Open Thread: Abandoning the Digital?

By Brenda Bethman

Last week, George Williams at ProfHacker “confessed” that he dislikes electronic grading, preferring to grade by hand. A lively discussion ensued in the comments, with folks weighing in on the pros and cons of grading electronically or by hand. At one point, George tried to redirect the comments towards discussing other ways folks used analog over the digital, but for the most part the discussion stayed focused on grading.

I find the question fascinating, though, and thus decided to shamelessly borrow it for our open thread this week as I’m curious to know what things our readers do by hand instead of digitally. For me, it’s three main things: grading, to-do lists, and newspapers. As I mentioned in the comments, I never warmed up to electronic grading (why, I’m not sure), much preferring to scrawl my comments across paper. Similarly, despite having tried (and abandoned) any number to to-do apps, I always end up coming back to this:

as I seem to find it both easier to keep my to-do list by hand and more satisfying (something about crossing things out with a pen versus a digital checkbox makes me feel as I’ve accomplished something).

Finally, I still have a hard copy of the local paper delivered five days per week — and the New York Times on Sundays. I could read both on my iPad, but I dislike the apps for both and again, for me, there’s something about having the paper around that I like. Breakfast without the paper just feels wrong. Maybe I’m just old?

So readers, tell us, what digital ways have you tried and abandoned? What are your analog confessions? Let us know in the comments!

Open Thread: Abandoning the Digital?

Open Thread: The Art of Apology

by Kathryn Magura

I screwed up. I unintentionally made someone upset. When I realized this, I had two options: 1. To ignore it and hope it would blow over, or 2. Apologize. I am a firm believer in the power of a genuine apology, so it would have been hypocritical of me to do anything other than own the situation and apologize.

As I went about correcting the wrong I had made, I started to think about the art of apology. What makes an apology authentic? Why don’t people apologize more when they make a mistake? In my experience, an apology can do wonders to resolve a situation – especially when emotions are involved. But alas, people so infrequently utilize the art of apology. Why is that? Pride? Stubbornness? I’m hard-pressed to believe that people are oblivious to the ways they hurt others. Have we just gotten to a point in our society where we don’t give a damn about each other?

When I feel wronged, I usually feel much better if someone makes an authentic apology. I don’t even need to have things turned around in my favor to feel better, I simply need someone to take ownership over the fact that I now feel hurt by them either directly or indirectly. If I am receiving customer service, I don’t necessarily want “Joe Person” on the phone to apologize (unless Joe hurt me. If he did, we’re now at odds), but I do want him to empathize with my situation and help me find resolution. Similarly, if I’m talking to a parent who is upset about something their student is experiencing on campus, I’m going to own the situation even if I’m not actually responsible for it. That person feels enough about this experience to call and complain, and I owe them the courtesy of hearing them out.

So how do you all feel about the art of apology? Are you willing to apologize to others? Why do you think we don’t apologize more?

Open Thread: The Art of Apology

Open Thread: Do You Care About #inboxzero?

By Brenda Bethman

For this week’s open thread, I want to talk about email — specifically the phenomenon known as “#inboxzero.” As I’m sure you know, this is a very recommended technique for managing one’s email. The folks who preach #inboxzero tend to be fairly zealous about it. In fact, as far as I can tell, I should be a hot mess of unproductivity thanks to the horror show (currently holding steady at #inbox307 in my work account) that is my inbox. Also, it appears that leaving my email up and running most of the time is stressing me out big time.

Here’s the thing, though — I don’t care about my inbox. I realized a long time ago that I could either spend time managing my email or I could do the rest of my job. I can’t do both, so I just let the email go — and it works for me just fine. I also leave it running and check in and out most of the day. If I’m trying to write something, I might close it — but otherwise, if I’m on the computer, the email is going. And that works for me, too.

Finally, one other thing — like Leah McClellan (see link below), I also have multiple accounts used for different purposes. Currently I manage eleven addresses (work, main personal, this blog, etc., etc.). Kind of a lot, I admit — but again, it works for me.

To me, that’s the key — do what works for you. What about you? Are you a zealous #inboxzero type? Or a let-it-all-go type? Do you check your email constantly? Or just now and then? What works for you? How accounts do you have? Let us know in the comments!

And here are some links for further reading on both sides of the email debate:

“Manage Your Email by Not Managing It” by Leah McClellan

“Achieving Inbox Zero” by Ed Cabellon

“Email Is Like Stress in a Bottle” from Lifehacker

“Does Inbox Zero Help You Manage Your Emails?” from The Next Web

“Are You Leaving the Door Open?” by Natalie Houston

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Ramberg Media Images, Creative Commons license]

Open Thread: Do You Care About #inboxzero?

Open Thread: Green Thumb Technology

by Lysa Salsbury

Day One of my summer leave and it’s a gorgeous day here in Moscow, Idaho. I spent all morning doing some long-overdue gardening: tackling my weed-infested flowerbeds, composting the strawberries, planting red salvia at the front of the house, dead-heading the cornflowers, and potting the last of the annuals I bought for a steal at Rite Aid.

I don’t have a naturally green thumb. Any knowledge I’ve gleaned about gardening over the years is courtesy of my wonderful, eternally-patient, and horticulturally-gifted neighbors, Alverna and Sue, and my mother, who excels at absolutely everything. They’ve been my gardening muses, dishing out a steady stream of sage advice on plant purchases, soil conditioning, feeding and fertilizing, pest and disease control, weeding, pruning, dividing, overwintering… you name it. I’m not even close to being in the same league as these ladies, but sometimes, things work out, and my ignorance results in lucky accidents. Other times, I feel I could use a bit of help in trying to keep my plants alive and thriving.

Pro gardeners are, apparently, increasingly relying on gadgety little gizmos to help them take the guesswork (and hopefully, some of the frustration) out of gardening. Here’s a useful device: the  Wireless Weather Projection Station (WPS) measures time, indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, and barometric pressure. Finally, I might actually get my tomato-planting timing right. This year clearly was not my year to get it right, however. I don’t have a WPS, and unbeknownst to me when I was sticking them in the ground yesterday, the Weather Channel is calling for severe thunderstorms this afternoon. Sigh. We’ll see if my little Sungolds and Latahs make it.

The SunCalc would have saved me hours, not to mention dollars, as I struggled to grow things in the flowerbeds in front of our north-facing house. This handy little thingamajig gauges how much sun exposure a particular area gets every day, helping you determine which types of plants are best suited for that space. It runs on a watch battery. Brilliant.

Though it’s still relatively cool in our neck of the woods, and watering hasn’t yet become a complete pain in the fundamentals, I get pretty weary of this daily task when the weather is hot. It consumes way more time and water than I’m comfortable with, but having a professional drip irrigation system installed is way beyond my means. The Solar Irrigation Kit seems like a viable alternative. At least the vegetables would be taken care of, and I’d only have to hand-water the flowers.

What are some of the ways in which technology has helped you to hone your efficiency, skills, and degree of success in pursuing a favorite hobby? Does technology enhance your enjoyment of said hobby? Are there devices out there that help you save time and money?

Open Thread: Green Thumb Technology