Mr. Lucifer Subscribed to My Blog

Almost all of the blogs I referenced in Come Down and Play Around back in June went months without posting after we all published our thoughts about the old biblioblogosphere. It’s like we all went to our reunion, reminisced about the good old days, swore we’d meet up again, and then went back to our lives.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have a whole list of reasons why I stopped blogging for awhile, a combination of the usual junk that flows through my head at various points of the year and special circumstances that helped me suppress my desire to write. What occurred to me towards the end of 2018 was that this was a mistake: I need to write. I also need to relearn how to write.

I’m doing that a number of ways. I have a few different outlets set up: a Eurovision blog, a beer diary, some attempts at fiction in Google Docs that I treat like a morning jog, and of course, this site. As I wrote in my previous post, I have to figure out the story I want to tell here. What do I want to share about my job, my work habits, and my interests that aren’t related to Eurovision and beer? I don’t have answers just yet, but I’ll try not to make every post for the next two months about my search for a purpose. I may make beer recommendations, though.

I’m also trying to find different outlets (blogs, magazines, etc.) to expose me to new ideas and new ways to express myself. I tend to fall back on the same small group of resources. If I want to spread my wings to fly, I need to look beyond the ground in front of me to do so.

On that deep thought, let’s start a party in a schnapps distillery…

That’s How I Escaped My Certain Fate

Is January 17 way too late to make my New Year’s resolutions? I read a brief article in Fast Company recently titled, “Why you should start your New Year’s resolutions on March 4” that got me to thinking about how I approach things like, say, writing a personal blog.

The author Art Markman writes that a reason why many people fail to accomplish their resolutions is that they don’t put a plan into place to achieve them. He recommends spending the first couple months of the year making a plan, observing your habits, figuring out what will block you from succeeding, and finding people who can help you along the way.

(Yes, that’s a tl;dr version of an article with a two minute reading time.)

I won’t bore you with all of the bad habits I am resolving to change, but in context of my blog, my goals are as follows:

  • Figure out the story I want to tell with this blog.
  • Expand my reading and viewing horizons that will help inspire new posts.
  • Set and adhere to a writing schedule that is reasonable.

I don’t think that’s too tricky, but obviously I’ve made those goals before without success. Did I hold me back?

Where’d You Get Your Information From, Huh?

Back in April, I published a post detailing how I was using Google Tasks as part of my experiment to manage my work and personal projects. I lamented at the time (April 12, 2018) that there wasn’t a Tasks app. Seventeen days later, Google launched a Tasks app. It’s very simple and very straightforward, and it’s been very helpful.

While I am updating posts, I will mention that after writing that my place of work hadn’t approved Google Calendars, it has since approved Google Calendars. Now I can start begging for Tasks app approval.

Back In Another Shape

I’ve become fond of LinkedIn, mainly because of its newsfeed. A lot of news outlets and companies share updates from their sites, and LinkedIn has made an efforts to get “influencers” to post to their profiles. It’s not perfect (I follow Quartz, but never seem to see articles they post in my feed), but I find it an interesting, if eclectic information source.

Of course, a lot of business news outlets like Fast Company and The Muse often post articles about how to maximize your LinkedIn profile. It’s sort of like how Oscars voters like to give the Best Picture award to movies about Hollywood. Anyway, a lot of the tips are geared towards people who are looking to get hired or are trying to market themselves to their industry. Although I’m not looking for a job or trying to be an “influencer,” I like reading those suggestions to improve both the way I present myself and the way I share information on the site.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I am about to switch employers for the fourth time since I started my current job. I took the opportunity to change my LinkedIn profile to reflect both my steady job of seven years and nine months and my rotating cast of employers. I kept my job details in the main job description, then left the description fields blank for the contract staff companies. This way I don’t have to copy and paste my job description every time I switch companies. I am also able acknowledge my employers but connect my place of work to my profile, which makes it easier for my colleagues to find me.

To wit: I used the same format for my previous long-term contract position and within an hour, a former colleague of mine at NOAA reached out to connect. It makes a difference.

Come Down and Play Around

One of the best things about the old biblioblogosphere… a term I will continue to use even though, or especially because, it probably annoys people. See also: webinar.

Ahem.

One of the best things about the old biblioblogosphere was when one librarian wrote a post, then another librarian picked up on that post and expanded it, and then another librarian took the idea into another direction. It wasn’t that we all felt we needed to have our own take on a topic (although sometimes it could feel that way). We were just inspired by each other and that inspiration lead to an interesting kind of collaboration.

The rise of social media platforms changed the way we interacted with each other. In theory, social media made conversations more linear and compact, but in practice it took away from the way we expanded on and cultivated our thoughts through our blogs.

It made sense for us to set up shops in social media. In “Back to the Blog,” Dan Cohen writes, “Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that ‘others are here’—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.”

Meredith Farkas writes about what we gave up to join those centralized platforms in her post “We are atomized. We are monetized. We are ephemera. Do we deserve more online?

