13:51 11/06/2004 Mathemagenic: Mathemagenic
...giving birth to learning...


  Thursday, June 30, 2005

  MIT weblog survey

Take the MIT Weblog SurveyIt's not suprising to see bloggers participating, but what is interesting that most people choose this badge to link to it :)

More on: blog research 

  Wednesday, June 29, 2005

  Living relationships

So, here I am, in my brother's house, meditating over ironing baby clothes and thinking about relationships and what makes them live. Even my family thought it was a bit crazy to fly over for a weekend to see the newborn baby instead of waiting for a few months. But, of course, they were glad to see me and we had a great time :)

Living abroad and especially current thinking that I may end up living abroad for the rest of my life make me thinking a lot about what makes relationships live. My family and many of my friends are in Moscow. I'm there often enough not to complain, but I still miss a lot – sharing all those experiences of everyday life that makes the feeling of being related so intimate and so rich.

I tend to think that it's about the distance, but I know that it's not.

Of course, the frequency is important too, but when I complain my mother rightly says that she doesn't talk with my sister much more often than with me being so far away.

I suspect there is something about the nature of interaction that makes the difference.

When I'm in Moscow my days are fully packed with appointments. Reflecting a bit on those I realised that the feeling of being connected is much stronger in the cases where the interaction is about something, but not that much for the sake of interaction. For example, coming to my parents for a dinner doesn’t feel as "connecting" as going shopping with them. Same with friends: meeting just for the sake of seeing each other doesn't work as good as meeting to do something together, whatever that could be – doing dishes, going to exhibitions or making sure that a friend's child keeps his food safe from their doggy. As this time – finding that changing diapers and ironing baby clothes works much better than coming just to see the baby :)

It's only recently when I realised the importance of sharing those experiences. I guess in everyday life we don't pay much attention to them – they just happen as part of sharing our lives with those we love and care about. Being far away makes me understanding that it’s not that much about the time spent together, but about small mundane details and shared activities that filled that time.

I know all these it not new ;) I'm thinking of triangulation, object-centered sociality and even one of my favourite quotes from Antoine de Saint-Exupery that

loving is not just looking at each other, it's looking in the same direction.

But, anyway, there are things out there in the world and there are moments when you discover their relevance and importance for you personally. Like now – when planning a trip home I thought of experiences to share next to fighting with the logistics. Like finding two days back that ironing can do so much for experiencing all those big changes happening in my family.

And, in case you are curious – it's a boy :)

More on: life networking travel 

  Tuesday, June 28, 2005

  Researching weblogs and blogging research: podcasts

As promised: podcasts from my presentation on researching blogs and blogging research:

All hard work is done by Mark - thanks a lot!

  Thursday, June 23, 2005

  Email triage, focusing on not important and learning to use tools effectively

I used to blog papers I read, but over last few months it wasn't that much. Here is one from yesterday:

Neustaedter, C., Brush, A., and Smith, M., (2005) "Beyond "From" and "Received": Exploring the Dynamics of Email Triage."  CHI 2005 Short Papers.

Abstract. Email triage is the process of going through unhandled email and deciding what to do with it. Email triage can quickly become a serious problem for users as the amount of unhandled email grows. We investigate the problem of email triage by presenting interview and survey results that articulate user needs for email triage. The results suggest the need for email user interfaces to provide additional socially salient information in order to bring important emails to the forefront.

Of course I didn't know the word triage and I was surpised that to find out that it is "a process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from immediate medical treatment" (more details at Wikipedia).

The paper is 4 pages, so you can get an impression of the main findings byt yourself, but there are a couple of things that I find pretty much corresponding with the insights from interviews on information overload we did at work.

What we found most interesting was that the interview participants using the multi-pass strategy would routinely use a first pass to handle emails they consider to be not important or junk. This pass would involve finding emails they could quickly delete or get rid of.

We didn't look at email handling directly, but it comes heavily while talking about information overload. When talking about their email handling strategies several people noted the same. I wonder why. I guess next to the fact that retting rid of not important stuff is easy, but probably also because endorphin release upon completing the task :)

But what I've also heard from our participants that sometimes clearning and organising emails takes so much time that, although properly sorted, important emails do not get much time to be read or acted upon...

The second thing from the paper is one of the reccurent themes, not only in this interview round, but also in other studies on whatever technology for communication and knowledge sharing.

Regardless of the user type, we found that most people felt their strategy was pretty good, but realized there were likely other, more efficient strategies.

What I find out often that technology training people get are often stops at a level of functionality ("if you want to send email click this button"), while usually there is not much discussion about productivity, your own and others ("think before emailing - may be a colleague is next door and would actually enjoy a coffee break instead of one more message in a mailbox"). We are oftend taught how to use tools for what they designed, but not how to use them to make our life easier and more fun.

