A phone conversation got me thinking about making this. Here’s my day on Wednesday:
Wake up. (To a playlist of amusing music via my alarm clock program, Aurora)
Read email, the various online fora I check daily, my daily round of web comics (because hey, starting the day with either interesting narrative or humor is never bad.) I plan for this to take me between 30 and 60 minutes most days, as it gives my brain time to wake up properly. Time variable, because it depends on what replies I write immediately.
Check my to do list in Things and figure out which things really need to get done today (and roughly what order). I do plan to talk more about how I use Things in the near future, once I finish the file management posts. I even have screenshots ready for it!
Spend some time answering emails about an upcoming community event, make a couple of quick changes to the event website. (This takes me about an hour, because it’s a bunch of emails and fiddly tasks.)
Respond to a couple of emails with possible referrals to potentially interesting jobs. Pause to read professional list mails that have come in in the last couple of hours. (about half an hour)
Write a draft for a cover letter for a job I’m interested in, and set it aside to let it gel a bit in my head. (about forty-five minutes)
Have an early lunch (while reading in front of the computer: joys of living alone.) While it’s cooking, do a bunch of housecleaning in between stirring. While eating, check Twitter, which I’m trying to get better about doing and my Google RSS feeds, including bookmarking several links for this week’s links post.
Come back to working on that letter, and get something I’m happy with, and send it off. (Takes me about an hour, including some more detailed reading about the school.)
Get a call from the programming chair for the event: he’s finalizing the schedule, and has some questions for me about details, since I’m the overall chair of the event and the hotel coordinator. (We’re using a really cool website, sched.org, which makes the schedule available online, on mobile devices, and in various other formats.)
Work on three more letters for other jobs I’m interested in, and send them out. (This takes me a substantial portion of the afternoon, but the letters are more straightforward than the earlier one.)
Settle in to read a book for a bit, while petting the cat. (She never minds this part.)
Have dinner. Watch the lighting of my computer screen slowly change – I’ve been playing with an add-on called f.lux which shifts from blue light (daytime light, inducing wakefulness) to warmer light (more like typical indoor lighting) on the theory that it’s less disruptive to sleep cycles. I’ve been using it for a few days, and it’s definitely easier for me to fall asleep more quickly (after some reading in bed time.)
I have mine adjusted to shift over the course of an hour, and currently shift from daytime to halogen, but I’m considering going all the way to halogen. (My actual lighting in my bedroom, where my laptop and I mostly hang out in the evenings is usually a single lamp with frosted glass and a CFL bulb.)
Write the previous blog post here, on naming conventions and things to think about.
Have a bath. I believe in baths, because it is hard to read books in the shower. In this case, I take time to finish a nice light reading book so it can go back to the library in the morning.
Pull a number of library books together on their appointed shelf, so I can easily drop them in my library bag and take them tomorrow while I’m doing other errands.
Get a phone call from a friend and a friend of hers, asking for help setting up a Dreamwidth account with icons and some other details. I get to do something I dearly love, which is explain technology to someone who is not entirely sure about it, and do so in a way that makes sense to her.
Yay! I get called a goddess for it, which never hurts. (There is a reason my personal business card now includes the line “speaker to technology” on it. As well as “librarian, process geek, infovore”.)
Figure out what I want to have with me tomorrow as I both want to get out of the house for a bit for a change of pace and do various errands. Locations likely include
- Coffee shop (where I will find wi-fi, outlets, and a nice range of drink options)
- Laundromat (wi-fi, tables, and sensibly placed outlets) I’m taking advantage of a thaw to do a big batch of comforter/pillows/other such things that are a pain to haul into the car in Minnesota winter temperatures (and icy pavement), hence the laundromat stop.
- Library (wi fi, but really, just there to grab holds and drop off returns because there isn’t much nearby parking, and I always feel sort of guilty taking a space for long.) 
- YWCA (no wi fi, but I’m going to be in the pool, so don’t need it).
