Tool Angst

Whenever I’m faced with a (technological) problem that needs to be solved, I tend to think in terms of tools. This is probably a weakness on my part. Instead of imaginging how the tools I have at my disposal could solve the problem I have, I tend to imagine/pine for the “perfect” tool that would afford me the “perfect” solution. But, whatever. We all have our weaknesses.

Lately, I feel like I’m constantly frustrated by not having that perfect tool available. Several projects have come up lately that demand a tool that I can’t seem to find. I feel like I spend far to much time searching for the right tool among the ones that I have available. Then, when I settle on one, I spend far to much time installing/configuring/tweaking it. Then, once I’ve gotten the tool installed/configured/tweaked I ultimately decide that it didn’t really fit the problem I was trying to solve after all. So, I’m back to the drawing board. Does this sound like a huge time waster? It feels like one.

4 thoughts on “Tool Angst”

  1. It might all be a waste of time if it weren’t part of your job (I think) to stay on top of what’s happening with the field. I suspect that most ‘wasted’ moments spent rolling and tweaking are also building up your skillset, and your critical framework. Personally, I wish I had more time for the kind of engaged frustration you describe here.

    Then again, it’s incumbent on all of us to ask the kinds of questions you are asking here. Blundering ahead with our practice without reflection is a recipe for a stale piece of work (and life).

    The payoff for exploration comes both in your day to day work and when you share it on your blog. Two great posts today, thanks — that Danah Boyd rant is killer.

  2. Thanks Brian. You’re right. It *is* part of my job to negotiate the challenges of working with these tools. And, to be perfectly honest, while it drives me crazy when I come up against a dead end, the tweaker in me usually enjoys the process of the tweak.

    Another observation: I drafted this blog post last week and got as far as what I posted today. I had originally planned on expanding on the perfect tool that I’m currently seeking. And if I had taken that route, I probably would have throttled back the frustration that came through in this post.

    But instead, when I came back to re-read my draft, I decided it captured my feeling as it was written, and I didn’t really want to expand upon it right now.

    The end result: it probably came off as more whining than it should have. But I’m glad it posted it as I did, because the response from Brian sort of turned the tables on me and made me think a little differently about what I’d been complaining about.

    All of this is a long way of getting around to saying that I’m learning how important it can be to embrace spontaneity when blogging. As tempting as it is to get caught in the edit/re-read/re-edit cycle, when I post spontaneously I’m more likely to really GET at what it is I’m trying to say.

  3. There was a post of mine you linked to a while back (one where I freaked out because a professor here had a bad time with Technorati tags)… I wrote it in frustration, woke up the next morning feeling calmer and figured maybe I should delete it. But there were already four pretty good comments there, and eventually more than ten. Some of the best discussion my site has ever promoted was in response to one of my weakest posts.

    That tension between spontaneity and control you describe is definitely different in this form than other types of writing. Then again, I don’t want to give myself over to shameless emoting or provocation for its own sake… my guess is that this might be a sort of collective negotiation of new literacy.

    Or an excuse for me to obsess about my blogging.

  4. Where to start? Such a good post and more good comments! My turn:

    On the spontaneous blogging thing:

    I think Martha is right on with this (in fact she was when she posted it as one of her new “blogging rules” a few weeks back). I find I worry about posting my feelings about things – after all, they are not often thought out as well as I would like. I also tend to feel “unqualified” to have a critical opinion about something if I don’t feel like I have a lot of expertise. But there is something in a spontaneous post that hits harder because it is real – as long as you are being honest and fair.

    Maybe the best example of what Martha and Brian both talk about here is the fact that often the comments are more engaging than the original post. I think part of this is because we don’t put the same restrictions on what we say in a comment that we might place upon ourselves when writing a post in our own space.

    On the “perfect tool” thing:

    I think if we look to the instructional outcomes we want to achieve and what kind of experiences we would like students to have to reach those outcomes, we’ll find that lots of tools are always available. While we might not have one that does everything, or that even does it the “best,” as long as we focus on the outcomes in integrating that tool, we can still be very successful even if we weren’t “perfect.”

    Besides, the stuff you run across on your searches expands the choices for projects in the future – they might not be right for what you are working on now, but they might be later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.