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May 14, 2008

Phew...Done!

Ok. It took me all day but I finished my usability testing. I cannot believe I could even miss this last madule. Not only am I a klutz, but I am also blind.
Anyway. I want to talk about all the applications we have learned this semester. Facebook has its place, but I did not find it useful for this project. Twitter would have been very capable if everyone was on it all the time. In the normal work world this would mean from 9-5pm or there abouts. It is a great app for hooking up with quick questions or just to let people know what you are doing. Thinkature...well, whatever.
The meat of this class has, of course, been the wiki, deli.cio.us, and Flickr. To build a real, information-filled wiki page deli.cio.us and Flickr are must-haves. This issue with Creative Commons is still a small thorn but very understandable. If I took a great picture or wrote an award winning article I guess I would want to keep it to myself, also.
Email...I am a big email person. I cannot live wihtout it. It connects me to everyone. I don;t have to find the right time of day to call someone, or the stamp to mail a letter, email is there all the time, day and night, 24 hours a day. That is a great medium for communication. I think it ranks right up there with the Moodle. I am always logged into email, but check the moodle only once a day (more the last week, though).
If I were to have to be a part of a project like the one we did I would definitely use Twitter, deli.cio.us, Flickr, and email. In my mind these are staples in working as an online group doing an online project.

Thank you, Krista. You have taught us alot this semester and I am sure I speak for everyone when I say it is very appreciated.

Web 2.0 and resumes...

Stumbled upon NYtimes shifting careers blog - interesting topic on the social media resume and very interesting related comments. Check out this new (at least to me) social media resume:

http://cspenn.googlepages.com/

worth a gander!

Game over man, game over!

Well folks, we've reached the finish. Cheers!

I had high expectations coming in to this, and although a lot of things didn't work out the way I expected or would have done them myself, those expectations have been surpassed in other ways. The technology applications, the tools themselves, and the prevailing modes of thought about integration, collaboration, and the future have brought me back to currency more comprehensively than I ever expected. I needed that. What I'll take away above all is the applicability and openness of web working, Web 2.0, or whatever umbrella you might want to put all we've studied under. I'm practicing that right now, having left the office at lunch time so I could more productive on some much needed administrative duties without my phone ringing and the other non-stop distractions inherent at the office.

What worked, what didn't... that's an important question. The presentation of more theoretical material in the books versus the brief instruction and more immersive approach to using the technology also worked nicely, putting the work in immediate context. The weekly blogs were glue between these, and to me very effective. Twitter worked much better than I would have expected. After getting it running full-time, I can see it's niche and envision it being useful after this class too. The Flickr/Creative Commons/copyright segments were eye-opening, critical stuff that will only become more important. All the other apps, tools, and sites (and I include Thinkature here, I maintain that was a useful exercise because it partly worked, and tech failures are very much to be expected IRL) served well. I never would have run across Digsby either, and that's the greatest connectivity tool I've ever used. I run Gophermail, Gmail, my work email, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, AIM, and GoogleTalk whenever my laptop's online, and there's no way I'd check all of these even once a day otherwise.

I think we could have made the site look and work better, and the usability test drove that home (note: I did not have the prereq. course, so that was an entirely new challenge last week and I learned a lot just doing that alone). I think we have volumes of great material there though, and summer editing is going to have a really nice subject on which to practice. I'll be saving the URL and seeing what they come up with...

The last bit from Connect! was a good refresher of the philosophy and practical approaches to web working, and fit in neatly. I really dislike the phrase "bring x full circle", but that is the apt description for this final reading. Personally, I'd been paying attention to everything else for long enough that I hadn't thought about those contextual points for a while. Reading those two chapters now is going to significantly improve my retention and clarity on the subject material after the course is done.

I could go on and on but the points are made. My apologies for being so late on this final post as well, that was me not paying attention and I do feel bad for that, especially on this subject. My thanks to each of you for your participation, contributions, and feedback over the semester, and I wish you all the best of luck in STC and whatever else you're up to next. I'm often up for a good discussion on technology and the like, so feel free to look me up online if you're in the mood.

à plus tard...

Stay Tuned...(really)...

OK. So I had a little brain-spasm and could not even figure out that on the drop-down box (for "WK XX") there could even be an arrow for more...I thought the fact that when you click on the "Moodle" should bring you to the current moodle chapter. Because it doesn't, I am sooooo late with my final entry. You know, I was waiting expecting an email telling us a little of what we had to do; email is a good medium. People check email more than anything else.

