12 Tips for Building a Productive Virtual Office

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For the past three days, the staff of Quartz, like thousands of office teams around the U.S. East Coast, have been working from their homes. Our main office in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood is probably without power through the end of the week, and no one yet knows when the subways will be working properly again.

But we’ve been publishing Quartz as usual every day. If you work for a small organization, here are some tips from us and others on how to run a virtual team from the comfort of your own living room. You might like it so much, you never to go back to the office.

A remote team has its advantages—but you have to be organized. When everyone on a team is working remotely, they all communicate on equal footing, writes Bob Mcwhirter in an essay on his experiences with remote working:

“Distributed teams end up functioning better because they must be better-organized if they wish to function at all.” Remote teams also communicate in ways that leave a searchable record of what the team is doing.

The key to doing this well is to use an array of different tools that replicate the various ways you would communicate in the office. For those who aren’t used to working at home, the logistics can be confusing, and there are many tricks that remote workers accumulate only after years of experience.

Many elements are missing, such as the energy we derive from co-workers and the spontaneous collaborations that arise from hallway chatter. That’s why the following techniques and tools help make up for the drawbacks of not being in the same place.

1. Use Email as Little as Possible

We’ve come to rely on email as the dumping ground for every communication. But email can’t easily distinguish co-workers from friends, strangers or people who want to sell you investments in Africa. It’s not much good for organizing information by type or subject. And it’s a horrible way to conduct a rapid-fire exchange.

As a rule, keep email for communicating with people outside your office; for co-workers, use one of the methods below wherever possible.

2. Have Regular and Punctual Meetings

They’re essential for structuring the workday. Make sure that everyone starts the meeting bang on time—even a delay of two or three minutes can be irritating for people waiting on the line, and it adds up to lost productivity. And since the clock on your computer automatically resets itself to a time signal over the internet, there’s no excuse for unpunctuality.

3. Use Both Audio and Video for Your Meetings

Seeing people’s faces while they talk makes the communication much easier—you can see who wants to speak, who doesn’t, and how people are reacting to each other, all of which are vital cues.

Tools to use: For groups of 10 people or smaller, Google+ Hangouts is a cheap and easy videoconference option, but the bandwidth it requires can tax a home internet connection and make the sound unreliable. So consider using separate audio and video tools.

At Quartz we use an audio-conference dial-in number for the sound—services like Intercall, Gotomeeting or Cisco’s WebEx cost a few dozen dollars a month—and a Google Hangout for video. Since there are slightly more than 10 of us, one or two stay off the video each time.

But if you’re using Google Hangouts while dialling in by phone, get everyone to mute their computer speakers and the microphone on the Google Hangout to prevent feedback.

4. Use Chat

Keeping an instant-messenger (IM) window open on your computer might seem like the ultimate form of distraction. But if used properly, it’s the best substitute for being in the same room as other people. In fact, it’s even better than being the same room. We use IM even when we’re all sitting in the office.

That’s because IM, like text messages, occupies the perfect halfway point between sending people an email (which they may take time to get to) and going over to tap them on the shoulder or calling them on the phone (which may interrupt them). An IM is a way of saying “hey, this is a quick thing, but if you’re busy, never mind.”

Tools to use: You can just leave Gmail open in a browser window and enable its chat service. But there are also various client applications that can interface with Google chat and a number of other chat services, including Windows Live and the venerable AOL instant messenger. Using a separate chat client makes it—and your time—easier to manage. (Our favorite is Adium.)

5. Use Group Chat

This is the closest virtual equivalent to the office watercooler or couch, where you can quickly check in with a bunch of colleagues. The all-remote development team at Crowdfusion, which built the publishing platform that runs both The Daily and TMZ.com, functions by leaving open a number of permanent group chat rooms. Developers have “just got to live in those [group chats],” said Crowdfusion CEO Brian Alvey in early 2012. ”If they can’t work that way, they’re not going to last.”

