May 10, 2009

...and say "I'm done".

I am hoping now that school is winding down I will be able to reclaim the work/life balance that has eluded me these past 4 years. I am the poster child of how not to balance work and life. I think the tipping point was when I purchased a phone that could sync my work and school email. I set my out of office for the first time in more than a year on Friday for graduation - and I still checked my work mail! Someday I hope I will learn to shut it off. I think purposely forgetting it at home when I went shopping yesterday was a good start.

I would like to thank all of you for helping me collect such great input from the usability testing. The data and comments were great and it made writing the report a breeze. The biggest findings were additional or consistent navigational tools, removing the blank pages, getting the photos to show up, and having descriptive headings that clearly differentiated the page topics (our mobile tech title was too close between the iPhone page and the Twitter page, so I just changed them). Overall the comments state that the site is easy to use, has a ton of information, and looks professional. Great job all!!! If you want to see the report - send me an email. I will continue checking my u mail regularly for at least a week.

On a personal note, this class was a real challenge for me and I want to thank you all for keeping it interesting and engaging through chat, blog, and on the site. I am done with school for a while now and I am almost tearing up realizing that on one hand - no more homework and on the other hand - no more great intellectual interaction with those who share my passion and interest. To that end, feel free to keep in touch. Maybe we will meet irl at an STC meeting or conference some day. Take care!

"Navigate back to "home" and say, "I'm done"."

May 8, 2009

Work/Life Mix what is that?

In the fast paced world we live in and what have you done lateley we always need to be connected. Weather it is school, work, family or friends we have been conditioned to expect answers or responses as soon as we get the communication. With that being said, we are lucky in the way that there are a number of different outlets or communication mediums that can be used to keep things fresh. This course has taught me that technology and communication is constantly evolving and getting more exciting everyday. As a society, it is our responsibility to find a balance that works for everyone and is not intruding on personal time to make everyone happy.

This course has really world applications and is not just teaching us fun and new ways to communicate. As an example, I was able to do a training video for new reps that I have to sell a highly technical product 3 months faster than previously expected. Applying this knowledge has really helped my company save money and alse work at a rate that is faster.

May 7, 2009

I've got nothing to do today but smile.

The Internet is an overwhelming force. You can get a great amount of work done with the aid of technology, but if you are not careful, work becomes a constant obsession in life since you are always connected. Chapter ten states, “Great satisfaction and success sometimes requires imbalance and excess.” This is a strange concept to me, since I consider moderation to be a good thing. Although I do understand it is not enough to simply exist; a person needs to experience crazy days where nothing goes well only to be surprised by something nice and suddenly the world is bright again. My favorite aspect of technology is encountering a new program and than clicking around a bit until I figure it out.

Creating our Wiki pages has been quite an experience. My own process involved scheduling phone conversations, simultaneous instant and text messaging, and tons and tons of e-mail exchange. Politics was never my cup of tea, and I was extremely worried about what to write, but little by little everything came together. Any stress that came my way was broken up by blogging/ranting. Complete madness was stalled off by candy, comfy pajamas, and YouTube videos. I am sure everyone has encountered similar situations where you need to take a break and than everything is steady again.

I still do not see myself using these social networking websites on a daily basis since I remain a loner and it is not appealing to be on the edge of my seat incessantly checking status updates. Even though I do not immerse myself completely in the social networking world, I know how to use the technology and understand why some people would find it appealing and useful. Our class was extremely fast paced with a new technology to figure out almost every week, but I had fun along the way. Thank you everyone for such a cool experience.

XOXOX- Vy

It almost happened to me...

About seven years ago I worked for Hennepin County as a welfare case worker. At the time the county started to allow certain employees to share their case files and let one person work from home one week and allow the other person to work from home the next week. Naturally this appealed to the most of the employees but only a certain amount of workers could get approved per three month trial period. It got so competitive that we eventually had to write proposals as to why we deserved to be the next team to telecommute.

A coworker/friend of mine decided she wanted to telecommute and she asked me to be on her team. I wrote the proposal and met with her team manager to discuss the details of how we would work as a team. Her manager informed us that she liked the proposal and that we were next to be considered for telecommuting. Shortly after that major changes happened within the county and our telecommuting proposal (or anyone else's) never went through because they were changing the entire structure of the Hennepin County Welfare Department.

What I'm trying to get at is I have always dreamed of working from home. I'm not anti-social but there's something about being in a non-structured environment that appeals to me. I wouldn't even mind being at the office every other week and in fact that would be probably be beneficial as far as building positive working relationships. I like that Zelenka mentions over and over how important it is to keep positive relationships while being a web worker. I think would be important to try and connect with people while you are working at home. It's great advice to IM instead of email if you are working closely with another person that you may never meet. When working on the class wiki I felt that Liz and I were fine sending emails back and forth but if this was something we worked on all the time I would imagine that using an IM would be a better way to manage our working relationship.

