Category Archives: my life

spectacle at Web2.0 Expo… from my perspective

Last week, I gave a talk at Web2.0 Expo. From my perspective, I did a dreadful job at delivering my message. Yet, the context around my talk sparked a broad conversation about the implications of turning the backchannel into part of the frontchannel. In the last week, I’ve seen all sorts of blog posts and tweets and news articles about what went down. At this point, the sting has worn off and I feel that it would be responsible to offer my own perspective of what happened.

First, context. Web2.0 Expo is an expensive conference filled with all sorts of webby types, entrepreneurs, and business folks interested in technological development. It’s a conference known for great talks by high profile people. Most of the talks are pretty conversational in nature – there are plenty of staged interviews and casual presentations.

Because of the high profile nature of Web2.0 Expo, I decided to write a brand new talk. Personally, I love the challenge and I get bored of giving the same talk over and over and over again. Of course, the stump speech is much more fluid, much more guaranteed. But new talks force folks to think differently and guarantee that I target those who hear me talk often and those who have never seen me talk before.

A week before the conference, I received word from the organizers that I was not going to have my laptop on stage with me. The dirty secret is that I actually read a lot of my talks but the audience doesn’t actually realize this because scanning between my computer and the audience is usually pretty easy. So it doesn’t look like I’m reading. But without a laptop on stage, I have to rely on paper. I pushed back, asked to get my notes on the screen in front of me, but was told that this wasn’t going to be possible. I was told that I was going to have a podium. So I resigned to having a podium. Again, as an academic, I’ve learned to read from podiums without folks fully realizing that I am reading.

When I showed up at the conference, I realized that the setup was different than I imagined. The podium was not angled, meaning that the paper would lie flat, making it harder to read and get away with it. Not good. But I figured that I knew the talk well enough to not sweat it.

I only learned about the Twitter feed shortly before my talk. I didn’t know whether or not it was filtered. I also didn’t get to see the talks by the previous speakers so I didn’t know anything about what was going up on the screen.

When I walked out on stage, I was also in for a new shock: the lights were painfully bright. The only person I could see in the “audience” was James Duncan Davidson who was taking photographs. Otherwise, it was complete white-out. Taken aback by this, my talk started out rough.

Now, normally, I get into a flow with my talks after about 2 minutes. The first two minutes are usually painfully rushed and have no rhythm as I work out my nerves, but then I start to flow. I’ve adjusted to this over the years by giving myself 2 minutes of fluff text to begin with, content that sets the stage but can be ignored. And then once I’m into a talk, I gel with the audience. But this assumes one critical thing: that I can see the audience. I’m used to audiences who are staring at their laptops, but I’m not used to being completely blinded.

Well, I started out rough, but I was also totally off-kilter. And then, within the first two minutes, I started hearing rumblings. And then laughter. The sounds were completely irrelevant to what I was saying and I was devastated. I immediately knew that I had lost the audience. Rather than getting into flow and becoming an entertainer, I retreated into myself. I basically decided to read the entire speech instead of deliver it. I counted for the time when I could get off stage. I was reading aloud while thinking all sorts of terrible thoughts about myself and my failures. I wasn’t even interested in my talk. All I wanted was to get it over with. I didn’t know what was going on but I kept hearing sounds that made it very clear that something was happening behind me that was the focus of everyone’s attention. The more people rumbled, the worse my headspace got and the worse my talk became. I fed on the response I got from the audience in the worst possible way. Rather than the audience pushing me to become a better speaker, it was pushing me to get worse. I hated the audience. I hated myself. I hated the situation. I wanted off. And so I talked through my talk, finishing greater than 2 minutes ahead of schedule because all I wanted was to be finished. And then I felt guilty so I made shit up for a whole minute and left the stage with 1 minute to spare.

I walked off stage and immediately went to Brady and asked what on earth was happening. And he gave me a brief rundown. The Twitter stream was initially upset that I was talking too fast. My first response to this was: OMG, seriously? That was it? Cuz that’s not how I read the situation on stage. So rather than getting through to me that I should slow down, I was hearing the audience as saying that I sucked. And responding the exact opposite way the audience wanted me to. This pushed the audience to actually start critiquing me in the way that I was imagining it was. And as Brady went on, he said that it started to get really rude so they pulled it to figure out what to do. But this distracted the audience and explains one set of outbursts that I didn’t understand from the stage. And then they put it back up and people immediately started swearing. More outbursts and laughter. The Twitter stream had become the center of attention, not the speaker. Not me.

