January 2010

On the practice of a weekly review

January 1, 2010 - Categories: blogging, kaizen, process, reflection

A weekly review is an excellent idea. Here are some of the reasons why I do it:

  1. Track and celebrate accomplishments. Ever wondered where your days went? Tracking your accomplishments lets you get a handle on what you’ve done. Celebrating what you’ve finished encourages you to do more, too.
  2. Deliberately plan the next week. Instead of just reacting to the tasks and interruptions that come up during the week, sit down and plan a few things that you want to do.
  3. Follow up on priorities. If a priority task needs more work, having it on your list makes it easy to follow up (or see where you’re procrastinating!).
  4. Keep people up to date. If you make it easy for family, friends, and coworkers to keep up with what you’re doing, they’ll know more about interests, resources and opportunities that can help you.
  5. Make it easy to review the year. Having a record of your accomplishments and tasks makes those yearly reviews so much easier.
  6. Reflect on what worked and what can be better. Reviewing your week and planning the next one nudges you to think about how things can be better.

It doesn’t take a lot of time, and the benefits are tremendous. I can usually do my weekly review in 15-30 minutes.

Here’s what I’ve learned from doing so:

  • Bullet lists keep things short and simple. You don’t need to document everything – just enough to help you remember.
  • Categories help you keep things balanced. There are lots of different category systems you can use, and you can make up your own. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People recommends thinking in terms of your different roles. Getting Things Done has lots of good pointers for weekly reviews. Play around with the idea.
  • There are lots of ways to do a weekly review, so experiment to find what works for you. Some people like asking a set of questions instead. Others like using spreadsheets. Find out what works for you!

If you’re new to blogging, a weekly review helps you ease into the habit of publishing, and it can help you improve your productivity habits too. Give it a try!


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey


Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
David Allen

(Disclosure: Links above are Amazon affiliate links. That said, I recommend checking out your local library. I got these books from the Toronto Public Library, yay!)

Thanks to Kay for the nudge to write about this!

I’ll be away from Dec 30, 2009 to Jan 5, 2009. See you when I get back!

Book: Rules for Revolutionaries

January 2, 2010 - Categories: book, reading
Rules For Revolutionaries: The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services
Guy Kawasaki, 2000

The most relevant chapter for me was that about eating like a bird and pooping like an elephant. Consume lots of information from diverse sources, and share it liberally. Here’s what Guy has to say about sharing:

Here are the four things you need to do to spread (and receive) information in the most efficient ways:

  • Get over the paranoia. First things first: stop worrying about the negative effects of spreading information to other parts of your company as well as colleagues and competitors. Sure, be judicious about what you share, but err on the side of sharing too much.
  • Make it simple, correct, and frequent. Spent efficiency by making the information in preparing simple and correct; and do the spreading often. The better and more frequent the information you provide, the better and more frequent information you get back.
  • Use the Web! B. I. (Before Internet), spreading information had large costs: printing, travel, entertaining, and long-distance telephone charges. Circa 1998, the Web has reduced those costs and made information available around the world.
  • Get all levels involved. Information spreading, like pressing flesh, needs to be democratized and institutionalized. Enable all parts of the company to share in their special knowledge whether the function is research or copyright law.

p131, Guy Kawasaki, Rules for Revolutionaries

Worth a read, maybe in the library.

Thinking out loud: Mapping what I know

January 3, 2010 - Categories: blogging, learning, notetaking

I want to map what I know.

I want to make what I know more findable. The reverse-chronological order of blog posts isn’t enough organization. Search is useful, but it’s not enough. I want to make it easier for people to learn my skills or take over my role so that we can all do more than I can do myself. In order to do that, I need to make it easier for people to browse and learn.

I want to map the gaps so that I can see what else I need to reflect on and write about. I want to write what I’ve learned before I take too much for granted. Mapping my knowledge is one way to figure out what else is missing. Answering people’s questions is another way. This is one of the reasons why mentoring is useful.

My ideal would be a visual, expanding map of what I know, with links to additional resources. It would distinguish between things I’m actively learning about and things I’ve archived. It would be easy to update. It would be easy to cross-reference. People could browse it from the top down, or they could search it. It would be back-linked from my blog so that people could see the context of what I’ve posted.

It’s challenging to think about that map in full, but I can start building small pieces of it. People ask me about exploring interests and passions, improving productivity, delegating, being positive, and connecting with others. I can use a mindmap to organize my thoughts as well as previously published resources. As I expand the map, the bigger picture will emerge.

This will be fun!

Have you come across people with similar goals? I’d appreciate any pointers to role models!

How I explore my interests

January 4, 2010 - Categories: life, passion

Looking for your passions? You might be starting with the wrong question. Except in rare circumstances, passion doesn’t hit people out of the blue. You don’t just wake up one morning and discover a love for painting or polynomials. Passion starts small.

If you’re caught up in looking for the kind of burning passion that will turn your world upside down, you might miss the little things that lead to interests. Some of your interests will lead to skills. Some of your skills and experiences will grow into passions.

There are lots of guides on how to explore and develop your passions, so I won’t repeat the advice you’ll see elsewhere. Instead, let me share how I explore my interests, in case that nudges your mind.

I lucked into my big passions. I don’t remember learning how to use the computer, and I only vaguely remember teaching myself how to program.

One passion leads to another, almost without choice. My big passions span years and open up other possibilities. A passion for programming turned into a passion for open source, which led to a passion for personal information management and productivity via the unlikely conduit of Emacs. Personal information management led to a passion for social information management, social networking, and collaboration. Computing and open source led to teaching, which led to public speaking, which broadened and became a passion for communication. Looking back, each step—each evolution—seems natural and unavoidable. Each skill is a launchpad for other skills.

I think a lot about passions. I think about what I’m passionate about, how to explore that, and how to articulate that. But I’m not discovering things from scratch—I’m taking something that already exists, and I make it clearer.

This means that it’s difficult for me to help people get started and overcome inertia. Self-discovery is tough. Once you know the feeling of passion, though, it becomes much easier. I’ve thought a lot about accelerating new passions when you already have at least one. I don’t have as much advice for when you don’t know of anything you’re passionate about.

Against the backdrop of these big passions, I’ve explored dozens of interests. Many of those interests contribute to my passions in unexpected ways. Any one of those interests could become a passion—indeed, are passions for other people. I know more about exploring interests and developing them into passions than about finding passions right off the bad.


Where do ideas for interests come from? Many interests start in my curiosity about what my ideal life looks like. I think about what I might do or experience if I had all the time and money I wanted. I look for ways to start experimenting with those ideas now instead of later. It often takes less money and time than I expect.

Many interests grow out of existing ones. Sometimes they’re logical progressions. Sometimes they’re complementary pursuits.

Many interests are inspired by others. I talk to people I admire. I read books and blog posts. I flip through course catalogues. When I come across something that tickles my imagination, I see if I can give it a try.

How do I make it possible to explore interests? Living frugally means I can regularly save money in an “opportunity” fund that I use for experiences or education. This means I don’t have to worry about choosing between interests and bills. Minimizing commitments and keeping work-life balance means I can free up the time to explore emerging interests, which usually end up being quite helpful at work and in life too.

How do I explore interests? I find that teaching myself is more fulfilling and cheaper than taking a class unless I really need other people in order to explore an interest. It’s easier, too. I usually check out lots of books from the library and make time to practice. As I explore, I think about my experiences and share what I’m learning. Is it worth it compared to other ways I can spend my time? Are there more effective ways to achieve my goal?


What are you curious about? What do you want to learn?

Plan how to learn it. Make time and space for it.

Give it a try. If you like it, get better at it. You’ll like it even more as you get better and better at it. And who knows? Maybe someday, it will number among your passions.

Weekly review: Weeks ending December 27, 2009 and January 3, 2010

January 4, 2010 - Categories: weekly

Busy, busy, busy!

From the previous week’s plans for the week ending December 27, 2009:


  • Set up Idea Lab needed for January
  • Document practices and lessons learned  Shared my braindumped mindmap internally (see blog) 
  • Set up contingency plans, transfer skills Wrote step-by-step
  • Interview Arvin P. about talking to CEOs Cancelled, Jason Wild’s interview was enough


  • Help make cheesecake  They did it while I was busy working! ;|
  • Attend W’s family get-together That was lots of fun =)
  • Fly to the Philippines


  • Relax (v. important! =) )

For the week ending January 3, 2010:


  • Checked in to make sure everything was fine before I left for vacation


  • Helped my dad get a netbook; set it up
  • Spent lots of time with my family. We went to Siargao, my sister’s favourite island


  • Treated myself to a massage and a facial

Plans for next week:


  • Add people to the Idea Lab
  • Help facilitate and summarize the Idea Lab
  • Catch up on work mail
  • Braindump some more
  • Brainstorm microblogging talk


  • Talk to W- on Skype
  • Catch up with personal mail and blog comments


  • Get back into the rhythm of writing
  • Find a way to post my sketches
  • Post blog highlights for the year
  • Find or replace water bottle =)

Accessing tacit knowledge and building pathways for two-way learning

January 5, 2010 - Categories: connecting, web2.0

… Contacts are of very limited value in this changing world — the name of the game is how to participate in knowledge flows.