I still dream of a future were I can work from home and never have to do public speaking presentations. I really loved my two online courses this semester. Some people warned me that I wouldn't like it but I loved it and I wish I could take all my classes online.

In the Zone

I really like the idea of defining my own balance. Zelenka suggests that you decide for yourself because you might have too many outside activities one week and less another week. This will determine how much you work and when you work. I was able to practice this during the course by planning when I completed assignments around my job and personal life. If I knew something was due on a certain day, I would find time to get it done before then. It wasn’t always the same time or day of the week, it just depended on when I had more time. I was able to accomplish more outside of school and still complete the course with out meeting the physical demands of being on campus at a specific time. However, I wasn’t able to use the web for better personal relationships. I needed to have a time set aside for school work without being distracted by other potential uses of the web. As in Connect! I did engage in blogging as I’m doing right now. I was what Zelenka considers socially productive. I was able to focus on more than one thing at a time and switch back and forth depending on the given circumstances while creating our wiki on the Republican National Convention. I find that getting out of the house (Zelenka, 2008) is not what works best for me. I need to complete my work in a place where I am comfortable, for me that’s at home. I think that by going to a café I would be more distracted because not everyone is considerate of the fact that you are working and need to get stuff done. At home, everyone is aware and leaves me alone until I’m finished.

Stay on everyone's good side, don't make anyone Mad.

Loved the emphasis on personal relationships! (Zelenka 268) It is very scary when someone close to me is addicted to technology, and I write from experience. I’m glad that social relationships as a whole is strongly emphasized in the reading. I just had to write that to show my appreciation for the topic being in the book.
I understand now why it was recommended to read other people’s postings, before posting my own. It’s all about the flow and the mindfulness. (Zelenka 272) I’m know I have yet to practice my mindfulness, but I understand the flow concept now. Thus, I read a few blogs before posting this. It really did help me get in to the groove of writing. Zelenka defines flow as “a psychological sense of effortless engagement with whatever task you’re working on.” (Zelenka 272) Right now I am not feeling stressed at all about typing the post. I’m not even that worried about the word count. I also realized that the main idea is replying to a post is to create a social gateway. If I write down something that opposes the blog author, I am actually closing the door on a conversation that never started.
This course has taught me a lot about connecting in life in via technology. It isn’t just about connecting with people you know, it’s about getting to know people who are faceless to you… that is unless they have Facebook. But anyways, I realize that to get a message out into the world, you can just bring it out. If venting is what I need to do, then do it. But do it where I won’t turn into a monster or a party pooper. The Internet allows me to mess up and vent. But of course, there is no substitute for real people, and real responses. I just want us all to remember that we shouldn’t blend our lives into work all the way. I think the concept of “work-life blend” is cool, but doesn’t that kind of defeat the old way of keeping personal and business life separate? Well, then again some of you may object to what I am suggesting. It’s a new year, new generation, time to do things a new way. I can see where that’s coming from also, but then again it’s up to us to decide how we want it.
From this course, I use what I have learned to aid me in the future. This upcoming year I plan to help in making a website for the CBS Ambassadors. Maybe I can incorporate the web-working connecting ideas into creating the website with a team this summer, without having to come interact in person. I already know the people who I’m going to work with, so I think it’s going to be much easier to collaborate. Thanks for everything everyone!

Story Time!!!

Well guys, this is it! I have been spending all day working on my wiki page and other various school projects. I am almost done with this stuff FOREVER!!!!!!!!! I don't even believe it....it's crazy talk.

So what will I take away from this class? I think the big one for me is the fact that our world is now changing. It is based on technology and information. This can be good, it can be bad, and it can be very frustrating and confusing. However, there are so many good technologies and ways to stay connected to people. This class has taught me that it is possible to get things done without necessarily meeting face to face. Our wiki site is living proof of this! I am so proud of what we have put together.

When starting the wiki I just wanted to stay afloat. I was confused about a lot of the technologies we used in class because I had never used them before. I didn't even know what it meant to tweet on Twitter! Look at me now!!!! I feel very fancy :) haha, but even more important I feel comfortable. I feel at ease using a wide variety of online technologies. I know how to take one thing from one site and put it into another site and use it. This is amazing.

