Thursday, September 01, 2005

Please can we have 28 hours in a day from now on?

Today started too early! I was at the airport at 8am. That's the second day in a row I have been up too early and it's telling. I was picking up a friend who works in the Middle East. He had been taking a vacation in Egypt, and was coming back to spend a couple of days with us before returning to the country he works in.

We spent some of the morning planning a joint project we will be working on next year, and some of it running around town: buying cable clips, going to the bank to pay the rent, going to the travel agent to change flight reservations, going to another origanization to give them an invoice... all the things that have to be done to just keep things rolling. Boring but necessary.

Buying cable clips? My friend is helping me by installing another 3 sensors for the alarm system for the office and needed them to neaten off the wires. When you add PIR [infrared] detectors you have to do a 'walk test', which means you walk through the area and see if they trigger.

Some time ago I learnt that if you walk very slowly you can fool a PIR detector into not triggering. By very slowly I mean about 3-4 metres in 10-15 minutes, or slower. So for a few minutes we played the game 'can I walk slowly enough to not trigger the PIR?'. The answer was than neither of us could, so hopefully no potential theif could either.

In between all that I am copying video tape masters. I brought back a series of 16 or so video tape masters from the conference a couple of weeks back and now have to copy them all. Each is approximately one hour long.

This afternoon I spent time reading and writing email. At last I have got it down to a reasonable amount. One of the problems with good fast communication is that the volume of communication has radically increased and people expect more of it. Years ago when people went abroad and it took weeks for a letter to get to where that person was, you had plenty of time to read and respond. People wrote few letters. Not so with email.

There are still only 24 hours in a day, of which about 8-10 are working hours and so if communication has increased to take up 3-4 hours of that then there is less time for other things. That was the trap I was in about a year or so ago. I found it mind boggling how long all the email was taking.

Then along came instant messaging. To start with it was great, it allowed colleagues in different countries to work together in real time, reducing some of the emails. Quickly however it began to take over. As soon as I arrived at the office people would open a chat window and start asking questions. So although the email had reduced to maybe 1-2 hours per day the instant messaging had absorbed another 2-4 hours and I was getting even less done.

So now I turn it off... the email and the instant messaging and do it when I want to. Some of my colleagues in other countries don't like it, but I feel more sane. And I try to reduce the communications stuff down to about 5-10 hours per week.

Of course the next frightening thing round the corner is VOIP - what's that you ask? A disease like AIDS? No, its using the Internet for telephone calls. At the moment one of the things that stops loads of people phoning me is the cost. When that is free... oh no... even when instant messenger services are turned off, my Internet phone will ring!

Of course, every good thing has a bad opposite and the VOIP thing actually does have a good side, it will enable us to set up ways of listeners to the radio station responding via a VOIP linked telephone to the programmes. Any ways that we can get to interact with the audience is a step in the right direction.

It's one of the projects that Peter needs to get to as soon as this burden of the routing is lifted from him. Keep praying for the routers to be up and working.

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