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OT: A "decomposed" business structure

Discussion in 'Embedded' started by Don Y, May 12, 2012.

  1. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi,

    I suspect many folks have telecommuted, worked off-site,
    etc. As regular employees, subcontractors, etc. And,
    possibly with many *other* such INDEPENDENT people at
    the same time.

    But, in my experience, this has always been for *a*
    "company" (client/employer). A real brick and mortar
    outfit (though I've worked for some "solo" operators,
    as well).

    What I would like to explore are the issues associated with
    an entire company built with no real, "physical presence"
    (other than it's legal point of incorporation).

    In other words, imagine the "accountant" being in Florida
    (I'm left-pondian so its easier for me to reference locations
    here :-/ ), the purchasing agent in Washington, engineering
    staff in Illinois and Texas, manufacturing in California,
    etc. (use your imagination)

    There are few real needs for face to face meetings in most
    modern organizations -- aside from sheep-counters who can
    only justify their existence by pointing to the flock they
    are tending :>

    And, **any** sort of documents can surely be on the recipient's
    desk "instantly" (subject to network availability).

    There's no reason for components ordered by the purchasing agent
    in Washington *not* to be deliverable to the manufacturing
    facility in California. Nor for the "bill" to be sent to the
    accountant in Florida. A customer cares not whether his device
    is shipped from location X or location Y -- so long as it arrives
    at *his* location.

    Etc.

    (are there any logistical limitations that I am overlooking
    or trivializing?)

    The point that most immediately comes to mind is one of
    "trust". This is true in all business relationships where
    a party is "unsupervised" (is that consultant *really*
    working on my project? or, is he off playing golf? will
    he meet his delivery date? will I discover this before its
    "too late"? etc.). I tend to have a pretty naive/simple
    way of looking at this sort of thing: if you don't trust
    your suppliers/clients/customers/etc. then why are you
    doing *business* with them?

    What other issues might come up?

    [note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    relationships between entities, etc. at this point]

    Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    Any insights to share?

    Thx,
    --don
     
    Don Y, May 12, 2012
    #1
    1. Advertising

  2. On Fri, 11 May 2012 23:34:26 -0700, the renowned Don Y <>
    wrote:

    >Hi,
    >
    >I suspect many folks have telecommuted, worked off-site,
    >etc. As regular employees, subcontractors, etc. And,
    >possibly with many *other* such INDEPENDENT people at
    >the same time.
    >
    >But, in my experience, this has always been for *a*
    >"company" (client/employer). A real brick and mortar
    >outfit (though I've worked for some "solo" operators,
    >as well).
    >
    >What I would like to explore are the issues associated with
    >an entire company built with no real, "physical presence"
    >(other than it's legal point of incorporation).
    >
    >In other words, imagine the "accountant" being in Florida
    >(I'm left-pondian so its easier for me to reference locations
    >here :-/ ), the purchasing agent in Washington, engineering
    >staff in Illinois and Texas, manufacturing in California,
    >etc. (use your imagination)
    >
    >There are few real needs for face to face meetings in most
    >modern organizations -- aside from sheep-counters who can
    >only justify their existence by pointing to the flock they
    >are tending :>
    >
    >And, **any** sort of documents can surely be on the recipient's
    >desk "instantly" (subject to network availability).
    >
    >There's no reason for components ordered by the purchasing agent
    >in Washington *not* to be deliverable to the manufacturing
    >facility in California. Nor for the "bill" to be sent to the
    >accountant in Florida. A customer cares not whether his device
    >is shipped from location X or location Y -- so long as it arrives
    >at *his* location.
    >
    >Etc.
    >
    >(are there any logistical limitations that I am overlooking
    >or trivializing?)
    >
    >The point that most immediately comes to mind is one of
    >"trust". This is true in all business relationships where
    >a party is "unsupervised" (is that consultant *really*
    >working on my project? or, is he off playing golf?


    That can be solved with progress reports and milestones. Maybe better,
    because everyone involved can share the results, and they can be
    archived.

    >will
    >he meet his delivery date? will I discover this before its
    >"too late"? etc.). I tend to have a pretty naive/simple
    >way of looking at this sort of thing: if you don't trust
    >your suppliers/clients/customers/etc. then why are you
    >doing *business* with them?
    >
    >What other issues might come up?


    Leadership. It's easier to get people fired up about something when
    you can get them together in front of you. Hard, maybe impossible, to
    do remotely. Without excellent leadership, things are going to go to
    pot eventually. If you select for just those folks who can self-lead
    you'll probably filter out a lot of really good people (and perhaps
    end up with more obstreperous curmudgeons that prefer not to work with
    other prople directly). How do you have a heated argument over e-mail
    and come to some kind of resolution that works? (The first part is
    easy, the second, I think less easy).

    >[note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    >relationships between entities, etc. at this point]


    There are a few places where definite physical location is required-
    the gov't will want to know where the books and records for the corp
    are located, as well as the exact location of any 'special' goods they
    deem worth tracking. I can't imagine getting a bank account without an
    address. Those could be a contractor or whatever, I suppose. It would
    complicate payroll functions, for example, if people are in different
    jurisdictions. If different countries are involved, there will be
    duplication involved unless everyone is an independent contractor.

    >Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    >Any insights to share?
    >
    >Thx,
    >--don


    Pieces of it. My overall impression is that some people seem to be
    happier, but it's not as effective as offices. I think it can work for
    a time, in some situations. I did an entire mid-sized project with a
    fully distributed company, but we distributed folks all knew and
    trusted each other, and we were all very competent in our
    (well-defined) fields. I don't think we were ever all in the same
    room, and the first time I met a few of the group was on the aircraft
    to meet with the client.


    Best regards,
    Spehro Pefhany
    --
    "it's the network..." "The Journey is the reward"
    Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com
    Embedded software/hardware/analog Info for designers: http://www.speff.com
     
    Spehro Pefhany, May 12, 2012
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. Don Y

    John Larkin Guest

    On Fri, 11 May 2012 23:34:26 -0700, Don Y <> wrote:

