While I considered myself fairly adept at online searching in general and using Google in particular, there were things lurking behind the Advanced Search options that made me balk. Date ranges and searching within websites, but filetype? Those colour options in the Image Search? Some features had been added since I’d focused on mastering online searching skills (aka grad school), and while I was picking up tips and tools through Google-a-Day, I discovered that far too often, I found the answer and then moved on, without looking at the tricks recommended by Google.
So when I saw announcements last year for a free online course titled “Power Searching with Google“, it sounded like a great opportunity. Taught by Senior Research Scientist Daniel M. Russell, the course uses online videos, exercises, and assignments to help users learn more about how to effectively and efficiently search and retrieve valuable results using Google. There were Google+ hangouts, and Google+ was used as a forum on which participants could share strategies, experiences, and insight.
Time is running out. Time keeps flowing like a river. It’s just a question of time. A query of iTunes reports that I have 42 songs with the word “time” in the title. I have it on good authority that it would be possible to write a few lines of code to figure out how many times the word “time” appears in lyrics from the 18.6 days of music and audiobooks in my iTunes, given the appropriate skill set, files of all the song lyrics, and enough time.
However, time being limited and deadlines looming, this experiment remains hypothetical because I simply don’t have the time to spend on it. Earlier this year, I bookmarked and clipped articles on time from Grad Hacker (February’s “Setting time boundaries”) and Hack Library School (“It’s OK to not have time,” also from February), thinking I would read them as soon as I had time. Fast-forward four months and here I am, finally reading posts on time, trying to find some solution to my situation of feeling over-extended, overwhelmed with work, and wondering how much more I could get done or how much better I’d be faring if I only had more time.
As previously discussed on this blog, I keep statistics for our library, in an effort to quantify what we accomplish and what we produce. X number of publications catalogued, y number of reference queries of z duration. However, I could not use this same tool to effectively estimate how much time I spent on a given subject or activity. Following a recommendation, I created an account with Toggl.com and started using the Toggl app for iPhone to try to answer a very important question: where does the time go?
Back in 2010, I attended a presentation given by Michael Stephens on libraries and social media entitled “The Hyperlinked Library — Trends, Tools and Transparency”. As I had followed his blog Tame the Web for few years and had also read a few of his papers and presentations, this was possibly the first time I was looking forward to an event co-sponsored by our library association. I was impressed by his straight-forward, animated and engaging way of speaking and the fact that the presentation left us feeling excited and encouraged to try and use these tools in our libraries. Although many of the newer staff had personal experience using LinkedIn and Facebook, our library was only just starting to create a Facebook presence and there was only a weak interest among staff and administration to take steps forward with social media, particularly Twitter.
I changed jobs and my new post overwhelmed me. I postponed thinking further about using Twitter or any social media for the library, hoping to get my feet beneath me before taking such steps. So it is with a bit of sheepishness that I admit that I only finally joined Twitter last week. I feel a bit like a Johnny-come-lately, to say the least.
In addition to Michael Stephens’ inspiring presentation, SES and my husband had both made convincing arguments in favour of my joining Twitter. Twitter could give me entrance and access to a wider community of similar interests, both academic and professional, with whom I could share information and experiences and from whom I could gather advice and ideas. I would be able to have interactions and connections with other librarians, invaluable for a solo librarian if only because it would help me step beyond my home library and my personal echo chamber. I could gain better familiarity with a technology whose usage is still increasing and whose applications could be both personally and professional useful.
But still I dragged my feet.
My distractions at this moment:
- Cars passing and the fact that, though the streets are dry, it sounds like the roads are wet
- Someone playing video games in the other room
- The cats, one trying to sleep on my lap between me and the laptop perched at my knees, the other staring at me from the floor by my feet
- The plethora of other things I’m supposed to accomplish today
- The Internet
The cat in my lap has now moved to sleep on my wrists. Obviously, she doesn’t see this as a distraction; in her mind, it’s the computer and whatever I’m typing that must be distracting me from what I should be doing, namely, paying attention to her. When she gets really irritated, she puts her paws across my hand and flexes her claws, then turns to stare at my over her shoulder with that look that cats have perfected, a cross between boredom, disdain, and eye-rolling irritation. This post, ladies and gentlemen, is apparently less important than this furball.
In the book The Secret Miracle: The Novelist’s Handbook, on the topic of distractions and handling them, the responses from two different authors express very well the delicate balance in dealing with distractions.
Rick El-Darwish is the blogger behind FAIL Tale. A computer scientist, systems and networks administrator, and computer forensics and security specialist, Rick is also the Chief Technical Officer of St. Noble, a company that handles the IT and computer security needs of non-governmental organizations.
In early August, Rick went to Las Vegas to attend Defcon, a large annual hacker convention that has been running since 1993. Rick has attended since 2008, joining a group of several thousand computer security professionals, employees of various government agencies, hackers, crackers, and security researchers. The convention takes place over several days and includes presentations, workshops, competitions and games, and social events. Following the conference, we interviewed Rick about his experience and his advice for getting the most out of attending a conference.
KRED: Do you have a strategy when you go to a conference like Defcon and is this strategy different than one you’d use at a smaller conference?
Rick: I think my approach is pretty much the same for any conference, large or small: it truly is what you make of it.
Apologies for the half-finished post that made its way up on the internet. Ah, the start of a new academic year!
Motivation is a fickle friend. I started this post about a month ago and have let it sit as new and more fun tools and trends passed through my mind. Such is the way of things. But as I sit here hunkered down as the winds of Irene keep beating at my window, I am motivated by the threat of losing power to finish this post. I am also motivated by looking at the week ahead and knowing what my schedule holds. I find motivation when I’m forced, oftentimes. While I am very intrinsically motivated as a human being, I find myself having difficulty closing if I do not have a deadline, or an impending natural disaster. Motivation is a tough issue to negotiate and wrestle, but in his TED talk, Daniel Pink gives a great summary of motivation, motivators, and expectations.