Increasing office presence for remote workers

I work from home. My basement, actually. I recently read an article in the Times about increasing the office presence of remote employees with robots. Pretty interesting. How much does one of those robo-Beltzners cost? $5k? This is a neat idea but it's still not released so who knows.

I've been thinking about other options for establishing a stronger office presence for myself. Recently I bought a webcam. If I used this to broadcast me, sitting at my desk on Ustream or Livestream, that would certainly make it so my coworkers (and the rest of the world) could see what I was up to, every second of the workday. This is actually a lot more exposure than an office worker, even in a cubicle, would expect. If I'm in an office cube, I might have people stop by, but I'll know they're there, and they won't always be there.  There is still generally solitude and privacy to concentrate on the code and be productive. I'm currently trying something that I think is closer to the balance of a real office:

  • Take snapshots from webcam every 15 minutes
  • Only during normal working hours
  • Give 3 second audible warning before capturing
  • Upload to an intranet webserver
I haven't found this to be too much of an imposition -- in fact, the quarter-hourly beeps are somewhat like a clock chime.

In the beginning, it's hard to resist mugging for the camera, but that passes:
whassup???
Think about how this is better than irc or IM, both of which do have activity/presence indicators, but which either aren't used, or poorly implemented and often wrong. How much more likely are you, as a colleague of mine, to IM, email, video chat, or call me if you can see I'm at my desk and working? No more "around?" messages needed. You could even see if I'm looking cheerful, or perhaps otherwise indisposed, heh heh:
hello kitty
On a technical note, although there were many Debian packages that kind-of did what I wanted, it turned out to be surprisingly easy to roll my own in about 20 lines of Python.
working hard.
Anyways, just something I've been playing around with, while I wait for my robo-avatar to be set up down at HQ...

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