Yes, I cried. Yes, I left Web2.0 Expo devastated. I hate giving a bad talk but I also felt like I was being laughed at. People tried to smooth it over, to tell me that I was OK, that it wouldn’t matter, that they liked the talk. But no amount of niceness from friends or strangers could make up for the 20 minutes in which I was misinterpreting the audience and berating myself. Nothing the audience could say could make up for what I was thinking about myself while on stage. So I went for a massage. And I spent 90 minutes trying to tell myself that I am a lovable creature. And when that wasn’t working, I told myself to suck it up and deal. I knew that if I could convince myself to look like everything was OK that eventually I would believe it. Or at least that it would all go away.

Being on stage involves raw emotions. I have never gotten over the rawness of it all. I no longer vomit before every talk (although I used to) but my stomach does try to do the macarena. Or, more likely, the ridiculous dance done by 80s hair bands as they thrash about. I can’t eat before I give a talk. And I visit the bathroom a bazillion times. Even when I’m brilliant on stage, I’m nervous as hell. But it’s also emotionally and physically exhausting. I walk off the stage high as a kite and then, two hours later, crash. Giving talks drains me. It’s brutal to try to publicly convey information, to be the center of attention. I much much much prefer to be the one observing than the one speaking. But I feel like giving talks is important. So I speak. But it ain’t easy. And so when I walk off a stage not feeling invigorated, all I get is the raw drain, the gut-wrenching, nauseating feeling of pure misery. 20 minutes of being punched in the face, kicked in the stomach, and the shameful sensations one gets when one is forced to watch a Lars von Trier film. That’s how I felt at Web2.0 Expo.

So…. the Backchannel?

Now that you’ve been forced to read my inner neuroses on public display, let’s talk about making the backchannel the frontchannel. First off, let’s be clear: I could not and did not see the Twitter stream from stage. Nothing was conveyed to me until the end. The stream was not a way for the audience to communicate to the speaker, but for the audience to communicate with itself. Lots of folks have talked about making the stream available to the speaker. Have any of you seen ustream? This is filled with “speakers” reading the stream and it’s very choppy. There’s no way that a speaker can simultaneously consume a stream and convey a message. Sure, a message every 30 seconds or so, no problem. But a stream? No way. And certainly not a long message… and, on stage, 140 characters is long.

Let me highlight a comment that Dan from left on my blog earlier this week:

It seems that the more subtle the speaker’s point, the more impatient and nasty the audience became. While it’s easy enough to blame the new tech in the room for this shoddy behavior, I’m not sure we’re seeing anything new at all here. It certainly didn’t feel new to me from where I sat. Consider the recent Town Hall meetings around health care – substantive discussions of important issues were subsumed in cat calls and shouted rumors.

That said, having participated in this bad behavior, I noticed something else about the way it felt to put something on that wall. The twitterwall subverted twitter’s more symmetric conversation model of communication. Posting to the wall was like creating and sharing a public secret about the speaker (a little like political grafiti except it wasn’t anonymous).

The wall made a spectacle of the crowd’s impatience and anxiety feeding on the speaker’s inability to respond. That spectacle united us not as a single group receiving challenging ideas from a thoughtful orator but as quite separate individuals struggling to listen, read, respond, and make sense of the event. We moved from web conference to twitter circus.

I think that Dan nailed it. I think that the backchannel is perfectly reasonable as a frontchannel when the speaker is trying to entertain, but when the goal is to convey something with depth, it encourages people to be impatient and frustrated, to feed on the speaker. There’s a least common denominator element to it. I was not at Web2.0 Expo to entertain, but to inform. Yes, I can be an entertaining informant, but there’s a huge gap between the kind of information that Baratunde tries to convey in his comedic format and what I’m trying to convey in a more standard one. And there’s no doubt I packed too much information into a 20 minute talk, but my role is fundamentally to challenge audiences to think. That’s the whole point of bringing a scholar to the stage. But if the audience doesn’t want to be challenged, they tune out or walk out. Yet, with a Twitter stream, they have a third option: they can take over.

The problem with a public-facing Twitter stream in events like this is that it FORCES the audience to pay attention the backchannel. So even audience members who want to focus on the content get distracted. Most folks can’t multitask that well. And even if I had been slower and less dense, my talks are notoriously too content-filled to make multi-tasking possible for the multi-tasking challenged. This is precisely why I use very simplistic slides that evokes images for the visual types in the room without adding another layer of content. But the Twitter stream fundamentally adds another layer of content that the audience can’t ignore, that I can’t control. And that I cannot even see.

