Another Scoop For

The San Jose Mercury News!

Telecommuters (in background from left) Carol Pogash, Don Wrege, Kirsten Alexander and Ste- phen Pizzo peer in at product manager Cherie Healey, left, and Managing Editor Jean Kiser at BroadVision Inc. in Los Altos.

By Mike Cassidy, San Jose Mercury News

STEPHEN is more fun than he looks on the Web. Kirsten is so quiet. Carol is like a mom. And Don, well, Don is like Don, but more so.

"I'm not wearing any underwear," he says minutes after meeting the other three. How's that for intimacy?

The four had been working closely together for almost three months. Nearly every day. But their work was on the Web and by email and telephone, and never before had all four stood in the same room. Yet here they were in a Los Altos conference room at BroadVision Inc., a company they all work for, but not at.

"You have a real radio voice," Carol says to Don, who also has a Hawaiian shirt and a ponytail hanging down his back. "Me? No, I was just up way too late."

Stephen Pizzo had come from Sebastopol; Kirsten Alexander from Cambridge, Mass.; Carol Pogash from Orinda; and Don Wrege from Boulder, Colo., to see who it was they had been arguing with, agreeing with, coming to like or not during the launch of a customized Web search service. This is the way it's going to be. More and more of us are working with people we never see, and more and more of us will be.

We can all list the bad and good in this. And maybe good--maybe not--it means that we can keep our distance at a time when the pace of change means the people we work with today may not be here tomorrow.

These four, who edit The Angle, all believe in the benefits of an online workplace. Wrege, the staunchest advocate for avoiding co-workers, says virtual offices are better. No one judges him on the hair, the shirt, the smirk.

But after the four exchanged pleasantries, held a quick staff meeting and enjoyed a picnic in the park, they were beginning to see there was something to this face-to-face stuff.

"There are signals or signs or blushes that don't come across over the phone or in e-mail," says Pogash, who's done online work for several companies, including the Mercury News.

Even Wrege, who did blush when introduced at the staff meeting, acknowledged he was glad to have met his co-workers, at least once. And his co-workers agreed it was nice to see him, even if he told them just a little more than they needed to know.

Used without permission--with any luck they'll sue and create more publicity.


Copyright ©1996 San Jose Mercury News, All Rights Reserved.