Shifting laptops when your data is in the cloud

Last week I shifted to a new laptop (a thinkpad X Series) with Windows Vista. I was dreading shifting computers in general and shifting to Vista in particular. But it turned out to be my easiest move ever.

I used MozBackup to shift my web browser. Given how much time I spend on a web browser, this being seamless was a big deal.

Next, I transferred all the files from my current laptop onto a Maxtor backup drive. From the Maxtor drive I copied all files to the new laptop. This too about two hours.

We use Google Apps at SlideShare, so all my email and documents are in the cloud anyway. I still download all my email into Thunderbird so that I have an offline backup (just in case). Tomorrow I will use MozBackup to shift my Thunderbird profiles to the new laptop and start downloading email again.

Every one or two hours, I come across a software I need (e.g., Microsoft Office, Photoshop, ScreenPrint). One by one I am downloading / installing that on to my laptop.

First experiences with Vista – its quite nice. The visual look and feel is nicer than for my old XP. I am still not quite used to the way that navigation works in Vista (especially finding and adjusting look and feel of the computer). I like the windows sidebar and the RSS reader and photo slideshows going through my photographs.

Looking back, a lot of the pain in shifting computers used to be shifting files and settings. Now that so much of my data is in the cloud, that paid is dramatically reduced.

Stepping down as BayCHI program chair

For more than five years now, I have been co-Program Chair for BayCHI hosting a variety of speakers from Peter Norvig, Bill Scott, Tara Hunt, Tim Brown, Jakob Neilsen, Jared Spool and Jesse James Garrett. When I started I was a researcher at UC Berkeley. In between, I ran a consulting company that morphed into a product company (MindCanvas) that planted the seeds of SlideShare.

I have really enjoyed this tenure. So why am I leaving? Because SlideShare is growing and I don’t have time anymore. Running a startup takes everything you have and more. I am also focused on startup issues rather than HCI issues. Finally, six years is a long time to do anything and its time to give someone else a chance.

We are looking for a replacement for me who will be co-program chair along with Paul Sas (he is a great co-chair to work with!). I have also loved working with Stacie Hibino, Steve Williams, Nancy Frishberg and everyone else at BayCHI. Get in touch if you have past experience at organizing such events and want to get involved.

This was a long time in the coming. Several times I wanted to tell my BayCHI colleagues, but was not able to actually say I was leaving. This is one of several threads that I am closing now that SlideShare takes 120% of my time.

December 9th is my last program. I am still putting it together. Come by if you are in the area…

Upcoming’s disastrous switch from personal-social to general-social

Till a few months ago, Upcoming was one of the sites I visited daily. I went there to find what my friends are upto. I watched events even when I could not attend them (it was often an expression of my wish to be there more than anything else). Then one day Upcoming redesigned. They cleaned up their visual look and feel – no drastic changes, just minor changes. Nothing earth shattering.

For me the best part of Upcoming was being able to see what events my friends are going to. With their redesign, Upcoming decided to hide that behind two clicks. Now when you go to the site, I see whats popular in San Francisco, but I have to click to see what my friends are upto. Even on an events page, I can no longer easily see if any of my friends are going there. Instead I am shown the groups and tags. But I have to click to see who is attending.

Thats all it took to kill Upcoming for me. In my informal survey, many of my friends have stopped going there for the same reason.

I wonder what inspired this redesign. What was the goal here? To push the popular more than the personal? Had the team seen the stats? Had they talked to their users? Did they know how many people used it to keep track of friends events?

Such fundamental redesigns are often a bad idea. And the move from a personal-social is especially dangerous. If you are used to a service being all about you and your friends, then the general-popular feels like a real intrusion.