… Large contact databases don’t particularly help in this quest and, in fact, can subvert our efforts to build the kinds of relationships that matter the most.

… Accessing tacit knowledge requires a learning disposition and an ability to attract, rather than simply reaching out.

… This often requires discussing publicly the issues you are wrestling with so others can become aware of them and seek you out if they are confronting similar issues. This can be very uncomfortable for most of us, because we are reluctant to expose provisional ideas and acknowledge that we are struggling with developing those ideas.

… Do you engage in these types of practices? What lessons have you learned in terms of being more effective at accessing tacit knowledge? What could your company do to encourage and support these kinds of practices?

John agel and John Seely Brown, Networking Reconsidered

Tacit knowledge: what we know but have not yet captured.

I think a lot about tacit knowledge, both sharing and receiving.

I need to share. I can’t help but share. I find meaning and passion in the act of sharing what I know and what I am learning. I work on converting tacit into explicit knowledge by writing things down and sharing them as widely as possible–usually, on this blog. I map my thoughts so that I can see an overview and find gaps. I write, I sketch, I speak. To speed things up, I’ve offered to mentor people. Questions help me access tacit knowledge. Other people’s perspectives help me learn even more.

It takes a village to raise a child, and the Internet is my village. Where there are gaps—the challenges I’m figuring out, the questions I haven’t even formulated yet, the things you can’t find on Google or in books—people step forward and share what they’ve learned. People are generous with their insights. Strangers pass through; some stay, become friends, move on. I remember the IBM ad of all those people teaching a boy, a metaphor for Linux. When I saw that ad, I thought: that is me as well.

Why does this work? Reciprocity? The serendipity of search engines and random connections? The asymmetry of communication? Reciprocity perhaps explains why people who have learned something from me—or from their own mentors—take the time to share their insights. Search engines mean that the knowledge flow doesn’t disappear with the end of a conversation or the geographic limits of physical interaction. Asymmetry means the network isn’t limited by my energy or courage.

I read a lot. I’ve read many, many books on networking. Inspired by those books, I used to set networking goals for myself. 300 “active” contacts that I’ve reached out to in the last six months, and so on. Now I don’t count. I just share.

I have not yet read a book that made sense of this new way of relating. We do something today that could not be done easily in the past. Not with this scale, not with this reach. There are many like me, and tools make our world even more densely connected.

There could be more. I need to find out what I’m doing right so that I can help others learn. I want to find out what we could do even better.

What are the key points of difference?

  • Motivation: I’m strongly motivated by gratitude and possibility: gratitude for what I’ve learned from others, and the possibilities of what we can do if I can help other people build on the foundations of what I’m learning.
  • Focus on creating value: I give first and freely. I’m more interested in how I can help other people than how they can help me. My own goals are straightforward and take time. Helping other people lets me learn more and get even more value out of my experiences.
  • Value: At work, I create value based on my adaptability, my workflow, and my network. None of these derive power from scarcity of information. In fact, the more I share, the better things get.
  • Tools: I focus on tools that scale easily. Writing is searchable. Sketches are quick and expressive. Recorded presentations and slides can be engaging.

How can I connect with people who are learning about sharing and help them share more effectively?

How can I connect with people who are curious about sharing and help them learn more?

(Hat-tip to Aneel Lakhani for sharing the link on Twitter!)

Offline and online conversations

January 6, 2010 - Categories: connecting

Do you miss the serendipity of hallway conversations at conferences and events?

Online conversations can be more powerful than offline ones. Here’s why I think so.

In person, you start with people, and you look for common topics. Conversation participants all see each other. The possibilities are limited to who’s there and what you can discover in time.

Online, start with the topic you’re interested in. You find people, and people find you. The conversation goes on, asynchronously, for weeks, months, years.

I rarely talk to just one person about something. Most of the time, other people are interested. These people may have never met. The conversation brings them together. We learn even more.

I rarely talk to just people I know. Often, someone de-lurks and joins the conversation. People come in through searches or links. The conversation is much more open, more far-reaching.

This makes for interesting conversations. Amorphous, because I don’t know who’ll be in it or when it will end. Serendipitous, because we make unexpected connections. Efficient, because sharing serves many.

Do your online conversations look like this? How can you take advantage of being online? How can we translate these strengths into the offline world?

I’ll be away from Dec 30, 2009 to Jan 5, 2009. See you when I get back!

On pen and paper

January 6, 2010 - Categories: notetaking

A friend of mine wanted to know my notebook preferences, so here’s what I do in terms of pen and paper. =)

My favourite kind of notebook is a hard-cover non-spiral-bound notebook, with a back flap for storing ephemera. Hard-cover notebooks are easy to write in when I’m walking around, and I don’t have to worry about squishing them in my bag. Spiral-bound notebook coils tend to flatten or unwind, so I avoid them.

I’d love to have a notebook with a spine that can accommodate a pen clip, but I’m happy carrying the pen around separately, too.

I use different sizes for different things. Pocket-sized notebooks are good for daily notes. Mid-sized notebooks are good for single-page sketches. 8.5×11” notebooks are good for brainstorming or visual note-taking.

I like using unlined pages, preferably in off-white. Unlined pages let me use the notebook both horizontally and vertically, and they scan better when I have diagrams. It would be great to find a notebook with a light dot-grid (not an square grid) that can be removed from scans, but that’s okay.

My notebooks tend to have white or cream pages. Cream pages go well with my dark red fountain pen ink and feel less harsh than white pages, but white is okay too.

The Moleskine unlined hard-cover journal is nice, but Curry’s and other art stores carry cheaper alternatives. I usually stock up on 8.5×11” sketchbooks when they’re on sale, and pick up pocket notebooks whenever.

Following Lion Kimbro’s recommendation, I’ve stocked up on 4-colour pens. My current favourite 4-colour pen is the Pilot Feed GP4 0.7, which I picked up at National Bookstore in the Philippines for the equivalent of ~CAD 3. You can bet I’m going home with a box of those pens. I also sometimes carry an inexpensive fountain pen that I don’t worry about losing or dropping, saving my Waterman Harmonie for bedside writing.

I usually use a pocket-sized notebook to take notes during conversations, which are usually captured as keywords. I tend to use visual notetaking for talks. For brainstorming, I make lists, mindmaps, visual notes, sketches, and other diagrams.

I number odd pages and keep an index at the back.

Archived notebooks go on one of our bookshelves. I rarely refer to them, but it’s fun to flip through old notebooks once in a while.

I’m looking forward to getting into the habit of scanning my notebook pages when I get back. It’ll be fun!

Monthly highlights: December 2009

January 7, 2010 - Categories: monthly

The best surprise of December was the response I got to my post on What can I help you learn? Looking for mentees. I’m looking forward to developing the relationships I started from there, and to meeting many more people in the future.

Limiting my blog to mostly one post a day turned out to be a great idea. Prioritizing my post queue was fun and interesting. Here were my favourite posts for the month.

Year-end is a good time for reviews and plans, and I posted a few thoughts:

More reflections on what I do and why:

On perspectives:


Geek stuff:

In January 2010, I’m looking forward to:

  • Reconnecting with friends in the Philippines (Hi! Catch me before January 16)
  • Completing my permanent residency application and bringing my cat over
  • Braindumping as much as I can at work and in life

Sketch: Getting past the tyranny of the blank page

January 8, 2010 - Categories: sketches


Learning more about facilitation

January 8, 2010 - Categories: learning, planning, plans

In 2010, I want to improve my facilitation skills. Facilitation is a large part of the consulting that I do at work, and I can see how good facilitation creates value. I’m frustrated by the limits of what I know and can do, and I’m looking forward to learning more. I’m particularly interested in three areas:

  • facilitating better online discussions (especially asynchronous ones)
  • doing visual facilitation and visual recording
  • helping people brainstorm wild success stories and worst-case scenarios

My work focuses on brainstorming rather than conflict resolution or other applications of facilitation techniques, although I’m also interested in facilitation of group processes in order to improve collaboration.

If I improve my skills, I can use that foundation to help figure out more effective patterns for virtual facilitation and collaboration.

