope the answer is yes!

378 blog posts

At times when I’ve struggled to come up with ideas for topics then guest blog posts have really helped keep things ticking over. These have allowed me to give a voice to others and establish a much needed community around remote working. They’ve also allowed us to hear about some great tools that people are using. I recently created some data visualisations looking at the authorship and timing of guest blog posts.

59 guest blog posts

Talking of tools I have used a couple of other social media ones to support this blog and my remote work. The main one is Twitter (here I just tweet about anything – not just remote work), but I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to images of remote working and Delicious account that saves related links.

1809 Delicious links

95 items on my Pinterest board

When I first began writing on this blog remote working was a lot more unusual than it is now and I actually ended up writing 4 published articles about it and giving a number of presentations on it. You can see my presentations on Slideshare. I’ve also written quite a few guest blog posts on other people’s blogs.

8 Slideshare presentations

So has it all been worth while? Has any one visited the blog or found the posts useful? I don’t know. There are some statistics on sites that link to this blog below but do they really show the value?

Google has found there to be 4,300 results when looking for this domain. Obviously 500 or so of these are the actual blog.

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Moz is finding 2,387 links.

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Check Your Link Popularity is coming up with 7,867 backlinks and 2,247 links to the home page.

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Quite a lot of people have passed through this site over the years and a lot of people have emailed and talked to me about the blog. The numbers aren’t amazing but they’ve been steady.

stats

This blog began as a way to record my thoughts and findings and to some degree it has been a personal development tool. I’ve often referred to my blog as a memory aid – I tend to forget what I’ve done so it’s useful to have a record of it all online. Wherever I am I can search for my own ramblings on a particular event or tool. While being an open practitioner means anyone can see (and perhaps benefit from, or even criticise) your thoughts, it also means that you have access to them too. That has been a huge help for me and I’m going to miss it.

So tomorrow I’ll say a last goodbye…

A Remote Farewell

In true remote worker style earlier today I had my online leaving do in a Google Hangout. (I went for a drink in London with some colleagues last week – a proper F2F thing). I’m not properly leaving Open Knowledge till the end of next week, but a lot of people are off to AbreLATAM ConDatos so today made more sense.

It was a drop in affair – and really lovely to catch up with people. For a bit of fun we also played a quiz. The idea was that I provided a clue for a place (city, country, place) and people on the hangout had to decide on the place and the Open Knowledge person that the place is connected to.

hangout

I also received some great (virtual) presents – a voucher from Cos (so I can buy some smart new work clothes – no more pyjamas for me!), a remote worker t-shirt and some personalised post-it notes! My amazing colleague Cecile LeGuen has also made me a fantastic OK:FM playlist of farewell songs (on Spotify).

present

I want to say a massive thank you to everyone at Open Knowledge for my lovely gifts and for being such fab colleagues over the last 2 years!

marieke

Moving On…

So I have some pretty exciting news! After 8 years of working from home I will be moving back to working in a physical location!

From mid-September I will be taking on a new role as a data analyst in the research department at the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). The QAA is the independent body entrusted with monitoring, and advising on, standards and quality in UK Higher Education. It is based in Gloucester.

qaaThe QAA is currently at an interesting juncture. Our new(ish) government is already making changes that will affect QAA work, and QA processes in HE are also being reviewed by HEFCE. The QAA needs to be flexible, reactive and grounded in its ability to deal with significant policy issues including: value for money for students, putting teaching at the heart of HE, expansion of the HE sector, increasing student numbers, widening participation and the increase in Internet-based provision. I am very lucky to be joining the QAA team at a point when there will be opportunities to contribute to the organisation’s future direction. Areas I feel passionate about, such as online learning and open education, research data management, open data and transparency, are all highly relevant for them right now. In fact they have recently released this report MOOCs and Quality: A review of the recent literature and have established a QAA MOOCs Network.

Although I am little apprehensive I am really looking forward to joining the QAA team!

This move is a huge scary step for me. It is going to mean commuting to work everyday and spending 8 hours+ in a place that isn’t my house! I’m expecting a big culture shock, but I’m also excited about being part of a physical team! It’s to going to be great to be able to chat in coffee breaks, attend F2F meetings and have a real lunch break!

I am very sad to be leaving Open Knowledge, the 2.5 years I have been there has flown by in a whirlwind of great projects, new skills and wonderful communities. Open Knowledge does truly amazing work and I’ve never met such a dedicated and talented bunch of people – both staff and community. I hope to stay in touch with both people and initiatives. I’d like to wish Open Knowledge all the best for the future.

So what does all this mean for my blog…?

