Thursday, January 1, 2009

I was wrong - 2008

I’ve been thinking a little bit about how to finish 2008 and start 2009 here on i9606 and the things that spring first to mind are mistakes made in my thinking this past year. Maybe this is because mistakes are where learning happens or maybe its simply because I tend to be self-critical in my self reflection. In any case, here are just two of the many things I got wrong this past year with a few thoughts on why.

  • I really thought I was going to graduate in 2008, but I was wrong
I think that this happened for two reasons, first, I got distracted by a side-project and second, I didn’t have a clear idea of what really constitutes a dissertation. In hindsight, when the project that was supposed to take two weeks reached, maybe 5 weeks, I should have dropped it and moved on – well before it had a chance to eat up seven more months of effort. I think that if I had a clearer vision of the end goal, of the dissertation in this case, I might have made better decisions regarding the use of my time in the short term.  
  • I wrote in a comment in a post by Timo Hannay that I would continue to blog even if no one ever read my posts, that the most important audience for these words is my future self rather than friends and unknown others, but, once again, I was wrong
At the time, I was reacting against the apparently popular desire to bottle up the blog form, especially in scientific contexts, into something overly specific, to classify it as science writing for a popular or otherwise uninformed audience. To me it never really felt like that. It has always been an intensely personal platform without any higher purpose beyond myself and I always considered my audience likley to be better informed than me. I confess. I write here exclusively for my own benefit and believe that most other writers do the same. Though there are a few others, the main reason I started to write here and still do is to attract feedback on my ideas. I am after that most precious resource, the attention of informed and intelligent colleagues. Without occasional comments, I suppose that I would eventually give it up and move things over to a private journal. So, thanks everyone for all of your responses in 2009, I really appreciate them and will do my best to reciprocate where I can. (The consequences of this need for feedback and the pattern of seeking it in public, digital space are, I believe, interesting and wide-reaching, but that is food for another post.)

What mistakes did you make in 2008?

Happy 2009 everyone!


Duncan Hull said...

Hi Ben, best wishes for graduation (and prosperity) in 2009. I made loads of mistakes in 2008, too many to document here, but most of them were new mistakes. P.S. Will get back to you soon about the BioMOBY data email you sent...

Alexander Griekspoor said...

Hi Ben,
I guess everyone makes mistakes, luckily I have a selective memory and they weren't big enough to get stuck in it ;-)
Here's for Dr. Ben in 2009!

Benjamin Good said...

Ahh, come on guys, you must be willing to share at least one (fictional or real) mistake you made last year ;). I'll be doing my best to simultaneously delete knowledge of previous mistakes while avoiding their repetition in 2009, wish me luck with that!

marijke said...

Hi Ben,
I'm not going to tell you about that: I still hope that my mistakes of the past year will soon be re-categorised as assets... making mistakes in identifying the real mistakes did happen before.

Anyway, happy new year and all the best with the last steps for graduating!