As far as balancing life and work, this class has helped to teach me a lot. We need to use technology, but we don't necessarily need to let the work of technology take over our lives. More generally, we don't need to let work take over our lives. I always have a hard time keeping the balance and my life. When I am focused on the right things I feel like I can accomplish anything. I begin to take on more than I can and then it gets to be too much. I re-focus and then the cycle kind of repeats itself. What I am working on right now is keeping work at work and keeping life simple. If I can do this I don't try as hard to do everything, which is good, because I can't do everything and to try to is just wrong and too much! I need to accomplish things, but I should enjoy what I accomplish otherwise it isn't worth a whole lot.

I am really just happy with everything that we have learned and done. I know that it will help me to keep an open mind about technology and the internet as well as keeping the balance within my life. I hope everyone does well in their finals, with the rest of their school careers, and with life in general. Have fun and enjoy every day!!!!!! PEACE OUT PEOPLE!!!!!!!

May 6, 2009

Steak and Strawberry Smoothies

I like steak. I like strawberries. I do not like steak and strawberry smoothies.

I like my home life. I like studying and schoolwork. This semester has taught me that I do not like working at home.

Zelenka's concept of the "work-life blend" only applies to people who enjoy working at home in the first place (Zelenka 258). This was my first online class, and I've discovered that web working is not an ideal situation for me. There are just too many temptations. This semester I also had an internship at US Bank. Since the office was 30 miles from my house, I was scheduled only on Monday and Friday... which meant that I had a substantial amount of work to do at home. The difference was that, if I wanted to, I could drive to the office during the middle of the week. What I discovered is that, if given the opportunity, I will almost always go somewhere besides my house to work.

Web working certainly has its advantages, as Zelenka and this class have illustrated, but it has some serious disadvantages, too. For example, I found myself getting very frustrated with the collaborative aspect of this class because it seemed easier to get mad at someone that I had never met. Also, instead of just asking someone what they meant by a comment (for example), I had to go through the extra "chore" of writing an email, waiting for their response, and possibly replying again. I wish we could've had at least one face-to-face meeting during the semester so that I could have seen my peers as people, not just students.

Will I ever be a web worker? Probably not. I have, however, benefitted from many of the tools that we learned about in this class. Becoming familiar with Twitter has allowed me to contribute to many discussions at work about its possible implications. Overall, I think that collaboration isn't well suited to the web, but individual studying/research/social networking is.

A semester of webworking

This is probably the sixth online class I’ve taken at my time at the University of Minnesota. I’m a huge fan of web working because it allows me much more flexibility in my schedule. My life is jam packed with other things that sometimes I can’t even find a spare second in the day in case something important comes up. Web working has given me the opportunity to work on my own schedule with flexible deadlines, which really emphasizes Zelenka’s work life blend. I am better able to do the things I want when I am not confined to getting to a class in a certain place at a certain time every week. Additionally, as a web designer, I work in front of a computer for a good 30 hours a week, so hopping online and doing a quick assignment is simple for me and helps me blend my work with life.

However, there are also a couple of downsides to web working. I generally enjoy working alone, and this semester and class has been such a collaborative process that I found frustrating at time. Knowing that I will need to work in teams later on down the road with my future career path, this was a good reality check for how well I can work with others and how dependent you are on your team to get their job done and do it well. Another downside of webworking is how easily I can get distracted. I rarely ever use the internet for one thing at a time, and usually have AIM programs and a movie playing in the background. When I’m on the internet I will always have multiple tabs opened to Facebook and Twitter and other non-school related sites. It’s easy to get pulled away from webworking when you are essentially having a work life blend even when you are just on the computer. I am blending my time to work on assignments with time to do some social networking and other activities.

May 5, 2009

Web Work

I like how Zelenka replaced the concept of work life balance with work life blend. This makes sense because the balance means that your work life and personal life are separate and the “blend” idealizes both happening at the same time or allowing to weave together both aspects throughout the course of the day which can be an aspect of web work. I think this did happen for me this semester. This is the third online class I have taken in my time at the University and I have enjoyed them all not only because of the content but because of the ability to work on my own schedule as opposed to during set class times. I'm much more of a night than a morning person so I much prefer getting course work done late at night as opposed to getting up for an 8:00 class. Another important aspect of how web work creates a blend that I've noticed is that I can put off things easier (whether that be good or bad). For instance in this class we basically had weekly dead lines and as long as the work was done before the deadline it was fine. So if something came up that I would rather do than coursework I could do that and do coursework later as long as it was before Sunday night or whatever the deadline was. In other classes you have to sacrifice more things that you would rather do in order to have things done on a every other day when class is held deadline.

