The Art of Making Space

Do you ever get an urge to purge? That overcrowded email inbox could use some attention. Or maybe you want to organize your thousands of digital photos and videos, or at least locate them all. Some are on your phone, some on your computer, and others tucked away in social media feeds on Instagram and Facebook. Or perhaps you just want to work on the clutter covering the surfaces in your home. How does all this stuff accumulate anyway?

Armed with good intentions, and the motivation to finally get this stuff done, you start the process. Only a few minutes in you realize the clean-up project is actually a lot bigger than you thought. And a lot more complicated. If this sounds like the kind of thing you struggle with, you’re not alone. My new book, The Art of Making Space: Choosing Quality Over Quantity, is designed to help you through these challenges.

When people think of getting rid of things, it’s often associated with destruction or purging, and maybe a touch of frustration. However, the other side of that process is the art of making space. The beautiful part about making space is you get to fill it with whatever you like. The possibilities are infinite. This idea applies to tangible and intangible things. Ever been friends with an energy vampire, somebody that leaves you feeling drained and tired? Ditch the vamp and make space for someone who recharges your energy instead.

Last April I had a baby book launch for the print version of my book. In alignment with my book, I made space for all the wonderful people who supported me and continue to support me. I’d like to thank the many friends who ran in to buy the book during the event, gave me hugs and some encouraging words, even though I got the time wrong. erp.

For a limited time, you can download a free chapter of The Art of Making Space: Choosing Quality Over Quantity, when you sign up for weekly postings of The Deletist. The sign-up form is to the right. Note: if the screen goes white during the download, refresh your browser. 

Save the date for the official book launch: October 25

If you’re interested in attending the book launch, or any other future workshops on decluttering, sign up here and select GTA Decluttering Events / Workshops.

 

 

Controlling Global Language

With all this disinformation and misinformation flying around the internet at viral speeds, controlling it is a daunting task. Equally as daunting as trying to discern the good quality information from all the fabricated and sensationalized stories.

Everything good about the internet, when pushed to one extreme or the other, becomes something entirely different. For example, Facebook was designed to allow people to connect with each other. The default in Facebook was to share with friends and friends of friends, etc. and become “friends” with all of them. On  the surface it seems like a great way for people to form new bonds and connect to others with similar interests. Although many people had problems with this, myself included, the full extent of why this default was so problematic wasn’t realized by many until their data was scrubbed by Cambridge Analytics. Remember them, the company that paid some people to take a survey and then quietly accessed all their friends’ information?

I’ve been reading articles lately about regulating the large social media and tech companies with a great deal of interest. One of the main issues has always been that the social media platform is the host (e.g, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but that doesn’t necessarily make them responsible for controlling the content and determining what people can and can’t post.

Since I’ve lived in North America all my life, for me the big question is where does freedom of speech end and censorship begin. And who’s in charge of creating the rules and then policing them? Is it a good idea for dominant social media and/or tech companies with a global reach to be in charge of this?

If somebody unknowingly spreads (e.g., retweets, posts, forwards, etc.) disinformation (i.e., false information that was intentionally posted), does that make him/her guilty of misinformation or disinformation? How could this be verified or proven? What’s the difference between fake news and beliefs that we hold dear to us, even if they can’t be “scientifically” proven?

To complicate this issue, all of the social media and tech companies are used around the globe. Facebook now has around 2 billion users, more than any one country. How could they ever regulate so much content in so many different jurisdictions in so many different languages around the globe? And should this be up to the companies to do this?

 

Disinformation Misinformation

These days I’m constantly bombarded with headlines about disinformation and misinformation. The words, seemingly used interchangeably, create yet another layer of confusion in trying to figure out what, and who, to trust on the internet.

I had an idea about how the two terms differed in meaning, but I wanted confirmation. Naturally I consulted the dictionary first. Confirming the definition and meaning of your terms is always a good start, even if you think you already know what they mean. Then I read another favorite resource, Quick and Dirty Tips, by Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl. This amazing website is full of short, targeted grammar tips.

Essentially the difference between the two terms is intent. Misinformation is incorrect information that is unknowingly, or mistakenly, spread. For example, people who retweet or forward articles containing inaccurate information. Whereas disinformation is intentionally spreading false information. According to my research, it is derived from a Russian word, dezinformatsiya.

For those of us who are just trying to figure out what’s going on in the world, it can be challenging to discern the difference between real news and fake news. Between advertisements and articles that are misinformation, disinformation, or simply propaganda. In early September, the New York Times posted an interactive article entitled “Can You Spot the Deceptive Facebook Page?” to educate people on how to detect the differences, including four examples to test your skills.

I managed to correctly identity the fakes, but I found it challenging because they are so well done. Some of the tips offered to spot fake ads included things like noticing spelling or grammar mistakes, but honestly, who doesn’t post something with a typo once in a while?

I also think having the two samples placed side-by-side made it easier to tell which one was real and which one was fake. In a real world context, if one of the fake ads appeared in your social media feed alongside everything else, it could be even more difficult to tell it wasn’t genuine. To further complicate matters, sometimes the fake campaigns on Facebook are populated with content by real people from real groups.

It’s also easy for disinformation to go “viral”, making it complicated to validate if it’s real or not. My advice, rely on a trusted source and observe the details. Check out this guide on Evaluating Information for more tips on how to spot disinformation.

