Making sense out of data: coding, creating, contributing

Ok,  here’s what I’ve been doing in the previous couple of weeks (among other things).  I cannot reveal it completely right now, just a little sneak-peak (see the snapshot). Beside e-resources and data I’ve been collecting, processing, and analysing, I’ve created a huge analogue map made out of more than 60 printed spreadsheets all over the office wall, and added some colour and cross-thematic coding. Now my creativity, the scientific story-telling, and writing is what I am challenging myself with in the next couple of weeks.

Many of you searched in the box up here on the site how to overcome digital divides, and what are digital divides present in social media now so I know there is also a lot of interest in those topics. Some of my work on this will be published early in December.  The book chapter I’ve contributed to the Routledge Advances in Sociology series will be published in May 2013.  The link to the forthcoming book is http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415525442/

summer updates and the best ways to contact me

I have few announcements, and the ways on how you can contact/find me this summer:

-         Science Online 2013 last call for program suggestions. If you want to participate in ScienceOnline 2013, the 7th annual international meeting on Science and the Web next January, NC, USA, add your program suggestion at #scio13 wiki. If you like my proposal within the education track and want to join me to conduct the session together: Digital Divide in Education and Science: Bridging the Existing Gaps (scroll down to find) – please add your name/contact on the wiki page before July 1st 2012. I’d be glad to meet those of you interested in digital divides that go beyond pure technological issues/affordances and discuss it with a wider audience.

-          Australian Science contributions. If you’d like to contribute and join an international, multidisciplinary, wonderful group of science and tech bloggers, researchers, scholars, and write for Australian Science, you can contact me on my editor’s email: danica@australianscience.com.au.  Also, please read my note we published earlier this year, it will give you better idea and help you see if you fit.

-          Mentoring and replying to students’ emails and enquiries.  I am sorry that I can’t mentor and help students world wide on certain issues in academia, as a research or reference guide as I used to do so far, voluntarily, whenever I had time. The next few months will be brutal and I have to say ‘no’.  Also, you are welcome to quote from my blog or my publications and research whenever you like. Please, just cite it properly (you can use Google Scholar Citations) so that your professors or reviewers don’t think you’re plagiarizing.

-         Speaking/workshop/training gigs during the summer: I have to say ‘no’ since I am engaged with the project which is now my highest priority. You can contact my speaking/conference/events agent for the future events starting from October 2012, by using the contact form.

I am practicing saying ‘no’ for the sake of being free for future engagements this Fall. I hope you understand. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be hermiting all the time, though I often will. I am open for scheduled meet-ups, conversations, brainstorming sessions, chats (see below how to contact me). I’ll be writing mostly in my hideaway, out and about, in the green areas, or just going for a weekend escapades around Europe when I need a breather.

Of course, there are situations where you can always contact me: a) want to share something interesting that requires my attention from the Fall 2012, or some life/cultural/artistic/literature/book you read/ info or event that can distract me in a good way from the project, b) you want to blog and contribute for Australian science, and c) for conferences, workshops, events enquiries – send your email on my contact form on the web site.

I may also blog randomly when inspired. I may also randomly scribble on Google plus, and post on Tumblr. When I create there’s usually the silence but if you see my Last.fm overwhelmed with various tunes – it also denotes that I may be working or dancing around.

The best ways to find and contact me.

Here is the communication protocol I created. Before you read it you’ll notice that messengers, g-chat, etc. are missing. Have in mind that I avoid IM/text messaging, especially, in the next couple of months due to work overload, and preserving my wrists from RSI. I rather use voice/email for non/formal communication. OK, here are the best ways to contact and find me (the URL of the protocol can be found here as well):

Email. If you want to share information, make a specific request, converse and meditate on some topic – email is the best way on the internet to contact me. Both professional and personal. I like to receive and read e-motion in my mailbox. I may not reply right away depending on the overload-ness for that day/week, but certainly you’ll get the reply. And vice versa – if I happen to check my email, I may respond right away.

Twitter. If you can’t email me, sending a reply or a direct message on Twitter is the best online tool for quick and concise information online, usually non formal and professionally related. I also exchange direct messages with friends and colleagues on my private account.

SMS. If you can’t email me, and don’t use Twitter – you can sms me. I usually prefer to receive sms before calling, whether friends and family or colleagues.

