Slow e-mail. [Weekly Head Voices #32]

(post summary: I’m teaching in Stellenbosch next week. We have another published paper. Next DeVIDE will have InfoVis. Peter Norvig spouts backyard philosophy on slow email and work-life balance.)

This week, yet another Weekly Head Voices Quickies! The handsome and sun-drenched building below, known as “The BJ” to generations of students, is part of the reason for my current posting-diet. You see, next week I have the pleasure of teaching a post-graduate Visualisation course at my old university in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch. I’ve been putting together a new course especially for this purpose, which has obviously taken up a significant portion of my time.

The really pretty building under a really pretty sky where I shall be spending most of next week. (thank you Google Maps.)

I’m also greatly looking forward to some quality time with my SA homies. Yo homies! Oh wait, you don’t read my blog… :)

Also on the good news front, the paper that ERCI submitted to the VisWeek 2010 workshop on Visual Analytics in Healthcare has been accepted! This documents the extremely promising first steps that have been set on the path to comprehensive visual analysis of any imaging-based cohort study. Seeing as I’ll be present at VisWeek 2010 (whoohoo!), I’ll be presenting the work at the workshop on Sunday, October 24. Here’s the bibliographic information (I’ll link the full paper as soon as it goes online):

M.D. Steenwijk, J. Milles, M.A. Buchem, J.H. Reiber, and C.P. Botha, Integrated Visual Analysis for Heterogeneous Datasets in Cohort Studies, IEEE VisWeek Workshop on Visual Analytics in Health Care, 2010.

Remember, cite it soon and cite it often! You’ll be doing my HATE-index a favour.

(Nerd Warning ON) On the epiphany front, I had a nice one whilst cataloguing all the various different InfoVis / Visual Analysis software toolkits available on the Interwebs: OF COURSE WE NEED YET ANOTHER ONE! I’ve been itching to start working on a new DeVIDE release, so the next one will have Python / matplotlib / VTK Titan-based InfoVis and Visual Analysis functionality. (Nerd Warning OFF)

On the Backyard Philosophy meets Work-Life Balance meets I-need-to-wrap-this-up  front, I recently came across the following quote by Peter Norvig, director of Google Research, taken from an interview with him in the InformationWeek:

Q. How do you achieve a work-life balance? How do you keep your professional life from dominating everything?

A. People get out of balance when they see their value as being able to respond quickly. If I see myself as a machine for answering email, then my work life would never stop because my email never stops. If instead I see my value as separating the important from the unimportant and making good decisions on the important, then I can go home at a reasonable hour, spend time with my family, ignore my email and phone messages all weekend long, and make sure that when I return to work, I am in the right mood to make the good decisions.

I used to think that I needed to respond to email (and other interruptions) as quickly as possible, but I’ve also very slowly been learning that that’s not really helping anyone. One should indeed rather focus on the important things, and do them well. Communication is important, but necessarily has to take second place, as time is a limited resource. Following this advice could be interpreted in a less than positive way by correspondents who expect a response right away. However, in the long run one is worth much more, to all concerned, by focusing on the important. As with all things, there is a balance that should be sought between between communication and action, between fulfilling short-term and long-term expectations.

Dear readers, I wish you a great week, filled with important accomplishments!

p.s. I stand corrected. My SA homies do read my blog. I’m touched…

17 thoughts on “Slow e-mail. [Weekly Head Voices #32]”

  1. hi charl – thanks for the update for my lunchtime reading.

    just to make sure: the Workshop you were talking about at VisWeek will be on Sunday, right? I was not aware of anything on Saturday so far, and won’t be ariving before Saturday late evening ;-)
    congratulations anyhow! we have to celebrate this :)

    and regarding the “ignore email, if you wish to” part: that is a good starting point for a nice discussion at VisWeek ;-) just make sure to remember then *gg*

    all the best, cu,

    1. Helmut, good catch! You’re of course right, I’m up on Sunday, not Saturday. We have one more excuse to drink beer.

      I’m not saying that one should completely ignore email, but rather that one should not let it eat up time that could’ve been spent on working on some significant artefact. One could for example (and I don’t do this often enough) email to say that one will respond later.

      For you guys in business, this balance is of course very different.

    1. Een week, full-time les gee. Aande kuier, hoop ek. Woensdag-aand is daar iets konkreets aan die raak, orchestrated deur SuperSwannie. Iets met baie eet en baie Akker! JOIN US!

  2. Hey, I read your blog too. In the Important Accomplishments Department: I got my Swedish drivers license today as my ZA one was considered inferior.

    1. Congratulations on owning a superior driver’s license! Ek het nog steeds nie my NL meneer nie, dis embarrassing… (hulle beskou ook die SA ene as inferior, no idea why)

  3. Hey, dis MY gebou daai! Hoop ek loop jou raak, sal great wees! Ek bevind myself meestal op die 6de vloer. Ek hoor daar is ‘n geselligheid gereel vir volgende week :) Kan ek nie na jou klas kom luister nie? Ek is afterall ‘n student vir nog ten minste 3 weke.

    1. Hey Ria!

      Ek woon die hele week saam met 16 honneurs studente in 439/446. Die kursus is ‘n intensiewe lectures / paper discussion / hand-on InfoVis geval. Jy’s welkom om te kom saamspeel. As jy net ‘n deel wil sien, is waarskynlik die maandag vanaf 9:00 die beste opsie. Ek kan jou ook op woensdag aand tydens die geselligheid die super compressed version vertel. ;)

      Laat my weet as jy die kursus website wil bekyk, dan sal ek jou google account toevoeg.

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