So, how do you organize? (part 1)

2009 March 3

My task is to see all of Shakespeare’s plays in one summer and as I was working on the logistics of the plan, I defaulted to “ball parking” my schedule. That is to say: I found two really good sources for locating theater companies that performed Shakespeare (This one and That one) and then made a spread sheet listing all the plays and then dates and places of performances.

I’ve given up on that approach after I got the grant. I found out quickly that those two variables–time and place–would need to be easily searched and matched and the spreadsheet was only a flat way of organization. (I realize that there probably was a way to search my spreadsheet and that my brother-in-law probably could figure it out for me–he’s pretty smart with spreadsheets–I wanted to use something that not only made sense to me but that was very simple to use).

First choice: create a database. Dropped that after feeling as though I had to do double-entry transfer (find website, copy and paste information from that website to the database, then write some low-key queries). I like databases and am particularly fond of what sqlite has accomplished, but as I started thinking about the project as a whole, the database option had too many steps.

Second choice: 3×5 cards. And I actually love the simplicity of the 3×5 card: Play name on front, dates and places on back. Very tactile and very spacial (I could put ‘em all up on a cork board and that would be definite major points on coolness factor). But, again, many steps. Find performance from website, copy down information on back of card, lock in a time frame on the cork board, enter in itinerary on website calendar. (I’m not giving up on this idea for good, but for meeting my needs at this point in the game, I’ll put down the 3×5 cards and walk away slowly).

Third Option: Delicious. And that’s how I’m organizing my schedule for now. Delicious is one of those interesting sites that allows you to enter and store your websites of interest. But not only can you save your websites, you can annotate those websites (comments) and, best of all, you can tag the site. Tagging digital information was an interesting theme in Everything is Miscellaneous and I believe David Weinberger has the right angle: instead of forcing information into predefined categories (like we do sometimes with our filing systems) tagging is a bit more free form and that metadata allows for more effective ways of finding information. The upshot for me: I find a website that has performances of Shakespeare, and I tag that site right there according to play(s), month of performance, and state performed in. I also tag all of these plays with “40plays” as to distinguish these sites from other sites where Shakespeare plays are saved.

So, for instance, if I want all plays I’ve found so far in the month of June, I go to the Delicious site, select the tags “40plays” “june” and here’s what I get (click here).

I know that this is a modified idea of the database, but I don’t like having to do the double-entry stuff: waste of time (when I could be eating a bowl of cereal). Using a social bookmarking site like Delicious, I’m tagging sites as I am on those sites and building a large cache of information. By the end of this month, I’m planning on taking this information and building a draft calendar so I can start making financial arrangements for this summer’s experience.

And, if you use Delicious and find performances that I haven’t tagged yet, go ahead and use, as one of the tags, 40plays, as I will able to access those sites in my search (and perhaps, I’ll explain that in another post).

2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 March 3
    Chris permalink

    You know, I spent half a semester learning about relational databases and writing queries, and I was just starting to see how they might actually be useful. Then you go and point out their inferiority to a website I’ve known about for years.

    You really are a guru when it comes to organizational technologies. Someday, I will return the favor by finding a newer, better system and letting you know about it.

    Congrats again the Lilly grant.

    :)

  2. 2009 March 4
    admin permalink

    Chris,
    All too kind. I say, still learn the queries and all, it’s all good stuff. I’m trying to cut out repeating myself the first time through. And, I believe, you will make a better system (sqlite is really cool…you can embed the whole library into your code <= geek stuff, I know). Thanks for the “Congrats”! Peace.

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