What was most frustrating about blogs was the distributed nature of the conversation, but moving to a centralized space destroyed the close sense of community, at least for me. In the move from blogs to the centralized ecosystem, what we gained in the ease of connection and the quantity of connections we lost in quality of those connections.

Kathryn Greenhill echoes the sentiment in “Ten years after Peak Biblioblogging.”

I think this move away from our self-hosted blogging platforms, as much as us all moving on to other responsibilities and interests, eroded that daily “I will post in my blog or comment on three others this morning because if I do then this great conversation and growth of knowledge and ideas will keep going.”

To be fair, we were able to create a vibrant community on particular social media services. Kathryn alludes to Meebo, which along with FriendFeed was part of the epicenter of that community. But that meant we ceded control of our conversations and our ideas to entities that would shut down our spaces as soon as it was no longer viable to keep them going. Moving to other social media platforms doesn’t really solve the problem. As Meredith puts it, “We’re also giving ourselves — or at least our digital representations and content — to companies that don’t protect us in any meaningful way (from others or themselves).”

Fiona Bradley expands on this in “What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts?”

I posted about some of the reasons why I restarted this blog a couple of months back (with a note about some life changes). A sense of ownership and control over my identity is among them. I had the opportunity to work on policy and advocacy around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) before leaving the UK, which made me keenly aware of the ways in which many companies did not give us choices about what they collect and how, until they were forced to.

Taking all that into consideration, I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that a lot of us almost simultaneously started to think about this topic and started to blog about it. To wit: Chad Boeninger notes that he began working on his post “Is this thing on?” before Meredith published her post.

Also, I spent four days trying to come up with a summary of what I am writing about here and Chad just nails it when he writes:

Possibly related to my recent interest in writing again is social media has got me down lately. There’s lots of sharing but not much caring.  I’ve always liked the sharing aspect of blogging.

So I am giddy that folks like Fiona, Tara Murray, and Morgan Wilson restarted their blogs this year after long hiatuses. “These days, a librarian type blog which is active and has posted within the last year or so is kind of special,” Morgan says in “Return of the Blog Roll.”

But I think the time is right for more library blogs to come back or start up. In “Library blogs reach mid-career,” Tara writes, “It seems many of us are about the same age and are struggling with the same kinds of issues.” A long Twitter thread or a detailed Facebook post just doesn’t seem to be the right place for us to work out those issues and “Like” buttons aren’t enough to fully express our solidarity.

Let’s Push Things Forward

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how I set up editorial calendars to manage my projects at work. I hummed along for a couple of weeks, as efficient as a bird building a nest. Then I went on a work trip, which disrupted my nascent routine. Then I got home from my work trip and…

So now I have a bunch of old tasks in a calendar I’m not looking at and a bunch of new ones scattered around my notebook, which is what I was trying to put a stop to when I started the whole exercise.

Deep breath, step back, start again.

In the meantime, I’ve finally given up my work BlackBerry for a work iPhone. I had plans to download all of the Google apps as I restarted my calendar project. Unfortunately, Google Calendar is not approved for use on department-issued iPhones.

Great.

So I’m in the process of moving the whole project over to Apple’s apps. It’s a work in progress right now, but it has given me an opportunity to rethink the process. There were two things that irked me a bit about using Google Tasks and Google Calendar. One, Tasks gave you the option to set due dates for tasks, but didn’t offer any sort of notifications. So a deadline could pass without warning. Even though it is on me to be checking my calendar, it would have been nice to get a heads up as the due date approached.

Two, if you set up multiple lists in Tasks and then checked them on Google Calendar, the tasks for each list only display on calendar when the list is active. So I can see items on my to do list on my calendar, but I can’t see items on my outstanding issues list unless I switched to that task list. It was a bit awkward.

So I will revisit this in a few weeks to see how I am doing. We have a work conference coming up at the end of the month and I want to make sure that I’m still keeping up my practice that week.

Strongest Signal That I’ve Seen

I’ve added a privacy policy page to my site. I am not going to pretend that I fully understand the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), mostly because I haven’t bothered to read it. Not to say I am completely oblivious: I’ve mostly read the emails I’ve received from every website I’ve ever submitted my email address to, which has been hilarious, especially when I got emails from websites I had forgotten about.

Technically speaking, the GDPR shouldn’t affect this site, but I made sure to include a privacy policy on our Eurovision blog, especially because we use Google Analytics and AdSense on our site. WordPress had provided a template, but to be frank, I found it a little bit too bloated for my liking.

Inspired by a tweet from Fiona Bradley, I wrote up a brief description of how our site uses cookies and what Google and Automattic (WordPress’ developer) does with them. I know I have a tendency to be verbose so I tried to keep it as simple as possible, then linked out to the Silicon Valley jargon repositories for more information.

That done, I could sit back and pop some popcorn to enjoy while reading about non-European websites caught off guard when the regulation went into effect on May 25.

You Wonder Where You Are

Why, hello there!

It’s taken me a while to get back into the swing of things since last I posted. I traveled to a workshop for work and then got home just in time for Eurovision to properly kick off.

