The long dark tunnel

It probably should be the best time of year.  Trying new things, getting up and running for the year.

In fact, it’s not.  It’s largely firefighting, getting little things sorted in a less than decorous fashion, with the exception of Veronica’s project and Nicola’s Creative Thinking – it’s been a lot of business as usual.  And the LMS review.  I have done 12 sessions with staff in the last three weeks.

Do we do a Moodle trial?

This is the question – and the committee may be ready to make a decision on Wednesday.   I’ve compiled a document comparing Blackboad and Moodle, and Podcast as well.  My sessions were to elicit feedback on IF we have a trial and any comment on the PROCESS of a trial.

I’ve had a lot to do with Moodle in a short time.  I’ll need to do a silly little things easlity fixed with Moodle post soon.

Why did we choose Drupal??

Still tinkering with drupal for our UCTL.  Got a request for a revamp two weeks after we launched, and are now working on this.  Drupal is cool!!  But it is just a framework.  Needs a lot of fixing to get it anywhere – needed is a template install with some stuff done.  May be coming: Via Glen Davies:
www.techcrunch.com/2008/03/27/pirillo-starts-large-scale-community-cms-project/

In summary: Chris Pirillo (LockerGnome) wants to produce decent installs of Drupal for non geeks, out of the box functionality.  Not just a framework.

Having just been through a drupal install, some built in installs would be great.  There are several things I don’t really know much about in Chris’s talk. Chris is behind “activity streams”, a Drupal plugin. http://drupal.org/project/activitystream He is a little polemical and evangelistic in this video.

Getting things Done.  GTD.  My story continues . . .

I now do have a system where pretty well my whole life is in folders and lists.  Piece of cake.  It’s the psychic side that has been a problem.  Tim Barnes, an old friend from the 60′s visited from California and has talked about a Canadia consultant (whose name escapes me)who describes three types of days:

  1. Days where yooyu are really focused on your delivery of core business stuff.  You are on the top of your game.  You are delivering %110
  2. Day’s off.  Resting.  No work.  Re-creating.
  3. Days to make sure type I and II actually happen.

A simple little template, which has been quite helpful during the busy March that is just about to end.  My unit is less than a day.  But the principle applies.

E-mail worries.

I’ve tried the 43 Folders approach.  Didn’t work. Merlin has several buckets to toss e-mail into. I’ve checked a few of the variatins on this model, and until M$ outlook implements decent tagging, I’m sticking with three buckets.

  • In
  • Follow Up - no more than 30 e-mails, but it can drift up.  All the stuff Merlin has in Waiting for, Action, Follow up etc.  I have NOT been able to get hard edges, and rely on search in this folder . . .
  • Recent Past. A plie, that often includes “May need”  I sort these later into Monthly buckets.

I also have a ton of subject related folders.  These are growing at the rate of one a week.  I am cavalier with these.  I just chuck things into them as references I may use.  My mail is empty several times a week at the moment.   BUT:

Committee involvement

The wiki committee. The day I got a new wiki toy to play with with any classes I went to the University (Dekiwiki - but that is another story) I joined a committee to have it’s first meeting.  The purpose: To investigate whether we needed a centrally supported wiki.   We are doing the usual university thing: terms of reference, minutes . . . .  we are sort of using a wiki, but it is not available outside the firewall, and at the moment people are still using e-mail.

The LMS Review committee. We have a superb forum, notifications etc – but people are still using e-mail.  I am not actually on the committee (whew!!) but I am at their beck and call.  We are now playing e-mail non-collabnoration in the countdown to a decision on Wednesday.

Which brings me to my next matter.

Death to e-mail at work

Today I stumbed across the blog of Luis Suarez www.elsua.net/
One of the worst designed wordpress blogs I have ever seen (little things like Blue on blue side columns, no post summaries, Scores and scores of links and stuff that prints in a single column out if you print a page (No print CSS!!!), lousy search, but I digress – ) – this guy is onto something about e-mail.  It’s been hard to locate the posts in his latest theme, but there are several dating back over 7 week on a theme:  death to work e-mail.

(quote to come, I cannot locate on the site the first post . .)

Death to work e-mail: with one exception . . . (personal, private/sensitive e-mails from one person to you) The rest??  Put it in some decent social software tool.  Cool. Here are the posts: Week 1 (the announcement) | Week 3 | Week 6 | Week 7

As an aside, his comments about Twitter I will come back to later.

OK.  Enough for now.  Still to come.  Blogging and wiki policies.  TALO.  China.

7 comments for “The long dark tunnel

  1. April 1, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Re email, I also have folders for E01, E04, E07, and E10. These are abbreviations for “Expires in January”, “Expires in April”, “Expires in July”, and “Expires in October”.

    This allows me to bargain with the “Oh but I might need that email!” part of me. I’m a recovering packrat, and if I can’t bring myself to delete email upon reading them, but know I don’t want to keep them for years, I file them into these folders, and then on the correct months, delete everything in the folder.

    (P.S. I LOVE the “email me the comments to this post” option, but please consider coComment, too.)

