Healthy computer use

When I first had problems with “overuse” it was still designated as repetitive stress injury (RSI).  Now it has become occupational overuse syndrome (OOS) or a number of other acronyms that I am ignoring.  Working with the computer in the past has contributed to OOS; however, even the “recreational” use can contribute to the problem–it is a cumulative problem.  I have a limited amount of keyboarding and mouse use that I can tolerate before symptoms appear.

Just like I’ve found some tools to compensate for weakened grip (e.g. Vice-Grip pliers), there are software tools that can reduce keying and mousing:  text expansion software, macro programs to automate repetitive tasks, and voice recognition software.  Why, when tools like that are available, have I only used them for work?  Some of those tools are applicable to other computer tasks at any time.

My options for producing this document are to use the keyboard or perhaps use voice recognition software.  Using voice recognition software sounds like a really great idea.  No keyboard or mouse, just talk (most of us do that really well).  That has both pros and cons just like anything else.  I have to have a quiet place to work–not a problem;  I usually work in quiet places.  Voice recognition or continuous speech recognition software requires training for the user’s voice and manner of speaking;  again, no problem.  I am the only user of this computer.

However, there is a problem with doing all computer work with voice recognition software.  First, there is the possibility of another overuse problem:  speech is a physiologic process involving muscles and tissues that can be overused just like the wrists and hands.  Secondly, it is really NOT the most efficient; optimum efficiency comes with a mixture of voice recognition and keyboard use.  There is some reduction in keyboard use but there are times when dictation/voice recognition software just does not “fit”.  Some things are just more easily written than spoken since we often write in a much different way than we speak.  Sometimes we want to be formal (voice recognition does that well), sometimes just “chatty”. (It’s much easier for me to just key in “chatty” than it is to explain to voice recognition software that I want that  word enclosed in quotation marks, but with proper training, my voice recognition program does a beautiful job on nucleus reticularis pontis oralis.)

In some work, you may need to accomplish repetitive tasks many times a day: copy from a PDF document and paste into SKY (or other indexing software), then return to the PDF document.  That does not sound like much if you think of it only in terms of doing it once.  But if you are doing that many times a workday, then there is a lot of repetition that can be eliminated (mouse and keyboard) by using a macros.

In my computer use away from my work, I may not do the same repetitive tasks but I can use the same tools to do other repetitive things.  If I can make work easier, then I have more computer time left for the fun things–write blog posts, etc.  I obviously need to evaluate all the ways that I can make both work and recreational computer use more efficient (and avoid wearing those damn wrist braces as much as possible).

A macro can enter date and time on emails, for example, instead of keying it in. Many programs have the capability for using macros, or you can add macro program that works in multiple applications. SKY Index Pro can use macros–I’d imagine that Cindex and Macrex can as well. It is important to look at how you use your computer.

Another software tool that I have used is a text expander–used first simply as a means to be more productive–produce more text with fewer keystrokes and much faster than I could key.  A program like this can be useful in writing: when you encounter words like esophagogastroduodenoscopy.  (I CAN spell that word, but there are lots of possibilities for “fumble-fingered” typographical errors.) If I can produce that same word (26 letters) with only a few keystrokes (perhaps 4 keystrokes) , then I have gained both time, saved keystrokes (wear and tear on the hands), and reduced the likelihood of typographical errors. Even if I had reduced my keystrokes only by half to produce that word, it is saving time and keystrokes.

Not all my vocabulary is words of that length, but there are possibilities for shorter words (kohlrabi) and phrases too. Your indexing software probably has a feature similar to text expansion. In SKY Index Pro there are two ways to reduce keystrokes built in–autocomplete and a feature to expand short forms that you enter (e.g. fdaj expands to Food and Drug Administration (FDA)).

For those of us who earn our living using a computer, prevention is much easier than surgery or recovery. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) does occur in young individuals, but unfortunately, we are all ageing, and the severity and likelihood of CTS does increase with the passing years. We should all be aware of the signs and symptoms of CTS and aim for prevention so that we have long and productive careers in indexing.

Good editing advice

We all have to edit our indexes before we send them off and we all want to spend as little time as possible doing that.  This was a topic that was touched on at the recent ASI conference in Portland ME.

There’s a great follow-up article in the Potomac Indexing Blog by Meghan Brawley that I’d recommend any indexer concerned with editing should read:  Indexing and Editing as You Go.

The personal Facebook page…

In the presentations at the 2017 ASI conference on online presence, there were various views on using Facebook–a business page or a personal page. Do you have clients on your personal page? Do you have only a business page?

I value my personal Facebook page as a place to have connections with people I don’t see often–other indexers and friends. I do have long-standing clients as friends on my Facebook page. I don’t view that as unprofessional or inappropriate, nor do I view my personal page as a place to get business–though it has happened.