In order to learn more about facilitation, I plan to:

  • proactively take on more responsibility for facilitating discussions at work, including doing the background research and helping prepare the deliverables
  • read and reflect on lots of resources about in-person and remote facilitation
  • collect templates and processes
  • practice visual notetaking and facilitation during meetings, conference calls, and talks
  • reflect on and share lessons learned from the workshops and idea labs we do
  • shift more of my talks to interactive formats
  • build mentoring relationships with people who can help me plan my learning

I plan to share what I’m learning with you through blog posts, sketches, lessons learned, and talks.

Looking forward to the adventure!

Personal knowledge management, morgue files, capture systems

January 9, 2010 - Categories: kaizen, notetaking, process

How do you organize what you know so that you can use it for inspiration later?

Here’s what I have:


  • Experience
  • Conversations
  • Books
  • Blogs
  • Ideas
  • Experiments

Capture and sharing:

  • Words, sketches, brainstorms – paper and pen
  • Mindmap on my iPod Touch and laptop
  • Quick tips through microblogging and bookmarks
  • Longer thoughts in my blog and on wikis
  • Generally useful information – slides, presentations
  • Book notes – scanned pages, text files; this needsh to be integrated into my system and set up for regular review
  • One big text file organized with outlines and keywords for life, and another big text file for work


  • Search
  • Indexes in my notebooks
  • Randomness, similarity, and on-this-day in my blog
  • Hyperlinks
  • Summaries
  • Outlines and keywords

Index cards are useful for brainstorming too (especially for life planning or when I’m sketching a big talk that doesn’t have an obvious structure), but I don’t use them for long-term storage yet. My blog includes first drafts as well as more polished posts. I need a place to braindump. =) If you want less volume and more thought, just check out the highlights. (Note: I haven’t been keeping this tag up to date)

I love the idea of a morgue file. I’d love to eventually build myself a good random-access information management system. I currently stuff most things into my blog, and am slowly figuring out how to organize things more. I used to use howm, which was pretty cool too (if very geeky). I may go back to building a personal wiki. W- uses Tiddlywiki. =) Digital works well for me because I like being able to access things from anywhere. I don’t interact with enough paper to have a full-blown paper system, and would rather go digital instead of printing things out to integrate them with a paper system.

I love mapping things out. Mapping helps me navigate, see gaps, and plan. It’s also a good way to make it easier for other people to discover interesting things.

Next steps for me:

  • Digitize paper
  • Build indices
  • Build online and offline naming conventions for linking
  • Flesh out map
  • Learn more

More to come as I figure out and improve my system. =)

Thanks to Eric Blue for the inspiration!

I’ll never buy a Moleskine again

January 9, 2010 - Categories: notetaking, sketches


Hand-made notebooks are so awesome. Charo not only gave me a wonderful little notebook, she taught me how to make my own. I’ve got a feeling that this will be a lifelong craft. And it complements my interest in sewing, too. Now I can make notebooks that match my quirks and my clothes! ;)

She got interested in bookbinding because she couldn’t find the kinds of journals she wanted, so she decided to make her own. I’m so glad that she shared that interest with me!


Closing my 2009 financial ledger, looking forward to the next year

January 10, 2010 - Categories: finance

Although the personal accounting program I use (John Wiegley’s ledger) can happily process decades of transactions in one file, I like using one file per year. Closing my financial books prods me to make sure that all transactions are accounted for and all my statements balance. It’s nice seeing all the numbers line up.

I saved almost 55% of my net income, which is good because I need to save aggressively in order to meet certain goals. I’ve maxed out my RRSP and TFSA contribution room. I now have a healthy opportunity fund that I can use to start my own business if I want to. In 2010, I plan to save at least half of my income again, setting aside money for some major upcoming things.

(And if the the stock market eventually goes up instead of staying mostly level, all the better!)

Sketch: Elephant love

January 10, 2010 - Categories: family, sketches

My dad took me to Manila Zoo to show me Maali’s new enclosure. She’s one lucky elephant.

I fed her a few bananas from the safety of the viewing area. Then my dad gestured for me to walk across the rickety plank and into the new enclosure.

Right. Umm. Okay. So I got up close and personal with Maali.

“She’s a really big elephant,” I said. I’d never seen her that close. I held a banana out. Maali took it with her trunk and plopped it in her mouth.

“Look at the camera,” my dad said. I smiled at the camera nervously. Yes, I know my dad was watching Maali, and he’d keep me safe if something happened. But a 4-ton elephant can’t help but get respect.

More bananas. Happy elephant.

When we finished the bananas, I went back over the plank and behind the viewing bars.

My dad turned on the water compressor and directed a spray of water into Maali’s outstretched trunk. She stored water, then drank it. Then he passed the hose to me and told me to direct the water into Maali’s mouth so that the elephant could drink.

Maali raised her foot. My dad showed me how to use the spray to wash the caked dirt from the elephant’s feet. Then my dad gave Maali a shower.

What did I do during my Christmas vacation? I treated an elephant to a foot spa.


Weekly review: Week ending January 10, 2010

January 10, 2010 - Categories: weekly

From last week’s plans


  • [X] Add people to the Idea Lab
  • [X] Help facilitate and summarize the Idea Lab
  • [X] Catch up on work mail
  • [X] Braindump some more
  • [ ] Brainstorm microblogging talk


  • Learned more about facilitation by reading books
  • Supported training activity


  • [X] Talk to W- on Skype
  • [/] Catch up with personal mail and blog comments


  • Had lots of fun chatting with friends
  • Spent time with family


  • [X] Get back into the rhythm of writing
  • [X] Find a way to post my sketches
  • [/] Post blog highlights for the year
  • [/] Find or replace water bottle =)


  • Learned how to make paper notebooks, hooray!

Next week


  • [ ] Prepare company profiles for upcoming Innovation Discovery engagements
  • [ ] Learn more about facilitation


  • [ ] Spend more time with family and friends
  • [ ] Look for gifts for my parents and sister


  • [ ] Prepare for taking cat along on trip
  • [ ] Renew driver’s licence in the Philippines
  • [ ] Get health certificate for cat
  • [ ] Pack my bags and fly back to Toronto
  • [ ] Post more sketches

La-Z-Boy cinemas, massages, and seafood

January 11, 2010 - Categories: life, philippines, sketches


It’s not like a trip home to the Philippines means stocking up on cheap export overruns or taking advantage of pricing differences. Gadgets are more expensive here. Clothes are about the same price and I’m shifting towards sewing my own anyway, so I only buy comfortable styles that I’ve not been able to find in Canada. (Jockey V-neck shirts for ~CAD 5, yay.)

Instead, I make time for massages, facials, and movies watched from a La-Z-Boy. I drink all the mango shakes and fresh coconut juices I can get, enjoying the sweet coconut flesh for dessert. I fill up on riotous laughter with my barkada and stock up on memories with my family.

Globalization is funny when you’re here and there regularly. Stuff becomes less important, and experiences matter more.

Information gardening tasks

January 11, 2010 - Categories: web2.0, work

A large part of my work involves capturing and organizing information. It takes a surprising lot of time and thought. Here are some of the things I do:

  • Capture and file information, relevant mail, work in progress, final output, etc.
  • Help people find information and improve the findability along the way
  • Create and refine navigation (links, new pages, etc.)
  • Move information from private spaces to public spaces
  • Facilitate and summarize online discussions
  • Coach people on tool use and answer support questions
  • Document and refine processes
  • Set up communities, discussions, and other sub-sites
  • Recommend processes and improvements
  • Correct obsolete links and assets

I do that across multiple tools (Wikis, Communities, TeamRooms, Activities, e-mail), with a team of mixed early, mainstream and late adopters and changing communities of learners.

I think of this as information gardening. I can’t architect a beautiful information structure from the beginning. I don’t know what the final result will look like. All I can do is support, organize, water, tie, and prune. I have to find out what paths people use, then pave them to make finding things a little easier.

It’s not easy. It’s less engaging or measurable than programming, where you can track your progress by the defects you close and the features you build. But it creates a lot of value and helps scale up the effect of our group’s work. Why do I do it?

  • I’m building an example of how social computing can support a team.
  • I’m learning more about emergent information architecture.
  • I’m developing and documenting practices that other people might find useful.

How am I learning about this? Mostly through inspiration, practice, and reflection. I collect examples of well-organized wikis and I talk to other teams who use combinations of tools. I handle my team members’ requests and questions, and I think about how we can organize things better.

If you want your team to get more value out of social tools and knowledge sharing, you’ll probably need someone doing work like this.

Anyone else doing this? Want to share notes?