Phone. I may be an old fashioned gal, but I still use and converse via phone. If you are a colleague or professional partner, you can check my availability via email or sms, and we can arrange an appointment. Friends and family can call me anytime especially if there’s an urgent request or you simply need to chat with me.

SKYPE. If you can’t call me: I use Skype for professional, academic, and consulting purposes, as well as for the communication with colleagues. I avoid to use IM on Skype for a small talk, instead I prefer voice/audio chat-conversation with friends and colleagues, and/or video call (if we have an appointment, and I’m not in my PJs). I like Skype since I maintain most of my professional and friends contacts there, beside an email and phone.

Face-to-Face communication. If you can’t Skype with me: I do love meetings, tweet-ups, rendez-vous, brainstorming, coffee/tea/lunch breaks, etc. – in person! Due to living at different places and countries or travel for business and pleasure; planning (more…)

mysterious case of DR’s HDD: breathe and reboot

Do you remember the stories when computer engineer advices you to store all the important files on the partition D, and the partition C is for the Program files? Well, forget about it. The hard drive on my laptop is dead. In a seconds. No data saved. On both partitions. “But HOW?”, my friend screamed out this morning.

I have been using laptop computers for over a decade. Simply, my dynamic life style, frequent travels and the change of living and working places since the end of the 90′s determined that I will be using laptops. I had them many and experienced different malfunctions, software errors, but never so far had any major problems with hard discs, major enough to have complete crash and lost of data. I heard that  such situations usually happen on weekends when technicians are not working. Now I believe in that.

Yesterday morning I had this message on the screen: PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable. PXE-M0F: Existing Broadcom PXE ROM. I couldn’t start up the system, manipulate HDD from BIOS, find out what happened since I have relatively new laptop that is known for the excellent performance, durability, features. I tweeted out and facebooked on my ac.account the news and asked for help. I got some assumptions. Today, someone who happen to be computer engineer tried to boot my laptop from bios using Linux/Ubuntu, but failed. BIOS showed zero hard drive. Our fear became the worst case scenario that happened in really not desirable time in the project flow.

I haven’t back-up data in the last 25 days, at least. I haven’t saved my important files in the Dropbox either. I haven’t used the USB flash to back up my current work and projects I am working on, now. I lost them all in the seconds. We went to the computer service and the official technician immediately got me back in their working offices, opened the laptop, tested the hard drive on something few times, detected and announced it is dead. No help. No data extract. Nothing. They had to replace it with new one. I couldn’t say I was upset as much as I was shocked with the fact it actually happened without the reason and the fact that I am a good user, have the great laptop, and good life karma. We don’t know why did it happen. Neither the technician. He said in his twenty years of fixing computers sometimes things happen without the reason. In between what have happened today, I tweeted mostly and many of you have contacted me, and called me, even long distance. I am appreciating any of reaction of yours, kind words, support and help. That matters.

What I have lost is all data I’ve been working in the last 3, 4 weeks on the design of projects’ protocol, then research recent doc’s, e-Articles (that I can resume though). I also lost the TREE design on the mindmap, app files, all the relevant bookmarks (over 24 000!) for work and research that I will never be able to find or resume, many GB’s of photography (only 1/50  you can see on Flickr), over 300 GB of music (those around me know that music is “must” when I work), etc. I have less than 90 hrs to send the relevant documents before the deadline and I am writing this blog post while I download simultaneously eleven programs and services I may need, that I can think of at the moment, as I lost also the list of the existing programs in the previous life of this laptop.  I don’t even think about emails I lost in Thunderbird (please if anyone knows how to / if possible/ to bring back all the emails from different accounts, even those non existing, email me).  Some of you suggested there are disk doctors who can extract data, but I assume it costs a lot, and my technician told me that probably folks from Taiwan, who manufactured HDD, could retrieve the data.

But then, I believe that this event and data crash, and the new HDD will lead to newer and better things, more inspiring thoughts and productive ideas for the current and future projects. I perceive it as some kind of wonderful test. Test of the machine and test in life, and the relations with others. I didn’t tell you that I was writing a lot in my Moleskine notebooks in the last 24hrs. And there is more hard work for me in the next few hours. Nothing is lost, everything is on breathe and reboot.

