How I Blog – Clark Quinn

At this year’s DevLearn, we’re putting a spotlight on the power of blogging for learning via the DevLearn Bloggers program. We’ve invited members of the DevLearn Bloggers team to write a post exploring how they approach blogging, and how it enhances their personal learning.

In this post we hear from Clark Quinn, Executive Director at Quinnovation, whose blogging of mind maps are a great resource to extend the value of conference learning.

Quinn_ClarkThere are two parts to this, really, how I normally blog, and the special blogs from conferences. I was convinced to try out blogging back in ’06, and it’s been pretty steady since then. I originally set myself a goal of 5 a week, being happy to get 3-4 done. I’ve tapered slightly, now trying for 2/week, and I’ve been reasonably consistent for a number of years now.

It may seem a lot, and in one sense it is; I’m forced to find a new way to look at something twice a week. Week in and week out, year after year. But, with practice it gets easy. First, you’ve a lot to say, and then you get in the habit of being reflective. And when I create new thoughts for presentations, client work, or books, I generate some thoughts and often a diagram. A colleague recently gave me a great compliment, saying that my posts were reliably new material, which is what I strive for.

It takes time to make it a habit of mind, to regularly see what you think of things and make the effort to get concrete about it, but it’s valuable. In the process of finding what you think about things, you end up thinking through lots of situations. One time I was on an ‘answer any audience question’ panel, and a fellow panelist commented that I had a response to everything. It’s because I’ve been forced to think about just about everything in the search for something to say!

Now, what has got me here is a special type of post, a mindmap, and it started in a funny way. I am realizing I’ve a wee bit of ADD, and when I’d listen to a keynote, they’d say something interesting and off my mind would go. When it returned to the keynote, I’d lost track of the thread. So, I’d learned to mindmap years ago, and I resurrected the skill and found it was just enough cognitive overhead to keep my mind on the presentation, which I found valuable.

Moreover, with some extra effort to not just say things the same way but to rerepresent them, I was processing the presentation at a deeper level. (Many people take notes, few reread them; that’s ok as long as you use them for active thinking.) And the necessary effort to represent the structure is valuable as well.

Clark's Mind Map from Neil deGrasse Tyson's DevLearn 2014 Keynote

Clark’s Mind Map from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s DevLearn 2014 Keynote

Once I had created the mindmap, mindful of the commitment to keep populating my blog, I decided to post it. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lo and behold, they became at least some of my most visited blog posts! BTW, I don’t use specific mindmapping software, since I have a rich diagramming package that I use instead. And I try to get them posted with 10-15 minutes of the end of the keynote.

Someone once complained that mind maps are no different than an outline, but you can actually put loops and nonlinear connections in a map (which I do, sometimes), so it’s not isomorphic (look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls). And some say that you can’t make sense of the mindmaps if you don’t attend, which I can’t attest to. But I guess some people find it useful to review what they saw, and maybe others too find it valuable.

So, I’ll be mindmapping the keynotes again for DevLearn. Others sketchnote, or liveblog, but the processing is valuable for you, and the sharing is valuable for others. I welcome your feedback!

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