THE CRYSTAL BALL:
99 BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL - AND OTHER COUNTDOWNS
SUMMARY: This year's look-ahead Crystal Ball feature is based on that
familiar (at least in the U.S.) drinking and party song. You remember
it goes: everyone sits around and sings verse after verse, slowly
down until no bottles of beer remain. It was the only theme I could
of that related to 1999 - but has nothing to do with whether or not
telecommuters actually do drink beer while working at home.
Many parents have been driven crazy by hearing their children sing all
verses of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" while in the back seat of
car during long trips. The kids get the pleasure of singing about the
forbidden subject of beer while the parents grit their teeth,
they ever taught the kids that song in an attempt to keep them occupied
distracted. So much for creative parenting.
[For those of you not familiar with it, the song begins, "99 bottles of
beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer. You take one down, pass it
98 bottles of beer on the wall. 98 bottles of beer on the wall..." and
on as you count all the way down to the last bottle of beer.
The song also has its roots, of course, in various college drinking
at which the partygoers would attempt to match their drinking pace with
declining numbers - or at least that's what I have been told...]
Throughout this year, we will be bombarded with reminders that we are
counting down to the big day - the start of the new century on January
2000. Well, we're going to avoid the big year-end rush by doing our
countdown this January. If you are melodically inclined, you can sing
along as we go through the "1999 Telecommuting Countdown" - with each
"verse" sung to the tune of "99 Bottles of Beer."
Fear not - in the spirit of the missing-digit problem that underlies
Y2K chaos, I have come up with only 9 - not 99 - items in this
list. They are part observation, part prediction, and part suggestion.
is always the case with my "Crystal Ball" columns, this one is based on
reading, contact with clients, and finely-tuned sense of intuition -
otherwise known as "my best guesses":
#9: "Six Little-Known Names on the List, Six Little-Known Names..."
The cover on the January 11 issue of FORTUNE <www.fortune.com> features
magazine's annual "100 Best Companies To Work For" report. If you're
looking for a good indication of how much the sands have shifted in
corporate America, look at this list:
1. Synovus Financial
3. SAS Institute
4. Southwest Airlines
7. Goldman Sachs
8. Deloitte & Touche
Your reaction to this list was probably similar to mine: "Who??" Of
ten, only four would be names generally known by even the relatively
reader of the business news, let alone the average consumer or
Southwest Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte & Touche, and Hewlett-
The other six vary in obscurity - SAS Industries and PeopleSoft might
known to some but the rest would generally be a mystery to most people
so I am assuming.
[You can read the article to find out how FORTUNE determined which
companies made the list. While it's not as precise as the FORTUNE 500
- based on sales dollars - the criteria used and the selection process
were quite rigorous and should meet a reasonable person's test of what
makes for a great place to work.]
Here's the profile of the "typical 100 Best company" - a composite view
assembled by FORTUNE:
- Company is 36 years old
- US workforce of 5,520
- 1997 revenues of $1.3 billion
- CEO has an 8-year tenure
- Workforce is 44% female and 78.2% Caucasian
- One-third of employees have been on the job less than two
and 6% more than 15 years
- Last year it received 19,000 job applications and added 724
We're not looking at a group of brand-new Silicon Valley or biotech
start-ups - but we're also not looking at the companies typically
considered part of the corporate bedrock of America. In fact, you have
go down to #28 on the list before encountering one of those classic
"household name" kind of firms - Merck.
How do these 100 Best stack up on workplace flexibility? FORTUNE
59 offer flextime
40 offer flextime on a case-by-case basis
37 offer reduced-hour employment
25 offer compressed workweek
18 offer job sharing
18 offer telecommuting
This appears to be not a very good showing for telecommuting,
among companies deemed to be employee-friendly. But keep in mind that
rating process favored the companies that did things on a broad,
programmatic basis - and attempted to exclude those where telecommuting
any other desirable workplace feature) was in the policy book but was
rarely. Thus, almost one-fifth of this list are doing enough with
telecommuting to have it judged somewhat a normal part of doing
Where are those older, historically important corporate leaders, such
IBM, General Motors, General Electric, Xerox, Citibank, Prudential, and
on? They're not on the list. In fact, the only names in this category
that appear (other than Merck) are Corning, Ernst & Young, Intel,
Johnson, Marriott International, Microsoft and 3M. The rest are made
mostly of much newer and less well-known firms.
