The Quest for Information Nirvana, Part I

The Quest for Information Nirvana, Part I

I’m back from Los Angeles, where I met face-to-face for the first time with the UCLA-based investigators of Science Through Technology-Enhanced Play (aka STEP). I’m teamed-up once more as part of the learning science company Inquirium, and I’m rather excited to apply some of my game design experience in a live project involving science education. The interesting thing about STEP it’s about teaching science to much younger children, who are often thought not to have the required cognitive development for systematic thinking. However, the principle investigators (PIs) are conducting research into the use of play, supported by motion tracking and augmented reality graphics, to test the notion that collaborative storytelling may make a difference. That’s my understanding of it, anyway, as the guy who is helping implement the browser-based graphics engine as part of the Inquirium team.

I had a number of insights while I was out visiting UCLA:

  • It’s pretty cool to be in a place where there is learning and research going on all the time. The group doing the research at UCLA is a multi-disciplinary collection of experts who are trying new approaches that they are not familiar with, which is hugely exciting and challenging. Such an approach works when the involved parties can communicate easily and openly, and this has filled me with a kind of joy that I haven’t experienced in a while.

  • I was surprised to find that I wasn’t freaking out over the number of things to do. Partly that is because most of the technical issues have been resolved for this project, but also it’s that I have a new-found tolerance for my own speed of progress. In the past, I would fret about how slow I was at making progress, because the qualitative assessment was based on the expectations that I should be SUPER FAST at everything. Now, I am assessing my progress by the number of uncertainties successfully resolved every day, and am FINE with it. Patience: level up!

I’m feeling the need, though, to revisit my documentation and task tracking systems again. Each project I’m on has a different set of document stores, because each project has different knowledge storage and communication requirements. Off the top of my head, I’m using:

  • Trello, with shared boards
  • Basecamp, across multiple accounts
  • Google Docs, across multiple accounts
  • Dropbox, via shared folders with multiple people
  • nvAlt, for note-taking on the Mac
  • Sublime Text 2, on Mac and Windows, for source code management
  • Bitbucket, for internal project source code management, multiple projects
  • Github, for client-related project source code management, multiple projects
  • Scrivener, on both Mac and Windows, for longer-form journaling
  • WordPress, in network multisite configuration, for this blog and related process journals
  • Bugherd, for one client’s various projects and ticket tracking
  • Local project storage, synched between Windows and Mac via Dropbox, for each job’s static digital resources
  • Physical 9×12 notebook, for sketching

This is incredibly scattered, and a good part of my “start the project” resistance is just remembering where I’m supposed to look to find what I’m looking for.

There’s a tool called Taco that I backed through a Kickstarter campaign that integrates a lot of services together on the digital side, which I should revisit to see how it can work for me. But I think I am looking for something even more fundamental, which is a rethinking of how I store and access information.

I am at 2% reserve battery power, so more thoughts will follow later.


  1. Ron 10 years ago

    Wow – you have a lot going on. Have many projects to you touch each day? Are you able to timeblock per project or do you have to take on new tasks as they come? You didn’t mention email as a collaboration tool.

    Maybe the old separate action from reference would help, and keeping one master list of projects/commitments to start from.

  2. Marty Backe 10 years ago

    I feel your pain.

    What gives me sanity is maintaining one master organizer that I can trust to provide me information (meta data) about where I can find everything else.

    If you don’t have a central source to refer to, you will go mad ;-)

    For me, I use a personal Wiki; a server based version of TiddlyWiki. I use it as my GTD organizer, but more importantly, I use it as my trusted Wiki. Either I put my information in the Wiki, or I put a reference in the Wiki that tells me where I can find whatever it is that I’m looking for.

  3. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Ron: oh, good catch on email. I tend to see email more as a delivery system than a tool for collaboration, and what is in email gets put into one of the other places.

  4. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Ron: regarding the number of projects: I try to focus on one or two, sometime three, and handle the light distractions that come in during the day. I “dayblock”, assigning specific days of the week to certain responsibilities, and try to keep the number of responsibilities as low as possible. I actively try not to have meetings, and if I do have them I try to pile them all onto the same day, and no more than three a week. This is still too many meetings.

  5. Author
    Dave Seah 10 years ago

    Marty: You hit the nail on the head :) Once upon a time, Basecamp was my master organizer. Then the other services kind of crept in, and then many of the people I was coordinating with online started adopting the same tools, except under their own accounts. Now it’s crazy because there are so many of them! Even my current “master system”, Trello, has suffered from the necessity of maintaining separate boards with separate groups, which means I either have to copy data and manually sync it (ugh) or check multiple boards.

    I once maintained a Wiki, albeit full-blown MediaWiki, on my website for both public and private information, but it was a bit too cumbersome to work with for me because I hadn’t started with a good, easy-to-memorize indexing scheme.

    It may be that my organization needs (or rather, my desires in this area) call for more integration with my creative workflow…writing up those thoughts right now.

  6. Lynn O'Connor 10 years ago

    I am also in a state of “feeling” wildly disorganized with projects, clients, students and using so many programs etc. I loved this line:

    “But I think I am looking for something even more fundamental, which is a rethinking of how I store and access information.” I needed to read that.