Container Homes

New Zealand is suffering a housing crisis in many of its cities – the cost of buying a first home have skyrocketed over the past couple of decades since my wife and I first purchased a place to live. Given that I have many children who will want to enter the housing market over the next two decades, I’m interested in alternative approaches.

Earlier this week Stuff ran a story on a container home in Auckland that appears to have been done “just right.”

Her house in the bush is deceptive from the outside. Painted in a black steel paint with white window trim, it’s hard to tell this is a container house, until you walk to one end and watch her open up a large services hold by pulling on the traditional steel rods that close up the container.

Kelly has put her two containers at right angles and mounted them on deep piles – she needed just four per container, rather than the dozen or more that would be used for a typical house. The longer 40ft container accommodates the entry, sitting area, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, while the second 20ft container houses an office and guest bedroom.

Not surprisingly, everything is adaptable. Kelly imports her own furniture, specially designed for tiny houses. Items include a corner sofa with huge storage beneath the cushions. The sofa can also become a double bed. And there is a lift-down bed on the wall in the second bedroom, a desk that opens out to form a bed, and a portable wardrobe that can become a room divider. Her own bed is equipped with storage. So it’s clear every inch counts. In fact, Kelly says the house can sleep up to seven people.

There is also a huge 30 square-metre timber deck off the living area, which is effectively a large entertaining space. It is covered with a clear, arched pergola, and plastic sheeting can be pulled down to keep the wind away. Kelly says even in winter, it’s a warm spot to relax.

Very cool.

Norway’s Ship Tunnel

A few years ago I was visiting Oslo to present a series of workshops, and on one evening one of my hosts drove me into the city centre for a meal out. I was intrigued by the underground/through-the-water tunnels that we drove through. With so much water around, the engineers had found a way of suspending vehicle tunnels through waterways. Very cool.

And now they’re building a tunnel for ships:

Norwegian officials have given the green light to fully finance what is set to become the world’s first full-scale ship tunnel, bypassing one of the most dangerous areas for vessels along the Norwegian coast.

The Stad Ship Tunnel will be blasted through 1.7 kilometers of rock at the narrowest point of the Stad Peninsula, allowing ships the size of Hurtigruten’s coastal steamers to navigate it.

What’s fascinating is that the tunnel isn’t expected to shave much time off the normal route, rather it is intended to allow ships to navigate more safely through the Stadhavet Sea, where the North and Norwegian seas meet. The Stadhavet Sea is considered one of the most exposed and dangerous areas for vessels along the coast of Norway, sometimes experiencing more than 100 storm days per year and a dangerous combination of wind, currents, and waves.

New ways of sailing, indeed. Talk about re-imagining the possible!

A Workshop – One Day? Two Days? Longer?

Agnes outlines her thinking on workshop length:

The most common question I get about my upcoming workshop, SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 Search in Practice, is why I’ve decided to choose a two-day format.

I know it could be one day. Also, it could be three days, or even up to five.

I do have ten years of experience teaching and doing workshops around the globe. I’ve tried several formats. Some worked, some didn’t. What I’ve found is that I don’t like frontal teaching. It’s not my style. And I know, it can be exhausting as an attendee, too.

In her post, Agnes talks about:
– 3 teaching / learning approaches used in workshops, and
– the five reasons she has embraced the two-day design.

This is a question I have wrestled with many times too. It’s good to see someone else’s thinking … and decision rationale.

And if search in SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 is important in your work, you should sign up to attend.

Meeting Rules


When I was in Europe last month I spent a few days in Rotterdam. Down the road from my hotel was a yoga studio that I walked past on the way to the Rotterdam train station each day, and inside the window were the above “Studio Rules.” They struck me as directly transferrable to meetings:

1. Make at least one friend today.
Make an effort to have a conversation with someone you haven’t met before at the meeting, or for whom you don’t get to speak to regularly.

2. What could be more important than taking an amazing class? Leave your phone outside our yoga room.
Devices off, unless you are using said device(s) for taking notes or as input into the essence of the meeting. Don’t get distracted by what’s going on outside the room – in email, on Facebook, or via text.

