May 30, 2006

Networking with Moleskines

May 30, 2006 - Categories: connecting

I'm somewhat notorious for writing notes during conversations. I keep 'minutes' in a little black book that I always carry with me. I can't help it! I love learning from people, and I don't trust my memory. I want to be able to get back in touch with people so that I can continue interesting conversations, and I want to be able to introduce people to other interesting people so that I can listen in on _their_ conversations and learn even more. =)

My Moleskine notebook is the perfect size for my conversation notes. The back flap is great for storing business cards and index cards. I've numbered every other page, which makes it easy to keep an index at the back of page numbers and contents. This was really handy when I used my Moleskine to keep lists of random things. Now that I'm using it for more chronological notes, I don't need to update the index that often.

I start the day by writing the date. Throughout the day, I scribble down names of people I talked to and what I talked to them about. If I need to follow up with someone, I add a star and a note about what to say. Action items also get stars - anything I need to do or write. =)

I love having a record of the conversations I've had and the people I've met. I hate just having names and contact information in my address book. I'd rather have stories and vivid memories of people! This also forces me to listen better and interact more deeply with people, because I have to be able to write down at least one interesting thing about them. =)

This also allows me to keep a richer history of the people I've met. I used to keep detailed notes on the people I met through e-mail and IRC, writing down little tidbits that showed up on my screen whenever they e-mailed me or chatted with me. For example, one of my entries starts: "Left-handed, red-headed, uses a kinesis keyboard with a Dvorak layout, into unicycles..." Bringing my computer out and adding notes to people's records while I'm talking to them is really awkward, though. (Believe me, I've tried!) I write notes in my Moleskine instead, adding them to my computer when I get the chance.

I can add hyperlinks on paper by flipping back to the last time I mentioned a person, adding an arrow and a note to the current page, and doing the same to link the current entry back to the previous one. For example, when I met Himy at the Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington Market, I knew that I had written his e-mail address down before, and I trusted that my Moleskine would have it. That allowed me to focus on our conversation and scribble down things like "giant outstallation art" and "Toronto psychogeography".

When I reviewed my notes, I linked the entries together. I met him at the Mesh afterparty, and it was easy to go back and find his e-mail address (on page 93!). I then added a forward-link to p118 and a backward-link from p118 to p93, remembering in the process more details of our previous conversation. Then I added the data to my contacts. (Still not complete, but growing bit by bit...)

Good stuff. Very good stuff.

Next step: I'm planning to make a cover for my Moleskine so that I can keep my fountain pen with it all the time. That way, I'll always know where both of them are. I might also keep a tiny, cheap mechanical pencil with my Moleskine so that I can sketch things. I can also lend the pencil to people who need something for writing.

Once I finish this notebook (only 68 pages to go!), I'll try using one of the thinner notebooks with detachable pages. That would be more elegant than carrying around a lot of index cards. I've gotten used to being able to just strap random stuff into the notebook, though, so we'll see how that works out. Or maybe I should just print more business cards and put a lot in the back pocket of my notebook...

I'm still figuring out a good way to make incomplete followups jump out at me. If I was more diligent about margins, I could use circles in the left margin to indicate the need for a followup. I could then shade the circle when I've followed up with that person.

This is also great when I'm doing something like Greg Narain's Stranger-a-Day project. I still haven't quite gotten the courage to approach random people and say hi to them, but I'm working my way up from being able to converse with practically anyone. =) I'll get there soon!

I'm still bad at following up with people immediately after events. I need to put aside more time after get-togethers to do that.

