Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Adding Value

In the backtoworkmondayjanuarymorningtwitterfest, there was some discussion of new year resolutions. When I was younger, I was sceptical of the value of new year resolutions, but for reasons I don't understand, that changed a few years ago and for the past decade I've made (and kept) a resolution each year.

One of the reasons I've been able to do this is that the goals I've set myself are achievable, but also give me some positive reinforcement, even though effort may be required to achieve them. I feel that one resolution per year is enough, otherwise the chances of success decline considerably. Previously, my resolutions have been personal in nature, but this year I have decided to risk making both a personal and a professional resolution. By chance, I got off to a flying start and I'm already well on the way to achieving my personal resolution. I've also been thinking about my professional resolution and now is the time to come clean and kick it into gear. My professional new year resolution for 2009 is:

Add Value

The intention is to use this resolution as an activity filter by asking myself the question: How does what I'm doing add value? As with most resolutions, it's not always about doing anything new - sometimes more can be achieved by not doing something. Which is where it gets harder. I can think of a number of professional activities I participate in which, frankly, don't add much if any value. Working for a large organization means you're not always free to organize your professional life in the way you'd like to. So it goes. And because I need to motivate myself to continue with my professional resolution beyond the end of the month, I need to start with the parts of my professional life I can control, such as my blogs.

For a while, I've been beating myself up about what a rubbish podcaster I am. Not that I ever intended to set myself up with a meeja career, for me it was always about grokking the technology. As part of my Add Value resolution, I was considering stopping or at least radically changing my MicrobiologyBytes podcasts since I was unsatisfied with what I was achieving. However, two things changed this morning which have caused me to re-evaluate that plan, or at least to put changes on hold for a while. First, I discovered that the download statistics I've been using since I put all my stuff in the cloud a few months ago were wrong (and it turns out I'm more popular than I thought I was :-) and second, I listened to a supposedly "professional" podcast on behalf of a scientific organization which was just awful. Together, these two discoveries suggest that there's a lot more work to be done on the podcasting front and that I should persevere for now. So in the short term, if I'm going to add value anywhere, it's probably going to have to be here.

Hey you - read this Since moving my RSS addiction from Bloglines to Google Reader a few months ago, I've slowly become more used to the bastard lovechild of Ann Widdecombe and Bill Oddie, although I still find Google Reader considerably less than user-friendly in a number of respects. Although it's simple to add a Google Reader Shared Items page, this is a dead-end read-only feature since it's not possible to comment on shared items and so no conversation can occur. If I read anything I want to share, I'll often blog about it, but that's not always possible, so I've added a shared items link from this blog:

MiniSOTI How does this add value? Apart from pointing you at items that could be useful to you which you may not have seen, to each item I share I add a short personal commentary in the form of a shared items note - less than a blog post but more than a tweet. I'm still keen to find some way to introduce the possibility of conversations to these shared items. Two possibilities I've though of so far are adding my Twitter username to the commentary, but this would export and fragment the flow of comments. Alternatively, I could send my shared items RSS feed to Posterous and enable comments there, but I'm hoping that you have a more elegant solution than either of those two ;-) Another thing I'm not yet clear about is how this feature will fit in with the delicious-powered MiniSOTI feed I already use to share items on this blog, and which feature adds more value. MiniSOTI feeds into my delicious network, but doesn't provide any way to discuss items I link to.

As ever, your comments are most welcome as I puzzle my way through this. Have I added any value yet?