1x25: On a Stick With No Fripperies

Jeremy Garcia, Bryan Lunduke, Jono Bacon, and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, in which we discuss the wonderful products of the Jimmy Dean sausage empire, have unexpected bouts of poetry, lunch each other with frippery, and also discuss:

  • The final installment of the Bad Voltage Reverso Debate, which, due to a tie in the last installment, results in an awkward three-way. Jeremy and Jono are donating to Charity:Water as a result, and we are looking to raise $1500 from the Bad Voltage community to help - go and donate! (2.30)
  • Stuart reviews the EZCast and evaluates whether he can use it to rock the conference circuit on his phone (21.58)
  • We crown the winner of the Bad Voltage Mashed Voltage competition who wins a piece of tat from each member of the team. Go and listen to all the entries (33.27)
  • We cover work/life balance and discuss where the burden of responsibility is between the employer and employee in ensuring people have the balance right (39.32)

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My wife is a vegetarian and try’s to convert me too. When I heard about the “Denial of Sausage Attack” I immediately rolled over the floor laughing. You made my day Jono :smile:

So, with work life balance I’m going to get kinda serious here but feel free to take the piss.

I have worked for very big and very small companies over the years and every company I have worked at for the last 6 years has let me work from home. This brings up some interesting challenges for work/life balance because you have to know when to stop. Made worse because every company I have worked from home for I have worked for a US department (living in the UK) so time syncing can be an issue. I have had times where I have managed a team and to get things done I have worked ridiculous hours because I don’t want to let my guys down.

The worst time for me was when I worked at what is probably the best known hosting company in the world. We were developing an Open Source database product and had a GA deadline which was just before a major database conference where we would be talking about it. As the deadline was approaching I was spending all my time working on it, even sitting in front of the TV with the family on my laptop hacking away. 2 days after GA hit the company decided they no longer wanted to fund the development of the product (and by extension the developers) but still wanted us to give the conference talks as if everything was normal. So, I had the stress of a GA product followed by the stress of finding a new job and preparing 8 hours of conference talks.

At the conference I’m pretty sure my talks sucked, I don’t remember. All I remember is my hair started falling out. The stress had caused alopecia and I lost around 50% of my hair (there are photos of me at the peak of it wearing a t-shirt saying ‘Keep your hair on’ which I used in an O’Reilly conference keynote one time).

I found another job pretty much straight away at another database company but I was already in the start of a stress / depression cycle which lasted nearly a year. I kinda feel sorry for my new employer because I never felt like I was giving 100% although I probably was because I was probably actually working normal hours for once.

Brian Aker called me up one day whilst I was on a family vacation in the US and offered to fly me to Seattle for an interview with HP. The job was getting away from the database industry which I think is what I needed at the time. With in a couple of months I was on the road to recovery. Whilst I still often have problems working a normal 40 hour week the benchmark now is if my hair falls out I have gone too far.

Anyway, I guess my point is, make sure you keep the balance because it can do crazy things to your health.

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I have always viewed work as a means to an end. That viewpoint helps keep everything in perspective. I am fortunate to work at a place to shares my view. After all, time equals life.

I thought that @jonobacon had the hardest part in the debate.

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I would concur.

–jeremy

I’m surprised you guys didn’t bring up any of the research that claims employees are more productive on a 40 hour work week. If I were a manager, I’d be telling employees to go home - play with their children. Watch T.V. Be rested. There’s a Joel on Software post somewhere, which I can’t find, which says something to the effect of this.

Crunch should only be a small bursts thing. If it’s an all the time thing, it’s a mismanagement of resources.

It’s weird, everything Aq is talking about doing with the ezcast is exactly what I’d planned to do at OggCamp this year (in fact, it sounds like I’ve bought exactly the same set of random wires that Aq has). When Aq mentioned he was looking for an HDMI-VGA adaptor a few weeks back on Twitter, and I said I had one, I hadn’t realised it was for this exact purpose. In fact, that he was about to one-up me (and probably make some gag about everything looking like a N-Ale in the process…)

Talking of OggCamp, how come you guys haven’t promoted it? I mean, I know 3 of you are unlikely to make it, but still… UK’s finest (current) Open Source event… and no love from the Voltage?