    >Hi,
    >
    >I suspect many folks have telecommuted, worked off-site,
    >etc. As regular employees, subcontractors, etc. And,
    >possibly with many *other* such INDEPENDENT people at
    >the same time.
    >
    >But, in my experience, this has always been for *a*
    >"company" (client/employer). A real brick and mortar
    >outfit (though I've worked for some "solo" operators,
    >as well).
    >
    >What I would like to explore are the issues associated with
    >an entire company built with no real, "physical presence"
    >(other than it's legal point of incorporation).
    >
    >In other words, imagine the "accountant" being in Florida
    >(I'm left-pondian so its easier for me to reference locations
    >here :-/ ), the purchasing agent in Washington, engineering
    >staff in Illinois and Texas, manufacturing in California,
    >etc. (use your imagination)
    >
    >There are few real needs for face to face meetings in most
    >modern organizations -- aside from sheep-counters who can
    >only justify their existence by pointing to the flock they
    >are tending :>
    >
    >And, **any** sort of documents can surely be on the recipient's
    >desk "instantly" (subject to network availability).
    >
    >There's no reason for components ordered by the purchasing agent
    >in Washington *not* to be deliverable to the manufacturing
    >facility in California. Nor for the "bill" to be sent to the
    >accountant in Florida. A customer cares not whether his device
    >is shipped from location X or location Y -- so long as it arrives
    >at *his* location.
    >
    >Etc.
    >
    >(are there any logistical limitations that I am overlooking
    >or trivializing?)
    >
    >The point that most immediately comes to mind is one of
    >"trust". This is true in all business relationships where
    >a party is "unsupervised" (is that consultant *really*
    >working on my project? or, is he off playing golf? will
    >he meet his delivery date? will I discover this before its
    >"too late"? etc.). I tend to have a pretty naive/simple
    >way of looking at this sort of thing: if you don't trust
    >your suppliers/clients/customers/etc. then why are you
    >doing *business* with them?
    >
    >What other issues might come up?
    >
    >[note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    >relationships between entities, etc. at this point]
    >
    >Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    >Any insights to share?
    >
    >Thx,
    >--don


    It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical problems,
    things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints, can get
    resolved by getting people physically together in front of a
    whiteboard. For something complex like electronic design, the
    distributed model sounds dangerous to me. It's rare to find people who
    work well this way, and tekkies are often not good writers, in that
    they don't always express themselves clearly in emails or even on the
    telephone. We see this all the time.

    Outsourcing PCB layout is just one example of how distributed
    engineering can be difficult. Ditto embedded code.

    Brainstorming is fundamental to the early stages of product
    development. I think that requires physical presence.

    There have been successful companies that had scores of small
    divisions. EG&G, Perkin-Elmer, Vishay, Bruker for example.


    --

    John Larkin Highland Technology Inc
    www.highlandtechnology.com jlarkin at highlandtechnology dot com

    Precision electronic instrumentation
    Picosecond-resolution Digital Delay and Pulse generators
    Custom timing and laser controllers
    Photonics and fiberoptic TTL data links
    VME analog, thermocouple, LVDT, synchro, tachometer
    Multichannel arbitrary waveform generators
     
    John Larkin, May 12, 2012
    #3
  4. On 2012-05-12, John Larkin <> wrote:

    > It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical
    > problems, things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints,
    > can get resolved by getting people physically together in front of a
    > whiteboard.


    Or in front of a bench and an oscilloscope or logic analyzer.

    I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    the phone.

    --
    Grant
     
    Grant Edwards, May 12, 2012
    #4
  5. Don Y wrote:

    [snip]
    >
    > Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    > Any insights to share?


    Well, without tipping my hand too much, I do. And one of the major issues
    I've encountered is that the various regulatory and taxing authorities are
    going to shit themselves if there isn't an actual physical site they can
    kick the doors in on.

    In Washington State, for example, you cannot have a corporation,
    partnership, or whatever without a physical address. So I work as
    an "employee" of a foreign firm. They haven't gotten around to as asking
    for that address. Yet.

    --
    Paul Hovnanian mailto:p
    ------------------------------------------------------------------
    I have a very firm grasp on reality. I can reach out and strangle it any
    time!
     
    Paul Hovnanian P.E., May 12, 2012
    #5
  6. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi Spehro,

    On 5/12/2012 2:11 AM, Spehro Pefhany wrote:
    > On Fri, 11 May 2012 23:34:26 -0700, the renowned Don Y<>
    > wrote:


    >> What I would like to explore are the issues associated with
    >> an entire company built with no real, "physical presence"
    >> (other than it's legal point of incorporation).


    >> (are there any logistical limitations that I am overlooking
    >> or trivializing?)
    >>
    >> The point that most immediately comes to mind is one of
    >> "trust". This is true in all business relationships where
    >> a party is "unsupervised" (is that consultant *really*
    >> working on my project? or, is he off playing golf?

    >
    > That can be solved with progress reports and milestones. Maybe better,
    > because everyone involved can share the results, and they can be
    > archived.


    Yes. Though some activities don't really lend themselves
    easily to these sorts of mechanisms (imagine the accountant's
    role -- aside from things like: have the payroll ready for
    deposit to accounts by 11PM thursday).

    One thing I thought might help is a whiteboard sort of approach
    where everyone's activities are visible to everyone else.
    This has some distinct advantages -- if you're not doing your
    job, folks will tend to see it sooner; if you take ill, there
    is a path that another can try to pick up (hmmm... looks like
    he was getting ready to file these license forms...); it let's
    folks see how you (mis)*interpreted* past decisions; etc.

    >> will
    >> he meet his delivery date? will I discover this before its
    >> "too late"? etc.). I tend to have a pretty naive/simple
    >> way of looking at this sort of thing: if you don't trust
    >> your suppliers/clients/customers/etc. then why are you
    >> doing *business* with them?
    >>
    >> What other issues might come up?

    >
    > Leadership. It's easier to get people fired up about something when
    > you can get them together in front of you. Hard, maybe impossible, to
    > do remotely. Without excellent leadership, things are going to go to
    > pot eventually. If you select for just those folks who can self-lead
    > you'll probably filter out a lot of really good people (and perhaps
    > end up with more obstreperous curmudgeons that prefer not to work with
    > other prople directly). How do you have a heated argument over e-mail
    > and come to some kind of resolution that works? (The first part is
    > easy, the second, I think less easy).


    Video conferencing. Don't restrict yourself to 1960's communication
    technology...

    I don't see how physical presence makes a difference given what is
    now readily affordable in that regard. One "must have" (IMO) is
    a shared whiteboard application where each party can have a
    tablet and share ink+boardspace. I.e., I can scribble on *my*
    "whiteboard" and *you* can augment/modify it concurrently. Prepare
    new drawings off-line (before/during/after such a conference)
    and "reveal" them as necessary during your discussion.

    This gives you the shared workspace that is available in a "conference
    room", allows "presentations" to be seemlessly and interactively
    shared and documents the entire process (for later playback/review).

    I.e., if you come up with an idea *later*, you can amend a
    "discussion/presentation" to illustrate how your idea dovetails
    with the original concept -- or, takes it in a different
    direction.

    >> [note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    >> relationships between entities, etc. at this point]

    >
    > There are a few places where definite physical location is required-
    > the gov't will want to know where the books and records for the corp
    > are located, as well as the exact location of any 'special' goods they
    > deem worth tracking. I can't imagine getting a bank account without an
    > address. Those could be a contractor or whatever, I suppose. It would
    > complicate payroll functions, for example, if people are in different
    > jurisdictions. If different countries are involved, there will be
    > duplication involved unless everyone is an independent contractor.


