Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Capture: Setting Up Traps to Organize Mountains of Information #wildtech

These are my notes from Jason Neiffer‘s breakout presentation, “Capture: Setting Up Traps to Organize Mountains of Information,” at the 14th Annual August Institute, “Technology Runs Through It” conference at the University of Montana in Missoula. MY THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. Jason’s awesome high school debate website is

Jason’s resources for today’s session:

Framework for today
– let’s talk about diets
Caveman diet?
– theory of this diet is similar to how we handle information
– we try to desperately hang onto information as if it will go away immediately
– 20 to 30 generations ago, information was used as a phenomenon to keep people oppressed
– we have learned information absolutely IS power
– ongoing debate about what Thomas Jefferson would do in the modern age (Jefferson WAS the first Library of Congress)

This has led us to a situation where we are media rotund
– we feel the pressure to consumer too much media
– story of a friend who felt a psychological obligation to follow each change in the debt ceiling debate recently
– this is a useful phenomenon to consider of rth

Last Oct 20th: Happy Information Overload Day!
– ‘the average knowledge worker’ (anyone who works on a computer) gets about 93 emails a day
– because people can be connected 24/7, many of them are
– some people draw clear lines between personal and professional lines, others have trouble with this
– we can get sucked into a massive info overload condition if we don’t draw these lines
– if I don’t limit my use of this device, it will control me

Not new: Richard Saul Wurman: Information Anxiety
– “information explosion has backfired leaving us stranded between mere facts and real understanding…”
– that was written in 1989, the year IBM released PS/2 and before the CD-ROM took the stage

The same tools which can overwhelm us can be used in clever ways to save us
– I call this a workflow
– a set of concrete steps you use to accomplish something
– this is common in business, IT, among organization gurus

Don’t just think about information IN and OUT
– think about how tools push information around in your life that help you attach MEANING for your life
– only adopt tools which have some function inside your broader toolset of tools

– create a regular set of steps to process information, content and knowledge

don’t ever just adopt verbatim someone else’s workflow

The rules:
1 – start with one process: develop more over time
2- less is more: don’t use four tools when two will accomplish the same task
3- review and evaluate: regularly review and evaluate, then eliminate, enhance or modify
4- adopt new tools carefully: don’t assume you need to use EVERYTHING that is cool, nifty or otherwise handy
5- don’t follow these rules: ignore the rules if you stumble on something that works better for you!

Often as teachers we “preach” metacognition, but we don’t model this for our own learning / information use

Tool organization: XMarks
– try to make all your workspaces look the same
– I have five potential places I could be working: desktops at home or work, laptops either place, etc. (multiple places where I could work)
– just like a workbench you have tools in front of you, it makes a difference if you aren’t at your workbench

Bookmarks in computer browsers
– biggest problem: they are stuck on your computer

2nd tool I recommend: RSS reader like Google Reader
– this is probably the most information tool which exists for capturing information
– this is THE most critical tool if you want to be information savvy, take mountains of information and turn them into digestible chunks
– example: I monitor about 300 websites
– I’ll teach you how to use this in a moment
– for most workflows which involve capturing and using information, this is essential

I disagree that Twitter makes RSS feeds and RSS readers less needed / useful
– I love Twitter
– there are a lot of sharers, and then most people spend time retweeting and chatting on Twitter
– I think the answer is a balance of both
– If I tried to read my entire twitter feed I’d never leave my house: I use Flipboard to filter and access content

I own a side business that writes debate handbooks, one site that is our friend is
– great example of why I want to subscribe to their site via RSS, they just publish once or twice per week

Critical tool #3 for Archiving / Sharing: Delicious Social Bookmarking

Critical Tool #4: Instapaper

Scenario: World geography teacher that has a unit for each continent, looking for fresh, current content to support unit on Africa, textbooks is dated and content isn’t very engaging

Five workflow process steps

1- check existing resources / consider new topics
2- set up traps for new information
3- process collected results
4- archive and/or share
5- review

Start with a Google search
– you may be surprised about this, but many of our colleagues don’t do this
– I always click at least 10 levels into a resource
– there is always a new resource to find
– people rarely (if ever) click past the first page of search results

Example for Africa information: BBC Africa page (offers an RSS feed) and NY Times Africa Page (offers an RSS feed)

in Google Reader: Good keyboard shortcuts: press “N” to go to the next item, many more!
– scan through in RSS reader
– get a sense of what is useful and what isn’t

Options are archive, share, or ignore
– remember: you don’t have to master EVERY information source!

– RSS reader
– Xmarks
– search
– delicious social bookmarks
– extra credit: Instapaper

I love Google Reader for many reasons, but the way other apps plug into Google Reader is AWESOME
1st app: MobileRSS (free version and paid version)
– supports sharing to delicious, instapaper, Google Reader, etc with a button push

Recommended by Jason: Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload by Mark Hurst
– create different philosophies for RSS reader folders/bundles

1- stars
– rare sources that consistently give useful, relevant info
– in workflow: tools that are the core tools you use all the time

2- scans
– reliably deliver at least some relevant info
– in workflow: tools that may not be used every day, but so something very well

3- targets
– sources good for a targeted, single use
– in workflow

4- (I missed the rest of this….)

Email is a real challenge
– I am convinced email will look very different in 20 years
– we’ve worked hard to get everyone access to email
– lots of old and young people today have abandoned email
– some JUST communicate via Facebook
– this is a sign of something coming in the future

In the school world, we are very dominated by email
– concept I want to introduce:

main concepts
– email is just a medium
– 1 place for anything
– process to zero
– convert to actions

Actions: delete, delegate, respond, defer, do

Another recommendation from Jason: The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (not all ideas are applicable to public ed)

Workflow prices for email
1- establish regular email practice (check email 3 times per day)
2- choose action items: immediate action, short term action, long term action
3- immediate action: complete, schedule, share
4- short term action: schedule, archive and share
5- long term action: schedule, archive, share

Less is always more if you can get away with it
– don’t use tools to try to gather all info, use filters to gather only info you think you would use
– example: the RSS feed for the NYT or even my local newspaper

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