 

Organizing Phone Apps for Productivity

September is a month of transition. We kiss good-bye to the long, lazy days of summer. As we return to work, or school, refreshed from vacations, the pace speeds up in an endless quest to get things done and feel productive. With so much going on, coupled with days getting shorter and more inclement weather, time counts more than ever.

I think we’re probably all guilty of wasting time with distracting things on our phones, but organizing your phone apps is a quick way to recoup some of that lost time. Make it easy to find and access the apps you rely on most. You might only be saving a few seconds, but considering that many of us touch our phones hundreds of times a day, those few seconds can really add up.

Here are some easy, quick steps to make your phone apps work for you.

  1. Put your most heavily used apps in a place where they are always visible and accessible. On my android phone, my top apps remain as static shortcuts at the bottom of every screen. I’m sure iPhones have something similar.
  2. Declutter your apps by removing shortcuts, or uninstalling them. A lot of smartphones or devices come pre-loaded with shortcuts on your screens. If they’re useless to you, remove them.
    1. On my android phone, I press the app for a few seconds until options appear to remove the shortcut, or uninstall the app.
    2. On my iPad, I press one app for a few seconds. All the apps start to wiggle and a small “x” appears in the upper left hand corner. Click on the “x” to remove the shortcut. I imagine this is similar on an iPhone.
  3. Group similar apps together. Press one app for a few seconds. Then drag and drop it on top of another app to group them. For example, I have separate groups for transit, messaging, and document management apps. This may help you locate apps quickly and reduce clutter. Or place apps close to each other. All my “math-related” apps are close to each other: calculator, unit converter, and currency exchange. See image below.
  4. Review your apps every September to see if you still use them. Then do #2.

If you accidentally remove a shortcut causing the app to disappear from your screen, you can easily restore it by going to your apps folder.

For more instructions, watch some YouTube videos.

My most heavily used apps (calendar, internet, gmail, and messages) remain static on every screen. Some apps are grouped together for easy retrieval. I arrange my apps around the borders to get a better view of my wallpaper.

Tech Addiction

Lately I’ve been considering how much time I spend in front of my smartphone and wondering if it really is addiction. And then I started reading a lot of articles about how tech companies have essentially made us addicted to our devices so we spend more time on them! The manipulations are endless. I suppose now some of the tech companies feel some moral responsibility and you can get an app that tracks how much time and what you’re using on your device. Yet another thing to get addicted to, viewing and usage stats. Some of the apps will also allow you to set a daily time limit on activities where you are wasting your time e.g., scrolling through social media feeds. Check out Moment here.

So we need an app on our device to show us how addicted we are to it. How ironic. I’ve resisted installing an app to track my usage for a number of reasons. First of all, I don’t like to voluntarily track things about my personal habits that get stored with 3rd party providers. Secondly, I don’t want to know. If I feel like I’m wasting time using my phone too much, I put it away for a few hours and turn it to silent.

In some ways, I know I’m addicted to my smartphone. When I started reading more about the addiction and the tech companies’ solutions, i.e., more addicting technology, I decided to approach the problem in an analog way. I started observing when I was using my smartphone and for what reason. I made a conscious decision that I wouldn’t look at my phone when I was in motion, unless I was on transit or waiting for it. Looking at my phone while I was walking around the city definitely felt like addictive behavior. Now I wait until I’m someplace where I can focus on whatever it is I need to do on my phone.

Other times, I’m using my smartphone to work. Or to read news and articles. Reading on a smartphone is convenient. Otherwise I would be leafing through large sections of newspaper which are cumbersome to read on the go and leave my fingertips black.

I also use my smartphone to keep track of my calendar, task list and grocery list. Is this feeding my addiction, or just being efficient?

Biometric Behavior Data Collection

I recently read a few articles about the collection of a new kind of biometrics, our behavior and movements. The full list incorporates hundreds of data points, but includes things such as the angle at which we hold our devices, how we unfreeze a locked screen (e.g., move the mouse side-to-side, up or down, touch a key, etc.), the movements we use to fill in information (e.g., use tab key or mouse), if we use the mouse wheel to scroll, how fast we fill in details, and on and on and on…

When I first read about biometric behavior data collection it was in the context of being used as a way to protect us, as customers, against identity theft. For example, I always log onto my bank account the same way by using keyboard commands. If the bank senses someone trying to use a mouse to login to my bank account, that could trigger an alarm that my information had been compromised.

Sounds like a good plan, in theory. People want to feel safe in an online environment. Many of us have already grown accustomed to having bits of our digital lives silently tracked and being used to offer us great deals and incentives through highly targeted advertising campaigns. But as we have seen, there are huge problems with so much unregulated data collection and flimsy, or non-existent, laws to protect us against misuse (e.g., the 2016 election outcome, Facebook, Google, etc.).

I have problems that this type of data collection is done behind the scenes without any regulation or consent. Moreover, when I started researching it, I discovered that many companies engaging in biometric behavior data collection hire 3rd party companies to gather and monitor the data. This means that the 3rd party companies are maintaining profiles for millions of customers. Who knows how they are going to protect, treat, and manage this vast amount of information properly. Likely the company that hired them hadn’t even fully thought out this part of the process.

In my experience as an information management professional, I’ve noticed that information, and the management of this valuable asset, is a top concern, but one of the lowest priorities to work on.

Our privacy and identities are worth protecting, even if it’s just about how we like to scroll through a news feed or login to an account.