Communica­tion is key: Giving the hard sell on “soft skills”

(Cross-posted from Medium.)

A row of women seated in front of what appears to be an enormous telephone switchboard

Today at school we got an hourlong presentation on using LinkedIn effectively, which ended with a summary slide of statements we were to evaluate as true or false. One of these was “You should add soft skills to your skills,” and the “correct” answer seemed to be, more or less, false. My hand shot up, and I said that well, actually, soft skills are extremely important in tech, as they are everywhere, and that if you’re an excellent programmer who can’t communicate with other people, nobody with any sense is going to want you on their team.

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Getting to know you…🎶

(Cross-posted from Medium.)

Nice dress, Julie.

Tomorrow is my first day in the immersive curriculum of the Grace Hopper Academy full-stack JavaScript “bootcamp,” (as opposed to the part-time, remote portion, which has been going on since April), and we’ve been asked to write a blog post introducing ourselves to our classmates and anyone else who happens to stumble in.
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One hour and eleven minutes of me trying not to swear

The awesome Laura Dawson invited me to do a webinar on the basics of book design, as part of a series for Bowker’s Our kindly hosts/co-presenters at Data Conversion Laboratory have posted a video of the session, so now you can follow along with bated breath as I try to remember not to say “fuck” for more than an hour.1 Can she do it? Watch the video to find out!

Because the video is video and my slides are about fiddly details, I’ve made my segment of the presentation into a PDF, so you can see what I’m talking about: “Making Beautiful Books” webinar slides (2 MB)
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  1. Yes, my portion of the presentation ran about fifteen minutes too long, because I hadn’t timed it beforehand and couldn’t see my system clock while screen-sharing the slides from PowerPoint. Sorry, Allan. []

What stupid is

illustration of four cats, one of which is wearing a dunce cap

I was sitting on my couch hoarding a “Sharing Size” box of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies and clicking and re-clicking “x new Tweets” this evening, when I was rescued by a friend who was having some technical difficulty with an e-book she was building. A few of our Twitter friends made suggestions on how to troubleshoot the issue, and I did, too, but to no avail. I asked to see the file, she e-mailed it, and not only did the file also crash on my machine, but it caused a seemingly permanent crash-on-launch issue with Adobe Digital Editions, the application we were trying to view it in. I use ADE every day, as I borrow a shocking quantity of e-books from the New York and Brooklyn public libraries, so this was not a crash I could just ignore.
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The India, Ink. comedy show

I made myself watch the archived video of the thesis presentation I gave yesterday afternoon, and it’s not as embarrassing as I’d expected, so I’m posting it for your amusement. There’s a full transcript after the jump, including the slides, since you can’t read them in the video; a few citations; and one correction. I probably said some other things that are inaccurate—particularly, I’m thinking, in my answer to Nancy Hechinger’s question about combination audio- and e- books at the very end. All I know about Enhanced BooksEditions is what I heard in their TOC presentation, to which I arrived late. Smackdowns welcome.

In defense of the presentation’s being, um, a bit vague in parts—like, the last several minutes before the Q&A—I’d like to point out that (1) I was still editing my slides until one minute before I had to step up to get miked, and (2) InDesign decided to crash as I tried to print my talking points cheat-sheet, and I hadn’t been done writing them, anyway, so I didn’t have much to go on, especially toward the end. I wung it. It’s not the most unprepared I’ve ever been for a presentation, but it’s in the top three, I’m pretty sure. Also, (3) I’d had less than two hours of sleep.

You should watch some of my classmates’ presentations, too. I saw only a handful of them—not even all those that took place after mine was over—and I doubt the videos do them justice, but I can attest that in person, the following presenters slew mightily: Neo (Sangzoon) Barc, Sara Bremen, Marco Castro Cosio, Jayoung Chung, Ozge Kirimlioglu, Carolina Vallejo, and Filippo Vanucci.
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Three More Days

Thesis Book 2010

This Thursday at 12:40 p.m., I have to publicly present some sort of something about my vague and fugitive master’s thesis. The talk—about ten minutes’ worth—will be streamed online so you, my friends, can all point and laugh, and the video will be archived somewhere (hopefully somewhere dark and offline) after the event.

