Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.


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How I curate UU content

Sometimes we develop our most useful skills without conscious intention.

I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always been that friend who says, “Hey, I found this thing you should read.”

I never thought that would turn into something I felt called to do—much less that it has a name.

Almost three years ago, UU World magazine invited me to edit The Interdependent Web. My editor gave me freedom, support, and the opportunity to practice curation, week after week.

Here’s a window into my process.

  • Curation begins with love. This is demanding work, and passion sustains it. I care deeply about helping Unitarian Universalist voices find larger audiences. If you’re thinking about becoming a curator, choose something you love, because you’ll spend more hours doing it than you can hope to be paid for—if you’re lucky enough to find a curating gig that pays money; many people are giving away this kind of work.
  • Immersion is essential. A curator cannot expect to occasionally dip her toe into the waters of her subject. I spend hours, not just reading UU blogs, but also participating in UU forums on Facebook. As Unitarian Universalist content becomes more diverse, my daunting task is to follow it wherever it goes. Blogging is the area of UU content where I’m most comfortable; I’m hoping that some of you may begin curating other types of content—video, design, music, etc.
  • Gathering sources never ends. When I began reading UU blogs, Philocrites’ Guide to Unitarian Universalist Blogs was a great resource. Soon I learned about UUpdates, and taught myself how to use Google Reader. Once I began editing The Interdependent Web, my Reader was no longer just a few favorite UU blogs; instead I collected an exhaustive list of every single UU blogger I found. When Google retired Reader, I switched over to Feedly, where my “All UU Bloggers” folder has 391 blogs at last count. And I’m always looking for more. Are you a UU blogger? Do you suspect I don’t know about you? Introduce yourself . . .
  • Scanning and saving are the first steps each week. At this moment, there are seventeen new posts in my “All UU Bloggers” folder. I won’t read all of them. I’m looking for headlines that grab my attention. What grabs my attention? Specificity. Responses to other bloggers’ posts. Humor (including snark). Something that grabs my heart. A clear connection to Unitarian Universalism. Good writing (yes, that matters, even in your post titles). A great track record as a blogger. Anything that catches my attention earns a little green Feedly bookmark, which puts posts into a “Saved for Later” folder.
  • Reading and reducing is where the work gets hard. Eventually, I have to read all those “Saved for Later” posts. Beginning each Wednesday, I review what I’ve saved, and compile the best posts. My goal is around fifteen pieces of content, sometimes more, sometimes less. That means a lot of culling. Some weeks I wish I could send out apology notes to some of the bloggers whose excellent posts just don’t make the cut.
  • Arranging and distilling are the last steps. I could just list the best fifteen posts, images, videos, etc. But good curation is more than that. I look for intentional and coincidental conversations between posts, images and videos. I look for natural categories. Sometimes things get shoehorned together, and other times there are beautiful juxtapositions.  The format of The Interdependent Web—at least for blog posts—is “introduction, pull quote.” I usually arrange, then find the quotes, then write the intros, but not always in that order. It’s a great format, but it’s very blog-centric, as is most of my process. That’s the growing edge for me—tweaking this process so I remember to look for and include images, videos, tweets, Facebook conversations, Pinterest posts, etc.

Since August of last year, when I returned to The Interdependent Web from maternity leave, I have done this work while also adjusting to life as a new parent. Liesl comes home early on Thursday night to watch Willa while I put the finishing touches on the column, but for the most part, curating fits well into the daily schedule of a stay-at-home mom.

Did I answer your questions—or create more?

I’d love to hear from you about how you’re coping with the deluge of content that social media generates. Do you opt out? Are you grateful for your friends who help you choose what to read? Or are you, like me, the friend who says, “Hey, I found this article you should read”?

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A stile in the Facebook garden wall

I like using HootSuite to post simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter, and today I figured out why.

Thanks to Chris Walton, I’ve been thinking since December about Facebook as a walled garden.

Chris said—and I’m paraphrasing here—that much of the public conversation of UU blogging had moved into the walled garden of Facebook. Particularly into the walled gardens of Facebook groups.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I love the energy of UU Facebook groups. They are an amazing place to meet people, have great conversations, spark new ideas.

But there is a downside, particularly for a religion where newcomers often say, after years of wandering in the wilderness, “I was a UU, and I didn’t know it!”

The downside is that we’re spending a lot of time and energy enclosed in private spaces, talking only to each other.

We’re having tea parties in our walled gardens—and tea parties have their place.

