Digital “Note” Taking

Over the last several years, I’ve noticed a lot of people whipping out their phones during presentations or lectures to snap pictures of something on the projector. As the familiar adage goes “a picture is worth a 1000 words.” So whenever I see people taking pictures instead of writing, I can’t help but wonder do they also take notes? Is a picture enough to remember everything later? No caption? No explanation to go with the image or a title? How will these “notes” be found later in a collection of thousands of images?

I’m currently working on a college campus. Part of my job is to teach the students information literacy. The name of the class could also be “Using the library for research instead of Google.” Sometimes during the sessions it’s hard to gauge what, if anything, the students are absorbing. It’s tough to break through the ease and seduction of searching offered by Google. And the many misperceptions about the quality of results available on Google. Contrary to popular belief, the results on the first page are not always the most trustworthy, relevant, or best quality resources.

However, when I see students reach for their phones and start taking pictures of something I’m showing on the projector, I know something clicked for them. I’m always curious to see which things the students are interested in retaining since the phones appear at different moments in each class. Sometimes they take pictures of a link when I show them a nifty resource available to them through the library. Other times they capture the criteria we teach them for evaluating resources found on the internet.

In one class a student took a photo of the login screen that automatically appears if you try to access the college materials from an off-campus location. The login prompt, aptly named “Off-campus login” does seem self-explanatory, but I suppose having visual confirmation from the phone to the screen could help.


The only thing I recall taking pictures of are white boards after a particularly engaging brainstorm session when there isn’t adequate time to type up everything properly. And then it usually ends up sitting in my phone as a future task, something that “I’ll get to later.” I wonder how often other people end up referring to these pictures they take during lectures or presentations. And how much of the content gets retained.

Ramp Up for Spring Cleaning

This is my 250th post. Wow! To commemorate this special occasion, I’ve gone through my “archives” to highlight a couple posts geared specifically towards spring cleaning.

I’m not sure what it is about spring that makes us want to clean, but it’s obviously a “thing” or phrases like “spring cleaning” wouldn’t be so meaningful to us. I even have a category dedicated to posts about this very topic. (Click here.)

A couple weeks ago when the sun emerged for a glorious week of bright beams and above freezing temperatures, I asked a few people their thoughts on the connection between spring and cleaning. Answers varied, but all seemed centered around the idea of having more sunlight and more heat. More sunlight and daylight, in particular, could result in higher energy levels giving us that much needed boost at the end of winter to do a thorough cleaning. Other people felt the cleaning was part of a natural transition from cold temperatures to warmer ones. This marks the time when we can finally put away all those bulky clothes and warm layers in favor of lighter garments.

As for me, I find the angle and gleaming shafts of sunlight at this time of the year highlight the dust perfectly prompting me to engage in a deep cleaning frenzy. In the darker, colder months I’m not sure if I miss the dust because there’s not as much light, or if it’s a strategic kind of avoidance on my part. Either way, it’s all very apparent to me when I throw open the curtains to welcome those first triumphant, warm, rays of sunshine.

If you’re feeling inspired to get started on your spring cleaning, here are a few posts to move you along in that direction.

Getting Rid of Clutter – always the goal, but how do you accomplish it when you are confronted with personal items about which you feel sentimental?  Read about The Deletist’s kryptonite and how I overcame it to get through my childhood belongings.

Sprinting Through Clutter – for those of us that have the good intentions to get through that pile of “stuff” but somehow never seem to have enough time.

Coming soon, my new book, The Art of Making Space: Choosing Quality Over Quantity, guaranteed to help you overcome even the most pesky, annoying decluttering challenges you face with your physical and electronic belongings. Stay tuned for updates.

Sense of Self

The advent of personalized devices, such as smartphones and tablets, has resulted in some noticeable culture changes. It’s almost as if these devices have allowed for us to have too much customization resulting in selfish and self-absorbed behavior. We’re often too immersed in our own tech bubbles, oblivious to how we are impacting those around us. This has ultimately led to some strange changes to our behavior, especially in public settings.

On some level, it’s resulted in a real decline of manners and civilities. One time on the subway I observed a woman practicing her singing along to an audible beat coming from her phone. I watched her in fascination as she went through the same passage repeatedly without a hint of self-consciousness that others were listening in. She was acting uninhibited as though she were by herself in a practice room, or maybe in the shower. I’m not sure if she persisted because she really didn’t care if she was bothering other people, or if maybe she secretly wanted to be “discovered.”

I’ve been taking public transit for decades. And to be fair, subway etiquette has always been questionable. While listening to a radio program about this topic recently, I was surprised to hear so many stories of people witnessing other passengers clipping their finger and toe nails on public transit, along with all kinds of other horrible things. People get so absorbed and zombie-like with their devices that they become even less aware of their surroundings, resulting in even more unacceptable behavior in public.

For the last several months I’ve been working at a college campus. I’m constantly surprised at how many students I hear answering phone calls and continuing conversations while they’re in the bathroom stalls! Yuck. Even worse, the students emerge from the stalls, phone attached to one ear, without even a glance around, or a hint of self-consciousness that they’re in a shared area. It’s as if they don’t even notice their behavior. Maybe I’m old fashioned about this, but I don’t answer phone calls when I’m in the bathroom. And that applies even more strongly when I’m in a public, or shared, bathroom.

I remember when cell phones first started to become popular how self-conscious we all felt about answering phone calls in public. And now it’s become the new “norm.”




