January 6, 2010

Bulk view

On pen and paper

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!

Offline and online conversations

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!