This afternoon, I drove over to David Allen's house to do some work with him. When I got here, he and Marian Bateman were sitting at a table in the yard, working on a coaching project. The neat thing was not that they were working, but where and how they were working. David had set up an 8' projection screen, propped up with rocks, and he was projecting from his wireless ThinkPad. (And I thought I was a geek! )

Actually, I was quite delighted to see this. You see, 6 years ago I had a discussion with David about the benefits of unplugged computing and I shared my vision that someday, he would be able to work while connected, from anywhere -- even under his favorite Sycamore tree.

Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.

While many executives spent their Monday afternoon indoors, perhaps in a stuffy conference room, dressed in suits and isolated from the outdoors, David and Marian were able to enjoy the outdoors and have a delightfully productive meeting while connected to the server indoors.
I love it when technology works for people.

Now that summer's here, I can take my wireless laptop and VPN/VOIP Kit down to the lake to get some creative work done in the tranquility of the outdoors.

Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.

So, If you see some propellerhead sitting at a picnic table with his laptop, solar powered battery back, and a tripod with a yagi antenna pointed up at the mountains, that's me. (A blog for another day)


P.S. I almost forgot. David showed me a low-tech method that he uses to add animation to an otherwise static PowerPoint presentation.

Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.Image:Backyard computing. Connected to the great indoors.

Apparently, this is a trick he's mastered during the breaks at his seminars.  
I think I'll go home and teach the kids. :-)

5 Steps to GTD in Notes

Thursday, June 24th, 2004
A member of the GTD Forum recently asked if anyone had implemented GTD using Lotus Notes and a Treo 600. I started to respond with my recommendations, based on my own experience; before I knew it my post had turned into a mini-essay.  

My response: Five steps to implementing GTD within Lotus Notes

What value, wireless E-Mail?

Thursday, June 24th, 2004
For me, the measure of success in evaluating a new technology or productivity tool is the degree to which it becomes transparent to the actual work being done, and the level of productivity that is gained as a result. A doctor should not have to think about his scalpel or stethoscope; neither should a writer have to think about his pen or legal pad. In the same way, a knowledge worker should not have to think about his information processing tools. Any time he does, he robs himself of the opportunity to get his real work done.

Yesterday, Michael Hyatt blogged about his experience, using the Blackberry. Michael presents a cogent overview of his experience using his Blackberry to help him get things done.

As an eProductivity specialist, I enjoy reading about people's successes (and challenges) as they attempt to work various technologies into their "systems."

Technology now exists to enable us to process, or at least access, our email and calendar from anywhere; but where should we really handle this information?

Two months ago, David Allen, in his blog: "Coaching to 40,000 feet," wrote about one of his clients:
"He tossed his Blackberry ("Crackberry" as he called it!), agreeing with my recommendation that e-mail should be processed most efficiently for most people from at least a laptop, and he ordered a Palm to distribute his Outlook lists into for portability. (Though there are exceptions, this is usually the best configuration for most people in an Outlook environment)."

This casual comment touched off a flurry of responses about the value of a device that can provide instant email. I've been watching the log files with interest ever since, to see who would pick up on his comments -- either to agree, or to share an alternative viewpoint.

I agree that for most people, including myself, email can be more efficiently processed at a computer -- a context in which it can often be completed or processed down to the very next action. I authored one of the first wireless e-mail solutions for LAN messaging  in 1992, when I was CTO of Peloria Technology Corporation. In those days, we were dealing with simple one-way and eventually two-way devices, basically pagers.  Since that time, the on-device technology and speed of delivery has vastly improved, but the process of dealing with e-mail on the road has changed little. Often, e-mail on a mobile device is still treated as a page or alert -- which can be important and useful; however, the user must still return to their desktop to process these messages a second time to decide what to do with them.  This is not as efficient as it could be.

To be fair, David did not fully explain the reason for his view that e-mail is better processed at the computer, but I suspect the fact that the same message must often be processed twice (at the device and at the desktop) had a lot to do with it.

