cc licensed flickr photo shared by Pink Sherbet Photography

Yesterday Martin Weller, in the midst of writing his book on Digital Scholarship, wrote up a narrative of his day to track his working day and uses of technology. In the summary, he notes the mix of personal and work lives intertwingling while he does this from home, and how much of the technology is not strictly sexy, and in some ways, so mundane they start to merge into his real desktop (my metaphor):

What does this digital scholarship snapshot tell us? Firstly, it’s quite traditional. This is partly because I am writing a book, but it is also representative. I didn’t spend the day overlaying different data formats or creating a musical mashup, or anything exciting like that, I spent it writing. Related to this the technology used is fairly simple – there are no specialist tools in use here. There is a mixture between the professional and personal in their use. Even on a relatively unconnected day when I am engaged in the solo pursuit of writing I still maintain social connections with a global network of peers. A significant point is that there is a vast amount of high quality information available to me without leaving my house. I like the way that different elements of work fit in the elements of my day and that there is a wide range of granularity of outputs, from writing a book to individual tweets. Lastly, these are small, subtle changes and yet the way they intermesh to create the fabric of a working day is, I feel, quite remarkable. We’ve just become so habituated to them that we fail to appreciate this.

I cannot his challenge to do the same; but here in hindsight, I am reconstructing November 23 from mostly memory, but also some digital footprints. As a preface, my job working for the NMC means my office is my home, and my patterns fall short of a 9-5, especially this week while my Mom is visiting from Florida, but here goes.

The day starts by alarm clock on my iPhone. I was ambitious to get a lot done today, so it started at 6:15AM, but lately I have been going a few multiple trips to the Snooze Bar. Once a bit more awake, I admit taking some time there to scan the email inboxes (seeing no urgent THE WEB SERVER IS ON FIRE messages, I do a quick clean up/delete of stuff I know I can prune from the subject line. I also read a few stories, blog posts in Google Reader. I have mine organized into a few folders- ed tech (mostly blogs), techie (mashable, engadget, etc), “big ideas”, photography, etc. I have been marking more stories to track using the Share feature- I think yesterday I shared one form MediaShift IdeaLab on How To Capture High Quality Video on Your Mobile Phone. I am not using it much yet, but I did toy around with some web site code that tracks the things I share/favorite/Instapaper into one interface (, but am using the Google Reader Share more now to track things to look at later (whenever that is).

I have another private folder of feeds from my sites (it’s called “dogs only”) that has among others, an RSS feed on issues from my Feed2JS Gogle code site so I can track reports, and one has been hanging there unread for a week or so. I also track daily a feed from comments on my flickr stream, and always enjoy seeing that one lit up. Sometimes days go by without any action, but today there were 6, 3 comments, 2 favorites, and one note added to a photo.

Also I do a quick check on the iPhone for Twitter (the new notifications is great, but I only have it set to light up a badge, I dont need to get pop up notes of replies or noises ringing). I also see it is my turn in Words With Friends, I have a few games going, and have been going on a terror streak of great hands that is bound to end soon. Arghhh it does, in one game I have a hand of AAAAIRO.

Enough dawdling around, time for the key ask- making coffee. It’s gotten pretty chilly, and I check the wood stove, which still has good red coals from last night, so I stoke it up and toss on a few small logs to increase the heat. I have breakfast with Mom.

By 8:30am, its time to flip the laptop open- there is a smattering of email, nothing to great when this week is the Thanksgiving Holiday. I take care of personal email (Gmail). I see that my flickr Pro account is up for renewal, and do not want to let that lapse, so pay via paypal- my record there goes back to 2004- interesting that when Pro first came out it was $7, but they must have seen that as too high and dropped it to $24.95, which I have paid every year since. There was a nice note from Micheal P at University of Cape Town who thanked me for a blog post about an Amazing Story he shared (based on his previous email), and he offered to try and get the woman who’s story it was to record a video for it. Cool!

There is quite a burst of comments to my post on Are You Liking the Like Web (a burst is 14, a huge spike), and I respond to a few as well as the other ones that came in via twitter. I do keep Tweetdeck open all day, I dont open it every time a note comes up, but the pulse makes me feel like I am close to the machine. I toss in a few snarky fun comments, one in response to a D’Arcy Norman tweet of a horrendous Blackboard alert message, and another toying with Chris Lott’s mention of me, which as often is the case, comes wrapped in his humor.

I could note that it is easy to dismiss this bantering as a waste of time being silly in public, but I see it no different than the banter that might go on during a break at work, or while waiting in line somewhere; just in this case I am able to do it with people I mostly know (and many I don’t). It’s an important social glue (at least for me) among the other mundane or regular things we do, and I tend to bta back and forth with people I know like doing the same.

I then switch to the work email (we have Google Education Edition apps for NMC). There’s some spam on a few Horizon Report blogs, and one old oen I can see I forgot to check the box to force a commenter to have one previously approved comment to post w/o moderation. There are a few more tech issues to go back and forth with our web server admin and some developers working a project for us (apparently we need to set up an SSL certificate, which means setting up an account, some more back and forth with the office on which one we should use).