No one survey or index is definitive, but I think it is very telling to
just how much the employers that were the leaders - by anyone's
- have slipped off the pro-employee radar screen. As the base of our
economy continues to shift, we need to shift our focus to the kinds of
companies on this FORTUNE list if we're looking for leading indicators
#8: "The Company Is Giving a Damn About Me, The Company Is Giving a
"In a recent survey of 86 private and publicly held companies by
Plus of America, 91 percent of the managers agreed that their companies
felt responsible for bettering the lives of their employees. As little
five years ago, Rewards Plus said, most of the same companies promoted
idea that workers were responsible for their own careers and well-
[THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 27, 1998]
We're not about to return to the era of the company town and
management - thankfully - but this (very small) survey may indicate
the tide is shifting away from "Don't expect us to take care of you" to
"Let us know how we can help make your lives easier." Few employees
would agree that this change is underway, but I think it's starting and
trend will accelerate.
One of the themes that runs through the FORTUNE article noted above is
idea that good employers are deliberately trying to create cultures and
practices that make employees feel valued and respected. Not a novel
you say? What's novel, I believe, is that companies are actually
this and not just talking about it. And the really smart employers -
true "employers of choice" - will measure their every move against the
benchmark of respect for and appreciation of the employee.
In his editorial in the December 1 issue of CIO Magazine <www.cio.com>,
McCreary commented on software that "enables managers to do remote
captures" and thus to see, surreptitiously, what employees are doing on
their computers" - a practice he refers to as "auditing employee
"More and more of these tools are becoming available," McCreary notes,
"supported by marketing campaigns suggesting that most of what people
online from the office revolves around pornography, sports, personal
interests and CD buying. Whether this is true or not is debatable, but
businesses are increasingly concerned about the economics of
"resource consumption" and the impact on productivity of nonbusiness
An article in the same issue titled "The Company Dime" notes that "the
thought of putting the Internet's voluminous resources at the
employees makes a lot of companies nervous" because they are worried
employees will "get sucked into the Internet's pages and fritter the
workday away." This concern is, of course, what leads to the market
the software McCreary referenced and for software that filters or
restricts access to external Web sites.
"But it turns out some companies are actually turning to the Internet
reduce the time employees spend on personal matters during the
the article continues. It describes how Consumer Financial Network
<www.cfn.com> provides access to benefits and services for employees
corporate intranets. These include mortgages and auto insurance, plus
long-term care and home-equity loans. "The service is free for
employees can often pay for policies - at group discount rates -
automatic payroll discounts. For its part, CFN earns its keep through
commissions or fees paid by the participating companies when a policy
product is sold."
McCreary continues in his editorial:
"It's tempting to define everything in an enterprise in starkest
terms. If time and bandwidth are assets, then employees are seen as
potential thieves who need to be watched. In some corners of the
enterprise - customer service call centers, for example - it may make
to apply intrusive monitoring tools to ensure that human resources and
service quality are maximized. But if you want people who think
creatively, show initiative and put the needs of the enterprise and its
customers first, treating them like would-be scoundrels is a massive
People's private and work lives have begun to blur. Statistics show
the workweek - after shrinking throughout the waning century - is
lengthening [Ed. note - see #4 below]. In an age when most of us
- if not frequently - work at home, it should be permissible to
reasonable amount of private business at work. Enlightened employers
understand this, and some, mindful of the trade-offs, use their
to help employees take care of personal business quickly and
For me, this issue inevitably returns to the question of business
What sort of culture do you want? One that is open, creative,
based on trust and respect? Or one that is distrustful, paranoid, risk
averse, disenfranchised and alienated? Do the math. Then decide what
benefit spying can deliver that will outweigh its ultimate cost."
We've all said it many times before: strip away everything else and you
quickly see that the essence of telecommuting is trust. If a manager -
a company culture - assumes in "Theory X" style that people won't work
unless watched, telecommuting will never succeed no matter how many
business problems it can solve or benefits it can deliver to customers.
