The Personal is Professional and Vice Versa: Expressing the Passion of the Geek

Recently I stumbled across a blog that talked about work/life integration as a concept to strive for, as opposed to work/life balance. The word balance suggests things that are in opposition to each other. Staying balanced is like walking a tight rope, which can be stressful. I don’t want to stretch the metaphor too much, however, integration as a concept feels more sustainable and satisfying, not a struggle.

I am not out to change the world here, though I do hope to contribute in my small way to a cultural shift towards this noble ideal. I don’t think there’s any escaping the 9-5 for me any time soon. I am a manager where I work, so hopefully I can model leadership my belief in flexibility for employees to be able to address personal obligations during traditional work hours. I’d also like to institute nap time. One thing at a time.

Not that I don’t want to have clear boundaries around personal space and time. I occasionally bring work home, yes, but when I am working, I don’t like to invite the distractions of personal life there, and vice versa. I certainly don’t want my work to interfere with the sacredness of my home.

Nonetheless, I don’t want the personal and professional to live in opposition to one another. I’d like to find the best way to keep them in harmony. Work gives one a feeling of purpose. I want to know that what I do from day to day contributes in some small way toward making the world better. I also want the way that I live to make a difference, too. Where I shop, what I eat, how I observe spiritual practice, how I communicate with friends, family, and colleagues about things that are important to me.

I’ve been social networking for a while on various sites, in earnest for about the last year (it’s Larry Halff’s influence; he invented my favorite social bookmarking tool, Ma.gnolia which got me started). In my quest to find more opportunities for work/life integration, I am finding online social networking tools to be have the most potential and effectiveness so far. These days, I like to explore just about every social networking site out there just to see what they have to offer. You’ll find my favorites and the ones I use the most in the side bar. From LinkedIn to Change to Ravelry, I am trying them all (only if I find them compelling).

Of course they are most useful if other’s use them, too. Can you imagine using FaceBook for anything other than communicating with friends? This is the site that I am using the most for simply networking these days. Mostly it’s silly stuff; virtually blowing kisses and serenading each other, comparing knowledge of movie trivia, and my favorite these days is playing Scrabulous, though I hear rumor that it will soon be unavailable due to copyright infringement. Mostly I’m using FB because I have many friends who do, and it is fun to stay in touch with them. But I’m also finding that many people that I work with are using FB, and it is also a useful tool to communicate with colleagues.

There are other sites like LibraryThing and Ravelry which actually serve a purpose besides connecting with people. With LibraryThing, you can inventory your book collection in a very sophisticated way. It has the added benefit of connecting you with virtual strangers who are reading the same book you are, or getting ideas from other people who have similar interests and tastes to help you decide what you should read next. Ravelry is for knitters. Here you can share your projects, get inspiration for new projects, and learn new skills.

Ma.gnolia remains my favorite, and in my opinion, has the greatest crossover in terms of its usefulness professionally and personally.  Though it hasn’t yet caught on in the workplace, I have faith that it will soon. I’ve created a group there for fundraising and philanthropy links and a group for development research (which I’ve made private because, for some reason, spammers were interested in it. If you want to join, just send me a request via Ma.gnolia.).

Online social networking is certainly not the be all, end all answer. Indeed, it has also proven to be quite a distraction. I can’t tell you the number of days I have spent whiling away the time simply bookmarking cool websites, trolling the web to locate old friends (which I have done with quite a lot of success), simply getting sucked into the vortex.

However, as an information professional in the non-profit world, I feel I have found a calling of sorts. I feel a responsibility, as well as a keen interest, to feel out the potential of these online tools to promote philanthropy and good works, to build community and share ideas, to find and maybe even help create the most efficient tools to gather and manage information. Maybe many of these tools most of the time don’t directly apply to the work that I do from day to day. But there are many points of connection. Out of a passion for growing professionally and personally, I am determined to explore social networking to the fullest.

I Really Do Hate Cilantro

It happens just about every day. Each time I check my blog stats, I can see what search engine terms people are using to find my site (or more precisely how folks stumble upon my site with Google or whatever). Almost every day folks find my site by looking for the combined terms “cilantro” and “soap”. I’m not sure what these random strangers are hoping to find, but I guess they are finding a kindred spirit, a fellow cilantro hater, when they find my posting about the evil weed. I posted this entry seven months ago (April of 2007), and since then I have been getting hits on that posting just about every day.

Clearly I am not alone.

My entire family agrees with me that cilantro tastes like Palmolive, which offers me some comfort. I know a few people (not related to me) who share my taste, but often I feel alone in my abhorrence of the stuff. G and I now live near “Little Saigon” in Chicago, which has many Vietnamese restaurants that we are just beginning to explore. I really love pho and the fantastic sandwiches and pancakes that this regional cuisine is known for, but I cannot let my guard down about the cilantro. I really love to eat this food, but the evil weed just ruins it for me. My beloved loves itf, so we either order separately or ask for it on the side, which usually suffices. But once in a while we order a dish whose description mentions nothing about cilantro, and it is permeated with it.