Three years ago, this amount of wi fi – not so much. How quickly life changes. (And that means that I can do meaningful, useful, productive stuff at any of those first three places, rather than at home, if I feel like it. Which, tomorrow, I do.)
Wrap things up, grab a last drink of water, do various other useful ‘time for bed’ type things, and prepare to curl up with book and cat for a bit before going to sleep, at about 9:30pm.
Things I did not do on Wednesday that I wish I had: It was really nice out, and I wanted to go for a walk, but extra housecleaning won. I was also hoping for some time to work on a personal project or two, but I can bring them with me tomorrow. Also, I have an iPod touch, but did not actually use it today. (It got a good workout on Tuesday going grocery shopping with me, though.)
[footnote 1] Also, if I am in my public library branch for more than about 5 minutes, and not obviously wearing an outdoor coat, I tend to get asked if I’m a librarian.
To which the answer is “Yes, but not here…” and depending on what they need, either helping them (if it’s something simple like using the catalog or a self-check-out) or pointing them at the information desk. I don’t mind doing it, but it always feels a little weird, even if I am clearly giving off “Librarian with something of a clue” vibes.
I got to thinking recently that there are a whole lot of information literacy skills we’re really not teaching at the moment – many of which are actually quite useful (or potentially so.)
[edited to add: I did get a question about ‘we’ in the above, so it’s probably worth noting here that when I write on this blog, I’m writing from the general perspective of a librarian with strong experience in the secondary school setting, and a general background in formal educational settings (high school, college). I certainly know individuals who are teaching some or all of the things I talk about below, but I know of very few where all of these things are clearly a part of the structured learning expectations, or taught/discussed in any sort of clear way (maybe beyond a few minutes of “Remember to back up your files” kinds of things.
Also, because I’ve had about three people go “I wish someone would talk about that” I’m going to make it a priority to write up some of how I do these things (and why I do them that way) in the near future.]
Tagging and other folksonomy issues:
Tagging is a lovely thing – being able to put labels on things, so you can find them again later. However, it’s also painfully easy for a tagging system to get unwieldy, especially after a year or two. What would happen if we talked about the process of creating a system (figuring out which tags are likely to be useful to you later), and also about maintaining a system (reviewing it every so often to make sure it’s still working well.) Plus, things like how they work on different systems: tagging someone on Facebook, for example, has different implications than tagging a particular book on LibraryThing.
I don’t know about you, but how I manage my files continues to change and grow. I’m still prone to organizing things in folders, and to creating quick links (via aliases, my dock, and other options) to the files I use most frequently. But at the same time, I also know that there’s some powerful search tools built into my computer these days (that weren’t there in the dawn of time, when I started using an Apple IIc, way back when.)
Searching is great, but like all searches, it involves some knowing what you’re looking for (for example, when the file was last edited, the name, a reasonably unique search term.) If I search on my computer for files containing the word ‘librarian’ or ‘book’ or ‘writing’ for example, I get hundreds, sometimes thousands of files, so I have to pick different terms. There’s also the question of maintaining different versions of files, and keeping them straight. And when we start sharing files – either by emailing an attachment, uploading to a central server (or something like GoogleDocs), it gets even more important to pick meaningful file names.
There are all sorts of techniques for these – but I know a lot of people don’t really know about them. We should change that, somehow.
Making thoughtful choices about time:
One of the real challenges of the online age is .. well, there’s so much to do. It’s so easy to get distracted by some interesting link, and lose track of time. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can build the pattern of self-awareness into more of our online interactions, but I think talking about it is a good start. Where do we spend time online? Why?
Doing something because it’s fun is often fine, but sometimes we stay in online spaces that are no longer fun, because we’ve got the habit. What happens when we change that? All these questions – and many more – are conversations I very much want to see in broader conversation, not just with current students, but with everyone. (And it’s in my list of topics to blog more about here…)
One thing I kept pointing out in discussions about the 1:1 laptop initiative at the previous job was something that seems like a small change, but can be huge. What happens when every student in the class has reliable access to class resources? When a teacher could, say, create a calendar with deadlines and reminders, and have every student sync to it, so they’d know about deadlines or other details?