    These are "easy" things to address. And, depend a lot on the
    actual legal structure of the business. E.g., there are advantages
    to 1099-ing everyone. *And* disadvantages! (As I said, I am trying
    not to muddy the discussion with those issues)

    >> Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    >> Any insights to share?

    >
    > Pieces of it. My overall impression is that some people seem to be
    > happier, but it's not as effective as offices.


    <frown> I had exactly one client who *insisted* the entire "team"
    be collocated. Some of us lived in hotels for months at a time.
    None of *us* (and, by extension, the work we individually performed)
    benefitted from this collocation. It boiled down to the client's
    insecurity ("How can I be a manager if no one can see the people
    that I am managing?").

    Since then, every relationship has been usually across state
    lines with no physical contact. The UPS guy and I have become
    *very* friendly -- due to his frequent visits (often two or three
    times a week)!

    > I think it can work for
    > a time, in some situations. I did an entire mid-sized project with a
    > fully distributed company, but we distributed folks all knew and
    > trusted each other, and we were all very competent in our
    > (well-defined) fields. I don't think we were ever all in the same
    > room, and the first time I met a few of the group was on the aircraft
    > to meet with the client.


    Exactly. I can put together a "perfect" crew, today -- many of which
    have never met each other, etc. But, who would all work well with
    each other based on the recommendations of their peers ("I can
    vouch for Joe...").

    The problem I see is dealing with anything beyond "steady state".
    I.e., what do you do when you *need* additional staff? How do
    you handle a "loss" (illness, death, "moving on", etc.)?

    The distance makes it harder for folks to notice *personal*
    issues that others may be dealing with -- that could be precursors
    to future organizational changes (someone quitting, performance
    falling off, etc.). E.g., you're less likely to notice Bob
    is having marital problems and headed for a messy divorce if
    you're not socializing with him (esp after work).

    And, its too easy to become "isolated TOGETHER". If you've
    ever worked on a really tight team, its easy to see how you
    can all "focus inward" on your common goal -- to the exclusion
    of everything around you. You *don't* interact with as many
    "outsiders". So, when the need for another engineer/accountant/etc
    arises, you're not as likely to have anyone that you are
    tight enough with to be able to heartily recommend ("vouch for").
     
    Don Y, May 12, 2012
    #6
  7. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi John,

    On 5/12/2012 7:30 AM, John Larkin wrote:
    > On Fri, 11 May 2012 23:34:26 -0700, Don Y<> wrote:


    >> What other issues might come up?
    >>
    >> [note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    >> relationships between entities, etc. at this point]
    >>
    >> Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    >> Any insights to share?


    > It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical problems,
    > things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints, can get
    > resolved by getting people physically together in front of a


    But you can do that over *distributed* whiteboards. You can
    videoconference and simultaneously share "drawing spaces".
    Why force people to work at "typing speed" when you can exchange
    audio and video imagery in real time?

    I snap several dozen digital pix each week. Friends looking at
    my "photo collection" never see any *people* in the imagery.
    One friend jokingly commented about this. I told him:
    "I know what Bob, Jane, Sally, Ted, etc. look like. And,
    if I ever have to describe any of them to someone, I just
    say something like 'She's a short blond I know from my work
    at XXXXXX' or 'He's a bike enthusiast I met while exercising
    at the local park'. Unless someone is looking for a 'hookup',
    nothing more is usually necessary.

    On the other hand, if I am trying to describe the flowers
    on the mimosa's or how a PCB fits into an enclosure, it is
    impractical (and imprecise) to try to define these things
    textually. OTOH, snapping a photo and emailing it off
    makes the issue abundantly clear!"

    > whiteboard. For something complex like electronic design, the
    > distributed model sounds dangerous to me. It's rare to find people who
    > work well this way, and tekkies are often not good writers, in that
    > they don't always express themselves clearly in emails or even on the
    > telephone. We see this all the time.


    How does a live video conference *worsen* communication skills
    compared to sitting in a room together? The extent of each
    participants' vocabulary remains unchanged. Their grammar
    doesn't deteriorate.

    I find in many "in person" situations there are many folks
    who tend to sit quietly and NOT participate. Either because
    they aren't aggressive enough to deal with the group dynamics
    or aren't quick enough on their feet to fully prepare their
    arguments without appearing "incorrect/ill-conceived/etc.".

    I can't count the number of project meetings I've been in
    where someone approached me afterwards to pitch an idea that
    they *could* have pitched 30 seconds earlier, to the group.
    I attribute this to them knowing that I am open to all sorts
    of ideas -- regardless of how off-the-wall they might sound.
    Or, how "unpolished" they might be. *And*, that I am willing
    to aggressively back (or *present* on behalf of) someone else's
    ideas to the group and defend them without "usurping" authorship.

    One of the wins (IMO) of email is that it lets people think
    about their comments and organize their thoughts *before*
    exchanging them with others. ("Hmmm... no, that doesn't sound
    right. It has the following technical problems... Let me
    revise it.") A video conference gives folks the ability to
    review the "exchanges", try to refine their understanding of
    the issues that were *actually* presented, then fit their
    argument into the discussion(s) ex post factum. These can
    then be shared with The Group in a later "meeting" or
    emailed to each party for their own *individual* review
    or as preparation for the next meeting.

    With conventional "meetings" (not "recorded"), you have none of
    these capabilities. Did you take ACCURATE notes? Will the
    other parties agree with those notes? Do they have different
    memories of what was "decided"/discussed? Did they understand
    the subtlety of a particular issue that was presented?

    > Outsourcing PCB layout is just one example of how distributed
    > engineering can be difficult. Ditto embedded code.


    You're assuming old communication mechanisms. I can peer
    over your shoulder, remotely, *watching* you route a board
    and *drag* the traces that I find fault with to where I
    want them -- while *you* watch.

    For the past ~25 years, I've never had a problem with this
    sort of thing. Either I laid out my own boards or had
    someone as technically skilled as myself do it for me
    (never a "CAD person").

    Embedded code has *never* been a problem "with distance".
    It is all a function of how well *specified* the product
    is. Lazy bosses/employers need to be able to look over
    your shoulders because they were unable to decide what they
    actually wanted. Or, didn't trust you to make good decisions
    as their proxy. I frequently write code and "introduce it"
    to the hardware *after* the code is finished (before the
    hardware was stable). If you can't define how the hardware
    will behave, then that's not something that proximity is
    likely to improve!

    > Brainstorming is fundamental to the early stages of product
    > development. I think that requires physical presence.
    >
    > There have been successful companies that had scores of small
    > divisions. EG&G, Perkin-Elmer, Vishay, Bruker for example.


    I see problems when prototypes are scarce or rapidly evolving.
    I.e., you can distribute multiple copies of documents, code,
    etc. "for free". You can (usually) fab multiple copies of
    a prototype board set "inexpensively". But, if you have some
    precision mechanism machined from stainless steel, you are
    unlikely to have *two* of them!