3. Why rush? Come early. Classes always start on time. You don’t want to miss out on the beginning.
Imagine that – if your organisation had that rule embedded in actual practice: meetings always start on time, precisely. Not the “Let’s wait for a few minutes to see who else comes,” or “Should we get started now? (6 minutes after the scheduled time).” But right on time.

4. Get ready to sweat! Bring a towel, wear a clean outfit and you’re good to go.
Get ready to work hard. Do your preparation – read the pre-meeting materials, do your pre-meeting thinking/analysis/discussions. Then you’ll be good to go … to make a contribution, to make the meeting a valuable event, to learn something you can use in your work.

So go ahead … write some meeting rules and post them to the door of your meeting rooms. And the walls.

The New Flight Mode? Bluetooth Only?

Air New Zealand is now allowing the use of Bluetooth devices in flight, a move I’m very happy with:

Air New Zealand passengers will now be able to use their Fitbits to record the number of steps they make from their plane seat to the toilet, thanks to the airline’s new Bluetooth policy.

From Thursday, customers flying on any domestic or international flight will be able to operate Bluetooth devices from the departure gate to the arrival gate, as long as their devices are set to flight mode.

This includes Fitbit devices, Apple Watches and Bluetooth headsets. Passengers will also be able to operate a wireless mouse and wireless keyboard during cruise.

So here’s the problem: setting a device to “flight mode” disables Bluetooth. You can’t state the conditions as above, unless there is a new flight mode from the device vendors that disables cellular and WiFi but still allows Bluetooth. Instead flyers will have to turn off cellular and WiFi separately, keeping Bluetooth on. This is not the activation of flight mode.

This is going to get complex to state and enforce.

The PowerCube


In my travels during the earlier part of 2015 I found myself in hotel rooms with inaccessible power plugs, a lack of USB charging ports, and desks with recessed power strips that didn’t take the power box for my laptop at all. It was all a bit frustrating really, and in one hotel I had to resort to charging my laptop on one side of the room and then using it at the desk on battery power. Hey it worked, but it’s not the usual way I like to work. I have previously carried a Belkin multi-power strip when I’ve been traveling, but the bulk of the thing meant it got left home more often than it was taken. They are great in the office, but not so great on the road.

Enter PowerCube. I recall the exact moment I first saw one in a shop, and it was a direct a-ha moment for me. I got the idea immediately; it would be the perfect addition to my travel supplies. It was a week or two later that I actually purchased one, and it’s been incredibly useful in the trips I have done in the second half of this year. I really like the USB charging ports, as it allows me to charge USB devices without having to use my computer (and with an iPhone, iPad, and FitBit Charge when on the go, I don’t really want all those cables protruding from my laptop when I’m trying to work in the evening). I also like the way the PowerCube allows me to use New Zealand plugs when I’m traveling for every device except the PowerCube itself. All I have to do is convert the plug on the end of the PowerCube to suit the host country and I’m good to go. I don’t have to carry multiple conversion plugs for each host country. And finally, I like how it means I don’t have to carry separate charging blocks for my iPhone or iPad; I can just trust to the PowerCube to charge those devices when necessary.

Net-net: highly recommended.

While I currently only have one PowerCube for travel, looking at the PowerCube web site, there’s a number of other products I could put to immediate use in the office. For example, the PowerCube Remotes would provide a way of turning on all my desk lamps with a single switch. There’s some nice design thinking there that’s gone into something as apparently simple as a multi-box. I like that.

25m Swimming Pool in London; 35m Up

In my many trips to London over the years I have been searching for a hotel with a 25-metre indoor swimming pool. I haven’t found one yet (so any pointers gratefully received), but apparently there is one coming to a new apartment building in Battersea. The twist is that it will be 35-metres above the ground, completely transparent, and will link two buildings. Sounds like … fun … although it won’t help my cause as it’s not linked with a hotel.

