Slack, Sweets, and Social Capital

Every morning at work I walk to the coffee cart with a few people that sit near me in the office. I hardly ever purchase coffee, preferring to bring my half-finished mug of tea to keep my hands warm along the way. The ritual, for me at least, is less about the coffee and more about connecting with coworkers. On the walk there and back we chat about our weekends, our families, and work frustrations. We give recommendations for books and podcasts we love, or entertain each other with stories of home and hobby projects we are in the midst of. One of those podcasts, from a TED talk by business leader Margaret Heffernan, about teamwork and leadership made its rounds. After we all had a chance to view the video on our own time, the group reflected that what we were doing was in fact, building social capital such as mentioned by Heffernan. I treasure my time with the #socialcoffee crew (a summary is sometimes tweeted as such) because it starts the day with collegial human interaction and helps gives purpose to the data wrangling that I spend most of my day doing.

Last Thursday S brought lemon pie, made with lemons from B’s backyard lemon tree. There has also been homemade macaroons, chocolate chip cookies, soda bread, and top notch donuts and pastries from local bakeries. Doesn’t seem to matter what the flavor of the week of, the real benefit is seeing my team in person for a few minutes away from our computers. Inspired in part by the Heffernan talk, we’ve instigated a daily Fika. This open to all BYO coffee break is made extra special on Thursdays with some sort of sweet treat. Much of my work is done on the computer and with a surplus of digital tools, much of our team communication is done online. I work in a large organization, with offices spread across floors and various buildings on campus and its nice to meet people I don’t ever get to see in person. I get to hear about what other teams are working on outside of my little bubble. It’s easy to ping your boss a quick IM to ask a question, but its nicer to hear her thoughts in person with a side of fresh air and pastries.

861baaca-bfeb-402c-b69e-ed221360bf18That’s not to say that technology is always an impediment to collaboration and social capital. Last year our communications team opened a company wide Slack account. Its organically gained a following of digital folks from social media, web, publications, IT, library, collections, and other departments. I think everyone has something of value to add and it will be interesting to see how the conversation evolves as more self-described non-tech people join. It’s had an exciting ebb and flow of cross department banter, silly gifs, and genuinely helpful conversations. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with people in other departments to share current web articles, emerging tech, industry blogs, and brainstorm on projects. I get lost in my own projects and day to day tasks and forget that I am surrounded by smart and interesting people. All it takes apparently, is a few puppy gifs and the #nomnom channel to remind me that my colleagues are indeed likable, helpful humans beyond our regular email exchange. I am grateful to have a platform to meet and collaborate with more, as Ron Swanson says, “Workplace Proximity Associates.”  I am excited about the projects I see other people working on and have seen my own ideas gain traction and support. Making time to get to know my coworkers has made work more fun and I hope that it continues to build rapport and make our team stronger.

What rituals or tools help with your team building?


Stereoscope with smartphone

Stereoscoping with Google Cardboard

I’ve been playing around with Google Cardboard and enjoying the revival of the old school View-Master experience from when I was a kid. Google Cardboard goes beyond the 3-D views you might remember from View-Master and it’s collectible discs with views of the National Parks, Sesame Street, and Disneyland. With Google Cardboard the image is not only in 3-D, it’s panoramic as well. From the Google Developers website, “Cardboard aims at developing accessible virtual reality (VR) tools to allow everyone to enjoy VR in a simple, fun, and natural way.”

Google Cardboard Viewer

Google Cardboard Viewer (via Google)

To get started with VR and Google Cardboard, you’ll need both a viewer with lenses and a smartphone. For the images and video, there are several apps available to download onto your smartphone including Google Cardboard (for viewing) and Google Cardboard Camera (for creating.) Both apps are free and there are many more to explore. For a viewer, there are various models available for purchase for about $20. There is even one that pays homage to the classic View-Master. Also you can find DIY instructions for building your own out of whatever materials you choose.

Vintage View-Master

Vintage View-Master (via Junkyardsparkle)

Both viewing devices, the View-Master and Cardboard, use stereoscopic imaging to trick your eyes into seeing 3-D. This is done by showing two offset images separately to each eye. Amazingly, your brain combines these two images creating a single whole image but with an added third dimension of depth. This is not new technology and has been in use since the 1830s, via stereoscopes.

Stereoscope with smartphone

Stereoscope with smartphone (photo: Eric Rossi)

I’ve adapted a reproduction stereoscope to hold my smartphone for viewing VR. I’ve left a stereocard in place to serve as a backboard and added two rubber bands; one at the top and one at the bottom to hold the phone in place. This allows me to use one hand to hold the stereoscope and another to interact with the phone. This might not be necessary once I get the hang of the interface of the Google Cardboard app. For example, one can easily choose various images by titling your head to ‘scroll’ through the options. I may need to further modify the setup to include a switch or button to engage the ‘select’ function to keep fingers from interrupting the field of vision.

Below are a couple images I made that you can download and try in your own viewer. Create your own and share in the comments. Views where there is a variety of foreground and background layers work really well.

Griffith Park Helipad, Los Angeles

Griffith Park Helipad, Los Angeles

Commonwealth Canyon, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Commonwealth Canyon, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

An even more exciting discovery is viewing historical stereograph digital images on your smartphone with a viewer. Below are some open content images from The Getty Museum. Download them to your phone and they will show up in your selection of Google Cardboard images.

Before the Ball

Joseph John Elliott, [Before the Ball], about 1860, Hand-colored albumen silver
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The Telescope Gallery

London Stereoscopic Company, The Telescope Gallery., about 1860.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

The Sands of Time

Thomas Richard Williams, The Sands of Time, 1850 – 1852, Stereo-daguerreotype
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Self-portrait of Antoine François Jean Claudet and his son Henri Posed with His Invention, The Focimeter

Antoine Claudet, [Self-portrait of Antoine François Jean Claudet and his son Henri Posed with His Invention, The Focimeter], about 1856, Stereo-daguerreotype
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Bonus Round! Here are some Mars color stereographs. Pro tip: Most stereograph images you find will work with this setup. Just rename the file “filename.vr.jpg” and download to your phone. Your images will now show in the Google Cardboard Camera image gallery. A message popped up for me that says “This is not a VR photo” but you and I both know better. 😉

Rock Dimples

The little dimples in the rock indicate that it is volcanic basalt. (via University of Chicago)

Rover Tracks

Sol 58: Tracks of Spirit Rover moving around in circles. (via University of Chicago)


Learn By Doing: JFDI

Jennifer Dewalt, to teach herself to code, built 180 websites in 180 days. Get an intro to the project in her story for Lean In. The JFDI (Just F-ing Do It) approach is inspiring to me because while I learn best by doing, I often bury myself in books and tutorials. Getting hands on with any new skill early and often is a great way to practice the theoretical.

If You Enjoyed Powers Of Ten

Here is a ten minute Polaroid commercial made by Charles & Ray Eames titled SX-70.

I’m currently reading Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos (IndieBound | LAPL) and I rediscovered this little gem:

“You can look at technology as a living tree, a trunk bearing branches, the branches leafing out. Or you can see it as a net, each knot tying up threads from many sizes. But the human reality is more intricate than either one. We have been looking at one invention which began purely, out of the conception of a need: the hope to change the person who takes pictures from a harried offstage observer to a person who is a natural part of the event. The device helps meet the universal need to do things well. It offers as a matter of course a tool for supplying a rich texture to memory. More than that, thoughtful use can help reveal meaning in the flood of images which makes up so much of human life.” – Philip Morrison, who also narrated the Eames’ Power of Ten film.