A different take on asynchronous collaboration.
Let me preface what I am about to write about by saying:
I don’t actually believe in time travel.
But… if I did believe… this is how I know I’m doing it.
I timestamp everything.
My file names. The spines of moleskins; journal entries; work notes; musings.
As Bradshaws do, I couldn’t help but wonder…
Are my timestamps my version of crop symbols to the celestials?
Or are they a trans-galactic phone number a’la Stargate?
Are they here to help me collaborate across time and space?
And if not huge leaps, at least a night-to-day moment?1
My family’s barn in Oregon houses a few of my most precious time capsules (as barns do so well). One such capsulette is a “TOP SeCReT” note from summer 2000 (note the stamps held up by Piggy Doll above: June 20 @ 3.22am, July 5 10:51-11:03pm, July 29/30 @ 1:20am).
I had graduated from Junction City High School earlier that June… class of two triple zero, everyone’s a hero. Based on the contents of this top secret missive, I can tell you it was a multi-layered farewell gift for someone special. I’m going to tell my grandkids this was project management before Asana and Monday dot com.
Anyway, I wish I could tell you more, but as the file says, Leslie only.
What I can share is: past Leslie often leaves notes for future Leslie. Do you ever do this? If I were to reflect on why I do this, a few things come to mind. Revisiting my “small data”2 helps me to:
Remember what hurt and what was wonderful.
Follow a thread, a scrap, a breadcrumb.
Stir my thinking again and again.
Metabolize my experience into wisdom.
Bear witness to my growth, evolution, resilience.
Share it at the right time, with the right audience, someday.
Like many good sci fi’s have modeled, you go back in time to sense make of the present. To do this, I’ve been tracking and exegeting meaning from my digital metadata. I may not be able to collect and process data at the scale of BiG TeCh, but they can’t decode me and make sense of me like I can.
For context about this self-archeology thing I’m doing… it’s in a Google Spreadsheet (I call her my “Digital Inventory Universe”).
There’s about 6 tabs in this GSheet, which I like to call “planets”. A tab for:
blog posts I’ve written
media interviews in which I share my opinions, stories, team wins
Slideshare decks I’ve presented
books I’ve contributed to
bios that speak about me like rings around a sequoia tree (or portfolio)
domain names and @vanityurls I “own”
Eventually, I’d like to have a Galaxy of content that not only brings each of these digital planets together in one view, but also adds my analog content (e.g. college + high school papers; my journals dating back to 1989; work notebooks starting from 2001)
And if I were to tap some APIs and AIs, I’d want to see what I could pull in from Tweets, IG posts, emails, GDocs, the list could go on and on. I divergently digress… Anyway. Back to the show…
As an example, here are 19 of my 38 Slideshares sorted by living, evergreen, and fossil3.
I enjoy playing around with the column views. I also play around with other metrics and ask myself what it means to have a lot or a little: views, likes, words in a title, entries in a year. Even the /vanityurl contains interesting metadata: my former screenname; former company; current legal name.
What’s the so what for this exercise? So far, I am:
strengthening ties to who I was and wanted to be;
bearing witness to my own evolution;
discerning between my metrics that matter (and don’t);
shining light on dusty albums; and
remixing hit singles for the times.
And, yes, this is taking a lot of time. That’s the magic. I have to go slow.
A few months and 6 tabs in… I’ve laughed, gasped, cried, and smiled. A lot.
I see essential parts of myself.
I see the filters I used
in order to negotiate
with professional realities.
When it’s all done—if there is such a time—I want to leave it somewhere special, for another turtle to discover it some day. Like a treasure chest.
In the years and decades that lie ahead, should I be so lucky, I will continue to collect, analyze, add, sense-make. I’m in no hurry. This is, afterall, a turtle adventure. Slow and steady wins the race.
My voice, my philosophies, my principles, my experiences. They feel so grand in my spreadsheet; they make my heart feel so full. And, at the same time, I feel like a Who in Whoville, trying to get Horton to hear me. Does anyone even care? Do these musings move any needles anywhere?
Whether they are grand or small, I do wholly believe they are—we are—all connected in some invisible way. In the words of author Gregoire Bouillier:
“And I jotted each of these items down in a little notebook so I could remember them later on, because that whole week I never lost the feeling that I was participating in world events and was linked in a tiny invisible way, to everything that took place everywhere.”
The Mystery Guest, p. 38
Which reminds me of a related thought, in a book review by G.R. Hallberg:
The Mystery Guest isn't a symphony of missed connections after all,
but a kind of hymn to possibility.
May you write and rewrite your hymn to possibility—across time and space. With others, and alone. With your past self, and your future aspirations. With those who will sit in the shade of the trees you plant today. And with our ancestors, who did the same for us.
Poet Francisco X. Alarcón writes:
I carry my roots with me all the time rolled up, I use them as my pillow.
A few thoughts to carry through the week:
Who are you collaborating with across space? time? What are your pillows? what are your trees?
As a self-diagnosed nocturnal chronotype and avid user of ‘send later’ (i.e. send when everyone is awake), I am grateful for asynchronous collaboration. As for others in the same boat, within the last few weeks Angela Duckworth and Stephen Dubner covered this exact topic in a podcast and Emily Laber-Warren penned an Op-Ed. There is a community of us who have been bending our chronotypes to fit most social structures. Seems like pandemic times are changing time itself.
Something I’ve written about in the past in My 2015 Tools: Intuition, Ingenuity, and Small Data.