Now, I’m AOK with not having complete control of the audience during a talk, but it requires a fundamentally different kind of talk. That was not what I prepared for at all. Had I known about the Twitter stream, I would’ve given a more pop-y talk that would’ve bored anyone who has heard me speak before and provided maybe 3-4 nuggets of information for folks to chew on. It would’ve been funny and quotable but it wouldn’t have been content-wise memorable. Perhaps that would’ve made more sense? Realistically though, those kinds of talks bore me at this point. So I probably would’ve opted not to give a talk at all. Perhaps I’m not the kind of speaker you want if you want a Twitter stream? But regardless, what I do know is that certain kinds of talks do not lend themselves to that kind of dynamic. I would *NEVER* have given my talk on race and class in such a setting. I shudder to think about how the racist language people used when I gave that talk would’ve been perceived on the big screen.

Speaking of which… what’s with the folks who think it’s cool to objectify speakers and talk about them as sexual objects? The worst part of backchannels for me is being forced to remember that there are always guys out there who simply see me as a fuckable object. Sure, writing crass crap on public whiteboards is funny… if you’re 12. But why why why spend thousands of dollars to publicly objectify women just because you can? This is the part that makes me angry.

Now, I don’t mind being critiqued. I think that being a public figure automatically involves that. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin over the years, but there are still things that get to me. And the situation at Web2.0 Expo was one of those. Part of the problem for me is that, as a speaker, I work hard to try to create a conversation with the audience. When it’s not possible or when I do a poor job, it sucks. But it also really sucks to just be the talking head as everyone else is having a conversation literally behind your back. It makes you feel like a marionette. And frankly, if that’s what public speaking is going to be like, I’m out.

I don’t want to be objectified when I’m speaking – either as a talking head or a sexual toy. I want to inspire, to invite you to think, to spark creative thoughts in your head. At Web2.0 Expo, I failed. And I failed publicly. I’m still licking my wounds. But I can take the fall. I can’t take the idea that this is the future.

So I have a favor to ask… I am going to be giving a bunch of public speaking performances at web conferences in the next couple of months: Supernova and Le Web in December, SXSW in March, WWW in April. I will do my darndest to give new, thought-provoking talks that will leave your brain buzzing. I will try really really hard to speak slowly. But in return, please come with some respect. Please treat me like a person, not an object. Come to talk with me, not about me. I’m ready and willing to listen, but I need you to be as well. And if you don’t want to listen, fine, don’t. But please don’t distract your neighbors with crude remarks. Let’s make public speaking and public listening an art form. Maybe that’s too much to ask for, but really, I need to feel like it’s worth it again.

For those looking for the text of my Web2.0 Expo talk, it’s here: “Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media.”

accessible speaking events for the fall

This fall is chock full of me blabbing on and on so I wanted to share some events that are publicly accessible. They’re intended for different audiences and in different cities so you might find one that works for you. I always love having friends in the audience so if you’re nearby, please do come by!

The spring is equally exciting, including SXSW (where I’m the opening act) and WWW (where I’m keynoting). More announcements still to come!

sometimes I feel like a bitch

For the most part, I’m a fuzzy lovable energetic creature (or at least I like to think so). But new technologies combined with information overload sometimes bring out the inner bitch in me. And then I feel guilty.

I am drowning in information overload. I cannot read everything that I want to, engage in conversations with everyone I’d like to, let alone deal with high-bandwidith content like video. Over the last decade, I’ve developed a set of coping mechanisms for dealing with online conversations. Ways of keeping myself sane amidst the onslaught. The problem is that each new genre of communication and consumption brings new challenges and forces me to adjust. And just when I think that I’ve got a grip on what’s going on, the genre gains mainstream adoption and I’m forced to get all rigid on people. And I hate that.

Let me be a little more concrete. And self-involved. I get hundreds of emails per day that I have to directly respond to. (Hundreds more get filtered into the “will read one day” folders that get very little attention.) I do a huge amount of my responding offline (on airplanes, public transit, cafes, etc.). Thus, messages with links take much longer to get my attention than messages without links. But there’s something nice about turning an INBOX into something manageable before people have the chance to respond. The problem with Web2.0 technologies is that each one wants to replace the INBOX (or at least be an additional channel). For example, there are private messages and comments on social network sites, direct messages and @replies on Twitter. There are blog comments. And RSS feeds. And then there are all of the online communities and bulletin boards and chat spaces that have evolved from those developed in olden days. For me, it’s too much. Too much I tell you. And we haven’t even gotten to voicemail, text messages. Let alone all that’s coming.