For many of us who live the mobile lifestyle, waiting until we can get back to our desk to check or process our email is simply not fast enough.The demands of modern competitive business often require that we be in-touch. The ability to respond or make a decision quickly, based on new information, can be a determining factor in the success or failure of a project, or even a company. So for some, the cost of double processing, is more than offset by the value of the information.

David did allow for these exceptions. (Perhaps Michael and I fall into the "exceptions" category, or maybe we are just exceptional people.)  

In the end, I believe that what matters most is not where you process your stuff, but whether or not you are getting things done.  Having to process email twice is not much different than folks who capture their thoughts on a voice recorder -- they have to process their ideas twice. Both approaches are inefficient, yet they aren't. For some, the extra mobility outweighs the inconvenience of double-processing.

While many of the current generation of wireless devices now allow for onboard deletion of messages, they continue to fall short of their potential by not allowing messages to be filed or converted into projects and actions at the device. Developers and device manufacturers still do not seem to understand the value [or potential] of being able to fully process your information on a mobile device. They provide us with wonderful tools, yet they often miss the mark by only a feature or two. In this case, the ability to really process the stuff that we receive wirelessly in a seamless fashion.

What I would like to see, is the ability to file an email in a folder and have that sync to my desktop application. I would also like to have the ability to convert an email into a project, action, or calendar item. These seem like simple things but they would have a profound impact on the utility of these devices.  Perhaps they should attend one of David's GTD seminars or have me participate in their usability testing. If they did, and if they truly got it, I'm sure that we would see big changes in the usability of the these products.  (This is my eHint to: RIM, PalmOne, Sybase and Microsoft)

For me, I continue to do the best that I can, using variety of eProductivity solutions to support me in my work.  Having the ability to quickly review my projects and actions and at the same time receive or send receive e-mail or calendar updates in real-time, from anywhere, remains a powerful productivity tool.

A while back, I wrote about how I was using a wireless Palm along with Pylon iAnywhere. I have continued to use this solution to provide myself and clients with real-time push of email & calendar updates from/to the office. (This solution works with both Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, by the way).

Image:What value, wireless E-Mail?

As with the Blackberry, the e-mail processing is not perfect (the folders on the mobile device do not yet sync to the desktop), but the advantage of being able to do a quick scan of my email and calendar is worth the extra effort of possibly having to occasionally process these items twice.

The real beauty of this solution, for me, is that it has now become transparent to the way that I get things done.

Do you have another viewpoint or experience to share? I'd like to hear from you. Feel free to post a comment.


Freedom to be productive

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004
Productivity - no matter how maximized - is useless without the means to really enjoy the time you save

Every day in my work, I get to help people bring about change in their lives and experience more freedom by showing them how to use technology to increase their productivity. But what's interesting is that increasing productivity is only as good as how you invest the time you save or the efficiencies you gain.

Many of you, who read my blog, live in the United States or another country with similar liberties and prosperity. But what if you didn't? What if you lived in a place where you weren't able to do many of the things that you cherish so much? Gaining an upper-hand with productivity would be a lot less attractive.

How much more successful we are when we're simply AWARE of how successful we already are.

This weekend, I had the opportunity to preview a web site that gave me pause to reflect on a most basic element of life that I (and maybe you too) often take for granted.

That element is "freedom." Not just in the literal sense, but in terms of all it entails: Freedom to choose what you want, do what you want, be what you want, and the "ability" to achieve the wealth and circumstances required to make that freedom take form in your life.

The site is about two people's life-long quest to come to America from Moldova (former Soviet Union).

A friend of mine, Greg Fisk, is working to help Chirill and Ludmilla Trescencov realize their dream of coming to America. Chirill and his wife have won a green card  lottery, which will allow them to legally come to this country. Now, they are working to raise the funds to pay the agency fees for the paperwork that will bring them here. (Greg shares their moving story on the site.)