We have one chat room for our editorial team, for anything from assigning stories to workshopping headlines (our Europe and Asia correspondents check in on it too when they’re online). Another for the developers to discuss code they’re working on.

A third is for the New York office, on which the typical message is “Anyone for pizza?” People who find the group chats too distracting can always opt out and keep their personal channels open for important stuff. And since conversations are saved, you can always log back into the group chat to see what you’ve missed.

Tools to use: A service that lets you create as many chat rooms as you like, and works with clients like Adium too, is Partychat. Lots of remote teams swear by Campfire, a web-based chat service which allows teams to embed images, tweets and videos. Campfire even has a dedicated client application called Propane.

6. Share Documents

The online equivalent of a filing cabinet or library is your virtual office’s shared brain and cultural repository. Create a structure of folders and make sure everyone knows how to use it properly. Learn how to set reading and editing permissions and work out a system for who should have access to what.

Tools to use: You may want to use different tools for different kinds of documents. A service like Dropbox is good for sharing documents that don’t need to be updated much but that everyone needs to have handy, like monthly reports. Google Drive—formerly Google Docs—is useful for documents that several people have to collaborate on, like a strategy memo, or a list of job candidates. Or you might want to build an internal wiki to share experience and knowledge, in which case Wikispaces or Wikia could help.

7. Share Links and Ideas

If you’re in the kind of business that lives on the web, you may need a place to share links with your co-workers to other things that you think they ought to look at. Email is spectacularly bad for this: try finding that link someone sent you a month ago. It’s best to give them their own special space.

Tools to use: There are all sorts of link-sharing services, but most of them are designed for sharing links with the world. Diigo is a useful one for teams because it lets you share links to a private group, so your rivals don’t have to see what you’re sharing. We use Yammer, which is like a corporate Facebook, to post links and ideas that inspire us; it acts as a record of our collective consciousness.

8. Get an Office Phone Number

This doesn’t have to be a landline. Instead of using your personal cell phone number for work, consider getting a voice-over-IP (VoIP) number that will route calls to you through your computer. It’s another little thing to help separate work from life.

Tools to use: Online Number from Skype. When others call this number, they’ll be connecting to you through your Skype client.

9. Create a Dedicated Workspace and Routine

Working from home might seem like the perfect opportunity to kick back and work in your pajamas, but thinking of it that way can make you less productive. At home, it’s even more important than in an office to create a routine in order psychologically reinforce the fact that you’re at work.

You might think a home office isn’t an option, but you’d be surprised how simply creating a space–even a corner of your kitchen table–that’s dedicated to nothing but work can help you stay focused. (Quartz’s Christopher Mims works at a standup desk secreted in a shallow closet, and says it’s one of the most functional offices he’s ever had.)

Keeping regular hours is as important for separating your home from your work life as it is for keeping you focused even when distractions like those dishes in the sink are present. Even dressing up for work can affect how you feel about the workday.

10. Set Boundaries

When working from home, family members and roommates might not think you’re really working, or they might ask you to do things simply because you’re around. It’s important to make clear that working at home is no different from working at an office—whether or not you are present, you are unavailable.

Tools to use: If you have your own workroom, shut the door. If not, wear a hat. Seriously: use a hat or some other agreed item of clothing as a flag that you’re “in the office” and not to be disturbed.

11. “Commute” to Work

It’s all too easy to let breakfast or some other distraction delay the start of your workday. So set a time when you have to be at work, and leave the house. Walk around the block once, or jog up and down the front steps ten times. Then come back in. Now be at work.

12. If Your Energy Is Flagging, Mix It Up

Work from a coffee shop in the morning, and your home in the afternoon. Get outside, take a walk, move from one room in the house to another, and do whatever it takes to keep yourself engaged even if you’re alone.

Breaks are just as important when working at home as they are at the office, and deliberately checking out for a few minutes is always preferable to the kind of procrastination that happens when breaks and other sources of variety are absent.

