multitasking & efficient use of resources

Lukas Mathis wrote recently on his blog Ignore the Code about multitasking and what that means for humans versus computers. He made one point that resonated with me:

“The fact that the iPad only lets me see one app at a time often does not help me focus. Instead, it forces me to switch between apps constantly, thus preventing me from focusing on my task. Every time I have to deal with the iPad’s task switching, I’m interrupted.”

I noticed this when I was using the iPad at the last two conferences I attended. It was great for focusing my attention on the speaker and content, because I had to leave the note-taking app and open the Twitter app if I wanted to check on the back channel chatter. However, it was frustrating for that same reason, as it also meant that if I wanted to toss out a pithy quote from the presentation, it meant taking a chance on missing something important while I switched programs.

When I’ve had a laptop or netbook with me for note-taking, switching between programs was a simple keystroke that took a fraction of a second and barely any of my mental focus, and more often than not I could have Twitter and my note-taking program open side-by-side. While I was using only one resource at a time, by being able to switch between them quickly, I could “multi-task” efficiently.

Thankfully, I don’t often have need to do this on a mobile device like the iPad or my Android phone, so right now this isn’t a problem for me. However, if these types of interfaces become the new standard for computing, someone will need to find a way to allow for multiple screens running multiple programs that can be moved between with the flick of a finger. Otherwise, we will have even more problems focusing on the task at hand.

trying out the iPad

I have borrowed an iPad from work to take notes on at ER&L next week. So far I’m learning that I can’t touch type on it, so I’ll have my head down a lot. Also, the screen is very sensitive, so I’m making typos when my fingers get too close. Will be needing to hone my hovering skills.

I’m also bringing my laptop, so I can switch to that if this gets frustrating.

custom recipe file for iPhone/iPod

Use your Google Notebook and the free Gnotes app to cull together a custom recipe box on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

I’ve been playing with a iPod Touch from work for the past few weeks. One of the first things I did was dig around for interesting and useful free apps that don’t require constant 3G connections to work effectively. One thing I knew I needed was a functional note-taking tool that would sync the notes with my computer(s), and that’s how I stumbled upon Gnotes.

Basically, this application syncs with your Google Notebook and pulls the text of the notes to the iPod/iPhone. The first thing I did with it was type out the words to some choral pieces I needed to memorize, and after I got comfortable with the interface, I began thinking of other things I could do with it.

One of the apps I first searched for was something to collect, store, and display recipes I wanted to use. There are plenty of free and pay apps for recipe collections, but I didn’t want fifty bajillion recipes to sort through, and I don’t have a wireless router at home, so I needed something that could be used offline. Then it hit me — why not use my Google Notebook for this, too?

It works well, and I have the ingredients list with me for last minute grocery shopping. Here’s how it looks on the iPod Touch:

recipes with Gnotes screen 1recipes with Gnotes screen 2

One down side to this versus using a printout or paper note card is that you can’t see the whole recipe in one screen, so you’ll need to make sure you scroll down far enough to have everything visible you need for that step in the process. You also might want to edit the recipe instructions to include the amount of each ingredient (if it isn’t like that already) within the text, to avoid scrolling up and down each time to check for quantity.

IL2009: Growing & Grown-Up Digital: Next-Gen Speaks

Facilitator: Stephen Abram
Panel: two high-school students, a college student, and the teen services librarian from the local public library

Abrams has asked that folks blogging or tweeting to not use the name of the teen participants, as some are under-age and we should act responsibly when creating a digital trail for them.

First question is about music. The college student likes classical, one high school student still likes vinyl and cassette tapes (no iPod), and the other puts music on her USB stick to take with her (along with her iPod). The college student started with illegal downloads, but gained a respect for the musicians, so now he buys music via iTunes. The iPod-weilding high school student has an iTunes account that she uses sometimes, but mostly shares music with friends. The vinyl student buys the physical medium rather than making copies.

What’s in your bag? Surprisingly, two of them carry USB sticks, which I almost never see with the college students at my library.

Is brand important? Yes, if it’s indicative of the quality, which is more important. (Ugg boots and short-shorts = "the Escaho")

How do you use your phone? Keep in contact with family and friends around the world, mostly via text. One high school student uses her phone mainly to take photos and videos.

"Facebook, Myspace, and phone are good places to keep in touch with people, but Twitter is kind of dead." Ouch — I guess it’s all about where your community exists.

Do you create content? The college student writes music and records it, but hasn’t posted it yet.

Do you expect the same or better standard of living than your parents? Everything seems better/easier now. If we use it the right way, everything will be exponentially easier. There are more options available now for careers, and the internet has opened doors of awareness of what could be. Technology is almost overly-available to us, which can be distracting.

Homework? The college student uses voice recognition software to "write" his papers. He uses Google for most research, but will get a book from the library for "older" material. One high school student uses "homework help now" service from the library for online tutoring. The analog high school student avoids the computer and it’s distractions when doing homework. She also uses interlibrary loan & federated search engines, but doesn’t know them by those names. ("It’s like a bajillion Googles, but for information.")

How do you evaluate information? One tries to find other sources to back up the info. Another starts with using library/school authoritative sources. And the other uses the search limiting tools like peer-review only searches, although, again, she doesn’t know it by that name. She also likes to us Opposing Viewpoints.

Wikipedia? Good for big, broad topics, according to some teachers, but others limit information sources to the textbook only. Some teachers recognize that students use it for overviews of topics, but it’s not good to cite it in a paper.

Are online sources good for finding information about things that you would be uncomfortable to talk about with your parents? It’s easier to talk about things with someone you don’t know. Or go to friends first and then verify with online info. "It’s must be true, it’s on the internet!" isn’t true. There are safe, anonymous places around town where people can talk to each other face-to-face.

Video games? The college student doesn’t play, but his friends do. Neither high school student plays, although they did when they were younger (Nintendo 64, Tekken).

Read online? No, it hurts the eyes after a while, and there are too many other distractions online, too. It’s hard to take notes and highlight online books.

Republican, Democrat, or Independent? They seem to all be the same anymore. There aren’t distinctions. We need to review our system and do a CTRL-ALT-DEL reboot. They are concerned with the impact of the meat industry and oil consumption on the environment, as well as the unequal distribution of wealth around the world.

Teen librarian: There are too many groups of teens with too many interests to connect with all of them, so the focus has been to try to provide a space in the library that they can create for themselves.

How do we overcome the emerging prejudices towards Millenials? The Pew research shows that Millenials and Boomers have a huge overlap in interests and activities. We need to stop thinking of them so much as something strange and different.

back on the radio

In a few hours, I will be starting my first shift alone at WRIR. Luckily, not many people will be listening from 3-6am (Eastern). If you’re up, feel free to tune in (terrestrial radio and streaming online) and laugh at all my screw-ups.

I have spent several hours tonight creating a playlist, rather than just going in and doing it on the fly like I used to. Partially because it’s been a long time since I thought about my music collection from the perspective of radio (family-friendly content), and partially because having all of my music in iTunes makes it easy to sort through by song rather than pulling each disc off of a shelf to decide what to play.

The hard part of the whole process was determining how much music I need to bring, since I will also be playing stuff from the WRIR library, making announcements, and other breaks throughout the show. I suspect this will get easier the more I do it.