Feeling light and fluffy here in the human cloud

David Hume

Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711–76) knew about the ises and the oughts.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying the Internet has changed the way we work. It’s altered the business landscape, and it’s changed the way we shop, advertise, and do business. Where we work has also changed because of the Internet. Many of us — including myself — work from home. I have a business which I conduct from home, and what I do from home is similar to what I used to do as as an on-site staff member. Sometimes I like my current situation better than my past one and sometimes not.

The software I use has also changed. The nature of it, sure, but also its location. Instead of always being on my computer, the applications I use sometimes reside and operate on servers at locations I don’t need to know or care much about. They just work … wherever they are. Those applications are in the cloud—the nebulous non-location that we tap into for a growing number of services.

Am I part of the “human cloud”—the growing number of people who work collaboratively with partners whom they may never see in person? I live in New Hampshire, but that’s not terribly important. My clients don’t need to know or care much about that. I just work … wherever I am. Well, as long as my available hours coincide well enough with my contacts’ hours. My clients tap into my services as they do with the services of many others like me. We are a resource to be tapped into out here in the cloud. This is a radical shift from the way I’ve worked in the past, but the shift is far from complete, I’m sure.

Do I like being part of a “human cloud?” and what does “human cloud” evoke? Nebulous? amorphous? non-physical? impermanent? buggy? prone to outages? impersonal? replaceable? Or does it evoke available, efficient, convenient, self-maintaining, self-upgrading? fast? It is worth pondering these terms much more than pondering the terms evoked by more familiar role names like “freelancer” or “entrepreneur.” It gives me a perspective on an emerging trend and how I want to fit into it. More importantly it lets me think about what it all might be turning into.

Net:Work is the name of an upcoming conference in San Francisco on the human cloud and the future of work. A very large speaker lineup will be there including John Seely Brown, the former director of Xerox PARC. Xerox PARC developed the first GUI and the mouse input device — things that have changed our work landscape drastically since their introduction in the 1980s.

Ynema Mangum’s definition is more about the potential of collaboration on the massive scales made possible by social media, mobile devices, and cloud computing. She is looking farther into the unknown, and she is making it sound quite exciting.

One Response to “Feeling light and fluffy here in the human cloud”

  1. Lisa Sieverts November 22, 2010 at 5:13 pm //

    Thought-provoking, as usual. My own business model still relies on face-to-face interactions with clients. As I spend time over the winter planning the next strategy phase of my company, I’m going to be thinking about Net:Work and where my business should be going.