Remote work: the last meritocracy

The general idea of remote work is that you do the same job you would do in the office, but you don’t have to actually go to the office. This removes all the problems with people and politics of the office. That’s viewed as a huge benefit, but the reality is that many people only keep their jobs because of the people and politics of the office. Remote work strips all that away and leaves you standing naked in a meritocracy where only your skills matter.

I’ve worked remotely for 7 out of the last 9 years. For 4 years I was a remote contractor left to my own devices. I spent 2 years working as a remote worker for a non-remote company and I’ve spent the last year-ish working as a remote worker for a remote company. While sitting at home looks the same in all cases, each of those situations were very different from each other.

Here’s what I have learned from each of those situations:

Remote work as a contractor

StressedUnless you want to spend a lot of time chasing business, chasing cheques, and schmoozing on the phone, you’re screwed. The vast majority of remote “employers” are really just guys with ideas that want the cheapest possible labour to see if their idea has legs. They’re not invested in the idea of building a remote workforce for any reason other than they see it as the cheapest way to get going. They’ll work the shit out of you to see if you’re good “startup material” (which really means “I have no money because nobody but me believes in my idea”) and discard you when you’re so exhausted you trip. If they have no backers, be wary. Don’t know if they have backers? Google it; Angels and VCs love to talk about who they’re backing.

I spent about 25% of my time actually working and the rest of the time doing these tasks in no particular order:

  • Trying to find new work.
  • Trying to get paid for completed work.
  • Trying to figure out the best way to acquire gear and services (from a tax perspective).
  • Learning how to do my taxes properly.
  • Mourning the loss of my skill set because I was not using it.

Continue reading “Remote work: the last meritocracy”

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yo.

Of all the things that interest me most in the world, I think humans might top the list. I’m a scientist at heart and I love to categorize things and learn the rules that apply to situations. Humans have this manifest ability to evade any and all attempts to be classified which simultaneously fascinates and repels me. The cultural concept of value is a good example. Value is one of those human things that is entirely subjective and just can’t be nicely typed. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yo (Peter Griffin would have loved this). But for certain values of trash, it’s treasure for all. Continue reading “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, yo.”

Rise of the Machines – Why do old things matter?

I went to a Christmas craft show today and a large part of the space was devoted to antiques and collectibles. The vendors had very large spaces with lots of old stuff ranging from typewriters to old door locks, to china and Polariod cameras. These guys weren’t just cleaning out their attics, they were definitely “in the business”.

Picking through old mechanical stuff is a great joy of mine. It doesn’t have to necessarily work as long as it retains enough of its parts that I can see how it used to work. I don’t have much use for old magazines and china, but I love old machines; or, at least, the things that preceded our machines of today. I must not be alone because the vendors there obviously know there is business in collecting and selling this stuff. That got me thinking about the reasons why we love old stuff.

Continue reading “Rise of the Machines – Why do old things matter?”

Jon Watson

me@jonwatson.ca PGP key here

View Jon Watson CD, Linux+'s profile on LinkedIn

I am a Linux sysadmin. I currently work in the security industry, but I’ve worked in a lot of verticals in my career. Banking was the most regulated, defence was the most secure and entertainment was the scariest. Terrifying.

I’m a capital ‘ST’ STEM guy. I love science and technology and how it changes the way in which we interact with the world. I don’t know much about engineering and my math skills are tragic. I have a college diploma in Computer Information Systems, and I have been in this field long enough to figure out that a deeper understanding of the science of computing is required in order to continue doing interesting things. To that end, I’m in the middle of a Comp Sci degree. For kicks I do things like maintain a Fidonet BBS. My personal blog is here and I write security and privacy related articles for Comparitech here. Here’s a list of some other things I’ve done that may or may not interest you.

Open Source Projects

GitHub

WordfyFace: Pebble Classic watch face written in C. https://github.com/jondwatson/WordyFace/

Sourceforge

Duplicity Menu: A console based front-end for the Duplicity backup application written in C++. https://sourceforge.net/projects/duplicity-menu/

Post It Once: PHP script that allows web users to post status updates and full blog entries to their Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress blogs in one fell swoop. https://sourceforge.net/projects/postitonce/

Publications

Books

A History of Computer Operating Systems. https://www.amazon.ca/History-Computer-Operating-Systems-Macintosh/dp/1934840459

Magazines
Linux Journal

VirtualBox: Bits and Bytes Masquerading as Machines. http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9941

Break the Hardware Upgrade Cycle with Win4Lin Windows Virtual Desktop Server. http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9358

Podcasting for the Penguin! http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8793

Linux Magazine

Convenient Castle. http://www.linuxpromagazine.com/issues/2006/73/convenient_castle/(kategorie)/0

Sound Saver. http://www.linuxpromagazine.com/issues/2006/66/sound_saver/(kategorie)/0

I also manage the Top Canadian VPN website.

From bartering to Bitcoins; How did we get here?

I doubt there’s a single person alive in North America who is unaware of the financial mess the United States is in. Jumping from Fiscal Cliff to Sequestering, it’s quite obvious to all of us that the “money” in question does not exist. Greece is in a no better state half-way across the world so it’s pretty easy to make the argument that money is broken. When your country has over-leveraged its financial resources so terribly that you know, deep down inside, that your money and property can become worthless overnight with the flick of a pen in government house, what do you do?

Get new money, of course. Continue reading “From bartering to Bitcoins; How did we get here?”