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Reflecting on Academic Book Writing Month December 9, 2011

Posted by Sarah in progress, Public and Private in the Blogosphere.
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Well, I didn’t get even close to hitting my 30,000 word goal for the month of November.

Graph of AcBoWriMo progress 2011

AcBoWriMo Progress, November 2011

On the other hand, I made substantially more progress in terms of pure writing in November than I had in a really long time. For me, the first pass at writing is the hardest. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, even. It’s just that I have trouble starting.

So far I’m having some pretty good success in keeping up the momentum that I built during November – I’ve been getting a decent amount of work done daily, whether it’s crunching numbers for the chapter that I’m focusing on right now, just spending time reading over my ethnographic data, or actually writing. I’ve got a deadline for a long abstract coming up on Monday (what sort of evil people make there be a research deadline in the middle of December? I could name names, but I won’t. Don’t you know I have a final to write, people‽) that is sharing time with the aforementioned final exam. And then onwards to the full paper to go with that long abstract, due the 6th of January.

Data Coding Stimulus Package March 5, 2009

Posted by Sarah in progress.
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ZERO CODING DEBT!Ahem. See how there’s NO NUMBER next to the folder named “Un-Coded Blog Entries”? That’s right… after MONTHS of being behind on coding these data, I am CAUGHT UP as of this morning.  There were a couple of particularly pesky ones that languished there while I pondered and thought about how to code them.

The next folder down, the “Partially-Coded Blog Entries” are ones that I have coded but I don’t think I’m completely happy with the codes that I’ve chosen.  I’m paying down that debt as well, and trying really hard to pay it down faster than I create it.

The possible demise of Livejournal and what it means to me… January 7, 2009

Posted by Sarah in bloggers&blogging, progress.
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LiveJournal announced yesterday that they have cut a significant proportion (20%) of their US workforce (marketingvox story) and there has been much hand-wringing of the “where do we go from here?” sort amongst my LiveJournal friends.

For my personal blogging… I like LJ for the security features it provides, and some of what I post there probably would just never get written in any “public” forum if I didn’t have those features.  But for my personal blogging, I can live without it.  I can connect with friends on Facebook, I can blog here and at my hobby blog and at my kid’s blog and I can turn what has been my media consumption blog / personal website into the personal blog.  No big deal for me.  (I have archived my five years of LJ postings, though… I would hate to lose all of that.)

The dissertation, on the other hand…  65% of my dissertation participants use LiveJournal.  If LJ stops existing, I will have to figure out what to do.  Either I go with the three months of observational data that I have already (instead of six) or I will follow those folks to any new services they migrate to.  Either way, it will be something to talk to those LJ users about when the time comes for interviews!  Yesterday I was in a total panic about it; today I’m a bit more zen.  I have the data, so all will not be lost even if the service disappears at the end of the week like some of the doom and gloom folks were predicting yesterday.

Coding Data September 19, 2008

Posted by Sarah in progress.
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I am slowly slogging through the coding of my survey data.  It is TEDIOUS in the extreme (though… let me plug the Coding Analysis Toolkit from QDAP, which is a lovely web-based tool for coding data) but it is still a very time-consuming process (at best, 4 hours to code about 900 items).

One of the hardest things for me has been coming up with good codes.  I mean, I know what I WANTED to get at with each question, but translating that into a reasonable set of codes (even allowing myself to choose multiple codes per unit) was sometimes an interesting process.

The question that has presented the greatest challenge has actually been the one in which I asked WHY people had categorized the blogosphere as a whole as public/private/both/neither.  I THOUGHT I knew what I wanted to get out of that question and sat down and developed a set of 10 codes based on a combination of my conception of the question and a relatively shallow perusal of the respondent’s answers.  When I started actually coding the data, though, I found myself shaking my head because the codes simply weren’t working… they weren’t lining up with what the respondents had said, and they certainly weren’t lining up with what I thought I wanted to get out of the question.

So I stopped, and I backed up.  I sat here in my office with my eyes closed and really asked myself what I wanted to get out of that question.  And I realized that I was trying to get at a LOT of things.  Within that question, I’m really asking about broader issues of public and private (is the blogosphere by definition public?  how does searchability play into that?  etc.), about blogging practices (do bloggers use friends-lock or other technological means of controlling access, do they deliberately avoid certain topics, do they obfuscate their offline identity?), and about the goals of blogging (to communicate with others, to convey information, to gain an audience).

So, wow.  That’s a lot of stuff from what I initially thought was a really simple question.  Now, though, I think I have a better set of codes, ones that are much more in line both with what the respondents said and with what I want from those responses.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from the data analysis process so far is just that.  Be willing to back up and start over if something isn’t making sense.  (Funny that I say the same thing to people who are impressed by my skills as a seamstress – “you just have to be willing to rip it out and start over if it isn’t working right.”  Why hadn’t I thought to apply that advice to my dissertation?)

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