But we also need to host concerts in public parks.

We need to find ways to bridge private and public.

Which brings me back to HootSuite.

I think HootSuite is a stile in the Facebook garden wall.

Image

What do you think? Are there times when you want to say something to your friends on Facebook—and also to the public at large? What are you using to bridge public and private?

Photo by Tim Green, used under a Creative Commons attribution license.


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Evangelism: a tale of two salespeople

Yesterday I went to Costco for a long-overdue eye exam.

Among other things, I wanted to return to wearing contacts. The optometrist—who has perfect, uncorrected vision—mentioned that he tries out every new kind of contact. He said, “There’s this one—the moment I put them in my eyes, I knew they were terrible. I don’t sell many of them.”

“Because you choose not to, or because people try them and don’t like them?” I asked.

“Both,” he said. “The sales rep told me, ‘Just sell them to people who’ve never had contacts. They won’t know the difference.”

“Ugh,” I said. “That’s why people don’t trust salespeople.”

Later he recommended a brand of monthly replacement contacts, and gave me a pair to try.

I slipped them in my eyes, and despite the five-year hiatus from contacts, they felt great. I could hardly tell that they were in my eyes.

 

This story is really about two salespeople—the rep and the optometrist.

The rep was willing to do anything to sell his brand of contacts. The result? Distrust.

The optometrist tested all the contacts, and only recommended ones that felt comfortable in his eyes. The result? Trust.

Distrust of salespeople is not new.

It’s pervasive. Most of us go out of our way to avoid looking like we’re selling something.

In UU circles, it often keeps us from sharing the good news about the religious community we call home. We’re afraid people will think we’re snake oil salesmen.

But there’s another way to “sell.” It’s the model my optometrist uses. Try something. See if you like it. If you do, share it with people you care about. If you don’t, warn people off.

It’s simple, and it’s trustworthy.

So if you’ve found a religious home that you enjoy, don’t be afraid to tell your friends about it.

Don’t push. Don’t presume that what works for you will work for them.

But don’t keep it a secret. Invite them to try it.

They might like it—or not. That’s up to them.

Your job is to make your religious community a healthy, life-enriching place to be—one that keeps the door open, and has clear signage inviting newcomers to come on in.


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Burn your stories

Writers give the world a gift: they name experience.

They find words, string them together, and share them. And when they get just the right combination, their audience says, “Yes! That’s exactly right!”

Naming experience feels good. It scratches the itch in the back of your mind. It brings a fuzzy image into focus. It builds a bookshelf, and organizes your library.

But naming also has a downside.

Once we name an experience, it’s frozen. The name makes its meaning so clear, there’s no room for other explanations.

Last week I told a friend a story from my childhood.

It’s a great story. It makes so many things clear. It helps me understand why I struggle.

And my friend heard it that way. “Oh,” she said, with a shake of her head. “Oh, my.”

But then she said, “You know, you’re almost forty years from when that happened.”

And those few words helped melt the ice trapping me in one perspective. They gave me room to see myself in a new way.

Words are certainly a gift. We need tools to bring the world into focus. We need ways to understand the stream of experience in which we swim.

But the stories we tell ourselves are dangerous, because they are so compelling. We clutch them in our hands, holding on for dear life.

It’s not that we should stop telling stories. But we do need to hold them in open hands, to sweep them from the table like mandala sand.

So tell a story. And burn it. Tell another. And burn it. Again and again.

Don’t worry. What’s true will survive.


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Mama’s Costco meltdown

I was raised to be nice.

You know that photo that’s going around on Facebook? The black and white one with a roller coaster cars full of women? The women in the first car laugh uproariously, their skirts flying up. The women in the second car are more subdued, but smiling, and clearly enjoying themselves. The unsmiling women in the third car sit with knees pressed together, hands clasped politely in their laps.

We were third car kind of people.

So when I had a mini-meltdown in the parking lot at Costco today, it was a big deal for me; a first-car person watching would probably still be laughing about it.

The meltdown was set in motion a few days ago.

Brady needed to go to the vet, so I made an appointment for Wednesday at 2:30 in the afternoon. That felt like a time that would work with Willa’s schedule. After her morning nap I would drive to town, stop at Costco, head to the vet, and be done in time for her to nap on the drive back home to Girdwood. Seamless.

But then I watched the weather, which forecasted a big snowstorm on Tuesday night. (And it was a big one. I think we got about two feet of snow.)  Friday looked better.

