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Observations from a Dependent Home-Owner

Just as I’m willing to acknowledge my skills and accomplishments, I am comfortable admitting my short suits and failures. From time to time I’ve shared that I’ve always worked outside my home because I’m so much more confident in my professional arena than I am in certain areas of my personal arena. My husband and grown children seem to think I’ve done a pretty good job but, even they would admit I lack much ability to diagnose, repair, or evaluate some essential technology-dependent functions in my home. That’s why the company that provides me with a “bundle” of phone service, TV, and internet is such a part of my life – I’m dependent upon them for communication, entertainment and research. And I have disliked them intensely because, during the last 3 or 4 months, they’ve all but taken over my life – not just a part of it. Allow me to vent (by the way – they don’t seem to want to hear me vent when I call, and, 5 times out of 6, struggle to find my 2-year account, and totally overlook that they’re hardly the only show in town, and I could easily switch to a competitor. And we plan to!) Read the rest of this entry

What Does Your Word Cloud Reveal?

I recently reviewed a few newspaper articles that I’d saved for later consideration. One item that caught my eye was written before the November election. It created a “word cloud” of one of the presidential debates. A quote from a political consultant interested me – since, being a dinosaur – I hadn’t heard of a word cloud. The consultant said, “Word clouds display the narrative and trajectory of a campaign’s emphasis and direction. They are extremely helpful in cutting through the clutter to visualize the strategy of a campaign.”

Word Cloud of California’s Special Needs Guide

Here’s what I’m wondering: What would a word cloud created from your presentation at a safety meeting tell about what’s important to you? What would such a cloud created from your enthusiastic “back –to-school” orientation reveal about your “emphasis and direction” for the year? How often does the word “safety” actually come up? Do words of caring and compassion for children play a big role? Are their words that are significant because of their absence, and words that demonstrate your strategies when depicted visually that you really hadn’t intended to be prominent?

My web search of “word cloud” tells me there are a lot of tools available for generating a word cloud of written text. Most of them come across as neat ways to create an art form: “You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes”; create something which is “visually stunning.” Others, however, focus on a word cloud as a means of analyzing a speech.

Political campaigns use word clouds to gauge the message they’re sending. Similarly, it could be interesting for each of us who communicates by written or spoken word to occasionally use one of the word cloud generators to see if we are saying what we mean, and are getting across points that are consistent with where we really want our emphases to be.

I think I’ll try it as I prepare for upcoming conferences. Perhaps you’ll consider doing the same for your own presentations. Let me know how/ if it works for you.                           — Peggy

Email Jail

In my Thanksgiving post I expressed gratitude for the “advancing technology which brings us together and allows us to share.” Now for the down side of that technology:

If you’ve been out of the office for any period of time and are at all “conneemailcted”, you probably have a few dozen or hundreds of emails to review and possibly act upon. Yes, I have a smartphone which, for several dozen extra dollars, will allow me to keep current while I’m out of the country. But do I really want to take the time to respond to emails when I could be bartering over the price of a set of chopsticks or a taxi ride?  When I’m on vacation I try not to check my email every single time the stupid green light flashes. In fact, I’ve been known to not even look at the phone for as long as an hour.

Don’t get me wrong. I really do appreciate staff or colleagues who copy me to make sure I’m “looped” on an issue. I also respect those who copy me out of courtesy. I just wish they would say what they need to say in the email title or first 3 lines. I’d love to be able to read, file, delete, or act upon a message without having to struggle through the two paragraph background when I already have the 3 page email thread included.

These days we all have multiple email and/or social networking accounts. Some we check regularly, some not so much. ImageThis leaves us with a couple of persistent questions:

  1. Do you have access to your friend’s super-secret account or just the secret account because, whether you like it or not, your “friends” are secretly ranking you.
  2. How do you stay out of email jail?
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