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Stickers at Tasmania

bluehackers-sticker-roll-lca2009Last week was in Hobart, Tasmania. This seemed like an ideal opportunity to try the stickers idea. However, this being so soon after the summer holidays (yes xmas is in the summer when you live in the Southern hemisphere!) we weren’t particularly organised. Eek!

Luckily I got hold of a bright and helpful printers in Hobart who couldn’t do exactly what we needed but just arranged everything for us locally. We were pondering a few designs and sizes, but we decided on doing small stickers (of the “powered-by” shape and size) to mainly see put on laptops. Since they’re small, the chances of someone putting them on are increased. Yet the logo is so distinct that it will be spotted. Win! It’s just our logo with the url below, one colour print with gradient, and just paper (no vinyl nasties).

So what’s the objective? For as many people as possible to have these little stickers on their laptop; laptops travel around to conferences, user group meetings and work places. And thus other people get to see this quiet sign of understanding! So it’s not just a sticker to be used by people who have dealt with depression or related issues themselves, it’s for everybody wanting to show this form of support.

As we all know, the feeling of being alone with your problems is a very important aspect. The bluehackers stickers addresses this in a friendly non-intrusive way. Over 500 stickers were handed out during the last days of the conference, so they’re already travelling around the planet to be spotted elsewhere; various people also have strips of stickers with them to hand out to local user groups, colleagues, and others.

I did a lightning talk on the last day which got a fab response and triggered numerous interesting discussions afterwards. It’s clearly struck a chord, and so I guess another objective of BlueHackers is to make the topic more open or at least not taboo. Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier wrote up a  very nice blog entry about us also (“Even Hackers get the Blues“). I have another roll of 500 stickers here, which I’ll send out in chunks to various people around the planet. And more things to come.

So who’s funding all this? Well, some of the best gestures cost little or nothing. Getting the stickers made cost me a few hundred dollars, and while the stickers were handed out for free donations came in and recouped the cost plus the same again (and we still have half the stickers left as well). It’s a matter of running low-cost, and sheer numbers. We’re pondering whether to do a paypal account, but that brings up the question of whether to become a registered non-profit as we don’t want any individual to get stuck with financial or other liabilities. We’ll work it out. Naturally all donations given so far go directly towards BlueHackers activities anyway.

Through the various discussions we’ve gained additional insight in what activities might be useful, and how to go about them. More to come! And remember, the best gestures are free or cheap. Small things can make a huge difference to a person, or perhaps even many.

Happy New Year & Media Mentions

Happy New Year everybody! We hope you got some well-deserved time off over the xmas/holiday period, with (gasp) perhaps even some time away from your computer?

We now have a mutual link with Working Well, after a kind message from someone there. Very useful.
And we hadn’t spotted it before, but ITwire wrote a nice article on us: Geeks seek to hack depression (16 Dec 08)

Doing a little more

Getting a bit of physical activity is often hard for hackers.  We don’t want to sit around sweating in gyms, we often work late and hack later, and we may even be afraid of that old Rugby Jock image that has tyrannised some of us.  But as mentioned in the HowTo, doing some physical work often makes it much easier to sleep and run our bodies normally.  Here are a bunch of ideas that you can use to get a bit more exercise without making it a chore.

  • Climb the stairs to work.  If you work up fairly high in a building, see if you can get the lift from the third floor or get off two levels before your own.
  • Walk around the block or the building at lunchtime.
  • If you catch the train or bus, try getting off one stop before your work or home and walking the rest of the way.
  • If you have one, take your music player and listen to some good podcasts while walking to make good use of the time.
  • Some of us live close enough to work to cycle in – try to make one day a week when you cycle in.  That way you can plan ahead for it.
  • If you live too far out to ride all the way, see if you can take your bike part of the way, in a car or on a train.
  • I used to take my rollerblades in to work in my bag and then change and blade home.  This way I didn’t have to shower and change at work and still got some good exercise.
  • See if there’s anyone else that you work with that wants to go for walks; it also gives you a good chance to talk about hacking and other fun stuff.
  • Try standing up in the bus or train to work rather than sitting all the way.
  • Try geocaching – it’s a great way to explore your area and places you visit, it gets you out and walking around, you get to traded neat small stuff with other people, and there’s the thrill of discovery and secret knowledge.
  • Offer to do some gardening for a friend – you don’t have to have a green thumb if they do.
  • If you do some kind of regular exercise, start tracking it.  Set yourself regular goals – something you can achieve every week or so – and reward yourself when you get there.
  • Grab a Chore Wars account for you and anyone you share with and see how many levels you can achieve.

I’d be really interested to hear other ideas on how to get a bit more activity in your day.  The key lessons I’ve found are that it doesn’t have to be a lot of work or something that looks like ‘regular exercise’ to still stay active, that making small increments and keeping to them is more fun than trying for big goals, and that fitting things into your existing routine almost always works and changing your routine is much harder.

Why me?

Depression takes many forms and comes at different times.  One thing that I took a while to learn was that depression also has many reasons.  I thought that ‘real depression’ would only apply to people that had lost everything, or had everything go wrong, or had no prospects.  It took me a while to realise that everything could seem fine but I could still feel depressed – and that this was normal.  Sometimes even the fact that you theoretically have so much going for you can exacerbate the feeling of depression, making you feel even more out of touch.

My first step to dealing with these bouts of depression was to realise that I’m not unusual or abnormal for feeling depressed when other people aren’t.  It’s perfectly acceptable to feel differently from other people, and to feel sad, or scared, or uneasy, at something that other people seem to take as normal.  Accepting my feelings as normal has been a good way for me to move on from them.