REDBAND: What Goes Around Comes Back Around by K.Dan Armstrong

What Goes Around, Comes Around: A Historian’s Response to Unified Communications

By K. Daniel Armstrong

During my years of teaching 20th-century American history in college, I would inevitably encounter an information technology student who would come into my class and tout the wonders of the computer and how society could not survive without it.  To his or her chagrin, I would offer the counter argument that everything we do with a computer we’ve done before.  Modern technology has simply enabled us to perform certain tasks with greater speeds and over greater distances.  I was always amazed at the anger my position engendered.  The offended student would then provide numerous examples of technological prowess including the creation of complex algorithms, desktop publishing, email, etc.  To which I would respond that mankind has been engaged in complex mathematics for thousands of years.  Look at Egyptian society in the pre-Christian era.  My favorite example was the Tom Hanks film “Apollo 13.”  There is a scene after the mission altering explosion in which NASA scientists are sitting at their consoles using slide rules to calculate flight path trajectory, power consumption, etc.  Many of my students had never even seen a slide rule.  Of course, I added that the ancient Chinese invented “block printing” unto silk cloth before 220 AD instead of copying by hand.  The technique was eventually mimicked by the Europeans (circa 1300 AD).  Regarding the advent of email, I would remind my impetuous students that pre-colonial Native Americans and Australian Aborigines used smoke signals while various West African tribes used drums to communicate over long distances eliminating the need to travel.  My message was simply that humans have done it all before.  My IT students, believing they had discovered something new, unique and exciting, had instead found something faster.  History does indeed repeat itself.

The next chapter of audiovisual / information technology evolution is the implementation of unified communications (typically referred to as UC).  UC combines existing technologies (e.g., internet/intranet, teleconferencing/videoconferencing both room- and PC-based, email/chat, etc.) in a way that creates a “work at anytime from anywhere” solution for many businesses that operate across regions, countries and/or continents.   The promise of UC is that companies will produce operational savings by working from home thus reducing costs related to transportation, real estate, etc. while providing employees with greater flexibility.  The technology maybe new but the concept, in practice, is not.  In fact, UC is poised to usher modern society into a re-emergent “cottage industry” business model and a redefinition of suburbia.

Between America’s colonial era and the early 19th-century, local economies supported small-scale cottage industries in which individuals produced goods in their homes while simultaneously supervising their farms and families.  Typically in this model, the “factory” or business owner distributed raw materials door-to-door to be completed in the worker’s home.  This type of industrialization came to be known as “outwork.”  Finished items which included cloth, clothing, hats and shoes would be retrieved in the same manner and then sent off to market.  By mid-century, the American economy had become more factory-centric and urban and the home no longer served as the hub of production.

In early 21st-century America, we are witnessing a return to a non-factory centric operational business model.  Confronted with rising property and facilities costs and the advent of multi-functional and relatively inexpensive technology, large corporations are sending many of their employees home.  In the same way that a business owner in 1812 delivered packages of raw materials to the farmstead, the modern company in 2012 delivers data packets in the form of email, files, collaboration tools, audio/video, etc. via a much faster horse and wagon – the company intranet.  Such a trend has the potential to redefine the nature of work, the interaction of the family and the scheme of suburban life.  In other words, if I can get to the internet then it doesn’t really matter where I live.  I am no longer bound to my proximity of the factory.  Don’t get me wrong, I love technology.  I’m fascinated by it.  I enjoy it.  It has allowed us to do things faster and over vast distances.  But don’t argue with me that it’s something new.  We’ve done this all before.

K. Dan Armstrong

Dan Armstrong is the principal of Invictus Consulting which provides project management and process improvement services. Dan holds certifications in project management (PMP) and Six Sigma (CSSGB) as well as a Master of Arts in history. He has done project work for Fortune 250 companies such as AIG, eBay and Merck. Dan is a published historian and former instructor of American and European history at Delaware Valley College (Doylestown, PA). He can reached at armstkar@comcast.net

REDBAND: Pump Up the Community by Tucker

Pump Up the Community by Tucker

We talk a good deal about community these days, in building connections, social graphs and connecting via social media.  The Politicos talk about rebuilding the economy by communities coming together but the actuality is a rare sight indeed.

One of the places that actual communities come together is via a remarkable radio station – WLNG of Sag Harbor Long Island.  The place is almost an anachronism in the radio business at  5,300 watts the station should only be a footnote yet its reach and influence is that of stations with 10 times the power.  The Station is a marvel that honors the years of relentless promotion and guidance by the remarkable Paul Sidney.  When Mr. Sidney died it brought forth an epiphany on just how much the station has meant to me and the town I grew up in – you can see my ‘eulogy’ here.

Stations like the Uber local WLNG have been the subject of ridicule and praise since their inception and, to be honest, the station has been worthy of both. It is one part the radio show in ‘One Crazy Summer’ and one Part “Pump Up The Volume’ providing oddball shows like Swap and Shop while catering to the tourists expectations of a “Beach Community”  broadcaster.  Which makes the actions of the WLNG staff during hurricane Sandy all the more remarkable – or should I say commendable for I could not imagine them NOT being so dedicated.

The Stations broadcast facilities are not in some high-rise building or even in the main town but sits precariously on the edge of a bay.  The location is part of the charm but it has its dangers as Sandy’s fury demonstrated.  During the height of the storm the station kept broadcasting even as the water began to creep steadily toward the building eventually breaching the floor and walls.  Still the staff kept broadcasting. Doning fisherman’s boots (which hopefully prevented them from grounding) they continued even as the water rose to ankle high depth.  Only when it became evident that things were about to get a lot worse did the staff (I believe) reluctantly leave their posts and suspended their outreach.  As soon as the waters began to hint at receding , WLNG was back on air.

What is even more remarkable is that this is in line with a long-standing tradition at the station – to ride out the storms and provide a comforting and familiar voice in times of natural disaster.  It is remarkable not for WLNG as their entire existence has been to serve the community, to bring it together.

Many are already mourning the death of radio but long after the Clear Channel cookie cutter stations have long been forgotten WLNG will still be transmitting and serving with a purpose.

Are you as dedicated to your clientele?  If you are they will be.

Tucker

When asked to recap his career and life Tucker responded “Me? I am just a figment of your collective imagination and let me tell you that living this life has taught me one thing- you people are twisted Mofos”   You can follow Tucker on Twitter @Tuckertues or his personal blog on tech and tech culture at http://tuckerstuesday.typepad.com

AV Helpdesk Profiled in Commercial Integrator Magazine November 2012 edition

I am extremely excited and proud to announce that AV Helpdesk Inc is featured on the cover of the November 2012 issue of Commercial Integrator Magazine. To View please follow this LINK .

Visit www.commercialintegrator.com for more information and be sure to check out www.avhelpdesk.com

Chris