Category Archives: purpose


Birds on wires
Photo by Automatt, licensed under Creative Commons (Attribution)

After reading my post about being a girl, one of my closest friends wrote:

I never thought you ever got such thoughts:
And when the shadows in my head whisper that I'm not as good as the others, not as geeky as the others, I drown them in Emacs Lisp. ;)
I always saw you as someone strong and has everything together - yeah like you are a hitchhiker with your towel with you all the time ;)

I get that a lot, the nagging thoughts that I am not as good as others. It's kinda tough when that happens because I still haven't figured out what my strengths are. I am something like a Jack of all trades but a master of none. And that is something I have to live with everyday.

This is one of the reasons why I think out loud. I want to connect with other people on a deeper level. It is important to me to be human, approachable and understandable. This blog will not be a polished, professional archive of useful articles. It will have my cooking misadventures, my existential crises, my questions. My issues, as a friend put it. Yes, I have issues. Not very earth-shaking ones, mind you, but I have more questions than I have answers - and I love that!

I talk a lot about feeling insecure, but that's because I love looking for what I can learn from other people. I don't feel threatened as much as I feel inspired. My confidence is not a show that I put on for other people. When I'm in my element, the energy I get from people and from the situation fills me.

When I falter, friends help me remember. You help me remember who I am and why I'm here. My blog lets me go back and look over things in my own words, searching for similar times to find out what I did and how I resolved the situation.

Sometimes it may seem that I'm worried too much about how I measure up to other people (5'1/4"? ;) ) or that I feel too insecure. But hey, we all have different strengths, and I love exploring different things in order to find out how I can be of most benefit to the world. =)

(Besides, one of the cool things about this picture is that the bird on the lower line can see everything that's going on! ;) )

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Random Japanese sentence: 寝る前に猫を外に出すのを忘れないでね。 Please remember to put out the cat before you go to bed.

What I want to do with my life: tell stories

In the process of helping a friend get some insights from David Allen's book on Getting Things Done, I found myself telling a few stories about how other people use the thoughts in the book, and how he could adapt it to his life. Stories!

I'm not a technology evangelist as much as I am a storyteller. I can tell stories about non-technological things, and in fact I _love_ telling stories about so many different things and so many different people.

That's it! I want to tell stories!

Here's how my grad school research ties into it. My master's thesis will be about how to tell newbies stories about a social computing system so that they can understand the value of the system, so that they'll _get_ it.

I'm looking forward to going to work tomorrow. I plan to be on the first bus out and the last bus back so that I can catch up on all the stories on the blogosphere. I'm looking forward to writing, to calling attention to other people's stories. I'm looking forward to preparing more talks and articles, polishing stories and facts and ideas into presentations that might persuade people to try things out. That's what my life purpose translates to in terms of my very next action.

Short-term? Let's talk about one year. My master's thesis is one of my top priorities, of course, and I see it as a good reason for me to find out if stories are useful and what kinds of stories might help people understand social bookmarking. Orgchart, location, network? Lots of other ways to take advantage of someone's context... Anyway, it's shaping up to be a really exciting project, and something that I'd love to see translated into other areas like blogging.

No, I have no idea yet how I can make a living through storytelling. I want to learn how to write books and speak well. I may need to figure out what to do in the middle, while I'm still not "respectable"... <laugh>

I want to listen to people's. I want to tell people's stories. I want to learn about how to do those two things really, really well.

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Random Japanese sentence: 1匹の猫がカーテンの陰から現れた。 A cat appeared from behind the curtain.

Imagining the future

Wow. Don Marti has career advice for me. Wow.

Sacha, saying that you don't want to be a programmer in the 21st century because you don't want Marketing between you and the user is like saying you didn't want to be a programmer in the 20th century because you didn't like waiting for the operator who carries your stack of punch cards to the computer. The way software development gets organized is always changing. It's getting lighter weight all the time.

And he's right, you know. I enjoy stitching systems together and thinking of just the right tool(s) to fit people's needs. I love working with people to figure out how they can make those tools a part of their lives. I need more actual practice doing this, I think - the technology evangelism I'm doing at IBM is barely a taste - but it seems like a lot of fun.

I want to be a technosocial architect. From Thomas Vander Wal's description:

Looking at the digital tools we have around us: websites, social computing services and tools (social networking sites, wikis, blogs, mobile interaction, etc.), portals, intranets, mobile information access, search, recommendation services, personals, shopping, commerce, etc. and each of these is a social communication tool that is based on technology. Each of these has uses for the information beyond the digital walls of their service. Each of these has people who are interacting with other people through digital technology mediation. This goes beyond information architecture, user experience design, interaction design, application development, engineering, etc. It has needs that are more holistic (man I have been trying to avoid that word) and broad as well as deep. It is a need for understanding what is central to human social interactions. It is a need for understanding the technical and digital impact our tools and services have in mediating the social interaction between people. It is a need for understanding how to tie all of this together to best serve people and their need for information that matters to them when they want it and need it.

Maybe I can hack code _and_ people. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 彼女がドアを開けるやいなや猫が走り出た。 No sooner had she opened the door than a cat ran out.

Remembering my purpose; hooray for writing!

I tried to go to sleep earlier than usual last night, and I was hit by a bout of existential angst. (I'm 22. I'm allowed to have existential angst. ;) ) I started wondering what on earth I was doing here, etc.

I think I came to those thoughts because of various heavy things Simon and I had been talking about over the weekend, like the senseless tragedy of the war in Lebanon.

Looking around at my room, I poked fun at my inability to keep things as neatly organized as people here have. I said even after a year in Canada, I still hadn't gotten used to it, and I'd probably make room in my professional budget for managed housing or a housekeeping service.

Reflecting on that further, though, I realized that that weakness of mine wasn't a core part of my identity and that it should never be. I _can_ keep things neat if I take the time to, and if I can't make the time for that, then I should scale back my life until I can.

This led me to think about the difficulties people had around me, and thus the existential angst. With all these problems in the world, what am _I_ doing to help? Is what I'm doing with my research really worth it?

Instead of ignoring it or lying awake thinking about it, I pulled out a flashlight and one of my reflection books. There in brightly-colored markers were all these diagrams showing how I felt about life and what I wanted to do. (Thanks, Diane Lazaro, for giving me a creativity kit!)

In large blue letters, one page read: "I WANT TO TELL STORIES!" With that reminder, everything clicked into place again. I'm doing my master's research in social computing because I want to learn how to effectively tell stories about technology, not just because I want an excuse to stick around in Canada for a while. I'm part of Toastmasters and I'm exploring writing because I want to tell stories.

I want to tell stories because so many people have such interesting stories that can touch the lives of thousands and thousands of other people. I want to draw people's stories out and help them understand themselves more. I want to tell stories that will help people imagine what they can do with technology or how they can improve their relationships with other people.

Maybe that's how I can change the world. =)

I'm glad I drew those diagrams before. I love writing and drawing and talking and thinking. I know I'm going to run into similar questions again and again—I'm human, I forget myself—and having something to go back to gives me great joy.

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Random Japanese sentence: 虎を大きな猫というなら、同じように猫を小さな虎といってもよい。 You may as well call a cat a small tiger as call a tiger a big cat.

Three questions for success

Via the Business Opportunities Weblog comes this awesome story about Farrah Gray, who made his first million by age 14. Want to be a Millionaire? Ask Yourself Three Questions

“Ask yourself three questions. First, what comes easy to me, but harder to others? The second question is, what would you do for work for years and years and never have to get paid for it? And the third question is, how can you be of service and how can you give back?” Gray advises.

Same questions my parents taught me to always ask myself. =)

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