Cats in high places

January 12, 2010 - Categories: cat

“What am I going to do?” my mom asked. “There are two kittens near the catwalk, and they’re coloured like Neko.”

We find our cats in unlikely places. I discovered Neko when our bathroom wall started mewing.

There are kittens and I can hear them!

I couldn’t help it. I clambered onto the catwalk (carefully, carefully) and scattered some food for them. They were too far, and I didn’t think I could trust the boards with my weight. Besides, the mommy cat shouldn’t worry about humans handling the kitties. Better that they’re there. And I won’t be here, so I can’t find out if the kittens are being taken care of and I don’t have the time to rear them in case they aren’t…

I hope mommy cat is okay. She’s not Neko. Neko’s been spayed for a long time. Might be a relative, though. So cute!

There are kittens and I can hear them!

A night with the barkada

January 12, 2010 - Categories: barkada, friends, philippines, sketches


I’m trying to figure out how to explain to other people what this barkada thing is like, but it’s hard.

I can’t explain how the conversation can flow so fast and funny over water and pizza. (And to think that other people drink alcohol to relax their inhibitions.)

In-jokes that still haven’t grown old, after all these years. New jokes and references. Politically incorrect humor mixed in with ideas and initiatives. Serious thoughts mixed in with crazy antics.

There’s something about critical mass and quick retorts that’s part of the magic of being in person.

It’s amazing being part of a group like this.

Facilitation: Thinking about the ends and means

January 12, 2010 - Categories: learning, work

I want to learn more about facilitation. What does better facilitation look like? Thinking about that will help me figure out what I need to learn and how.

Online facilitation

At work, I organize online brainstorming on specific client challenges. It’s a good idea, and there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The results of a perfect discussion would be:

  • Clients get the results of the brainstorm and think, “These are great ideas from different industries! I hadn’t thought of that combination before, and I want to learn more about those examples.”
  • We find interesting people whom we could involve in the preparation of the face-to-face workshop and future workshops.
  • We hear about relevant resources and examples.
  • Participants are happy and energized about the opportunity to work on client challenges.
  • Participants discover other people with similar interests, broadening their networks and continuing the conversation.
  • The discussion results in at least one initiative that the client chooses to explore further.

The challenges include:

  • Agenda flow: Still haven’t figured out how the Idea Lab results can best support the in-person workshop
  • Summarization: The account team doesn’t have time to do this, so I can take responsibility for the first draft instead, and then it’ll be easier for them to revise it. Are there more effective ways of presenting the information than the laundry list of ideas we currently have?
  • Deep vs broad: How do we balance deep insights from subject matter experts with broad insights from cross-industry experts?
  • Time: Participants may not be able to spend a lot of time thinking about the brainstorming questions, so we sometimes get surface answers

The factors I can influence are:

  • Reaching out to cross-industry communities for breadth: For example, HorizonWatch and the Web 2.0 for Business community are good to draw on.
  • Phrasing questions: What kinds of questions can bring out the mix of responses we’re looking for? How can we prioritize the questions?
  • Summarizing results: How can we better organize and present the information?
  • Using and developing tools: Last year, I developed mail merge and calendar entry enhancements that were very useful. How can I help further improve our processes?

In-person facilitation

In our face-to-face workshops, I occasionally help with the ideation segment, particularly for clients interested in social networking or Generation Y. We usually use a persona-based wild success story approach. Clients do their own visioning in workshops. How can we add value?

The results of a perfect session would be:

  • Energized and happy clients
  • A clear, coherent story that includes potential initiatives that can be explored and prioritized in the next sessions
  • A common vocabulary of personas for evaluating ideas

The challenges include:

  • Me sweating ever so quietly in front of the room
  • Infrequent opportunities to practise facilitating

The factors I can influence are:

  • Learning from other consultants and workshops: I can learn from brainstorming and persona-based techniques
  • Building a library of personas: so that I can pull together a persona deck quickly
  • Experimenting with where the session is in the agenda: Earlier = more shared vocabulary. Maybe start with persona definition and worst-place exercise?
  • Simulating workshops: How can I rehearse these things so that I can experiment with more ideas in less time? Can I do them in my spare time, perhaps with other audiences?

Visual facilitation

I like drawing. Visual notes are fun to make, and other people find them interesting too. I’d like to get better at many different facets, like visual recording and visual facilitation.

What would better look like?

  • Diagrams and graphic organizers help me think about things and share those thoughts with others.
  • During a workshop I’m scribing, clients and other participants like and learn from the visual record of the discussions
  • During a session I’m facilitating, the graphic structures make it easy for people to brainstorm and organize on the fly
  • When I’m summarizing results, visual tools make it easier for me to highlight important points and help people understand.

The factors I can influence are:

  • Practising visual recording and brainstorming: There are plenty of personal opportunities to practise that, hooray! Ideas, teleconference calls, talks, recordings, thoughts, blog posts…
  • Collecting graphic organizers and practising using them
  • Preparing more graphic versions of other presentations could be a good way to practise visual facilitation and summarization

I’ll share my notes in the Facilitation category of my blog. Looking forward to the adventure!

Growth through writing

January 13, 2010 - Categories: blogging, writing

Can writing make a difference?

When I talk to people about writing, journaling, or blogging, they sometimes hesitate. “No one’s going to read it anyway.” “It won’t make a difference.”

It’s not about being read or about being famous. It’s about discovering what you know and learning how to communicate it more effectively.

Writing is the tool that helps us sharpen our selves and share our experiences with many, many more people than we can ever meet.

Don’t worry about being lost in the flood of blog posts and status updates. Live and share.

(Hat-tip to Akhila Kolisetty for the nudge to write about this!)

I want more colour in my day

January 13, 2010 - Categories: life, sketches


Upcoming talk: The Shy Connector

January 14, 2010 - Categories: connecting, presentation, speaking

For Women in Technology International (WITI). Target: 5-7 minutes core presentation, lots of discussion, 5-minute wrap-up at the end. Target 750-1050 words. ~830 words so far. Creative constraint: Tweetable segments. This will be an update of The Shy Connector (Aug 2009).

The Shy Connector: How to get strangers to talk to you.

Hi, I’m Sacha Chua, and I’m an introvert. <clapping>

You might be too. Do you prefer bookstores more than bars? Puzzles more than parties? Close friends more than crowds?

It can be hard to connect as an introvert. LinkedIn and Facebook can feel like high school popularity contests. Meetups can be overwhelming.

What can you do if you’re shy about sharing yourself?

There are plenty of books and blogs about social networking, because success and happiness often depends on who you know and who knows you.

“Sell yourself!” “Brand yourself!” “Attend as many events as you can!” “Talk to people in the elevator!” Right.

Most of the networking tips I’ve read seem to be for extroverts who don’t find it hard to talk to strangers.

Me, I hate starting conversations. I find it hard to make small talk. I’m often too shy to reach out. Following up with people takes effort.

Sounds familiar? Ever felt that way too?

Here are seven things I’ve learned about connecting. I hope these tips will help you play to your strengths…

… because those characteristics of yours are strengths.

Tip 1: Being an introvert is okay.

You don’t need to fake being extroverted. You don’t need to be a glad-handing, business-card-throwing networker.

Go ahead. Listen and ask questions during conversations. Give yourself quiet time to recharge. Connect online if you want.

Figure out what works for you.

For me, blogging often works out better than going to events. Now I know that, it’s easier for me to say, “No, I’m planning to stay home.”

Tip 2: Give people reasons to talk to you.

Most people find it hard to start a conversation, too. Do them a favour and give them excuses to talk to you.

An interesting hat makes you easy to find in a crowd. Accessories with character can draw remarks. Keywords on your nametag lead to conversation.

My favourite? Giving a presentation. Talking to a hundred people is easier than talking to two. You can rehearse, and you reach more people.

See someone who looks even more uncomfortable than you? Reach out and start the conversation. You’re surrounded by reasons to talk.

Tip 3: Change your perspective.

It’s not about selling yourself. It’s not about marketing your personal brand. It’s not about figuring out what other people can do for you.

Focus on what can help other people be happier and more successful. Ask questions. Explore.

Focusing the spotlight to the other person means less anxiety. It’s easy to get to know people when you’re focused on them, not you.

Tip 4: Look for ways to help.

While you’re listening, think: What do you know? Who do you know? How can you help?

Have you read a book they might like? Have you talked to someone they should meet? Do you have an interesting idea that can save them time?

Even if you can’t help right away, if you remember what they need, you may be able to connect the dots later.

Tip 5: Give yourself homework.

Following up with someone is easier when you’ve promised to send them a link or introduce them to someone else who can help.