I have not read the chapters yet but, I can maybe tell you what might be a good model. I think e-mail is THE most important medium. I also think Twitter has an application for instantaneous answers if everyone is on and will answer...I don't think enough people use it yet, though. Plus, I keep getting a "SOMEBODY" is following you...I can't cancel them, either. I loved the Wiki, but think it would work with fewer people in the beginning.

More to come...

May 11, 2008

What Works When Work Takes Time

What has worked

These past 15 weeks have not been easy with my schedule, however the flexibility of an online class is priceless. I was able to prioritize better due to discipline. I had so many things to juggle and I knew they would never get done unless I prioritized, and this class really made me do just that.

I also really enjoyed learning more about wiki's and all the components, time, and collaboration it takes to build them.

I was also very familiar with usability, but in this class it gave me the opportunity to create something and actually see what people like/dislike, can perform/can't perform, and how user friendly the interface was.

What hasn't worked

In the beginning I didn't quite exactly focus my attentions on trying to find a topic that I could really dig into, and I got stuck trying to look for information that could easily have been covered by one person and not two. Because I felt that I didn't have enough sources for information on my topic I ended up having to cluster myself to other pages and ideas which made it very difficult to keep organized.

I am usually a very independent thinker and am not usually a good advocate when it comes to working in groups but I was able to branch out with my own ideas eventually, but a lot of time and effort was wasted on looking for environmental information that just was not there in excess.

I also think that the deadlines were sometimes confusing this semester, and that it would have been easier to only have one deadline and let everything be due on Sunday by midnight.

All in all, I have had an excellent experience with this class and I would definitely recommend it to another student who is interested in web development and the emergence of open source collaboration.

My smoothie: waaaah-meeeow-puhleeze?

Anne Zelenka touches on several topics in Ch 10, “Blend your work and your personal life.? While they are tips written for web-workers, I found them very applicable to the work/personal life mix, regardless of the work location. This semester, I had my first experience as a full-time web worker. For me, the work is school, so unfortunately, some of her tips perhaps weren’t quite as useful as if I had a *real* job to deal with.

Zelenka’s section on ‘blending kids and work in the home’ (p.261) was spot on for me. I have a 4 year old daughter and a brand new baby that arrived this semester. Zelenka is right: it is nearly impossible to get any work done with a 4 year old at home. Without her child care arrangement, there is no way I could have finished the majority of my work. I still don’t know how people manage to do it – but I’m looking forward to reading the articles Zelenka cited at the end of that section. And for anyone else considering school+new baby…I wouldn’t recommend it if there is any other possible choice. For me, there was no other way to do it. And, I did. Barely. But, I’m on the brink of burnout and am ready to sleep for a few days now that the semester is over (not a possibility, sadly).

Which brings me to burnout…My unbalanced life symptom of choice. Sadly, with schoolwork, some of Zelenka’s tips are not as applicable; you can’t take a sabbatical in the middle of a semester, you can’t hibernate (unfortunately), and you can’t really unload any responsibilities (267). I was completely exhausted most of this semester, but if it weren’t for that, one could definitely engage in a side project to get the work juices flowing. I suppose that is the basis of extra-curricular activities.

Zelenka’s work-life smoothie just can’t work for everyone. For instance, as a mother you learn about windows of opportunity. When the baby goes to sleep, you must do ____. I have to force myself to use mindfulness to go straight to work, without the usual internet warm-ups (facebook, email…) – while having some free social time may be healthier, if you don’t spend the window on the real work that must be done, the window is lost.

Overall, the freedom that working online can bring for careers is a blessing. Even having one day working at home can make life more productive. As someone who takes off days during the week, I know that errands and phone calls get done in record time on a nice Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon. I spent a lovely stress-free afternoon at ikea on Thursday – there was almost nobody there! (Note: if you love ikea, try Thursdays at 2:00!). Even if you can’t work from home, Zelenka’s tips are useful for balancing web work and life, because most office workers are using the web at work all day long.

May 8, 2008

Work, Personal, and the Whole Sha-bang

Wow, 15-16 weeks of learning . . . learning A LOT! The class could probably agree with me that we learned a ton of information. The information that we learned regarding web work will not only help us in our academic lives but also in our work and personal lives, hence the whole sha-bang!

