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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



Archive for October 22nd, 2003


life hacks

Everyone who knows me – and many of their therapists – knows that I am the most disorganised, undisciplined wretch on God’s green earth. I have a 159 things to do in my todo list; he oldest (“learn to drive”) is 15 years in the todoing. Earlier today I managed to slam the “snooze” button on my alarm clock twelve times. I don’t know where my mobile phone is. The last I saw of it was in a cafe in San Francisco – maybe two weeks ago? I should cancel it. Hold on, let me add that to the todo list. There. It is as good as done.

This is by way of conveying quite how much horror should be expressed at the subject of my talk at next year’s Emerging Technology conference. I will speak, it says here, on the Tech Secrets of Overprolific Alpha Geeks.

As a colonel in the underprolific geek army, I am the worst-prepared person to talk on this topic. Which is why I’m doing it, of course. Instead of coming up with my own fruit-loop theories, I’m going to spend the next few months asking other far more efficient geeks what they do to get through the day.

This has a number of advantages. First: hopefully, by retaining my aloof incompetence, I can safely research “the top ten habits of effective infovores” without becoming yet some muscly overachieving Tony Robbins coach. (and if I do, please kill me, preferably while I am pointing enthusiastically into a camera.)

Second: I’ve no preconceptions. Well, I’d be surprised if people said “Oh, we just do what you do, only slower”, but apart from that, I’m clueless.

It might be that there are no patterns, no learnable behaviour. It may be that some people are just better at coping with information overload than others. This will make for a depressingly darwinist ETCON report, but hey, the nazis were all over genetic determination, and Nuremberg was still a blast, right? Okay, bad example.

Finally, I’m curious. There are hundreds of little tricks, habits, desktop arrangements, and hacks being invented (and I suspect, reinvented) by people to organise their life using today’s technology. We very rarely get to see any of it, because we all assume no-one else would be interested in the dull rigmarole of our lives.

Because of my flawed nature, I’m really interested in these secrets. I find well-organised people fascinating, like aliens. I think everyone is curious about one another’s desktop. If there was a soap opera for geeks, it would be all about people juggling sixteen projects while filtering sixteen thousand emails on twenty monitors. It would be called “Shoulder Surf” and would be on at five in the morning and to save time it would be broadcast in fast-forward.

Anyway, I digress. I’m going to grit my teeth and do some real work on this. The first step is to find people to interview. I’m building up a little list, but I would love to know who you would suggest. My list has big blindspots – not enough Windows people, not enough non-Webby folk, too many of the usual suspects – and I don’t want to shut out any corner. My only, very rough rules, at this stage are:

Stick your suggestions down in this here discussion pit. I’ve suggested a few at the beginning, but really only to give an idea of how broad a spectrum I’m looking at here.

Good, done that. Tick!


What happens when Douglas Adam’s old H2G2 codebase meets some of the geeks who did FaxYourMP meets the BBC looking for a wider remit in the 21st century?

iCan is a new BBC service which aims to help people start doing something about issues in their life. You can find advice, inspiration, and a growing number of people able to help you.

It’s all still in beta right now, but the plan appears to be to have it as – oh, I don’t know – a friendster for UK people who want a bit of activism in their lives? Right now it’s a bit empty, but worth wandering around and registering. At the very least you can dig up info on your local politicians, start sketching out the list of concerns, and even create a campaignof your own.


petit disclaimer:
My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.