How to spot an introvert

You may have seen David Robinson’s recent post encouraging R users to start blogging. Some folk will willingly act on this advice, and others won’t.

For those that won’t, I know who you are. You. Yes, you, trying to hide at the back. I can spot an introvert.

It’s easy.

Simply say “we’re all going to take part in a team bonding exercise” and watch to see whose eyes point to the floor while everyone else leaps to their feet.

How about “icebreakers”?

“Turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself, and tell them what you hope to get out of the day”.

There then follows 2 excruciating minutes while your enthusiastic neighbour gushes about what a great day they’re planning to have, while your internal monologue is trying to keep up with the correct ratio of eye contact, smiling, nodding, and generally appearing to be interested, while your sole aim for the day is to avoid taking part in any further activities like this.

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An easier way to spot an introvert? For me, I just look in the mirror.

I’ve had the Myers-Briggs personality classification test a few times, and each time I’m always an introvert. Last time I checked, I was down as an ISFJ.

Someone who doesn’t like attention. Someone who won’t “blow their own trumpet”.

But I blog. I’m on social media. I have 450 followers. Not a lot for some, but huge for me. I don’t know that many folk in real life!

I’ve found my trumpet.
And I’ve blown it. And survived.

“But John” you say, “this is all ridiculous”.

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How can this be?

An introvert might start to think about blogging, and then put themselves off:

“I can’t afford it”

Doesn’t have to cost you anything. Jekyll & Github pages, or Hugo & Github pages, whatever takes your fancy. It’s free. You only need to pay if you want a custom domain name, and to be honest, the cost involved for that is minimal over the course of a year - a pound / dollar (same thing nowadays?) a month. Next!

“I don’t have time”

I typically work flexibly between 9 am and 6pm, go through the rigmarole of my twins bedtime & getting them to sleep. Sometimes it’s 10 pm before I get a chance to think about doing any thing related to blogging. Usually this means I ‘m working until after midnight, and then off to sleep on a mattress on the floor of their room so that I’m there if they wake. I’ve just spent 14 months doing this. I don’t recommend this at all - (If you have a young family, you may recognise this pattern) - but its the only way I can get anything done.

You may be able to get up 1 hour earlier in the morning instead, and use that time for some writing.

You may just have to accept that you actually do have plenty of time.

But know that each blog post will take longer than you think, and that you will probably not be able to sit down and write one in a single sitting. Expect to spread each post out over a few sessions, and that way you won’t get frustrated if your current session gets cut short.

“I don’t have anything of value to say”

I thought that.     But Mara Averick, the High Priestess of R, has highlighted a couple of my posts recently. And other folk seemed to like them also, so maybe I was wrong. And maybe you are too. Someone, in a faraway nation, is going to read your stuff, and they’re going to like it (shout out to my readers in Peru!)

Get your stuff out there, and find out who they are, and where they are.

Speaking of which - how will folk find out about you? No one read my first few blog posts, because no one saw them. I needed to change mindset.

” I don’t like self-promotion”

Of course you don’t. You’re an introvert. But it’s the way of the world. Ask yourself this. How much time, in your career to date, have you spent in the background, doing your job well and hoping that someone somewhere would notice? How’s that working out for you? Take some positive action- you’ll soon get used to it, and it will begin to feel normal. Kind of.

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Which leads me to:

” I don’t do social media “

Neither did I. I avoided Twitter for years. Didn’t see the point in it. Now I love it. Why? Because all the Rstats folk are on there.

If you think that reading R-Bloggers every day is enough to keep you abreast of what’s going on in the R world, you need to get on Twitter and prepare to have your eyes well and truly opened.

There’s a discipline to Twitter (at least there was, until the whole 280 character thing). It’s a challenge to communicate succinctly. You won’t always get it right. But give it a go.

Things that I’ve done this year because of Twitter:

  1. Presented my work to other NHS analysts based in Edinburgh / Glasgow (because I got chatting to another analyst (Hi Joe) who shares my obsession with run charts - which he knew because he’d seen my tweets and discussions with the creator of the qicharts2 package).

  2. Presented a session for the QlikView Healthcare Dev group, hosted by none other than inspirational QlikView developer, Dalton Ruer. 20 minutes of talking very slowly (by my standards) But it seemed to go OK and I got some nice comments about my code. Result.

  3. Learned how to create animated plots through a chance conversation with Neil Pettinger - again - purely through some of my R related tweets. Creating animated plots was one of the items I had on my list of things to mess about with, but I would probably never have got round to it. Now I know how to use gganimate and the animation packages, and have some experience of magick, and learned some more purrr. It is also a great experience to collaborate with Neil.

There are other ways of getting out there.

  • Submit your blog to R-Bloggers - getting accepted on there earlier on in the year was a major confidence boost for me.

  • Or submit to R Weekly - again, seeing your stuff on there is a good confidence boost.

  • Write an article on LinkedIn (if you can face it).
  • Or just tweet out images/ gifs of your work and see who reacts!

“I don’t want people seeing my code - it’s a mess”

Because of the nature of when I blog, sometimes, I just want the thing done, and published. A lot of my early stuff would definitely fail to meet the tidyverse R style guide, but its out there. Am I proud of that? No. But it works. As time goes on, I hope to get better, and hopefully, my more recent code examples do look a bit better ( now that I’ve finally internalised the R-Studio shortcuts for assignments and piping).

“People might criticise what I write”  

They might, but they probably won’t. I find the rstats community to be very supportive. Sure, you might get some suggestions for code improvements. Or you might get pointed to a package you didn’t know about.

But criticism is not a bad thing, as long as you react the right way.

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I wrote a piece about my QlikView work on LinkedIn that drew a critical response from an expert. Then a few folk others tried to piggyback on there to appear knowledgeable

I think I responded the right way. That post got over 11000 views, more than my R blog has had in its entire duration. It also got me more exposure among some important QlikView folk, so it did me a big favour.

“What if I’m wrong?”

Someone might tell you.

Take a deep breath:

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You learn from it and move on to the next thing.

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On a practical note, I do try and run my code from scratch in a clean R session before I upload it to GitHub or blog post. I like to make sure things work so that other folk can try it out. This is a good habit to get into if you don’t already do it.

I’m going to wrap this up now.

If I haven’t convinced you, and you’re still thinking that this is not for you:

Do it. Get to the keyboard and start blogging:

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See you in 2018

New Year Postscript:

Here are a couple of blog posts on similar themes, which are much better than this post. I hadn’t seen them prior to writing this, if I had, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

Kasia Kulma : end-of-year-thoughts

Rachel Thomas : Making Peace with Personal Branding

Myers Briggs - I know this test is regarded as being flawed by some - to be honest, I didn’t need to undergo a personality test to know I was an introvert - and pretty sure this applies to all the others out there. On that note, I deliberately over-played the introvert insecurities for comic effect. I’m not suggesting for a minute that being an introvert means you are socially awkward. My hope was to address the inner voice that tends to stop introverts in their tracks, and Peep Show’s Mark Corrigan is the best example of a dysfunctional inner voice I could think of.

Finally - David Robinson said this in his blog post:

“My promise is this: if you’re early in your career as a data scientist and you start a data-related blog, tweet me a link at @drob and I’ll tweet about your first post (in fact, the offer’s good for each of your first three posts)”

If you are reading this and it inspires you to take the plunge - make sure you take advantage of David’s fantastic offer.

What are you waiting for?

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