Off the Top: Time Entries
Much like the shifting of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes, the bi-annual shifting of timezones not in unison causes rumblings in schedules and disturbances of varying severity. This shifting of timetonic plates can be really problematic for businesses coordinating meetings, establishing seamless logistics, and syncing interaction schedules across continents and regions.
Unlike earthquakes form the shifting of tectonic plates, the timetonic plateshifts are all man made disruptions. There are many valid reasons of shifting from standard time to daylight savings (or in some regions, just daylight) time and shifting back. Part of the rationale is safety for children going to and coming home from school. But, the recent shift that was made to get more day light evening hours in the United States was driven by the outdoor entertainment industry (read BBQ makers and similar) has made the prior no difference or a week or two difference from the usual timezone differences we normally work around. Now we have nearly a month of being off kilter in the spring and two or three weeks in the fall.
One day people may realize if we are going to make shifts we should all do them in sync. Nobody is that special that they can create an hour more of daylight (as one bleary brained U.S. Congressman claimed in the need for the shift a few years back). The damage this does to commerce and extra effort this always takes when systems are out of sync in our heavily interconnected world may not be worth the cost of trying to be special.
In addition to trying to hack a habit into existence around blogging every day (here but also counting the larger posts over at Personal InfoCloud, which is mostly working-ish), I am trying to hack my sleep cycles.
For a few years I have been running Sleep Cycle app to optimize my sleep wake up times so I am feeling more rested (read, “a lot less cranky”) by waking in the optimum sleep pattern. This has been a great tool and has really helped.
While all things are lovely on this front, I have been trying to sort out how to better optimize time or create more productive time. I haven’t been getting optimal output, which I was used to over many years. Part of the shift was slipping out of good habits, but on a recent work travel stint (I’m always a lot more productive when traveling, even though I’m lacking some resources (physical books) on the road).
In working through this productivity difference, it starting coming down to the revelation that home cycles include family time and driving my son to practices and games (I love doing this), but by the time I return in the late evening I am not as ready nor willing to sit down and work again.
While there are tasks that will engage my mind and I will get a lot of focus and crank things out (this is largely coding projects) but the late evening turns into night and then middle of the night quite easily, the evening is rather out. So, if I am trying to manufacture more time for productivity during the day the morning is the other option (in science fiction cracking open as slice in the middle of the day to add time would be a possibility, but I’m still living in my version of the now).
I am hoping to shift my 8am wake time, which ties to a midnight to 1am sleep time, back about two hours. I chipped back about 45 minutes today and hoping by week’s end to have this down.
I had long forgotten this Carl Steadman response to Michael Sippy’s “Just One Question - What do you want for Christmas”, but the response from 1997 is fantastic and frames the 1990s as the broken decade. (I’ll wait for you to go read it)
I’m not so sure that Carl’s broken decade got better in the first half of the 2000 decade, but it really started to. We are much farther along now. Our consumer world started to improve quite a bit and slowly business systems and services are slowly improving. The initial part of Carl’s rant focusses on the number of steps to get something going. Once it is working the steps are still clunky.
Carl gets in a great rant about time and how broken it was in the 90s within technology (calendaring and syncing is still a beast and likely to for a bit longer - you understand the problem sets and pain points if you have ever tried to build syncing). With calendaring and its related activities we now have Tempo, which is freakishly close to the next step scenario I used in many of the Come to Me Web presentations and Personal InfoCloud presentations from 2003 through 2007 (I’ve been getting requests to represent them as this is what more and more developers and designers are dealing with today and need to have a better foundation to think through them). There was an internal Yahoo presentation (and follow on day of deep discussions and conversations) with a version of the Personal InfoCloud and Come to me Web flow that is nearly identical to the Tempo app video scenario and ones spelled out in Robert Scoble’s interview with Tempo CEO, which is utterly awesome that it is getting built out some 10 years later (we had the technology and tools to do this in 2004 and beyond).
Carl’s rant gets worn away over time though consumer devices, services, and applications. The refocus on ease of use and particularly the use through mobile, which requires a very different way of thinking and considering things. It thinking through design, the dependancies, and real user needs (all while keeping in mind the attention issues, screen size, networking, and device limitations). The past couple years mobile finally caught on with mainstream users and people doing real work on the mobile and tablets - Box 40% mobile access of files stored there over the last couple years. Many other business vendors have had mobile use rates of their services from mobile over the past two years. When talking to users they opt for mobile solutions over their full enterprise tools as they are much easier to use, which quickly translates into getting more work done. As Bernd Christiansen of Citrix stated in an onstage interview the employee’s most productive part of the day is often the walk from their car to the front door of the office working on their mobile devices.
This world is not fully better and fully easy to use from the days of Carl’s rant, but it is getting better. We still have quite a ways to go.
My first afternoon in Amsterdam I ran in to Mike Kuniavsky in the hotel. Then Ben arrived and we stood in the hallway near the registration desk chatting and trying to work out logistics. My GMS phone has SMS and so did Mike's phone, with a Dutch SIM chip. He sent the introductory hello SMS ping to my phone so that I would have his local number. Once it was sent we waited for a minute or two to have the ping leave Amsterdam, go to the U.S. hit my carrier, route the ping back to my phone in Amsterdam a couple feet from the phone that sent the SMS.
I know this has been done thousands if not millions of times already, but the time bubble was wonderful. The length of time it took seemed like forever, particularly SMS at home can hit in seconds (with the exception on CDMA networks which seconds are about a minute or two). Yet, when thinking of the vast miles the ping traveled in that short a period of time it is still astounding.
Ftrain's accordian time I found to be enjoyable. I enjoy time theories and find this to be close to my own personal favorite as accordian time accounts for the percieved difference in time. Some folks have a, so called, strong inner clock that is in step with metered time.
Chronological time is problematic for many as their lives feel wholly out of step with the beating minutes regulated to 60 seconds. Time seems to move in spurts and is quasi-random. My personal time theory to account for the difference in perceived time is that everybody is on a different time pace and some folks do have time moving faster for them, while others have time moving far more slowly. These differences are synched at night so that we all can work and play together. This is just an unsubstantiated theory on my part, but I am happy to find others thinking of other time measurements that can account for perceived differences in time.
Alan Lightman has a collection of time scenarios in his Einstein's Dreams. I found ED a wonderful quick read that added a wonderful collection of time theories to my existing stack. It has been a few years since I read ED, but it seems about right to pull it off the shelf and have another go.
Time, or perceived time, is important to understand when developing applications and information structures. Different individuals will become frustrated if they can not find the information they seek when they desire that information. This is partially dependant on the persons perception of the passage of time or their relation to metered time. A person who normally has time passing slowly may find most information is easily found, but if they are trying to trackdown the address for a date or interview in a relatively short time before the event the persons perception of time may increase. This impacts the perceived ease of finding information or re-retrieving that information. The frustration for this person may increase as they can feel the minutes or seconds slipping away. This cognative element is helpful to understand as we test and build interfaces.