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Taskcading (or Tasks cascading)

I often find that when I sit down to complete a task, I’m discover that each task leads to another task, which leads to another task, which leads to another task. It’s a cascade of tasks, or a taskcade, as I’ve come to call them.

Let’s consider Sunday afternoon’s taskcade.

I was recently elected to the SIGCAS [1,2] Executive Board and then took on the role of Vice-Chair of SIGCAS. I said to myself The College wants me to turn in the latest copy of my CV at the end of this month. I should add that to my CV. First, I tried to figure out where to put the position. It belongs in the Professional Service section, but I wasn’t sure where to put it. I ended up reorganizing that section to add a Leadership subsection. That’s not so bad.

Then I realized that I had last edited my CV in March, which mean that I had not added recent publications. Those include a SIGCSE paper, a SIGCSE poster, and a forthcoming Tapia [3] workshop. I grabbed the SIGCSE info from the ACM Digital Library [4]. I searched my email for the info on the Tapia workshop [5] and got that information. Grabbing the Tapia information reminded me that I need to do some work related to Tapia, such as registering and planning for students to attend.

If I’m planning for students to attend Tapia, I should also do planning for students to attend GHC [6]. But wait? Wasn’t I also thinking about sending students to MINK-WIC [7]? And isn’t there an email I recently received about pre-purchasing tickets for GHC? What should the email to students about these events look like?

The last time I visited the MINK-WIC Website, very few details were available. But I tried again. It looks much more up-to-date than the last time I checked. There isn’t yet a registration form, but there’s info on cost, the submission process, and the hotel. Given that students are only $50, including hotel, I think we can afford to send as many as want to go [8]. Yay!

I found the message about GHC pre-registration for students. I forwarded it to my Academic Support Assistant with instructions to buy some registrations. Given that we’ve had questions about the value of GHC, particularly given its cost and the number of people who attend, I suggested four registrations (in addition to the unknown number who got scholarships).

I found my old email message to students about internal funding for the conferences. As I was updating that email, I thought again about the number of GHC memberships to buy. While there were problems, GHC is also a great way to connect students to internships. On the other hand, I don’t know how much funding we have. What to do? What to do? I decided to email some of our women leaders to get their opinion. A few wrote back quickly, encouraging me to purchase eight registrations. So I sent another message to my ASA. And I started to update the message to the students.

What about funding? Requesting funding is slightly less urgent, but still important. Oh, and where do we stand on the reports from last year. I don’t think all of the students sent me reports, and I know that I didn’t put everything together. I guess it all goes on my to do list for the next week or so.

Of course, thinking about the conferences got me considering which I should attend. Since I’m presenting at Tapia, I have to attend. Should I also plan to attend GHC [9] and MINK-WIC [10]? In any case, I should get all three on my calendar just so that I can quickly check for conflicts. Finding the dates is also useful for the in-progress email to students. One of the important questions is whether or not the conferences overlap with, say, fall break. Time to check the five-year academic calendar. Nope, no conflicts with fall break.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, I was updating my CV. I rearranged my professional service section and added my new SIGCAS responsibility. I added three new publications and presentations. Did I include the Tapia workshop? Yup. What else? There are almost certainly changes to many other sections. Let’s see. I have two honors to add [11]. Are my courses up to date? Nope. How about College service? Nope. Did I really get elected Alternate Parliamentarian? Time to send out email to the Faculty Organization Committee to check. I’m no longer chair [12]! Do I list myself as Professor and Former Chair or just Professor? I think the latter. There are a few sections to update with that change. What else? Oh, I’ve actually finished some service, such as the Accessibility Committee. Time to move those to former service. What search committees have I been on this year? Too many to remember. Time to check email. Oh, that’s right, one ITS position [14] and three different CTLA [18] positions! That reminds me, I’m also doing workshops this summer, which I seem to keep track of. And I shouldn’t forget my NSF sub-award. Is that everything? Nope, I still have to add my research students from spring and summer [19].

Let’s see what institutional service I’m on tap for this year [20]. I’m continuing on the advisory boards of CTLA, the Faulconer Gallery, the Wilson Center, the Vivero Digital Scholarship Program, and DASIL [21,22]. I’m still Co-Directing the Grinnell Science Project. I’m still mentoring Grinnell Women in Computing, although I may share that responsibility with my new colleague. We’ll have to decide whether or not I’ll continue as the CS department representative on the Science Division Personnel committee. There’s some advantage to Jerod having that experience, but he’s also likely to busy this year. Being on the CTLA board also brings associated responsibilities, including two continuing searches and reviewing proposals for the Innovation Fund. I’m still stuck doing placement for CS, Mathematics, and Statistics. I’ll continue on the Noyce Visiting Professor Committee [23] and on Technology Studies. When Technology Studies rebrands itself [24], I’m not sure whether or not I’ll stay. I’m continuing on the Patent Policy Task Force. Hey, I even pushed for the revitalization of that Task Force. Will it expand to encompass a new Copyright policy? We’ll see. What else? Oh, that’s right, I’ve been the CS rep on the General Science committee for awhile. That’s not on my CV. I wonder how long I’ve been on that committee. Time to check my email. I started in Fall 2015. Two years. What’s left? Oh, look, I have email that says I was tapped as alternate parliamentarian. Hmmm … I list Trained Advisor, Sexual Assault Hearing Board. I did get training and agreed to serve as an advisor. I served as an advisor in a few cases. But I haven’t done anything for the past year or so. We’ve changed our processes a lot. Time to send an email to the Dean of Students. Finally! I’m through the list of current positions. I think I’m done updating my CV.