My dear friend Simon Baddeley just sent me this quote that I will end my machine/data rumbling with:

“Sir Isaac Newton had on his table a pile of papers upon which were written calculations that had taken him twenty years to make. One evening, he left the room for a few minutes, and when he came back he found that his little dog “Diamond” had overturned a candle and set fire to the precious papers, of which nothing was left but a heap of ashes.
““O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the damage thou hast done”.

Updated: I got Serendipity moment today. The technician “fixed”, by good chance, my, as I thought previously broken touch pad, by simply unlocking it with two keys. Goodness me, I spent months at OUCS, with Oxford engineers who couldn’t solve the mystery of not working touch pad advising to buy wifi mouse as the procedure of hardware touch pad fixing would last a month or two. In less than two hours, technician du jour showed me how it works now. Oi!

upcoming events/travels

From Thursday I’m off to UK tour visiting friends around England’s, ending up far North, and after New years Eve returning back to pack for States. I won’t be checking my email regularly, but will be here and there online. My mobile will be on, I receive and send tweet DM’s regularly, and wherever wifi allows me to be present – I’ll be networked. You can check my schedule on Dopplr (if you’re a friend and using it, let me know), and of course – my Twitter stream updates. I’ll bring with me lot of eBooks and literature to read, some of those are good old paper books that I’m looking forward to hold and read.

Also, I’m ready for Science Online conference on the east coast, USA this/next January, to meet again wonderful folks from all over the globe, interact and collaborate. I miss my friends and colleagues, so I’m looking forward to see you all very soon. If you didn’t signed up for the Friday morning workshop I’m giving on social media tools and services, please do register. The only requirement is to bring yourself and laptop.

Next year will be super-excited and challenging for me in every field, as the 2009. was absolutely wonderful bringing lot of great events, people, awards, places I’ve been living/working, and the great adventures. I’m looking forward to 2010, hoping to be even better, as the same I wish to all of you who are reading these words. In the next year, I’ll be writing for different media too, so you’ll read me on other places on Web. It will be challenging both for work and PhD research, dissertation and other activities, I don’t know where I’ll be next. All I know that I’d need to get disciplined and make some time during the year for myself and my personal life as 2009. was insanely working fun mixture of random nature escapades.

I may post in the mid-0f-travel adventure more of my thoughts or announcements, so stay tuned.

 

on global nomading

Wikipedia says that nomad is a Greek word νομάδες, nomádes, meaning “those who let pasture herds”, denoting communities of people who move from  one place to another, in other words a practice of continual movement with no fixed settlement. This rough definition implies to early communities of hunter-gatherers in Tibet or Siberia, but in industrial and information society it is a metaphor for aimless wandering, vagabonding from place to place. Modern nomads are high tech creators, frequent miles flyer’s, restless minds who have chosen nomadic way of life with no permanent residence, but rather moving from place to place. Either for work, education or personal reasons.

I didn’t think about this on deeper level, always took for granted when people would say: ah you’re world traveller, global nomad, as labeling in this context doesn’t mean much to me. And last night I had chat with an old colleague and friend residing in Amsterdam who recently returned from San Diego, California (one of the places I used to live) sharing the photos from the conference and time on the cliffs, as I was reminiscenting warm sunny winter Californian days from my studio in cold and foggy Oxford, when he said that we travellers, nomads never get bored. Which made me think: have I, by often travelling and changing place of living, working, studying, actually created in my subconsciousness denial not to be bored so I’d run for adventure, excitement, upgrading my knowledge and practice in work, meet new people, collaborate, search without the search, helping out where needed, being everywhere and nowhere? I assume a bit of all stated. And some more.

Which reminded me on one of my favourite novels – Baltasar and Blimunda, epic novel by Jose Saramago, where intuitive Blimunda who can see inside people, wanders for years for the search of millions of human “will” and together with soldier Baltasar in a quest of helping Bartolomeu, a renegade priest, to construct a flying machine. It all happens during inquisition time, in 18th century Portugal. We are living in 21st century where collaboration form of gathering inner “will” and building a flying machine is changed for gathering data and creating other forms of innovative endeavours where technomading is without the borders (even if it requires physical visa forms or paper) and individuum is free to move more than ever.