This article originally published at Quartz
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/01/productive-virtual-office/

These iPad Magazines Now Let Readers Share Content Directly to Pinterest

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Have you ever wished you could clip a layout or picture from a digital magazine straight to Pinterest? Now, there’s a way.

Maz, a startup that helps publishers design magazine apps for the iPad, recently launched a new feature to make it easier for readers to virtually cut out part of a page and share it to Pinterest, in addition to Twitter, Facebook and email.

With the new feature, called Clippings, readers can pinch any part of the page to select part of a picture or a chunk of text and post it directly to one of their Pinterest boards, without ever having to leave the magazine app. Some publishing apps on the iPad do let users highlight text and share it to social networks like Twitter, but Maz is the first to seamlessly integrate with Pinterest.

“Cutting clips out of a physical magazine is ingrained so deeply in the culture of magazines, and until now that was completely lost when reading on the iPad,” Paul Canetti, co-founder of Maz and a former Apple designer, told Mashable. Clippings essentially gives readers a chance to indulge that urge to scrapbook on Pinterest.

Maz launched in 2010 shortly after the iPad was released and has since partnered with more than 1,000 publications, including Inc, Bust and The New Criterion.

In recent months, other companies have tried a variety of ways to better integrate their content with Pinterest. House Beautiful, an interior design magazine, let readers pin photos from one article in its June print edition to Pinterest through a smartphone app, with plans to expand this option in the future. More recently, Gucci unveiled a new online banner ad with a “Pin It” button so users can post it to Pinterest with one click.

For magazine publishers — and particularly women’s magazine publishers — Pinterest is becoming an increasingly powerful tool to spread their content around. Pinterest is a top traffic driver for several magazines, including Country Living, Elle Decor and Self.

Get Your Tickets to Mashable Media Summit

The Mashable Media Summit 2012 will explore the impact that technology is having on media, and how digital media is affecting our lives and changing the world. This one-day conference will bring together the brightest minds in media, including content creators, technology leaders, entrepreneurs, social media executives and journalists.

Date: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

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Tickets: Purchase early bird tickets on Eventbrite.

A Look Back at Last Year’s Mashable Media Summit

Looking to Hire Top Talent? Try Recruiting With Video

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Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video powered hiring network that connects job seekers and employers through video resumes and online interviews. Connect with him and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter.

The typical recruiting process is inefficient. This is the best explanation for why so many recruiters are turning to platforms like Facebook to Pinterest and beyond to source candidates. In 2011 the average cost per hire was $5,054, and the traditional recruiting process takes an average of 45 days to fill a position. This is a lot of time and money disappearing. Is it any wonder why more recruiters are looking at the popularity and usefulness of online video?

According to comScore’s 2012 US Digital Future In Focus report, 105.1 million Americans are watching online videos every day. Another recent study showed 56% of people are watching online videos at least once a month on their mobile devices. With the amount and portability of online video, recruiters have begun to look at the benefits of this technology.

Recruiters should take advantage of this growth in online video to shorten the hiring process and find great people. What are some ways recruiters can get hiring faster with the power of the smallest screen? Below, we’ve outlined a few ways to use video in the recruiting process.

Brand Your Company

Video can be a great way to brand your company as a fun, innovative place to work. Interested job seekers want to know more about the company culture and what life would be like as an employee. The small paragraph at the bottom of your job description might be fine to give job seekers a taste, but it doesn’t tell them all that much. With video, you can give a clearer picture of the company values and what day to day life in the workplace looks like.

The latest instance of a great company video is this low-budget outing from Twitter. In this parody, Twitter pokes fun of the typical company recruiting video. While doing so, the Twitter team still manages to show off the company culture, while branding themselves as a great place to work with an equally good sense of humor. Recruiters can use video to play up the most important aspects of the company culture so they’ll attract candidates with similar values who will want to stick around. Video is a quick, creative, and relatively cheap way to instantly brand your company as a good place to spend eight hours (or more) a day.

