Connect: A Guide to a New Way of Working (book review)

Hi Everybody. My name is Josh. I’m a web worker.

Connect

I recently got the chance to review Connect: A Guide to a New Way of Working by my friend Anne Zelenka, who is the editor at large at Web Worker Daily, a blog focused on people who work on the web. Here follows my review of the book.

First, the verdict: Highly recommended. Connect is an excellent guide to working on the web, offering an comprehensive overview of all the things to think about and consider if you’re working from home or your job happens to be primarily web-based. I would recommend it to anybody who wants to improve their productivity. In addition to covering all the aspects of web work, Anne also throws in some psychology that underpins a lot of what web workers do, noting that it can be lonely and myopic place at times while giving out a raft of ideas on how to cope.

But I’ve also written up some more thoughts in case you want to know more about why I like it…

Hi Everybody. My name is Josh. I’m a web worker.

Connect

I recently got the chance to review Connect: A Guide to a New Way of Working by my friend Anne Zelenka, who is the editor at large at Web Worker Daily, a blog focused on people who work on the web. Here follows my review of the book.

First, the verdict: Highly recommended. Connect is an excellent guide to working on the web, offering an comprehensive overview of all the things to think about and consider if you’re working from home or your job happens to be primarily web-based. I would recommend it to anybody who wants to improve their productivity. In addition to covering all the aspects of web work, Anne also throws in some psychology that underpins a lot of what web workers do, noting that it can be lonely and myopic place at times while giving out a raft of ideas on how to cope.

But I’ve also written up some more thoughts in case you want to know more about why I like it.

Here is Anne’s definition of a web worker:

Picture the web worker, a freelancer working from home or out of wifi-enabled cafes, she works on a variety of projects across organizational boundaries. She collaborates with people she’s met on the web on an ad hoc or occasionally more formal basis…and manages relationships across communities, geography, and time zones; and uses a flexible set of web-based tools in fluid workflows.”

Sound familiar?

There are lots of big ideas in the book. Here are a few:

  • Busyness vs. burstiness
  • Getting rich by paying attention
  • Social productivity
  • Workstreaming

My favorite chapter is “Connect, Communicate, and Collaborate”. If I had to read only one chapter, this would be it. In it, Anne basically describes the challenges I currently face: going beyond email to communicate with others (hello Twitter), how to schedule meetings with remote colleagues, how to share views on each other’s work, but most importantly how to keep it all human. She points out how important it is to remember the human on the other end of the tether and recommends:

  • Use social communications to strengthen relationships
  • Don’t look to connect just because someone can do something for you
  • Numbers aren’t as important as diversity and depth of connections
  • Seek to understand people three dimensionally

These things all ring especially true for me. The real deal is to do work with people you like, people you can geek out with, not people who promise more.

Because she’s covering so much ground, Anne is an amazingly efficient writer. She breathlessly flows from one topic to the next, covering the major points and the things you need to know. Where Malcolm Gladwell takes a book to make a single point, Anne takes a sentence.

If I had to find a frustration with the book it might be this. In some sections, I wanted Anne to write much more than she had room to. For example, there’s a section early in the book called “You’re a Social Animal” that hints a little bit about the research on social interaction among humans. Personally, I could read about that sort of thing all day. (maybe because I’m writing about it?) But I understand that this is a guide book, so it’s not really the place to get all researchy. Thankfully, Anne provides a link for deeper reading.

What I really like about Anne’s writing is that the goal of web working is not always about efficiency, it’s also about peace of mind and the power of the individual. She’s got some Zen undertones to her writing. For example, in the chapter “Burst your productivity”, she writes:

“You are your own yeast. In order to achieve your goals and express yourself authentically, you need to rely upon your individual power, amplified through a community, rather than solely depending on any organizational or management structures to motivate you from the outside.”

This, to me, is one of the major points of the book. Most of the book is about efficiently getting your web life in order and taking advantage of all this connectivity, but gems like this remind us that we’re the ones who power our own ship, so to speak. While we need the help of our network we can’t rely on them for our individual confidence and power. Hooray for the web worker!

So, I definitely recommend Connect: A Guide to a New Way of Working for anyone who is a web worker trying to manage your career and especially if you’re transitioning to be one and don’t know where to start. This includes freelancers, social media folks, and people who need to look outside their office to find folks like them.

[Editor's note: Got a book you would like reviewed on Bokardo? Drop me a line]

Published: January 10th, 2008

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