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Research (read: distraction)
Watching a Dutchman type

1:30am. I haven't written the SchmoozeLetter yet. It's Monday morning and it's supposed to go out on in a few hours and I just don't have it. It isn't so much a case of writer's block as it is bad time management and... OK, so it's writer's block.

I'll just write it now... This is it... apparently. It'll be as much a surprise to me as it is to you.

Normally I write about things that have happened in the past two weeks, and things surely must have happened during these past two weeks, but for some reason I can't remember them, which either means my memory is going (if that's the case I won't remember it's going so there's no sense worrying) or it was just so ordinary that looking back all I see is a kind of static.

Or maybe a lot of that static came from webcams. I finally got one and somehow that consumed days, trying to get it to work with other people and looking at myself on my own screen, thinking that the lighting in my office was entirely unsuitable for a web cam and coming to the breakthrough discovery that my head gave off less glare if I wore a hat.

At first the webcam was just a good tool (read: excuse) to try to video conference with friends. My first successful NetMeeting call was with my friend Pete in Australia, halfway across the world. We saw and heard each other from 7,845 miles away (I found that distance by being distracted here) and the quality was surprisingly good. His daughter, Holi, told me a joke with the punch line, "Time to get a new pet tiger!" in her charming Australian accent.

I also webcammed with my friend Bruce in New York and my friend Karen in L.A. and it was like that old phone company tagline, "The next best thing to being there."

It made me feel like I'd finally stepped into the 21st century. I've been waiting for "PicturePhones" since I first saw one as a child at Disneyland 34 years ago. And here it was at long last—right in my own home office. Amazing.

Then my friend Pete introduced me to webcam software that would enable me to set up a web page and let other people look out my window at the deer who totally use the yard as a all-you-can-eat salad bar.

The web cam software came with no instructions, and after a few transcontinental e-mails I got it working for a few hours, then it stopped working for a few days until I uninstalled and reinstalled everything. No wonder everyone doesn't do it.

In the process I got I sucked into the swirling vortex of other people's web cams. Sites like www.earthcam.com, www.webcam.com, (not to mention the inevitable expeditions to eBay.com which had nothing to do with web cams and all to do with my inexplicable need to purchase things like a large gold medal in the shape of an Oreo.)

See—just now—right there—that's how it works. I typed the word "eBay," then I had to go there. Forty-five minutes and 90 "wrist watch" items later I'm back.

The thing about all this "research" (read: distraction) is that time just flies by. I had work I should have done this weekend (sorry, Jack, Roger, Ernest, and Consuela) but instead I found myself watching a college student sleep (how very Andy Warhol), then looking for something more interesting than the majority of webcams that seem to show people sitting at their computers looking like zombies.

I mean, how long can you watch a Dutchman type? That's all one guy did. I had a short bout of semi-wonderment at the fact that I could watch a man in Holland sitting at his computer, and after about 10 seconds I thought, "Why am I watching this?"

People are inviting people to watch them but not doing much worth watching. "Mind-numbing" is the phrase that comes to my numb mind.

To be fair (read: I'm not a total slacker), there are many interesting web cams, like the one in Times Square, the one behind the Hollywood Sign, views of the Eiffel Tower, and these of French, Canadian and American animals.

This weird (and hopefully temporary) addiction reached it's peak today when I realized that five whole hours (or was it days?) had simply vanished and I hadn't written the SchmoozeLetter and it was suddenly time for "Alias" on ABC. It's my favorite new show because I love to watch the vivacious yet brooding heroine kick butt, I guess because the butt in question isn't mine—and because she's doing something worth watching!

All this once again proves that technology is only as good as what you do with it. And that despite scientific claims that the universe is expanding, the world is clearly getting smaller.

For what it's worth, you can look out my window and see if the mother and baby dear are out eating my yard.

Or visit My friend Pete's goatcam.

When you tire of these (I think 20 seconds should do it), go visit famous places around the world.

Daniel Will-Harris

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Free Upgrade To NetObjects Fusion 7

Yes, NetObjects Fusion 7 is in beta. I've used it, it looks good, and that's all I'm allowed to say about it at the moment.

Buy a copy of NetObjects Fusion MX now and get a free upgrade to NetObjects Fusion 7, the next version. It's the fastest and least expensive way to get Fusion7 when it's released.

A full copy of MX is only $99.95 (less than half the price of other company's upgrade charges), and upgrades from previous versions are just $49.95.

To qualify, simply buy NetObjects Fusion MX or the NetObjects Fusion MX upgrade between March 12 and June 15, 2002, complete the online registration form, and provide a valid e-mail address for redemption purposes. Get it now!

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Working Remotely / Working Effectively

One thing I've learned from the many sites I've worked on and organizations I've worked with is that it's actually more effective to not meet in person. I know this may sound odd—but there are several reasons for this.

    1) It forces everyone to edit their thoughts and make them clear—in writing. That one step helps to ensure that requirements are set more clearly and firmly up front.

    2) It gets people out of the habit of long in-person meetings. A lot of groups are in the habit of having very long meetings where very few things are finalized. This is inefficient for all involved, and doing this work via email avoids that.

While you don't need a webcam for this, simple e-mail can work, a webcam and software like Microsoft NetMeeting (which lets you "share screens"—they can see what's on your screen or you can see what's on theirs) are the next best (if not better) thing to being there.

My wife has one more tip for efficient meetings—if you don't want them to drag on, make everybody stand the entire time. You'll be amazed at how much shorter meetings get.

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FLASH FORWARD 2002

If you use Macromedia Flash (or want to), I can personally recommend the Flash Forward events (San Francisco April 2-3, and other places around the world later in the year).

Last year's FlashForward conference was terrific. I learned something useful in every session. For more info, go to www.flashforward2002.com

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DO GOOD WITH A CLICK

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One more thing:

If you have a webcam and are looking for simple free software that works most of the time, try this: http://www.booru.net/

 

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