I think after 8 years it’s time to archive Ramblings of a Remote Worker. Over the next 2 weeks I’ll add some summary posts and after that the site will remain here for people to use but there will not be any more new posts. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll continue to blog or not. I may not have time! Then again a need may arise and who knows what will happen!? I’ll be keeping my website up to date and of course you can catch me on Twitter too.

A big thank you to everyone who has dropped by this blog over the last 8 years or has chatted to me on social media. You have been my watercooler, my colleagues and my friends! You stopped me from going crazy! Thanks!

Visualising your Work Network #2

Over 2 years ago I had a go at visualising my work network using LinkedIn Labs InMap. You can see the resulting map and the blog post. I was hoping to see how my network had progressed since I left my previous place of employment (more people – a different set of groups etc.) but LinkedIn retired InMap last year – which makes things a bit tricky. However there are some other visualisation tools around that work well with LinkedIn.

Socilab is one such tool. This Socilab project is open source, and intended for personal or academic use. The idea is to educate people about their social network data and to make analysis more accessible for everday users. It has been used at over 20 universities across the world to teach students about the power of social network analysis as part of undergraduate and MBA curricula. Socilab works using the LinkedIn API – unfortunately due to LinkedIn API limitations it can only use 499 of your contacts in one go. The API limit is reset at 12am every day so I’m planning to go back there tomorrow!

Socilab

Socilab does give you some stats about your network which you might find useful though…

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Possibly the coolest thing is that you can export your data [in ‘CSV adjacency matrix or ‘Pajek .net edge list’] and use it elsewhere.

Linkurious gives some things you can so with the data if you have the skills. Gephi is probably the best tool to use.

gephi

After quite a bit of experimentation I’m still hunting for a tool that does the job as easily as Inmap – any suggestions?

The Remote Worker Guilt Trip

Guilt features a lot in my working life. I’m thinking maybe guilt features a lot in remote worker’s lives generally. So there’s guilt that you don’t have to get in a car and drive somewhere everyday, guilt that your day is more flexible, guilt if you take a few minutes off to load the washing machine, guilt if you spend time paying a bill online during work hours, guilt if you eat lunch at the computer, guilt if you eat lunch…

guilt

Guilt if you are not working and you should be, guilt if you are working and you shouldn’t be.

Guilt, guilt, GUILT, GUILT!!!!

Add to the mix parental guilt, 3 frisky children, end of term activities and the summer holidays looming – you can see that I am becoming a guilty wreck. The Summer is going to be a guilt-fest!

In his article Being a Remote Worker Sucks – Long Live the Remote Worker Scott Hanselman argues that remote workers:

work at least as hard, if not more so, than their local counterparts. This is fueled in no small part by guilt and fear. We DO feel guilty working at home. We assume you all think we’re just hanging out without pants on. We assume you think we’re just at the mall tweeting. We fear that you think we aren’t putting in a solid 40 hours (or 50, or 60).”

Because of this, we tend to work late, we work after the kids are down, and we work weekends. We may take an afternoon off to see a kid’s play, but then the guilt will send us right back in to make up the time. In my anecdotal experience, remote workers are more likely to feel they are “taking time from the company” and pay it back more than others.”

Mobile technology doesn’t help either. A recent survey of 3,500 professionals conducted in the U.S. and five other countries found at least 58% said they have feelings of guilt in this hyper-connected world.

So how do we deal with these feelings of guilt?

I don’t have an easy answer but here are a few thoughts I have.

  • One of the top tips psychology gives for dealing with guilt is that you need to recognise the kind of guilt you have and its purpose. You feel guilty because you want to be an effective and dedicated member of staff. Just feeling the guilt means that you are already on the right track. Joe Bloggs next door doesn’t feel guilt because he lounges on the sofa all day picking his feet, he doesn’t care, you do.
  • When my children were very found I remember a health visitor telling me that I need to think about the food they eat in terms of a week, rather than a day. I try to apply the same approach to remote working. There are busy days and there are not so busy days, it’s give and take, but overall my organisation gets more than enough out of me.The old remote worker adage about clear boundaries really applies here. Don’t be answering emails while putting your kids in the bath, and don’t be watching YouTube when you are working. Set up time boundaries and things will be easier.
  • Keep brief notes on what you do all day. You needn’t share these with anyone but they will help you see how productive you’ve been.
  • Reward yourself for completing tasks – when I’ve finished working on that spreadsheet I’m going to have a cup of tea and a 10 minute read of a book. It’s a well deserved treat – so no guilt there.

I’d like to end with some wise words from Natali Vlatko on recognising your true value.

Don’t let the guilt of working from home eat away at your deserved free time, unless you’re just watching animated gifs all day. Make yourself heard and your presence felt, then the proverbial wall between you and your team will come down. Your value shouldn’t be undermined just because you’re not sharing a cubicle with someone.”