Note that this idea of treating employees with respect and trying to
their lives easier is - and should be - as much about what the employer
gets back as what it gives. This is the difference between the old-
paternalism and more modern pragmatism: smart employers today give
care, convenience, empowerment, etc.) so they will get back in return
(quality work, employee retention, superior performance, etc.).
The backdrop against which you must view this is the tight labor market
high-quality professional staff in the U.S. and elsewhere. If you want
find and keep good people, let them know you value having them around -
whether that means giving them intranet access to services, giving them
comprehensive work-life support programs and services - or giving them
opportunity to telecommute.
#7: "This Traffic Is Getting Much Worse Each Day, This Traffic Is
Boy, am I getting tired of writing about traffic congestion - almost as
tired as I am of sitting in it. Fortunately I don't have to do it
day, and my sympathies go out to those of you who do. Please, please
me if I'm wrong - because I hope I am - but does anyone out there
believe that we are making any substantial improvements in our rush-
commuting traffic congestion?
I wrote in the 11/98 TR about a trio of news items that showed how our
overall traffic situation (including trip-reduction efforts, gasoline
and use of mass transit) seems to be worsening. Nobody challenged me
that article, and nothing I have seen in the media since suggests that
things are getting better.
And we now have made a national issue of "road rage" - the kind of
impatient and aggressive driving that stems from a combination of
incivility and impatience. Drivers are cautioned about how to avoid
confrontations with these angry warriors - and the warnings sound more
precautions for encountering a street gang (e.g., "Don't make eye
don't respond to verbal abuse - don't attempt to retaliate") than for
driving to work in an allegedly civilized society.
I have related in past TR articles a mid-1990's quote from a friend of
mine; he said "Time is to the 90's what money was to the 80's," in
what is sought and valued. Now that we're moving out of the 90's, I'm
going to update that quote: "Peace of mind is to the 00's* what time
[* - What do we call the next decade? We go from the 80's to the 90's
the ...? Our son will graduate from college in 2000; he'll be a member
the class of '00??]
My sense is that the quickening and more complex pace of life that
developed in the late 90's will create a tremendous backlash in the
employees establishing personal frustration or stress budgets. No
will employees simply absorb pressure after pressure - no longer will
leave their homes earlier and earlier to get to the office on time, or
earlier, to do more and more work. I can easily envision people (in
tight labor market - remember?) adding one more non-negotiable item to
their job-hunting shopping list: "No more than four hours per week in
commuting time" or something similar.
This will not be expressed as it is today in terms of the maximum
daily commute time or distance. It will be based on total weekly
time and on assumed access to telecommuting - so that, for example,
living one hour from the office would take a job that allows for three
of telecommuting a week, and thus requires a total of only four hours
commuting (two days x two hours round-trip commuting per day).
These weekly commuting requirements will be created by employees who
only willing to devote a limited amount of energy and stress reserves
the daily commute. The idea that people will willingly endure up to
hours of commuting time each week - and the attendant aggravation -
become as outdated as washing clothes by beating them on a rock by a
#6: "Less Wires/More Bandwidth Is What We All Want, Less Wires/More
Bandwidth Is It..."
Here's part of the current advertising for AT&T's Digital One-Rate
phone <www.attws.com/personal/onerate> service:
"Do you make a lot of calls outside your home coverage area? With AT&T
Digital OneRate, roaming and long distance charges are a thing of the
Every call is like a local call. Every call is billed like a local
It's so simple and affordable, your wireless phone may become your only
Similarly, another AT&T ad asks something like, "When does it stop
"wireless phone" and just become a "phone"?"
I recently signed up for this service and bought a Nokia 6160 phone as
of the package. I'm paying $89 a month for 600 minutes anywhere in the
U.S. - that's 15 cents a minute, which is much less than I had been
for my calling-card and prior cellular service calls, and only a few
pennies a minute more than I pay for AT&T long-distance service from my
office through a consolidator. The Nokia phone slips into my pocket
slips out too, I've learned) and fits in the palm of my hand, and is,
downright cute. It does almost everything except change the oil in my
There's no more thinking "long distance" or "peak calling hours" -
call, every time of day is 15 cents a minute. Just as getting a cable
modem put the Internet on my desktop [see 12/97 TR], this phone and the
One-Rate service has redefined my thinking about telephony. This is as
much a function of the wireless aspect as the rate plan.
