Posted by: Liz Massey | April 22, 2008

Surf’s Up: April 21, 2008

Putting your wallet where your goals are, two views of productivity, and the potential of an emerging content/media format are the blog-o-rific gleanings for this week.

1. Creative Construction is a delightful group blog, dedicated to helping women (mostly mothers) reach their creative goals. Miranda, one of the bloggers, posted recently and reported on a new goals site,, which provides a place to publicly state one’s aspirations, but provides a twist when it comes to additional incentive.

If you want, you can wager an amount of money on whether or not you’ll accomplish the goal, and if you fail, the money will go to a charity you dislike. Since its launch two months ago, the site (whose name refers to a stick, as in “carrot and stick,” and K, the legal shorthand for “contract”) has attracted some 13,000 registered users, 5,500 of whom have signed contracts.

I tend to think of positive rewards for challenging goals as being more motivating, but the one of the co-founders of the site argues that the specter paying out to those you despise if you fail amounts to “raising the price of bad behavior” and can be a powerful tool for keeping work on a project on track.

2. Two unrelated thoughts about productivity, both of which have merit for working artists and innovators. beat me to an entry on Gregory Martin’s concept of a “treadmill journal,” popularized last year in an article he wrote (“Want to be productive?) in the April 2007 issue of The Writer.

The idea is simple: everyday, take out your journal and write an entry consisting of the following information–the time and date, how much writing (or other artwork) you plan to do that day, what specific thing you plan to work on, how it went, what you plan to work on tomorrow, and when and for how long you’ll work tomorrow.

Martin says “it’s hard to romanticize a treadmill,” but his idea reminds me of the running journals I used to keep in the 1980s when I ran in track and cross-country in high school and competed in road races. The greatest benefit to keeping a treadmill journal is that it provides a good diagnostic tool if your project isn’t going well, because it allows you to track patterns in your approach to your work.

On the other end of the productivity spectrum, we have tech blogger Robert Scoble, who has finally reached the saturation point on the number of online gadgets he remains hooked into as he travels to Israel and elsewhere:

“Four weeks ago I had 5,250 emails in my inbox. Today? 10. What’s the difference? I’ve been on lots of airplanes in the past month….That taught me an important lesson.

Want to get something done? Turn off Twitter. Turn off Facebook. Turn off blog comments. Turn off FriendFeed. Turn off Flickr. Turn off YouTube. Turn off Dave Winer’s blog and Huffington Post. Turn off TechMeme.”

The comments that follow this post are wide-ranging and fill in the gaps that such a one-pointed pronouncement will inevitably leave. Some commenters out the value of Twitter, blogs, Flickr, et. al., to provide insights into work projects, make essential personal connections, etc. Some assert that those diagnosed with attention deficit disorder are actually more productive in an environment with multiple sensory inputs and what writer, speaker and consultant Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention” to a number of things.

I know from my conversations with artists that nothing works for everyone, but I find Scoble’s disconnection confession interesting, given his profession. As a writer and editor, I find myself alternating between single-tasking and traveling the vast sea of Internet-facilitated information (inbound or outbound) for inspiration or research. When I’m trolling for ideas, nothing but multiple inputs will do; when it’s time to finish a project, focusing exclusively on the next step is the only way for me to get it done.

What have been your experiences with productivity? What works for you when it’s time to generate ideas, get started on your work, or get it done?

3. Finally, a post from film editor and media expert Norman Hollyn about an emerging content form—mobile phone public service announcements.

Hollyn will be working this week as a remote producer with a group of students who will be out in the streets of Atlanta, creating content for a PSA (public service announcement) for AIDS Awareness Day.

There will be five teams altogether, and students will spend an all-day session with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and armed with this background, the teams will develop PSAs to be shot the next day. As the PSAs are being shot, Hollyn’s team of students will send their work back to Hollyn and a student editor, who will begin editing them together. The hope is to have two to three PSAs from each of the five teams.

The clips will be called Personal PSAs (PPSAs) because of the intimate nature of their capture and their cell phone distribution mechanism. Hollyn is excited about the potential for mobile content to provide local views of events that mainstream media outlets have struggled to provide in an era of budget cuts:

“The ability to migrate news and entertainment capture into the mobile arena is pretty exciting, and though it will inevitably raise the number of piano-playing cats out there, it can also raise our ability to see local events happen more immediately…the technology to do it with great visual quality is here.”

Do you have any concerns about the direction that this technology is going? Are you excited about the potential it offers you as an artist? Are you collaborating with other creative folk in any artwork for mobile distribution?


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