So to cut a long story short, I made the trip over to Vietnam for a few days to present on lean startup at Agile Tour Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday and then on Monday & Tuesday check out Bas Vodde’s Scrum Master Certification course.
After an entertaining Agile Tour Zichuan Xiong (Thoughtworks), Stanly Lau, Steven Mak ( both www.odd-e.com) & myself headed out into the backpacker district for some beers, it was there that after a few drinks my bag containing my laptop was stolen while I answered a call of nature. I was careless, so really I have no one to blame but myself.
The guys tried to cheer my up, but obviously I was pretty bummed about the loss and was of course turning over in my head the ramifications of the theft by trying to think if it contained any data like passwords that could cause further damage. Luckily we now live in a world of cloud computing so loosing a computer isn’t the disaster it once was, all of my files are in Dropbox, all of my work in version control. So fingers crossed, I change a few passwords and this is nothing more than a physical loss.
The next thing to enter my mind was what to replace it with, we’re not even halfway through the next beer and Zichuan is trying unsuccessfully to convince me to ditch Thinkpad+Ubuntu and get a Mac. I go to bed that evening with my thoughts split between cursing myself for being so careless and thinking about whether to go for another Thinkpad T520 or go for the smaller T420 and the merits of solid state drives.
The next morning I awoke in the hotel with a slight hangover and the realisation that I’m completely disconnected, my phone battery is dead, the charger was in the bag and obviously I don’t have my laptop. I can’t even send off a tweet to inform the world of my loss. Feeling down and somehow naked without internet access, I decide to hop on the next bus back to Phnom Penh.
Despite the negative events of the evening before, the bus trip was great. Without internet, ebooks, music or a phone I spend most of the time just staring out of the window looking at Vietnamese & Cambodian countryside which is so green, wet and stunningly beautiful this time of year. At the rest stops instead of having my head buried in my Nexus S checking my Twitter time-line I struck up conversations with other passengers on the bus and got to hear about their travels, these conversations took me back to the days when I was backpacking around this region and the freedom I felt during that period of my life. The six hour journey which I usually loath turned out to be quite pleasant and at the end of it I felt refreshed and positive.
Upon arrival at my house, after saying hello to everyone and giving them the story, my next port of call was my desktop. Almost as soon as I turned it on and looked at my near bursting inbox there was a power cut, it was if the gods were trying to tell me something. With the power out, I spent the next hour with my two year old daughter watching her unsuccessfully trying to teach the cat the same tricks the dog knows.
A disconnected day that occurred under the worst circumstances has now got me questioning the value of being over-connected. I can’t remember where I read it, but I recently heard the argument being made that knowledge acquisition in the information age is like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. Information is the modern day calorie, we’ve gone from a deficit to an unprecedented surplice and without self-control we risk turning this positive development into the mental equivalent of the obesity epidemic.
Laptop computers and smartphones are the facilitators; how many of us sit on the bed in the evening tapping away at a laptop instead of talking with out other halves about the days events? How many of us during family dinners have our smart-phone out under the table making sure we’re up to date with events on the other side of the globe that have no impact on our lives what so ever whilst pretending to listen to what the kids are saying about school that day? I’ve done both on more occasions than I care to admit.
So now I’m going to look at the theft of my laptop as a positive. I’m not going to replace it, I’m going to use a desktop at work and I’m going to use a desktop at home. I’m going to turn off the 3G on my phone and if I can’t find the discipline to do that I’m going to get rid of it and buy one of these Nokia bad boys for $18 (http://www.iknow.com.kh/phone/product_sale.php?productid=2222&status=New).
We’re all agile here, we all know multi-tasking when working is bad. If I understand this why do I think that it’s okay to try and multi-task between human interactions in the physical world and human interactions in the digital world? From now on I’m going to try my hardest to exercise self-control when it comes to my connectivity and consumption of information.