Intending (not resolving) to Simplify my Life in the Cloud

Posted on January 11, 2014

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Life in the Cloud

HNY14

I am not much of a resolutionist. I don’t judge those that  resolve to improve significantly annually on January 1st but permanent personal change, for me, comes from small but frequent adjustment.

Out of (minor) Disaster

The latest set of changes came about as a result of a determined thief ‘having it away’ with my Macbook Air whilst I was out with a customer one evening.  What followed was an acid test of how protected I was from such an event as a result of living the vida nube.

It was also an opportunity to review my personal productivity.

What worked and Not so Much

Surprisingly the only real painful experience was with my Time Machine. I abandoned a full restore to my new Air based on its own interminable estimates and the experiences of others who had suffered similar impossible waits only to be rewarded with a last-minute fail. All attempts at a selective restore have thus far eluded me. 

Other than that I had the comfort of being able to quickly remotely reset the stolen macbook and my lastpass session. I was then able to log on to another home machine and reset all my passwords. The number of cloud services that I use meant that this was not quick but once this was done I  got my payback.

I was instantly able to get to my company email (365)  personal email (Google) office applications (CloudOn) daybook notes (Evernote) music (iTunes and iTunes Match) pictures (1TB Flickr) and all my documents which live variously on Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive. Of course, all my social applications live in the cloud too. Other than a few minor exceptions I was up and running in surprisingly short order.

Digital Simplification

In addition to reaping the benefits of living in the cloud, the experience also caused me to look for a few improvements in the way I work. This was mostly around the proliferation of user interfaces. For example, depending on the circumstances, I was working with email in Mac Mail or Outlook in their rich client and browser varieties. I might also use the equivalent apps on my tablet and smart phone. In addition to this, I was sometimes accessing the web clients through mobile browser as well as using other mail applications such as Mailbox which I used solely for it’s ability to keep my inbox down. All in all, I might have used eight or nine subtly different user interfaces to work with  email even if I ignore the fact that I use three different  browsers and that many of these interfaces are updated four or more times a year.

A similar picture emerged for office and social applications. There are almost as many ways to tweet as the 140 characters we are limited to when doing so.

Simplicity and Choices

So I made some hard choices. One way of emailing, a single way of tweeting and I am reducing rather than increasing all the other apps that I use rather than allowing them to proliferate to benefit from what ultimately ended up being minor benefits. It has meant that I have had to learn a little more about my chosen applications to find ways of doing things that I would have swapped to do previously. This has sometimes meant that I just ‘do without’ functionality if was only of marginal utility.

Interestingly, this process of simplification, is similar to one way innovators disrupts incumbent technology companies. Established vendors continue to add features that are often ahead of customer need and almost always at extra cost. Meanwhile, innovators disrupt their market with simpler, agile, cheaper solutions that are ‘good enough’. More on this and the subject of simplicity here in this excellent post from Ben Thompson.

So here I am in the first few weeks of a fresh year hoping that simplifying my life in the cloud will result in similar but personal benefits. The plan is to be able to do all the things that I currently do in the cloud in a cleaner, simpler and more efficient way. It’s not a resolution though.

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