I'd love to have a Blackberry so that I can ping people while walking on my way to class or taking the train to work. Nothing really major, just quick thinking-of-you things. As small as my laptop is, it's just not as convenient as my Moleskine or my cellphone, and wireless internet isn't available everywhere. But I can't send e-mail from my cellphone, much less my Moleskine. Oh well. I'd like to plan a career that'll make something like that cost-effective. =)

Would a PDA be better for this kind of notetaking? I like not having to look at the paper while I'm writing. I can usually read my handwriting afterwards. I can use digital ink, I guess, but it doesn't quite feel the same. Besides, my fountain pen gets oohs and aahs. ;) (Yes, I'm silly!) Sure, I have to copy information out again, but that reinforces the links. (And I don't have to worry about battery life...)

Still, I'll try firing up my iPaq again and seeing if that works for me. Could it be any better than my beloved Moleskine, my little black book? =) I want to meet more people and learn more things and make more connections between others. My Moleskine's a terrific tool for the job, and I love how it feels, too: cream paper, red-black ink... It makes me happy, and it makes getting to know people so much fun. =)


Said Bill of Praxis 101:

Sacha, found your nice little post on Moleskine practice via Stowe Boyd.

I use many of the same practices, but I really like your idea for linking. I've done it in a more haphazard way.

Re action items: my practice is to mark actions with an underscore before them. Like this:

_____ Do this

Then I just put an "X" in the box when it's done, or a check mark if partly done. And I cross it out completely when I choose to not do it.

I also carry blank index cards with me at all times. Sometimes these end up being copied or pasted into my notebook.

I'm not worried about the indexing problem, but I have lost track of a few references and good ideas.

Thanks again for the practice description.



Said Jason Evans:

I think you will be disappointed if you try to use an electronic notetaking method over paper. You really already made the argument against the switch yourself. Paper and pen are less distracting, never run out of power, and simpler to use for notes like you are trying to do. You want the flexibility to jot a networking note anywhere, anytime, very quickly at the time it is in your brain. I've been through various handheld computers trying to do what you're describing, and I was surprised how much I fell in love with my Hispter PDA that I made from a stack of notecards. I've since converted my Hipster cards into pages in my Moleskine pocket edition and it goes with me everywhere. For someone like you, your Moleskine won't be the only place you keep your ideas and you'll often need other resources to take action (like sending and email), but the ease of use of paper and a nice pen (mine's a Fischer Bullet Space Pen) means you're more likely to capture the idea/conversation/contact in the first place. Like you said, copying it to another resource (an online to do list, an email server, etc.) reinforces the item in your head and can be done when you have more time. Use your iPaq for databases (I'm a physician and I keep a medication database on my Palm that is updated via the Web when I HotSync), highly detailed contact info, and maybe your calendar. Program your email address into your cell phone and send yourself short SMS reminders about other emails ("lynn meeting" to remind yourself to email lynn about that meeting you wanted to schedule the next time you sit in front of your email). Keep the Moleskine.

Welcome to the folks! By the way, I'm into social computing (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, etc.) and I want to learn more about technology evangelism. Check out my about:me. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫が部屋から飛び出した。 A cat dashed out of the room. Neko ga heya kara tobidashita.

More thoughts on Barcamp, no answers

May 30, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, philippines, purpose, sad

Dominique helpfully offered suggestions on adapting BarCamp to the Philippines. He said that it was doable, but challenging. He asked me the top five people I'd like to be there. He suggested having interdisciplinary talks by invited speakers on entrepreneurship, physics, biology, etc. Many of the Linux geeks who regularly speak at events would no doubt turn up, too.

I had such a strong reaction against his ideas that I had to stop myself from being frustrated. I recognized that I felt he didn't understand what unconferences were about. I also recognized that I couldn't yet articulate the differences between unconferences and conferences in a way that would make the changes and benefits clear. I was frustrated, yes, but I was frustrated with myself for being unable to figure out how to hack unconferences into Filipino culture without turning the event into yet another thing that divides speakers from audience instead of creating a community of participants.

I knew Dominique wanted to help me think things through, but the strength and irrationality of my reaction made me realize that I needed to first think things over with people who know the unconference culture and who may have insights into helping a new community adapt.