The onslaught of places to check makes me want to crumple. And, for better or worse, it’s simply 100% not manageable if I want to keep up my research and stay sane. So I’ve developed my own quirky habits to cope and rather than be flexible for others, I’ve become demanding. I check voicemail sporadically (so please don’t leave a message – send a text). I refuse to even check the private messages on social network sites (so if you’ve sent something there, I’ve never seen it). Because of how @replies are overloaded with retweets and references, I’m simply incapable of keeping up with the stream of directed @replies with requests to respond. And I almost never check online communities or bulletin boards and have bowed out from all collaborative projects that require that kind of engagement.

It’s terrible you see. It’s not that I *like* email (cuz goddess knows it’s been a long time since “you’ve got mail” made me do anything other than cringe). But I know how to manage it. Too many years of Getting Things Done training has taught me to manage it as a glorious ToDo list that can get resolved. But I don’t know how to meaningfully manage streams of content. And I don’t have the structures in place to deal with content in the cloud that requires connectivity. And I don’t like having to deal with Yet Another Walled Garden’s attempt to replicate email. For my own sanity, I need one pile of ToDo. So at the end of the day, the only channel that actually works for me is email. And if you need me to respond to something, don’t message me elsewhere; send me an email.

This is exactly the kind of issue that Bernie Hogan deals with in his dissertation. The complexities of multiple channels and people’s individual preferences. And there are huge issues here – should someone be flexible to others’ preferences or demand that others work around them? And here’s where I feel like a bitch. I’m asking people to work around me. Because I can’t cope with the alternative. And that makes me feel guilty and selfish. And I don’t know what to do about this. Le sigh. So please forgive me.

This article has been translated. En francais. Thanks Ulysse!

Vacation, Vacation, Vaaaay-kaaaay-shun! (offline till Sep 8)

This is the time when all of the crazy people run off to the desert to “survive” with tons of art, fake fur, and countless supplies. Burning Man of course. Normally, I’d be playa-bound, but I’m rebelling and inverting the whole thing. Today, I leave for Iceland where I will make friends with lagoons, greenery, and puffins. Oh am I excited about the puffins! Thanks to my favorite cereal, I’ve been staring at a puffin every day since college. Now it’s time to see them up close and personal. OK, maybe not that close.

I’m not bouncing email on this trip but I’m not checking it either. I will be offline so don’t expect a response until after I start digging out post-September 8. Or perhaps just resist the urge to contact me in the meantime. It is after all Burning Man time! Go offline, have an adventure! (I’m not commenting on the presence of cell towers on the playa. Hrmfpt.)

Anyhow, so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodbye!

RIP Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences (PGSS)

I have been quite fortunate over the years. I have received numerous opportunities that afforded me opportunities to go far and do amazing things. One such opportunity was the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences (PGSS). Much to my horror and sadness, I have learned that Pennsylvania has cancelled PGSS due to lack of resources. This brings me tremendous sadness.

During the summer before my senior year, I attended PGSS at Carnegie Mellon with 89 other students from around Pennsylvania. We were selected based on our potential and given a free summer at CMU to focus on science. We were taught classes that we weren’t taught in high school – molecular biology, inorganic chemistry, discrete math, computer science, modern physics. (A group of us teamed up together to master these topics by specializing in one and making sure that we could teach everyone else in our group what was going on when we collaboratively did homework together. There were five girls and five boys in our team; I was the girl rep for discrete math.)

For me, this program was critical. Up until then, my science classes had been beyond basic. This was the first time that I felt challenged by science and math and I LOVED it. Going into college, I decided to study math because of my experience at PGSS. (I quickly switched to computer science upon entrance when I realized that CS involved more fun math.)

What I got from PGSS went beyond the curricular structure. I loved the opportunity to spend a summer with brilliant folks who liked to solve puzzles and THINK. I developed friendships that played a critical role in keeping me motivated my senior year. I spent many weekends traveling to Philly and other places to meet up with the folks that I met at PGSS. My homecoming and prom dates were both from PGSS. I traveled by rail across the USA with a PGSS person after high school. While I was getting crapped on by my classmates, PGSS folks were keeping me sane and strong. (And they were also part of the reason that I got more deeply involved in Internet culture.) Governor’s School also taught me to function on all-nighters and have fun while working in the lab.