That’s why you should always carry something you can use to take notes. Why worry about forgetting, when you can write things down?

Tip 6: Make it easy to get to know you.

So you’ve met someone, learned about their interests, and followed up. How do you build the connection from there?

Even if you don’t like talking about yourself, you can make it easier for other people to get to know you.

Share your interests, skills, and goals. The more people know about what you can do, the more you can find opportunities to help them.

A website or profile is a good way to start. Link to it in your e-mail signature and put it on your business card.

A blog is even better. If you share tips, ideas, and a bit of a personal touch, people might even subscribe and get to know you over time.

They might even help you grow! =)

Tip 7: Keep growing, and your network will grow with you.

As you develop your passions, improve your skills, and grow your network, you’ll be able to create more value—and more, and more, and more.

The more you understand your passions, the easier it is to communicate.

The more you improve your skills, the more you can help others.

The more people you know, the more introductions and connections you can make.

If you share what you’re learning with people, your network can grow along with you.

Then you won’t have to fake being an extrovert or drain yourself of energy–people and opportunities will flow to you.

Which of these tips would you like to focus on, practice, and learn more about? How can I help you explore your networking potential?


Paragraphs as short as these still feel staccato. I wonder how to be concise and yet conversational… Should I relax this constraint? =)

Getting started on your web presence

January 14, 2010 - Categories: blogging, web2.0

One of my mentees asked: in terms of public web presence, should you have a website, a blog, both of the above, or one site that serves both purposes?

These are some things I’ve learned after eight years of having a public web presence:

Have one site. It’s less confusing and it makes it easier for people to get to know you. Work-life separation or anonymous blogging may sound appealing. If that’s what it takes for you to get started, go for it (knowing that anonymity is very hard to keep). But it’s easier to have one persona and one site.

I find that it’s too much work to keep track of multiple personas and multiple sites. My internal/external split is hard enough for me to remember to update. ;)

Yes, there are lots of wildly popular niche bloggers with tightly-focused sites and tens of thousands of subscribers. You’re not there yet. When you get to the point of having tons of great material you can share, you can syndicate or revise things for a separate focused blog or site.

Get your own domain name. It means never having to change URLs or e-mail addresses again, and you don’t have to rely on a third-party blog/web host to stay free or to be in business.

If your name is hard to spell (like mine is), get another domain name and point it to the same content, configuring your web server so that search engines don’t punish you for duplicate sites. For example, I use sachachua.com , but livinganawesomelife.com is easier for people to remember.

It doesn’t matter if your domain name goes to your blog or to an overview. I prefer that sachachua.com shows people my blog because I have many frequent visitors, so it’s easier to go directly to what people are interested in. Fresh content is good. Other people start with an overview that links to their blog. Either way works.

Try starting with a blog or microblog. Set up your site so that you think about updating it. Yes, it’s easy to just put up an “About Me” page. Static pages are useful. But static pages tend to stay static. Start a blog and use it as a staging area where you can write about what you’re thinking. Set up your blog editor so that you can publish to your blog easily. Add blogging to your task list as a recurring task. Use it to cc: world. As you write, you’ll find things that you’ll want to “promote” to regular pages on your website. Treat your blog as your working area, and then use that to think about and create your static content.

Don’t worry about getting started. Just start. You’ll tweak your web presence over time as you find inspiration and you figure out what fits. Get something out there. It’s easy to revise something that exists than to stare at a blank page.

Thanks to Brian O’Donovan for the question!

Rabbit-holes of awesome

January 14, 2010 - Categories: passion, sketches


Interests can be rabbit-holes of awesome. There’s no telling how deep they run.

One of the things I love about exploring interests is getting inspired by people who are passionate about them. Book-binding, for example—there are people who are very geeky about book-binding. Same goes for photography, sewing, gardening, and all sorts of other good things. That’s what’s great about the Internet. It’s easy to find people passionate about an interest, no matter how niche it is.

Microblogging talk

January 15, 2010 - Categories: lotus, presentation, web2.0

I’ve promised to give a short talk on microblogging for the knowledge and collaboration community (KCBlue) at work. Might be a good time to practice animation, too. =)

5 minutes: 750 words, 20 minutes: 3,000 words (throw pauses in there too)

Creativity loves constraints. I want to fit the core of my message into 5 minutes (approximately 750 words), with each “part” being 140 characters or less.

This will be a launching pad for discussion, which will take up most of the allotted time. I’ll switch to Q&A with a summary slide that includes Why and Beyond the Basics so that it’s easy for people to remember what they want to ask questions about. I’ll use five minutes at the end to wrap up, and I’ll post links and follow-up material in a blog post. I’ll collect e-mail addresses so that I can notify people when I’ve posted an update.

I plan to make hand-drawn slides for each of the sections, and maybe even animation if I get around to it. =)


The Whys and Hows of Microblogging

Why use Twitter? Why update your status on Facebook or Lotus Connections? Let’s talk about why people microblog and how you can get more value out of these tools.

Don’t know whom to e-mail? Don’t have the time to write a blog post? Post a short, quick update that people can read if they’re there.

What can you fit in 140 or so characters? A single thought. A question. Maybe a link.

What can you get? Broad, rapid, almost real-time conversations, if you’ve got a good network.

Here’s what you can do to build that network, and why you’d want to.

  • Learning: Follow role models and learn from what they’re doing. Build the relationship by thanking them for tips and ideas.
  • Updates: Do your favourite stores post updates? Find out what’s on sale and when the cookies have come out of the oven.
  • Customer service: Good experience? Bad experience? Post an update and you might be surprised by who’s listening.
  • Events: Interested in an event? Find out who’s going and what people think. Going there in person? Meet up at tweetups and get to know more people.
  • Awareness: Miss those watercooler chats? Microblogging’s better. You can keep in touch with way more people, and you don’t even have to stand up.
  • Passing things along: Like what someone shared? Share the good stuff by re-posting with credit. Look at how people do it, and follow their example.
  • Sharing: Want to build your network? Make people happy and help them grow by sharing tips and answering questions.
  • Questions: Need a quick answer but don’t know whom to ask? Post your question and you just might get a tip. You’ll need a good network for this.

NOTE: No one expects you to read everything. Don’t get addicted. It’s okay if you miss people’s updates.

How to get started:

Twitter: Sign up on twitter.com. Look for people. Follow them. Reply when you have something to say. Share what you’re doing and learning.

Lotus Connections Profiles: Log in. Look for people. Invite them to your network. Reply when you have something to say. Share what you’re doing and learning.

There are more microblogging services out there. Explore. Find out what works for you.

Beyond the basics:

  • Apps: Use a microblogging client like Tweetdeck to make reading and posting easier. Explore and find out which tool fits you.
  • Cross-posting: Synchronize automatically, or use a tool to post on multiple services. MicroBlogCentral can handle Twitter and Lotus Connections Profiles.
  • Personas: Don’t want to mix work and life? Don’t want to overwhelm people with too many updates? Use multiple accounts to give people choices.
  • Group posting: Corporate brand? Team account? You can use tools to make it easy for many people to post to the same account.
  • Strategy: Where does microblogging fit into your strategy? Post quick updates and interact with people. Link to your main site in your profile.

Next steps:

Pick a reason why you want to microblog, and go for it. How can I help you make the most of these tools?

Reflecting on introversion and shyness; help me find better words!

January 16, 2010 - Categories: connecting, reflection

I’m an introvert. It’s not a bad thing. I’m growing into my strengths.

It took me a while to understand that part of me. My parents wanted me to enjoy myself at family reunions. My sisters called me square because I didn’t like hanging out at bars and clubs. Sometimes they let me just read. Other times, I think they wished I was more outgoing. I felt outgoing enough. I liked my own company, and that of a few others. I could spend hours just reading or using the computer. I wasn’t one of the popular kids, but I had a close-knit group of friends I brought together.

People don’t believe I’m an introvert. I speak. I write. I introduce people to others. It seems introverts should be tongue-tied in company, shying away from social contact. I’ve met some like that: hard to get to know, but rewarding when you do.

I’m learning to work with who I am. I plan my schedule so that I don’t overextend myself with events. I enjoy organizing my thoughts and communicating them through presentations, blog posts, and sketches. I get my energy through quiet time.

Thanks to books about introversion, I feel comfortable saying, “Thank you for the invitation to the party, but I’m looking forward to a quiet evening.” No need to pretend I’m over-committed. No excuses about work that needs to be done.

I can fill a conference with energy and hold my own in a room when needed. I even enjoy the buzz. But I know I’m an introvert, so I build quiet time into my schedule and I don’t feel guilty if I need a break.

Shyness is a different matter. There are shy extroverts. Shyness is social anxiety–a feeling of awkwardness, a lack of confidence.

