A friend of mine posted an interesting picture the other day. She’s a librarian and often posts items of interest regarding libraries, books, reading, and education in general. It was of a 300-year-old library tool that enabled a researcher to have seven books open at once. She also commented, “Now they’re all just browser tabs,” referring to how we do research nowadays using multiple tabs on whatever browser we happen to be using, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, etc. Below is the photo from her post.
Seeing it instantly reminded me of a tool I had seen over a decade earlier when I had the opportunity to visit a vendor in Charlottesville, Virginia, the owners of which I had become friends with. I was on my way back home from a conference in Maryland and stopped to visit with them for a couple of days. Inasmuch as Thomas Jefferson’s mansion and slave plantation, Monticello, was nearby, I felt obliged to check it out. It was in Jefferson’s library that I saw the item this tool had reminded me of. It was another type of research tool (depicted below) that served the same purpose. Also, I remembered it specifically because, at the time, I thought the same thing my friend did; this was the 18th/19th century equivalent of having five (Jefferson’s wasn’t quite as lavish as the one above) browser tabs open simultaneously.
I also had the pleasure of visiting the University of Virginia, which had been founded in 1819 by Jefferson. Seven years later, Edgar Allan Poe attended the University where, apparently, he had to raise money for tuition by gambling because his father hadn’t sent him to school with enough money to get my. Below are a few more pictures from my visits in Charlottesville.
Do you find yourself bouncing from one thing to another? I do.
I have always had eclectic tastes and my interests are wide and varied. Couple that with being a bit of OCD in some respects and a little ADD in others, and you get . . . where was I? Seriously, I have long referred to myself as a stimulus magnet. For instance, I was never able to work anywhere near peak capacity if I listened to music, especially if lyrics were involved. It wouldn’t take longer than a minute or two before I’d be tapping my feet and wanting desperately to sing — which, of course, when sitting in a cube farm is not really a good thing to do.
A long time ago, I used to play a game with two friends where we would sit on a couch and the two on the outside would carry on separate conversations with the one in the middle. These conversations had to be more than just idle chit-chat as well; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge. I was pretty good at it and, in retrospect, I’m sure it helped me be able to multi-task, which we all know isn’t possible, except it actually is. I will, however, accept that doing so does reduces each task to being a little less efficient than it would otherwise be if one were to concentrate solely on it.
The advent of the Internet hasn’t made me more focused either. Like many people I know, my browser normally has a couple of dozen tabs open. Part of it is probably just related to my being an information pack rat, and my having a difficult time closing something interesting. I have a hard time escaping the nagging feeling that I’m going to want that document/page shortly after I close it, knowing if it’s any more than an hour or two afterward I’ll have difficulty finding it in my browsing history. I could bookmark it, and I often do, but that’s no guarantee I’ll either remember I did so or will be able to easily find it later.
I also bounce around a fair amount as a word, phrase, or sentence sends me scurrying off to find out more. Thankfully, Chrome includes the ability to highlight a word, right click on it, and look it up in the dictionary. The results also include info from wikipedia and a thesaurus as well . . . most of the time. This is becoming more and more useful as my internal dictionary and thesaurus are suffering from wear and the inevitable gumming up experienced as one ages.
Frankly, I don’t know if others experience these things, or if some of it is age-related as most of my online friends are considerably younger than I am. I’d send out a survey, but I’m quite certain it would piss off too many people or I would just be ignored . . . as I so frequently am normally.
All this greatly affects my ability to concentrate and causes me to constantly struggle to focus. Do you experience this? Is it just normal nowadays, given the firehose of information we are all inundated with via our computers, notebooks, and smartphones? I don’t think I’m the only one who deals with this, but I’m not entirely certain.
I joined Facebook on July 3, 2007, which means I’ve been a user for over seven years. It wasn’t terribly difficult to go through my Timeline and discover the date, but neither was it all that easy. I think I got lucky in finding the entry. Actually, since my retirement, I’ve been pretty much a daily user of Facebook. I’ve always been a little disappointed that it’s all but impossible to search your Newsfeed or your Timeline. This is especially egregious given that you can search in groups.
I’ve also been pissed off so many times because of how FB works, both in a browser and on my iPhone’s app, that I’ve found workarounds to deal with the way I get bounced around and have trouble returning to where I was when I decided to read something a little more in depth. So, the other day a friend of mine posted a description of what I had been feeling and I thought it was perfect. I told him so and I want to share what he said. Here ’tis:
I swear Facebook timeline is practice for a serious freaking bout of Alzheimer’s. You read something of interest that is cut off, so you click “… more” and read or watch something that makes you feel marginally more human and connected, you click back or close the pop-up and and they have redecorated, painted the walls (the lovely picture a friend took of a sunset or an odd shaped peanut) isn’t there but something sort of just as interesting is, and the dog you though you had (well the video of a puppy) is gone, and the thing your friend shared you wanted to like is also… POOF!
I swear Facebook is created by people who time travel and the time travel booths are sponsored by some sort of Alzheimer’s Anonymous reject group or something and want to inflict their version on the world as if that can be the new normal.
On the other side of the coin, there are lots of things you can do to organize yourself and the people and pages you follow and care about. One of the ways to do it is by building lists, or subscribing to lists others have built. One of the people who is, in my opinion, the most informed and engaged in using Facebook effectively, is Robert Scoble (aka Scobleizer). Here’s a blog post of his from nearly two years ago. He manages to stir up a lot of controversy, as evidenced by the comment from “mindctrl”, but also has a lot of really useful advice and analysis to offer. Not just for Facebook, either.
I’m still struggling with the “working out loud” thingy, but Facebook is definitely part of it. The main problem for me is that it also sucks me in and I use it to avoid doing the other things I want to do. That’s another story for other days. If anyone has thoughts about how Facebook works (or doesn’t) for you or how to make it more useful, I’d love to hear them.
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.