I need more insight from people like Chris Messina and David Crow. How does one hack unconferences into a society's culture? How can I help people go from a strongly hierarchical culture to a flatter one? Must ask Don Marti, too...

I don't have answers. I don't even know where to start. One good thing is that I can recognize when I'm hitting a wall, though. When I heard Dominique repeat his suggestion for inviting talks from outside disciplines and I knew I just couldn't listen well enough to do him credit, I thanked Dominique for sharing his thoughts and confessed my inability to discuss things further at this time. I need to talk to the others first. I need to figure things out.

You know, it's just _so_ tempting to not think about how to hack something like unconferences into Philippine society. It would be so easy to just enjoy the fruits of other people's labor in a tech culture that's starting to take off. But I want to bring these ideas home...

And you know what? Maybe I don't need to figure out how to get people out of their chairs and into the conversation. Maybe I can focus on just meeting the Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, the connectors who are reaching out to me and to each other. I'd like to meet them in person and get them to talk to each other. Maybe I don't have to think about doing that this August. Maybe I can do that this December, if I can afford to go home.

I don't feel bad about being asked tough questions. I feel bad about not knowing the answers and not even being able to explain why something doesn't feel right. I just need to talk to more people and try more things in order to figure out what to do.

And I seriously need hot chocolate and a hug, but that's just because I'm feeling all lost again... I'll try to postpone thinking about it until Friday, as I'm booked until then.

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Random Japanese sentence: うちの猫って甘えん坊で、どこでも私のあと着いて来るのよね。 My cat is such a baby, she follows me around wherever I go.

More thoughts on Barcamp II

May 30, 2006 - Categories: barcamp
I personally am not tired of conferences. I am just tired of tired conferences. Particularly the ones with the same group of twenty talking heads saying the same twenty things. - Stowe Boyd

I know public speaking scares the heck out of most people, but maybe we can get more people into the conversation...

I remember facing two hundred people at one of the PLUG technical sessions, all quiet as a mouse. I remember feeling _really_ frustrated by the notion that they might just be there to listen to people talk (possibly over their heads, eh?), get their certificate and go on with their lives. Or maybe they were just thinking about lunch. Ah, well.

I want small groups, so no one can hide in the anonymity of crowds. ;) I'm tired of audiences. I want participants. I don't want to hear presentations. I want to be part of conversations.

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫はネズミを追いかけた。 The cat ran after the rat.

Blogging is vanity

May 30, 2006 - Categories: blogging, ibm

Congratulations to Stephen Perelgut for making it to the #1 most-commented blog entry in IBM and #4 hottest blog! Heh. Blogging as ego-stroking. ;) It was an interesting blog entry, though, and I'm glad he sparked such a conversation. Hooray for blogs!

I usually hover about #3 on hottest blogs within IBM. Stephen thinks it's because my blog title is "geek - girl - dogear dogmatist," and the combination of "geek" and "girl" makes most people click. ;)

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Random Japanese sentence: 太った白い猫が塀に座って、眠そうな目で二人を見ていました。 A fat white cat sat on a wall and watched them with sleepy eyes.

fMRI study

May 30, 2006 - Categories: geek

I'm at the Sunnybrook Hospital waiting for the researchers to do an fRMI scan of my brain. One of the researchers - Magda - has promised to e-mail me a JPEG of the structural analysis, and I might hike over to Hasher Lab to get the time series data as well. =)

It's good to know that the fMRI console is a Unix box. I can recognize the fvwm window manager anywhere. ;) Besides, the tech knows at least a little about Unix. I saw some command-line use over there, and I think he was using vi too...

Random Japanese sentence: その猫はミルクを飲む。 The cat drinks milk.


May 30, 2006 - Categories: ibm, research

I was panicking all morning because I didn't have the teleconference details for something at noon, but fortunately I remembered that I could e-mail a friend in IBM and ask him to send a message to the teleconference organizer. I then used Skype to call in for free. Hooray for Skype! Voice quality is a bit variable, but it does the job, and it's saved me from getting another phone line...