Enhance the Job Description

Sometimes the traditional job description can be a bit lacking. Maybe because job seekers are usually just looking at a list of skills and attributes with little background information. Recruiters can now use video to put a more personal touch on the job description. In less time than it would take to draft an exhaustive list of qualifications, recruiters can record a video discussing the position, the company and the attributes of the ideal job seeker. Putting a face on the company will engage prospective hires while at the same time portray more information in a shorter amount of time.

Interview Top Talent

One of the best ways to use online video for recruiting is during the interview process. Online video can really shorten the traditional procedure of finding and interviewing top talent. Here are a few of the ways video can be used to enhance or even supplant the tired old routine:

  • Video Resumes: If recruiters can sell their companies and positions on film, job seekers can now do the same with video resumes. But it’s not just job seekers seeing the benefits of video resumes. For recruiters, video resumes allow soft skills like personality fit and communication skills to be evaluated earlier in the hiring process. Now recruiters can save themselves a phone call or in person meeting with a candidate they immediately know is wrong for the position.

  • Recorded Interviews: For the recruiter who just doesn’t have time to spend a half hour on the phone with a potential candidate, recorded interviews can help. In this scenario, recruiters pose interview questions to potential hires, which they then answer on video. It’s like combining the typical application process with a normal interview. Best of all, these videos can be viewed by anyone on the team at any time, making interviews easy to fit into even the busiest schedule.

  • Live Interviews: Live interviews work just like a regular in person interview session, only without all the hassle, since they’re done online using video platforms. Recruiters can avoid travel costs and scheduling conflicts and job seekers can avoid getting stuck in traffic.

What are some ways you use video in the recruiting process? Please share with us in the comments.

Social Media Job Listings

Every week we post a list of social media and web job opportunities. While we publish a huge range of job listings, we’ve selected some of the top social media job opportunities from the past two weeks to get you started. Happy hunting!

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Josh Tolan

Josh Tolan is the CEO of Spark Hire, a video interview solution used by more than 2,000 companies across the globe. Learn more and connect with Spark Hire onMore

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/12/video-recruiting-hiring/

Small Business Owners: Here’s How to Manage Your Time

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More than half of small business owners say they don’t have enough time to do all the jobs they’ve assigned themselves. For the average small business owner, that can be between three to five roles.

It’s easy to see why one in four small business owners say they’d pay $500 for an extra hour each day. Time ranks ahead of resources, such as laptops and mobile phones, on lists of assets most valuable to a business. Mavenlink created this infographic, which explores just how little time small business owners have on their hands.

Among small business owners polled by an eVoice survey, 71% report working longer hours, and 40% say they take less vacation time than those who are not self-employed.

If you’re a small business owner, take a look through these survey results and let us know if they resemble your behavior. If you feel pressed for time, these Mavenlink tips may be able to help you out.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/05/small-business-time-management/

Meet the Volocopter, an 18-Blade Chopper

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Now here’s something you don’t see everyday: a helicopter with 18 rotors.

It’s called the “Volocopter.” It was created by the inventor and physicist Thomas Senkel. It’s described by its creator as resembling a blender. And it’s attracting major attention in the aviation world for innovation and sustainability.

Last October, Senkel released a popular video of himself test-flying the Multicopter, a Volocopter predecessor with a piddling 16 rotors. That video had been viewed more than 3.5 million times on YouTube and gained Senkel and his Multicopter widespread notoriety among techies and futurists.

The Volocopter, however, is bigger, better and badder — at least in its current concept form. Senkel’s Germany-based startup e-volo says the machine will eventually run solely on battery power. In April, the Volocopter concept was awarded the prestigious Lindbergh Prize for Innovation by the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. Yolanka Wulff, the foundation’s executive director, told Scientific American the Volocopter concept was awarded for its simplicity, safety and energy efficiency.

