September 11, 2006

Blogging backlog: Okay, fine, I’m a social butterfly

September 11, 2006 - Categories: connecting

There. I’ve admitted it. Happy? ;)

Normal introverts don’t find themselves trying to find more hours in
the day so that they can go to four different things on a Friday
night, or more weekends in a month so that they can meet up with
different people.

I feel more than a little guilty about not having enough time to blog
about all of this cool stuff, because writing and reflection are also
very important to me.

Life is terrific. =)

Backlog: Viz workshop last Friday

September 11, 2006 - Categories: communication, visual

I went to David W. Gray‘s workshop last
Friday to learn more about visualizations because of my research
interest in tracking, visualizing, and supporting technology adoption
in large companies. I expected a Tufte-esque critique of the ways data
are presented in graphical form, with practical advice on presenting
complex information easily. Instead, the workshop turned out to be one
on visual thinking and brainstorming. Not quite what I expected, but
still good.

My key take-aways from that were:

  • When communicating with people, think of attention, retention, and transfer. I particularly like how he emphasized that this spells “art.”
  • Always carry a pocket-sized digital camera. Always. You never know when you’re going to see something you can use for your presentation. Hmm, my current camera is just a little too large for this, although if I always carry a zipcase with my essentials (wallet, cellphone, Moleskine, camera, business cards) then I can take it no matter which bag I bring.
  • Tom Wujec demoed a *totally* awesome sketching / electronic-index-card tool that makes me wish I had a tablet PC. I might not even mind going on Microsoft Windows for it. It totally rocks.

A number of other participants thought that one of the most powerful
points was the idea of writing thoughts on Post-it notes or other
easily-rearrangeable media, one thought per note. I was familiar with
the idea because of my interest in tools for thinking (mind-mapping,
brainstorming, etc.), productivity, and communications, and that kind
of thinking comes naturally to me now. I do my speeches, thoughts, and
even my school papers on, well, paper form before I get them into the
computer, although sometimes I’ll start with a blog rant.

Hmmm. I think what I really wanted from the workshop were more
examples of how to support communication by presenting complex
information beautifully, like the way his company presents business
processes. There were a few examples very quickly glossed over as part
of his corporate bio, and I really wish there were more. Another
powerful addition could be an exercise where we’d take data and figure
out how to present it, perhaps working in groups and presenting it to
the class. That would have been tons of fun, and it would have made
the most of Dave’s presentation consulting experience with Xplane.

Oh, and it would’ve been nice to see more of Dave’s sketches. =) He’s
a fun visual artist, and the sketches would’ve really punched things
up. Granted, it’s a lot of work to do that with the Lessig method of
one gazillion little slides, but an occasional gapingvoid-style thing
would be terrific.

I gave him some feedback on the workshop and on his presentation
style. He’s trying to get the hang of the Lessig method—fast-paced,
lots of slides. This takes a fair bit of work to pull off, but it’s
great when you can speak ahead of the slides instead of reading off
them – there’s such a difference between using slides as cues and as
punchlines! I haven’t given a mind-blowing Lessig-style presentation
myself, although I remember my operating systems students’ feedback
that my lectures felt a lot like ads (in a good way!) when I was
teaching them about OS history. I remember listening to a Lessig
presentation and noting how his speech was slightly ahead of the
slides, and I also remember being impressed with Michael Geist’s
presentation. They are teh c00l.

Dave seems more interested in doing instructional design and packaging
this as a workshop that other people can give, so he didn’t want to
bring too much of himself into it – which is a pity, really, as he’s
an interesting character and infusing more of the workshop with his
personality would liven it up. =) I think he’ll do well in
instructional design. He’s particularly interested in video. Might be

The main value of the event came from the conversations that it
sparked, I think. I met a lot of people there whom I’d like to keep in
touch with, including Dave Gray.

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Friday: Art appreciation day at the ROM

September 11, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

The Royal Ontario Museum offers free admission from 4:30 PM onwards
every Friday. Simon suggested heading over there for a bit of cultural
appreciation, and we had fun walking around before my 8:30 dinner with
the folks I met at the Oriented networking event.

I always find Japanese woodblock prints fascinating, and we spent some
time in that gallery. I’m also drawn to calligraphy, classical
sculptures, and realistic paintings (particularly those with literary
or mythological references, like classical paintings). I like room
reproductions, too – glimpses of what people’s lives were like in the
past or how they are elsewhere. I like pieces with stories.

We’ll go back one of these Fridays. It would be nice to contemplate a
single thing and learn its story. Too bad there are no Wikipedia
kiosks in the museum. Do you think there’ll be wireless?

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Networking evils: The you’re-just-a-student brushoff

September 11, 2006 - Categories: connecting

I know, Simon said I shouldn’t waste more time thinking about this,
but I had an interesting learning experience today. =)

A friend invited me to a free recruitment / networking breakfast
session for a consulting networking group which shall not be named. I
RSVP’d with enthusiasm, name, and affiliation. I promptly got the
“We’re looking for people who want to sign up right now” brush-off,
which is another variant of the “You’re just a student, so what can
you do for me” brush-off that totally turned me off networking before.