I need a better word. I am not shy. I would just rather jump into the middle of a conversation than start one.

Given a choice between going to a cocktail party with mostly-strangers and hoping for a serendipitous connection, or reflecting on a topic and writing a blog post that can lead to more conversations over time, I’ll pick writing. It gives people reasons to start the conversation with me. It scales, too.

I mix in some randomness so that I’m not constrained by homogeneity. I take up different interests and meet different people. I reach out, read blogs, and leave comments. Yes, sometimes I start the conversation—when I can jump into the middle of it, informed by what people have shared publicly.

I don’t reach out to random people on Facebook and ask them to be my friend. I don’t chat people up at bus stops and in elevators. People who do that make me nervous. Being singled out in an anonymous crowd makes me wonder about people’s intentions. I value the ability to choose when to withdraw and when to engage.

I share, publicly and non-intrusively, so people can choose to reach out to me. We can jump into the middle of a conversation. It’s an odd sort of intimacy. It works.

So what is this? Not shy, not anti-social, not asocial… Pragmatic, because this approach lets me reach far more people? Lazy, because it reduces the work of connection? Respectful, because I give people the choice? None of those quite seem to fit. What word expresses this well?

Lightweight personas for ideation workshops

January 16, 2010 - Categories: ibm, work

One of the techniques we use to help a group generate ideas in Innovation Discovery workshops is to create light-weight personas. Anchoring the brainstorming using a name, a face, and a story makes it easier for people to generate and later evaluate concrete ideas. The personas also give the group a common vocabulary for talking about different audience segments. For example, if the group defined John as a middle-aged professional concerned about healthcare issues, people can then ask, “What would John think about this?” during other sessions.

The persona ideation exercise is great for sparking energy and getting people to stand up. It can be used in different places, and it can become a running theme.

  • Beginning of workshop -Defining personas – talking about characteristics and challenges: Who are the target segments? What are the gaps? What’s the worst-case scenario?
  • During the workshop – Brainstorming: How can we apply the ideas discussed in the previous session and other ideas we generate to build an ideal scenario for each of these personas?
  • End of the workshop – Evaluating and summarizing: Which of the parts of the ideal scenario can be implemented easily, and which take more effort? Which potential initiatives serve which personas, and how well?

Structure of the session:

Goal: Concrete vision, ideas for initiatives

Input: Light-weight personas which we flesh out with the help of the clients during the workshop session.

Output: Scenarios for each of the personas, and possible summary of key initiatives to explore in the next session.


  1. Identify a few persona types that reflect the client’s target audiences, with the planning team’s help. Ex: entrepreneur, parent, student, and so on.
  2. Look for pictures through Flickr Advanced Search (check all the checkboxes related to Creative Commons so that you can search for commercial-use modifiable photos). Stock photography sites such as sxc.hu and stockxpert.com are also useful, although I prefer to use Flickr because the people and situations look more real than posed. Put the pictures into a presentation, one slide per picture, with proper photo credits. If possible, crop the picture so that only one person is in it, and scale it up so that it fills the slide.
  3. Review the pictures and select which ones will be used. Aim for a diverse mix that represents the target audience well in terms of ages, professions, races, etc.
  4. Give the personas nicknames for reference. Use names that are easy to remember and spell. Alliteration is fun to use and makes names more memorable (ex: Bob the baker). Label the final slides with the nicknames in a large font, so that the names can be read from a distance. Adjust the photo contrast if necessary.
  5. Print full-colour copies of the pictures with names. You can post these next to easel sheets taped to the walls for brainstorming. If you have access to a poster printer, you can print large sheets of paper with the picture and the name at the top of the page.
  6. Finalize your persona presentation. Your presentation can be as simple as flipping through all of those pictures one by one, or you can show them all together if there’s space on the slide.

During a break before the session:

  1. Tape up 1-2 easel sheets per persona. Spread these around the room, making sure that there’s enough space for people to stand and talk. Have at least one blank set of easel sheets just in case you need to create a new persona on the fly. If you have plenty of space, put up more easel sheets.
  2. Place markers, Post-it notes, and masking tape near the persona groups. Different-coloured markers and notes give people flexibility.
  3. If you want (and you don’t have too many personas), post the persona pictures next to the easel sheets.

During the session:

  1. Explain the structure and flow of the session (goal, input, output, and the next few steps).
  2. Very briefly review the personas with names, faces, and light detail.
  3. Review the different personas, pointing them out around the room. Ask people to define the characteristics. You can change the characters completely at this point, or introduce new ones. A co-facilitator (or coworker closest to the poster) should jot quick notes about characteristics.
  4. Find out if you need additional personas. Use the blank pages you’ve set aside or repurpose a persona that didn’t click.
  5. Review the personas with the characteristics again, pointing them out around the room. asking people to move to the one they want to focus on. See if you can get people to take responsibility for reporting back at the end. Consider the balance of people among the different groups.
  6. Explain the structure again: people are going to figure out what that persona’s “moment of truth” is with the organization (key customer experience?) and walk through what that scenario could be in 2-3 years (or whatever the workshop’s vision timeframe is). Point out the markers and the notes. Encourage people to move around to other personas they’re interested in contributing to as well.
  7. Give people a time limit. Split up into groups. Walk around and facilitate, asking questions.
  8. Remind people when the time limit is almost up.
  9. Get the groups’ attention. Ask them to briefly tell their persona’s story based on the brainstorm. Take public notes on the different initiatives that can enable that scenario. These notes can be used during the analysis portion.

Analysis (can be done in another session or by another facilitator):

  1. If there are a lot of common initiatives, do the next analysis as a large group. If there are separate initiatives, let people continue the analysis from there.
  2. Let each group (or the large group) discuss which initiatives can be done by either organization separately, and which initiatives need collaboration. Help prioritize the initiatives in terms of perceived effort and benefit. Capture the results in a table.
  3. Review the results with the team.

After the workshop:

Summarize the persona characteristics and stories (may be bullet-point form) in the workshop output document.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t offer too many choices, because clients may just want to have all of them.
  • Don’t give personas too much detail, because clients will benefit the most from personalizing them during the workshop.
  • Don’t be afraid to revamp your personas entirely.
  • Don’t panic. =)

Learning assertiveness

January 17, 2010 - Categories: family, life

I’m the youngest of three sisters. Both of my older sisters are adventurous and outgoing. I’m quieter and more reflective. I’d rather curl up with pen and paper than go partying. As a result, I’ve received lots of teasing about being square, listened to lots of unsolicited advice, and had to deal with my own sister spiking my drink. (I didn’t get drunk, but we did argue about that.)

Moving halfway around the world turned out to be great for individuation. (Talking to specialists is a great way to find out what jargon to look for!) I know myself better, and I can stick up for myself.

It’s incredibly liberating to be able to say, “No, I’m not going to <insert activity here>.” Repeatedly, if necessary. I could hear my imaginary Get-It-Done Guy and E-Counsellor cheer me on. I figured that it was worth the experiment, and it was. =)

Assertion is a key life skill. You need to assert yourself in order to protect free time, establish boundaries, negotiate, and do many other things. I’m glad I have these opportunities to learn and practice assertiveness in a relatively safe environment. It’ll be interesting to see how else assertiveness will be useful in life!

Any thoughts or tips on assertiveness? =)

What I want to talk about in 2010

January 18, 2010 - Categories: planning, plans, speaking

Following through on my resolution to give fewer talks, I’m thinking about what kinds of talks I do want to give.

I want to help people work together better. I want to talk about the whys and hows of collaboration, helping organizations, communities, teams, and individuals learn how to use these tools and practices. Part of this will include basic step-by-step tutorials on how, perhaps, but I’m much more interested in documenting and shaping collaboration patterns.

I want to help people play to their strengths. As I learn more about being introverted and about having a beginner’s mind, I’m looking forward to sharing what I discover with other people.

I want to help people map and share their lives, insights, and questions. I want to map everything I know, and I want to help interested people do the same.

I want to help people become more at home and discover themselves. I think I’m getting the hang of it, and I want to share that with others, too!

So: collaboration, strengths (particularly learning and introversion), mapping/knowledge-sharing, and self-discovery. Now that I’ve sketched that out, I can think about what questions I want to explore and how I can share what I’m learning along the way.

