Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

All the time, everywhere can mean well past midnight, and still actively connected

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on November 11, 2009

Yesterday evening I attended a conference after work on personalized medicine and the way our increasing knowledge of individualized human genetics is coming to shape the future of healthcare. This involves a lot of information and knowledge management issues, data access and data ownership included and I may touch on some of that in future blog postings. But I wanted to share a brief story from yesterday that drives home I point that is proving more and more common and for more and more people. While at this meeting, I found myself talking with a couple of other attendees and Skype came up in the conversation. I said something to the effect that I sometimes have to hold Skype meetings at odd hours because of time zone differences, and that is true. I said it, however, thinking that I would get home and have a relaxed rest of the evening and go to bed for the night without that type of delay or distraction. So of course, a couple of minutes after midnight I was starting a Skype conversation with a colleague in Mumbai who wanted to talk about taking his consulting/outsourcing business to a next level. I, in turn, wanted to pick his brains for update information on Indian IT-oriented business process consulting and I did learn some valuable details and I hope I was able to share some value in return. And I did finally get to bed and sleep, after 1 AM my local time and when I had an early start this morning.

I am sharing this as it highlights a quality of life issue that we are all going to have to face as personal and professional lives and the time we allocate to one or the other blur. Ubiquitous, all the time and everywhere accessibility with increasingly rich data and knowledge management and sharing, and communications capabilities have tremendous positive potential. But they can mean getting to bed late and getting tired in the middle of the day and a lot more that is not always so positive. When we are always potentially available, we are never really off from work or anything else and that means we need to establish new limits and set new social contracts – so we can as individuals have private time and private lives.

Our growing technologically based capabilities for connecting and sharing mean we have to find new ways to retain separation, and both for ourselves and our families and for other discrete arenas we would want to retain as having identifying boundaries. This potential for conflict of interest is going to play out as the forces and factors I write of in my technology and ubiquitous computing series evolve and develop, and this will in turn direct how we institute and develop these new capabilities. The coming years are going to be interesting for how we accept and accommodate these new technologies and in how we pressure their implementations to accommodate us.

3 Responses

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  1. Yosef said, on November 12, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    You raise a good point. I’m reading this in Jerusalem, Israel at 7pm and I’m tired because I started my day with a 6:30am phone call to Sydney, Australia. My last email was to my sister in Los Angeles and I have a friend who is putting out job feelers for me in Washington D.C.. It really is a new world.

    You mention a need for new social contracts and expectations that will allow us to still have personal lives. Do you have any practical suggestions?

    • Tim Platt said, on November 12, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      Hi Yosef and thanks for your feedback. You asked me if I have any practical suggestions for setting limits to preserve our quality of life. That expression, “quality of life,” is the key here and as this is a matter of our managing our quality of life and we have to proactively set our own limits.

      That can mean deciding that a next call can wait, and this is certainly true for that next email, where Skype is synchronous but email is not – you and your email contacts do not have to be online at the same times for that to work. It means setting your own agenda, sharing your availability schedule with others as appropriate and asking your colleagues and other contacts their scheduling preferences. And I know that is not always easy.

      I am on Skype with people 10 and 11 time zones away often enough to know that simply deferring that next item to the next day cannot always mean a more user-friendly schedule for anyone. I know that deadlines do happen and sometimes even with email exchanges of documents. There is no easy, one size fits all, useful-all-the-time answer to this issue, but keeping an awareness of the fact that this issue is there and that it is important has to be part of any working solution to it.

      The worst approach to this for anyone is to simply keep going without plan or consideration until burn-out, and in an all-the-time, everywhere connected world that is too easy a trap to fall into.

      As a final thought I schedule with both myself and my wife in mind so we can both have lives and also share something of them together, and she keeps my schedule in mind when planning out her own, at least for the time-encroaching events and activities.

      Good luck with your DC job search, and let me know if there are areas I should add to my Social Networking and Job Search posting series that you might find of help.

      Thanks again, Tim

  2. […] But this involves social networking too, and as noted in other postings here, ubiquitous computing and communications where we can connect in anywhere all the time blurs the old work versus leisure time/non-work distin…. […]

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