I recently saw a person sitting in an airport with his laptop equipped
a cellular modem PCMCIA card. There was a tiny antenna about three
tall sticking out from the card. That's it - no wires, no looking for
dial-up ports on pay phones, no connecting the laptop to a handheld
phone. This was truly portable computing, and it is an example of why
fundamental concept underlying telecommuting is rapidly becoming remote
access from virtually any location - and not just working from home.
True, homebased telecommuters aren't as likely to use a cellular modem
their laptops. Wireless service is great but it still has its
and certainly cannot (yet) provide reliable access at the speeds
even with a 56K dial-up line, let alone any kind of wired digital
But the wireless mindset will increasingly drive mobile work, even
buildings, as technology such as wireless LANs become more widespread.
Never A Dull Moment In U.S. Telecom Industry
Here's some late news that relates to this wireless issue:
AT&T MARCHES ON - On December 30, the Federal Trade Commission approved
AT&T's planned acquisition of cable giant TCI; the Federal
Commission still has to approve the deal. USA TODAY reported the same
that AT&T is nearing a deal with Time Warner to "finance the upgrade of
Time Warner cable TV networks for voice and high-speed Internet access
The TCI and Time Warner deals would give AT&T access to half the
Together with AT&T's earlier acquisition of Teleport Communications
(TCG), a major competitive local-exchange carrier, this deal will
AT&T to plunge into the residential local service market. Contemplate
it will mean when AT&T can offer its existing long-distance network,
wireless network, its wired local service (via TCG's fiber network) and
cable-based telephony and Internet access (via TCI and Time Warner
BELL ATLANTIC MARCHES ON TOO - On January 1, the NEW YORK TIMES
that Bell Atlantic is "in talks to buy Airtouch Communications, the
wireless phone company" in the U.S. "If a deal is reached ... the
of some cellular calls, especially charges for roaming, could be sliced
much as 50 percent on the newly combined network, possibly enough to
an industry-wide reduction in rates." Referring to the AT&T Digital
Rate plan and a similar plan from Sprint PCS, the TIMES observed that a
"nationwide network forged in a Bell Atlantic and Airtouch combination,
analysts said, would be well positioned to compete against both plans."
You can see what's happening - as prices for formerly expensive
service are driven down by competition, and as large regional or
networks are formed, the prospect of cheap, national, flat-rate
very likely. And as the former "long-distance" carriers like AT&T, and
MCI, blur the lines between local and long-distance service, there will
added pressures to drive rates down and even more wireless access.
Who knows - all this activity might even result in a reduction in the
number of telecommunications service bills the average household
It has been a while since I tallied for you the list of bills that the
Gordon household receives; here it is:
Residential Service Homebased Business Service
Bell Atlantic (local) Bell Atlantic (local)
AT&T (long distance) AT&T (long distance)
Bell Atlantic (cellular) AT&T (wireless)
Comcast (cable TV) Comcast (cable modem)
AOL (Internet/e-mail) Compuserve (e-mail)
AT&T (calling card)
I am well aware that I could simplify this picture somewhat - but not a
lot, and still have the ability to clearly separate my residential and
business expenses. But even if I cut that list of eleven monthly
down to eight, that's still way too many.
Even more important than the shift to wireless is the constantly-
bandwidth race. I have never heard anyone say "Gee, I have too much
bandwidth - my connection speed is too fast." There's an almost
demand, especially as more people work remotely and become accustomed
digital connections (e.g., ISDN, cable modems, or DSL). As I advise
clients this year about their remote-access technology plans, I will
them to trade features for bandwidth; most telecommuters will take a
less-than-superior laptop or desktop PC if they can also get reliable
This will be the year of the deployment battles among those three
pathways. DSL is being promoted heavily by several regional Bell
companies, as well as the competitive local exchange carriers - but it
suffers from the same problems that ISDN had in the early and mid-
ISDN is - finally - quite widely available, but DSL is only in its
testing stages in most cases.
Employers who want to use DSL for telecommuting run into what I call
"pregnancy problem" - you can't be a little bit pregnant, and you can't
a little bit deployed with a new technology. If it's not widely
it's not available - period. Employers simply don't have the time or
resources to support trials of new technology for one or two
while also try to support whatever everyone else is using.
