If you ask Googs, it says a primer is “an elementary textbook that serves as an introduction to a subject of study or is used for teaching children to read.” An introduction. A place to start. Training. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when there is a lot happening – pandemic, protest, violence, political incompetence. Sometimes it has been a relief to divert my attention to automated document assembly and sometimes it has been just as overwhelming.

Welcome to the world of…

A very poor rendition of a very famous logo.
Tweets flying through majestic digital skies, Quip scales keeping the beast organized, GitHub cat/octopus and Docassemble cat crowding out the forest of Slack chatter.

I may, or may not, have spent an inappropriate amount of time creating a parody logo… out of logos. Why? Because over the past few months, I have been inundated with tools. They are a cluttered mess, just like the abomination above. There has been a distinct absence of primer. Below, I’ve drafted an overview of what the heck each of these things are, how I’ve used them, and what I still don’t understand. Because it’s a lot.

  • Zoom
    • How I’ve Zoomed: video calls, live chat, hand raising, polling, white boards, screen sharing, break-out rooms. It is almost ready to form a committee to solve homelessness.
    • Zoom Success: First Generation Support Group sessions! We’ve been able to continue meeting regularly despite pandemic, relocation, and summer employment. I look forward to seeing everyone each month. We all have no idea what we’re doing and we keep showing up and struggling along. They keep me going!
    • Zooming Questions:
      • Do I currently have end-to-end encryption or not? “We plan to begin early beta of the E2EE feature in July 2020.” So, not yet? Read more on Zoom blog.
      • How do I setup a meeting so that people can add it to their calendars?
      • If private chat messages aren’t viewable to the host, why do my classmates think they are?
      • How did Skype, Hangouts, and all the other virtual conference/webinar platforms whiff so mightily? What happened?
      • Virtual Meeting Etiquette? The Googs returned over 4 million results (versus only 1.4 million for “uranium contaminated groundwater”). People! Prioritize!
Raise the white flag of defeat when it comes to staring at a screen all day.
Zoom Fatigue. Look for it in the DSM-VI.


  • Slack
    • How I’ve Slacked: team and group communication, email alternative, access to archive of prior communication, access to network outside of organization roster, managing multiple “workspaces” feels awkward at the user level.
    • Slack Success: I really like having access to the prior communication. Want to catch up on a project? Just read through what Jenny posted last year. Gives helpful context to framing questions, especially when just starting out.
    • Slacking Questions:
      • Why would I ever want to enable notifications? Yuck.
      • Is this an efficient way to communicate or just a different way?
      • Can I have a slimmed down version? Ideally, one feature. A tutorial mode to unlock other features. Otherwise, it’s very much deep end of the pool.
      • How are these communications stored/archived/logged? How are the data used by the company? When am I going to receive targeted adds for Champlain College online?
Beaver drinking Fizze, eating flavored corn chips, and playing a video game console. It is marvelous.
Note: this is not the official branding for the tool. I think they really lost an opportunity. Plus, now I know this beaver also enjoys flavored corn chips.

At this point, I’ve only briefly highlighted two of them. I’m exhausted. I also wrote down Quip, GitHub, Documate, Docassemble, A2J, and Twitter, but this is starting to get cumbersome. I don’t think a blog is the right place for a primer.