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« WSJ Moleskine Article: More Linkage | Main | The Mac mini and Moleskines »
Thursday
Jan132005

Wall Street Journal Mention in Jeremy Wagstaff's Loose Wire

On Wednesday morning January 5th, I received an email from Dow Jones columnist Jeremy Wagstaff. Jeremy writes the Loose Wire column for The Wall Street Journal Online (wsj.com) and The Asian Wall Street Journal.

In his web searches for Moleskine references, Jeremy came across my weblog and wrote to ask for an email interview for an upcoming article. The article was to be on paper vs digital notebooks — more precisely how different people fit paper notebooks into their digital lives.

As a Moleskine and Miquelrius fan, I was intrigued. I spent some time replying to Jeremy's questions over my lunch break and sent them off, wondering if I might be fortunate enough to appear in the Wall Street Journal.

A week passed. This evening, Jeremy sent an IM to me, to confirm that a portion of my interview would be appearing in his Loose Wire column in the January 14th edition of both The Wall Street Journal Online (wsj.com) and The Asian Wall Street Journal.

High fives! Happy dance! Woooooohoo! :-)

The only downside: Jeremy wasn't able to make use of my entire interview (which I admit was quite long and detailed). However, Jeremy is also a blogger, and has posted the entire interview on his site.

As a service to my readers, I've decided to post the entire interview here as well. Please feel free to add your comments.

The Moleskine Report, Part II
Continuing to add material that I could not include, or could not include much of, in my WSJ.com, piece (which comes out today), here's the second emailed reply that I thought might interest readers. It's from Mike Rohde, a graphic and web designer, working for the international engineering and web services firm MakaluMedia, and I include his reply in its entirety because it's very interesting:

I work remotely from home with colleagues in Germany, Spain, France and Ireland, helping design and building web applications, web sites for small & medium-sized firms and corporate identity work.

I manage projects with my colleagues and clients via email, IM chat, voice over IP, phone and web, from my home office. So as you can see I work pretty digitally during the day.

Personally I am quite digitally oriented as well, writing a weblog, reading many weblogs, using email, chat and VOIP with international friends. Specifically, I have text and VOIP chats with one friend living in the UK on a weekly basis via Apple iChat.

I was introduced to PCs and technology as a teen, when my dad explored his interest in computers. I now see this was critical to the way I work now, as my experimentation and use of computers then, reduced the fear of technology very early, and gave me the sense that I could bend technology to my needs.

My higher education was focused on graphic design. Following graduation, I spent 9 years as a print designer and system manager for a design studio, moving into web design in the late 90s. In 1998 I began working with MakaluMedia, remotely from my home office.

As you know I have an interest in sketching with Moleskines; I also use a Miquelrius sketchbook for generating ideas and layouts for my business activities, like design ideas, logo concepts and so on.

However, after some thought, I chose to use a digital approach for recording my business diary, which I have found works quite well. Further, I enjoy using paper diaries to record personal thoughts and observations, mainly because I enjoy the tactile feel of paper and pen.

So, I enjoy both digital and analog means of recording thoughts, depending upon the use and context. Hopefully that provides you with a good starting point about me and my approach. :-)

Here are my answers to the questions you have posed:

What do you use, exactly, in digital and paper terms?
How do you use them?

Digital:
-----------
1. Business Diary: I keep a business journal as a plain text document on my Mac Powerbook. There I record MakaluMedia related thoughts, web links and comments of clients and colleagues. I separate entries by date and archive each month's diary to dated plain text files (Makalu-Diary-2004-12.txt). The current month's diary is synchronized to my palmOne Tungsten E PDA via DataViz DocumentsToGo.

2. Project Specific Notes: These kept in DayLite, a networked Mac OS X business application very much like ACT! for PC. Notes relative to projects recorded in my business diary and emails are copied into DayLite as notes for access by myself and my MakaluMedia colleagues.

3. Business & Personal Links: I store interesting business and personal web bookmarks at my del.icio.us account and also in the Safari browser on my Mac.

4. Personal Blog: This is my public forum for thoughts, ideas, reflections, designs, sketches and whatever else seems pertinent to my personal and business life. I try to be encouraging, inspiring, humorous, serious here, but the entries are definitely for public consumption. I do share personal details but have an internal gut feel for where the line ought to be.

Because I built a reputation writing the Palm Tipsheet for many years (it was sold in '03), many of my longstanding blog readers are Palm users who came from that newsletter. I do like to discuss mobile tech, but intentionally explore other topics, because I think life is broader than technology.

5. Personal Notes & Sketches: I also occasionally write notes (Memo Pad) or make digital sketches (Note Pad) with my palmOne Tungsten E, which are then synchronized to my Mac Powerbook.

