The Tools of a Remote Worker

So, I work remotely for Mode. Yes, remote work is quite the luxury, but it also has it’s downsides when it comes to communicating. I’m gonna list a few services that I feel make my life as simple as possible (and the ones that fail) when I’m trying to communicate effectively with my co-workers.

Since we’re big on Google products at the shop we primarily use many of their services; specifically gmail and google docs. I’ve recently tried to use Google Hangouts, but quickly found (at this point in time) they’re not reliable and result in choppy playback or a stutter. Screen sharing is by far the worst and not a part of the service I recommend to use. Why you ask? Well, huge delays (even at strong times of the day for connections) plus a highly noticeable loss of quality. In no way shape or form are you gonna show JS interaction over a G+ hangout screen share and get away with it (send me proof otherwise). I’ve tried Skype for both audio and screen share and experienced successful results on both fronts (quality and lack of a delay), but again not as reliable all the time. Other services like has choppy playback while audio appears to be somewhat reliable. is a free service I’ve been tinkering with as of lately, but I will say it’s a new service with some bugs plus screen sharing is low in quality (something I’m told will change soon.), but the potential is there for greatness in the future (fingers crossed).

For instant messaging I was using AOL’s instant message app then switched to Messages built into Mac. Messages was actually not that bad because you could easily share .gifs, screenshots and chat directly with other Messages users (which there are a few at the shop that use it) plus you get screen sharing for free right out of the box. Now, Messages screen sharing I will defend a bit and say quality is not that terrible, but there’s a real problem in delay. An experience that you’ll pull your hair out over when you try and show some interaction (#sadtrombone). Fast forward to current times and you’ll find me on Adium for IM. Why? Well, because everyone at the shop likes to use their own IM app of choice (plus we have a few Windows users! Gasp!), but for me that means I need an IM app that can reach everyone. Adium lets me share .gifs, screenshots and chat directly from the App where before I would have to use another 3rd party app called CloudApp to share screenshots and photos. A huge pain in the ass for me because a free CloudApp account limits you to 10 screenshots per day. In no way should I have to use a 3rd party system to share screenshots when an IM app should support this out of the box (i.e mothereffing attachments dawg). We do have a HipChat account for the shop, but honestly nobody uses it…AT ALL. It’s a real shame in my opinion, but that’s how the cookie crumbles I guess.

My ultimate tool if I had to decide would not only allow for conference calling, screen sharing, chatting, file attachments, but also REAL-TIME sketching! That’s right. I wanna make a sketch for Bob in North Carolina and Bob will instantly see and be able to edit my sketch in REAL-TIME. Super effective for those that are trying to communicate an idea or interaction -that’s where sketching comes to save the day. Yes I could make a sketch and then send it as an email attachment, but who the eff wants to go through that shit? Nobody! If we had a REAL-TIME sketching app better than google draw and created as a Web Application available on any device, the benefits would be huge!

Now that you’ve heard my takes on current tools that I use/shy away from and the battles I still search for answers with, What are you using? How are you effectively communicating as a remote worker? Hit me on up Twitter or leave a comment.

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Web Development & Design, Technical Writing, Interaction Design, Open Source Maker & Contributor. Helping Create A Better Web.

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