I view my personal page as keeping in contact–like being able to sit down to visit over a cup of coffee (or other beverage). It’s casual. I’m casual, too, but not about business. However, good, repeat clients also become friends. If I were to meet them as I was walking by a cafe I’d be likely to invite them to join me for a cup of coffee or tea or whatever, just to catch up as I would another friend.

I think our choices about using Facebook depend on our business personality–mine is pretty casual and even my blog includes pictures of the cat and comments on my bees; clients on your personal page may be inappropriate for the nature of your business. That’s the great thing about the internet, blogging, and social media–we have a lot of freedom in how we use it in the way best suited for our business.


That online presence…

I’m back from the ASI 2017 conference–as usual filled with inspiration. I’ve had my duvet day for recuperation from the horrendously early flight that I took from Portland ME to RDU. It was a good conference, I learned a lot, and I had a chance to visit with indexers face-to-face over breakfast, dinner, or just coffee.

One of the particular benefits of this conference for me was discussion of having an online presence. Gwen Henson did a great presentation on “Developing Your Online Presence” that provided insight of how to do that, and tools that help. The presentation “Successful Blogging and Content Creation” by Meghan Brawley sent me home with so many ideas of what and how to improve my blog.

As I start thinking about all those things, it really brought home all the things that you have to do when you’re blogging–things that aren’t immediately obvious–kind of behind the scenes, but very necessary–in addition to creating content for the blog–there’s maintenance to be done. Here are two that came to mind as I was reviewing my blog this morning.

  • Are your links functional? It’s easy to neglect is checking to be sure the links in your previous posts are still functional. If not you should try to re-establish them, find a replacement, or at least acknowledge that the link is not still functional so that you don’t have a frustrated reader trying to use that link.
  • Is the information you presented still appropriate? It’s possible that information presented in that post from three (or more) years ago has changed–new discoveries, new procedures, or changes in best practices. If your professional organization has changed or modified its name, make sure you are up to date in your use. (Perhaps another post on why that change was made?) If that is the case, you need to consider a solution: delete, revise, or at least add a note indicating you are aware of the changes–that might even make a new post (always looking for content).

I’m sure more maintenance tasks will occur to me as I try to be more conscientious in maintaining online presence!


My cat needs me…

I love indexing. I love working free-lance but as with even the best things, there are some “downside” things. One is that freelance indexing can be rather solitary. I appreciate Facebook as it allows me to keep in contact with other indexers in between conferences but nothing compares to meeting the “names and pictures” face to face, hearing indexing spoken, and the learning and new ideas that always come from professional meetings like the American Society for Indexing (ASI) national conferences.

img_20141212_110527255_hdrEven with all those good things, I am always glad to head for home. I have this silly idea that my cat probably needs me (despite most excellent care from a good friend while I’m away) and I’m anticipating seeing what the bees have done while I’ve been away. So I’m glad to be packing up and contemplating my early morning plane ride home.

As usual, I leave the conference with new ideas, new friends, and reconnection with old friends and appreciation of the contributions of other indexers to my development as a professional in the field of indexing. I also leave with a little sadness that I won’t see many of these people for another year. There is the hope that in some way I’ve managed to leave a contribution to the profession and to pay forward some of the benefits that I’ve gained from ASI members.


Portland ME

When I flew out of Durham NC it was 90ºF. When I arrived in Portland ME for the American Society of Indexing conference it was 91ºF on Tuesday. But the weather has improved–it’s now what I expected of Maine.

I was so glad to have some time to act like a tourist before we start the conference–my schedule hasn’t often allowed that. I’ve been out walking around, enjoying the clear, cool weather, and listening to the gulls.

Part of being a tourist was to go to the Portland Art Museum–to spend hours browsing amongst paintings by Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Winslow Homer, and a lot of American painters and sculptors with which I was not familiar. I could go back and spend many more hours. It’s well worth the price of admission.

Obviously, I’m a book fan–and there was a book shop with the museum. I couldn’t leave without a souvenir and given my interest in food, it certainly wasn’t possible to pass up a book by Kate Christiansen with the title “How to Cook a Moose”. On the lighter side, I bought a booklet of postcards featuring some of Edward Hopper’s lesser known works–including some land- and seascapes.

Until Sunday, my tourist activity is mostly on hold as we get to work on learning more about indexing.

A little indexing humor….

I think we indexers often need a laugh, so I wanted to share a link that I discovered while doing some research in preparation for an embedded index project that I expect to have later this summer and fall.

On the Leverage Technologies website, while looking up some information on IXMLembedder, under the resources I found a section on Indexing Humor about Indexing & Indexers.

I especially enjoyed the limericks and haiku but got smiles out of a lot of the other things there (in addition to the information I went looking for).