Paper (Analog):
--------------------
1. Business Concepts & Sketches: Stored in my Miquelrius gridded notebook. This is the place were I start ideas going, work out concepts (visual or textual) and sketch layouts for websites or logos. Often my sketches will be scanned and presented to clients and colleagues to show concepts or direction before I flesh out ideas on the computer.

2. Personal Sketches: Small Moleskine sketchbook for sketching (e.g. proj: exhibition sketchtoons), and a small Moleskine gridded notebook for ideas and concepts I come up with (e.g. ideas for home or personal projects, dream tech concepts, etc.).

3. Personal Diary: Small Italian-made notebook for recording thoughts of the day, reflections and goals. Usually I enter thoughts at night in bed, or at the café over coffee in this diary. Entries are not regular (daily) but rather entered when I have the need or urge to get something down.

(Note: I can provide scans from my paper sources if they are helpful)

Why still use paper?
Refuge & Escape from the Digital World. Paper is a refuge from my very digital lifestyle. I spend quite a bit of time on my Mac (at work and personally), so time with a nice pen, rich black ink or smooth pencil lead on crisp paper, are very much an escape from bits and pixels.

Immediacy. The immediacy of paper is very gratifying. I can knock out several concept sketches in the time it might take to fiddle around with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop on just one tight drawing. Further, immediacy and looseness of ink or pencil on paper lets me explore with more latitude. I find that once I move to the computer, my ideas naturally tighten up and loose their loose qualities.

No batteries required. I love that my sketchbooks require no battery or wall connection. If the power goes dead, I can still work with my sketchbook and pen. The simplicity of a book and pen keeps me from getting hung up on technical issues as often pop up carrying a laptop and peripherals to support it, or choosing which café has WiFi so I can remain connected.

Portability. When I need to be creative, I just grab my sketchbook and head for a local café or library -- the ideas just seem to flow. I also like that a sketchbook can be kept in a pocket at all times, without regard to cold or heat, or location. Sketchbooks can also take a beating better than techy gadgets. :-)

Any particular Eureka moment on using paper?
Probably about a year ago I started realizing that I was using sketches less that I had in the past for my business design work at MakaluMedia. I decided to focus on making sketching an integrated part of my work. Since integrating sketching I've noticed my creativity has improved greatly.

Are you alone, or does everyone you know follow the same practice?
As I work alone from my home office, I can only comment on my own methods directly, though the posts I have made related to use of paper sketchbooks and diaries have brought interesting comments from other digital folks who also integrate paper into their lives. Many are Moleskine fans like me, others feel that paper offers them options not easily available digitally.

Do you get odd looks for using paper?
Quite to the contrary — people who see my business or personal sketchbooks are always interested in having a look at them, and comment how they wish they could draw. I encourage them to give it a try, because a paper sketchbook or journal are just tools to get your mind working creatively.

Do you think paper and digital might merge, a la Logitech's io Pen, or is that the wrong way of looking at things?
I think there is an overlap. I have not used a Wacom tablet for some time, but am actually considering one now, to see what options it might offer me on the digital side of things. I do think there is a wide open market for digital tools which work in conjunction with analog sketching and notes, such as the IO pen. I would love to try the IO pen as well.

Thanks, Mike, for such a long and interesting answer.

Thank you Jeremy for the opportunity! :-)

So, if you happen to subscribe to WSJ.com or are have access to the Asian Wall Street Journal, have a look for Loose Wire by Jeremy Wagstaff. I'd love to hear about sightings and maybe see about having a copy of the paper shipped here.

Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for posting this fascinating article Mike. Like you, I'm a Palm user, but I have been trying to integrate writing/sketching into his life more and more over recent months, and, after coveting the things for years have finally got round to buying myself a Moleskine. I've also been following your sketchtoons with great interest, and this article describing exactly how you use what media was great. Finding a division between digital and paper that you are comfortable with and that works for you is a lot trickier than you think at first!
January 13, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNeal
congrats and kudos, Mike.
January 14, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNarayan
Very nice Mike, and congrats to you on the big time recognition!
January 16, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBobR
Thanks Neal, Narayan and Bob!

Neal, I'm happy to hear my descriptiveness was helpful. I was a bit worried about loading so much text on Jeremy, but I figured that way he'd have more to choose from. :-)

It has taken some time to figure out what is the best balance for my note and sketching needs. Well, sketching is clearly a paper thing, but finding the right choice of digital for work and analog for personal just took time and thought. In the end it came down to practicality, a digital diary being searchable for work, while personal thoughts didn't require this feature.

I hope my efforts will help guide you on your search for digital vs. paper balance.
January 18, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
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