Reading week – a chance to breathe? For me, a chance to visit Reading, or rather Winnersh Triangle. But before that: five undergraduate project supervision meetings, two research student supervision meetings, one postgraduate programmes meeting (including imminent deadlines for Annual Programme Reviews and new programme submissions to Programme Scrutiny Subcommittee); one journal launch event; three research group meetings and one visit to a major outsourcing company. Not actually bad – I don't have to run an employability seminar session this week, and some other things are in abeyance too – but not really the breathing space that would be ideal.
What would I use the space for? Well, I'm preparing a submission for the European Lisp Symposium; I would like to write a paper for the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries; I intend to write an abstract for the European Conference on Data Analysis, all with deadlines in the next few weeks. The ECDL submission is in the most danger: most of the work is done for the ELS submission (though there's still plenty of polishing to go), and while it's not ideal, the ECDA abstract can be written in the academic “past-future” tense: by the time the conference comes round, the work will have been done.
But more than these short-term projects, there's also the issue of longer-term projects that are effectively on hold. Some of the point of this blog was to try to find out more about myself and my interests, and that's slightly gone by the wayside: this has been a valuable exercise in documenting day to day activities (and crosswords), but the potential for longer, deeper reflection is as-yet untapped – as evidence, compare the quantity of material on the blog to the equivalent on the wiki. Partly, I think that this is a question of workflow: I haven't got the workflow right yet (and now I have N+1 things to check as part of my routine), but of course sorting out the workflow is also something that needs time to reflect, take stock, and act.
Another longer-term project is developing a comfortable workflow for a more open research process. Some of that is successful; teaser blogs on work around generalized specializers and on audio search got conversations of sorts going (and collaborators to work with!) – I'm not sure whether I would have done better to enable comments, as Athene Donald suggests; the fear there is that all my time would become occupied with comment moderation. In this area, what definitely hasn't worked (yet) is opening up the paper-writing process itself; the link to the gitweb above notwithstanding, I definitely feel uncomfortable sharing the work-in-progress, even with potential co-authors. It might have been easier if I had better tooling around the paper writing process; as it is, while I like org-mode for drafting, I haven't yet got it all connected and working with slime, let alone imagining being able to share that setup with co-authors, and that's a brake on the process – as is a submission style which mandates a different (I can't in fairness say “non-standard”) set of LaTeX headers.
One of the clear wins of this blogging exercise, on the other hand, has been the repurposing of commuting time: the 10-minute slots on trains, if I can get a seat, tend to get used to write, or sometimes minor hacks, rather than wasted reading the advertising- or oligarch-supported freesheets. Maybe the next step is to deal with my current belief that more substantial blocks of time are necessary to make progress on the bigger or trickier questions? At the moment, I feel that it's pointless to try doing something fundamentally novel in those 10 minute slots, because remembering where my thoughts had got to would tend to take up most of that time, leaving little for productive work – it could be that this belief is just wrong, and a period of bootstrapping would get over that.
So, I'll be carrying on, and trying to improve particularly the quality of interaction. At the moment that is still going to be centred on e-mail and physical meetings, but hopefully the future will benefit from the affordances of more immediate interaction styles.