We’ve taught students about analog calendars for years – but what happens when students can tap into the wide range of productivity and task management tools out there, and use them to manage their assignments? Not only will they be better off now (and hopefully, a bit less stressed), but they’ll be learning great skills for the future. (Even though the tools will certainly change, the basic process of getting used to entering it somewhere, managing lists of tasks, etc. will probably still be there.)
(There will be a return of the links posts on Friday: over the holidays, I was getting many fewer links I really wanted to share, but I’ve got a nice collection again.)
danah boyd had an interesting post earlier this week on a different side of the question of online identity: do your name your child something that’s uniquely identifying (meaning they have to learn about managing their online identity very early), or something more common (where there could be a number of people with that name.)
As someone whose first name – Jennifer – was the most popular name for girls in the entire decade I was born, but whose last name is a lot less common, at least in the US, I sort of split the difference. But it did mean I started using other user names in places where I didn’t necessarily want to use my last name pretty early on, because knowing my first name and last name and general area of the country was, for about a decade, a pretty easy way to dig up my address.
Not So Distant Future has a great post about who we should be including in the conversation when we talk about education – more specifically, a letter to NBC about not having included actual teachers in their upcoming series.
The copy this blog has a post on some common myths and misperceptions about copyright - fairly complex ones. The link in the first paragraph to a previous post on a similar topic is also well worth reading.
I’ve been fascinated by web usability for a long time, and there’s a recent new detailed post about why some of the things that have been common wisdom in usability may be changing (or not true in the first place). With links to data and studies and other useful things of that kind. It gave me a kick to go plan the redesign of a site I maintain for a community education organisation for better usability. Jessamyn, who linked to this post as well, also has a recommendation for a document from Usability.gov .
(I missed last week’s both because a bunch of travel for a job interview threw my schedule off, and because I’ve been in the midst of the Real Name posts.)
Related to the link a few weeks ago about how browsing the stacks is dated, here’s a very nice counter example from Barbara Fister on Library Journal Online who makes a case for mindful browsing as peer-to-peer review.
If you’re like me (and many of my generation) who learned a whole lot from Our Bodies, Ourselves, you might, like me, be delighted to discover that the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective has a blog. Recent posts include information about a revised scale for maximum heart rate for women, and about proposed changes to visiting rules in hospitals (especially of interest LGBTQ folks, but of use to many others as well.) That post includes the links on how to make comments on the formal proposal and other good things.
A discussion on Metafilter about bookless libraries. It’s rather more anti-library than might be productive, but I think it’s also useful to be reminded that different libraries serve different purposes. (I particularly like Hildegarde’s comments, in terms of explaining that.)
For people unfamiliar with libaries, donations not only require time to decide if they’re appropriate additions, but they also require staff time and resources to process – cataloging, labeling, property stamping, adding a protective cover, and so on and so forth. The library I previously worked at, this comes out to a dollar or two of supplies, and probably 10-15 minutes of someone’s time per book: it doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up fast when you’re talking more than a handful of books. (And when that someone has a bunch of other stuff that they also need to do…)
And a great slideshow from a researcher at Google (Paul Adams) talking about the challenges of social networks in terms of how we actually form and have relationships with people. Great stuff.
And finally, Blizzard has announced that they’re retracting their decision to require real names on forum posts: much more information on the WoW forums. (I still plan to continue with the Real Name series, don’t worry, because we all know this is going to come up again.)
I’ve been thinking, this morning, about a post I just read from Scott McLeod, called “Can you ever really know that edublogger beside you?” He makes the excellent point that while we can get to know someone online, we don’t know all of them – or their actions.
I’ve heard this conversation go round hundreds of times in the fifteen years I’ve been active in conversations online – first on Usenet and email lists and my college forum system, later on Yahoo lists, on web fora, on LiveJournal, on MUCKs and MUSHes and conversations about MMORPGs. And they’ve all got a seed of truth.
But this particular argument is also missing something.
