Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nothing to Show for It

Have you ever had a work project that takes so long that people start wondering what you're doing? I've got one of those right now. I'm setting up e-Learning programs. We've never done anything like this before so I've had to learn a lot about instructional design, formulating questions, recording audio, converting audio to flash, inserting flash into our learning management system and publishing everything -- along with a smattering of XML so I can troubleshoot when things aren't working properly.

So today, our board Chairman says, "What have you been doing?" In a nice way; not critical. I wasn't really able to explain it. I've rerecorded audio for the first course twice. I've converted it to flash twice. I've deleted and started over twice. Yes, I've wasted time that I would rather not have wasted. But how do you learn to do these things if you can't take a class and you can't hire a consultant? I only know of trial and error. Unfortunately this project has had a bit more error than my usual efforts.

I hope to publish the first course within the next two weeks. Wish me luck. There is still plenty that can go wrong.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cutting People Slack

I try to cut people some slack. All people. Lots of slack.

It all started, or at least came to the forefront of my awareness, when I had my third, last, miscarriage. I was really messed-up. Gordy's Grandma Dunbar had died on a Friday and then I miscarried the following Sunday. I cannot emphasize how much I mean it when I say, "I was really messed-up."

I can't remember when, exactly, Gordy's Grandma's funeral was but there were some days between our miscarriage and her funeral. I got it into my head that I needed a new purse. The strap had broken on my old one and I was not going to go to the funeral without a new purse. Looking back, I'm sure it was a way to fix something I could because, at that moment, there were so many things that I could not fix.

Gordy, being Gordy, simply drove me to the mall so that I could find a new purse. As soon as we got to the mall I started thinking maybe this wasn't such a good idea. There were people in there and I would have to speak to at least some of them. But I thought that if I could handle buying a purse, maybe in a week I might be able to handle the rest of my life.

We went in through one of the department stores and I began cutting through the clothes racks. Gordy followed. As I came to an aisle I started to step across and then noticed a lady with an infant in a stroller coming toward me. I said, "Excuse me," and stepped back between the clothes racks to let her pass.

She went off. As in, "You have no business cutting through there. You could hurt people. You could have tripped over my baby. You should be shot!" Okay maybe not the last one, but we stood there through a good 30-second harangue of how I was endangering her and her child. I apologized again, and with a "Well you should be sorry!" she strode off.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel that the slender thread on which you are relying for you sanity has just snapped? I lost it. Completely. Poor Gordy, I was standing in the department store sobbing as if I had lost my one and only child. Which I had. It just took that moment, that complete breach of trust that people are supposed to be kind to each other, that slammed it home so thoroughly.

Gordy, who is an amazingly kind person, helped me through the day. (He had just lost a baby too, but was focused on helping me.) I was determined not to leave without completing the simple act of selecting and purchasing a purse. I know it sounds really stupid if you haven't been there but it was a milestone. Like getting back on a horse that throws you off. I needed to have that piece of normal to get me through all of the abnormal.

I bought my purse. We left. We made it through the funeral and eventually we healed, as much as anyone can from a miscarriage. Now I can purchase a purse without a second thought (probably too easily). But I still remember vividly the lady in the department store. I never, ever, want to do that to another human being. So now I try, very hard, to cut people slack.

Slow checkout line? No problem.
Someone cuts me off? Just please don't hit me.
Someone completely goes off at me? Suck it up. They are having a very bad day. I've had some of those myself.

I'm by no means perfect. I can be intense, focused and goal-oriented. I still get frustrated and want to hurry when I'm feeling late or pressured. Remember the Mall Lady, I'm reminded. Cut others some slack.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zero Follower Blogging

Last week a friend asked, "Why blog? What is blogging?" I answered that it is a narcissistic tool that people use to publish things that otherwise would never be seen. (Or something very close to that.) My friend said, "Oh, well that explains why you do it." I think -hope- she was kidding, but there definitely is a narcissistic element to blogging. It is the ability to tell people things about yourself, your thoughts and opinions, without interruption. And when your blog is, like mine, blessed with zero followers, there is this temptation to put anything out there. Stuff that you really aren't intending for people to see but have always wanted to say. Very tempting.

I post on a variety of sites: Work-related ones like Linked-in and ConnectIn as well as facebook, twitter (minimally) and a BBC site called the H2G2 (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy). I really like H2G2 because it is completely anonymous. I could be posting to a conversation with my neighbor and wouldn't know. It has allowed me to explore concepts in faith and religion with substantially less risk.

Blogs seem to be the opposite of anonymous and yet, because they are so ubiquitous, they still are in a way. (Think zero followers.)

I started blogging because I am following a list of guidelines for developing my understanding of social media. The goal is to see where social media fits in a business world. Should senior staff blog about issues? If so, what is the best way to encourage readership among our target audience? Is there a tool other than blogging that can achieve a better result? Which social media elements are best suited to enhance my employer's impact with its customers?

In the end, of course, it still comes down to thinking you have something to say even if it is something about which no one else cares.