How do you keep track of your ideas, inspiration and bits of useful research?

I’m ex-Evernote-r. Since they changed their terms & conditions to make me the product, I haven’t found a real home for my stuff. Using Linux probably doesn’t help in the sense that I’d like any “solution” to be platform-agnostic. I’ve found some awesome tools that only work on one platform.

So I took to the Twitter hive mind to ask: Hey folks! How do you keep track of your ideas, inspiration and bits of useful research?

I got some excellent replies: a huge thank you to everyone who took time out of their weekend to reply.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Most people have somewhere to store their research, links or thoughts be that blogging, Evernote, Onenote, Google Keep, or a notebook.
  • Some people have a way to keep work moving along nicely, for example Trello.
  • Having a method that works for you can saving you from productivity porn, where you spend more time working on becoming creative organised and productive than being creative, organised and productive.

I especially liked Matt Jukes using blogging as memory:

And Abi using tried and tested paper as a bullet journal:

In a nutshell? I want a supporting scaffolding for my interests and work rather than being sucked into the tyranny of productivity. So I’ll think about how I want to be organised and find a tool-agnostic method that works for me. Finding the tools first won’t get me the results I’m looking for nor do I need to have everything in one place.

What next? I’m reading or rather listening to Getting Things Done: : The Art of Stress-free Productivity recommended by Lucy Knight. Then I’ll iterate with my existing tools and find out what works for me.

Two things I was reminded of this weekend? Methods > Tools, Blogging as Memory.

This is a working in the open blog post. It’s off the cuff, stream of consciousness stuff to capture what I’m doing, learning and sharing.

img: Jim Campbell, Scattered Light


Where do I start? Going to events

It can be confusing knowing where to start. I started attending tech events about 5 years ago. It was hit and miss! Here I explore what I think about when picking an event so you don’t have to.

Which events should I attend? After my third “conference” in four weeks, I’m thinking through how I choose events ad tips for people who are new to events. Most of the events I attend are technical or about co-operation. These tips however can be used for just about any flavour of event you’d like to attend.

Why even bother with events?

There are so many great reasons to attend events, here’s a few of mine:

  • Learning is fun!
  • Meeting new people is great for collaborating.
  • Meeting people like you stops you feeling alone (especially for women in tech).

But what if I’m an introvert? Both introverts & extroverts can leave events feeling energised, so long as they choose the right ones.

But I don’t know anyone! Perfect, go anyway! Pick events that are interesting, go with open mind and be present.

How I pick events

So I hope by now you’re pumped and raring to go. Here’s how I pick events to maximise that warm glow that comes from a great event and minimise the sinking feeling of wasting your time. It’s all down to this checklist:

1. Is the format right for me?

I prefer unconferences or structured training. These are opportunities to connect with interesting folk.  I find networking too much like sales, a real turn off. Your mileage may vary.

2. Who’s running the event?

This comes down to trust:

  • Can I trust the organisers to arrange a space that is safe, free from harassment and suitable for people with disabilities?
  • What’s the code of conduct?
  • How many women are going?

I share details of the events on twitter and the Open Heroines Slack channel for feedback.

3. What’s the cost?

I always check the total cost of attending. This means time off work, cost of staying over hotel, travel and meals.

4. What else do I need to think about?

Once my due diligence is done, I ask am I still excited to go? If the answer is yes, its time for the acid test. I ask:

  • What will I take away from this?
  • Is this a healthy schedule for me?
  • Will this work with my work schedule?
  • Is my absence fair on my colleagues?

What I do after an event

Once I’m back, I immediately write down my thoughts. I ask:

  • How did it go?
  • What did I love?
  • What did I hate?
  • Would I go again?

Be brutally honest! Memory is a finicky thing, so writing down my thoughts helps me remember clearly. If I learn something new about events, I tweak my checklist; It’s a living document.

And finally

There’s lots of great people, events and opportunities out there for women in technology,  even paid ones. So go out there, meet folks and be part of the conversation. When you’re ready to speak at events, subscribe to technically speaking, a great resource for tech speakers.