Trusting Tweets

Even before all the articles appeared about Twitter bots and fake news, I always felt slightly irritated when reading articles that featured a bunch of tweets from other people, most of whom were unfamiliar to me with their cryptic twitter handles and abbreviated messages. I used to wonder, why were the tweets part of the article? Were they there to support the author’s message?

I read the news to learn what’s going on in the world. Unless I’m reading an Op-Ed column, I don’t expect to be reading somebody’s opinion. If I want to see readers’ reactions to a piece, I check out the comments section, or maybe social media. So I feel annoyed when I see screencaps, or links, to tweets in news articles that seem to only be there for opinion or commentary purposes. The exception is when the tweet content is being reported on directly (e.g., the president’s tweets).

You will always find somebody on the internet who agrees with you. It’s not difficult to find, but that doesn’t mean it’s based on anything accurate or factual.

For example, in a recent article from CBC news titled, “‘They’re trolling the trolls back’: How Parkland survivors are responding to conspiracy theorists,”(read here) the first tweet displayed is from somebody named Mike (@mike_Zollo). I understand the article is about trolls and that the Zollo tweet is likely there to emphasize a point the author is trying to make, but at the same time, I’m wondering why would any reputable news source post or repeat something from someone whose credentials are so dubious. Who is this person? And what makes his Tweet a significant “troll” tweet?

According to his twitter profile, he is “America, politics, & TRUMP. Trumps [sic] biggest supporter. I destroy liberals. Trump is my President & hes [sic] yours to for the next 8yrs. WE’RE TAKING OUR COUNTRY BACK.” How can we even know there is a legitimate person behind this Tweet?  Maybe he’s a bot. And yet his message has become woven into the reporting of the article. Are tweets now being used instead of getting quotes from a person directly?

Later in the article, the author posts another tweet from a TV & Radio Host sharing an article from the Wall Street Journal. So why not just share a link to the WSJ article directly instead of sharing it through a tweet from somebody else’s twitter feed?

Disconnect to Connect

How ironic that we now need to “disconnect” to “connect.”  By disconnect, I mean disengaging ourselves from the addictive hold of our devices and social media feeds. When social media started to become a “thing” about 10 years ago, I think it was largely seen as a way for people to bond and form meaningful connections across time zones and varying interests. Social media offered us ways to communicate with loved ones and link with others who shared our interests.

At brunch recently I was shocked to see a child wearing headphones and watching a tablet in a restaurant at a table of adults. The kid remained quiet mesmerized by the screen and the adults had their social time. But at the same time, something was missing. The child lost out on the chance to connect with others, to observe the subtle nuances of non-verbal communication, and to learn basic manners about interacting socially.

Recently Facebook (FB) announced that the news feeds on an individual’s account will now focus on content from friends and family. Facebook wants its users to spend time on the site to create “meaningful interactions” with loved ones, rather than being inundated with advertisements and auto-playing videos. (Read more about it here.) My first thought was if FB really wanted to create more meaningful experiences for its users, why doesn’t it encourage users to have face-to-face interactions with friends and family?

Instead, FB decided to modify its algorithms to prioritize content from friends and family. And here is where more problems started to develop for me. If you’ve read any of my past posts on Facebook, you’ll know I’m neither a big fan, nor a big consumer. I was curious about the changes and read about them on the FB site directly. Although the news feed will emphasize posts from friends and family, it also focuses on those that receive the most attention or generate activity. So essentially the friends/family that know how to get the most results will rise to the top of the news feed, or maybe appear there more than once.

How does popularity equate to meaningful? Many of my most significant experiences are from being intimate and vulnerable in a private “disconnected” setting, not with something displayed for anyone’s comments.

And what is a Facebook friend? I know who my friends are in real life, but on social media it’s a different thing.



All the President’s Tweets

When President Trump first started using Twitter to broadcast messages, it generated a lot of discussion about the content. People (e.g., citizens and journalists) wondered if they should take these 140-character messages so seriously. And then they wondered if they could afford not to take them seriously. After all, the tweets were  coming from the President directly, or from someone in his office to whom he delegated the task.

Over a year into his presidency, Trump still relies on Twitter to broadcast messages and communicate. As a publicly-elected official, if Trump decides to use social media to disseminate messages it’s as valid a method as anything else like web content, public speaking, press conferences, articles, interviews, memos, etc. However, where it gets sticky, at least from a records and information management (RIM) perspective, is how Trump specifically uses Twitter.

From a RIM perspective, using Twitter, or any form of social media to broadcast messages and communicate can be valid for any government. What causes the problems are Trump’s lack of regard for content and failure to follow any sort of process to publish messages. Messages coming from the government should be trustworthy, authentic, verifiable, and proofread! They should go through a routine process to ensure content is accurate, valid, and acceptable. Trump misspelled the word “honered” in one of his first tweets as President. This should have never happened.

Also problematic is Trump’s usage of two separate Twitter handles, a personal one and a government one, to post messages. He blasts out tweets as both @realdonaldtrump and @potus (President of the United States). As President, he should only be using his @potus account for official communications. His @realdonaldtrump account should be reserved for messaging when he is not acting in the role of president, which isn’t really possible for someone in such a high position. So if Trump’s going to continue to use Twitter, he should only do so as the President and not as himself. However, this doesn’t seem possible for him leading to all kinds of confusion about whether or not we should take the tweets seriously, and if so, which ones.  The ones he writes as the “President” or the ones he writes as “Donald Trump.” The answer, because of who he is and how he uses Twitter, is both.

Now that tweets can be 280-characters, perhaps we should be taking Trump’s tweets twice as seriously.