Tag: blogging

Repetition

Again.

Very busy.

Can’t blog.

Know it’s ok NOT to blog.

Still feel I SHOULD blog.

Blame Twitter?

Stop blogging?

Blame work?

Blame too many irons in the fire?

Not important.

Just stuff.

Stuff can be put on hold.

Grand scheme, this is nothing.

But it’s still mine.

So it stays.

Just not as much.

Until, you know, I can.

Just another loop round the cycle is all.

Should maybe mention the Prodigy gig, another time perhaps.

Why blogging is good

The blogs I read are written by a reasonably diverse group of people. Naturally I steer clear of people who have hateful views, or from which I’m not going to learn anything except that they like the sound of their own voice, but on the whole I read interesting posts written by intelligent people.

When people ask me why I blog, what I get from it, why I bother, I tell them this. I tell them that, whilst there is a level of chaff which you need to sort through (that ‘Next’ button in Google Reader is a lifesaver at times), there are times when you get a series of blog posts on a particular topic that really make you sit back and think.

I quite like being challenged, being made to think, so I consider this a good thing.

And so it was recently when Clay Shirky wrote a piece titled A Rant About Women, which tempted Tom Coates out of hiatus to write a post titled Should we encourage self-promotion and lies?, which was followed yesterday by a piece from danah boyd titled whose voice do you hear? gender issues and success.

Such things are an example of why blogging is a good thing. Someone states their opinion in a fairly even handed way and people respond like adults (the downside of the internet can be found in a lot of the comments, Twitter posts and other ranting nonsense that erupted after Clay posted his article).

As for the issue being discussed in these posts I have to agree with Tom, particularly when he talks about how arrogance and confidence have a place in your “personality toolbox”, but the person who only has those tools is all the poorer for it. Unfortunately society, and certainly the workplace, still seem to favour people with confidence when what we should be doing is cutting through the noise to see what substance lies underneath.

Interestingly I did have in mind a post about how men objectify women (which I’ll still write up for another time) but got sidetracked by danah’s article. Well worth reading all three of them.

Making the brave choices

I was recently asked to write an article about blogging for inclusion in a piece focussed on social media and how it will both challenge and change our profession as a whole and the more I wrote the more it helped me sort out my own thoughts on the matter.

One thing I’ve realised is that even if you don’t think social media will impact your own professional circumstances, I have no doubts that it will change the way our profession is perceived.

I’ve also come to realise that I’ve done a fair bit of talking about a lot of this stuff, yet continue to be stalled on actually doing it. So, with a new year stretching ahead of me I guess it’s time to put up or shut up.

As I have control of our developer community website the most obvious place to start is with a blog. Using the blog to publish short articles, and allowing people to comment on them seems to be a straightforward approach and with some encouragement I know some of the developers will contribute short articles as well.

The challenge will come in how we seed the community. At present it’s telling that with a little bit of PR, the number of people visiting the community website rises, so for now I’ll continue with the old school methods to drive traffic to the website (mainly through ‘update’ emails). Hopefully, if we provide enough interaction opportunities on the website, that need will drop away and the community well start to sustain itself.

Social media is a strange beast at times. There is always a lot of noise at first and, when it dies away it can seem like there isn’t much substance left. However, the people who are succeeding at using social media services, the people at the cutting edge of such things, the people who adopt new ideas and technology and are ready and willing to try them out to see if they work, are finding that there is a much richer set of capabilities than may be obvious, and the real value in your use of social media isn’t the technology but the people who use it, the community.

Your circumstances may mean that, for reasons outwith your control, social media just cannot be considered. However for everyone else, surely it’s time you took a step back and thought about the information you produce, the community of people who use it, and how best to meet their needs.

Maybe it’s time to make some brave choices.

And if you’ve come this far it’s about now that the reality of social media hits home.

You see for all the strengths and possibilities that the myriad of social media services offer, the one thing that no-one else can tell you is what choice to make. The direction you take depends on too many variables that only you know but, at this point, there is only one thing worse than making the wrong decision.

Not making a decision at all.

The information platform is changing, it is evolving and will continually evolve over the coming few years. You can’t afford to wait until the evolution is finished, you need to jump aboard now. You’ll need to learn fast, figure things out as you go, plan as best you can, and concede defeat at times but if you don’t then you’ll be left where you are now.

Except it’ll be 3 years further down the line and the rest of the world will have moved on.

And per se and

One thing that continues to keep me blogging, and writing, is my love of words.

I write for a living. Well that’s not strictly true these days, but my profession is focussed on technical content, the bulk of which comes in the form of the written word.

I write for a hobby. Mainly here on this blog, and on my other blog, ohh yeah and that blog I hardly ever post to anymore.