Innovation in Suitcases: Stackable Shelves


As a frequent traveller it is interesting to me to observe a new set of luggage being designed, funded, and brought to market. In today’s innovation, there’s a soon-to-be-released suitcase that features in-built stackable shelves, to give you a portable drawer unit:

Designed as a checked baggage item (not for carry-on), this new travel innovation features four built-in, pull-out and collapsible shelves aimed at that travellers who want easy-to-find, wrinkle-free clothes on their trips.

The shelves are said enable better packing organisation by allowing travellers to pack, for example, shirts on one shelf and pants on another. The shelves stack vertically, when the suitcase is layed flat on the floor, with support poles that pull out and lock into place.

The ShelfPack is designed to be a standard size suitcase: 66cm case (71cm with wheels) x 46cm x 35cm with an extra 104,304 cubic cm of space, and weighs 7.71 kg. When stacked, the shelves reach 107cm in height.

Interesting … but I can imagine this only working if you have small number of items to pack and take with you (which would indeed be true sometimes, such as for short-duration trips). You can get a lot more in a suitcase if you don’t have to lay things out on shelves. My preferred way is to use colour-differentiated packing cubes from Eagle Creek, which has the advantage of being able to go from suitcase to carry-on to a different suitcase or carry-on and still signal the intent of the clothes within.

Are you going to add a suitcase with stackable shelves to your traveling options?

Recommendation for Editing and Proofreading — Red Pendragon

As an author of books and newsletters, I get blind to the errors in my writing. In recent years I have come to rely on someone else to double check what I have written before it gets published. Sure I read it over myself, but having worked with the text for hours already, my eye can no longer catch the misspellings, typos, inconsistencies, and other grammatical problems. I greatly benefit from another set of eyes in ensuring my work is as close to grammatically perfect as possible (subject to a few personal quirks of course).

One of the editors I have been using for some years now is one of my older sons. Matthew, my second son, has an incredible eye for detail, and has edited and proofread the appendices in my two most recent books, plus all of the issues of Insights on Adoption and Insights on Connections. He always gives excellent editing comments on how my work can be improved.

As a result of his eye for detail and the benefits I have derived, I have encouraged Matthew to offer his services to others on a commercial basis. He had done this, and has had repeat customers – which is the biggest vote of confidence any customer can provide.

This blog post is simply to say: if you have documents, white papers, reports, and other publications that need to be edited or proofread before going out, I fully recommend that you give Matthew the job. See his web site at Red Pendragon.

In the Mo

One of the concepts for building collaborative capabilities into tools is to support the need for collaboration “in the flow” of what the user is doing, as opposed to taking them out to another or separate application. If collaborative activity is part of the work process, that activity should be supported where the user is working, e.g., in whatever tools they are using.

In a play on words that I’ve only just thought about, one of the concepts in the information security area could be called “in the mo,” short for “in the moment.” If a user is about to break – intentionally or unintentionally – a security policy or a compliance mandate, catching that “in the mo” and warning the user that their soon-to-be-actioned item has a violation in it can give pause for reflection, and therefore a way to stop the violation from taking place at all. Many years ago (2005’ish) there was an information rights management vendor that would provide a proactive warning via pop-up that a particular action would violate a policy if it was carried through.

This background discussion is a long way of saying that I was pleased to read that Microsoft is bringing proactive policy violation warnings to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in Office 2016:

Over the last few years we’ve added DLP to Exchange, Outlook, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint. Now we’re bringing these same classification and policy features to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With these new capabilities, IT admins can centrally create, manage and enforce policies for content authoring and document sharing—and end users will see policy tips or sharing restrictions when the apps detect a potential policy violation.

Of course, there are times when you don’t want to alert a user that the system can see they are doing the wrong thing. If a disgruntled employee is sending confidential documents by email to a competitor, warning them that they will violate a policy is the wrong course of action. You will want to intercept that transmission however, to prevent it from getting to the said competitor, and then use such evidence to take appropriate action against the employee. Warning them that you know will provide a tip off, and they’ll just use other forms of sharing confidential documents, e.g., a thumb drive, a share from OneDrive for Business, etc.