More than anything, Governor’s School made visible what college could be like if I went to a school surrounded by smart people. (It was through one of the people at PGSS that I learned about Brown.) When people would ask me what PGSS was, I jokingly called it the “ticket to the Ivy League.” For those of us who didn’t come from boarding and prep schools, PGSS was often a free pass into institutions that might have otherwise ignored us and our public school background.

Of course, this is also the challenge. Many of the PGSS folks that I know didn’t return to Pennsylvania. We used PGSS as a one-way pass out of the state to places where science and technology played a more crucial role in industry. And it’s hard for a state-sponsored program to consider that a success. But on an individual level, everyone I’ve ever met from PGSS benefited tremendously from that opportunity. It deeply saddens me to think that future students won’t have such an opportunity. Le sad.

Seeking: Boston-based developer for prototyping work with moi

Back in the day, I used to build interactive visualizations and other tools to mark up and analyze data. My research agenda is leading me back there and so Microsoft Research has kindly agreed to give me the resources to try out working with a developer.

Thus, this is a call for a Boston-based developer interested in working as a contractor on a full-time basis. This is not a permanent gig, but there’s budget for at least the next three months. This position is being contracted through Talent Source and you would be officially reporting to someone who is more code-minded. You would be working in Kendall Square amidst a bunch of lovable researchers who speak in mathematical equations, physics models, and social science mumbo jumbo. Start date is effectively now.

The ideal candidate would be fluent in C# and Java, comfortable working with SQL servers, and have a penchant for learning new web technologies for fun. There’s a decent chance this project will involve a combination of Python, Processing, Rails, AJAX, etc. or whatever tool makes the most sense for the situation. This will also involve learning various APIs (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and toolkits (e.g., Guess, Prefuse).

The ideal candidate would love prototyping off of half-baked drawings scribbled on napkins in crayon. This is not going to be a good gig for someone who needs a proper spec or development process. The “products” are going to be research probes and will need to evolve with use. The end-goal is far more prototype than stable product and the goal will be to iterate quickly at the expense of stability.

The ideal candidate would be self-motivated and patient with an eclectic work environment. The work environment is a research lab and my management style is quite flexible (a.k.a. virtually non-existent). This is not going to work for someone who functions best through heavy management or direct intervention. Flexibility and patience are pretty critical and I expect a bunch of eye-rolling when I make crazy suggestions.

The ideal candidate would enjoy thinking about how to interact with data and coming up with new adhoc ways of scraping, aggregating, sorting, manipulating, analyzing, visualizing and interacting with online social data. Someone who loves social data and would enjoy understanding the patterns in large data would find this gig especially fun. The ideal candidate might even have a personal interest in research themselves.

If you are interested in this position, please reach out to the Talent Source Program Office via email at and/or call 1-877-673-8877 and reference the Job ID 7819-1. Talent Source will connect you with an approved temp agency right away.

Feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think might be into this gig, especially folks who you think might gel well with my quirkiness.

a random act of kindness

Due to poor planning, G and I were on different flights back to Boston from SXSW. I was already booked on the early flight and had already been assigned my upgrade. So when we reached DFW, we raced across the airport to get him on standby. Success, but of course, he got stuck in a middle seat in coach. Standing around waiting to board, I’m feeling all mega-guilty about being in first while he’s in coach so I’m more affectionate than normal. The plane boards and I proceed to 1A. The guy sitting in 1B looks at me and says, “Aren’t you traveling with someone?” After I nod, he says, “Why don’t I switch with him?” I explain that he’s in coach and he shakes his head to say “no problem” but I proceed to protest and point out that he’s in a center seat in coach and he protests further by saying that he flies all the time and no problem, no problem, I should sit with my partner… By this time, first is wide-eyed. I mean, what business traveler in their right mind wants to give up a bulkhead first seat to sit in a center in coach? But before I manage to protest louder, he grabs his stuff and heads back to coach. The woman behind me and I laugh uncomfortably with big eyes, verbalizing what we were thinking: “did that really happen?”

Sure enough, he proceeds to sit in coach. The flight attendants are astonished and find him a seat in the back with more room and continue on to send back ice cream and food and whatnot. At one point, I asked one of the flight attendants how he was doing and she smiled and said that he was an extremely kind man and that the flight attendants were all loving him. That she had never in her day seen someone give up a first class seat as a random act of kindness. We were all quite floored.

