My field notes

I spend quite a lot of time reading and linking disparate ideas together in the general course of my work, often when I’m trying to put something together — a blog post, a presentation, or an email about something I’m working on. Not all of the material is available on the Internet, so I have to manually input or scan quotes. I do my best to go to the best source for whatever I’m working on, not just the easiest one to get digitally. In the course of putting my “optimizing for developer happiness” keynote at Railsconf, for example, I:

I’m always looking for new ways to share the information I pull together, and I’ve tried all sorts of approaches over the years: Moleskine notebooks, Devonthink (one of Steven Johnson’s favorites), Evernote, assiduous note-taking on a Kindle (if you do the same, be sure to read this from Fred), and pinboard, just to name a few. Most of that ends up in my own private archives, and even when you share something via a service like pinboard, you’re assuming there’s a URL to link to (which there wasn’t in the case of Drucker’s Concept of the Corporation, which blew my mind in how prescient it was.)

I use Twitter a lot, but don’t find it very useful as a place to keep snippets while I’m working on something. On my blog, I’m a little old-fashioned and mostly like to write fully-formed pieces when I do write, so it’s more of a place for introducing relatively complete ideas. I felt like I could use something in the middle to keep the dribs and drabs along the way and get some (hopefully) interesting things on the Internet in the process, so I’m giving Tumblr a try.

I’m calling my tumblog my “field notes.” If you look at the wikipedia page for “fieldnotes” (one word), you’ll see one definition of the term:

Emerson (1995) defines fieldnotes in ethnography (a term referring generally to descriptive writing in anthropology, and also to subfield of sociology) as ‘accounts describing experiences and observations the researcher has made while participating in an intense and involved manner’.

That describes the spirit pretty well. So, we’ll see how this goes (some music might also slip in there now and then). Follow me if you’re interested. (here’s an RSS feed)

Finding your courage

At Hello Etsy in Berlin a few weeks ago, I gave a talk titled “Finding Your Courage.” It was a different subject than what I’m accustomed to talking about and is probably the most personal talk I’ve given, with little glimpses into my background that I don’t talk about much. I really enjoyed giving it, and I hope those of you who watch like it, too (there’s a baby photo of me in there, as you can see in the photo below).

One of the coolest things about the process of putting the talk together was how the Etsy community helped me along the way by telling their stories in the Etsy forums. The whole process was really satisfying all-around, and I thank the community for their help.

Here’s a link to the video from Livestream (and the slides are here.)

Chad Dickerson, HELLO ETSY Berlin, September 17 & 18, 2011