That provisory freedom may look for someone from aside as a great adventure, free spiritualism, carefreeness, but after years and years of global nomading, it becomes, in political, economical under threat to-become-insane-society, an urge to find a place or settle somewhere what would one call a base or a home. This apres nomading time was noticed even at our ancestors. Internet has gathered us into global tribe where many do practice global nomading online, but what about us who spend nights in hotels, waiting at the airports, celebrating important events in the air or conferences, out from family or friends?

I will return to this over and over, and maybe start writing somewhere my global travel notes (as I was suggested many times by my friends and family) and share them with you. This December and January is pretty full of travels and conferences [Englands, USA, Englands,  France?], everything is open. What is for sure is that I’m looking forward to sail the calm seas in the next period, looking for my future base. Encouraging news for the people in my country is visa-free system from December 19th, and is a reason plus for nomading around Europe, and beyond.

Summer updates

Blogging,events,life,meme,random thoughts,World wide — Danica @ 2:45 pm, August 11, 2009

Before I go for so long needed vacation [still have no clue where exactly yet, send suggestions, so far got invitation for Corfu and other places around Serbia], I have tons of things to finish.

Some of then include ICSD2009 and reviewing process, finalizing AP using foaf that implied people and networking, following up with EU/UN project, fare-welling with Rome, moving (again), and then coping with administration due to my future travels and government [I may hire an assistant in Belgrade],  writing chapters for a book in co-authorship (more about it here) ideally at some beach, and then heading to UK.  My contact email will be active as I’ll have the Interwebs here and there, but don”t expect prompt reply (especially if I’m on the beach).

For Serbian readers, I have blog in Serbian and feed to subscription. Yes – expect more updates on social media focused on Serbia, follow me on Twitter for daily updates, and here’s the latest interview with me on Scienceblogs.com – enjoy and happy summer!

Attacking the tasks: How to keep up with parallel projects?

Sometimes 140 characters are not enough to express myself,  so I decided to write a reflection on motivation, organization, tasks, projects, and how I keep up with everything as reply to your questions, rants on Twitter.  It’s summer time and most of you are on vacation, but some of us still work.

Many of you asked, complained on Twitter how one keep up with parallel projects, tasks, many of you fell overwhelmed, stressed out, etc.  Some of you asked how do I attack tasks, and what does it mean. Just to let you know you are not the only one in the multitasking/parallel projects/tasks executing. But somehow I found my way to keep up with many projects that I face every day (no rocket science). Here are simple things I practice in order to attack my tasks and not vice versa, and they work for me so far.

Emails.
What I’m practicing lately is to see just few relevant emails per day, not zillions as it was in the past.
I managed to teach my inbox to behave. How? I’ve filtered emails within topics or subjects and labeled them. So only important emails I receive on daily basis from the people I expect emails, others skip the inbox and end in labeled folders, I check them once or twice per week. This way I put off less pressure on checking incoming emails or seeing emails I don’t want to see. It’s such relief. My inbox at this point is two unread emails, in the past was over 1900 emails [Flickered that]. This also refers to social network sites messages or notifications: if you send me e.g. Facebook message, I am ignoring that. It’s true I have several hundred unread FB messages, but please use email to contact me.

Smart Phone.
I’ve set up my smart phone to remind me on tasks, meetings when I’m not working on computer and when I’m on the run. Those are usually tasks, and meeting memo’s related to my work. Off work,  I use to-do notes that remind me on what I have to do or buy. I am not yet on Alzheimer’s, but when I go shopping I like to see the list. There are too much things in my life that at least I can have PDA on my phone. Also, I like analogue post-it task notes. All my 2009 I’ve planned in 2008 post-it wall with different colors schema [seen on Flicker].

Meetings.
Regarding the scheduling the meetings I usually set up 50% of the schedules and other 50% I am scheduled. For the second I prefer to have heavy mental work in the morning hours after 10 am (not a fan of early morning meetings) and they should be brief, right to the point (if they are not presentations that require an hour or so). I respect other people’s time and I want mine to be respected. My meetings attention span is short and I am advocating that in 10-20 minutes you can have perfect meeting if you get straight to the point(s).