We all talk about our lives differently in different spaces. At work, we focus on some things, and gloss over others. With friends, we’ll pick different topics. At a gathering of fellow fans – like the one I’m at this weekend – the topics are again, different.
It’s certainly something that can be abused – people can lie, leave things out, or even lie to themselves. But far more often, it’s simply that we’re seeing a piece of what’s going on, not the full picture. As long as we remember that – and as long as we’re aware of how what we put out there shows a slice of ourselves and our actions – we should be just fine.
So, here’s my guidelines for myself, when it comes to online interaction:
1) I make decisions about trust in the realms I have data for.
Online, there are certain things someone might demonstrate. They might show me they’re articulate (in writing), that they think about and respond to criticism or questions in a productive way, that they have a knack for pulling together different pieces of information in a fascinating way. I may take their suggestion of another blogger to read, or a particular approach to a problem they’ve got a lot of described experience with seriously.
For everything else – all the things I don’t see – there’s a neutral zone. I don’t trust it, but I don’t distrust it, either. I treat it the same way I do a piece of information in Wikipedia: possibly useful, but if I’m going to rely on it for anything other than amusement or transient conversation, I should probably check it out more first.
2) I have realistic expectations.
I’m generally very willing (time and energy allowing) to meet people in person I first got to know online (and I’ve had some amazing friendships and interactions come out of it.) But I’m also realistic: I don’t expect that a meeting for dinner means we’re going to be Best Friends Forever. Mostly, I expect we’ll have an interesting conversation over a nice meal, and both go away with new things to think about.
I expect that there are things that might surprise me. I make sure I can take care of my own basic well-being without relying on them. And I usually come prepared with some stuff I’m pretty sure we’ll mutually enjoy. Most importantly, I assume that we’ll have a pleasant time, but that it probably won’t be one of the earth-shatteringly amazing days of my existence. (It might be, but assuming it will be just leads to disappointment!)
3) Sharing is likely to be unequal.
Online, it’s very easy for the information sharing to be quite uneven. Imagine a prolific blogger: over the course of six months, they might share a fair bit of information about themselves in whatever they’re talking about. Their reader may come to feel they know a fair bit about the blogger.
And yet, even if those readers reply, the amount *they* share may be far less in quantity than the blogger shares. Or it may be in totally different areas of interest. This isn’t bad or wrong – but it does mean that both parties should be aware of what they do and don’t know about each other, and plan accordingly.
4) People can’t see things about me that seem obvious from inside my own head.
I pay attention, when talking to people online, and especially if a meeting is coming up, to what I tend not to talk about.
Here’s a rather odd one: I’m a librarian, and I’m a voracious reader, but I have a long history of not talking about all of what I read – a side effect of having gotten very self-conscious of how fast and how varied my reading was back in elementary school. I’ve been working up to doing better with that (hence the GoodReads widget in my sidebar here), but even that isn’t everything. (For example, I don’t plan to list books I read to deepen my religious understanding there, unless they’re also of wide general interest.)
And so, I also pay some attention to what people don’t say in their own comments, and whether that’s relevant to the ways I know them. If someone keeps a very focused blog, that’s one thing – but if someone wanders over a range of topics, but persistently leaves some out, it’s sometimes worth a little attention if I’m going to meet them face to face.
Being aware of these things means that when they come up face-to-face – as they often do, because some conversations can be much more comfortable with a few people in person than with lots of people in online public space – I can structure what I say better. And I can remember to ask them questions when it’s relevant, about the stuff they don’t talk much about.
These four guidelines have meant that almost all of my face-to-face meetings with people I know via online settings have been good fun, interesting, and overall enjoyable. I’ve had a handful where we didn’t click (but nothing worse than that), and hundreds, now, of occasions where we became closer, had more to talk about, or deeply enjoyed each other’s company.
(Right now, I am sitting on a hotel couch with a friend I met online. Yesterday, I picked her up from the airport, and we have had lunch with others, and an outing, and coffee this morning, and we are currently sitting on a couch with our computers in hand waiting for more People From The Internet to show up.)