  2. Chirnside Derek
    April 1, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Cool John!! I wonder if I am that organisable. My problem is that some e-mails fit into several categories . . . and I know I also am a pack rat.

    I was interested in your comments on Luis’s blog. He does have an interesting situation, some cool tools. I will await this Friday with interest to see how he is going.
    I cannot believe he scans 2500 posts a morning. :-) What is ‘scan’? @ 5seconds a post that is (umm) 2 hours – my browser is too slow for that!!

  3. April 1, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Derek! Thanks a lot for the good feedback, both on what I am trying to do with this experiment of fighting e-mail, as well as the candid input on the blog template I am using. I do hope that people don’t go to the blog or subscribe to it just because of how it looks like, because then we have got a problem, I can imagine. I am not Web designer, in fact, not technical at all, so your feedback is fantastic as it is giving me lots of good input to help fix each of those issues you mentioned above. So thanks a lot for that! It is greatly appreciated. (I will be passing your comments to the folks who developed it a while ago and see what they have got to say)

    w.r.t. the comments on the experiment of fighting work related e-mail, I see you have found the original blog post that got everything started. This particular search, www.elsua.net/?s=giving+up+on+e-mail, would allow you to keep up with future posts and also the ones I have shared thus far on the topic.

    The overall experiment is going rather well, as you may well have seen all along since I got started. In fact, in yesterday’s blog post you would be able to see a relevant business case that one of my readers put together on it on potential cost savings by simply walking away from e-mail. Worth while a read for those folks interested.

    RE: “I cannot believe he scans 2500 posts a morning. What is ‘scan’? @ 5seconds a post that is (umm) 2 hours – my browser is too slow for that!!” > I guess the time you spend at work processing your work related e-mail is the time I use to hang out in social software sites. My time on e-mail these days is very very minimal, perhaps not even an hour a day, since most of it is going elsewhere. So that helps me free up time to quickly scan, filter, select what I want to read and save for later time to link to it perhaps in future blog posts.

    Most feed readers, currently using Vienna on the Mac, are pretty fast at allowing you to do those quick scans to just retain what you need, and bookmark it elsewhere (In my case Ma.gnolia), and delete everything else you don’t need. Believe me, when you free up yourself from e-mail you will see how easy it is to catch up with those 2,500 items. Oh, and I know there are folks out there who get process nearly double the amount I mentioned in that entry! And still get the job done! The key? Building up and sticking with a routine that suits you. Mine is to walk e-mail. Not sure what yours is, but you may have something you would be already looking into, if not applying altogether!

    Oh, and I look forward to your take on that Twitter blog post I did last week :-)

    Thanks again!

  4. April 2, 2008 at 11:08 am

    @2: I had a problem re wanting to put emails in multiple folders too… but then I realized that I search for individual emails via an All Documents view anyway (if you use Outlook, you have to build a search for this instead. :-/ ); the only thing I use folders for is for review and I don’t need expirable emails for review anyway. Clutter removed! For me, the drawback was actually an advantage in disguise.

  5. Chirnside Derek
    April 9, 2008 at 3:43 am

    >Luis, Cool, good to see your latest update :-)
    Re Blog: OK, cool, I am not really tekky either, and I know this blog is not masterpiece, I’m just getting ready to upgrade to WP 2.5.
    Re scanning. I may ask some more about this – I actually did a count yesterday of how many things I touched on in one session with list e-mails, bloglines and following up on a few e-mails from friends, plus online news paper. it was much more than I thought.

    >John. Hmm. I have 40 plus folders like “Future Reference”, but I still have to use search, I enjoy the filing act, I’m pretty cavalier about it – maybe it is an illusion. But I do actually go back sometimes to get stuff. And I’m now down to three others: *Follow up, *recent past, *this year.
    But as I said, roll on tags!!
    I haven’t a clue what CoComment is, but I am sure I can fnd out . . . – Derek

  6. April 9, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Hi Derek! Thanks a lot for the follow up and for the kind comments. Like I said, not very technical myself, but working on some further improvements, including the same upgrade to 2.5, although perhaps I may wait for 2.5.1 or 2 to come along ;-) heh

    Appreciated the feedback on the latest blog post. It surely was rather encouraging to see how little by little, but steadily the conversations are shifting. And on the scanning, I agree with you. You would be amazed as to how much scanning and filtering we do to just get to digest what we need. Reason why I keep that count exact was part of an exercise I did with a fellow colleague where he believed he wasn’t getting too much stuff. In the end, we both counted our interactions from online interactions and he even had many more than myself! Fascinating, since he was able to manage it all quite all right, too! So I am not the only one trying to cope with it. I think it is crucial the kind of routine you build up, for sure. Perhaps I will detail some more of them as time goes by. We shall see.

    PS. Cocomment is a Web 2.0 app. that allows you and anyone else to track your online activity through a single Web site where all of your comments are stored and tagged. Pretty powerful and very helpful if you get to comment on people’s blog posts quite a bit. Hope that helps.

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