    Or, if you've hacked some new feature/design aspect onto
    a *particular* prototype, you care unlikely to be able to
    share it with others. At least not quickly or cheaply.

    Many people are "imagination deficient" and *really* need to
    touch and feel things to internalize/understand their role
    or functionality. ("Hmmm... what causes this thing to pivot
    out of place before *that* mechanism slams into it?")

    And, for some physical things, it is hard for other "eyes"
    to see problems without having the device in front of them
    to "exercise" ("Well, the 3D model *seems* to indicate that
    these two pieces don't interfere... that there is 0.030
    clearance between them. But, is that *really* the case
    given all the manufacturing tolerances litering this
    drawing set??")

    "Restricting" the audience of this (or any other portion
    of the design) to those closest to it (i.e., the mechanical
    folks to the mechanism; the electrical folks to the electronics;
    etc.) silently removes the ability for a cross-discipline
    examination to stumble on something that *should* have been
    "obvious" ("Um, guys, how do we changed the plugs once the
    engine is installed in the engine compartment??")
     
    Don Y, May 12, 2012
    #7
  8. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi Grant,

    On 5/12/2012 7:37 AM, Grant Edwards wrote:
    > On 2012-05-12, John Larkin<> wrote:
    >
    >> It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical
    >> problems, things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints,
    >> can get resolved by getting people physically together in front of a
    >> whiteboard.

    >
    > Or in front of a bench and an oscilloscope or logic analyzer.
    >
    > I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    > through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    > problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    > the phone.


    You've never done a dog-and-pony via a webcam? :>

    The biggest benefit of "presence" is the other party can
    "muck with" your presentation and push it in directions
    that you hadn't expected. I have an innate ability to
    "break" (cause to misbehave) things by doing the unexpected.
    It is a lot harder for me to do that remotely -- and far less
    *impressive* if I have to verbally *tell* you: "OK, now
    unplug the blue connector and type 'FOO' on the keyboard..."
    instead of just letting you *watch* me do it! :>
     
    Don Y, May 12, 2012
    #8
  9. Don Y

    John Larkin Guest

    On Sat, 12 May 2012 12:35:09 -0700, Don Y <> wrote:

    >Hi John,
    >
    >On 5/12/2012 7:30 AM, John Larkin wrote:
    >> On Fri, 11 May 2012 23:34:26 -0700, Don Y<> wrote:

    >
    >>> What other issues might come up?
    >>>
    >>> [note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    >>> relationships between entities, etc. at this point]
    >>>
    >>> Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    >>> Any insights to share?

    >
    >> It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical problems,
    >> things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints, can get
    >> resolved by getting people physically together in front of a

    >
    >But you can do that over *distributed* whiteboards. You can
    >videoconference and simultaneously share "drawing spaces".
    >Why force people to work at "typing speed" when you can exchange
    >audio and video imagery in real time?
    >
    >I snap several dozen digital pix each week. Friends looking at
    >my "photo collection" never see any *people* in the imagery.
    >One friend jokingly commented about this. I told him:
    > "I know what Bob, Jane, Sally, Ted, etc. look like. And,
    > if I ever have to describe any of them to someone, I just
    > say something like 'She's a short blond I know from my work
    > at XXXXXX' or 'He's a bike enthusiast I met while exercising
    > at the local park'. Unless someone is looking for a 'hookup',
    > nothing more is usually necessary.
    >
    > On the other hand, if I am trying to describe the flowers
    > on the mimosa's or how a PCB fits into an enclosure, it is
    > impractical (and imprecise) to try to define these things
    > textually. OTOH, snapping a photo and emailing it off
    > makes the issue abundantly clear!"
    >
    >> whiteboard. For something complex like electronic design, the
    >> distributed model sounds dangerous to me. It's rare to find people who
    >> work well this way, and tekkies are often not good writers, in that
    >> they don't always express themselves clearly in emails or even on the
    >> telephone. We see this all the time.

    >
    >How does a live video conference *worsen* communication skills
    >compared to sitting in a room together?


    Bad audio, bad video, no shared whiteboard, no body language, and
    misses human intangibles that I think are important.


    The extent of each
    >participants' vocabulary remains unchanged. Their grammar
    >doesn't deteriorate.
    >
    >I find in many "in person" situations there are many folks
    >who tend to sit quietly and NOT participate.


    Some people can't brainstorm, can't play the game, because they lack
    the technical skills or their personality doesn't allow it. Don't
    invite them back.

    Either because
    >they aren't aggressive enough to deal with the group dynamics
    >or aren't quick enough on their feet to fully prepare their
    >arguments without appearing "incorrect/ill-conceived/etc.".


    If the atmosphere is properly managed, nobody should be inhibited by
    the fear of being wrong. Wrongness is an asset. And there should be no
    difference between a serious idea and a joke. Both jokes and wrong
    ideas often evolve into good stuff.





    >
    >I can't count the number of project meetings I've been in
    >where someone approached me afterwards to pitch an idea that
    >they *could* have pitched 30 seconds earlier, to the group.
    >I attribute this to them knowing that I am open to all sorts
    >of ideas -- regardless of how off-the-wall they might sound.
    >Or, how "unpolished" they might be. *And*, that I am willing
    >to aggressively back (or *present* on behalf of) someone else's
    >ideas to the group and defend them without "usurping" authorship.
    >
    >One of the wins (IMO) of email is that it lets people think
    >about their comments and organize their thoughts *before*
    >exchanging them with others. ("Hmmm... no, that doesn't sound
    >right. It has the following technical problems... Let me
    >revise it.") A video conference gives folks the ability to
    >review the "exchanges", try to refine their understanding of
    >the issues that were *actually* presented, then fit their
    >argument into the discussion(s) ex post factum. These can
    >then be shared with The Group in a later "meeting" or
    >emailed to each party for their own *individual* review
    >or as preparation for the next meeting.
    >
    >With conventional "meetings" (not "recorded"), you have none of
    >these capabilities. Did you take ACCURATE notes?



    We photograph whiteboards, with titles and names and dates scribbled
    in the corners.


    Will the
    >other parties agree with those notes? Do they have different
    >memories of what was "decided"/discussed? Did they understand
    >the subtlety of a particular issue that was presented?
    >
    >> Outsourcing PCB layout is just one example of how distributed
    >> engineering can be difficult. Ditto embedded code.

    >
    >You're assuming old communication mechanisms. I can peer
    >over your shoulder, remotely, *watching* you route a board
    >and *drag* the traces that I find fault with to where I
    >want them -- while *you* watch.


    For three weeks solid?


    --

    John Larkin Highland Technology Inc
    www.highlandtechnology.com jlarkin at highlandtechnology dot com

    Precision electronic instrumentation
    Picosecond-resolution Digital Delay and Pulse generators
    Custom timing and laser controllers
    Photonics and fiberoptic TTL data links
    VME analog, thermocouple, LVDT, synchro, tachometer
    Multichannel arbitrary waveform generators
     
    John Larkin, May 12, 2012
    #9
  10. Don Y

    Nico Coesel Guest

    Don Y <> wrote:

    >Hi,
    >
    >I suspect many folks have telecommuted, worked off-site,
    >etc. As regular employees, subcontractors, etc. And,
    >possibly with many *other* such INDEPENDENT people at
    >the same time.
    >
    >Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization?
    >Any insights to share?