You can follow the details of this adventure at Coming to America, where Chrill and his wife will be blogging about the experience. Imagine what it would be like of the folks coming through Ellis Island, each blogged about their experience in real-time. Well, this comes close.

I hope that you will visit the web site, and consider participating in their dream, or at the very least, send them an email of encouragement.

Gotta jet... my shoe-phone is ringing...

Technologist considers home education

Monday, June 21st, 2004
Fellow technologist, Richard Schwartz, recently blogged that he is considering home educating his gifted daughter, and he's looking for information from other technically oriented parents who are already doing this. If you fit that description, he'd like to hear from you.

Kathy and I have been home educating our four daughters since birth (the older twins are now 11.75 years old) and we have found it to be a simultaneously challenging, time-consuming, exhilarating, and rewarding experience. It's a lot of work, but the benefits can be tremendous.

Home Education involves many aspects and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. That's one of the wonderful things about becoming responsible for your child's education. You do not have to do everything alone or even at home. I tell parents that any parent can (and I believe should) become a home-educating parent -- regardless of whether or not they entrust their child's education to an outside institution (public or private) for portion of their day.

Home education is about more than just where the learning takes place; it is about the process and the approach. Every discussion, event, activity, problem and question that your child  asks is a learning opportunity.  What will be learned depends entirely upon how you respond. This can be a great deal of fun, too. Just take a look at my past blog about Binary Carrots.  (I could fill a daily blog site with stories like these.)

My first recommendation, Richard, would be to attend a local home education conference. There, you will find a variety of resources. For my wife and I, it is one of our favorite times of year, and in many ways, it is better than  [gasp]  Comdex or Lotusphere. Imagine the excitement of being in a convention center with 5000 other people -- all parents -- who have only one focus in mind -- how to best educate and equip their children for life. Add to this the speakers, exhibits, curriculum vendors, and learning resource companies; you will definitely leave exhilarated and with a new perspective.

Since many focus on the academic potential of home education, which is great, I'll mention something else: relationships. We have found that our own family relationships have been greatly strengthened by the time and activities that we do together, and I have observed this in most of the other homeschool families that I know.  This destroys the myth that quality time is better than quantity of time.  You need a lot of both. Kids watch and learn from everything that they see.

I could go on all day, about this and other benefits, but I'll take my leave. Perhaps I'll write more to post on our Family Homeschool site, which I am currently converting to DominoBlog, so that I can more easily add information, resources and sections. Amy and Wendy have already asked for sections where they can blog about their LEGO robotics team and other school-related projects and activities.

Best wishes for your family success.

Eric Mack

What will you leave behind?

Monday, June 14th, 2004
A hundred years from now, when people stumble across the archaic things that we once called blogs, what will matter the most? Will future generations really care which model PDA you wore on your belt, what kind of car you drove, or how many hours you put in each day at the office?

After you are gone, would someone who knew you well be able to say that during your lifetime you accomplished the things that were truly most important to you? How would they know?

Chances are that your children's children and perhaps even their children will know of you. Verbal family tradition, a personal journal, and even your blog, (if you had one), as an active journal of history, will help paint a more vivid picture of your life than perhaps you currently have of your grandparents. But, what will these say about you?  What kind of legacy will you leave behind? What will your children be like?

A hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, nor what my clothes were like. But  the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child. - Dr. Forest E. Witcraft

If you have spent any time perusing the archives of this site or my family web site, you know that beyond my work, or my current hobbies, such as robotics, or CNC, my family -- my wife and my children -- mean the world to me. Other than the spiritual element of life, it is my family that I live for. The primary reason that Kathy and I have chosen to home educate our children is more than just to be able to provide our children with a sound education: we want to provide them with a heritage, rich in the knowledge, skills, values, and faith that we consider most important for a successful life.

Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.  -- Proverbs 22:6

David Allen challenges us to focus on the "Successful Outcome." Stephen Covey tells us to "Begin with the end in mind." Whatever you call your process of long-term contemplation, I believe that you cannot truly be "on-purpose" in your daily life without a clearly defined objective and a strategy to get there.  Without a road map (or compass), pointing me to my destination, how could I possibly hope to know how to evaluate the opportunities or tempting situations along the way? I could accept that CTO offer, I could, move to ...,  I could pursue [fill in the blanks].

