It’s not about easy; thoughts on a world without e-mail

I’ve been following Luis Suarez’ (@elsua) thoughts on a world without e-mail for quite a while now. His arguments have always made sense, and yet I’ve always had this nagging feeling of, “Yeah, but….”

Last week I had a chance to view/listen to a recent presentation Luis gave about making the jump from e-mail to social media tools, along with the mind map – no PowerPoint, either! – that goes with it, appropriately subtitled E-mail is where knowledge goes to die. I think I finally understand.

After listening to the presentation, and talking with some co-workers and others about it, one of the most common comments I heard was, “That sounds great, but it looks so hard. Why would I want to do make my life and my work harder?”

It was then that I realized that when most people who are tied to e-mail hear this argument about social media vs. e-mail, they apparently think that moving their work is supposed to make doing their job easier. But that’s not what it’s about at all.

Using social media isn’t about easy, it’s about better. More effective, more productive, less wasteful; however you define “better”.

In e-mail, there is no learning, no opportunity to learn.  In fact, e-mail practically screams “non-learning environment”. Despite what it is you are actually trying to accomplish in your work, you spend a good amount of time trying to stay out of “mail jail”. When someone new joins your team or your project, they will never catch up. How can they, when all the knowledge has died in e-mail archives that are “somewhere else”.

With social media, nearly every transaction is a learning opportunity. Sure you’ll spend as much time sorting through all your social media contacts and messages as you do processing e-mail. But with social media, you are forced to make sense of the information, all the while creating and sharing new knowledge about whatever it is you are working on.

Of course, if you don’t care about learning, about improving, about becoming more effective, then sticking with e-mail is fine.

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The evolution of a Mind Manager mind map – T&T parent’s guide

To help me plan out the direction and content for the Tramp and Tumble blog over the next couple of months I created a mind map to collect and sort the various topics that I want to discuss there. One of the things that I love about Mind Manager is that it has such a nice looking, and useful, final product that hides all the effort that actually goes into creating the map. After all, the “customer” doesn’t really want to see the sausage being made, do they?

Those who are familiar with mind maps know, though, that creating a good map takes a lot of work; planning, mapping, evaluation, re-arranging, etc. In many ways, this is no different than the process for any good writing: ideas, sketch outline, draft, revise, update outline, update draft, revise, etc.  For those less familiar with the process for mind maps, I thought I’d give a little insight into how the process works for me, at least in this case.

tnt-mind-map-notes

I’ve been accumulating the knowledge that went into this map for several years now, since Ian first started competing in 2005. My first step was to create a list of questions that many parents new to the sport have as they start.

(Side note:  Mind Manager does include a “brainstorming” mode, but I have to admit that for things like this I still prefer to use something a bit more “analog”, in this case my handy-dandy notebook and a set of Sharpie pens.)

The image to the right is a scan of my brainstorming list. I jotted down the main ideas, and sub-topics, as they occurred, going back later to mark them up with some ideas on what would make sense chronologically.

Having this list also gave me some ideas on how I could actually structure the topics in order to provide a somewhat consistent delivery of articles that make sense within a given time period; in this case, a week.

tnt-mind-map-draftThe next step was to convert these topics into a draft map. Again, Mind Manager provides excellent support for taking your brainstorming results and converting those into a draft map; again, I still prefer to do this part with good old pen and paper.

Pulling all of my topics and sub-topics together on this map further helped me find the ideas that should be kept together as part of a “weekly package”. The image on the left is (I’m sure you’ve figured out) my first draft.

From this draft I was able to easily create a map in Mind Manager, using the topics/subtopics in the draft as a guide. Once these were in Mind Manager, it was a simple matter to move the main ideas around to come up with the best organization and chronology. Here’s the final map, as posted on the Tramp and Tumble blog:

If you compare the two, you will see that there are many similarities but also some key differences. And just like any project, there are things from the initial idea that are not present and things in the final product that only showed up when the final draft was prepared.

Now all I have to do is fill in the details.

Does your blog’s “personality” reflect your personality?

Recently, Dave Snowden and Jack Vinson have both typealyzed their blogs:  Dave’s is ENTP and Jack’s is INTJ.  Since I’m not sure exactly how Typealyzer works, I wasn’t sure if I’ve got enough content here at this new blog (15 posts so far) to get a type, but figured it was worth a shot.  The verdict:  INTP – The Thinkers.

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Interestingly, maybe not surprisingly, this is typically what I get back after taking a personality type indicator test.

Being the curious person that I am, I also checked to see how other blogs I write (or have written) are typed:

No Straight Lines: INTJ – The Scientists
29 Marbles: INTP – The Thinkers
Tramp and Tumble: ISTP – The Mechanics
St. Louis Elite: ESTP – The Doers

The first two are, of course, my personal blogs that have since merged into the current blog, so it is no surprise – at least to me – that they turned out to be what they are.  I write it primarily for myself, so the topics are what interest me and the style is what I’m comfortable with.