I’m not quite used to this. I created most of my presentations in response to requests, invitations and calls for submissions. Lately, though, I’ve been creating more and more presentations just because I wanted to. Switching to being more proactive about my topics might be an interesting experiment. =)

Weekly review: Week ending Jan 17, 2010

January 18, 2010 - Categories: weekly


  • [/] Prepare company profiles for upcoming Innovation Discovery engagements
  • [X] Learn more about facilitation


  • [X] Spend more time with family and friends
  • [/] Look for gifts for my parents and sister
  • Also: Had wonderful parties with friends and godparents


  • [X] Prepare for taking cat along on trip
  • [X] Renew driver’s licence in the Philippines
  • [X] Get health certificate for cat
  • [X] Pack my bags and fly back to Toronto
  • [X] Post more sketches
  • Also: Finalized permanent residency, hooray!

Plans for next week:


  • [  ] Catch up on work
  • [  ] Schedule and attend calls
  • [  ] Send Idea Lab results and updates
  • [  ] Prepare microblogging presentation


  • [  ] Find woodworking and electronics projects for J-
  • [  ] Plan tea party for February
  • [  ] Send thank-you notes


  • [  ] Go to the dentist
  • [  ] Schedule vet visit
  • [  ] Submit more paperwork (health care, TFSA, etc.)
  • [  ] Recover from trip, jet lag, sore throat
  • [  ] Revise The Shy Connector for upcoming WITI presentation; test

Training wheels for setting goals

January 19, 2010 - Categories: life, passion, purpose

“Do you have any good questions to encourage people to set goals?” my mom asked. She’s been having a hard time getting people in the office to set personal and business goals. She’s tried worksheets, acronyms like SMART, motivational speakers,

I suggested providing a menu of suggestions, if people had difficulty answering open-ended questions. Generic suggestions –> concrete personal goals –> actions they can take to achieve that goal. It can be hard to dream from scratch. Ideas, guide questions, and role models help a lot. They’re like training wheels for setting goals.

When I’m brainstorming what I want to do in life, I find that reading and listening helps. I look for what resonates with me, and then I choose elements to incorporate into my plans.

What helps you set goals? How do you help other people learn how to set goals?

Braindump: Social media advice for events

January 20, 2010 - Categories: web2.0

If this is something you’re attending:

  • Figure out the hashtag people are using to talk about the event on Twitter. Share what you’re looking forward to, connect with people who are going, and start the conversation.
  • Blog about the event, linking to the site and to other people who are talking about it. Connect with other people who are going.
  • Take notes and share them on your blog. Link to your notes on Twitter. Send e-mail following up with contacts, including a link to your notes.

If this is something you’re organizing:

  • Pick a hashtag, promote it, and link to it on the conference webpage.
  • Keep an eye out for people, tweets, and blog posts related to the conference. Link. Consider using hashtags.org
  • Consider asking for blogging volunteers. Link to their work.

Recovering from jet lag

January 20, 2010 - Categories: life

Between moving my cat 13,000km and finalizing my permanent residency, that was the most stressed out flight I’d ever taken.

It’s four days after the flight and I’m still tired. A nasty cold snuck in while my immune system was weak, I guess. W- has been taking good care of me.

I’ve got some errands to do today (dentist appointment, health card registration, social insurance number renewal), and then I think I’ll go to bed.

Book: On Becoming a Leader

January 21, 2010 - Categories: book, career, leadership, reading

Norman Lear would add to this that the goal isn’t worth arriving at unless you enjoy the journey. “You have to look at success, incrementally,” he said. “It takes too long to get to any major success…. If one can look at life as being successful on a moment-by-moment basis, one might find that most of it is successful. And take the bow inside for it. When we wait for the big bow, it’s a lousy bargain. They don’t come but once in too a long time. ” (p.51)

No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders.

So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely — all your skills, gifts, and energies — in order to make your vision manifest. (p.111-112)

On Becoming A Leader: Revised Edition
Warren Bennis

(Disclosure: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link. That said, I recommend checking out your local library. I got this book from the Toronto Public Library, yay!)

Many people worked long hours and sacrifice other parts of their lives in order to achieve career success. They want the executive title, the high salaries, the decision-making power, and the recognition. I don’t think that kind of career lifestyle is a great fit for me. Instead of sacrificing so much for a big potential payoff, I’d rather focus on living well at each step, and feeling successful in each moment. The core of my work is figuring out who I am, what talents I can bring, and what difference I can make.

What could help you express yourself more fully?

Free Drupal-IBM-Acquia webinar: Integrating Drupal with Enterprise Back-office Systems – Thu Jan 21 2010 1PM EST

January 21, 2010 - Categories: drupal, geek, ibm, work

I coached developers on this project. =) It was pretty darn cool, what they did with Drupal, Websphere, DB2, and web services. Check it out!

Integrating Drupal with Enterprise Back-Office Systems to Deliver a Best of Breed e-Commerce Sites

Join Drupal experts from IBM Global Services as they detail the process of defining business requirements, selecting the appropriate technologies, overcoming the technical enterprise integration challenges, and ultimately launching best of breed e-commerce sites with Drupal.

Key takeaways will include:
A review of the key business and technology decision criteria for selecting Drupal and Acquia
An example of a 3 tiered architecture designed to deliver end-end automation and a flexible platform for future innovation
Tips on how to integrate front-end and back-end systems including Drupal, Websphere, DB2, and ERP system for launching a best of breed e- commerce solution.
A discussion of which Drupal modules and Acquia services are recommended.
Best practices and technologies for building a development and test environment to optimize parallel development and ensure security

This Webinar is designed for those who want to learn more about best practices for designing an enterprise architecture with Drupal at the core and integrating Drupal with other enterprise systems.



(Update: Thanks for catching that!)


January 21, 2010 - Categories: life

Recovering from jet lag has been slow, but I think I’m on my way. My cold has lifted a bit. I’m no longer miserably sneezing into an endless series of handkerchiefs. I stayed up until 10 last night, although I occasionally dozed off standing up. I’m awake enough to make breakfast (today: grilled cheese sandwiches with nutmeg and tomato).

I’m still a little scatter-brained, though. Please bear with me as I get back on track.

There’s a lot in store for 2010. I’m going to learn a ton about facilitation and training. I’ll meet a lot of interesting people. I’ll explore many different hobbies. I’ll grow a lot, both professionally and personally.

This week is about getting my bearings. This month is about preparing the foundation.

The books have started pouring in from the Toronto Public Library, re-requested or reactivated after my vacation. That familiar itch has come back. I need to have unread books on the shelf, just waiting to be discovered. I need to browse whatever’s at hand, learning random bits of knowledge.

Still a little unraveled. I need to collect myself. I haven’t written in a while. I always get a little frazzled after a long time of not writing. Writing helps me create order. Sense-making.

Yesterday, I updated my social insurance number and applied for a health card. Slowly moving towards having a permanent identity here, instead of just a temporary one.

Next next Saturday, I’ll take my cat to the vet for a check-up and registration.

Hmm, maybe I can filter my feed reader to remove any posts about personal branding.

Ah, a good stretch. I’m looking forward to my next bike ride. I might go out later. It’ll be around –1’C, cloudy. It’ll be good to be on a bicycle again.

Oh! There it is. That lightness of spirit, the bubbling of enthusiasm beneath the surface, no longer weighed down by the fatigue of the past few days. Not quite back to normal yet, but getting there slowly.

Things to look forward to: sewing, biking, tea parties, misc. crafts, figuring out what I’m going to do at work, getting things sorted out.

Batirol, tablea, and tsokolatera – the joys of hot chocolate

January 22, 2010 - Categories: life, photography

Not entirely traditional, but this IKEA jug makes an adequate tsokolatera.

Someday, I’m going to learn how to make tsokolate eh

Visual organizers

January 23, 2010 - Categories: visual

I love visual organizers. 2×2 matrices, mindmaps, fishbone diagrams, even more interesting ways to structure and organize ideas… Just as a wider vocabulary helps you express more when you speak, a wider visual vocabulary helps you express more when you think and draw.

Here are some sources for inspiration:

Also interesting – tools: http://www.visual-literacy.org/pages/maps/mapping_tools_radar/radar.html

Around the watercooler

January 24, 2010 - Categories: ibm, web2.0, work

I attended a virtual watercooler session for the IBM CommunityBuilders community yesterday afternoon. It was great hearing from other people who are also figuring out how to help others use social networking tools to build community. We’re dealing with many of the same issues: encouraging adoption, facilitating participation, keeping up to date. One of the incredible things about working in a huge company like IBM is being able to tap a breadth of perspectives and learn from so many people around the world.

There’s been such a big shift over the past few years. The questions we get from clients and coworkers alike used to focus on what and why and how, like “What’s Twitter? Why would anyone use it? How do I get started?” We still get questions like that, but more interesting questions have emerged. Now that enough of the tools and enough of the culture has taken root, we can start looking for interaction patterns. We can look at how communities and teams use combinations of tools, how that influences their processes and results, and how the discussions flow.