My wife and I write a lot for our blog during the days leading up to Eurovision. I originally planned to keep writing for this website as well, but realized very quickly how unrealistic that idea was. I do not think about anything else but the Song Contest when I am not at work or child-rearing. And even child-rearing has become more about Eurovision now that our son is old enough to have strong opinions about it.

I had planned to write about my experiences at the workshop, but I am still trying to strike a balance between what I think is awesome or interesting or challenging about my job and what will be of interest to people who aren’t me. The workshop was a lot of fun, but so much of it is tied to minutiae related to my place of work that I struggle to make it broadly applicable.

This is part of the reason why I often find myself struggling to maintain a library science-related blog. I get stuck on trying to make my work experiences feel universal and then shut down when I can’t do it. So my task is to figure out how to get out neutral and move forward. It’s all apart of my broader need to get out of my own head, I guess.

Until then…

Blaze Ahead and Go Home Happy

In my last blog post, I wrote about experimenting with editorial calendars to manage my task lists. I’m not sure if what I’ve set up resembles a traditional editorial calendar, but it has been useful so far.

I’ve always kept to do lists, either on paper or using apps. My problem has been that I never differentiated between tasks, projects, and goals. I would jot down very specific tasks, like “follow-up with my supervisor about our draft guidelines document,” then mixed in broad items, like “redesign website.” My lists were a mess. Here’s what I’ve done so far to tackle the problem.

My office uses G Suite, so I started in Google Calendars with creating calendars for my four main, broad areas of work: applied technology, data management, information resources, and general office tasks. These calendars work with  my default appointments calendar and the Google Tasks calendar to give me a comprehensive, color-coded picture of what I have on my plate.

I like Google Tasks because I can mark emails in my Gmail inbox as tasks, then get them out of my inbox. (I do something similar with Outlook, because I have two work emails.) But there are a couple of drawbacks. There isn’t a Tasks app and the Tasks calendar doesn’t appear in the Google Calendars app. It is very much a desktop application. The workaround on a mobile device is going to https://mail.google.com/tasks/canvas in a browser. Also, unlike in Outlook’s task bar, there is not an option in Google Tasks to set alarms for tasks. I can set a due date, but I have to pay closer attention to my calendar to make sure I don’t miss the deadline.

Anyway, within Google Tasks, I created six task lists: four for my areas of work, then one called To Do List and one called OUTSTANDING ISSUES.

To Do List does what it says on the tin. I try to keep the list concise by recording one-time action items that I need to address, no matter what area of work they fall under.

OUTSTANDING ISSUES shows tasks that are in someone else’s court. It dawned on me when putting this together that I have a habit of marking things off my to do list without determining whether or not I would need to follow up. I had technically completed the task, but I still had more work to do. It’s a bad feeling when I realize I asked someone a question three weeks prior and never got a reply. Now I can keep track of what I need to follow up on.

The task lists for each area of work don’t serve as to do lists, but instead show my duties within those areas. For example, my Applied Technology list shows the main projects that I work on, such as advising on ILS and membership systems, administering tech surveys, and managing our LISTSERVs and Facebook group. I use the notes box in each task to list sub-duties if applicable, such as making sure the folks at LibraryThing and TinyCat still like us.

The notes field is turning into a bit of a bonus for me because I am using it to mark down recurring tasks. I am generally good about keeping tabs on things like running reports on the first of the month, but I have never written them down before. After getting them out of my head and into the notes, I can then add them as recurring appointments within respective area of work calendars. The coloring coding helps me keep track of what’s on tap each day.

That’s fine for now but what comes after? Well, I am sure I will be making adjustments as I go along as I come up with new ideas or better ways of noting things. Also, I need to stay disciplined because I know my history of starting and abandoning productivity systems.

The key thing is I am having a lot of fun working on this (and doing something similar with my home projects). If it’s fun, it won’t feel like a chore, right?

Now Get Busy

My wife and I write a blog about the Eurovision Song Contest called Eurovision Lemurs. We do a lot of writing this time of year as the participating countries select their entries.  We will stay busy until well after the last piece of confetti drops in the middle of May.

After the Song Contest ends, we usually end up going silent until the new season begins. This year, we set a goal to have one new post every two weeks from June through December. We have a few topics we have always wanted to write about, so summer and fall would be perfect times to tackle them if we just were a little more organized. And also didn’t suffer from post-Eurovison depression.

So we’ve set up an editorial calendar using Google Calendar. I’m going to use it for this blog as well, since I really want to make a proper go at it this time.

Even though the writing projects have nothing to do with my job, I also plan to take the editorial calendar mentality to the office. I have a Post-it easel pad in my cube on which I wrote down all of the major projects I have on my plate. It acts as a sort of to-do list, but it occurred to me recently that it is missing actionable deadlines.

I’ve read a bit about time blocking, and I do see the value in scheduling segments of the day to work on projects without distraction. But I never really got into the habit of doing it. Finding another angle to approach it may help. So let’s see if an editorial calendar works. More to come…