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Workplace Experiments

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Web application design firm 37signals is spending 2008 running workplace experiments in an attempt to make their office "one of the best places in the world to work, learn, and generally be happy." Their first experiment:

Shorter work weeks

Last summer we experimented with 4-day work weeks. People should enjoy the weather in the summer. We found that just about the same amount of work gets done in four days vs. five days.

So if that's the case we could either push everyone to work harder during those five days or we could just skip one of those days. We decided to skip one of those days.

So recently we've instituted a four-day work week as standard. We take Fridays off. We're around for emergencies, and we still do customer service/support on Fridays, but other than that work is not required on Fridays.

Three-day weekends mean people come back extra refreshed on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people come back happier on Monday. Three-day weekends mean people actually work harder and more efficiently during the four-day work week.

In addition, they've tried "funding people's passions" by playing for employees' personal hobbies (the example they give is funding flying lessons), as well as "discretionary spending accounts" -- credit cards that are at the employees' discretion to use for books, software, conferences, or whatever they think is important. As they say, "We'd rather trust people to make reasonable spending decisions than assume people will abuse the privilege by default." What an enlightened idea.

So here's the question: what's the best thing about your workplace? Have you tried shorter work-weeks, or other experiments in your workplace? And if you can't think of anything good, check out our previous coverage of Crappy work incentives, Stealing from your office, and Your worst jobs.

(Via Kottke.org.)

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Space
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
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Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

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Art
Cephalopod Fossil Sketch in Australia Can Be Seen From Space

Australia is home to some of the most singular creatures alive today, but a new piece of outdoor art pays homage to an organism that last inhabited the continent 65 million years ago. As the Townsville Bulletin reports, an etching of a prehistoric ammonite has appeared in a barren field in Queensland.

Ammonites are the ancestors of the cephalopods that currently populate the world’s oceans. They had sharp beaks, dexterous tentacles, and spiraling shells that could grow more than 3 feet in diameter. The inland sea where the ammonites once thrived has since dried up, leaving only fossils as evidence of their existence. The newly plowed dirt mural acts as a larger-than-life reminder of the ancient animals.

To make a drawing big enough to be seen from space, mathematician David Kennedy plotted the image into a path consisting of more than 600 “way points.” Then, using a former War World II airfield as his canvas, the property’s owner Rob Ievers plowed the massive 1230-foot-by-820-foot artwork into the ground with his tractor.

The project was funded by Soil Science Australia, an organization that uses soil art to raise awareness of the importance of farming. The sketch doubles as a paleotourist attraction for the local area, which is home to Australia's "dinosaur trail" of museums and other fossil-related attractions. But to see the craftsmanship in all its glory, visitors will need to find a way to view it from above.

[h/t Townsville Bulletin]

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