Anyway, what would be practical implications of it? Apart of reshaping existing technology trainings I'm thinking of ways to share personal effectiveness tricks and establishing shared communication practices that make life of everyone easier. Those probably could help, but then there are questions about starting the process:

  • moving out of your own comfort zone ("if it doesn't break don't touch it")
  • finding ways to talk to others about practices which are usually hidden in our personal interactions with tools
  • getting convinced that there is a value in comparing personal effectivenes tricks (this is a big issue - it's easy to say "do it like me", but most likely answer is "it doesn' fit because I organise my work differently") and figuring out how to pick up something that could be useful in spite of differences

Of course, you can design better tools, but I'm not convinced it would help - many times it's not about having a good instrument, but about knowing how to use it in a good way :)

  Wednesday, June 22, 2005

  Studying weblogs at Microsoft

So, this is something I was going to write for some time, but wasn't sure how much I could/should tell. Still not sure, but anyway - I'm joining Microsoft Research/Redmond for 10 weeks and will be studying Microsoft blogs.

Leaving in less than 2 weeks :)))


Scared of work still to be finished...

More on: Microsoft travel 

  Tuesday, June 21, 2005

  Researching blogs and blogging research: synergies of colliding worlds

Notes for my talk about blog research and research blogs at NERDI.

  • Slides (.pdf) - there is not that much there, mainly drawings :)
  • Podcasts (thanks to Mark!)

Cake with three candlesI wasn't sure where to start the talk when I realised that it's exactly 3 years since I started blogging. So, my main question is:

What my weblog did to my research in those three years?

ScrapbookI started from using my blog as an online scrapbook, collecting ideas, links and quotes in one place where I could easily find things back.

Cap of coffeeThan I discovered that there is more to it – a growing community of people with similar interests and rewarding dialogues.

Looking glassOver time I also realised that weblog can also be a looking glass to study knowledge work (this is where weblogs came into my PhD research).

Ethnographer's hatIt was when I finished that paper when I realised that while my insights were inspired by the answers I've got in the study, "connecting the dots" came not from the data, but from personal experiences of blogging. I started to look for ways to accommodate for that in my research, turning blogging into an ethnographic space.

Two Lilia's arguing :) Click to enlargeBefore that blogging and researching blogs were somewhat separate, but I couldn't avoid collision, getting into a situation where two roles conflicted.

Constructing a house from piecesIn a search for a solution I started to think on conditions where blogging and researching would live peacefully together. What if and how blogging could be a research instrument?

This is where I am now (and I probably should write another post about it :).

I don't know what my weblog will do to my research next few years. I hope that it will be kind enough to let me finish my PhD before turning more things upside down :)

Re: other things that we have discussed:



  Monday, June 20, 2005


You know that it's summer then it feels so nice skyping home in a hammock swinging and while birds are singing... And then your laptop battery can not stand it any longer, but instead of going inside you find an extention cord because leaving the hammock would be so wrong...

More on: life 

  Podcasting for my talk on blogging and research tomorrow?

Some people are wondering if I can provide a podcast of my presentation on blogging and research tomorrow.

The answer is no - unless someone else (Mark?) volunteers to do it. The reasons are simple:

  • I have no idea how to record a podcast, no tools to do it and no desire (at the moment) to learn it
  • I'm stressed enough with preparing the talk :)

  Thursday, June 16, 2005

  Don't make holes in my passport!

Have you ever feel offended when some embassy or passport control officers use a stapler to attach whatever form to your passport, pinching holes through the cover? Strangely enough I do - holes in my passport feel like a personal offence.

I travel a lot; this is the second case and the same country. This is probably done out of convenience or lack of thinking, but feels like exhibition of power.

More on: travel 

  Wednesday, June 15, 2005

  Floating as mental ctrl-alt-del

This evening I did something a bit out of the ordinary: I spent an hour in a floatation tank. I'd heard about it in a documentary on Acetylcholine (from Brainwaves a series of documentaries on the chemicals which make our brains work) I listened to during the week and it turned out the centre was right next to Clapham Common tube station. It seemed intriguing so I gave it a shot.

When I saw this post over a month ago at Matt's weblog I was intrigued as well. I read all kinds of things about flotation tanks and decided to try as well. It's not that you can find them at every corner, but I found a place in Amsterdam and was looking for the right occasion.

Yesterday was the day. I had to be in Amsterdam for a very early appointment, so I decided I deserved something nice for getting up at 5:15 in the morning and booked a session at Koan float centre :)

It was strange and I guess, as with Matt, my first session wasn't the perfect experience. But in a strange and fun way it works. The closest metaphor I have is mental ctrl-alt-del :)

May be you are like me and when you keep your Windows machine running for days, you notice that over time it gets slower. It doesn't show me blue screen, but it looks that all those windows that get open and closed, and all those strange applications I start eat bits and pieces of machine's attention and processing power, so it becomes slower. Not enough to be totally frustrated, but enough to notice the difference once you restart.