Many years ago, Kathy and I decided to sit down and map out the mission, vision, and purpose for our marriage and our family. Knowing that life can seem like a series of course corrections, we wanted to make sure that at least we were both heading for the same destination and that we were clear on how we expected to reach it. Using our 30th wedding anniversary as an initial milestone, we prayerfully wrote out our family mission statement; a picture of what we desired our family to be like 21 years into the future.

The legacy that Kathy and I hope to leave behind is our family mission -- not on paper, as I will share it, but a living testimony in the lives of our children. The true measure of our success as a family, will be in whether they choose to pass on this legacy in the lives of their children and if their children in turn, choose to do the same.

With a clear picture of our successful outcome in mind, we worked backward to the present and translated our family vision into measurable outcomes in specific areas of our life, and we committed to work towards each of these. From this family mission statement, I have developed my personal and business vision. When faced with difficult decisions, I have found great clarity in reviewing these.  I wish I had had the maturity to have done something like this when I was much younger.

Having a clear sense of direction has given Kathy and me a clarity and unity in decision-making that we would not otherwise have had. It has influenced our decisions about everything -- where we live, our career choices, (even including which clients to serve),  and how we play.  We review it aloud regularly, and we now include our children in the process.

How will we do living out our family mission statement? Certainly better than we would do without one. Check back on this site in 15 or 20 years.


P.S. I would like to encourage you to develop your own family mission statement and to reflect upon it regularly. It will change your life. If you would like to see ours, you are welcome to view it here or on our family web site.

Honoring Reagan’s life

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004
I've just returned from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, where I took my wife and children to pay our respects to a man who honored God and this great nation that we call the United States of America.
Reagan was a "first-class president" who gave the country a sense of optimism at a time when it needed it most. Most of all, Reagan was a "firm believer in the strength of the United States" who played an instrumental role in ending the Cold War  - Gerald Ford

20040608-HonoringPresidentReagan.jpgThe thing that I admired most about President Reagan, was the fact that he was not afraid to speak up for what he believed was right. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, President Reagan was a great example of someone that made the most out of the time that God granted him.  President Reagan lived his life to make a difference in the world and he positively affected the lives of many, here in the United States and around the world. While President Reagan has gone on to a much better place and is no longer suffering, he leaves behind a family, a nation, and a world that will miss him. May we all learn from his example that we only get one opportunity at life and that we need to make the most of it. Our family extends its prayers of comfort to the Reagan Family.

The experience of traveling to see the flag-draped casket of the President, under the vigilant watch of honor guards from each branch of the Armed Services, was certainly a memorable one. After a long drive down, we arrived very early in the morning at the grounds of Moorpark College, located just a few miles away from the Presidential Library. There, we joined a line of thousands of people who had also come to pay their respects.

It was very moving to see tens of thousands of people -- some of whom had driven all night and had travelled long distances -- all gathered to show their sympathy. Even with the large numbers of people, the process was actually quite solemn and orderly.  [It did surprise me to see that at least half the crowd was dressed quite casually, even sloppily --  as if they were coming from the gym or from doing yard work. (If you know Southern California, then you know that the laid back attitude often extends to attire as well.)  Fortunately, this was the only thing that I felt took away from the decorum of this public assembly.  Well, maybe not. There was the matter of cell phones. I realize that we were all in line together for close to 5 hours, but in all of the many simultaneous conversations that I was forced to listen to, none of them were of any significance. Fortunately, security told everyone to put away their phones once they reached the check-point, and I am thankful that cameras and camera-phones were also prohibited. OK, enough of my rants.]