Deadlines.
I’m not perfect in this department. I go to the extremes: I’m either before deadline or after (few days), but what I do is always let people know in advance that I will be late, and ask for some extension. It’s simple as that.

Parallel projects.
Many of you complained “oh how am I going to do several things at the same time, I am overloaded”, etc. The thing is you cannot (read: can not) do several things at the *same* time, it is physically impossible and can be very stressful. What I do is I set up the priorities through the day of those projects I’m currently doing. For those at my job,  I am lucky because I usually work with a person on consultations and this helps me alot. I always want to hear second opinion and to see if I’m going in the right direction. I handle things much faster and better if I am communicating with someone on certain issue and then I withdraw and do the rest on my own.
If some of the data or outcome depends on the others (group of people or institution(s) ) – you have to learn how to make people to do things you want them to do. I make them do things by saying what I expect from them or saying directly what they should do, usually I suggest social media tools to facilitate their work that reflects my projects. I cannot tell you how I do this – I guess it goes with practice and time, being tactful with people, but for those who don’t meet my professional needs or not being prompt, I am ruthless here and use TCP/IP slapping device ::smile::
If some things become critical and are not done because of the non promptness of the others, in that case I don’t have time to loose or wait for them. I either ask someone else or simply take things into my hands and got my task/project done. I am happy, others are happy.
Great deal of tricks I’ve learnt and have to thank to my supervisor who taught me how to enjoy my work, deal with different kind of people [story on crocodile and the chick] and if needed to torture them ::giggle::
I wouldn’t accomplish all alone for some grande projects, esp. those that requires consultations if i didn’t cooperate with my lovely colleagues (call me lucky and blessed to work with fantastic people), and people from my area of work from world wide institutions.

Communication.
When dealing with lot of projects, it is important to communicate and what is the most important to be honest and state what you can or cannot do or accomplish at certain time. I always analyse situation before I accept something. I talk to people. Face to face. Emails. I tell them what I think, show them my concerns, ask for their opinion.

One more thing to finish with: I am not perfect. I have six grande “projects” to accomplish before fall (October 2009), one book included – the one I didn’t start to write yet and I have due soon. How I am going to handle all that? I don’t know, I just follow my schedule and do one thing at a time at that certain moment. It is true I don’t party every night,  yes- my personal time management is pretty messy, yes – I don’t have time for workout, yes- I have to improve my nutrition system, yes- I need to start to do yoga again, yes -many times no free weekends, but what really keeps me going on here is the awareness that I’m doing/creating good things that have great future on the longer run plus I’m interacting with interesting people, and I’m getting more and more experienced in life (not only work) – which is the greatest asset. Above all – I am trying to enjoy myself.

I would like to read the feedback from you: what works for you and what not? How do you keep up with all the tasks you have? What part of your life suffers? What would you like to change?

I will be joining Oxford Internet Institute this fall!

“So, you can take the girl out of academia, but you can’t take the academia out of the girl, eh?”

Those were the words of a friend of mine after I announced the news. Well, guess who can has PhD scholarship?

Last year I applied for Oxford PhD scholarships for 2009-2010, and completely forgot about it. Then in the April I was told I was selected and invited for an interview. All happened very fast and unexpected. It began with a call from British Council and professors from Oxford, when I was asked to come in person to the interview (last minute call) to Belgrade. Since I reside in Rome, I had to take the first plane next morning and I appeared in the early afternoon as the last candidate to be interviewed for this great opportunity. Actually I was about not to go, because it seemed impossible to make it to Belgrade in such short time, but my UN supervisor was encouraging me to give it a try.

Shall I mention that the interview was more like great, nice interaction between professors and me, carefree chat on social networks and media since professor and BC representative wanted to know more about the usage of the social networks in Serbia and they were all ears when I started passionately to talk about Facebook. Anyway, at the end of the interview I was told I will know the final result soon. So I went back to Rome, and seven weeks ago (I know, I know – I was and I am very busy at work to announce this to all of you officially) good news came right into my inbox: the official email from the Oxford University. I was super-happy and ecstatic and wanted to keep this to myself to summarize my thoughts and to think about this very well, and also to talk to my closest ones, to consult with the allies, and with my UN supervisor.