    Since I work for myself I do 99.9% of the work from my own office.
    Every now and then I meet with other team members. I've been part of
    several pretty complex projects and it seems to work very well.

    It is very important that management keeps track on what everyone is
    doing and sets milestones for all team members. For some projects I
    also do a bit of project management. I make spreadsheets which lists
    the tasks to be done, remarks about the task, when it should be
    finished and who is reponsible. That usually works well as long as you
    are aware that no planning is made out of granite :)

    --
    Failure does not prove something is impossible, failure simply
    indicates you are not using the right tools...
    nico@nctdevpuntnl (punt=.)
    --------------------------------------------------------------
     
    Nico Coesel, May 12, 2012
    #10
  11. Don Y

    Nico Coesel Guest

    Grant Edwards <> wrote:

    >On 2012-05-12, John Larkin <> wrote:
    >
    >> It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical
    >> problems, things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints,
    >> can get resolved by getting people physically together in front of a
    >> whiteboard.

    >
    >Or in front of a bench and an oscilloscope or logic analyzer.
    >
    >I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    >through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    >problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    >the phone.


    If you make sure there is a similar system on both sides it is not a
    problem. I do that all the time. If a customer reports a problem I ask
    them to describe what they do as good as they can and then I try to
    reproduce the problem on my test setup.

    --
    Failure does not prove something is impossible, failure simply
    indicates you are not using the right tools...
    nico@nctdevpuntnl (punt=.)
    --------------------------------------------------------------
     
    Nico Coesel, May 12, 2012
    #11
  12. On 12.05.2012 16:37, Grant Edwards wrote:

    > I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    > through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    > problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    > the phone.


    But that only really means that the smallest "atoms" you can usefully
    split a company into are skill groups. In other words, the people you
    would care (or maybe: dare) to actually explain the problem to in the
    necessary detail to get to that kind of "Hold it!! You did _what_?
    That's exactly why it doesn't work!" moment still have to be where the
    coffee they had been drinking until that very moment will actually land
    on your shirt.
     
    Hans-Bernhard Bröker, May 13, 2012
    #12
  13. Don Y

    Tim Wescott Guest

    On Fri, 11 May 2012 23:34:26 -0700, Don Y wrote:

    > Hi,
    >
    > I suspect many folks have telecommuted, worked off-site, etc. As
    > regular employees, subcontractors, etc. And, possibly with many *other*
    > such INDEPENDENT people at the same time.
    >
    > But, in my experience, this has always been for *a* "company"
    > (client/employer). A real brick and mortar outfit (though I've worked
    > for some "solo" operators, as well).
    >
    > What I would like to explore are the issues associated with an entire
    > company built with no real, "physical presence" (other than it's legal
    > point of incorporation).
    >
    > In other words, imagine the "accountant" being in Florida (I'm
    > left-pondian so its easier for me to reference locations here :-/ ),
    > the purchasing agent in Washington, engineering staff in Illinois and
    > Texas, manufacturing in California, etc. (use your imagination)
    >
    > There are few real needs for face to face meetings in most modern
    > organizations -- aside from sheep-counters who can only justify their
    > existence by pointing to the flock they are tending :>
    >
    > And, **any** sort of documents can surely be on the recipient's desk
    > "instantly" (subject to network availability).
    >
    > There's no reason for components ordered by the purchasing agent in
    > Washington *not* to be deliverable to the manufacturing facility in
    > California. Nor for the "bill" to be sent to the accountant in Florida.
    > A customer cares not whether his device is shipped from location X or
    > location Y -- so long as it arrives at *his* location.
    >
    > Etc.
    >
    > (are there any logistical limitations that I am overlooking or
    > trivializing?)
    >
    > The point that most immediately comes to mind is one of "trust". This
    > is true in all business relationships where a party is "unsupervised"
    > (is that consultant *really* working on my project? or, is he off
    > playing golf? will he meet his delivery date? will I discover this
    > before its "too late"? etc.). I tend to have a pretty naive/simple way
    > of looking at this sort of thing: if you don't trust your
    > suppliers/clients/customers/etc. then why are you doing *business* with
    > them?
    >
    > What other issues might come up?
    >
    > [note that I am deliberately ignoring compensation, business
    > relationships between entities, etc. at this point]
    >
    > Has anyone ever worked in/for such a "decomposed" organization? Any
    > insights to share?
    >
    > Thx,
    > --don


    For some things, maybe.

    For "mechatronic" systems with mechanical, electronic, and software
    content that all has to play nicely together, not so much, unless you're
    constantly shipping physical articles around.

    --
    Tim Wescott
    Control system and signal processing consulting
    www.wescottdesign.com
     
    Tim Wescott, May 13, 2012
    #13
  14. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi John,

    On 5/12/2012 1:12 PM, John Larkin wrote:

    >>> It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical problems,
    >>> things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints, can get
    >>> resolved by getting people physically together in front of a

    >>
    >> But you can do that over *distributed* whiteboards. You can
    >> videoconference and simultaneously share "drawing spaces".
    >> Why force people to work at "typing speed" when you can exchange
    >> audio and video imagery in real time?
    >>
    >> I snap several dozen digital pix each week. Friends looking at
    >> my "photo collection" never see any *people* in the imagery.
    >> One friend jokingly commented about this. I told him:
    >> "I know what Bob, Jane, Sally, Ted, etc. look like. And,
    >> if I ever have to describe any of them to someone, I just
    >> say something like 'She's a short blond I know from my work
    >> at XXXXXX' or 'He's a bike enthusiast I met while exercising
    >> at the local park'. Unless someone is looking for a 'hookup',
    >> nothing more is usually necessary.
    >>
    >> On the other hand, if I am trying to describe the flowers
    >> on the mimosa's or how a PCB fits into an enclosure, it is
    >> impractical (and imprecise) to try to define these things
    >> textually. OTOH, snapping a photo and emailing it off
    >> makes the issue abundantly clear!"
    >>
    >>> whiteboard. For something complex like electronic design, the
    >>> distributed model sounds dangerous to me. It's rare to find people who
    >>> work well this way, and tekkies are often not good writers, in that
    >>> they don't always express themselves clearly in emails or even on the
    >>> telephone. We see this all the time.

    >>
    >> How does a live video conference *worsen* communication skills
    >> compared to sitting in a room together?

    >
    > Bad audio, bad video,


    Are you using a DIALUP modem?? :> I.e., you can watch "theatre
    quality" multimedia over a *home* internet connection. Is that
    not "good enough" audio/video?