Security was amazingly tight. In addition to the obvious security check-points, we were under the watchful eye of the Secret Service, L.A. County Sheriff, and the California Highway Patrol, and a multitude of video cameras. We spoke with one bomb-squad technician, who was standing by his vehicle, gear at his feet, and ready to be called to action. I complimented the security and he indicated that all of the departments were working together quite well.  I certainly felt very safe. These men and women did a fine job of ensuring that we were safe and that the lines kept moving. I was told that over a fifteen-hundred people an hour were able to pay their respects. Given the news estimates that over 80,000 people have viewed the casket so far, the number was probably closer to two thousand to twenty-five hundred people per hour. Simply amazing.

Once we had reached the front of the line and passed through the security check-points, we were taken by bus to the top of the mountain. There was an armed escort on board and CHP motorcycle officers accompanied many of the buses as well. As we disembarked at the Reagan Library we joined yet another line. Once we reached the front of that line, we were allowed to proceed around the hall where the President's body lay in repose. The casket was draped in the American flag, and honor guards stood watch at each corner and to the sides. These men are a living testimony of honor and duty to one's government and its Commander-In-Chief. I have not seen anything like this since I visited the tomb of the unknown soldier in Washington D.C., many years ago. It was very emotional.

We were ushered around the casket rather quickly, but I will not forget the awesome feeling of being in the room to pay my respects. I will always remember this event, and even though my children may not presently understand what an honorable man Reagan was, I want them to remember that we are blessed to live in this land and that we are thankful for our leaders and the men and women who serve us faithfully.

As we exited the viewing area, we were greeted by the Presidential Library staff, who handed us the above card, and personally thanked each of us for coming to pay our respects.

Another wait in line, and bus ride down the hill, and we were back at our starting point, where the Library staff invited us to sign the guest book. We took a moment to sign the book and to write our words of condolence and appreciation to the Reagan family.

Just as we were driving away, the California Highway Patrol evacuated the freeway to escort a multi-car motorcade -- complete with sirens, lights, and lots of motorcycles. Turns out it was just John Kerry. I guess he did not have to wait his turn in line for 4 hours, like the rest of us.

It has been a long day - 12 hours round-trip, and we were only in the room for a little more than 90 seconds in all. I realize that there are many people around the world who would have liked to have the opportunity to personally pay their respects to the President. I hope that this blog, in some small way, shares the experience.

I am grateful for the opportunity that my family and I had to honor the life of President Ronald Reagan, and I am thankful for the freedom that my children and children around the world, now enjoy, due in part to his efforts.

Eric Mack

It was Hell!

Sunday, June 6th, 2004
This weekend, with the news coverage of D-Day and the passing of President Reagan, I have been thinking about American heroes.

One of my heroes is my grandfather, Donald, R. "Skip" Stelter  -- a man who enlisted not once, but twice to serve his country. As a young soldier in WWII, he stormed the beaches of Normandy, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He also served in the Air Force in the U.S. and in Vietnam.

Image:It was Hell!
As a child growing up, I could not comprehend the significance of these battles, the freedom that they brought to a Europe at war, of their cost in terms of casualties. I also could not appreciate what would have happened if men like my grandfather had not stepped up to serve their country and the world.

My grandfather never spoke of the war, preferring to keep silent in the subject. Enamored by the glorified portrayals of war and American victory in the movies, I was curious to know what it was like to have participated in these famous battles. I wanted to ask someone who had first-hand experience.        

Image:It was Hell!
The battle for freedom continues. Today, men and women around the world are fighting for freedom and many have made the ultimate sacrifice.
As we take time as a family to pray for our troops, we give thanks for the men and women who have served our country in the past and those who serve today.

The next time you see a veteran, a person currently serving in our armed forces, or someone serving in law enforcement, please stop and thank them for their contribution to the freedom that you enjoy. They are our Heroes.

More on procrastination

Saturday, June 5th, 2004
Last week, I wrote that I would share my thoughts about procrastination:
Procrastination is what allows me to give 100% of my attention to the things that I really want to do right now, at the expense of the things that I choose to put off until later.
It seems to me that the easiest way for me to stop procrastinating is to convince myself that the things that I need to be doing are the things that I want  to be doing.