And how do you fit 18 rotor blades onto one chopper? The blades, each measuring about six feet in length, are arranged in two concentric circles atop a cockpit designed to hold one or two people.

Senkels tells Scientific American the craft could fly with as few as 12 blades if they were properly distributed. He says a Volocopter prototype could be here in less than a year and production models could hit the assembly line in three years.

Check out the video above for more. Would you take the Volocopter for a spin? Let us know in the comments.

Thumbnail image courtesy of e-volo

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/08/volocopter/

Pinterest Leaves Palo Alto, Joins San Francisco’s Tech Revival

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Pinterest has joined Twitter, Zynga, Airbnb and a host of other social-based tech companies in San Francisco after announcing Monday that it would leave Palo Alto — where earlier this year the image-sharing network exploded into one of the fastest growing social networks of all time.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee — who has made drawing tech startups to the city a top priority of his administration — touted Pinterest’s move north from Silicon Valley as a victory for the local economy.

“I am thrilled to welcome Pinterest to the ‘Innovation Capital of the World,’ and am pleased that our efforts to attract and retain the industry’s best and most innovative companies are working,” he said in a press statement.

Pinterest has signed a short-term lease for a space at Seventh and Brannan streets as it finalizes plans for a long-term relocation to the SoMa district, according to a press release from Lee’s office. The release also references “immediate growth” by Pinterest, but does not go into detail.

Airbnb and Zynga are based in the same neighborhood, and Twitter recently moved into a spacious building not far away after threatening to move out of San Francisco unless it got a set of favorable tax breaks from the city.

Pinterest took the social networking world by storm in the early months of 2012 from a nondescript building in suburban Palo Alto. But it’s not the only high profile tech company to leave town recently — Facebook moved to neighboring Menlo Park in December after several years in Palo Alto.

Mayor Lee — of the viral “2 Legit 2 Quit” campaign YouTube video fame — also marked the occasion by unveiling his own Pinterest profile.

If you were a hot tech startup where would you rather be headquartered — San Francisco or Silicon Valley? Tell us where and why in the comments.

BONUS GALLERY: The Home Pinterest Left Behind

FloJack Brings NFC to Apple Devices For First Time

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Apple has been noticeably reluctant to bring near-field communication technology (better known as NFC) to the iPhone and iPad, but now one company hopes to beat Apple to it.

Flomio, a startup that provides a platform for developers to build NFC and RFID-enabled apps, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a dongle for iOS devices called the FloJack that would bring NFC payments to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch for the first time.

The FloJack is described as a pocket-sized NFC reader and writer that plugs into iOS devices through the headphone jack — similar to the dongle that works with Square. With FloJack attached, the iOS device will be able to communicate wirelessly with other devices around it. NFC technology is typically thought of in the context of enabling mobile devices to transit payments, but Flomio is focused on other features.

In addition to FloJack, the company has an app called Flomio NFC Actions, which lets users customize actions they’d like to perform between devices. For example, you can set up a trigger that automatically sends your friends directions or exchanges contact information on the go.

This isn’t the first time Kickstarter has come to the rescue to solve a problem Apple is reluctant to take on. Earlier this year, there was another campaign for a special iPad keyboard case called Brydge that effectively transforms the device into a true laptop.

So far, Flomio has raised just more than $18,000 on Kickstarter out of its total goal of $80,000, with 15 days to go.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/11/flojack-brings-nfc-to-ios-devices/

Snapchat Files Restraining Order Against Alleged Co-Founder

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Snapchat, the photo-sharing app that allows users to send images and videos to friends that disappear shortly after, has filed a restraining order against a former fraternity brother of CEO Evan Spiegel, who claims to be a co-founder of the company.