[For several good sources of information about DSL developments and
go to the Telecommunications Services listing of the Products and
section of my Web site <www.gilgordon.com/resources/products9.htm>.]
#5: "The Cubicles Are Going Away At Last, The Cubicles Are Going
Are we getting to the point where what we now call "alternative
is no longer "alternative"? Are we finally breaking down the decades-
status- and hierarchy-based approach to doling out office space and
furnishings? We're headed in that direction, but aren't quite there
The December 22 LOS ANGELES TIMES article titled "Thing There's No
Like Home? Try the Office" begins as follows:
"The so-called alternative office, where it's hard to tell the managers
>from the managed, may soon need a new name: the mainstream office. An
to make the office more like home - and home more like the office - has
caught on at a number of major corporations, where changes are being
by the high cost of office space, competitive pressures, and shifting
Other than the fact that Scott Adams will have less material for his
DILBERT <www.dilbert.com> comic strip, I can't think of any reason why
miss "cubicle-land" style offices. They are more rigid than today's
workflow requires, they emphasize individual space over collaborative
space, and they drive up the square footage requirements (and thus the
cost) of housing professionals in an office.
As with all changes, however, making the transition is much trickier
enjoying the benefits that follow. There have been many poorly-planned
mismanaged alternative officing trials - along with lots of good ones.
There is often too little communication among the facilities planners,
technology planners, the organization planners, and the employees
My formula for the ideal office is to blend equal parts of a college
library (with its individual, first-come first-served study carrels), a
Starbucks (with its coffee and other drinks in a casual setting that
encourages conversation), a Kinkos (with its array of office support
equipment and services), and a hotel conference center (with a variety
private and semi-private areas for meetings and conferences).
[As an aside, I suggest you visit <www.kinkos.com> and scroll through
listing of Products and Services. This will give you a good idea of
how far these stores have progressed beyond being photocopying shops,
how well they meet the needs of mobile workers.]
When more workers are more mobile, as they are today, they need a place
land and not a place to live while in the office. And they need more
space to do things together than to do things individually; if they
been entrusted and empowered to work remotely, that's where they will
their intensive, heads-down desk work - not in the office.
When I go into a client to discuss any form of telecommuting or virtual
office work, I know we're off to a good start if there are
around the table from line management of the department affected,
facilities management, human resources, and information technology.
any one of those four and you're almost certainly destined to fail.
Alternative officing is moving into the mainstream but will not even
close to doing so without this kind of coordinat
ed approach. The process of sketching out floor plans or choosing
and work surfaces is but a tiny part of the alternative officing
In fact, perhaps we should start calling it "alternative working"
of alternative officing, to emphasize how incidental the office itself
to the process.
#4: " 'Do More With Less' Is a Mess For Us, 'Do More With Less' Is a
Each Wednesday, the first page I turn to in the WALL STREET JOURNAL is
Shellenbarger's "Work & Family" column. She and I have become
colleagues over the years, and I am always encouraged and excited by
[Go to <www.wsj.com> and search for "Shellenbarger" to find her columns
though you'll have to pay to actually read the columns. This is the
"commerce" part of "electronic commerce"...]
Her December 30 column was no exception - coincidentally, it was her
"Crystal Ball"-type column in which she looked ahead to the future.
is one of her forecasts:
" 'Work redesign' will be the new work-life buzzword. After several
of stressing flexible schedules, most big companies now have
language on the books. But the policies lack impact, largely because
Godzilla-size workloads keep employees from using them. "Workload is
issue, and it has become the greatest single obstacle to flexibility,"
Paul Rupert, a flexibility consultant with WFD Inc., Boston.
Few employers will hire more people amid a likely economic slowdown,
many will give employees a fighting chance to work flexibly by
work - putting tasks in priority, erasing nonessential duties and
We are now in the post-downsizing, post-crunch era in which it is
clear, I believe, that the exhortations to "do more with less" have
actually resulted in many employees doing less with less. This is a
generalization, but my anecdotal evidence tells me that too many people
being too overworked for too long a period. Everyone can cope with
occasional sprints to meet an important deadline, but no one can cope -
long - with a pace that never allows them to catch their breath.
