Dealing with a burst of highly meaningful input

uma

Registered
Hi everyone,

I recently attended a couple of online science conferences and have come away with many different kinds of inbox items. This includes my own notes, references to papers I might want to read, screenshots of slides with interesting data or graphs and names of people and things I might want to discuss with them. While the standard method of asking "what is it?" is fairly clear, I was wondering if the veterans here have a way of dealing with such large volumes of highly meaningful input generated in short time?

I usually tend to park it in my list as a next item in the @computer context "Read paper X" or "Identify if data from Y is useful for paper Z". But with so many things, I never get to everything and eventually it is just purged from the list.

Thanks!
 

mcogilvie

Registered
Hi everyone,

I recently attended a couple of online science conferences and have come away with many different kinds of inbox items. This includes my own notes, references to papers I might want to read, screenshots of slides with interesting data or graphs and names of people and things I might want to discuss with them. While the standard method of asking "what is it?" is fairly clear, I was wondering if the veterans here have a way of dealing with such large volumes of highly meaningful input generated in short time?

I usually tend to park it in my list as a next item in the @computer context "Read paper X" or "Identify if data from Y is useful for paper Z". But with so many things, I never get to everything and eventually it is just purged from the list.

Thanks!
Dealing with the aftermath of a conference is a project for me. It’s a “process project” because receipts and travel reports get processed, contact info gets processed, notes get processed, money gets laundered (left a 10-Euro note in my pants), et cetera. Once that’s teased out, I throw what‘s left into a folder, which is then labeled ”Capri vacation conference 2010”.

But processing scientific information isn’t the same as processing hotel receipts. Your next action examples aren’t really next actions. Why do you want to read paper X? General information? To learn a technique? To see if it is consistent with your ideas? The same is true for seeing if data from Y is useful for paper Z. Is there one figure you want to check? Terabytes of raw data to analyze? Something in between?

That said, I really identified with David Allen when he talked about the half-life of the glow from conferences. Conferences are important and useful, but the long-term consequences for my research are often not immediately obvious.
 

cfoley

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I can relate to that experience. I've come back from conferences full of enthusiasm and project ideas. A year later, if I come across the conference material, it's usually uninteresting and I typically throw it out.

Would this strategy be worthwhile? After a conference process your notes, extracting immediate projects and exciting someday/maybes. Then tickle the full set of notes and conference material for a couple of months down the line. If after a few conferences you learn that you always throw out the material when it de-tickles, maybe you could skip the whole tickling part of it.
 

TesTeq

Registered
Hi everyone,

I recently attended a couple of online science conferences and have come away with many different kinds of inbox items. This includes my own notes, references to papers I might want to read, screenshots of slides with interesting data or graphs and names of people and things I might want to discuss with them. While the standard method of asking "what is it?" is fairly clear, I was wondering if the veterans here have a way of dealing with such large volumes of highly meaningful input generated in short time?

I usually tend to park it in my list as a next item in the @computer context "Read paper X" or "Identify if data from Y is useful for paper Z". But with so many things, I never get to everything and eventually it is just purged from the list.

Thanks!
We're drowning in unneeded but shiny new information. I'm a sinner too.
The only solution I can see is to gather Project oriented information only. Up to now I was hoarding PDFs in categories but never had enough time to read them. @mcogilvie @cfoley
 

mcogilvie

Registered
We're drowning in unneeded but shiny new information. I'm a sinner too.
The only solution I can see is to gather Project oriented information only. Up to now I was hoarding PDFs in categories but never had enough time to read them. @mcogilvie @cfoley
Yes. David Allen said that when your read and review pile falls over, it's time to start over. The problem is our digital piles persist and we're the ones who fall over and are buried under their weight.

I can no longer afford to have unbounded someday/maybe lists conditioned on unlikely scenarios. I've broken most of the "shiny new information" stuff into quick reference systems where I can throw it all out when it gets stale. A side effect is that I'm throwing more and more away on the front end.
 

cfoley

Registered
Another idea might be to create your own summary. Time box the first draft to an hour and write a report reflecting on the event and summarising the key items from the material you brought home. The report may be more valuable than the material because it captures your thinking. If you include the names of any authors or speakers you found interesting then you have also given yourself leads for the future if you ever want them.
 

uma

Registered
Another idea might be to create your own summary. Time box the first draft to an hour and write a report reflecting on the event and summarising the key items from the material you brought home. The report may be more valuable than the material because it captures your thinking. If you include the names of any authors or speakers you found interesting then you have also given yourself leads for the future if you ever want them.
Writing a summary is something I've tried before. But with multi-day conferences it quickly gets exhausting to keep up with and if I don't do it right away (within a day or two), then the effort of going back through the timetable and slides to write it needs so much time that I don't do it. But I suspect this might be the right answer for me.

