Which mailing lists should I subscribe to?

“Which mailing lists should I subscribe to?” is a question that I’m often asked. My honest answer to that question… “I have absolutely no idea”. It’s such a personal thing, dependent upon your specific role, wider contextual issues you need to keep up-to-date with, what you’re interested in more generally, and whether or not mailing lists actually suit you. Let’s be honest, are you the type of person that can keep up with the influx of email or is it just going to make you even more stressed out?

Let’s look at the options

I first of all want to have a look at some alternative options. We’re very lucky in the education sector to have such an active directory of mailing lists, especially in the form of JiscMail. If you’re after detail, support, and examples of experience then that’s definitely the place to look. If, on the other hand, you’re just after the latest news or updates then there are other options. Here’s my top 3:

  1. Signing up to a newsletter. My advice here being to select carefully, what’s most important to you, for your role? It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the influx of mail so use rules to manage it. An older post on organising your email highlights some useful tools if you become unstuck. Difficulty — easy.
  2. Follow relevant social feeds. They often provide you with the most up-to-date information about an organisation or specific product/service. Twitter is my weapon of choice in this category but I use Tweetdeck to manage my network and Nuzzel (h/t Doug Belshaw) to catch-up on popular feeds. Difficulty — moderate.
  3. RSS readers pull in relevant feeds that you sign up to. It can take a little time to get your head around but seriously, invest some time in working out how to make it work for you. My weapon of choice for RSS readers is feedly but there are loads out there, well worth investigating. It can be difficult to find a good working practice with RSS feeds but once you do they really pay off. Difficulty – hard.
A screenshot of my feedly account, you can see my feeds down the left and unread posts in the centre of the screen.

A screenshot of my feedly account, you can see my feeds down the left and unread posts in the centre of the screen.

Keeping up with Jisc

We’re often criticised for how much we — Jisc — do as an organisation. Over the last year or so we’ve streamlined the way we work, our portfolio of products and services, and our organisational structures. That won’t stop because we’re committed to continuous improvement. But there’s still a lot going on, a lot of important stuff which is needed if we’re to do our job! So what’s the best way of keeping up to date?

Signing up to Jisc Announce is perhaps the best place to start. You’ll receive regular email updates on our most recent news, events and advice.

Tom Mitchell is our lead on all things social and he’s doing a fantastic job. Personally, I’d recommend following Jisc’s twitter account. Almost everything we do gets a mention on there and it’s a fantastic way to keep up with what we’re doing as you can ask questions and see what kinds of conversations are generated from that content.

If you prefer your RSS feeds, there are a few to choose from, but definitely worth following the blog, news and events feeds.

If you’re interested in our research and development activities I’ve pulled together a spreadsheet of useful information channels that highlights what we’ve got going on. Please note: this might not be 100% accurate but I’ll try to stay on top of it and update it when I find errors.

Screenshot of a spreadsheet containing links to useful channels of information for Jisc R&D projects, mailing lists I follow, and professional bodies I like to keep an eye on.

Screenshot of a spreadsheet containing links to useful channels of information for Jisc R&D projects, mailing lists I follow, and professional bodies I like to keep an eye on.

It’s always interesting to see what mailing lists other people are on, so I’ve included my subscriptions in the second worksheet of that spreadsheet (excluding internal mailing lists). And worksheet three highlights a list of professional bodies that I tend to keep a watching eye on. It’s worth knowing that my background was predominantly in higher education so I’m in the process of developing my understanding of FE and Skills. There are really useful search facilities on JiscMail, but I also find it really useful to browse the lists by category and review these every six months or so.

The key to all of this? Find out what you need to know and how to get it!

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Getting my Kanban 101 badge

Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself losing control of my working environment somewhat. I think the reason for that has been twofold:

  1. Trying a new workflow which hasn’t really been working for me, relying solely on a CRM — I tried!
  2. I’ve been very busy personally, creating an outside space that my son deserves. The grass is growing as we speak and my bones ache :-)

Today, I had time to reflect and take stock on where I’m at. It also coincides with having just read my friend’s, Doug Belshaw, article on Trello Kanban. It’s not hugely different to how I used to work, the only difference being my choice of tool which was Wunderlist. But Doug is offering a Kanban 101 badge and I want one so I thought I’d give Trello another go…

I’ve gone with a very basic set-up to begin with and only have one board at the moment — focusing on work tasks. I’m not using it with team members at this stage – it’s just for my personal work load. I may broaden the scope of my board to include tasks outside of work but we’ll see.

My Trello board comprises four lists, in this order from left to right:

  1. On hold
  2. To do
  3. Doing
  4. Done

For me, it makes sense to have On hold at the beginning. I’m not really sure why but it just didn’t feel right in the middle of all the others. You can see an early snapshot of my board below.

A screenshot of my personal Trello board

My trello board – some of the tasks may not make sense unless you know the associated tag i.e. “Review progress and update overview” is in relation to managing my accounts (green).

In terms of style, I’m trying to start each task with a verb, write each task in sentence case and assign a relevant tag to each task. At the moment my tags aren’t very well defined so I’ll work on that. For me tags should be based on functions in relation to my role but I have a couple of extra ones in there at the moment. In terms of timescales I only ever set deadlines where necessary e.g. a submission deadline, otherwise I find them arbitrary and counter-productive. Something else I haven’t quite fathomed out yet is how many tasks I should be Doing at any one time. As I write this post I have five tasks in the Doing column, although that’s about to be four.

Now how do I get my badge?!?