As much as I was happy – I had a huge dilemma that I was not facing for the first time, to choose between two good things: research or work. There is an eternal battle in me between academic/research life and practical work. The thing is I am equally engaged into both -academia and practical work, and since it has been two years since my Master thesis – I found myself still writing papers, publishing, going to conferences, storing for my research I’ve been developing in my head, travelling over the Europe and the United States, soaking and exchanging information, getting inspired. All in between, I’ve been working on practical things, still creating and contributing to the interwebs, interacting with people, making connections.

I officially accepted the offer to spend school year at Oxford Internet Institute, to work on my PhD research, and to interact with supersmart people, including my mentor dr Hogan. w00t!!! Or shall I say Blimey! I couldn’t be any more pleased. Yes, this means I am going to start the end of my research and writing of PhD dissertation.

For those who don’t know [and I doubt that those of you reading this don't know – there is zero % that you didn’t hear for Oxford Internet Institute] – OII is the academic mecca for scholars, researchers, web creators, superb centre for the study of the social implications of the Internet. Going to OII will allow me to continue my PhD research that is focused on communication practices in virtual communities of the young adults in Serbia, especially focused on Facebook. Spending time at OII will bring me a productive, collaborative, inspiring environment in which I can accomplish my plan. Plus, there’s amazing work at OII concerning social web and media.

I am aware that PhD process is painful, but I strongly believe that knowledge is power. I wouldn’t be working on things I did in the past, and now for the UN on developing projects, which foster the technology, sharing of knowledge, web of science, semantic web, if I didn’t believe in them. Also, being surrounded with wonderful and supportive people, I am even more determined to start writing the dissertation and continue my research, because this is what I want. I realized that PhD is worth all the craziness around and inside the academia, as well as there are things that I can do with a PhD that aren’t academia.

The practice and work will keep me to the ground and sane as much as I can be – I won’t quit my UN job, this was one of the first issues I was concerned about, but luckily I have really fantastic supervisor, dr Keizer, who fully supports and encourages me. So, with all “blessings” I shall continue working on science and technology, semantic web project and return back to my research for the final dissertation. It sounds difficult and it is, but I am enjoying it and I see great benefits for my long-term goals.

I can’t wait to begin my research and writing, exploring, examining, publishing, interacting, soaking energy from experienced and smart people, that will inspire me to produce interesting ideas and the outcomes for the future projects and work. Also, I miss UK at some points, I have friends and colleagues there, and oh I love British countryside, and London is very near. I am aware about H1N1/09 virus, but I hope British people are working on it, and I’ll try to boost up my immune system. All in all, I am grateful for this great opportunity and for the all good people who supported me in this, and in general. I couldn’t be more happier. w00t!

Attention and distractions: reasons I don’t fancy iBT TOEFL

academia,communication,culture,internet,Italy,life,random thoughts,Rome — Danica @ 1:44 am, June 23, 2009

Last weekend I spent most of the day (read: five hours) musing myself (I am a bit ironic but this is my rant and rave) through procedure I call the performance of being capable to go through iBT TOEFL test. What kind of test iBT TOEFL is? It is test of English as a foreign language for undergrad, graduate students, professionals, researchers world wide. For those who want certificate or  test their English capabilities, academic or professional purposes, for non English speakers, for native English speakers, you name it.

Once upon a time there was paper based TOEFL, human TOEFL test (no muss-no fuss) I had certificate in 2003 (for US purposes then). Now I was asked to go through iBT TOEFL (not that my English is bad or something but just as “”formality”). iBT TOEFL stands for Internet based test TOEFL. I didn’t prepare for it as I am pretty confident in holy 4′s – Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing sections, but I wanted to go to the forum community and check out what other folks say. Mostly PhD scholars and many professionals – English native speakers from United States preparing for the test weeks and months in advance. Many of them “failed” or didn’t reach the score that the institution asked from them and all frustration, sharing information can be read on TOEFL community forum.

Then the little light bulb alarmed me, and after reading testimonials I thought I should prepare myself in technical way: go through sampler I got for free when I registered and paid for test, plus a good friend of mine managed to hack into Kaplans’ version of iBT TOEFL book/interactive software with 4 test simulations. This all happened in 2 days period prior to testing day, and have to admit that I was a bit discouraged as:

1. iBT TOEFL  test is everything but objectively measuring and evaluating your English language skills (especially referring to Speaking and Writing section). First two sections (Reading and Listening) are based on questions and four answers. It is complexed as it “measures” not only grammar but comprehension, the ability to interconnect through different passages of the text, how fast you absorb data from all the interdisciplinary fields, but yours. And of course, time is so limited.