I'm so excited about the tagging panel. It looks like such an interesting lineup!

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Random Japanese sentence: 飼い猫の毛のつやが悪くなった。 Our cat's fur has lost its luster.

fMRI scan

May 30, 2006 - Categories: geek

I signed up for a research study that needed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans of evening-type right-handed people. They promised to send me some images, and I thought that would be _so_ bloggable. <laugh> I'll post them when I get them.

I needed to make sure I wasn't wearing anything with any metal, so I wore a red velvet turtleneck and the red Thai pants, and I took off my earrings before the scan.

I kept dozing off during the test, though. Repetitive task, horizontal position, not much sensory input... Meep! And to think they considered 5:00 to be among the peak work hours for evening types...

I hope I haven't screwed up their data too much. =)

Random Japanese sentence: すると、少し先に、またもう一匹、ふわふわした灰色のねこがめにつきました。そしてこれも前の二匹と全く同じくらいかわいいのです。 But then he saw a fuzzy gray cat over here which was every bit as pretty as the others, so he took it too. Suru to, sukoshi saki ni, mata mou ippiki, fuwafuwashita(!!) haiiro no neko ga me ni tsukimashita. Soshite kore mo mae no nihiki to mattaku onaji kurai kawaii no desu.


May 30, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

It was 37'C (hooray!), so I took the streetcar instead of the bus. A stranger complimented me on my outfit. Eduardo moved here from Mexico last August and also finds summer thrilling, particularly after that winter.

What do you know, I _am_ getting the hang of weather as small talk... =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 「それがいい」おじいさんは言いってねこたちに聞きました。「おまえ達の中で誰が一番きれいなねこだね?」 "Oh yes," said the very old man, and he called to the cats, "Which one of you is the prettiest?"


May 30, 2006 - Categories: toastmasters

I made it just in time to catch the Table Topics session at Toast I.T. Toastmasters. I nearly would've won with my impromptu speech about Japan, but Mike Tsang's jokes/insightful observations about India ("Chinese food in India is the same as what they serve in Indian restaurants in China.") won him the best Table Topics Award. =) I was glad that he came out!

Michael Chan gave a speech on first impressions. I talked to him afterwards to give him a more detailed evaluation and do the proper mentor-ish thing of telling him some of the things I learned from that speech, and we discovered that we had very similar book interests. He's also read things like "Never Eat Alone" and "Love is the Killer App". In fact, he goes to the trouble of publishing book reviews on Amazon. Must keep track of this guy. =)

I was proud of Chris Charabaruk, too, who stepped up and volunteered to evaluate Michael on his second speech despite just having finished his second speech as well. I talked to Chris afterwards to give him some feedback on his evaluation, too. I'm glad they're both making the most of the Toastmasters program!

We had our club elections today, too. I got acclaimed to the position of VP Ed, and I'm looking forward to helping everyone learn as much as they can... =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 犬が1匹、猫が1匹、カナリヤが3羽います。 We have a dog, a cat and three canaries.

DemoCamp afterparty

May 30, 2006 - Categories: connecting, democamp

I couldn't make it to DemoCamp proper, but I caught the afterparty at Molly Bloom's. I checked all the tables for people I'd been meaning to ping and say hi to, but I was just starving, so I spent far too much time waiting for food and then gulping it down. Next time, I should bring along a little snack or some dried mangoes so that I can get my energy fix and postpone dinner.

Lots of interesting conversations, though, and lots of role models. I'll try to follow up with them over the next few days. I brought my little black book, of course, and it was fun seeing everyone else with Moleskines. (They're like Macs among the geek crowd, only more portable. ;) )

Note to self: either learn shorthand or learn how to write more neatly.

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Random Japanese sentence: 彼女は猫を脅かして追い払った。 She scared the cat away.