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October 28, 2006

(Book)Mark My Words

2002, the year of the crappy job. EVERYONE had a crappy job after 9/11; either you lost your job, or a bunch of other people lost theirs, giving you even more work to do (for paranoid bosses) in their sad retreat. In any case, many of us dulled the pain with constant web surfing, giving rise to the bloated corpse that was the Favorites folder. This piece was the cure for that ailment. (Well, at least it hid the corpse where no one could see it.)

© January 2003, Melissa Bradley Diskin (for The Broadsheet)

Title: (Book)Mark My Words

January is the time to inaugurate the New Year with fresh resolutions for better living. Here is one easily kept resolution for those who love the Internet but wish to save time and sanity in the coming year: Organize your Internet bookmarks.

We all know the symptoms: After months of beating deadlines, of hot-on-the-trail research, or of following your best friend’s email to “check out this great site,” you discover that accessing your entire “Favorites” list now entails scrolling down several screens. Most prominent on your list is www.menwholooklikekennyrogers.com -- and you don’t even like country music.

The most important thing to remember is that the best, most reliable information tends to stay on the Web in one form or another and is easily reached via a good search engine. You don’t have to save everything on your own desktop in order to have it at your digital fingertips.

Now, take action: if your out-of-control bookmarks are on your work computer, create one folder inside your favorites list (In Internet Explorer, go to Favorites>Organize Favorites>Create Folder) and dump every non-work-related link into it. Call it “Funny Stuff” or “Personal” or “Miscellaneous” and set it aside for now. The important thing is to separate the links you need for your job from those you don’t.

Next, take a good look at the remaining work-related links. If you drag and drop different ones next to each other, you’ll find that your bookmarks fall naturally into several categories. The number of categories will differ for each person, but seven to twelve seems to be the magic spread of useful categorization -- and remember, you can always sub-categorize later!

Create folders for these categories, avoiding names like “Work Stuff” that are too generic. A few of your links may not warrant a folder unto themselves – either they’re too specific to be grouped with the others or you use them several times a day. Keep the latter “outside” your list of folders at the top of your list for fast access.

The last step: dealing with your non-work-related links. Feel free to toss a few back into your main bookmark area – a news site or two, a link to Amazon.com, or something similarly useful. (It goes without saying that any link on your list should adhere to workplace rules and regulations regarding Internet usage.) Think of each as a mental health break that keeps you from “all work, no play,” but restrict use during work hours. Like too-frequent coffee breaks, a surfeit of web surfing can shift your career trajectory into low gear.

Now that you’ve organized your working list of sites, what should you do with your “funny stuff?” If you’re feeling brave, delete the folder entirely. You won’t miss it (if you do miss it, you’re in the wrong job.) If you want to hang on to its contents, at least get the folder off your work computer: Go to File>Import and Export and use the wizard to export your these bookmarks to a file that you can save on disk and take home with you, to import into your home computer for laughs and shopping off the company time.

Melissa Bradley Diskin is an information architect and writer living in Atlanta whose Favorites list at home includes a link to the manufacturer of the composted manure she uses in her garden.

All You Need is Love (Get It Within 2 Clicks)

I wrote this piece called "All You Need is Love (Get It Within 2 Clicks)" for the February 2003 issue of The Broadsheet, a now-defunct Atlanta publication for professional women. Nothing like reminiscing about the job slump of 2003 to keep me in a proper Thanksgiving mood!

©Feb 2003 Melissa Bradley Diskin

All You Need is Love (Get It Within 2 Clicks)

February is such a dreary month that I suspect Valentine’s Day was invented just to cheer us up after too many blustery days. But what can you do if you’re unattached on a day meant for couples? Why, love yourself, of course. Here are some great sites that let you do just that:

How to love yourself as a working professional:
In this dismal economic downturn, it’s easy to under-rate your worth. Take a trip to www.salary.com, where a few clicks will show you the salary range for your job within a metro area or zip code. Want to move on? The “One-Click Job Search” area on the results page allows you to look directly for related positions. If you don’t wish to leave your job but do want to negotiate for better compensation, the site’s Advice section offers a “Negotiating Clinic” that offers pointers for better bargaining.

If your current “job” entails a weekly call-in to the Department of Labor for a small check, you may wish to check out the latest in freelance leads. Membership in the Freelance Forum, www.freelanceforum.org, offers networking, support, and monthly programs designed to make the practical matters of running a business a snap. For a glance at a bidding site for creative freelancers, go to www.creativemoonlighter.com, where freelancers bid on projects and contracts submitted by clients in need of creative talent.

How to buy love when the dozen reds just won’t do:
Shopping therapy isn’t just for lonelyhearts. Whether you’re a singleton or just another married woman who received yet another dozen-red-roses bouquet, there’s nothing like an accessories roundup to perk you up before springtime. To splurge, head to www.granvillemillinerycompany.com to find the most beautiful hats ever. Can’t afford these lovelies? For chapeaux on the cheap, head to www.judithm.com, where you can buy hats of all shapes and sizes (and the trimmings to put on them) for a song – I bought two straw hats in interesting shapes for a total of 16 bucks.

If your form of self-love is to watch your pocketbook a little too closely, keep the faith with www.pearlriver.com, where lovely, inexpensive treats can be had for next to nothing (it’s one of Budget Living magazine’s key product sites). Try the brocade-covered notebooks for only $3.95, the Shanghai Lady paper coaster set for $5.00, and many more stylish Asian-themed items for home and office.

Melissa Bradley Diskin is an information architect and writer living in Atlanta who would give her right arm for the “Lillie” hat at Granville Millinery Company. She can be reached via email at bradleymelissa@hotmail.com.



October 26, 2006

The Organic Explainer

This was one of my first pieces for CNN.com, and it seems incredibly basic now, but at the time the whole notion of a standard "organic" label was brand spanking new. And no one knew just what it meant. And so this very short "organic explainer" was put together. Read it and marvel at how far we've come in ten years (In organic food knowledge and in writing for the web...).