More email on organizing a webinar I am doing next week with my colleague Ruben Puentedura. On searching for his previous message, I note I missed a reply he sent earlier to my request to set up a Skype call so we can coordinate. He says he is in Sweden this week, but he can call me at 11pm his time (3pm local, but I do a double check with the World Time Clock) and add it to my Google calendar. There are some listserv moderations for NMC, some requests for information via the web site form, a few web site content tweaks.

My ichat pops up, and its my CEO Larry asking for time to today to catch up- we use IM a ton between the NMC staff, and in many ways it is an indicator or both our presence and availability. I check the schedule, and see wide openness, respond, “Any time.” He replies with “how about in 10 minutes”. I then turn my attention to checking what I ought to be doing- I’ve managed to clean up the scattered list of hand scribbled things, and have been trying to get better at using an online tsk tool (Nozbe, I go through spurts of being regular at Nozbe to ignoring it for a few weeks, but it never yells at me. I get to check off a few tasks that were done, make some calendar adjustments to other.

With email, I try to keep the inbox, if not zero, to one fold of messages (50 in google) so I archive a lot or toss others in the hand “Actionable” drawer. I note I have to process the recording for a podcast I recorded last night with Gardner Campbell. I use the eCamm Call recorder because it is easy and more importantly, puts our voices into separate audio tracks, which makes it easier to edit. It is saved as a QuickTime movie, so I have to drop it on a script that splits the tracks into two quicktimes, and a second one that converts it to AIFF. I then am checking a Google Web form I need to modify as a signup form for an upcoming event, and notice that the “10 minutes” I said to larry as slipped to about 25.

I send a message and say something like “Lost track of time AGAIN” and he responds “LOL me too”. I call on the Plain Old Telephone, a technology we use a lot at NMC (my big technology feat a few months ago was finally getting around to setting up the one button calls for numbers I use often, for some reason telephone technology defies me). There’s a lot of things to review as we discuss a problem with the geolocation data on our new (still under wraps) Horizon Navigator project. We are both testing the map editing fields on test records, and sort our what works and what doesn’t, and determine there are a few questions we need to take back tot he developers. We shift to talk about some changes in next year’s horizon projects, Larry shares updates on two new related projects that may happen, we review some details for other events, etc. We do a lot of these free form sharing, brainstorming calls, often as not un scheduled.

As it happens, the developers email a CSV file of some 300 projects that are lacking the geo data we need to map them on our interface. These are a list of drupal node ids and titles, which they let us know can eb edited via http://……../node/{node id}/edit (which I know). I think, “we need an easier way for staff to run through these), so I import this CSV file into a new Google spreadsheet, set up a new column with a formula to concatenate the urls string and the id into a clickable link, add a column so we can initial when the data is updated, and share it with my colleagues who are going to go through and update the data.

Basically we have some information about projects and we have to figure out at least a city/state/country, if not street address, to enter into the drupal site (it auto geocodes based on that data). I start from the bottom of the list, and suggest to Larry to start at the top. its always interesting to see the same spreadsheet being modified in near real time. Some of the data is easy to find (for web sites that lost their physical street address somewhere), others take some researching; a few of the data need better URLs for their primary link.

While checking one site that uses semantic web technology, I find a link to DBpedia, an open source project aiming to assist in turning Wikipedia (and other web page content) into structured data. I get a little distracted as it is interesting, and make sure I bookmark it in delicious.

In between, my colleague Rachel IMs and lets me know a few of the layouts for another section of this new site are not working, and I go in and notice a tedious series of set ups I did the day before (I counted 62 clicks for each of 37 sections) are gone, or just as possibly, I missed them. It only takes a few minutes to repeat the brainless click task.

It’s getting close to noon, and I really want to grab lunch quick so I can get in a training run for the half marathon I am doing in January, but there is also in the inbox a semi -urgent notice to get a “hold the dates” email to a list of people who are supposed to be at the webinar I am doing next week with Ruben. We are lacking some key info from the event sponsor (like exactly WHAT technology they are setting up for us), and I have not had enough details to set up the event web page. But since we want to have people sign up for this one (then we send login details a few days before), I copy an existing Google sign up form, make the modifications, test it, create a short URL to point to it, and generate the email, including the signup for so at least they can have that info, Within 12 minutes of sending the email, I can see the spreadsheet filling in (if you have never done this, it is a real thrill, at least for a geek).

Yikes, it has gotten to be about 12:45, so I shut the lid, and go have a quick lunch with Mom (reheated soup and pizza). By the time I return to “glance” at the computer (was planning to get out for a run at 1:30pm), email shows a few more technical issues that need responses, a question from an NMC member needs one, a quick glance at twitter shows nothing I am compelled to jump into. Doing some calculations, it is looking tight to get in both a run and a shower before the Skype call with Ruben, and I decided I will push it til after the call.