I know, I know, it is hardly the end of the world, and there are certainly precautions I can take. Most restaurants will accommodate my tastes. But how would you like it if you were really hungry and just waiting with rapt anticipation for an absolutely savory bowl of deliciousness only to find that it has been generously seasoned with soap flakes?

Yech.

My observations about my blog stats are entirely unscientific, but I can see that I am not isolated. There are many others out there like me. In fact, there is a web-based social networking site dedicated to those of us to detest cilantro. Of course I had to join the community. My problem is that I love all of the foods I can think of that often contain cilantro. I love to eat, and I’m very adventurous about it. I’m not picky. I just happen to feel very strongly about this one thing.

Really, cilantro is a total buzz kill. For those of you out there who are looking for affirmation, you have found it. You are not alone!

Why I Love Ma.gnolia

I have become a social networking fool. You can find me at any one of many social networking sites, most of which I list in the side bar of my blog. By far, Ma.gnolia is my favorite.

Ma.gnolia was founded by my friend and fellow Earlhamite, Larry Halff. Put simply, Ma.gnolia is a tool where you can save and share bookmarks. This is useful for many reasons. First, you can access your favorite sites from any computer. You can also create your own tags, essentially categorizing, and organizing your bookmarks in a way that feels natural to you.

The beauty of it is that you can share your sites with others who share your interests, and discover new sites in the same way. This is where the social part comes in. You can create or join groups with shared interests (like knitting or yoga). You can also have contacts with other Ma.gnolia members, which also facilitates sharing sites. The three latest links that your contacts and groups have saved appear on your home page. There’s also little side bar menus which show you the most recent links that random people have saved. You can also see the “Hot Groups” which shows you groups that are particularly active. It is so satisfying to see my links and my groups appear in those side bar menus. It makes me feel so popular.

One really nice feature is that you can thank people for their links. I have made a few contacts that way, thanking or being thanked. I was thrilled the day that Henry thanked me for my Out in Scripture link. It was just such a nice thing to be thanked for sharing a link that I like. I added him as a contact after I saw his link to the Music Row Democrats, a website for promoting country musicians with progressive politics. Since then, I have been able to keep tabs on the links that Henry is sharing, which is really cool because he is discovering stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily come across on my own.

I have waded into the waters of social networking, blogging, and the like this past year, tentatively exploring the possibilities. Information professional and shy person that I am, this is a perfect way for me to gently put feelers out there and see what building on-line community is all about. I plan to do more on a professional level in the coming months, but I’m still feeling a little be timid about it. The personal and the professional really collide here, and I have been more comfortable having a clear separation between my two worlds.

However, as I go further down the road into management in my career, I really appreciate it when people bring their whole selves into the work place. It’s how creativity can really be applied to help build a better mouse trap, if you will. So, to lead by example, I will begin to share more of what I am setting up professionally with my colleagues, starting with two groups that I have created on Ma.gnolia, Development Research and Fundraising and Philanthropy.

Sharing these Ma.gnolia groups more widely with my professional colleagues will give folks access to my personal web presence. They’ll be able to check out my Ma.gnolia profile, see what groups I’m interested in, and check out the link to my blog, which will lead them to my presence on Pandora, MySpace, or Cork’d, which will tell you what I think about the wine I am drinking (though I have yet to use this one much, I just think it’s really cool).

Ultimately, This is what I want, because this is bringing social networking to full fruition, which I feel I have yet to do. I’m nervous about it, but Ma.gnolia is a web tool that I think my fellow information professionals will get really excited about.

And that’s what social networking is all about, right?

Blogging Revelations

When I started blogging back in November of 2006, a mere nine months ago (but time really does fly), I felt that a whole new world had opened up to me. I was stumbling across tools and other blogs that gave me ideas and inspiration. I ventured into the world of social networking, and at every turn I discovered people and communities doing really cool stuff.

In November, I felt as if I was diving in with my whole self, embracing my inner geek, and I have been having loads of fun writing, sharing photos and sharing my newly discovered links (I really love Ma.gnolia). When I speak about blogging and social networking to my friends, many of the either have no idea what I’m talking about, or they think that it’s simply about a MySpace page, and I am too old for that. I admit that I feel a little old sometimes out there. It does seem as though many bloggers that I come across are a good decade younger (at least!) than I am. But many are not, and I found an article recently about how folks are using blogs and web presence to enhance their resumes.