Anyway, moving on; the 40 hour work week thing mentioned before was invented by Henry Ford to encourage consumerism (if you have more spare time, you’ll need to find something to fill it…) and before that, most people worked 46 hours in 6 days…

On the subject of work/life balance, my boss quit work this month because he was sick of not being paid for overtime (for some reason in many uk firms, manager grade staff - particularly in big firms - don’t get paid overtime, while their staff do) but being expected to produce reams of paperwork, often late into the night. Meanwhile, he blocked me from working from home, even though he knew I had a 1h30 journey into and out of work each day in order to promote knowledge sharing in the team… At least I get paid well, I guess.

Anyway, moving on again, like @visit above, I nearly wet myself at the denial of sausage attack… I’d like to see whether this firm would export shipments to the better educated side of the pond? :smile:

This is something I had intended to bring up, but just didn’t have time to. Everyone is different, but for many productivity starts dropping off after about 40 hours (and for those people the dropoff is usually precipitous around 50-60 hours).

–jeremy

Next show should be out just before it. I’ll try and remember to mention that I at least will be there!

I think it’s worse in F1, we’re expected to do big hours, without any of the chefs, laundry Etc.

Hey Bad Voltage!! I love the show, and I’ve been listening here and there as time allows.

I’d like to make a comment about the work/life balance stuff, but first, I have to know…what is this discussion software? I love it and would like to consider using it for my own podcast…

Now, for work/life balance:

I’m actually about to be a college student (yipee!) in California, so I haven’t been doing a whole lot of “work” up until now, and never full time. Although, studying can in a sense count as work that you get paid for in the future and not anywhere near the present. So, with that disclaimer and context out of the way, I’ll say this. I think work is important, obviously, but so is spending time sleeping, eating, being with family, etc. Recreation is important for a healthy life in addition to being productive. Likewise, there’s something very inhuman to me about staying inside constantly. Even in large groups of people, it’s rather isolating, and it significantly impacts health through less intake of vitamins (I believe it’s Vitamin D that comes from sunlight?).

So, with that in mind, I think there should be a multi-pronged approach that the employer and employees can collaboratively take to keep a healthy balance in order:

  1. Position your office in areas currently served by (or easily served in the future) by public transit. I say this with great sensitivity and caution, because here in the S.F. Area, many Silicon Valley companies have managed to create public nuisances, and reminders of the divide between haves and have-nots, using their own private shuttle services. When I make this suggestion, I am suggesting using publicly-funded resources that treat employees of these companies like any other resident/citizen, NOT as elites. If companies want to run their own shuttles, FINE, but make them reasonably similar to what an average person would expect in a public transit service.

  2. Have outdoor areas around your office, and also position your office near other food outlets. Encourage employees to leave their computers securely at their desk and go out somewhere for lunch, or at least enjoy the fresh air while they eat. A cafeteria is fine, but don’t make it the end-all be-all of food that keeps employees glued to their office constantly.

  3. Find reasonable and non-obtrusive ways to monitor employee productivity and well-being - not for purposes of increasing profits per se, but for taking care of your employees. If you notice that an employee starts getting really tired, stressed, unproductive after 45 hours a week or after 12 hours straight, suggest that they go home and spend some time with family.

  4. Offer relaxation, stress reduction, and general wellness resources that employees can utilize at home.

Those are my thoughts for now…I’ll probably have more to say in the future.

It’s called Discourse, and it’s nice, and free to download, or available hosted too. We like it.

On your larger points… I agree mostly with them all, but it’s not me you need to convince. If your company is rushing to get a product to market before the opportunity closes, and an employee is burning out but is responsible for a major part, do you send them home to recover and thereby miss the opportunity and so kill the company? Obviously it’s better to plan properly so this situation doesn’t arise, but if it does arise then you don’t have a time machine and so can’t fix it that way. I don’t think most firms provide a poor working environment (or even a brilliant-but-overly-seductive working environment) because they are moustache-twirling villains; it’s because they’ve decided that doing what they do is better for the company as a whole. How do we convince them otherwise?

I think that sort of emergency is fine, but some companies make a habit of living that way for long stetches of time. If your business model is creating constant emergencies, then there is something very wrong with your business model. I think most of the technology we work with is in such a state that careful forethought should always bring better results than all night binging.