The third, The Tramp and Tumble Blog, is a site I maintain to get information out to parents, athletes, and coaches in the sport of Trampoline and Tumbling.  The topics I choose are still somewhat based on what interests me, since I’m a parent of a T&T athlete, but the style of writing is based more on what I think the readers would appreciate than what I would like to see.

The last, the web site for the non-profit that supports St. Louis Elite Trampoline and Tumbling, is primarily targeted at outsiders to the sport of T&T and intended to get them excited about the sport and the team so that they will support the team financially or in some other way.  It’s nice to know that this site comes across as a “Doer – They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities”.

In general, I agree with Dave that one shouldn’t take these types too seriously and that they shouldn’t be used for “categorising people into little boxes”.  I do, however, think that these types of tools can help individuals gain some personal insight into their ‘natural’ tendencies.  It is obviously possible to overcome these tendencies when the situation demands it, if you simply use it for what it is – another tool in the toolbox.

My new “wastebook”

I use the 600 page Infinity Journal as my primary day-to-day wastebook, so I don’t have to start a new book very often, maybe once every 12 – 18 months depending on what’s going on.  On the other hand, my digital wastebook(s) never run out of “pages” so I could keep using the same one forever.  I’ve found, though, the just the act of changing is a worthwhile process in and of itself.  Thus, my new digital wastebook.

This new blog actually represents the retirement of my two longstanding personal blogs:  No Straight Lines, dating from June 2003, started out as a blog about Knowledge Management; and 29 Marbles, dating from March 2005, presented a dad’s-eye view of autism.  I’ve found over the years that my many interests overlap, sometimes significantly and sometimes tangentially.  I keep everything together in a single paper notebook, why not keep it all together in a single blog?

When I start a new notebook, I typically fill up the first few pages with copies of what I think is important enough to carry over from the old book.  I expect that this blog will be no different.  So if you see something you’ve seen before, please accept it for what it is.  And please excuse the construction mess as I play around with this great WordPress.  (What’s the point of starting over if you can’t play around with it a bit?!?)

The importance of rehearsal

I learned the importance of rehearsal while in the military: Plan an operation, try it out, refine the plan. Last night I mentioned to some friends how I use rehearsal in my day-to-day life: Preparing for a presentation, walking through the steps of a plan, practicing a process. Especially when it is something important.

In Not my fault Guv…, Dave Snowden highlights the value of rehearsal on a larger scale:

I find it difficult to believe (well maybe I don’t) that after producing a major engineering project on time and budget, a combination of BA and BAA could combine to mess up the opening day of Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Delays at the staff carpark are in part to blame! People failed to unload bags fast enough, the queues were too long. Hi guys, ever heard of rehearsal? Simulation software?

Of course, the really sad part is how poorly BA and BAA responded when everything went to hell. Which, of course, Dave discusses as well. Check it out.

Blogging from OneNote ’07

My notebooks are littered with scribbles and notes of ideas for blog posts. Unfortunately, many of these ideas have never made it off of paper. If only there were an easy way to post from my quickly written out ideas….

One of the things that caught my eye when going through the things OneNote 2007 can do was the Blog This option when you right-click a page. This page is meant to be a test of that functionality.

Because of the way OneNote handles text and images – basically, put it wherever you want it on the page, I’m curious how it will handle the different placement of elements when it converts to HTML. This paragraph that I’m currently writing is a separate element from the text above, placed below and a bit offset from the rest of the text. I captured the graphic using the windows+S key combination and dropped it in on the right side of the page.

Update from within Word 2007:

Once I clicked on Blog This, OneNote sent the page into Word ’07. I kind of expected this based on my previous experience with Word ’07 and blogging, but I was hoping that OneNote would simply use the account settings from Word. As you can see (well, I can see it since I know what the original looked like), Word has taken the free-flowing format of a OneNote page and converted it into a more structured document. The only change I made to the page (except for adding this description) was to adjust the text wrapping properties and location of the image.

From here the process is somewhat familiar, but I’m still going to have to do some tweaking once I get it up into WordPress. For example, you can Insert Category from within Word, but you can only select one category – Ctrl-click doesn’t work.

Update from within WordPress:

Once I got into WordPress, everything in the post looked fine. I added the categories I wanted this post filed under and it was ready to post.

A quick recap of the process:

  1. Put together a rough (or not so rough) draft in OneNote.
  2. When ready, right-click on the Blog This option
  3. In Word 2007, adjust the flow of the text and images as needed, then Publish as Draft.
  4. In WordPress, open the draft, modify the post properties (Categories, tags, timestamp, etc). Then Publish.

Which is what I’m going to do now.