I agree with Kaitlin's post that online work can also be very distracting. I frequently found myself surfing the net randomly for a half hour at a time or more when trying to get work done or write my wiki page and other people/things in my apartment when I'm trying to work were also very distracting. I was able to work around this though by forcing myself to go to the library in between my classes on Tuesday and get a majority of the work done for both my online classes this semester in that time period. This made my online work much more efficient if I did it outside of my home.

Overall, I guess online work has its ups and downs like anything else. I could see myself working at a job thats maybe a partial online environment but not entirely. I think seeing and meeting with the people you are working with at least half the time is important and I don't think being isolated behind your computer for hours and days on end is very productive or healthy. Human contact is just as important in the workplace as outside of the work place in my opinion.

I prefer to think of my blend as a malt.

Over the past 15 weeks of web-working, I have grown to really enjoy it. Instead of having class in a classroom at set times during the week, I can learn on my own when I have time. But as the course went on, I discovered that I like having a set time to do things. I realized that I began doing the same things almost every week. For example, I would check the Moodle on Monday night and complete the readings (sometimes they carried over into Tuesday). On Wednesday mornings I would complete my blog post and on Thursday nights I would comment on my classmate’s posts. Depending on my schedule, I would complete other assignments (like writing a sub-topic page) generally over the weekend. (Obviously I did not follow the schedule this week). From this I realized that what I like most about web-working is working from home. It also allows for bursty working. I am not forced into a certain number of hours of work and so can complete things when I feel most productive. But what I like best about web-working is also the worst thing about it. There are so many more things to distract me while I am at home; like my roommates and spider solitaire. So I learned how to devote my attention to the task at hand. Zelenka & Sohn (2008) talk about this through the concept of mindfulness. They give the example of having to shift all of your attention between a project and a question someone asks you (Zelenka & Sohn 2008, p. 275). I see where this comes into play with web-working. On Mondays and Wednesdays I watch a six month old baby for my landlord. I often get work done while he is sleeping or entertaining himself. But when I am working on something and he wakes up from his nap, I need to immediately shift my attention from my work to taking care of him.

With web-working, you can blend your personal life with your professional life. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Zelenka & Sohn (2008) give a few examples like having crayons and things for the kids to play with in your office while you work or taking a personal call (259). Blending my personal life and professional life worked well for me. I was able to accomplish things for school but also take time and do things for myself.

In looking to the future, I don’t see myself being a full-fledged web-worker. My career goals include working with individuals and families to achieve affordable housing. This means that I will most likely be in an office and counseling clients in person. Therefore, I would not be able to stay at home and be a web-worker but I am going to apply some of the concepts to whatever job I end up getting. For example, I am going to try to be a bursty worker and perhaps set up a schedule when I know I will be most productive. I am going to connect and collaborate with my coworkers by using different online tools. It will help us to share ideas and develop new techniques to counsel clients.

April 30, 2009

YouTube, the next to be distroyed

As I have experienced the wiki, twitter, facebook and other internet communication avenues I keep thinking that they all get wrecked in a short period of time. Up until a short time ago, I had not even heard of twitter or facebook and now they are mainstream. With the popularity of these sites, it is a natural draw to advertisers and big corporate giants to invade every household with their ads, messages and promotions. In the article by Joly, it states that there were 13 million watching videos online in 2005 and that number is projected to grow to 413 million in 2010. This is just another target for ad giants to take the most popular videos and insert a commercial before it to get the message across. There is no way to control it, but I fear that is the way we are heading.

On a more positive note, YouTube and other video cast sites have tremendios upside and can be used for positiive applications also. Think of the university setting that we are in right now. Can you picture having every lecture or lab produced online so that you can go back and watch it again or for the first time with online courses. This would save the University a significant amount of money and would draw more students that are non-traditional to get back to college. Another great application could be used by companies when training new representatives, for demonstrating new and exciting technologies or for conducting short updates for employees. These are positives that it can be used for along with making a nobody somebody overnight.

Jenny Spadafora on using social media professionally

Remember Jenny Spadafora, one of our guest speakers from earlier this semester? She had a lot to say about integrating your professional identity with social media. She recently did a more formal talk on for the Intuit Women's Network, and was kind enough to make it available to us here.

April 24, 2009

Are we someone?

We’ve twittered, wikied, and indulged in Delicious. But even though we’ve trudged onto the Internet grounds, we are nobodies, according to Garfield. To be someone, and here we are ‘someone’ as a class, we should be uploading videos onto YouTube. We are though the audience of YouTube. We are using the videos that are uploaded by other individuals. Through the Wired reading, I finally realized that YouTube as an application is costly. It is worth so much. And although the creators, or owners, try to manage the content, it is very hard to do. So to me, it seems as though YouTube is sort of at a point, where copyright is still a problem. But yes, YouTube is a great entertainment destination online.