The legacy of downsizing in most companies is that we got rid of the
but didn't do anywhere near as much to get rid of the work. There were
fewer people to do as much or more work, and they are expected to do so
e-mail-inspired warp speed. Add to this the mistaken assumption that
a badge of honor to work more hours on more days than a co-worker, and
have a situation where employees are getting burned out - and just as
the quality of their work suffers.
Telecommuting comes to the rescue here to a degree; we hear from
telecommuters that they can at least cope better with big workloads if
have the flexibility to work in a more relaxed setting with fewer
distractions, and adjust their hours to their preference. Even if they
have the same amount of work, they often experience it as less
But this isn't the solution to the underlying problem. Our
are getting strained and stretched to a degree that there is no
left. There's no capacity to bounce back, to prepare and re-energize
the next project. Add to this the anytime/anywhere blessing-curse of
mobile technology (voice mail, e-mail, pagers, Palm Pilots, etc.) and
have even made it difficult for people to get a break when they're on a
Smart employers will start swinging the pendulum back to something more
sensible. It cannot go all the way back to the fat, dumb and happy
slothful organizations and ludicrously big budgets, but it must at
move away from the excessive expectations and workloads of today.
#3: "Reflecting Is What We'll Be Doing This Year, Reflecting Is What
Once or twice a week my e-mail inbox includes a short newsletter from
Elliott Masie of The MASIE Center <www.masie.com>, the "technology and
learning think tank" as he describes it. Most of his writing is about
trends and technologies in learning, but his December 30 newsletter was
series of predictions including this one:
"CHANGE & REFLECTION: The easiest prediction to make for 1999 is that
there will be change. I should turn in my trends analyst cap for
that one. Yet, in 1999, there are other forces at work to make change
valid prediction. We believe that people and organizations will use
coming change in calendar to drive greater than ever reflection and
introspection. As we face a benchmark as large as the turn of the
millennium, it is only natural that we will take a deep breath. I
predict that you will see an unprecedented level of personal and
organizational reflection in the next 12 months. Lots of folks will
stock of their careers, consider alternatives and examine their
needs. Business units will want to go into the next thousand years
greater clarity and focus. So, strap on your change seat belt...it
quite a year ahead."
I like that term "organizational reflection" to describe what
should do as they prepare for the new century. At one level it's silly
talk about organizations being introspective and reflecting - it's the
people in them that do those activities. But Masie is getting at
bigger, I believe; he's suggesting that all those people in the
organizations should reflect not only on their own direction,
accomplishments and values, but should also somehow collectively ask
the organization is going and what it's all about.
This may sound like some kind of New Age hype but it's not meant to be.
example might help: Sue Shellenbarger's comment about workload calls
organizational reflection and introspection - above and beyond what
manager and executive does. This is something like the process that
in the late 1970's when organizations started convening groups of
to draft corporate mission statements and lists of corporate values and
like. The difference today, I think, is that mission statements are
about what the corporation does, while reflection and introspection are
more about what the corporation is.
Several of these "countdown" items have a strong values orientation,
that's no accident. It seems to me that we are entering a time when
employees are as much interested in values as value, and as concerned
much with culture as customers. I'm not sure if I've expressed this
clearly - and I'm not even sure if it's clear in my own mind. This is
example of a theme that has become increasingly important to me: the
that telecommuting is just the tip of an iceberg, and it is that
organizational change that intrigues me.
Among the layers in that submerged iceberg is the concept of corporate
values. Telecommuting is often a wedge that opens up the door to
discussion about those values - how else can we explain all the
over trust, control, and accountability that accompany every
implementation? I know I'll be thinking about these issues this year,
encourage you to do likewise.
#2: "The TELECOMMUTE Conference Is Resting This Year, The TELECOMMUTE
Conference Is Resting..."
I have not formally announced this yet, though I have begun to tell
when asked: After a lot of hard thought and looking at pros and cons, I
have decided not to schedule TELECOMMUTE '99. Having done the
for seven years, 1999 will be a sabbatical year for TELECOMMUTE.
The reasons are a combination of the changing (and rapidly declining)
market for multi-day on-site conferences on all subjects, the
of attendance which creates incredible pressure (financially and
otherwise), and the fact that when I add everything up - even though we
a more profitable conference in 1998 than in any prior year - the
projected profit for this year simply does not justify the amount of
have to put into it.
