Taking advantage of the slow lane

Life is fast: “oh, when will I have a free weekend?” Work is fast: “when will I ever get the time to sort out my inbox?” The internet is fast and getting faster and more available: janet, broadband, wifi, gprs. But it definitely pays to slow down every now and then…

Aboard the 06:25 train from Newcastle to Edinburgh today, I needed to double-check the arrangements for today’s workshop. (I know, I know … I should’ve had everything in place before actually getting on the train!) What were my options for connectivity? The most likely was to use my laptop to connect to GNER onboard wifi, a service that works well and one i’ve used a number of times, especially for longer journeys. But this seemed overkill for my task at hand – to connect to our online ticketing system (RT) to confirm a few details. My other option was to wait until after 8am to call Jamie who’s generally always the first to arrive at Netskills HQ in the morning. But that would mean: i) waiting, ii) having to sneak out of the quiet carriage to make a phone call, and iii) disturbing Jamie’s early morning peace and quiet.

But, hold on, how about using my O2 Graphite Smartphone as a USB modem? I’ve spotted the adverts from Three for USB plug-and-go ‘broadband’ modems. Surely they’re just a data-enabled sim card inside a plastic box? I’ve had a go in the shop and heard good reports from Matt Jukes (HEFCE/JISC) about the Vodafone version when we were off on a tangent after (during?!) a recent meeting. But I shouldn’t need another box; my smartphone has a ‘mobile link’ option. (Now, at this point I ought to ‘fess up; left to my own devices (sic.) I would’ve probably overlooked this and eventually been sucked in by the adverts – but that’s why we work in teams, right? Thanks Carl!)

I’ve been carrying around the manual and required CDs for a couple of days and, coffee in hand, decided to have a go whilst on the early train to Edinburgh. Twenty minutes later, using a combination of the instructions in the manual plus a how-to blog posting i’d previously downloaded, I was connected! Pretty chuffed with myself, time to test out the connection and fire up IE7…

First thoughts:

“Hmmmm, this is slow…”

“Aghhhh – too many tabs! I don’t need to load anything to start with.”

“Why am I using IE?!”

“Ahhh Firefox, that’s better…”

“Time to turn off images – sorted!”

After confirming I had the right details for today’s workshop, I sat back and tested out a number of pages. The performance was good, slow, but not too slow. In fact, just slow enough to force me to make an active decision about the URL I wanted to navigate to next. Now that’s a lesson the learn and remember, whatever the speed!

Laying down the rules

So i’m up and running… my workblog is live and I have my first comment – thanks Hector!

I’ve been thinking about setting up this workblog for a while; I started thinking about it more seriously after the JISC Services Skills Day in Oxford in September, where I was finally convinced of the professional merit of blogging.

I’ve been mulling over the possibilities since and have planned the types of posts i’d like to write and considered my reasons for doing so. Partly it’s experimental, partly it’s to record my thoughts, and partly it’s to amplify my work at Netskills. I know that my personality thrives on interaction and collaboration and that my most lucid thoughts are in response to the insights of others, and if my workblog can provide the platform for joint endeavour (in a very CoP kind of way!) then great.

However, in order to take the plunge and get my workblog started, i’ve decided upon a couple of groundrules. Please berate me if I break them!

  • In the first instance, this workblog is a 30-day trial. I’ve read a number of articles on lifehack.org over the last six months and one tip I particularly like is that anyone can do anything for 30 days. This is enough time for practice to become habit, be it walking to work twice a week, learning 5 new words every day or writing a workblog. After such a period one ought to be able to make a sound judgement of the effectiveness of the adopted task. So, 30 days is my initial commitment to this workblog, during which i’ll post at least twice a week. At the end i’ll publish my reflections. Could that pre-Xmas posting be my last?
  • No messing with style. Anyone who’s suffered my on our Writing for the Web workshop (including 7 of you in Dublin today!) will know that i’m passionate about web copy. Text, text, text is the most important content on any webpage. So, all my energies are going into the actual writing of this blog … at least during my 30-day trial period. I have, of course, already messed around with the various templates available, and i’m dying to work out how to access the CSS files… but for now, it’s staying visually simple!

So, i’m a blogger now … Why?!

Hello all … well, only me actually right now! 😉

Before I dive headfirst into the world of blogging, here’s my reasoning for setting up a workblog.

I definitely have concerns… concerns shared by lots of new bloggers i’m sure. Am I diligent enough to keep up a blog? Will anyone read it? Do I have anything interesting to write?

But how will I know unless I try! I read a number of blogs and am interested in the opinion of others – it’s often far easier to make a judgement about something by either agreeing or disagreeing with a stance or opinion. It’s difficult to make a judgement in response to factually presented information, whether it’s printed or online, textual or spoken. To me, the added value of blogs is the access to other people’s opinion and one’s emotive response to such opinion. However, of course, opinion on its own is useles – it has to be well formed, credible, valued and respected … but definitely doesn’t have to be agreed with.

Is anyone interested in my opinion? Hmmmm, well, I hope so … I am a trainer after all and over the last two and a half years i’ve delivered workshops and sessions for around 1000 people. Blimey!

But I don’t intend to use my workblog as a personal soapbox … I intend it to be reflective, and to supplement and support my work at Netskills. I’m aware that we generally only have a transient relationship with our workshop attendees, but often wonder how people get on after they’ve attended one of our workshops. Also, our workshops are constantly evolving as the web develops, new technologies emerge and modified working and learning practices are adopted. I hope to keep people who’ve attended my workshops “in the know” via my workblog – please let me know if you find my postings useful!