There’s so much that still needs to be explored. I want to help figure out how we can more effectively connect and collaborate, and that work is just beginning.

Every teachable moment

January 25, 2010 - Categories: geek, life, teaching


What is it like being a geek? It means being surrounded by opportunities to teach, even at the dinner table.

One of the LEGO magazine issues had included a pair of 3-D glasses. The issue had been tossed out due to a large number of jam stains, but the 3-D glasses were still on the kitchen table.

I put the 3-D glasses on. Things around me shifted from red to blue-green, depending on which eye dominated that part of my mental picture. I could influence which color I saw at a point by mentally favouring one eye or the other, but I couldn’t get the scene to be one colour unless I closed one of my eyes. Interesting.

I explained my observations to W- and J-. Curious, J- borrowed the 3-D glasses and put them on.

“Cool,” she said, looking around, as I told her about eye dominance.

Then I took a red pen from the pen holder and rolled it towards her.

“Wow! That looks white!” She switched eyes. “Now it looks black!”

Then I showed her a blue pen. She tried looking at the pens with both eyes, then with one eye, then the other.

W- and I explained a bit of colour theory along the way.

What is it like being a geek? It means recognizing that every little thing has a mystery that can be unfolded and explored.

Book: Beyond Booked Solid

January 26, 2010 - Categories: book, career, delegation, management, reading
Beyond Booked Solid: Your Business, Your Life, Your Way Its All Inside
Michael Port, 2008

(This link is an Amazon affiliate link, but if you’re near a public library, take advantage of it. I borrowed this book from the Toronto Public Library. =) )

Michael Port’s follow-up to Booked Solid focuses on how to grow your business beyond yourself, and is an excellent read for people interested in taking the next step.

I’m curious about the A3 Reports he describes on pp. 61-62. The A3 Report summarizes a business situation on a single sheet of 11.7”x16.5” paper. It would be interesting to use this structure to think through personal situations as well. =) (I guess I’m weird that way.)

  • Title of report, name, and related information
  • Theme/objective
  • Current situation analysis
  • Root cause analysis
  • Alternatives
  • Recommendations
  • Future state picture
  • Implementation plan

On page 94, he also provides some tips on making things happen, and then he fleshes them out over the next pages.

  • Collaborate.
  • Adopt practices for exploring a variety of perspectives.
  • Coordinate meticulously.
  • Listen generously.
  • Build relationships intentionally.
  • Have clear intentions.
  • Develop habits of commitment making and fulfilling.
  • Tightly couple learning with action.
  • Call on your talents.
  • Bring your passion to the project.
  • Embrace uncertainty.
  • Have a compelling story for your project.

On page 146, he offers tips and outsourcing work to other firms. He firmly believes that you shouldn’t outsource in a way that creates a single point of failure for your business. If you work with firms and document your systems well, you can get back up and running after unexpected difficulties.

On page 173, he makes a particularly good point relevant for public speakers. He says, “Before I give a speech, I need to be careful not to try to create a particular energy. Instead I tap into the audience’s energy. We all need to tap into the energy of the people we’re working with. There’s only so long you can be an energetic cheerleader for a project if the people around you need to be manipulated into corresponding energetic responses. I’m sure you’ve all thought how your energy level rises around people who are excited about the work they’re doing or, for that matter, how your energy lifts with someone who has a zest for life.”

Another good take away can be found on page 177, where he advises, “Schedule fun once a day — after your normal working schedule.” This not only helps you include your productivity by encouraging you to be more efficient, it also helps you manage your energy.

Worth reading, particularly if you’re interested in scaling up.

Dogear and Delicious: Cross-posting your enterprise bookmarks (xpost)

January 26, 2010 - Categories: ibm, work

I love sharing my bookmarks. Tagging helps me find things again, and other people tell me they occasionally find useful websites in my collection. Here’s a bookmarklet that makes it easy for me to share on our internal Lotus Connections Dogear bookmarking service at work as well as on the del.icio.us bookmarking service outside the firewall. In order to avoid bookmarking internal sites publicly, I check the domain name for the presence of ibm.com. This results in false positives on the external IBM.com domain, but that’s okay. It works most of the time.

To use, drag “tag this” to your bookmark bar.

tag this

I’ve modified the Lotus Connections Dogear script so that it wouldn’t show a lot of pop-up warnings on Chrome, which is my default browser.


Weekly review: Week ending January 24, 2010

January 26, 2010 - Categories: weekly


  • [X] Catch up on work
  • [X] Schedule and attend calls
  • [X] Send Idea Lab results and updates
  • [/] Prepare microblogging presentation  Sketched and posted notes, but still have to make the slides
  • Also: Recovered from computer problems
  • Chatted with manager about yearly results
  • Edited documents
  • Volunteered to help with remote presentations talk in March


  • [X] Find woodworking and electronics projects for J-
  • [/] Plan tea party for February
  • [/] Send thank-you notes
  • Also: Started planning event
  • Attended school open house


  • [X] Go to the dentist
  • [X] Schedule vet visit
  • [X] Submit more paperwork (health care, TFSA, etc.)
  • [X] Recover from trip, jet lag, sore throat
  • [X] Revise The Shy Connector for upcoming WITI presentation; test
  • Also: Dusted off sewing machine and started sewing
  • Made Eggs Beatrice
  • Took pictures
  • Copied family pics into computer



  • [  ] Capture lessons learned
  • [  ] Create overview visuals
  • [  ] Revise wiki structure
  • [  ] Shadow David Ing on client interviews
  • [  ] Give presentation / facilitate discussion on microblogging


  • [  ] Send thank-you notes
  • [  ] Send care package
  • [  ] Plan February tea party
  • [  ] Mentor and be mentored


  • [  ] Scan my notes
  • [  ] Start grouping Siargao pictures into a story

Gifts and graphs: visualization and gift-giving

January 27, 2010 - Categories: family, life

Many talents might be skills in disguise. For example, my sister Kathy has a flair for giving personal gifts, while I often struggle to think of what to give people. There’s no reason why I can’t gradually learn how to find just the right thing.

In The Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam says that drawing and visual thinking are skills that can be developed, too. He breaks the process down into four parts: look, see, imagine, and show. While it can be hard to figure out how you can get better at visual thinking in general, you can think of ways to get better at observing the world, making sense of patterns, imagining how you’re going to organize the information, and showing your thoughts. Getting better at each of the parts helps you get better at the whole.

Look, see, imagine, and show. That can help me get better at giving gifts and writing cards, too.

  • Look: I can observe people more closely. I can also look at what stores sell more closely.
  • See: I can find patterns that indicate interest. I can see the intended purposes of things.
  • Imagine: I can imagine what people might like or find useful. I can imagine how things can help.
  • Show: I can show what I’ve learned through a gift and a card.

So I can use the same basic idea to improve two of the skills I’d like to work on! (And the same thing probably works for facilitation, too…)

As my mom pointed out, it’s not the gift, but the time and thought that accompanies it.

The Back of the Napkin (Expanded Edition): Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures
Dan Roam

The extended version has a hard cover, colour highlights, and lots of new examples. Like!

(Disclosure: The link above is an Amazon affiliate link. That said, I recommend checking out your local library. I got this book from the Toronto Public Library, yay!)

From the book bag

January 28, 2010 - Categories: book, entrepreneurship, finance, reading, sketches

I love reading. Love love love love.


Here are a few more books:

image Fight For Your Money: How to Stop Getting Ripped Off and Save a Fortune
David Bach, 2009

Decent reference, useful form letters. Nothing too surprising in terms of advice. I like this more than his other books, which tend to hammer in the Latte Factor a bit much. Good to give to people who are just starting out in Canada.

The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By
Scott A. Shane, 2008

Surprising data-driven insights into entrepreneurship. Depressing in some places (such as when he’s looking at the statistics for women and entrepreneurship), and encouraging in others (such as when it comes to capitalizing new businesses). Something to read in a library.

How are these Friday book reviews working out for you? How can I make them better?


January 30, 2010 - Categories: life

’nuff said.

More stories to follow!


January 31, 2010 - Categories: life

We did the formal pamanhikan last night, over Skype. I prepared an agenda to help W- and his parents talk to my parents:


The agenda provided a running joke throughout the video chat. ;) The structure helped, too! We documented the decisions made, and I’m responsible for e-mailing people the minutes. W- and I keep planning information in Google Wave, a shared spreadsheet, and other notes.

Yes, we’re that kind of couple.

W- and I have joked that IBM’s helped us get a lot of experience in working with global teams and coordinating projects. ;)

Also, in other news, I’m engaged. =)