This is a very, very difficult decision for me, for lots of reasons.
one thing, after doing the conference seven years I think my conference
partner ICMI and I finally figured out how to do it very well. For
another, there is a terrific sense of community and networking among
people who attend, even for the first time. I have wavered back and
on this for the last few months, and now it's time to announce the
I will be participating in other conferences next year, most notably
Gartner Group's Remote Access conference in San Diego in March; you can
details in the Events listing at <www.gartner.com>. And I'm also
very seriously at a Web-based conferencing tool that is certainly not
good as being there in person but - if done well - will help meet the
for providing updated information and stimulating discussion. Stay
For those of you who have attended, exhibited, or presented at past
TELECOMMUTE conferences, this is an opportunity for me to thank you
profusely for all your support over the seven years of the conference.
Each year after the conference I feel like it subtracts a year from my
(in terms of the time and energy commitment) but in reality, it has
much more to my personal and professional life, in terms of all I have
learned and all the friendships I have made.
#1: "This Newsletter Is Going To Change (Sometime), This Newsletter Is
Going To Change..."
As long as I'm talking about changes, here is an announcement about
one: this TELECOMMUTING REVIEW newsletter is going to undergo some kind
change in the next few months. I realize that's a very lukewarm and
unclear announcement. I had hoped by this point to be able to tell you
exactly what the change will be.
A few months ago I sent out a survey to a sample of TR subscribers,
for their opinions about shifting TR from a traditional printed
to some kind of electronic format. Here is the introduction from that
The TELECOMMUTING REVIEW (TR) newsletter has been published since
1984 - that's fourteen years - as a traditional printed newsletter.
Because you have subscribed for some, much, or even all of that time,
opinion about a possible change in the newsletter is very important to
I am seriously considering changing from a printed, mailed newsletter
one that is published and distributed on the Internet. There are three
reasons for thinking about this change:
1. COST - The cost to print a two-color newsletter using a high-quality
printing company for the quantity we print is higher than I like. I
want to lower the quality to lower the cost; besides, most of the cost
for the layout and pre-printing processes. The actual printing costs
not as much an issue. First-class postage is another factor, but not
2. CONTENT AND VALUE - Publishing the newsletter online would let me
three important changes:
- Easier to include photos and other graphics to complement the text;
- Ability to include embedded links to relevant Web sites to provide
instant access to information that complements the text;
- Ability to include links to (or downloadable) text of earlier TR
related to a current article.
3. TIMELINESS - The time it takes to deliver a completed newsletter
month would be shortened by as much as 7-10 days - which is the current
interval between the day I finish the writing and editing and the day
get your printed copy in the mail. Even though (as a monthly
TR has never been filled with "late-breaking news," this faster
time can only help make each month's issue more timely.
There are, of course, some drawbacks to this proposed change. A
newsletter is more portable, more easily stored and retrieved for later
use, can be read without any technology other than your eyes, and is
a more convenient, familiar format.
The responses were generally quite positive; subscribers indicated they
would find a new format as useful if not more so. Although I still
in the three reasons for making the change listed in the survey, I have
yet been able to decide on a new format that solves more problems than
There's something comfortable and tangible about a printed newsletter.
There's also something very old-fashioned about it - especially in
what can be done with embedded links and other "live" features in an
electronic product. This is especially relevant in terms of finding a
better way to integrate TR with my Web site.
What I'm looking for is a solution that gives readers the advantages of
both print and electronic formats, and - quite frankly - does not
jeopardize my subscription income and even increases it. I'm not going
share any numbers with you, but suffice it to say that our kids'
tuition is not being funded in large part by the profits from TR.
Whether or not you completed the mailed survey last fall, I would very
like to hear your suggestions or comments. I hate to sound so
about this change, but I have always tried to be candid in all aspects
my subscribers and this is no exception. I don't want to rush into a
change that takes TR in the wrong direction. You can call (732-329-
fax (732-329-2703) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your comments.
"No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer..."
There you have it. We've come to the end of the 99 bottles and the 9
observations for 1999. Thanks for bearing with me in this long
and please let me know your reactions to any of these points.