The accidental techie (8): 20/20

  [ 1) the accidental techie2) the uninvited3) transference california4) flow5) shadowing6) going inside 7) lost and found8) 20/20 9) creating, 10) finished ]

I hate spreadsheets.

I got started with 20/20 back in the day when I was at ICI and had to make some alterations to a database linked to a 20/20 set up. Later, I was given the task of embracing Lotus 1-2-3 and writing macros and a bit of an interface for a group of accountants. It struck me even then that I was asking a bit much of the spreadsheet software.

In my last lecturing position I was expected to give student feedback in spreadsheet format, so I had to type my comments in teeny tiny boxes, rather like when you are trying to DM someone in Twitter in a tiny box. I found the teeny tiny boxes just not big enough nor the right format for everything I had to say and I would regularly lose my stuff. The only saving grace with the spreadsheet was that after a while if I opened all of my spreadsheets at once, Excel would remember what I had typed so I could reuse and tailor some of my previous comments. But, on the days that didn’t work I would tap my comments into notepad and paste them in. Why did it have to be so difficult?

Consequently, I did not enjoy marking with spreadsheets. I couldn’t trust that my comments would be saved and sometimes the macros wouldn’t copy across and I would have to type in the marks by hand (which caused my line manager to send me the most unreasonable email ever. I had to write back and point out the rudeness of it all. He should have documented how to use the spreadsheet). It was so time-consuming and a perfect example of how I was asked to use a spreadsheet when another format would have been much better. I think spreadsheets should be used for numerical manipulation. Yes, that’s right. Adding, counting and so on. Manipulating numbers to make more numbers and creating new information and new insights into data sets using more numbers and graphs.

(But when I hear people talk about how they manipulated their big data in a spreadsheet with a pivot table, I just want to say: If you can load your data into a spreadsheet, it’s not big data. Big data is a lot of data, bigger than a spreadsheet can handle. #justsayin)

I used to prepare my end of year accounts in a spreadsheet because it was suitable. I did not write my accounting report in the spreadsheet as it was not suitable. When I am writing something I write it in word processing software – I was in love with LaTeX for the longest time, still am, to be honest – but I don’t like words in a spreadsheet.

It has taken a while for me to know myself enough like this. If someone else’s formatting isn’t working for me and there is an alternative then I will take it or make it. At the moment I am working on a new project which is great fun and quite challenging. However, I was given a template in a spreadsheet which really seemed to interfere with my ability to plan.

Spreadsheets with words in them give me my very own Stroop effect, which is when a colour description word e.g., red, is printed in a colour different to its semantic meaning, e.g., red is written in blue. When I am asked to write words in spreadsheets, it boggles my brain, makes me resistant, and interferes with me doing the task well. I like knowing that about myself.

I feel the same way about powerpoint slides for lecturing. They really aren’t the best way to deliver information, and I have loved reading all the various viewpoints of the debate: Is powerpoint making us stupid? Is it helping us? But, this is the article with which I totally agree: Let’s ban powerpoint in lectures – it makes students more stupid and professors more boring.

In my experience, I think it is too easy to boil things down to bullet points and not fill in the gaps and it doesn’t occur to many of the students I have taught to take notes, so they have nothing to look at when the time comes to revise. I have created long slides full of information and at other times slides with nothing on them but pictures and managed to fail my students all ways. The same goes for the spreadsheet feedback approach.

Sometimes I am really excited about using software differently, like that time I got excited about databases for storytelling, but no the database isn’t replacing the narrative anytime soon. I love to think about no function in structure and serendipitous design but find it hard to believe that they apply to spreadsheets and powerpoint even if constraints are known to help creativity.

The same with post-it notes – the UX consultant’s favourite tool – post-its all over the wall to swap them about and find the patterns. Me, I struggle, that is not how my brain works at all. I tried with mind maps too as they look nice – but it was the same thing, I got a brain freeze. I wondered about this when I was storyboarding my CV and concluded that different mediums change the focus. Ah yes. I want to be clear, I want to know what I am focusing on before I decide on where I am focusing. I want 20/20 vision.

I did wonder if the 20/20 spreadsheet was named after the idea of 20/20 vision and learnt that the term 20/20 is technically incorrect when used to mean great eyesight and the ability to see things clearly.

Oh, I have long loved thinking about seeing things clearly especially in yogic terms with clearing the lens of perception as we interpret our life experiences and our embodiment. And, it is the same for me with the spreadsheet: If I am forced to look at something a particular way then how can I see it differently?