If it is important, it will be caught in the summary. Otherwise as @TesTeq says, it's just shiny new information whose shine will fade eventually.

Your next action examples aren’t really next actions. Why do you want to read paper X? General information? To learn a technique? To see if it is consistent with your ideas?
@mcogilvie Don't you think this is too difficult to articulate before doing it? For reading a paper, often the "why" is to find out *if* it says something new and interesting that will deepen my own insights. It may simultaneously be answered as a yes to all of the questions you ask. I very rarely already know beforehand what will be interesting in a paper. In the case I do know beforehand, those are just techniques or calculations and easy to find with a search when I reach that point in my own work that it is needed.
 

Oogiem

Registered
I was wondering if the veterans here have a way of dealing with such large volumes of highly meaningful input generated in short time?
We normally attend one conference a year, our state Wool Growers conference that is over 3 days where there are presentations form all sorts of government officials, scientists working on various projects related to issues the sheep industry faces and reports on more local issues and problems and more. Plus the meals, and meet and greet time always result in me getting handfuls of business cards from various folks. I always come back with page after page of notes, handouts, cards and other stuff. They can include references to scientific papers that I may want to read, there are people I want to remember, recipes I want to try (we're fed lamb for all the meals and the chef school in Denver sends the winners of their top classes to come cook for us so there are lots of new things to try) and so on. Probably not the same level of input as your conference but similar in types of materials.

What I do is I put everything in a folder labeled for that year and file it in my tickler system for review a week later. That gives me time to get the sheep flock and farm work caught up, digest the info and be ready to process it.

When I do get the folder out I read through all my notes while at my main computer with internet access. I usually find that I can nearly always trash all my notes on the government reports as they nearly always are able to be easily found on the internet, are often not of immediate use to our flock and are subject to change over time. I sometimes bookmark the location if it's a recurring report or summary location but only rarely do I have anything that I need to save as reference or that I need to do from that class of presentation. Papers to read are nearly always able to be slotted in to my existing list of things to read that is organized by topic. So a published paper on the latest in Guard Dog interactions with wolves in WY goes into the Guard dog list. I will read the synopsis and make a note of the link or source on roughly how useful I think it will be. Ditto for a paper on the latest Scrapie research and also that on OPP. From the scrapie presentation I often have to read those as I am a producer member of a Federal Scraoie Review board so I need to keep up with what is going on as we are charged with profviding feedback to the feds on what they ned to do to change or modify the scrapie program. So anything I get on scrapie is likely to result in a few real next actions to explicitly read proposed policy X to determine how it will affect small rare breed flocks and flocks that export sheep with a deadline of either the time for comments or the next meeting of the committee. Recipes are reviewed again for whether we will actually make them, ones that need lots of fiddly bits won't get done no matter how tasty they were at the conference. I always come away with lots of business cards, Those all go into my Farley File with notes about the person. I've found that over the years the various people and presenters move around and having a history of meeting with them at this conference gives you an in later when you deal with them again in a new position or area of interest. Those connections are often the most useful part of the conference for me so I prioritize getting them all into my Farley file system. I also find that in some cases the info presented directly slots into an existing project. For example when Temple Grandid came and talked to us I already had a project to redo the sheep sweep as it didn't work right. I was actually able to show her our tentative drawings, she gave us some pointers on changes she would make and we were able to implement them. Since then our sheep sweep system has worked extremely well and the issues we were having are now gone. Some things actually go into my sheep scrapbooks, a few pictures and maybe a page on the highlights of the conference. I do keep the agenda with the names of the presenters in my files for reference later. I look at the past years agenda's maybe 2-3 times a year so not big. I am considering moving them from paper files into scanned and OCR'ed digital files for easier searching as I invariably have to search through most of the years' folders to find the reference I want but that is the only change I am really considering.

This year we already know we will not be attending the conference unless there is an on-line version and it's not even clear that there will be a conference so I am not sure how my process will change.

So bottom line my suggestion is to put everything in for a detailed review later after the initial conference enthusiasm has worn off and be ruthless in trashing stuff that you really won't need again or is readily available elsewhere.
 
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