This is more or less what happened to me after floating. I had a million mental windows open and my processing power dropped - I was still able to do things, but a bit slower and with less fun. Somehow yesterday's floating has me restarted. I still have those million things to do, but they look much easier and more fun...

Back to doing million things :)

More on: fun GTD 

  Tuesday, June 14, 2005

  Me, speaking on researching blogs and blogging research, Amsterdam, 21 June

It's titled Lecture/debate on weblogs and the different shapes and colours of academic blogging and hosted by Networked Research and Digital Information (Nerdi), Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

I'll be talking about researching blogs and blogging research, more or less as the abstract says:

For a researcher who starts studying weblogs getting hands-on experience in blogging may be a natural step, either as part of learning about new phenomenon, as a way to engage in conversations with other weblog researchers or as a conscious choice for participatory research methods. In either case the lines between the "blogger who does research" and the "researcher who blogs" are getting blurred.
In this presentation Lilia Efimova will provide an overview of the weblog research field and talk about the different shapes and colours of academic blogging.

The details you may want to know:

  • Tuesday June 21 at 14.00 hrs + the entrance is free + you are very welcome :)
  • ISHSS Building, room D (1st Floor)
  • Prins Hendrikkade 189-B, 1011 TD, Amsterdam + directions

I'll try to make more debate than lecture out of it. I'll also post slides online and will try blog something, but hope someone else will blog it too as I can't write while talking :)

On a practical side: do you have any specific questions/issues you believe I should cover?

  Monday, June 13, 2005

  Love that takes your fears away

Liz Lawley:

I was trying to explain to someone recently the difference between the intoxication of infatuation, and the happiness of a long-time love. It’s hard to explain, really. Infatuation has energy and excitement. It’s a high. It’s like the first drop on the roller coaster—exhilarating and terrifying all at once. Long-term love is sweet and slow and solid and secure. It’s knowing that someone knows you—knows all about you, knows what you like, knows how you think. Infatuation takes your breath away; love takes your fears away.

More on: life quote 

  Sunday, June 12, 2005

  On mental stress and getting things done

From Getting things done (the book :) by David Allen:

Most people have been in some version of this mental stress state so consistently, for so long, that they don't even know that they're in it. Lake gravity, it's every present – so much so that those who experience it usually aren't even aware of the pressure. The only time most of them will realize how much tension they've been under is when they get rid of it and notice how different they feel.

Or, as in my case - the awareness is there, but it takes really high doses of stress (thinking why the hell those grey hairs pop-up on my head so unexpected :) to start doing something with it.

I guess in my case the problem is that I have lots of workarounds to cope with number of things I'm trying to do and high stress tolerance, so I tend not to focus on it unless stress is really high and current system is not able to handle things anymore.

More on: GTD 

  Thursday, June 09, 2005

  Wiki for project management: good practices, tips and tricks?

I'm looking for experiences and advice of using wiki for a project - any pointers?

To be more specific: the idea is to use a wiki as a shared space for both, project management and accumulating projects results. I'm especially interested in the first one: how wiki could be used for planning, coordination and updates? what types of project management pages it makes sense to create? tips and tricks to facilitate active participation?

On practicalities: 12 organisations in 5 countries, ~30 people, most with little or no wiki experience...

More on: RUSMECO wiki 

  Friday, June 03, 2005


I'm in the middle of writing deadlines, so just a piece from Life between buildings that was hanging in my blogging notes for ages:

At the edge of the forest or near the façade, once is less exposed than if one is out in the middle of a space. One is not in the way of anyone or anything. One can see, but not be seen too much, and the personal territory is reduced to a semicircle in front of the individual. When one's back is protected, others can approach only frontally, making it easy to keep watch and to react, for example, by means of a forbidding facial expressions in the event of undesired invasion of personal territory.

The edge zone offers a number of obvious practical and psychological advantages as a place to linger. Additionally, the area along the façade is the obvious outdoor staying area for the residents and functions of the surrounding buildings. It is relatively easy to move a function out of the house to the zone along the façade. The most natural place to linger is the doorstep, from which it is possible to go farther out into the space or remain standing. Both physically and psychologically it is easier to remain standing than to move out into the space. One can always more farther later on, if desired.

It can be concluded that events grow from inward, from the edge toward the middle of public spaces.

When I read this one as a well as lots of examples of places people choose for hanging out in public, it becomes clear that the edge between purely personal and private "my" space and truly social "our" space is important. This is the space for observing, making choices and getting ready to step out into social engagement. This is also the space in between that is so often missing or neglected. I'm thinking of "old" technologies that support either you personally (all stuff that runs on the desktop) or what ever group with shared activity (all kinds of groupware stuff). Being there just to observe before jumping in is lurking and often it's not considered to be a good behaviour...

I guess it's a bit cryptic, but if you read me long enough you probably able to connect the dots. Otherwise just wait till words around ideas mature and mould into something readable...

© Copyright 2002-2005 Lilia Efimova Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Last update: 9/12/2005; 2:02:58 PM.