Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Tweet, a Parker 75 and a Flat Tassie

ORIGINAL POST (9/13/2009)
Today I learned that I own a Parker 75. Among people who know anything about fountain pens, it's a well known model. I don't know much about fountain pens. I've always owned one or two that I use regularly. The Parker 75 belonged to my grandfather before it was handed down to me. I've had it for many, many years and I just called it "my grandfather's fountain pen." Now I know it's a Parker 75 with the crosshatch grid design.

It all started with a tweet that I caught early this morning. The tweet was pointing to the website of a fountain pen repair expert. A few clicks later I was entering the world of fountain pen collectors and discovering an entirely new vocabulary. I looked for photos of my grandfather's pen and it didn't take long to find it. It's a Parker 75 but there are many variations of this model. I have the crosshatch grid design that was common with the original production in the mid 1960s. Mine also has a flat tassie. Do you know what a tassie is? I had to look it up in the pen glossary.

There's a wonderful website where I learned all there is to know about the Parker 75.

I'm sending my Parker 75 (and its little brother, the matching mechanical pencil) to be repaired and cleaned up... all because of a tweet.

UPDATE (12/9/2015)
I lost my grandfather's Parker 75 on a trip last Spring.  I was missing it a great deal and decided that I needed to replace it, so I went online and found the same model on eBay over the summer. It feels exactly like the old one.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

What's Your Signature?

A while ago I wrote a post titled "What's Your Element?." In it, I talked about my reading of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Richardson. In this post, I am talking about a signature as something related to a person's element, yet distinct from it. A signature represents the unmistakably unique mark of someone's element. When someone is truly working with their element, the results have a unique signature. The results have their DNA or fingerprints all over.

I've worked on a number of projects in the past few years that have played a key role in my professional life. In the cases I'll mention below, I was the primary "architect" and the projects took on what I've come to recognize as my "signature."

Writers want to develop a unique voice, artists work to refine their unique style. Why wouldn't the average professional want to develop their own professional "signature"?

When something is uniquely yours, it's both your genius and your blind spots that are embedded in that unique signature. Ideally, collaborative work can help identify and address the blind spots and in the process, improve the final product or outcome. Yet collaborative work means compromise. Most artistic masterpieces are not collaborative works but rather the works of individual artists.

Here are four projects -- far from masterpieces -- that have my signature.
Two of the projects listed above were developed based on client / employer requests. The other two were developed purely on my own time. It's as if when I am assigned a significant project of this type at work, I make one up at home.

All four required substantive investments in research and synthesizing of knowledge. They are all signature products for me. Three out of the four required some innovative use of technology either in the development or dissemination of the product.

The first project, the ICT4D course, available on my website for several years since I stopped teaching it, continues to draw a significant number of hits every month. All of them have a didactic element. They are knowledge products. All of them involved doing something that had not been done before, an element of experimentation and pushing of some boundaries. Making the Connection is probably the best of the four because it got the benefit of significant help from a co-author and I had nothing to do with the final production process. It's definitely a finished professional product. The others have an amateurish look and feel to them.

A personal signature isn't the same as branding. Branding is about claiming some kind of ownership and you can brand products with your name even though they don't reflect anything like a signature. A signature isn't something you tag on to a product after the fact to claim it as yours. A signature is something about the product that claims you as the originator or creator.

Now if I could only look at these products objectively and identify my blind spots....

PS: This post falls in the category of half-baked insights that may or may not make sense. I have a feeling it's mixing apples and oranges. But then, isn't that were creative juices come from? Mixing apples and oranges? :)

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