    > no shared whiteboard,


    That's just technology. If it hasn't been implemented already,
    it's trivial to do (there are no "unsolved problems" in its
    implementation technologies)!

    > no body language, and
    > misses human intangibles that I think are important.


    Body language could be captured depending on the width of the
    field of view for each participant's camera. Some of the
    less audible cues (grumbling, shifting around in their chair,
    etc.) might not be. This is mainly a problem with folks
    who are too timid to speak their minds. Those folks would
    have to be coaxed to offer their *honest* opinions *regardless*.

    > The extent of each
    >> participants' vocabulary remains unchanged. Their grammar
    >> doesn't deteriorate.
    >>
    >> I find in many "in person" situations there are many folks
    >> who tend to sit quietly and NOT participate.

    >
    > Some people can't brainstorm, can't play the game, because they lack
    > the technical skills or their personality doesn't allow it. Don't
    > invite them back.


    Excluding people because they lack certain personality skills
    seems like A Bad Idea. I went to school with lots of folks who
    were "socially inept". Removing them from technical discussions
    would be a *huge* handicap.

    (OTOH, I sure wouldn't want them out representing the company
    to customers, etc.! :> )

    > Either because
    >> they aren't aggressive enough to deal with the group dynamics
    >> or aren't quick enough on their feet to fully prepare their
    >> arguments without appearing "incorrect/ill-conceived/etc.".

    >
    > If the atmosphere is properly managed, nobody should be inhibited by
    > the fear of being wrong. Wrongness is an asset. And there should be no
    > difference between a serious idea and a joke. Both jokes and wrong
    > ideas often evolve into good stuff.


    But there are people who simply *won't* participate:
    "He wouldn't say sh*t (even) if he had a mouthful!"

    I grew up with an incredibly intelligent friend who
    fit this mold. Getting more than 3 words out of him
    was a major accomplishment! Whether this was the result
    of some genetic basis, the culture in which he grew up
    or just a reaction to the more "dominant" personalities
    around him, I don't know.

    And, even if willing to *offer* an idea, if not willing to
    *defend* and *promote* it, it can often wither before
    getting a fair hearing.

    Equally problematic are those folks who can't *explain*
    their position(s). (Or, won't!) Depending on the role
    the person is filling, this can lead to resentment ("And
    just why do we have to do it *his* way??") or frustration
    ("OK, let's assume I *am* wrong. Explain to me *why* I am
    wrong; where the fault lies in my argument/understanding...")

    >> I can't count the number of project meetings I've been in
    >> where someone approached me afterwards to pitch an idea that
    >> they *could* have pitched 30 seconds earlier, to the group.
    >> I attribute this to them knowing that I am open to all sorts
    >> of ideas -- regardless of how off-the-wall they might sound.
    >> Or, how "unpolished" they might be. *And*, that I am willing
    >> to aggressively back (or *present* on behalf of) someone else's
    >> ideas to the group and defend them without "usurping" authorship.
    >>
    >> One of the wins (IMO) of email is that it lets people think
    >> about their comments and organize their thoughts *before*
    >> exchanging them with others. ("Hmmm... no, that doesn't sound
    >> right. It has the following technical problems... Let me
    >> revise it.") A video conference gives folks the ability to
    >> review the "exchanges", try to refine their understanding of
    >> the issues that were *actually* presented, then fit their
    >> argument into the discussion(s) ex post factum. These can
    >> then be shared with The Group in a later "meeting" or
    >> emailed to each party for their own *individual* review
    >> or as preparation for the next meeting.
    >>
    >> With conventional "meetings" (not "recorded"), you have none of
    >> these capabilities. Did you take ACCURATE notes?

    >
    > We photograph whiteboards, with titles and names and dates scribbled
    > in the corners.


    Imagine all that -- along with the audio commentary that
    accompanies it as well as the *dynamics* of how the ideas
    evolved -- being preserved "for free". And, available at a
    mouseclick to anyone present (or absent!)

    > Will the
    >> other parties agree with those notes? Do they have different
    >> memories of what was "decided"/discussed? Did they understand
    >> the subtlety of a particular issue that was presented?
    >>
    >>> Outsourcing PCB layout is just one example of how distributed
    >>> engineering can be difficult. Ditto embedded code.

    >>
    >> You're assuming old communication mechanisms. I can peer
    >> over your shoulder, remotely, *watching* you route a board
    >> and *drag* the traces that I find fault with to where I
    >> want them -- while *you* watch.

    >
    > For three weeks solid?


    Surely *you* don't sit over your CAD guy's shoulders
    "for three weeks solid"! You check in on his progress
    N times daily/weekly. Or, respond to his petitions
    (phone calls, pages, etc.) as required. How is this
    any different from an alert popping up on your computer
    requesting advice on some aspect of his job? (If you
    are "away from your computer", isn't that akin to being
    out of the office? Does he then *telephone* you with
    the question? Can't he do that here, as well?)

    The biggest problem, there, is making sure there is some
    overlap in your work schedules (*iff* there must be an
    interactive response). I.e., if he's an owl and you're
    a lark, you might have to compromise and agree to some
    overlap in your schedules -- even if this is only on a
    sporadic basis.
     
    Don Y, May 13, 2012
    #14
  15. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi Nico,

    On 5/12/2012 2:49 PM, Nico Coesel wrote:
    > Grant Edwards<> wrote:
    >
    >> On 2012-05-12, John Larkin<> wrote:
    >>
    >>> It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical
    >>> problems, things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints,
    >>> can get resolved by getting people physically together in front of a
    >>> whiteboard.

    >>
    >> Or in front of a bench and an oscilloscope or logic analyzer.
    >>
    >> I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    >> through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    >> problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    >> the phone.

    >
    > If you make sure there is a similar system on both sides it is not a
    > problem. I do that all the time. If a customer reports a problem I ask
    > them to describe what they do as good as they can and then I try to
    > reproduce the problem on my test setup.


    (Reading your words *literally*...) For "customers", you often
    have many devices (it's in production) so having a spare (or
    three) is no big deal. This isn't often the case for prototypes
    where only *one* might exist. Or, for products that are
    extremely expensive, oversized, have special environmental
    consequences, require special "supplies" to operate, etc.

    E.g., film coating pans (used for pharmaceuticals, seed preparation,
    etc.) are physically large -- think of a front loading clothes
    dryer 6 ft wide, tall and deep. They require lots of ancillary
    equipment to operate (air handlers, etc.). And, lots of *power*.

    Their performance varies greatly depending on the material
    being coated ("pills", seeds, etc.), the coating being
    applied, the conditions under which it is applied (air
    temperature, volume, moisture content, altitude, etc.)
    and the *process* governing the application. Furthermore,
    the materials involved might be hazardous, "controlled
    substances", proprietary, expensive, etc.