The truth is that I was completely flabbergasted and without a script in which to operate. I never caught the man’s name. I couldn’t find him after we landed. I never really got to properly say thank you. But, Mr. Nice Businessman, if you’re out there, I want you to know that your random act of kindness made me a giddy happy kid; flying home next to G was really wonderful. And you made a lot of people smile. So THANK YOU!

my first week

What a crazy week it’s been. I came back from vacation and landed in Boston just seven days ago (during a winter snow storm, of course). On Monday, I started at Microsoft Research New England and have been working my toosh off to get settled (battling network connections, apartment searching, etc.). I have to admit that I’m totally overwhelmed. I’ve interacted with more humans this week than I have in the last year. And I’m surrounded by brilliant people who do research that I don’t understand at all. So I’m on a crash course, trying to grok what my colleagues do and figure out how I fit in and how I can collaborate with them. But I’m totally up for the challenge, in part because I really really really like the people I work with and our conversations are totally inspiring. Even if they think that I’m an odd duck.

More writing coming soon. But first, settling in and finding my feet. Have I told you lately how awesome it is to not be working on my dissertation? OMG. So much relief.

I hope all of you are well!

i’m baaaaaack!

::wave:: Hello! I’m currently clicking keys on a keyboard for the first time in a month and boy oh boy does it feel weird. It’s been a fun-filled adventurous break. The first chunk involved driving cross-country on our “real America” tour of the U.S. This was followed by some fun family time for the holidays. And then we headed south to Costa Rica where we tromped around both coasts and rain/cloud forests and played with all sorts of animals (from monkeys to toucans to armadillos). I feel rested, rejuvenated and utterly ecstatic to be starting up at MSR on Monday.

Not surprisingly, I have a lot more to say about all of the above, but it’s 1.30AM and I’m bloody tired. And I still need to drive from Pennsylvania to Boston. Still, I wanted to let all who are still reading know that I’m back and that my email has been turned on again. Also, I’ll address the release of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force Report more when I can see straight. But in the meantime, HELLO WORLD!

Email Sabbatical Has Begun

We are packed and finishing the final touches on leaving Los Angeles. My email bouncer is on (with a few remaining loopholes for those who I owe stuff to before I leave… those will close tomorrow). We will then begin driving east via the 10, do the family thing for the holidays, and then run off for a proper vacation in Costa Rica before landing in Boston mid-January. What this translates to is:

No email will be received by danah’s ornery INBOX between December 11 and January 19!

For those who are unaware of my approach to vacation… I believe that email eradicates any benefits gained from taking a vacation by collecting mold and spitting it back out at you the moment you return. As such, I’ve trained my beloved INBOX to reject all email during vacation. I give it a little help in the form of a .procmail file that sends everything directly to /dev/null. The effect is very simple. You cannot put anything in my queue while I’m away (however lovingly you intend it) and I come home to a clean INBOX. Don’t worry… if you forget, you’ll get a nice note from my INBOX telling you to shove off, respect danah’s deeply needed vacation time, and try again after January 19. It’s sick, twisted, and counter to the always-on culture that we live in. But it’s me.

I’ve received a lot of feedback in the last week about my approach to email while on vacation. I’ve been commended and accused of being a self-righteous bitch. I particularly love the folks who tell me to get a Blackberry. (For those who don’t know me, I have a Sidekick and an iPhone.) I normally check email all day long and when I’m in full swing, I receive 500-700 personally addressed emails per day in addition to mailing lists. There’s no way that this is manageable when I’m going away for a month. There’s no way that I could address this much email in the first month of arriving in Boston. Also, I learned ages ago that it’s better to declare email bankruptcy than to fool myself or others into believing that I can manage the unmanageable. I announce my email sabbatical a few weeks ahead of time so that folks know what’s coming. Perhaps I misjudged how folks would take my email sabbatical. Personally, I think it’s pretty rude that folks think that the asynchronicity of email gives them the right to pile things onto my plate like a huge to-do list. But it appears that many think I’m the rude one for demanding folks to wait while I’m on vacation.

I’m also shocked by how many folks are completely addicted to their email. I have to admit that email sabbaticals are very much like a meditation retreat for me. It’s all about letting go. And gosh darn it, it feels mighty fine to do this.

Anyhow, my apologies to those who think I have no right to take a vacation or beg a reprieve from the onslaught of emails from well-intended strangers. I don’t mean to offend. But I do mean to give myself the break that I desperately need in order to come back refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle the next big thing.