Chapter 10 of Connect! discusses blending your work and personal life. We discussed this topic at the beginning of the semester, and probably the first time that I realized the importance of this topic was during the class chat with Jenny S. I remember we chatted about mixing 'personal' into work and how she mentioned using social apps frequently (not just in her spare time but anytime including work time). Thus, this statement is quite true: "The web makes work-life balance harder and easier. . . . harder because you can stay connected to your work no matter . . . easier for those same reasons. You don't have to work nine to five . . ." (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 257)

I don't really read self-help/motivational books. However, I felt as if reading Chapter 10 was like reading a self-help/motivational book due to descriptions like "work-life smoothie" (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 257, 258-264) and "work-life medicine" (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 258, 272-277). In addition, the phrase "When life gets lumpy" (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 257, 264-267) sounds to me as if it could be part of a motivational poem. It reminded me of the beginning of a poem by an unknown author which goes like . . . "When things go wrong as they sometimes will; When the road you're trudging seems all uphill; etc etc." Take that phrase in Chapter 10 . . . "When life gets lumpy as it sometimes will; etc etc." Furthermore, "Your web of connection and support" (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 257-258, 268-271) sounds very self-helpish and motivational with the words support and connection. It was good for us to read Connect!'s Chapter 10. It was like fuel to our brain. It was useful sending-off material. It was a good way to take us beyond the class. I will take these words to heart: "With web work, you define your work-life balance and blend individually and authentically. Ultimately, you are the one who decides and creates the right mix of work and life for yourself." (Zelenka & Sohn, 2008, p. 258) So, it's up to me!

At my work/job, work is strictly work. I do other work like classwork outside of my job. When I'm doing classwork, I'll not only have applications pertaining to class up on my computer. Sometimes I'll have facebook in another tab. A lot of times I'll have music streaming or play a YouTube video just so I have music in the background to help me work. All of this enhances my classwork experience and helps me get through it. I had mentioned in the previous paragraph about having it be up to me on deciding my work-life balance. I chose to learn as much as I could in this class, and I chose to be as active as I could. At the beginning, I was kind of--what's the word I'm looking for--unsure because I was not a computer guru and I had a lot of learning to do. I hope I did well. What helped were the different applications introduced to us like facebook and twitter. The weekly blog postings helped us share with the class about our thoughts and also a way to get to know each other. I would have been all up with meeting classmates in person if there were in-person session opportunities (such as the end of the year Stub & Herb's get together). Sorry I couldn't make it. So, we are at the end of the semester. It doesn't stop here though. There's a lot more to learn. I will use what I learned in this class and apply it to my other classes and in my personal life. This class also helped with personal, which is important. I have reconnected with old, long-lost friends on facebook. Now, that's something that I am super grateful for. All in all, I am grateful for taking this class. The knowledge that I have gained was such a great amount. It's been real folks! . . . or as one may say in the web world: it's been virtual folks! Okay, that was kind of dorky, but whatever. Seriously though, I am really glad I took this class. Thank you all for everything!

My Work-Life Smoothie, a little bit of web work, a little trip to the farmer's market

Just as this week’s Connect! reading said, I tend to make a “work-life smoothie? (p259). I find that I am most productive when I am completing personal and professional tasks together. For awhile I assumed I was one of the few individuals in the corporate world to do it. But while going through this reading I began to think back and really could see how it was happening all around me, just in different capacity. One of the biggest indicators hit me today while I was shopping the farmer’s market downtown (I was on my way back to the office from a meeting). If we lived in a culture where all we did was draw a thick, black line between personal and professional, the downtown farmer’s market would not be swimming with people (all in suits) at 10:00 am on a Thursday. Furthermore, I would not have to stand in line at Target to do a return behind a woman on her blackberry at 2:00 pm today. It appears that all of our connectedness has actually freed us. Thanks to blackberrys, iPhones and laptops, we are able to smoothly integrate our professional and personal lives. As Zelenka said on page 259 and 260, it is important to blend work and personal activities and it is important to find “a lifestyle in which they complement each other?. I am lucky enough to work at an office where mental health is highly valued. After a really stressful meeting or in the morning where it is hard to get focused and get going, a walk to Barnes & Noble or Target is encouraged. In fact, on most of these little sabbaticals we find inspiration for an ongoing project or ideas to start a new one.