If too much of this happens, it becomes a part of company culture. A negative sort of “heroism” where feats of dedication are valued over smart decisions.

The work/life balance segment is extremely interesting. I have so many horror stories from the Asian work life…

@jonobacon, you visited the Samsung city in South Korea, so you’ve probably seen the bright side of Asian companies, but trust me, Asian companies are probably the most wicked companies in the World.

The 40-hour week myth simply does not apply here (I live in Taiwan). You have to be obedient to your boss (or your dad, or your teacher, or anything that has a higher status than you), and to do so, you don’t need to be productive at all, but instead you need to arrive before him and leave after. Plus, you usually have to clock in/out, so some people stay late just to have some extra hours bonus (salaries are very low here so some people need to do that).

This leads to super weird situations where everyone in the company spends 90 hours per week at work, but nothing gets done!

On the other hand, you regularly have deaths by exhaustion here. One of my friend had to attend a funeral of a 30-something HTC engineer who died of a heart attack. He had spent like 3 weeks in a row working and living in the company premises, and he died at home when his boss finally sent him home… oh yeah, he was still working, but from home.

Finally, a lot of people here don’t understand the concept of holidays (in Taiwan, most people only get 7 holidays per year). I have another French friend living in Taiwan and managing a few Taiwanese guys in an IT company. He had to force one of them to take his 7-day holidays (he hadn’t taken any holidays in 3 years). When the guy came back to work, my friend asked him where did he go, what did he do, etc. Answer: “I stayed at home and watched TV”.

Ah, I only scratched the surface here… and I’m certain it’s the same in Japan, Korea and China.

My point exactly, I have no idea why anyone thinks hanging out at work is equivalent to working, or to some kind of work heroism.

Hi all,

Been listening for around a month to the Bad Voltage podcast and I’m loving it.
The review of the EZCast was what made me register for the community.

Although I have no affiliation to this, I wanted to point your attention to an alternative I personally am looking forward to:

AirTame

They raised $1.3m on indiegogo in 2013 and won Best Startup at CES in 2014 and their product is estimated to ship january 2015.
It’s a HDMI dongle you plug into your big screen, and then connect to via an app/program.
Airtame will be available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and Windows Phone. And although I’m not entirely sure what “engaging with the open source community” means it sounds neat :wink:

In this presentation some simple gaming can be seen done through the Airtame, which I take it means latency is pretty low.
Anyways… multiplatform and It looks to be a simpler solution than what the EZCast sounded like from the review. Price is quite a bit steeper though. I’m excited to see the verdict when they ship.

Huh. Airtame does look good, doesn’t it? I’ll be interested to see how they do full-screen-streaming on iOS – I assume that means that it’s basically able to understand AirPlay. Nice pointer (and welcome to the forum!); I’ll look out for AirTame…

On your larger points... I agree mostly with them all, but it's not me you need to convince. If your company is rushing to get a product to market before the opportunity closes, and an employee is burning out but is responsible for a major part, do you send them home to recover and thereby miss the opportunity and so kill the company? Obviously it's better to plan properly so this situation doesn't arise, but if it does arise then you don't have a time machine and so can't fix it that way. I don't think most firms provide a poor working environment (or even a brilliant-but-overly-seductive working environment) because they are moustache-twirling villains; it's because they've decided that doing what they do is better for the company as a whole. How do we convince them otherwise?

For times like that when an employee is burning out, there are certainly ways to solve it (or at least make things better) without sending them home. Can the atmosphere in the office be changed to make things more relaxed, productive, etc.? Are there people that can assist and support this individual in making his/her deadline? Can other people take over for a while during which time the employee in question relaxes and rejuvinates? Is some combination of these appropriate?

I do not believe per say that corporations are evil and intentionally causing employees grief, necessarily. HOWEVER, I will say that it seems to me that as organizations get bigger, the balance between achieving business/organization objectives and caring for workers shifts greatly towards the former. Take Walmart as an example: employees are paid TERRIBLY, to the point that they must be subsidzed by taxpayers just to eat. Why? Because paying them more would endanger the profits of the owners of Walmart. A single business-person or family business, on the other hand, would probably be much more connected with their employees and concerned enough about them to pay more than minimum wage (assuming the minimum wage were so ridiculously low in that scenario).

Please respect our code of conduct which is simple: don't be a dick.