Saturday, June 7, 2008

Think like a machine

I finally succeeded in importing my reference links from Connotea, Zotero, and into RefWorks, thanks to some helpful tips from classmates and blind exploration. Each of the programs was easy enough to use on its own, but synthesizing different programs created all sorts of little challenges. And I'm still baffled over why the programmers couldn't make certain tasks a bit easier: just for example, why doesn't allow me to create folders? Isn't that a pretty basic element of data organization? (Or did I fail to find the way to do so?)

I've been reminded today of a mantra that my tech-savvy husband has oft repeated when working with computers: "Think like a machine." For instance, when for some odd mechanical reason my RSS feed would only import my 30 most recent items, I found that the best course of action was to find a way to group the remaining items in a separate locale and do a new RSS feed, accommodating its inexplicable quirk. Since, as I pointed out above, didn't let me organize references into folders, I had to find a way to group the remaining items: I tagged each remaining item with a single word ("text"), then bundled every reference with the "text" tag into a new bundle called "Text," and did an RSS feed for the Text bundle. Naturally, if I were working with a human being, a few friendly words could have clarified my intentions in far less time than the bundle project, but I admit that I actually enjoy solving machine-puzzles in creative ways like that. What a feeling of accomplishment to have found a path through the cryptic channels of techno-obscurity!

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