Oy vey.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what the hell to say and show, and I’ve had to write a short description of my work for a (printed!!) book of my class’s thesis projects—a book that was, of course, laid out by me, who obviously had nothing better to do with my time. The following is the lofty prose I came up with, sometime between birds-tweeting-time and sunrise this morning:
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“books do certain things well and digital technologies do other things well”

There’s a fab article hidden behind the Chronicle of Higher Education paywall:

Some years ago, Terry Belanger found a striking way to reveal the reverence that many citizens of the digital age continue to feel for old books. It is a sentiment he finds fascinating but only rarely appropriate or useful. Belanger, who retired in September as director of an educational institute called Rare Book School but who continues to teach there, brings an old volume to class, speaks about its binding and typography, and then, still discussing the book, rips it in half and tears it into pieces. As his horrified students watch in disbelief, Belanger tosses the shards into a nearby trash can and murmurs, “Bibliography isn’t for sissies.”

The Book Mechanic: A modern sensibility binds Terry Belanger to old, rare volumes, by Andrew Witmer (Chronicle Review 41, December 6, 2009).

(Via Guy, who got it from @roncharles)
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That part of the future which is here today

page heart

As you may have gathered, if you’ve been following along, the reason I no longer post much around here is that I’m in grad school, in a program that doesn’t have anything to do with books. Not usually, anyway. It’s a two-year master’s deal, and I have to come up with a thesis sometime in the next couple of months, so I’m hoping to find some way to work books back into it. In the meantime, however, most of the connection between school and books is in the readings I do for my classes.

A few of these readings are in the form of actual bound books, most of which I’ve bought because I don’t have time to wait for them to be available at the library. Many more of the texts I have to read are stapled photocopies, just as Gutenberg printed them when I was in college six hundred years ago. But the majority of my readings this semester are online, either on good, old-fashioned Web pages or in dedicated e-book sites such as Safari or Books24x7, to which my university subscribes.

So, uh, I know it’s old news, but reading books onscreen sucks.
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California, here I come!

book bindings

Now I know what I’ll be doing next time I’m in SF: Tim James of Taurus Bookbindery has opened the American Bookbinders Museum. The Chronicle reports.

In the museum sits an 800-pound Imperial arming press from 1832 that James bought and had shipped from France three years ago. Asked how expensive that was, he answers “frightfully,” declining to elaborate. James has been working on the museum for 15 years, accumulating paper cutters, paper samples, lettering tools, contraptions for lining blank paper, photos, manuals, and union pins from the International Brotherhood of Bookbinders.

Earlier this year he attained nonprofit status and started giving tours by appointment. In August he opened to the public. Admission is free and on Saturdays binder Tom Conroy is there working in the traditional fashion.

Even if you’re not going to San Francisco in the foreseeable future, do look at their website, which includes, among other things, a database of books annotated with salty comments such as,

First, one hopes
This may not be the most utterly useless self-published book ever written on binding your own books; and it may not be the very worst bound. It must, however, be in the final running for both prizes.
Covers heavily cockled, pages cockled at gutter, from poor binding technique

(On A How-To Guide: Bookbinding from Home)

Have any of you dear readers yet been there? If so, please report.

(Thanks, Jack!)

My Kind of Town

CCBP nameplate

Last week I went to Chicago for two days, to see what there was to see. I had lunch with Maia Wright, a now-even-more-cherished visitor to this blog, and spent an afternoon tooling around with Sheila Ryan, whom I also originally met in the comments here and who led me over to my blog-away-from-home, Clusterflock. In between these two planned and much anticipated treats, a friend hooked me up with an impromptu personal tour of the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, led by Clifton Meador, who—in addition to making his own gorgeous books—directs the MFA program there.
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