Does your office look like a Borg hive ?
One of the biggest challenges in the daily life of a cyber-citizen must be .. Simplicity. Simplicity in using technology , simplicity in integrating technology , simplicity in hardware and software .. and most importantly : Simplicity in thought.
Just think of the classic example. Somewhere along the way it happened. Your ever so tidy laptop bag seams to have been impregnated by the lords of chaos them selves. What started out as a slim shiny Dell laptop-bag has now become an atrocity. Like a grotesque pregnant elephant its innards have now swollen up with meters of cables , extra floppy drives, cd’s, extension cords , paper, books and so forth. As you watch the heaving husk that , due to being terribly overweight, drags your left shoulder to the ground and makes you look like Quasimodo, you think .. Where did it all start ?
But when you look at the mess that is your office , you see a reoccurring pattern, Your office, once setup with the help of your girlfriend to be a place of fen shue , now has the characteristics of a Borg cube after a high speed collision with a scrap barge. Cables , monitors, paper , books, post it notes.. keyboards overlapping keyboards, mouse-cables in suffocating deadlocks, flashing hubs and switches.. and loads of empty coffee-cups.
The big drawback of being on the edge of real an cyberspace is that you learn a lot of new things everyday. There is so much to see, to find out, to try , to test, to use .. Everyday something comes along that takes your fancy and you add it to the list .. stick it in your bag , add it to your start menu. And pretty soon you have an immense collection of tools and toys that by no means contribute to your effectivity.
What i regularly do is a ‘technological reset” where I look at all the things I have and think about ways to work more effective. For example : My 4 old test computers that served as my loyal test-battery (and drove my fiancé AND our electrical bill up the walls) have now been replaced by 4 virtual machines running on one computer, My entire collection of Windows versions have been scaled down to fit on one single dvd. My overweight software collection bag has been reduced to one portable USB hard drive and so on. Its very important to find the balance between keeping up with what is new , and being overwhelmed by hardware, software, information and more. The challenge is to analise what you have , and try to distill it into a workable simple concept. This means letting some things go , or combining tools, hardware or work-methods, but this is the only way to let technology work for you .. instead of the other way around. Take for example my current podcasting setup. It started out with one computer and a microphone , but due to the demands of my podcast, has grown into : A microphone stand , A microphone, A pop screen , headphones, a Mixer , My Macbook for show-notes and skype conversations , a second computer to play music or background tracks (using a USB DJ console) and finally a Linux system to record everything on. I must say its very versatile BUT also very complex. I am momentarily contemplating how to simplify the whole project. This will not only get me a cleaner office , it must also give me a cleaner way to do my thing : thus simplifying technology. The “how to record skype conversation” issue has been solved as I found this little gem for my macbook and as a replacement (or quite probably an “addition” to my studio setup I was looking at the Samson C01u microphone with a table stand . Together with my Macbook it will give me a portable high quality studio, that can be put away at a moments notice. Using Garageband and open source software like Audacity this wil greatly simplify my podcast production.
So you see my friends, Living with technology is not about what you add .. but what you leave out in order to be as effective as possible. This will help you in working faster, thinking clearer, have more time to think and respond to creative challenges. Downloading tool after tool , installing pc after pc is easy , its looking THROUGH the technology in order to see how you can destil it, simplify it .. and tune it into your way of life.