The restraining order was filed Friday, and seeks to prevent Reggie Brown, a former classmate of Spiegel’s, from sharing deposition videos of the Snapchat CEO that were originally leaked by Business Insider late last month. In the videos, Spiegel reportedly admits that Brown came up with the disappearing photo idea, and also says he “may deserve something for some of his contributions.”

Brown first sued Snapchat back in February, claiming he was responsible for the idea. Friday’s restraining order claims the videos were “‘Confidential’ under the Protective Order” as part of the ongoing lawsuit.

“Snapchat will suffer great or irreparable injury if plaintiff is permitted to disclose Snapchat’s confidential information to the public,” the document says. “A temporary restraining order is therefore necessary.”

Snapchat did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If the lawsuit sounds familiar, you may be thinking back to a similar dispute that took place in 2004 with another up-and-coming social network: Facebook.

In that situation, twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss sued Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, claiming he stole the idea for the social network. The twins walked away with $20 million in cash plus 1.2 million total shares — not a bad payday — but still a far cry from where Zuckerberg now sits as the largest shareholder in the $100 billion company.

With Snapchat, Brown has a lot to lose if he is indeed shut out of the company. Facebook reportedly offered to buy Snapchat for $4 billion last month, which the company turned down.

Image: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/12/09/snapchat-restraining-order/

How to Find Top Talent for Your Tech Startup

How-to-find-top-talent-for-your-tech-startup-8393d05832Jesse Draper is creator and host of The Valley Girl Show, through which she’s become a spokesperson for startups and helped pioneer the way of new media content distribution. Formerly a Nickelodeon star, Draper is now CEO of Valley Girl‚ where she oversees the show and runs technology blog Lalawag.com.

Engineering is one of the highest-paying fields. Entry-level Facebook computer and software engineers receive a $100,000 salary and a $50,000 signing bonus. The question is where do you find these jobs? And if you’re a company, where do you find these engineers?

On this episode of The Valley Girl Show, we sit down with Gary Swart, CEO of Odesk, an online platform that helps you find the right contractors remotely. Swart says his company is focused on small businesses “leveling the playing field” and to “get access to talent that they can’t find in their local geography.” Many small businesses can’t afford the likes of Facebook or Google engineers and must look elsewhere for their talent. And most small businesses are not located in Silicon Valley.

Odesk handles the hiring, managing and paying of the talent from around the world, making a seamless search for the client. Odesk around 150 countries and growing and are currently the “largest and fastest growing workplace.”

More Video from The Valley Girl Show

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/27/odesk/

Former Facebook CTO Launches Quip to Build ‘Modern’ Productivity Apps

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Bret Taylor, Facebook’s former chief technology officer and part of the team behind Google Maps, unveiled his new company this week called Quip.

Quip, which Taylor co-founded with ex-Google employee Kevin Gibbs, aims to build a more “modern” set of productivity apps, designed more for the touchscreen than the desktop.

“We think it’s a shame that the apps we use at work are old, poorly designed, and bear the legacy of 30 years of feature creep and clutter,” the co-founders wrote in a blog post Tuesday night. “We think your time at work should be composed of the same delightful, beautiful experiences you’ve come to expect from modern mobile apps.”

The startup‘s eponymous first app is a word processing tool that has built-in chat features to help users collaborate on their work, an easy-to-view thread of changes made to each document, offline syncing and the option to use the “@” symbol to reference other related documents.

Quip

Quip’s app is currently available on iPhone and iPad, with an Android version said to be in the works. The free version of the app lets users collaborate with up to five other people and make use of shared folders. The premium version, which costs $12 a month, lets users collaborate with up to 250 people and included other enterprise features.

“We are starting with the word processor, but our mission is to eventually build the productivity suite for the mobile era,” the cofounders wrote.

Taylor and Gibbs raised $15 million for the startup and have staffed up with several employees from Google and Facebook.

Image: Flickr, Jolie O’Dell’s Website

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/31/bret-taylor-quip/