Where to Find What?

I have confessed on this blog that I have Mr. Monk DVDs for a reason. We like to categorize, tag, painstakingly re-organize, and re-use. This is reflected in our Innovations in Agriculture …

The Seedbank: Left-over squared timber met the chopsaw.

The Nursery: Rebirth of copper tubes and newspapers.

… as well as in my periodical Raking The Virtual Zen Garden: Updating collections of web resources, especially those related to the heat pump system.

Here is a list of lists, sorted by increasing order of compactification:

But thanks to algorithms, we get helpful advice on presentation from social media platforms: Facebook, for example, encouraged me to tag products in the following photo, so here we go:

“Hand-crafted, artisanal, mobile nursery from recycled metal and wood, for holding biodegradable nursery pots.” Produced without crowd-funding and not submitted to contests concerned with The Intersection of Science, Art, and Innovation.

The More Content You Have Created

… the more time you need for curating.

My first ever attempt at tweeting an aphorism. But it is true for me, and it defines the way I use online spaces.

As a contributor of online content, I am operating in different modes:

  • Creator, with emphasis on creating something original – including unintended re-invention of the already existing I had not googled.
  • Researcher, when cross-checking sources or doing calculations.
  • Commentator on the blogs of others.
  • Curator. It is this role I want to dwell upon now.

I started writing online by editing static web pages, and this still determines my netizen’s philosophy. Creating content was always playing with structure versus content, and playing with how to present content in a way it was useful to me – and maybe to others, too.

You cannot pre-define categories, tags, and other structure upfront in my opinion, but you have to revisit them regularly. Social media like Facebook, Google+, or Twitter are primarily determined by the timeline, without giving the user a chance to provide a more timeless structure. Actually the user cannot influence the layout at all. That’s why I consider them secondary channels. Originally I had planned to organize resources useful to me on such sites – but I don’t want to full-text search my own posts or edit hashtags.

What I prefer is what search engines might penalize me for: Long, hand-crafted lists of links. Since a few months I have resumed posting to technical IT security forums. These forums provide automatically compiled lists of my threads, my activity etc. But yet I compile lists of my threads on one of my sites whose domain name accidentally makes for an insider pun: radices, which means roots. I violate database best practices by organizing the same content in redundant fashion – by date or by topic. It is not the final list that is so terribly useful to me, but the act of revisiting all the content, struggling with categorizing, and adding summaries.

I made it a rule to only add links to my collections that I had already used, as I believe the ease of arranging links and downloading documents makes it too simple to just collect and hoard – without actually reading or using. The internet is not too blame here: In the old times, at the university, I was collecting and curating scientific papers – the collecting being a result of my monthly browsing interesting journals, and it was often more extensive than needed.

This year I have created new major categories for these blog by laying out the site map –  the pages making up the main menu. It dawned on me that this more than a navigation menu. It reflects what is important for me, and that I don’t care anymore about explaining how all this goes together. I created these pages at about the same time I stopped trying to explain why my professional playgrounds would complement each other so nicely. I rather say, I work on A and B, as odd as this combination seems. Combining Anything – I Mean It.

I do love playing with different platforms, and I do maintain all of my non-blog websites. My most innovative experiments in Google-Translate-assisted poetry go unnoticed as I published them only on my subversive website.

The reason I have this Anything blog is that I tried to keep things separated originally, but finally all of my sites cover all of my topics anyway. Curation is what makes me aware of it.

But on principle I do know that it makes sense to keep to a topic. On our German blog we focus more on heat pumps; there is a lot of technical information, and we keep to a specific narrative style. I am at a loss how to explain this. We call ourselves the Two Fearless Settlers and Professional Tinkerers who tell stories about renewable energies. We use synonyms for places that are reminiscent of fairy-tales or slightly old-fashioned newspapers. Ironically, there is a game called Settlers Online whose style might quite match our blog, and we only learned about this via search terms on our blog (which have also been turned into search term poetry). Clients find the site both informative and entertaining – some of the unexpected positive feedback left me speechless.

On this blog here the navel-gazing ramblings may still outweigh light entertainment or practically useful information. I am not sure if I want to change this – I am just parsing my content and I am recognizing this. The more I create site maps and categories, the less I use them to plan for future content. It is more about coming to a halt and contemplating. I have also decided that I will go on a literary diet until end of 2014 – so I will not amend my Reading List in the next weeks.

I feel like I have reached a goal I hadn’t defined before.


My Reading List

This blog has been inspired by books more often than not. When I crafted the first version of my personal website many years ago, a database of my favorite books was one of the first things I added and changed frequently.

For better or for worse – I organize my thoughts and my websites in relation to books I have read or pick books in order to find new ways to articulate what is on my subconscious mind.

Based on the feedback on my recent post about favorite books 2013 I am now keeping

a chronological list of what I am reading.

It is experimental und I might make changes to layout and the organization of items often.

I can’t deny that I have been inspired by The Great Curators, Farnam Street and Brain Pickings. I will never reach their professional level of productivity in digesting and reviewing books – but I can relate a lot to the idea of starting your intellectual adventures from well-articulated accounts given by others.

As a so-called knowledge worker I feel that there is already so much ‘out there’ that the task of the day is not to try to be that original, but to consolidate, re-arrange, or – as they say today – curate existing knowledge. In passing, this might solve my issues with finding my ideas and life too cliché.

It might also give proof to my theory of using social media in bursts. In 2012 and in 2013 I have written some opinionated posts – based on thoughts that were given several years to ripen. I was reliving several career transitions in time lapse.

But I cannot add anything really new or urgent for the moment. I had experienced the same when I setup my personal websites. Hence I also believe the usability or interactivity of the web platform does not matter. I ‘blog’ in pure text and without the technical option to get likes and comments if I feel the need to write.

I did not think a second when I invented my blog’s title. It is of course much too long but I consider it remarkably apt. I try to make weird connections between different things, many of them sciencey.

In summary I felt the urgent need to setup that page as I indulge in keeping blogging a related ‘research’ activities an experiment. I don’t try to put forward a theory here – this is simply how my mind works.

So 2014 might become the year I turn even more to book-inspired essays – but I don’t at all turn this into a managed project with deadlines and to-do lists.

And now I will commit a mortal sin in blogging and not add an image here. You might see an inappropriate ad as I pay for tweaking my style sheets but I don’t pay for the no-ads upgrade.