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about comfort, and how someone comforted me when my mum was really ill. Someone online wanted to be in my life, came into it, and was a daily comforting presence for a long time until the day they just ghosted me for no apparent reason and how sad I felt. I was disposal. Just after I posted the blog, they sent me a sort of round robin email, it felt phoned in which was really disappointing as I was super excited to hear from them after months of silence. Sad, but not wanting to ignore them, as I hate being ignored, I sent them a link to the blog in response to the what’s new with you question. After clicking send, I was so embarrassed about how weird my behaviour was, I wrote an email explaining myself, I got no reply, and then this week found myself vlogging about how social anxiety is linked to emotional resonance, which then of course, led to me mentioning the comfort person indirectly. I can’t stop going on about them because even though I understand how such a virtual connection occurs and I’ve blogged about it, I am still amazed by the depth of emotion I feel.

My husband asked me if I was sending that link too. Oh my! I wish I hadn’t sent anything at all, but I just wanted to understand and I wanted to be heard. I should have stepped back because now the hubby is mocking me: Mumble mumble, restraining order, I just happened to be passing by your house and was only trying to help by straightening that dodgy roof tile. (This is a joke. I have to spell this out as someone left a comment calling me a nasty stalker. Though I must say I’m flattered by the analysis they’ve applied to this blogpost, leaving multiple comments, and rereading it many times. Thank you.)

I need to think before I act. Comfort person couldn’t ever understand why I needed to analyse things so much. Erm so I don’t act like a weirdo, that’s why. Since then, I have done some top quality analysis (nearly as much as my comments person who seems to be a last word peep, alas, like me, but this is my blog, so jog on). But, I seem to be lacking information. I put it to them: If I have to look at it in a specific way, without your input, how can I see it differently? I think we all feel the same way. We want closure. We just want to know that we didn’t do anything wrong. We need the it’s not you, it’s me speech. An apology would be nice too.

I cheered up today listening to a Danielle Laporte podcast in which she talks about analysing herself a lot, and she is quite intense, ooooh like me, my last blog in this series was very intense, which is probably why I like listening to her talk about the things she does to feel lighter and get clearer. She had just finished a weekend of EMDR, I’m not sure I’d be into that level of analysis, as that is diving deep, but never say never, whatever works to feel better, is my motto.

Normally, I say we all want to be seen, heard, and feel like we matter, (the opposite of being ghosted), to which I want to add that we all just want to feel better. Personally if I have a why that helps. It cannot be that this person is just a total arse and I have wasted lots of time and energy on them. They can’t be the sort of person who will purposely dismiss another person. Can they? I just cannot believe that. Like all humans, I just need for it to make sense and I need to square it with myself.

Laporte said in another podcast if someone won’t talk to you about something why not to talk to their higher selves about. Oooh like talking to a ghost. I’m not sure that this person is in touch with their higher self otherwise they would behave better (miaow). But, as Ecstatic Breathwork Guru, Scott Schwenk says: We are all consciousness in drag, which I love so much, so perhaps getting a bit mystical is a nice way to go.

Or perhaps I should just get real, embrace my 20/20 vision, see that more information isn’t forthcoming and realise like the 20/20 spreadsheets way back when, I am asking a bit much of them. So yeah, they can fix their own roof tiles in the future, the total arse.

I hate spreadsheets and ghosting – they don’t help me to see things differently, they just press my buttons (like this blog has for the repeating comments person who wants to be heard too and is tenacious getting through the spam filters. Nice!), which leads to rash behaviour. So, I will forgive myself and eventually will forgive them namaste-style with a twist of mysticism and never send their ghosty arse, even if they round robin me which they probably won’t now, another link to my blog, ever (although they’ve not read this one yet, aha, perhaps I should just…). It’s just too weird, and I put my hand up I have added to the general weirdness of what was once a lovely connection. What I would like is to do is to live without the worry of feeling embarrassed and weirdness in the case our paths cross again and I can’t hide my binoculars in time. So, what will I do? Who knows? But whatever I do, I will probably go on about it for far too long, get accused of being a stalker (that’s my name don’t wear it out). I’ll probably write about it too, so if you don’t enjoy reading this sort of thing, do us all a favour, ghost me and my website, apply your indepth analysis to you and your feelings, and write about it on your blog, and please don’t worry about me, I’ll be just fine.

[ part 9 ]