Thursday, 10 April 2008

Little peepel doing it for themselves

The last few weeks have been as volatile as they get in the stressy life of a tech writer in the world of web apps, open source and agile development - when the ink is hardly dry on a text string or a protocol before the terminology, the requirements and the brand itself are reinvented - again.

In the midst of this chaos, it seemed like a good idea to ground myself and my aspirations in an office. Bucking nigh-on 15 years of home-working tradition (ironically, my stint at Skype was the exception), I took an office in a new business centre at the end of my street. Home working has been good to me, enabling me to earn a reasonable income living in remote and idyllic places while being more productive in my writing which is, in its defining moments, a solitary task.

It has become more difficult for me to work from home - when the kids return from school they want to natter and too often I respond with "later, I've got to work right now" - sound familiar? So, I got an office and on Tuesday I moved in. The office has 2 desks and a filing cabinet and a view over the playground where my kids sometimes play. The children are on school vacation and my daughter has taken up residence on the second desk as my "apprentice".

Wednesday, my apprentice sets up a spreadsheet for my business expenses. To do so, she had to download and install Open Office, all done easily and without problem. Wednesday I also learn that OpenX, the main source of my current income, is moving HQ from London to LA - oops - who will pay my office rent? Time for some soul-searching.

Thursday, in the office before 9am, and a number of pings about OpenX news. My apprentice arrives and I put her to work on another spreadsheet but this time she is a "guinea pig" 12-year-old using Peepel. She captured my ideas on whiteboard first. Next, she set up a Peepel account. Then she entered the contents of a new spreadsheet which defines different rates for different tasks/expertise. Finally, my apprentice shared this with me through my Peepel account, which I was able to edit before returning edit control to her.

I've been a small business for a long time and have learned many ways and means of collaboration to simplify my work. Personally, I'm not a lover of Google apps because I don't trust their motives or the ability of a monster to deliver the goods for the individual. I'm impressed by the ability of Peepel to make it easier for me to collaborate with my daughter without a big learning curve or complicated downloads.