Sounds simple enough.

Now, I just need to save this post and get back to work so that I can do the things that I needed to be doing instead of updating my blog.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

Recently, many of my clients have been asking me about RSS; and those that haven't, should.

Over the next two years, probably sooner, many Web sites will see a decline in regular (repeat) visitors, and a dramatic increase in syndicated viewership. Here's what you need to know ...

Click on the image above to to view my observations about Really Simple Syndication and how it will affect you, in this week's eProductivity video blog.

You can read the full transcript of this video segment on the web.

In the near future, I plan to post several 2-3 minute video segments on a variety of topics that I think you will want to know about.  This will be available on my eProductivity web site.

Note: This eProductivity video segment, presented in WindowsMedia format, is part of an experiment.  I'm still working out the details of various media formats, browser compatibility, and user preferences.

I would like to hear from you and to know what you think. Please use the "Contact" menu item at the top of this page to send me an email.



P.S. If you have not already subscribed to my RSS feed, now would be a good time to do so. There's more to come!

Really Simple Syndication (Transcript)

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004
Transcript of Eric Mack's eProductivity.NET video segment on Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

Video may be viewed here.

Over the next two years, probably sooner, many Web sites will see a decline in regular (repeat) web visitors, and a dramatic increase in syndicated viewership. Here's what you need to know ...

Web syndication is changing the surfing habits of people, and it is no longer just for people who are technically inclined. Web syndication is not really anything new, and yet it is. In the early days of the Web, I used to use PointCast, which had a network of syndicated channels to which I could subscribe using a proprietary news reader. Avantgo has been doing this with their channels for a long time. While not quite the same, Usenet Newsgroups have been around for ages in the technical communities.

In each of these scenarios, content was published from a handful of sources to a small, but focused audience. Now, thanks to something called, Really Simple Syndication, or "RSS," for short, anyone can publish a syndicated feed from their Web site, and thanks to this same technology, anyone using software, called an RSS Reader or aggregator, may "subscribe" to those "feeds." Now, I can keep watch on the latest news and information from all of my favorite Web sites without lifting a finger. The content comes to me.

This has the potential to turn the Web world upside down and to change the way that Web marketing works
. For Web sites, it can increase the number of return visitors and provide an additional  avenue for content distribution services. For Web visitors, it will reduce the necessity to check favorite Web sites on a regular basis, just to see if anything new has been posted.  In the future, "Smart" RSS readers, which will probably become a part of your favorite desktop application, will no doubt offer to further filter the content based upon individual interests. (The larger implications of all of this are even greater than I have described, and I plan to cover them in a future eProductivity.NET segment.)

All of this is already changing how and when I surf the Web.

At one glance, I can now quickly scan through the sites on my watch list.  Why should I have to repeatedly visit my favorite Web sites, in order to find out if anything is new? Once I have determined that I like a particular Web site, I will subscribe to the syndicated feed from that site, so that I will be notified of new information and posts, automatically.

Web site owners should see this as a wake-up call, as it re-emphasizes the importance of having current content of real value -- not just flashy presentation.  As far as I'm concerned, if I click away from a Web site, that's their fault for not keeping me engaged. Only when I want to see more of a particular story, will I click-through, to interact with the site live.

I have no expectation that the Web will go away, and I am not planning to uninstall my Web browser anytime soon; however, I do think that people who adapt to this paradigm of communication -- both for publishing and for reading -- will benefit greatly.

For me, the time that I spend surfing the Web, will be greatly reduced, which makes syndication a powerful productivity tool. Many business and professional Web sites are already picking up on this trend, providing news, tips, specials, alerts, and summary information in the RSS format. I will be offering an RSS feed for my eProductivity.NET Web site, and you can already subscribe to the RSS Feed for this site. [and I hope that you do!]

Will content syndication become the next killer Web application?
Quite possibly.

The writing is certainly on the Web.