Networking on the Network

I know of no better guide to becoming a researcher than this book, which exists only online. Written by a professor to help his PhD students learn how to network and develop their professional skills, it is great advice for anyone who wants to create a place for themselves in the information economy. It’s all about finding, feeding, and harvesting networks of other like-minded folks, and growing your own distinctive node. While the author naturally focuses on how academia works, there is enough valuable wisdom here for anyone doing original research (and you should!) — whether corporate, journalistic, or part-time blogging.

-- KK  

Sample Excerpts:

You are not choosing which network to join; rather, you are creating a new network of your own.

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If this seems like a lot of work, think of it as shopping: the library is a giant department store, and you are shopping for professional colleagues. Accumulate a “long list” of potential colleagues. Study their work and learn from it. Figure out what elements your work has in common with theirs. Then practice explaining your research in a way that puts those elements in the foreground and the other elements in the background. The general formula is “I’m interested in [elements you have in common with the person you're talking to], and to this end I’m studying [elements that you don't have in common with them]“. For example, “I’m interested in how teachers adopt computers, and to this end I’m conducting an ethnographic study of some grade-school teachers’ strategies for including computers in their lessons”, or “I’m doing ethnographic research on people adopting computers, and my fieldwork concerns grade-school teachers …”. Now you are ready to build a community for yourself that includes relevant people from several different research areas. These people will be like spokes in a wheel, of which you are the hub.

In working through this exercise, you are already encountering two fundamental principles of professional social life, both of which will recur throughout this article. The first one was already well-known in classical rhetoric, and I will call it “articulating commonalities”. The point here is to develop relationships with people. And relationships are founded on commonalities. These commonalities might include shared values, shared research topics, shared goals, or anything else of a professional nature that you might share with someone. To articulate a commonality means formulating language for it.

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It is especially important to put your publications on your Web site. This can be difficult, given that publishers generally ask you to sign over your copyrights. But even when this happens, you can still amend the copyright form with a marginal phrase like “I retain the right to post the paper on my Web site”.

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Here is the procedure: (a) choose someone you wish to approach and read their work with some care; (b) make sure that your article cites their work in some substantial way (in addition to all your other citations); (c) mail the person a copy of your article; and (d) include a low-key, one-page cover letter that says something intelligent about their work. If your work and theirs could be seen to overlap, include a concise statement of the relationship you see between them. The tone of this letter counts. Project ordinary, calm self-confidence. Refrain from praising or fawning or self-deprecation or cuteness or making a big deal out of it — you’re not subordinating yourself to this person; you’re just passing along your paper. Don’t sound like you’re presupposing or demanding that you’ll get a response. Try a formula such as, “If you should happen to have any comments, I would be most interested to hear them”. A good final sentiment for your letter is, “Will you be at such-and-such conference?”.




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Register to Vote

A million sound bites have announced: every vote is gonna count this election year. If you haven’t registered, well it’s really damn easy these days. Online voter registration sites can register you online in a few states, or at least give you the printable forms for your area. Some sites will even address the envelope to your local precinct for you. So whether you be anarchist, communist, libertarian, consigned to one of the two parties, or just really apathetic (that would be me) getting your voice into the electoral process has never been easier.

-- Andrew Jones  

Start here:
Just Vote
Or here:
Declare Yourself



The New Farmers’ Market

How to make a Farmers’ Market in your town succeed for everyone. Selling on your own is scary; and buying at a stall is different. This fun book is chock full of great advice about market smarts, guerilla marketing, niche marketing and having fun peddling good food to eager customers. Tons of “what’s worked” for many others. And if you haven’t been to a local one lately, check one out.

-- KK  

The New Farmers’ Market
Vance Corum, Marcie Rosenzweig & Eric Gibson
2001, 257 pages
$18
New World Publishing

Available from Amazon

Sample Excerpts:

“Making Lemonade from lemons.” For example, when drought in ’91 left the couple swamped with golfball-sized potatoes, they promoted them as gourmet “PeeWee Potatoes” in $2 pint boxes. The lemonade theory worked in other ways, too. They put 8-10 peppers of various colors that were too small to sell individually into $1 “Bag O’Peppers.” They almost always sold out, Peterson notes.

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Farmers’ markets offer:

minimal marketing start-up costs – requires only truck and selling area;
exemption from standard size and pack regulations (at most markets);
little or no packaging, advertising and promotion costs – farmers’ markets are usually well established and centrally located;
better prices – substantially higher than wholesale; and
immediate, direct feedback. Customers are the best ones to tell you about price, quality, variety preferences, and ideas for other crops to plant.

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One Southern California farmer was considering pulling out his exotic chocolate fuyu persimmon trees, but when he tried selling them at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, at least 80% of those who tried his samples bought a bag! Instead of ten flats a week on the wholesale market, he was moving a full truckload because of direct consumer contacts and aggressive sampling.

An intriguing press release may focus on a unique, humorous event which has human interest. Be sure to set the scene with a specific reference to the visuals that a photographer or news team can capture as at this individually oriented, all-you-can-carry pumpkin contest (Santa Monica FM) for $5.




Community Quilts

Modern quilting bees. How (splendid detail in color here) and why (because you make more community than quilt).

-- KK  

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Community Quilts
How to Organize, Design & Make a Group Quilt
Karol Kavaya and Vicki Skemp
2001, 136 pages
$3
Lark Books
Asheville, NC

Available from Amazon

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Sample Excerpts:

One advantage of group quiltmaking is that one person doesn’t carry the entire load. The desire to create and the willingness to work with others are all that is needed.

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Some of these quilts took hundreds of hours to complete, many of those hours spent in the convivial company of old and new friends. The subjects that we covered in conversation while quilting allowed us to get to know each other, and sometimes ourselves, better.

Every year we have a party in the spring. We gather the quilts together and hang them up for all to see. It is our time to remember, to reminisce, and to celebrate where we come from and who we are. These quilts are a record of our lives as a community.

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In general, we think it is a good rule to allow participants no less than two weeks for completing and returning an easy pieced block, and not more than six weeks for a difficult block involving fine embroidery. When you give participants more time than that, blocks seem to get forgotten, lost, or eaten by the dog.

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We often hang the quilt rather than gift wrap it. This provides for a
wonderful shock effect. Furthermore, people are able to enjoy and admire the quilt all through the party.




Community Boatbuilding Manual

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Building a boat together has proven to be a community and family builder because it allows a bunch of novices to jointly create something they didn’t think they could — and to make something immediately and wonderfully useful. WoodenBoat magazine publishes this handy booklet presenting the experience of about a dozen communities and schools who have tried this. It includes suggestions of boat plans that are doable. Each year the magazine itself has hosted a family boatbuilding weekend. It’s a sight to see 20 families end the weekend by launching, in unison, a simple boat they’ve made themselves.

-- KK  

Community Boatbuilding Manual
$4 digital book
Wooden Boat Books

Sample Excerpts:

Problems can crop up when you have too many kids for the boat you’ve chosen. Younger students are not as well equipped as older ones to handle the idle time that comes with too many people working on a boat. An ideal class size might be 10-12 if you had three boats under construction, but putting that number on a single boat is a strain.

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Participants in the program are generally lured by a photo advertisement in the local newspaper. Some children and teens come to build with a parent, but most participants are adults — either individuals or couples. Over the years they’ve built an estimated 60-70 small craft, most of them skimming the coastal waters from Boston to Portland, Maine.