First, instead of giving advice in my usual presumptuous fashion, I’m asking for it. I’m radically redesigning my workflow and need a few intrepid readers to share some successful or dramatic examples of how they’re using the cloud. Second, I’m “selling out” by aligning myself with a commercial promotion — cell phone geeks take note. I’ll get to the details in a few paragraphs, but first, an explanation . . .
Just as it’s often said that true writing is rewriting, I believe that true thinking is rethinking — the ability to step back from deeply entrenched assumptions, opinions and perspectives, and actively look for further alternatives. As a mental exercise, I often find it useful to periodically reexamine the assumptions I take for granted and invert them to see what happens.
A recent starting point for that self-examination was 10 Technologies I Resist. I went down the list and see if there were a few of those technologies I could test drive to broaden or reverse my perspective. There more more that a few that I found worth experimenting with: virtual outsourcing, IM, online finance trackers, mobile email and Office 2.0. That last one is the kickoff point of this post. For the next 30 days I’m going to migrate all of my information into the cloud, and chronicle the progress of the project is a series of posts called “Cloud Studies.”
In switching from full self-employment to office work, I’ve had to distribute my personal and professional work across several platforms: a home desktop, a work desktop, a laptop, a netbook and a cell phone. Trying to reconcile my data by copying locally-stored files, or sharing them by email, was getting ridiculously convoluted. So my goal is to design a virtual architecture that integrates my data in the absolute minimum number of buckets.
I recently, painfully migrated from the Palm OS Treo/Palm Desktop combo — that’s been the bedrock of my GTD system since I first implemented it — to the Windows Mobile equivalent: a Treo Pro and Microsoft Outlook. My goal is to sync my phone and various Outlook desktop/OWA clients over the air with a hosted Exchange account, then gradually layer on additional services: Skydrive for mass storage, Live Mesh for file synchronization, Mindjet Connect for mind maps, and possibly My Phone for PIM data. If none of this sounds less convoluted that my previous scheme, I have a pretty good idea that once the infrastructure is set up, my workflow will be dramatically streamlined — essentially accessing one “computer” from any device.
This Is Where You Come In
Here’s what I want. I want you or anyone to post in the comments or email me the coolest cloud-based work setup they use on a daily basis, with a least one example of how it allowed you to do something you couldn’t do previously. “Coolest” here can mean a few things:
- The most efficient: e.g. how you run your life through a personal wiki or WebDAV
- The most dramatic: how you use Backpack and Twitter to dispatch work to a team virtual assistants in St. Croix (real-world examples please, not creative writing)
- The most elegant: how you eliminated your additional computers and run them as virtual images on Amazon EC2 from your netbook
- The most democratic: how you’ve replaced all of the files and applications on your hard drive with free and open source web apps
You have 48 hours from “now,” 12:00 a.m. Thursday, April 16, 2009, until midnight Saturday, April 18.
What’s In It for You
As you’ve no doubt gathered from the post title, the winner scores a brand new Pantech Matrix Pro. The Matrix is a dual-slider Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard (non-touchscreen) smartphone in the form factor of a feature phone. In simpler terms, it’s a phone that slides up vertically for a numeric keypad, and horizontally for a QWERTY keypad. I’ll be posting a review of the phone shortly, but the bottom line is that I would probably make it my default phone if I hadn’t just renewed my Sprint contract (long story). Included with the phone is a $100 gift card that can be applied to any products and services sold through an AT&T store, online or offline.
If you have everything you need in the mobile space, then don’t play to win. Play to share your favorite cloud hacks.