So far, I have met and corresponded with a few strangers with shared interests, giving me a little taste of what it’s like to have an on-line community. I have found many great resources this way, and encountered a few blogs that I now like to check out regularly. Admittedly, I have not been producing enough content on a regular basis that would be of interest for readers to check back regularly. I guess I am still a bit of a lurker, in a way. I haven’t quite found my place in Cyberspace.

But when you have more of a personal blog, I realize that it is a really cool way to keep in touch with friends and family. Indeed, that is how many of my younger friends are using blogging and social networking. I guess my close friends and family just need to catch on, check in regularly, and leave a comment now and then.

Yesterday, I had the experience of finding a bunch of websites that really put things in perspective for me. Some times you find a link to a site or blog that becomes a portal to another world that takes you to places you didn’t know existed. I love the Internet for that. One of my Ma.gnolia contacts posted a link to the blog of librarygrrl, which for those of you who know me that blog name has appeal for numerous reasons. I had to check it out.

librarygrrl’s blog, cool in and of itself, has a blog roll for other websites run by librarians. I found the The Cool Librarian, The Library Spot, Library Thing, The Beacon for the Freedom of Expression. What a gold mine! And this is just a sampling. I kind of went crazy with Ma.gnolia with all of this.

By absolute random coincidence, by searching for favicons in WordPress blogs, I found the blog of a Quaker Ph.D. candidate from LA at gatheringinlight.com, and through his blog I found the Convergent Friends blog, for Quakers responding to the challenges of defining what it means to be Quaker in the world today. I am not in the world of Quakers too much these days, but as a formerly Quaker-identified progressive Christian, I am delighted to come across these sites. I now have a place to check once in a while to see what people are talking about in these communities, and perhaps even find a place for me there.

All of these discoveries yesterday I now am aware of how much I have to learn about blogging. I don’t think I will ever fully be on the tech side of things. I blog more for sharing content, and beyond adding specific functionality to my sites, I really don’t care to delve that far into the world of programming and web development. I do find this world and the language they speak a little intimidating, so I guess my struggle will be not to let my limited abilities hold me back.

As in real life, I am a Jill of all Trades, Mistress of None. My interests are broad and varied. And even if I was able to pick just one topic to write about, I don’t think that blogging would give me the satisfaction and even the focus that I find in it. I guess one of my passions in life is information. I love information, hence my excitement about the library links! Blogging and social networking give me the media and tools through which to find, organize, and share information about everything that piques my interest. Perhaps my blog will be a portal for someone else to make their own discoveries, leading to their own blogging revelations.

Faux Pas. My Bad.

So, being the Internet obsessed social networker that I long to be, I made the dumbest and most frowned-upon faux pas yesterday.

I spammed my entire address book.

I’m so ashamed.

So, I found this pretty cool social networking site, and I thought I’d check it out.

Change.org

It’s like MySpace for activists. You can only look at people’s profiles if you are a member, and the stated purpose of the site is to promote your favorite non-profit organizations and network with like-minded individuals. This automatically makes the intelligence quotient slightly higher than many other networking sites, and so far it seems to be lacking the creep factor of online stalkers. I’m sure it’s not totally absent, but it doesn’t seem to be as prevalent. When I first joined MySpace, I couldn’t believe how much porn spam I received, and requests to be friends with some really creepy people.

I created an ID, and the system automatically prompts you to look for your friends from your address book. So I uploaded my address book from my Yahoo account, and pushed the button that I thought would actually search for people, but what happened was that an email was generated and sent to everyone. Yes, I didn’t read the fine print, but it was still too easy to do, if you asked me. Yes, it was a totally bone-headed and ditzy thing to do, and I take full responsibility for being a bone head and a ditz. But still, it was just too darn easy.

It emailed everybody. Mind you, I don’t regularly update this address book because I don’t really use my Yahoo account any more (too much spam!). But the address book there is HUGE, and there are people I haven’t been in touch with in years, old acquaintances who are probably not expecting to hear from me at all, and old colleagues, who, when I look at their names I say “who is that?”

If you received one of these invitations, I am truly sorry. But perhaps it’s not so bad.

The really astonishing thing is that people actually signed up for it! I have six friends in my network, including one old college friend, Pavel (whom I knew as Jim), who is now a clown and performance artist in Berlin. I was very happy to get in touch with him, actually.

I really expected to get in trouble. I thought people were going to laugh or be mad, or scold me….and I would have deserved it. But I have a network now! Perhaps people will actualy find this a useful site!

And a bunch of folks at my office now know that my personal email is silly.goose. Oh, well. I guess it’s not a bad thing when you bring more of yourself into your work life. It mixes it up a bit. I always enjoy people letting their hair down after spending eight hours a day with them wearing a suit. I enjoy learning surprising and unexpected things about people.