As the only real web worker in my office I can very quickly become frustrated when trying to explain why certain changes to our website is important or why our office wiki should be used by more people than just me and another coworker. It is hard for me to integrate my colleagues into my Web 2.0 culture, then again, that is why they hired me (to avoid dealing with it themselves). This is where Zelenka’s piece on “Your Web of Connection and Support?, page 268 really came in. I realized that I’m really not alone in my office when it comes to the Web 2.0 world. I have forged some very powerful relationships with other web workers through a variety of blogs I commonly post on. However, Zelenka spends a great deal of time talking about how to make your web relationships real through text messaging, instant messaging, social networking site, etc. I didn’t really find a whole lot of value in this idea particularly appealing. Part of the reason I contribute to these blogs is because there is no real expectation. I found that after developing a few personal relationships with other bloggers the conversations became stunted, no one wanted to write something that might upset their web friends. I like the freedom of the hidden identity that comes with blogging. I have a connection to other web workers but I don’t have any obligations. Some of the best and most creative ideas and projects came from some pretty heated debates on a few blogs. I would have never have found the concept for our latest seminar had I not pushed a few buttons on another blogger. All of these relationships ultimately end well because we are separated by distance and because quite frankly we are not forced to be overly personal. So while I see the value that Zelenka holds in making your web relationships real I don’t think it works for everyone and there is potential in creating a web of mysterious friends with the only expectation being a strong discussion and not a personal relationship.

Now that I have spent some much time on the reading I really would like to take a minute to talk about what has and has not worked in these past 15 weeks.
I have really expanded my perspectives through this class and while there were a few things I didn’t necessarily enjoy I think it all worked. It worked because we were exploring as a group of web workers, because we tried things and either conquered or failed together. Through using Twitter I began to really see the rest of the class and that was a positive I could not have foreseen coming into the class. While I really was not a fan of Thinkature I did learn what I will want from similar applications in the future. I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of del.icio.us until I tried it and now I see what all of the hype is about. The wiki turned out really well and I would have really had liked more time to work on it. Overall I believe everything worked and I look forward to taking some of my new knowledge with me as I continue to grow as a web worker.

So, What will I take away?- It is great to explore new options in Web 2.0 as they are constantly changing and it is important to do this with a group because each person’s perspective holds a lot of value. Finally, I want to continue as a web worker, my quiet little world at work at no one really knows about (Web 2.0) is very powerful and will continue to offer my tools to improve my skills and grow.

This class: what worked, what didn't

What’s worked
• What’s worked tremendously well is what I’ve learned:
–I have a pretty good, ready definition of what Web 2.0 is. I have a good understanding of the impact of Web 2.0 technology on the business, economics, culture, publishing—especially self-publishing, creativity, employment, globalization, communication, entertainment, journalism.
–I have a pretty good sense of the impact of Web 2.0 technology on me. I know about and use Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Wikipedia, The UpTake, a blog, online chats, a wiki. I contributed to a site for creating and sharing timelines. And, I understand how the second generation of Web technology will probably impact my profession or at least the way I practice it.
–I learned how to embed photos and videos.
–I know why our traditional concept of order is changing. The new order of order is miscellaneous. The order of messy miscellanea brings us better ways to organize information.
I learned some things about information architecture.

• I’ve acquired knowledge and a new interest in citizen journalism. And I’ve learned about great new sources for news online.
• I’ve realized the satisfaction of self-publishing, possibilities for new creative outlets and new ways to meet people.
• I’ve taught other people some things about Web 2.0 technology.
• I’ve also learned to approach writing with far less trepidation than before.

What didn't work
• I haven’t maintained a good balance (forget about blend!) between my personal life, work and classwork. I’ve devoted all my extra time to the class because it’s fascinating and I’m an insufferable perfectionist. My family and friends are mad at me and my eyesight is blurry!
• The readings about information architecture were interesting but we weren’t able to apply them to the wiki given its limited capabilities.
• From the perspective a graphic designer, the limited design capabilities of the wiki were frustrating. I’m used to being to control all the elements on a page and I couldn’t do that in our wiki. And I spent a lot of time trying to fix formatting only to find that it changed every time I opened the page. I finally gave up and had to leave gaps that I couldn’t find any way to fix.
• I spent a lot of time alone.

What will I take away
• My new-found interest in citizen journalism. I’d like to try it.
• I want to get more involved in social networking. I haven’t explored Facebook enough to see if it’s really for me. So I’ll explore it more. I'm also a member of Linked-In. I’ve never taken advantage of that network and perhaps it will suit my interests more then Facebook.
• I want to set up an RSS feed to my favorite new online news sources.
• I plan to contact a group at the U about setting up a wiki for its tiger preservation project.
• I am newly brave about digital technology. I’m willing to try new things all the time now.
• During the course of this class, I’ve acquired a cell phone (my first) and a laptop (my first computer). Now it’s just a matter of getting wireless service. I’ve become a member of the 21st century!
• I’m taking a class in Web design this summer. I’m hoping it will be my entrée into the world of Web work.