    A colleague designed "dynamometers" in the past. These
    are pseudo-mechanical loads used to test (automobile)
    engines. I.e., the sort of device that your car's
    wheels are "pushing against" when you get your vehicle
    emissions tested. Not the sort of thing you are likely to
    be *able* to replicate test conditions on without a
    special facility! :>
     
    Don Y, May 13, 2012
    #15
  16. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi Hans-Bernhard,

    On 5/12/2012 4:24 PM, Hans-Bernhard Bröker wrote:
    > On 12.05.2012 16:37, Grant Edwards wrote:
    >
    >> I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    >> through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    >> problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    >> the phone.

    >
    > But that only really means that the smallest "atoms" you can usefully
    > split a company into are skill groups.


    That's a great way to put it!

    But, that might *also* be too small!

    You never know when someone with a different engineering discipline
    can expose a radically different solution to a problem than one
    that your "skill group" has set out to tackle. There are dualities
    between disciplines so equivalent solutions can exist from
    different approaches.

    Sometimes, these solutions are incredibly humbling -- "d'oh!"
    moments.

    At one of my first jobs, we manufactured RADAR units for maritime
    use. To synchronize the antenna (rotating) with the display
    (rotating *electronically*), a rotary encoder was placed on the
    antenna shaft *after* the reduction gearbox (the antenna rotates
    slowly to catch the echoes). This worked incredibly well and was
    pretty novel at the time (commercial "integrated logic" was still
    fairly young).

    Another firm, ahem, "borrowed" the design of our RADAR. But,
    when we went looking under the hood, they had sited a *crude*
    rotary encoder on the *drive* side of the gearbox. Taking
    OBVIOUS advantage of the mechanical reduction that *followed*
    to allow them to dramatically decrease the cost and complexity
    of the encoder (ours was photographically produced to achieve
    the fineness of detail that we required -- theirs was amazingly
    crude!)

    > In other words, the people you
    > would care (or maybe: dare) to actually explain the problem to in the
    > necessary detail to get to that kind of "Hold it!! You did _what_?
    > That's exactly why it doesn't work!" moment still have to be where the
    > coffee they had been drinking until that very moment will actually land
    > on your shirt.
     
    Don Y, May 13, 2012
    #16
  17. Don Y

    Robert Miles Guest

    I've sometimes worked as a consultant, actually employed by a company at anaddress where I've never been, but doing work for some other company a fewstates away.

    Unfortunately, such companies are seldom into to telecommuting type of workI'd need now that I can no longer drive to work and back.

    The work I've done is at least more compatible with telecommuting than most, since it involves mostly telling a computer what to do and looking at theresults, and software tools are available for letting people at remote locations see what is being done.

    At some previous jobs, the company divided the work into parts performed atcompany sites in differents states, different countries, or both, and usedthe internet to connect those sites. One even asked the employees to get passports in case a meeting in some other country was needed. Also, I've been on an airline trip more than halfway across the US to turn over what was done at our site to a different company site planning to do the next phase of the project.
     
    Robert Miles, May 13, 2012
    #17
  18. Don Y

    Don Y Guest

    Hi Tim,

    On 5/12/2012 8:17 PM, Tim Wescott wrote:

    > For some things, maybe.
    >
    > For "mechatronic" systems with mechanical, electronic, and software
    > content that all has to play nicely together, not so much, unless you're
    > constantly shipping physical articles around.


    It would have to depend on the items in question. I have
    some pretty large (washing machine sized) prototypes here,
    currently. As I said, elsewhere, the UPS guy and I have
    developed a rapport.

    A lot depends on how expensive the product is, how reproducible
    it is, the operating requirements/supplies/etc.

    Even so, there is nothing that says the purchasing guy needs
    to be proximate to the physical device. Nor the accountant.
    I routinely write software and/or design hardware for systems
    that I don't get to physically play with until just before
    final integration.

    When I was working with pharmaceuticals, to get access to a
    machine, you had to find a friendly *customer*. Not only
    did we NOT keep $1M machines "sitting in stock for engineering
    to use as needed", but we also didn't have the *facilities*
    to operate the machines. Instead, you found a way to
    design *without* the real hardware.

    This isn't as hard as it might seem. It just relies on
    having good *information* that you can design against and
    a good imagination for what *might* go wrong, in practice
    ("Hmmm... what happens if the motor windings are cabled
    'backwards'? Or, the limit switches miswired? Or, the
    lubrication system clogged? How many ohnoseconds before
    we have a million dollars of scrap steel on our hands??
    And, how do we explain that to the *customer* who has
    graciously *lent* us the use of his machine???")
     
    Don Y, May 13, 2012
    #18
  19. Don Y

    Guest

    On Sun, 13 May 2012 01:24:34 +0200, Hans-Bernhard Bröker
    <> wrote:

    >On 12.05.2012 16:37, Grant Edwards wrote:
    >
    >> I don't know how many times I've seen a technical problem solved by
    >> through the simple act of attempting to demonstrate and explain the
    >> problem to somebody else. You just can't do that via email or even on
    >> the phone.

    >
    >But that only really means that the smallest "atoms" you can usefully
    >split a company into are skill groups. In other words, the people you
    >would care (or maybe: dare) to actually explain the problem to in the
    >necessary detail to get to that kind of "Hold it!! You did _what_?
    >That's exactly why it doesn't work!" moment still have to be where the
    >coffee they had been drinking until that very moment will actually land
    >on your shirt.



    On the contrary, I've worked on design teams spread from Germany, to India, to
    two sites, 2000mi apart, in the US. It worked quite well, (there were
    problems systemic to the Indian leg). Each site had a specific section of the
    microprocessor and their own management. Management of such a "decomposed"
    project is not as simple as your rule, above.
     
    , May 13, 2012
    #19
  20. Don Y

    John Larkin Guest

    On Sat, 12 May 2012 21:51:19 -0700, Don Y <> wrote:

    >Hi John,
    >
    >On 5/12/2012 1:12 PM, John Larkin wrote:
    >
    >>>> It's amazing how complex, misunderstood, festering technical problems,
    >>>> things that have evoked scores of emails and PowerPoints, can get
    >>>> resolved by getting people physically together in front of a
    >>>
    >>> But you can do that over *distributed* whiteboards. You can
    >>> videoconference and simultaneously share "drawing spaces".
    >>> Why force people to work at "typing speed" when you can exchange
    >>> audio and video imagery in real time?
    >>>
    >>> I snap several dozen digital pix each week. Friends looking at
    >>> my "photo collection" never see any *people* in the imagery.
    >>> One friend jokingly commented about this. I told him:
    >>> "I know what Bob, Jane, Sally, Ted, etc. look like. And,
    >>> if I ever have to describe any of them to someone, I just
    >>> say something like 'She's a short blond I know from my work
    >>> at XXXXXX' or 'He's a bike enthusiast I met while exercising
    >>> at the local park'. Unless someone is looking for a 'hookup',
    >>> nothing more is usually necessary.
    >>>
    >>> On the other hand, if I am trying to describe the flowers
    >>> on the mimosa's or how a PCB fits into an enclosure, it is
    >>> impractical (and imprecise) to try to define these things
    >>> textually. OTOH, snapping a photo and emailing it off
    >>> makes the issue abundantly clear!"
    >>>
    >>>> whiteboard. For something complex like electronic design, the
    >>>> distributed model sounds dangerous to me. It's rare to find people who
    >>>> work well this way, and tekkies are often not good writers, in that
    >>>> they don't always express themselves clearly in emails or even on the
    >>>> telephone. We see this all the time.
    >>>
    >>> How does a live video conference *worsen* communication skills
    >>> compared to sitting in a room together?