Got some tips? I love learning from you, so please get in touch.

Read this: Tips for conference newbies, second-timers, plus a CHALLENGE for many-timers

On Twitter? Follow my moment below:

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The world is digital

The world is digital. As a non-profit, this presents an opportunity to take your charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation to new funders, donors and volunteers.

Digital is transforming the way we live, learn and work. Here, we’ll dip into what digital means for charities, the voluntary sector and non-profits.

What is digital anyway?

Digital has become a buzzword over the last decade and like a lot of buzzwords, it can be hard to pin down what it really means, even as we can’t deny its impact. For some organisations, digital means new technology, for others it means new ways of connecting and engaging with funders, donors and volunteers, or even entirely new means of fundraising. This diversity reflects just how digital is transforming the way we live, learn and work.

In a nutshell, digital is storing bits of all kinds of information as 1s and 0s. Deceptively simple but the shift from analogue to digital has had a profound impact: it gave us computers, electronic records, the internet, social media and a multitude of new ways to communicate, trade, connect and engage with people around the world or just a mile away.

When some people say digital, they could be talking about the technology, information, or skills that have impact on the people, culture and processes in a non-profit. How a charity, social enterprise or non-profit makes use of digital has an effect on how it is seen, its strategies and ultimately, its impact.

Who’s doing what online?

The world is online. With over 40% of the world’s population online in 2015, (up from 1% in 1995), chances are you’ll find your funders, donors, or volunteers using digital in one way or another.

ITU Facts and Figures Infographic

And what will you find them doing? Most of the 92% of the UK with access to the internet are shopping, watching videos, or socialising and sharing on social media, with new ways to use the connected web of the internet emerging all the time. Non-profits are also dipping their toes into digital, with many charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations having a website or web presence.

Despite this, many charities are struggling to develop digitally and improve their digital literacy. Some notable cases of non-profit organisations using digital to transform how they serve their communities, raise funds and attract volunteers include Asthma UK and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Asthma UK has developed a digital asthma action plan for beneficiaries after judging that they were poorly served by the paper-based action plans currently provided in primary care.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has expanded its volunteer base by 450 per cent as a direct result of its HR and digital teams working together to allow staff in all departments to use a variety of tools, including Skype, Yammer and Office 365, to bring them closer to the people they serve.

Tip: You can find Asthma UK’s digital asthma action plan on the award winning Asthma UK digital resources page

So, what does digital mean for my non-profit?

For the non-profit organisation, digital is changing who you can reach, how you can serve your community, and how your organisation operates. To take advantage of the digital trend means more than having a website. It means understanding what digital means and how to use it to help your charity, social enterprise or voluntary organisation do the most good.

That means everyone in your organisation understands how digital works. With good digital literacy throughout your non-profit, how much more of an impact can you make in your community?

#PeoplePlacePlay – Community Prototyping in #Leeds

It all started with an invitation from Playful Leeds to join a group of like-minded folk.

sharing stories, open space workshops and practical prototyping in a day

On a slightly gray day in April, we converged on ODI Leeds and turned our minds to play to get the creative juices going. We made our own badges because:

We heard from some folks who are doing great things in their communities and around the world:

And we made some prototypes:

We had a brilliant time!

Now we’re taking it forward with more meets, more prototypes and reusable recipe cards.

Hungry for more?

Day 1 – From Windows to Ubuntu #Tech #FutureOfWork #Productivity

Windows 10 was the last straw.

I’d stuck with Windows through my career. It worked, so why change? Brief forays into the Linux territory led to a corresponding drop in productivity and I’d scurry back to the “safe” arms of Microsoft.

No more, Windows 10 really was the last straw.

My wonderful Dell laptop, named Beast, was more like Aesop’s lion, limping with a Windows 10 thorn in its paw. So this bank holiday weekend, I switched wholesale to Ubuntu – the user friendly Linux distribution.