I have to admit, my ego is a *little* bit pricked. <teasing
grin> I could understand where they’re coming from, though. I wrote
them a polite note about how I understood that they need to protect
their potential members from schmoozing salespeople, etc. I said that
although I’m currently a graduate student at the University of
Toronto, I thought I’d familiarize myself with professional
organizations in Toronto because I meet a lot of people and I’d like
to be able to recommend good resources to them. It would’ve been nice
to be able to say more than the blurb on the website and to give
people a good idea of the kind of people they might meet at the
group’s networking meetings or how the organizers run things, but oh
well… I guess they don’t want me to voluntarily learn how to “sell”
the idea to other people just in case I run across someone who might
be interested. ;) I suppose I can always point people to the website.

This kind of rejection isn’t a new thing for me, though. At
business-oriented networking events, I often get the once-over and
then ignored by people who are only interested in what they can get
out of networking instead of what they can give. On the other hand,
people who are open to me find me remarkable. I filter through *lots*
of information about things I’m passionate about, such as networking,
public speaking, technology. I attend all sorts of events and I write
about what I’ve learned. My enthusiasm and joy remind people of why
life is fun and exciting. I know a lot of people who’ve taken an
interest in my success. Not only that, they’re often interested in
other people who’ve taken an interest in my success, too. =) The
people who see me only as a student don’t open up enough for me to
show them all these other things, and the people who open up have a
hard time believing that I’m a student or that I’ve only been in
Canada for a year!

I think that a better way for this group to have handled the situation
was not to assume that I’d be there to market my services
inappropriately, but to probe and find out what value I think I’d
bring to and get out of it. But then again, that would probably have
been more time and attention than they’d think of spending on a
student’s request. (After all, what can a student offer a group of
management consultants, anyway?)

It’s a pity, because I’m interested in finding out more about the
organization, what kind of people they attract, what value they
provide, and what opportunities they’re looking for. I’d still like to
go. It’s worth a try, and hey, I’m already learning a lot from this
experience. I just hope that the feel of their meetings is better than
my first impression of them, though.

Laurie Dillon-Schalk told me never to
give up and that selling only starts when someone says, “No.” If they
can’t see my value or at least ask constructively about it, then maybe
the people they attract won’t be able to see my value either, and I’d
be better off spending that time blogging. But if I can show them that
I’m not there for the free food or to hit people up for a job, but
that I actually want to create value, then nifty. =)

So, what do you think? Should I try to talk my way into this for the
practice, or look for a gentler and more generous networkers to start
with? I told Ian Garmaise that I wanted to
meet more Connectors. I want to focus on meeting people who live with
that sense of gratitude for others who have helped them along and that
desire to reach out and help others grow, because those are the people
who can really nourish and inspire me. I’m going places, and I want to
take a lot of other people along with me. I would love to meet people
who can help show me the way.

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Some kind of sport – maybe tennis?

September 11, 2006 - Categories: life

Hmm. Maybe I should try learning some kind of sport. Dr. Oposa is very
fond of tennis. Maybe I should give that a try? The Athletic Centre
has courses. I might sign up for either the Mon/Wed noon courses or
the Saturday morning courses, which will be a bit of a hassle for my
schedule but which will work out well for me in the long run.

Currently more practical than golf.

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September 11, 2006 - Categories: travel

Another thing to remember when I feel homesick – these words by
Nigerian novelist Ben Okri:

Travelling challenges you to change your provincial
perspective. Travel begins by altering your sense of the assumptions
that you make about the world.

From Jim Paredes‘ blog. Thanks to Jojo Paderes for posting the link to PLUG-Misc.

I feel very much ethnic and I don’t want to lose that, but I am also
discovering my global identity. =) Life is good.

Gwaaah, panic, terror

September 11, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I don’t have butterflies in my stomach. I’ve got representatives from
every species of the order Lepidoptera and they’ve taken up residence
not only in my stomach but all throughout me, including the nerves of
my fingers.

I’m not doing something that scares me, I’m doing something that
terrifies the heck out of me. And I *know* that it’s not supposed to,
but I’m really, really nervous anyway.

Just remember, Sacha, it’s not going to be the end of the world. Okay.
Contingency plans.

If he doesn’t show up, I go ahead and have dinner with a bunch of
interesting people. Not a problem.

If people cancel, I can apologize profusely to the restaurant, and we
can have a cozier conversation.

If the restaurant turns out to be too noisy, we talk louder or we do
creative things with the seating arrangement. Mariko’s was doable, so
this should be okay.

If conversation is awkward, I can… umm… just remember that people
are responsible for enjoying themselves. I’ll do my best to keep
things flowing, though.

If more people show up than expected, I can drag more tables in.

And even if I flub it, some people will still be my friends. After
all, they’ve survived my cooking.

Right. Not the end of the world. Things are going to be okay.