Another App.net user

I was late to the game when yesterday, I made the decision to back App.net. So I’m now, like Bernie put it, part of the App.net posse. My temporary user page is at https://alpha.app.net/geewiz.

I’ve put my $50 into the tip jar because I’m curious if it’s really possible to maintain a stable microcommunication platform in competition to Twitter. Back when identi.ca tried this, it didn’t gain strong adoption and Diaspora obviously took its name as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are people who object that, as James argues in a comment on Bernie’s post, “we don’t need another (centralized) network”. Well, we had all that already when they launched identi.ca aka StatusNet – open, decentral, federated. But from my perspective, it’s not the technology that matters first, it’s adoption. I’m optimistic that App.net will add federation later after they transform the healthy adoption that gave them more than $500,000 in start money to a stable user base.

App.net could be the right thing at the right time, as Twitter continues to alienate its user and third-party developer base. And they have something to show, only a few weeks after first announcing the project. The alpha version of the website works well (granted, with minimal functionality) and their developer ecosystem is bustling. I also like the transparency the App.net team strives for, for example by using Github for maintaining not only their software but also their TOS.

I’m looking forward to what my fellow App.net users and I will make of the platform. For a start, we’ve already put our money where our mouth is.

Work where you work best

I love working on my own terms. For many years now, I’m deeply convinced that the freedom of choosing your own work style is an important basis for good work results.

Working from home can be a really great way of achieving a balance between work and the other things that are equally important. I’m not going to call this “work/life balance” because to me, work is not an opposite to life but an integral part of it. The flexibility of working from home was one of the reasons I decided to make freistil IT a virtual company. My daugher was only about a year old and I intended not to miss most of her early development sitting in an office away from home.

Like walking a tightrope, achieving work/other balance needs constant adjustment and there are many things that threaten to throw you off. A screaming baby will quickly steal your attention and a stack of unwashed dishes is a great excuse to procrastinate. In my case, another kind of distraction that recently happened is going to lead to new screaming next January. ;-)

With a bit of reason and discipline, though, working from home has great advantages. For example, doing productive work while others waste their time commuting. If you’re interested in or already practicing working from home, I recommend you subscribe to the “Home Work” podcast. Aaron and Dave have great insight into home office reality.

I found that my home office isn’t the holy grail of work spaces, though. Unfortunately, I won’t have a separate room until we move house next year. The main problem of this situation is that I’m physically at home while being mentally at work. During the time my daughter is in day care, it’s rather quiet, so I only have to fight for focus on the weekends. But sharing the place with my partner all the time without sharing her current tasks and concerns can also be a source of conflict.

That’s why I’ve tried the offer of a local real estate company that rents office space by the hour. (Yes, this model can actually also be used for rooms with a desk.) Every time I needed a change of scenery or had to make sure I’m protected from disturbances, I booked a room for a few hours and went to town (literally). This worked quite well and proved to be a good complement to my desk at home.

Coworking spaces are another “lean” alternative and I have first-hand experience since we have our two-day strategy meetings at the coworking space my business partner Markus helps to run. They offer inexpensive desk space as well as other important infrastructure like a printer and a fridge stocked with Club Mate. They also provide something I didn’t realize I was missing at first: social interaction. Joining folks for lunch or just having a chat while waiting for the coffee to brew can be a healthy break from self-imposed isolation and an opportunity to exchange thoughts.

Unfortunately, there is no real coworking space in my home town. But there’s a company that does office sharing on a daily or monthly basis, and I’ve decided to give them a go. After a test period of a few days, I got myself a good office chair and a big monitor and moved in permanently. So, this is how my work place looks now:

My new office

I use the screen in the middle for my current task, the laptop screen on the right displays chat windows connecting me with colleagues and customers, and the one on the left shows a dashboard view of our IT infrastructure.

My triple-screen setup

So far, I’m really happy working at this office community. The building is in the city centre, about 50m from my favourite Starbucks – in other words, perfectly located. My office mates are nice and their different occupations make for interesting chats.

I can work there whenever I want, too – I wrote this blog entry at the office on a Sunday afternoon. I was in need of some solitary time, so I first had a Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks, where I read the second half of Steven Pressfield’s “Turning Pro”. His writing in turn motivated me to get something done myself, so I went the few steps to my desk and started typing. Now I feel balanced again.

Putting my money where my mouth is

day in the life: lunch money

The Iron Blogger Freiburg initiative made me realize how much an incentive the threat of losing money can be. Basically, it’s a bet against myself that I can write at least one blog post a week. Which I do at this precise moment, once again only a few hours before the deadline.

So, recently I had the idea of betting against myself in another area I’ve made much less progress than I’d like to admit: losing weight. Of course, I know all the benefits of not being overweight by heart and I appreciate them. So I tried time and time again, but eventually I always lost my discipline and gained back the little I had been able to shed.

This changed a few weeks ago when I decided to literally put my money where my mouth is: Yes, I want to lose at least 10kg, and yes, I’m going to pay cash if I fail. It works like this: I set a new weight goal at the beginning of the month and for every kilo I’m off at its end, I pay 20€ to my partner. Since the difference is always rounded up to the next full kilo, missing my goal by only 100g means handing over 20€.

Lo and behold: Suddenly, I’m steadily losing weight (4kg so far)! Between losing money and missing a few sugary pleasures, I choose the latter. And since I’m setting realistic goals (2kg per month at the moment), I still have fun eating.

Looks like if the motivational carrot just isn’t enough, I need to find the right stick.

Internet, my much better radio

I’m not very sophisticated in regards to music. In my early years, I relied solely on my favourite radio station to provide me with enjoyable songs, so my taste developed quite mainstreamish.

Thanks to the Internet, it’s getting better. Spotify is very useful to quickly check recommendations of interesting artists and bands I find in magazines or online.

What I find very interesting is how YouTube plays an increasingly important role in my musical education. Recently, I’ve came across very creative works that I never would have heard on the radio.

A good example is two very different cover versions of “Somebody That I Used to Know”. I’ve actually never heard the original by Gotye, but I suspect that these two cover versions are both more creative and more entertaining.

The first version is by the awesome Walk off the Earth and features many people playing one instrument:

The second version has one person (Ingrid Michaelson) playing many instruments:

But it doesn’t have to be cover versions. Here’s “In Your Arms” by Kina Grannis:

The song doesn’t impress me so much by its musical qualities as by the effort that went into producing the video:

So, thank you, Internet, and keep the great music suggestions coming!