Sara

Connect! to me

Applying Connect! to my class experience and my career

“Blend your work and your personal life = the future of Web work? articulated some of the experiences I’ve had in this class and gave me excellent advice for the next phase of my life.

Zelenka advocates replacing the traditional concept of “work-life balance? with her term, “work-life blend (pg. 258).? She argues that Web work allows people to blend and weave work and personal life activities throughout the course of a day. Work-life balance makes sense for traditional work but it implies keeping work and personal life separate—framing spheres of activity as competing with each other for your time.

Participating in this class required that I begin blending work and personal activities in order to complete assignments, communicate on Twitter and Facebook throughout the day, and collaborate with other students. It took me awhile to get used to that because I contend with disruptions all day in my current job. Adding more was overwhelming at first. As Zelenka says however, I eventually became accustomed to networking and working with greater ease. I also learned that intermingling the personal and work is not only easier online but is a healthy thing to do (pg. 259). I don’t feel guilty about taking a quick web surf several times during the work day.

Secondly, Zelenka stresses that one down side of Web work is that it can be isolating (pg. 263). This definitely became the case with this class for me. Once we started working on the wiki, I spent more and more hours alone in front of a computer. I didn’t put any boundaries between my classwork and my social life. My friendships and family relationships are suffering as a result.

Zelenka gave me some very good advice for my future life and career. First, I have a new way to frame the normal ebb and flow of life. I recognize that for the last 2 year, I’ve been in a “neutral zone (pg. 265).? I am not happy in this place. But Zelenka made it easier to accept as just an ebb period. From now on, I will remember her belief that the slow times are just as important as the busy ones. Moreover, I will plan for periods of time that cross months or even years to factor in the reality of the tidal pattern of life work.

I didn’t need Zelenka to remind of the importance of close social relationships (pg. 268). But I did need her to tell me how the Internet can rebuild my skeletal social life and the importance of emphasizing the social versus professional benefit of networking (pg. 269). Just this week, I had one of the most rewarding exchanges with someone I’ve had in a long, long time. Granted, the impetus for the connection was this class but the interaction was completely engaging. In fact, the both me and the other person forewent sleep to discuss compelling ideas.

Both my neighbor and Zelenka convinced me of the importance of mindfulness. I’m experiencing many the problems she lists: burnout, frustration alternating with malaise (pg. 277). Ironically, I’ll have to delay dealing with those issues until I finish this class!

Finally, one of the most important things I’ve gotten from Connect! is a sense of a vast new array of professional opportunities. She’s opened my eyes to possibilities I didn’t even know existed. Now I’m more drawn to Web-related work than ever. If nothing else, I want to utilize the Web in pursuit of social activities, hobbies and ongoing learning. I’m already on my way: I’m enrolled in a Web design class this summer.

Sara

Blend vs. Balance

The web has definitely changed the way people live. In many ways it has made our lives easier. It has enabled people to work away from the office and stay in touch with friends and family that you may have not done so before. It makes it more difficult in the fact that you can stay connected wherever you are and that may lead some to burnout. What's important and not always easy to do is to find a blend or balance for your work and personal life.

"Connect" talks about blend rather than balance. "A blend fluidly mixes just the right amount of each activity ensuring they complement and support each other whereas balance hints at setting your isolated activites against each other (Connect, pg. 258). You need to be careful with blending in that it can sometimes leave you unable to fin a place where your work stops and that can potentially harm your personal life. Balance is an even mix of work and personal activiites. As with blending, "balancing your work with your personal life suggests that work and personal life are separate and they have to be set off against each other" (Connected, pg. 259). Ideally it is important to find a style that best suits the individual.

I have noticed that for myself it is hard to find a balance for my work life since the web makes it easy to stay connected no matter where you are. In the past before the web people couldn't have as easily gotten work related things accomplished away from the office. Now it's almost impossible to get away from it. Many times in the evening or away on vacation I find myself checking my work email or doing work related projects on my computer. I have many times felt too consumed with my work and has led me to burn out. If you don't set boundaries for yourself it can negatively impact your life.

What I have done in the past was isolate my work and personal activities from each other. I have made an effort to get better at that. Especially since taking this class I have started working on our assignments during free moments at work. I have also been able to keep in touch with colleagues and friends with Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately the connectedness of the web has allowed such a mix.