Friday, April 27, 2007

Bit Literacy

book cover, Bit Literacy

I mentioned Mark Hurst's Bit Literacy back a few weeks ago; now that I've finished the book, I'd like to comment a bit more.

Bit Literacy provides advice for those overwhelmed by the digital data in their lives: e-mail messages, web sites, Word files, PowerPoint files, digital photos, etc. The title makes the book seem oriented to a technical audience, but I think Mark was actually writing for the non-technical computer user who is willing to become a bit more technical in order to also become more productive.

This was a mixed bag of a book. Sometimes I found myself totally agreeing with Mark's comments; other times I didn't agree at all. (One example: Mark's idea of the requirements for a to-do list seemed quite rigid, and don't mesh with what I personally need in my own to-do list.)

But there was lots of stuff I appreciated in this book; I'll mention just a few. I've already written about Mark's concept of a media diet.

Another favorite is his description of the to-do list of choice for many people: Paper. Usually many pieces of paper. Often painfully many. Small, fluorescent squares crowding the sides of computer monitors, cluttering whole workspaces; scribbled receipts and cocktail napkins, stuffed into pockets, posted on refrigerator doors, thrown into piles.

And another quote that got me grinning: There's no better way to guarantee that you'll need a revision than to name something "final". Inevitably, the following versions become "final report revised.doc" and "final report revised USE THIS VERSION.doc".

And I was thrilled to learn about the tools that he calls "bit levers." These tools let you define shortcuts for anything you type - in any program - on a repetitive basis. I have a number of things like this, including:

- My standard posting to craigslist

- The html code for anchor text

- A group of e-mail messages used in my role as a Freecycle community moderator

- The phrase "National Association of Professional Organizers - San Francisco Bay Area Chapter"

Now I won't have to retype the text (or pull up a template file and then cut & paste); once I've installed the right tool, I'll be able to type a simple abbreviation that I define, and the abbreviation with be replaced with the appropriate text. I'm planning to install a "bit lever" program - one of the two Mark recommends - on my Mac this weekend.


Cynthia Friedlob said...

How timely! On Thursday, I posted on The Thoughtful Consumer blog what could probably best be described as a lament about this very issue: cyber-clutter and digital disorganization. Thanks for the tip about Mark's book. Sounds like it's worth checking out.

Jeri Dansky said...

Hi Cynthia,

I read you post about cyber-clutter on Thursday, and thought it was interesting how we both were addressing such similar issues. (I've been meaning to comment over on your blog, and I just did that.)

Mark tells us to NOT use our in-boxes as a to-do list - but rather to use a real to-do list, which will let us have all to-dos in a single place.

And he provides recommendations for setting up electronic filing systems, and naming the files. Some of this seems more attuned to those working in a company than to those of us who are self-employed, but you can take his general concepts and play with them to fit your own needs.

Mark said...

Thanks, Jeri - enjoy the bit lever!