Now that I’ve updated my CV, I should probably make sure that everything is correct on Sedona [25]. But I hate putting papers on Sedona, particularly papers with students. Maybe I’ll just leave that for later. What about my positions? Yeah, that’s another thing to leave for later, since I can copy from my CV. But maybe I should make a list of things that don’t appear on my CV but need to go on Sedona. Let’s see … I served as Grinnell’s representative (and student chaperone) for the Midstates Symposium. I was on some panels (Community in the Classroom, Research for All, um, maybe others). I gave speeches to the Duke Talent Search kids. Hmmm … should that go on my CV instead? I’ll think about that for another day. I’ll be doing a faculty review this year. That doesn’t go on my CV, but it does go on Sedona. Okay. I’m done thinking about Sedona.

Is there anything left? Yeah, this was a frustrating enough and common enough experience that I should muse about it.

In the end, what should have been a five-minute task (adding a line to my CV) ended up being a two-hour series of tasks (updating my CV, figuring out some related issues, investigating GHC and Tapia, reflecting on my service) with another two hours or more to go (Sedona and requests for funding) and some unknown amount of time writing about it all.

At least I invented a new word [26]! If only a taskcade were more like an arcade.

[1] ACM Special Interest Group on Computers and Society

[2] Perhaps you remember reading my musing about writing my candidate’s statement.

[3] Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing.

[4] The ACM Digital Library gives me the citations in BibTeX format. That’s quite helpful, because I switched my CV over to about a year ago.

[5] My awesome colleague, Ursula Wolz, took the lead on that workshop, so I had forgotten the details.

[6] The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.

[7] The Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas Celebration of Women in Computing.

[8] That does assume that we can leave Grinnell at about 8 a.m. on a Friday morning and leave Kansas City at 6 p.m. on Saturday. It also assumes that I can find enough driers. I think that should work.

[9] Probably not.

[10] Almost certainly.

[11] Being elected an honorary member of the Grinnell Class of 2017 is important. Remembering that I was elected an honorary member of the Grinnell Class of 2001 is also important.

[12] At least I won’t be chair in a week.

[14] Or maybe one point five ITS positions, since I kept having to work on the Linux SysAdmin position, even though I managed to avoid getting put on the official search committee. That’s one of the joys of being Chair [15].

[15] Or is it associated with my seniority, rather than being Chair? Certainly, some of my responsibilities seem to be associated with my experience and knowledge, rather than my title. Oh well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, and maybe I’ll finally put the Rebelsky Advisory Committee [16] into action.

[16] The Rebelsky Advisory Committee is Eldest, Middle, and Sharper [17]. I’m supposed to pass any requests by them before agreeing. Their job is to say No. I have not been very good about using them. Will you be on another CTLA search committee? Yes. Oh, wait! That may be the only thing I’ve said yes to once they suggested forming that committee.

[17] Sharper is not one of my children. We do need one independent voice.

[18] Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.

[19] I don’t list my research students by name, since that may be a FERPA violation. However, I do list the projects and the number of students involved.

[20] I can’t really change anything, but it’s sometimes useful to review the damage.

[21] Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab, or something like that.

[22] Three of these are cases in which my seniority, rather than my title, has me serve in the position. I asked to continue on Faulconer and Wilson because I find those valuable boards. Falconer’s load is low; Wilson’s is higher, but worthwhile.

[23] That Committee has been on hiatus for awhile.

[24] I have suggested History, Philosophy, and Social Science of Science, Technology, and Health as the new name. No, there’s no (pronounceable) acronym.

[25] Have I written a rant about Sedona yet? I should. It is perhaps the most hated piece of software on campus. It represents one of the Dean’s offices attempts to outsource their work to faculty. It started with a limited purpose: to gather faculty publications in a single spot so that we could produce lists of faculty scholarship. But like all truly evil software, it has expanded its reach so that we are now required to record all of our activities in Sedona or risk lower raises or failed tenure cases.

[26] I should do a Web search for Taskcade. Well, it appears that Taskade is a to-do list manager. And they also own Perhaps not. But it’s not a registered trademark or even a trademark at all. And my meaning is different than theirs. Plus, I’m using it as both a noun and a verb [27]. So perhaps I can claim to have invented a new word.

[27] My work is taskcading!

Version 1.0 of 2017-06-26.