The first time I heard of YouTube, back in high school, it sounded ridiculously silly. Why would anyone want to post videos of their self, if there were people preaching about not putting pictures online? It didn’t seem like a smart thing to do. But, that thought soon subsided when interesting videos kept popping up into conversations. Garfield was correct when he said the videos pop into conversations. I’m sure we’ve all been told by friends, “hold on, you HAVE to watch this!” And we all sit around a 13” screen and stare. Waiting to laugh, or see what’s so special. Nowadays when I hear that request, I expect something really funny or really interesting to be shown to me. It’s really a fun way to get a conversation going also. The conversation could last for many minutes after the video plays, to many days later. Shall I mention, “I like turtles?” The bad part is, sometimes a few of your friends may love the 57 second clip so much, that they keep replaying it. I’m just not one of those people who have the patience to re-watch a video, but some people are.

In using YouTube as a part of our project, it's going to enhance our site so much more. Even though we don't upload video's of our work, at least we are attaching and using the app for our benefit. :D

April 23, 2009

Tube Boob - That's me!

I am a huge fan of YouTube. Not so much of the examples Garfield cites in his article in Wired but of the endless hours of illusive Warner Brothers originals that exist (probably illegally) on the site. My husband and I miss the violent cartoons we grew up with and we insist that our son should grow up knowing the wisdom of Wile E Coyote and Bugs Bunny. To that end, instead of watching "My Friend Rabbit" and "Vegi tales" (which my son also loves) on TV during breakfast on Saturday mornings, we hook up the laptop to our kitchen TV and he watches good old Looney Toons. According to those who disagree with violent cartoons, my husband and I are breeding a serial killer - or at the very least a bully. Despite our effort to corrupt our son, we have a sweet kid who has absolutely no understanding of gravity.

That said, I will admit I miss the "Evolution of Dance" and watched it tonight for nostalgia. Then I read the rest of the article. The point Garfield made that stuck out the most to me was, "Another possibility is that potential litigants are simply being patient. They understand YouTube's value to them as a marketing tool and are waiting for a technological solution" (Garfield, 2006. Page 4). This was the point I was trying to make when we posted about copyright and fair use a few weeks ago. Copyright infringement doesn't always have to be detrimental to the artist! Geez people, let's try a glass half full attitude. The music sharing sites are some of the greatest examples of how people are sharing their music to be discovered - the more views the better, please pass it along.

The same is true for YouTube. People post for attention, to be discovered, to showcase their talents. Because as reality TV has proven, America's got Talent and no matter what talent that is, so long as it has an audience it is worth sharing. Some people post to share their views with others and some do it for advertising. In a competitive economy like we have today, I am shocked and amazed that people haven't started posting video resumes for companies to magically find. I would imagine using YouTube to apply for a position might at least get your resume reviewed at Google...if great minds think alike and the recruiters could find you!

That brings me to the topic of Weinburger's Everything is Miscellaneous. Weinburger speaks casually about the order in chaos and how tags and folksonomies work for today's online masses, but he doesn't make a solid connection between the tag and the keyword search. Tags are successful only when someone else refers to an object/item/document the same way you do. For example, in our site search I ran into a number of articles about the republican national committee when I searched for RNC. The same goes for PCD which is a process challenge device in my world, but the first entry in Wikipedia under the acronym is "Partido Conservador Demócrata, a political party in Nicaragua". If I tagged a photo or video as "PCD" based on what I know the acronym to mean; I imagine there would be a great many disappointed searchers looking for photos or video of the Pussycat Dolls.

My point is that in order for tags to mean anything and be of any use, they have to have meaning common to all users - and this is where folksonomy comes in to play and the multiple tag concept or the "semantic web" (Weinburger 194) - when more than one tag match is used to generate the best search results. The example Weinburger gives is the results for London versus the results for London, England versus the results for London, Ontario (Weinburger 194). Same goes for a search for sterilization in Flickr or YouTube - look it up, I dare you! You will find maybe a photo of an autoclave or two if you page through the results, but for the most part it is surgical procedures on animals. Let me reiterate here that my job is medical device sterilization - and as far as I know bacterial rights hasn't become a "hot button" issue yet. Support bacteria, it's the only culture some people have!

Welcome

This is the course blog for WRIT 4662W: Emerging Technologies in Sci/Tech Comm, a Spring 2009 course at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Here you'll find posts by 15 smart students and their instructor, Krista Kennedy. We're thinking about distributed work, digital texts, and the place of Web 2.0 in technical communication.
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