I called the vet. They didn’t answer, so I left a message. They called back when I was pulling my hair out trying to do something with Willa. “Friday at 11:10 a.m.?” I said. “Sure, sounds fine.”

Except it wasn’t.

Friday mornings I finish up The Interdependent Web. At 11:10, Willa’s just starting to think about wanting a nap.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I woke up at about 5 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. Then Willa woke up early. I fed her, and put her back to sleep, and I got about an hour’s more sleep.

We rushed around, getting breakfast for me, tea for Liesl, a bit of solid food for Willa and a few minutes of nursing, and then we bundled ourselves up and headed for Anchorage.

Willa started getting fussy at the vet. She was more fussy at Babies R Us, where we stopped for a diaper change and feeding. And by the time we got to Costco, she was in full meltdown mode.

When we finally got back out to the car to head home, I was relieved that the person parked next to us was leaving. I could pull the cart up to the side of the car, and swing Willa’s carseat out of the cart and into the Subaru.

I was in the middle of doing that when, over the din of Willa’s screams, I heard someone say, “Excuse me?”

I turned around. A woman in an SUV asked, “Could you move your cart so I could pull in there?”

I snapped.

“My baby is having a meltdown,” I said. “Just chill out.”

She apologized, said that she’d been there with her kids, told me to take my time.

I realized I’d been snippy, and apologized, too.

And that was that. But I’ve been thinking about human nature today, and so I wondered how much of the world’s evil comes from accumulated stress. From the crankiness that builds up in us from lack of sleep and disrupted schedules and parking lots that are always over-full. From snippy comments and unkind words that we trade like toddlers trade germs at daycare.

I don’t know. But I’m hoping to get a good night’s sleep tonight, and a fresh start tomorrow.

costco


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Omnipresence and social media

connectionsEmerging from my reading this week is this: in a social media world, power depends on being everywhere, and being in each place well.

That’s a daunting thought.

What it means for individuals is that if we have a message to share, we have to learn multiple platforms, never resting, never believing that we’ve mastered enough social media tools. It means developing insatiable curiosity and deep humility. A new-to-me blogger wrote this:

I suspect the unnerving truth is that the trade-off for the benefits of an unfathomably complex technological society is the disquieting reality that understanding is now beyond the reach of any intellectual, public or otherwise. (The Frailest Thing, February 16)

The picture is less grim on an organizational level. If we join together with others who share our values, and each of us learns continuously, our skills form a massive Venn diagram, overlapping here, stretching into new territory there.

But only if we work together.

I pour most of my thinking energy into Unitarian Universalism, which has a streak of individualism a mile wide and centuries deep. We have a newer commitment, to “the interdependent web of which we are a part.”

We want to share our message—our saving message. Much will depend on our learning to work together.

Photo by fla m, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


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The sawdust in your eye

Today’s Daily Prompt asks, “Which vice or bad habit can you simply not abide in others?”

My first reaction was, “Oh, I can’t possibly write about that.”

I can’t possibly go on a rant about what drives me crazy about other people.

That’s not nice. And there’s the “people who live in glass houses” problem. Also known as the log in my own eye problem.

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it might be fun to just let my inner curmudgeon loose.

So, without further ado, here’s the sawdust in your eye:

  • Loose dogs and their humans. It’s OK if you’re nearby. But leaving your dog out to roam the town all day and all night? Drives me batty.
  • Don’t get me started on people who feed loose dogs, habituating them to the places where I’m trying to walk Brady, while also carrying Willa.
  • While we’re talking about dogs, how about people who don’t pick up after their pets? I picked up dog poop when I was 9 months pregnant, and I still do when I’ve got twenty pounds of baby strapped to my chest. And you can’t bend over and scoop the poop?
  • Drunk people in general, but specifically the loud ones who walk past our windows at 2 a.m. when the bars close. Sometimes it’s really tiresome living in a drinking village with a skiing problem.

And that’s where I’ll stop, for now.

Because as I was writing the list, I realized that there was only so much I felt comfortable writing about publicly. General complaints, about people I don’t know, felt safe. But being specific? Talking about things that really bother me? That’s harder.

I had a really hard day on Monday, because I’ve been (as I tweeted) “Too long downwind of other people’s garbage; too long downstream of other people’s shit.”

But I can’t write the back story of that here. That’s the work of living in relationship, the work of neighborliness, the work of forgiveness balanced with the work of speaking my mind.

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back. . . .

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye”, when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Luke 6:36-38, 41-42)