2. I appeared an hour prior the test and found a mess in testing center with lot of Italians totally confused and frenzied. Did I mention that I took the test in Rome?  In so called training center with few rooms so called computer labs? [disclaimer: you are lucky if you can skip iBT in Italy, you'll know why in the next paragraphs].

3. iBT TOEFL is highly academic content test created for graduate students and professionals in different area of human activity. There are lot of unfamiliar narrow-professional terms that you never heard because they are not your area of study. You must know how to navigate through many passages and interconnect the information, even tiny details. You have to use your memory all the time and focus, focus. Offered answers (usually two of four of them) can refer on the sentence or the word because they are so damn similar – so you have to decide either one or two. If you make here mistake, you loose the point. In other words – try to figure out what the author wanted to say. This usually works if you have optimal conditions for test-taking, but…

4. Conditions on the test day: I was so determined, cheered up, and super happy to finish with that, and what I found were computer rooms with no functioning AC’s (cooling system), some of them stopped to work on 35 Celsius degrees (hot, hot very hot). Windows were closed. We were boiling. No air, no thinking. My brain couldn’t process any information on the part Reading and Listening. I was so angry cursing paleontology eras and the changes in the Earth core, Whales and other species that are dying, and the problem how to decrease CO2 in deep blue ocean. Then, when people started to complain due to the lack of the oxygen, many of them left the room, organizers opened the windows and the noise from the street interfered with our headsets and Speaking section. During the speaking I was so revolted that I talked and talked and couldn’t wait to finish with writing. Another hideous iBT thing: you have 10 seconds to prepare what you heard and read and then to summarize all in 30 0r 45 or 60 seconds. Then you have Q and A’s from academic lectures heard/read on the topics that are not familiar to you. Bullshit! Pardon my language, but this is true. Writing was pretty easy for me as I don’t mind to write surrounded by cacophony. So that was about test (infra)structure and conditions.

5. Also, you have only 10 min break in between Reading/Listening and Speaking/Writing section – just enough to go to the toilet, drink some water, and eat tiny chocolate if you are lucky as the clock on your computer is ticking. So beside timing your reading of the academic passages from marine biology, archeology, maths, etc. you should time and practice going to the toilet, mind you. To do test properly usually takes 4- 4.5 hrs.

6. Hypothesis that iBT TOEFL is big money sucking-machine. Two important sections of the test (Speaking and Writing) are evaluated by humans. Now comes catch 22: many of them are not academics or objective. Many cases showed that they give much lower scores on these two, so the test takers could ask for rescoring (which costs additional money) and they would raise up score up to 4-6 points. A pharmacist I was talking with in the last 3 days, a woman from California is taking the test for several times as she had bad scores in Speaking section and her employer asked for specific score (e.g.30). She is very frustrated as she told me she believes that iBT TOEFL is a big money-sucking machine because there are lot of people like her that have to keep taking it on and on again until the requested score!

7. Focus/concentration/attention and distractions play a huge role with this kind of tests where you need to be super mechanically capable to multitask and give the feedback that are correct. Otherwise you lose points. Now I understand why some people spend weeks preparing it, but again I think this is the most hideous test that exists. It doesn’t represent your real knowledge of English. iBT is so vague, have holes, that when I talked to some academics many of them told me they hated it. Really.

Finally, I don’t expect high scores, I messed up first two sections that required 100% of concentration, optimum conditions for test taking that I didn’t have. I guess I will never “fit” into desirable candidate for gaining the maximum or close to it, but I know that my English is so damn better than 99% of people who came to take the test. I don’t want to prepare with manuals “how-to” test for dummies. With all respect to those people as I know they practiced for months and I know their speaking English is so poor, but I’m studying and learning (still, ongoing) my English since the age of six, use actively, work and live in English speaking environment, and if test shows the opposite I don’t care.

I just hope those who might care will read this and don’t take for granted my bad scores of iBT TOEFL. Anyways, we’ll see in two weeks.

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