I return to the geolocation data and process another 10 or 20, and have a quick IM with Larry about some of the things we have listed being in the wrong area. By about 2:30, I’ve been head deep in this a while, and need a breather. I flip back to pesonal Gmail, respond to a question from the new google group I joined for TEDxPHX -someone was interested in the concept of “unschooling” looking for links. I chimed in with the work I dod, a reference, with my own caveats, on DIY U, mention that it owes more than it gave to godfather of EDUPUNK and tell them to read the glass bees blog post that started it all, and a few more links I quickly scavenge from my delicious bookmarks.

Ruben promptly ring on Skype at 3:01pm and we chat a bit about travel, the work he is doing in Sweden, Thanksgiving plans, and then go over some logistics for the webinar we are doing together. We wrap, I squash a few more emails. Rachel has found someone who can do this geolocation updates for us, so I create an editing account, share the spreadsheet, and set up a few instructions.

Time is ticking. I close the laptop, get on my running gear, and head out at 4:10pm. It’s a chilly 42°F and I get in 2.7 miles, but there’s no time to relax, a quick shower, and at 5:30 Mom leaves with me for my regular Tuesday night yoga class in Pine. It is not hard core yoga (not that I know what it is), we joke a lot and have fun. What I have gotten to like, besides seeing friends who are not edtechies, is that I start with all this work stuff swirling in my mind, and after a few minutes of breathing and stretching, it fades to the background, for at least an hour. Then, after the healthy exercise, we go down to Sidewinders bar for beer and fried food!

We got home at 8:30pm, the day is not quite done for this dog. The nightly chore is cleaning yesterdays ash from the woodstove, and restocking the indoor supply of firewood and kindling twigs, and starting a fire. I then go about my “other” tech activities, outside work (some). I realize I have not looked at all at today’s @dailyshoot photo assignment — I usually try to do it first thing so I can either be thinking about it, or at least try to get photos early I may be able to use if I dont take any later. I scramble around the house for subjects (today is a white object on a white background, ugh), find a few that might work, do some others I can use for my other daily photo (2010/365 photos). I decide a fun thing, and something I have been meaning to do, is to install on my PC the Myst III software I found for $2 at a thrift store. It actually works, and I spend about 10 minutes poking around, trying to get back in a Myst mindset.

I attended to the error reported in the Feed2JS google code side, and darned if I did not uncover an error in my code ways, so I tweaked and tested it, updated the source code, checked the issue as “fixed” (I hope)/

My next idea is to get my Mom to be a prop for a blog post idea I’ve had for a while (she’s a good sport, eh)- so we got this one for “Mom Gives Thumbs Down on Wired’s Editorial Decision Making”

cc licensed flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Among my favorite daily tasks, usually this time of night, are processing, editing, and captioning my photos- I posted 8 photos out of maybe 23 I took today. (flickr does an elegant job of archiving by date, not always easy to get to…

I did a blog post taking my own swipe at Wired Magazine’s being a boob about their covers, composing and posting directly to my blog from the flickr photo I used.

Seeing the clock ticking towards 11;30pm, I perhaps unwisely decided to get the podcast I recorded the night before- this is for the Networked Faculty Development Seminar Gardner Campbell is running at Baylor University and beyond. Through NMC, I’ve been trying to support the participation of people beyond the Baylor group; what Gardner and I aim to do (but schedules get in the way) is to do a weekly podcast summarizing the reading and discussion of the current week,a nd look ahead to the next — posted on the NMC site at Actually it is my ploy to get a weekly conversation in with gardner; last night we just talked and joked for about 50 minutes before we recorded. I was already a day or 2 late, and wanted to get it off my list, so I did my quick editing in Audacity (removing breathing sounds, tightening up dead space, deleting a few extraneous remarks), posted it to our media site, and wrote up the summary to

I’m not remembering or stating exactly, but it was after midnight before this was done.


And that was my work/life day, not all are like that, but it is somewhat representative. There is a lot I forgot or am missing details on. And my gosh, it took maybe an hour to write it up! But I have to credit Martin for spurring this. I am not sure I have a grand revelation; obviously technology is woven in, and today my tech tasks were mundane, nothing really creative. And it is likely blatantly obvious my work/life boundaries are smudged across the time frame.

Give this a try! I would not recommend trying to write it up as you go, that would change the flow IMHO- there is something lost in reflection backwards, but maybe something gained.

The post "A Day in the Life" was originally cracked open and scrambled from a rotten egg at CogDogBlog ( on November 24, 2010.


  • Sylvia Currie

    Loved reading this! I can especially relate to the at-home part of your day, and rushing to a much needed yoga class.

    We’re planning a “day in the life” project for our BC Educational Technology Users Group. Your tip about not trying to write as you go will be part of the guidelines for sure.

  • Jim Groom

    Wow, did you just do that? Damn you, and damn Martin, now I have to track a day. This should be fun cause it ill prove how entirely unproductive I truly am, and just how much TV I watch these days ;)

  • Why visitors still make use of to read news papers when in
    this technological globe the whole thing is presented on net?

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