Relocating Web Worker? Here’s What You Need to Consider

I’m not a big fan of moving, but I tend to do it a lot. Once a year is a rare treat, and generally it’s much more frequent than that.
Since I’m preparing for a move once again, and I’ve actually become much more aware of what it is I do and do not like about the places I’ve called my home office in the past, I thought I’d share a few tips for what to look for if you’re searching for a better space to work.

Avoiding Conflicts Within a Teleworking Team

It’s hard work to set up and supervise a teleworking team for some projects.  In the web content service I run, I need to gather work-from-home writers together and help them work as a team.  This is especially important for projects that require group cooperation and interaction, such as an ebook or a multi-authored blog.

One of the advantages of teleworking is that there’s less opportunities for workplace gossip and personality clashes.  Most teams approach their communications very matter-of-factly.  But I find that this isn’t always the case, especially when members each have very different working styles.

When managing a team of very different people all over the globe, what can you do to keep the team, and the work, from imploding?

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MindJet and the World of Mind-Mapping

Though my Dad is a clever chap – an old school Maker –  he never had the chance at a higher education and as a consequence would force me to watch historical and educational shows as a kid. One of these were the televised lectures of Edward de Bono, where I first heard learned about mind maps and what are now commonly considered as ‘mind hacks.’
Mind mapping tools inhabit a curious boundary between tools that need to be as fluid and unstructured as doodling with a pencil and those that can harness the structural and processing power of computers to enhance the creative and mental processses.
Mind mapping tools range from the GTD-like methodologies of the Compendium Institute, to the opensource FreeMind and lightweight knowledge management such as DeepMehta; incidentally mind-mapping guru Peter Russell has created a useful roundup of tools.
MindJet’s MindManager 8
One of the more prominent companies in the space is MindJet, who today released the latest edition of their flagship tool, MindManager 8. With the new release, the company is seeking to integrate mind mapping into user’s existing workflows and help create mechanisms for collaboration.
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Toyota to Debut Natural Gas Car, Launch RAV4-EV Project

Toyota is slowly adding more green vehicles beyond its poster child the Prius. Yesterday the Japanese automaker introduced several new alternative fuel initiatives that it hopes will keep it ahead of the curve at its Sustainable Mobility Seminar in Portland. On the top of the list was the news that Toyota will show off a new compressed natural gas (CNG) Camry Hybrid concept vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show later this year. Toyota tried selling a CNG Camry in California back in 1999, but those were the days of cheap gas and climate change had few celebrity endorsements; sales never took off and the car was discontinued.

It was a day full of automotive resurrections as Toyota said it plans to put four off-lease RAV4-EVs, an all-electric version of its gas-powered SUV, back into operation. Those RAV4’s will be provided to Portland State University who will use them as local shuttles vehicles. The city of Portland is a pretty good place for Toyota’s project — utility Portland General Electric has installed its first electric car charging station and has plans for five more such stations which it has installed in anticipation of growing demand.

While these two announcements are well-intentioned, they are both very small in scale and are mostly gestures. So long as they don’t distract Toyota from innovating cleaner cars on a larger scale, we’re all for it. The car maker says it’s still on track to introduce a plug-in electric vehicle in 2009 and it’s all-electric commuter car “in the early 2010s.”

Green Mountain Energy Cites Policy, Not Price, for FPL Program’s Death

After the Florida Public Service Commission unceremoniously shuttered FPL’s leading utility green power program earlier this month, citing high marketing and sales costs, Green Mountain Energy has released data disputing the claim.

Costs for sales and marketing accounted for just 52 percent of Green Mountain’s revenues. That figure is comparable to other top-ranked programs in the U.S., including Portland General Electric. Thor Hinckley, green power program manager for PGE, says Green Mountain Energy spends 56 percent of its budget on marketing costs for the Portland program.

The Florida PSC told Earth2Tech in early August that voluntary programs like FPL’s were no longer necessary, thanks to the state’s forthcoming Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Plug It In, Plug It In, Say West Coast Utilities

Portland General Electric's PHEV charging station

West Coast utilities Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and Portland General Electric announced this week a few initiatives aimed at bringing electric vehicles closer to the road.

Portland General Electric said it will focus on building out infrastructure for the electric vehicles through a network of charging stations throughout its service territory. Meanwhile, Mitsubishi signed agreements with both Southern California Edison and PG&E to test a handful of its i MiEV electric cars over a three-year period. Mitsubishi says the partnership will allow it to test its battery technology; utilities will get a chance to test out how the vehicles can be used to smooth electrical demand on the power grid.
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Competition for Green Power Could Sink Utilities’ Eco Programs

After the Florida Public Service commission excoriated Florida Power and Light for “mismanagement” of its nationally recognized green power program, Sunshine Energy, the utility was forced to shutter its program last week.

The PSC’s drastic decision caught many in the utility green power business off guard. FPL’s program has consistently ranked among NREL’s Top 10 Utility Green Power Programs for both total renewable energy sales (No. 4, as of December 2007) and total customers enrolled (No. 6). The program also just narrowly missed being in the Top 10 of programs with the lowest premiums, with a relatively low 0.9 cents per kilowatt-hour charge. The program’s 37,184 participants paid premium pricing to support a total of 42.6 average megawatts of renewable generating capacity, or more than 10,000 kilowatt-hours a piece.

The Florida PSC news release cited the program’s high marketing and administrative costs — as much as 80 percent of proceeds from the premium pricing — as a major factor in its decision. But Cindy Muir, director of the office of public information at the PSC, told us that the decision was also based on the commission’s belief that “a voluntary program has kind of had its day in the sun.”
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Get a free movie download from AOL’s Video Beta

Aol_movie_betaInformationWeek caught my attention this morning with the following blurb: "AOL is offering a free movie to people who agree to become a beta tester of its movie download service." Here’s the catch: you’ll have to hurry up and test because the offer ends tomorrow. The test and service runs on both Mac and Windows, which is nice to see.

Apparently, AOL has tweaked the download process to speed things up, so this round will test that and provide feedback to AOL on the overall experience. Anyone using AOL Video on a mobile device that can share the experience?