    >>
    >> Bad audio, bad video,

    >
    >Are you using a DIALUP modem?? :> I.e., you can watch "theatre
    >quality" multimedia over a *home* internet connection. Is that
    >not "good enough" audio/video?
    >


    The audio on conference calls is usually bad. There's no
    stereolocation, bad s/n, lots of ambient noise pickup. The human
    auditory system is amazing, but not so much after being forced through
    one mic and one speaker and a 3 KHz comm channel.

    Human interaction is, with today's best technology, badly distorted.




    >> no shared whiteboard,

    >
    >That's just technology. If it hasn't been implemented already,
    >it's trivial to do (there are no "unsolved problems" in its
    >implementation technologies)!
    >
    >> no body language, and
    >> misses human intangibles that I think are important.

    >
    >Body language could be captured depending on the width of the
    >field of view for each participant's camera. Some of the
    >less audible cues (grumbling, shifting around in their chair,
    >etc.) might not be. This is mainly a problem with folks
    >who are too timid to speak their minds. Those folks would
    >have to be coaxed to offer their *honest* opinions *regardless*.
    >
    >> The extent of each
    >>> participants' vocabulary remains unchanged. Their grammar
    >>> doesn't deteriorate.
    >>>
    >>> I find in many "in person" situations there are many folks
    >>> who tend to sit quietly and NOT participate.

    >>
    >> Some people can't brainstorm, can't play the game, because they lack
    >> the technical skills or their personality doesn't allow it. Don't
    >> invite them back.

    >
    >Excluding people because they lack certain personality skills
    >seems like A Bad Idea. I went to school with lots of folks who
    >were "socially inept". Removing them from technical discussions
    >would be a *huge* handicap.


    Some people poison an idea session. Un-Coincidentally, they tend to
    not to have many ideas of their own.




    >
    >(OTOH, I sure wouldn't want them out representing the company
    >to customers, etc.! :> )
    >
    >> Either because
    >>> they aren't aggressive enough to deal with the group dynamics
    >>> or aren't quick enough on their feet to fully prepare their
    >>> arguments without appearing "incorrect/ill-conceived/etc.".

    >>
    >> If the atmosphere is properly managed, nobody should be inhibited by
    >> the fear of being wrong. Wrongness is an asset. And there should be no
    >> difference between a serious idea and a joke. Both jokes and wrong
    >> ideas often evolve into good stuff.

    >
    >But there are people who simply *won't* participate:
    > "He wouldn't say sh*t (even) if he had a mouthful!"
    >
    >I grew up with an incredibly intelligent friend who
    >fit this mold. Getting more than 3 words out of him
    >was a major accomplishment! Whether this was the result
    >of some genetic basis, the culture in which he grew up
    >or just a reaction to the more "dominant" personalities
    >around him, I don't know.
    >
    >And, even if willing to *offer* an idea, if not willing to
    >*defend* and *promote* it, it can often wither before
    >getting a fair hearing.
    >
    >Equally problematic are those folks who can't *explain*
    >their position(s). (Or, won't!) Depending on the role
    >the person is filling, this can lead to resentment ("And
    >just why do we have to do it *his* way??") or frustration
    >("OK, let's assume I *am* wrong. Explain to me *why* I am
    >wrong; where the fault lies in my argument/understanding...")
    >
    >>> I can't count the number of project meetings I've been in
    >>> where someone approached me afterwards to pitch an idea that
    >>> they *could* have pitched 30 seconds earlier, to the group.
    >>> I attribute this to them knowing that I am open to all sorts
    >>> of ideas -- regardless of how off-the-wall they might sound.
    >>> Or, how "unpolished" they might be. *And*, that I am willing
    >>> to aggressively back (or *present* on behalf of) someone else's
    >>> ideas to the group and defend them without "usurping" authorship.
    >>>
    >>> One of the wins (IMO) of email is that it lets people think
    >>> about their comments and organize their thoughts *before*
    >>> exchanging them with others. ("Hmmm... no, that doesn't sound
    >>> right. It has the following technical problems... Let me
    >>> revise it.") A video conference gives folks the ability to
    >>> review the "exchanges", try to refine their understanding of
    >>> the issues that were *actually* presented, then fit their
    >>> argument into the discussion(s) ex post factum. These can
    >>> then be shared with The Group in a later "meeting" or
    >>> emailed to each party for their own *individual* review
    >>> or as preparation for the next meeting.
    >>>
    >>> With conventional "meetings" (not "recorded"), you have none of
    >>> these capabilities. Did you take ACCURATE notes?

    >>
    >> We photograph whiteboards, with titles and names and dates scribbled
    >> in the corners.

    >
    >Imagine all that -- along with the audio commentary that
    >accompanies it as well as the *dynamics* of how the ideas
    >evolved -- being preserved "for free". And, available at a
    >mouseclick to anyone present (or absent!)
    >
    >> Will the
    >>> other parties agree with those notes? Do they have different
    >>> memories of what was "decided"/discussed? Did they understand
    >>> the subtlety of a particular issue that was presented?
    >>>
    >>>> Outsourcing PCB layout is just one example of how distributed
    >>>> engineering can be difficult. Ditto embedded code.
    >>>
    >>> You're assuming old communication mechanisms. I can peer
    >>> over your shoulder, remotely, *watching* you route a board
    >>> and *drag* the traces that I find fault with to where I
    >>> want them -- while *you* watch.

    >>
    >> For three weeks solid?

    >
    >Surely *you* don't sit over your CAD guy's shoulders
    >"for three weeks solid"! You check in on his progress
    >N times daily/weekly.


    Yup. Her cube is directly next to my office. We interact a lot, not
    just sharing a screen, but handling parts, scribbling on whiteboards,
    going down to Manufacturing to get their opinions.

    Being around other people is fun.



    --

    John Larkin Highland Technology Inc
    www.highlandtechnology.com jlarkin at highlandtechnology dot com

    Precision electronic instrumentation
    Picosecond-resolution Digital Delay and Pulse generators
    Custom timing and laser controllers
    Photonics and fiberoptic TTL data links
    VME analog, thermocouple, LVDT, synchro, tachometer
    Multichannel arbitrary waveform generators
     
    John Larkin, May 13, 2012
    #20
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