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 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.


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!

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

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.