Saturday, January 30, 2021

Top Draw

In the last couple of weeks I've published ten sets of sketchnotes for events that I've attended online. That's a lot, for sure, but we're in lockdown right now and there's tons of opportunities to take part in events that in the past would've been unavailable.

I had a handful of aims:

  • learn something in the areas of software testing and development
  • practice my sketchnoting
  • practice getting my written thoughts in order quickly and concisely

I signed up for a bunch of interesting-looking meetups, webinars, ask me anythings and panel discussions. During an event I sketched and afterwards challenged myself to write up a summary, opinion, or thoughts inspired by the session on the same day or, at the latest, within 24 hours.

I find that sketching helps me to listen actively and record less, more valuable, content. Being able to get essentials typed up efficiently is tremendously valuable to me, particularly at work, and especially if I'm documenting as part of a collaboration. The harder or more time-consuming I find writing up to be, the less eager I am to do it, which makes it inventory, something on the backlog, potentially blocking someone else from moving on. Also, I know from hard experience that the information I might think is watertight in my head today will find cracks to dribble out of tomorrow.

I had signed up for 16 events, but missed three because life, was too late to one because sign-up link issues, and left two early. The last couple I dropped out of because I felt like I wasn't getting anything from them. Not that the presenters had nothing to say, but that I could not follow the thread of their talks. I couldn't tell the information germane to their point from the fluff and asides. 

My sketchnotes quickly reflected this by being confused, messy and unbalanced.

In Beginning Sketchnoting I said "if I don’t get the structure right my notes go wrong" and that's still clearly the case. I think I've improved to some extent, particularly with strategies for less linear affairs such as panels and AMAs, but I still suffer if I can't tell where the talk is going. 

Perhaps surprisingly, I think this insight is more valuable to me as a speaker than an audience member: I want to ease cognitive load by signposting the content of my talks.

Back to sketchnoting, though. I know I'm not the greatest at drawing but I find that I do like the discpline of sketching while listening. Looking back over my posts from the last fortnight I'm pleased with myself. I did learn a few things, I've refreshed my sketchnoting skills, and I wrote up quickly every time. 

Next on my learning agenda is the Black Box Software Testing course on Bug Advocacy!

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