Darts and dimensions

On a long-ago training assignment, I was told that Amtrak (my employer at the time) was moving to SNA/SDLC architecture. We never covered that in English Literature before 1500, so I asked one I.T. guy what that meant.

“Systems network architecture, synchronized data link control.”

So I asked another guy.  “That means you can get to any of our mainframe computers from any of our terminals.”

So, learning at work isn’t always straightforward.  Both answers have been useful to me: the second as a clear explanation, the first as a metaphor for unhelpful precision. 

Granted, nearly 30 years later, I can still recite the tech definition.  But I’d argue this mainly demonstrates the relatively low value of definition as opposed to application.  Most of the time, on the job, it’s not what you call things, it’s what they do.

Tweet: like a customized dartBoth explanations were brief, like a tweet on Twitter.  Tweets are like darts: they move quickly, and what’s important is the destination.

 That’s either destination in the sense that you’re nudging another person or a select group in “public,” or destination in the sense that what counts isn’t the tweet but what it points to.

A couple of months back, Marcia Connor, Clark Quinn, and a few other people started #lrnchat.  This is a schedule but informal Twitter-based conversation around learning.  (Thursday evenings, 8:30p – 10p Eastern time; “about” stuff here.) When Marcia and I talked about this (on Twitter), I was skeptical, but decided to participate in a couple of the chats.

Very dart-like, but in a good way.  There’s often a proposed theme to the conversation, but no topic police.  To me, the conversation is like the end-of-day chatter of people at a conference: energetic, more concurrent than liner, and without ribbons for board members, speakers, or eminent gurus.

(Here’s the transcript for the #lrnchat of 5-28, to give you an idea.)

I find Twitter helpful, not essential.  My phone isn’t all that smart, and I don’t spend weekends in from of my computer, so especially on weekends, I’m not on Twitter, and I don’t spend much effort catching up.  That’s kind of like trying to catch up on the tides that happened the week before you got to the beach.

“Essential” isn’t the real issue, though.  For me, one question is: how can I connect with other people, especially if their work relates in some way to mine?  I’ve done that face-to-face, of course.  I’ve done it through professional organizations.  I’ve done it through email.  And, more recently, I’ve done it through my blog, through Facebook, and through Twitter.

Eventually the connection transcends the medium: you start thinking about what you discussed with Cammy or with Harold, not about where

I will concede, however, that today is different.  Some people I’ve only connected with online are in DC for a conference today, and we’ll be meeting tonight at the east coast’s largest purveyor of Guinness.  Twitter’s great, but I plan to do more than link to a pint.

Custom (Dodge) Dart detail by o2b.

2 thoughts on “Darts and dimensions

  1. “So I asked another guy.” BTW…I’m not in DC. Will miss it. Andy is traveling and had it scheduled first…so have a Guinness for me.

  2. Janet, I think one of the frustrating aspects of self-directed / informal / ongoing learning is that it isn’t neatly structured. USC professor Richard Clark said more than once that people with a lot of knowledge in a field tend to like highly organized learning, but that they actually learn better from less well-structured stuff. (One other implication: the way you think you like to learn is not the way you actually learn.)

    The SNA/SDLC example to me embodies that: I wanted to get the answer I needed, but it rarely appears with a label “The Answer You Need.”

    I’m sorry we won’t have a chance to meet.

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