What’s worked?
Thanks to Wine, a free implementation of Windows on Unix, I’ve installed my key tools:  Evernote (my extended brain), 1Password (my password vault) and Notepad++ (my preferred general editor). Thanks to my remote work, cloud based, future of work style, most of my documents are on Dropbox or Google Drive, so we can collaborate on them and share them with clients. For spreadsheets, presentations and documents I tend to use Microsoft Office at home and Google’s app suite at work. My email is all online and my work chat is handled through Skype, Google Hangouts or for voice calls, and Pidgin for Slack-style IRC chat, all installed simply and easily through Ubuntu’s software app store.

What’s not worked?
Well, Microsoft Office for a start as it doesn’t play nicely with Linux, even using Wine. Also, Bitdefender, which I now regret shelling out for the family edition to cover our multiple machines and devices. And… that’s it.  No doubt there’ll be a minor drop in productivity as I get to grips with things on Tuesday morning but so far (touch wood), so good.

What’s next?
Figuring out if I need any more security, getting a backup schedule sorted out, and learning how to use Linux shortcuts.

Is Ubuntu for you?
For a geek and erstwhile developer, I’m still very much a fan of point and click. Thankfully, Ubuntu makes it easy to ease into the highly productive world of shortcuts. So, yes, if you aren’t a geek but you’d like a more stable operating system, I’d recommend Ubuntu. It’s easy to install – there are step by step guides and all you need to figure out is how to boot from a USB stick.  You can have a taste test by running it from a USB stick before committing to a full meal. Best of all, it’s free!

Talks: Agile, Remote Team Work – Without Losing Your Marbles!

The future of work for remote teams, especially in technical and creative fields is remote working. Remote working let’s you hire or collaborate with talented people from all over the world, or just in your country, without the overheads of relocating. It also saves you from filtering out great fits because they don’t happen to be in a certain location.

That’s why on a chilly spring day in March, I presented a talk on agile remote team work – without losing your marbles at Agile in Leeds. The venue was packed, the audience were amazing and I can’t thank Emily Webber enough for ably running the show.

Here’s my 3 steps to working productively as a team when you don’t all work from the same space.

Step 1: Hire the right people

Q: You wouldn’t hire just anyone to (fur) baby sit, what do you look for in a potential sitter?

  • Responsible adults – People who do, are trustworthy and are independent.
  • Smart creatives – People who can highlight problems *and* bring solutions to the table.
  • Right mindset for remote work – People who don’t need the office environment (or are happy to recreate it through other means like co-working).

Step 2: In the right environment

Q: Have you ever brought home some supermarket herbs that didn’t thrive?

  • Be adult about dealing with problems – don’t let things fester, healthy group dynamics are at the heart of successful remote working.
  • Mind the micromanaging – this goes back to trust and productivity, focus on what people are producing not on ensuring you wring 8 hours out of them.
  • Remove barriers to productivity – environment (encourage coworking if needed and good working spaces), clear leadership (be a good scrum master, remove barriers and have clarity about task allocation or selection), staff wellbeing (make sure work life balance is retained and have good employee resources to manage stress), regular face to face (meet regularly to co-work together and bond).

Step 3: With the right tools

Q: Have you ever watched a professional at work?

  • Develop good processes around key needs (especially documents, tools, HR, health & safety).
  • Streamline your tools (find what works well for your team, mix it up, but don’t go mad).
  • Eat the elephant (Understand that this is a continuous group effort and take small steps).

These approaches have kept us at Open Data Services on the straight and narrow (today is our 1st anniversary!) and we review these as we grow our team (from 7 to 9 soon). Find out what works best for you and remember, keep working at it.

Meetup: Agile, Remote Team Work – Without losing your marbles!

Remote work is growing – be that full-time remote staff, collaborating with freelancers, consultants and offshore teams or working from home every now and again.

Working well as a remote team, especially one that embraces agile principles means understanding and supporting how individuals and the team works as well as using the right digital tools. It’s tough but rewarding and when well managed, can lead to a productive, integrated team where everyone gets a good work-life balance.

At Open Data Services, a digital worker’s co-operative, we are a completely distributed team with no offices. At the Agile Leeds meetup on 21.03.2016, I will explore how we make our team work and what we’ve learned along the way.