And whilst I won’t be tackling NaNoWriMo, again, this year, it remains something that intrigues me (quantity over quality, hell yeah!).

AND.

There it is, that word. And. The also. The join.

My mind tends to form patterns, relating X to Y, noticing that Y and Z are similar in some aspect as well and (ohh there it is again) it will probably try and find a connection between Z and X.

It’s a useful trait, once I’d identified it in myself, and one of which I’m quietly proud. The ability to make connections between ideas has helped my professionally and personally.

It’s also a good word for clarification. Yes it’s a bit rude to respond with a one word answer but it does leave a nice open space into which you can throw additional information. Someone presents you with some information and in one word you can let them expand on it without directing them in anyway.

And?

And ampersands are the graphical representation of this (technically they are a logogram).

And what is the point of all this? I hear you ask.

The ampersand, as a personal motif, fits. It’s a good representation of me, of my attitude to life, and my constant strive to question myself and push myself. I don’t always succeed, but who does?

And.

I’ve decided to mark these thoughts in a very permanent way. Now, when I look in the mirror, my motif will be staring back at me, framing the questions that drive me forward.

Say hello to my new tattoo.

At the conference

Morning, in a short while I’ll be delivering my presentation, trying to keep everyone awake whilst I waffle on about why blogging is the best thing ever and WHY AREN’T YOU DOING IT?? Or words to that effect…

Don’t worry though, dear reader, you can view the presentation and read through some of my notes although without my dulcet tones you’ll only be getting half the ‘experience’ (the best half, granted).

Although there is a small chance my session will be recorded so you may yet be able to get the full experience, I’ll confirm that later though (and depends on whether it can be edited as well!).

Wish me luck!

Music Futures

Prompted by some questions about Spotify on Twitter, questions which sparked a heated debate that is still raging*, I thought I’d revisit my own music purchasing and usage habits and see where I sit in the consumer spectrum.

First things first then, I do purchase music mostly, these days, through iTunes. Mostly because it’s handy and I’m a total Apple fanboy (yeah, Windows SUCK!!). That last bit is a lie, of course, as my home PC runs Windows and I’m really enjoying using Windows 7 (something else I’ll be purchasing soon).

I digress.

I spent a long time digitally converting my CDs, and as they now reside in boxes in the loft I don’t see the need to purchase anything on physical media. I have bought a couple in the past few months, mainly band specific special releases though, so they aren’t available through iTunes. I’m sure there are other ways I could purchase music but for what I listen my system works for me.

Do I miss the act of going into a music shop, flipping through the stacks? Yes I do, but not so much that I’m losing sleep over it, although it’s easy to say that since my current office is miles from anywhere, whereas working in the city centre made access to places like Fopp an always entertaining lunchtime visit.

As for listening to music, well that mostly happens either at work (when time/task allow) or at home when I’m sitting at the PC or just generally faffing about upstairs. More recently I have started taking my iPod Shuffle to the gym.

So where does Spotify fit in all this? Well it should fit perfectly, at home at least (I’ve not tried but guessing company firewall restrictions would rule it out there). I do have it, I have an account yet, for some reason, I don’t use it. To be honest I’ve only used it a couple of times, and I do like the idea of sharing playlists with others but what about all that music that I have?

I LIKE all the music I have, well most of it**, except when it’s on shuffle of course, and whilst I am open to hearing new artists I only tend to use work as a backdrop so I’m not usually actively listening. With that in mind, it largely doesn’t matter where the music comes from, but I’m far more likely to put on something I know so I don’t HAVE to listen to it.

You know what I mean, right?

Perhaps I just need to give Spotify more of a try, perhaps I’m missing something fundamental but I really don’t see it as a game changer. Yet.

But then I said that about blogging, and Twitter so hey, what do I know?

* or perhaps just one or two polite replies, poetic license, innit
** the joys of a shared library of music and Last.fm listing tracks from Louise’s iPod, for the record I did not listen to Girls Aloud AT ALL that week

About blogging

If you were attending a conference, and specifically attending one of the sessions that was going to be covering “blogging”, what questions would you want answered?

No, I’m not being completely lazy, I already have a good outline of what I want to cover (why, what and how) but it’s always good to get some “pre-emptive feedback” as a colleague of mine once stated.

On the flip side, those of you who already blog, any pearls of wisdom? Any information you wished you’d known before you started?

I’ll be publishing my presentation at the same time as I take to the stage at the Technical Communication conference in September and will update it based on any questions or comments raised during my session.

After all, for me, one of the main reasons I blog, and read blogs, is to exchange ideas and knowledge. The conversation is the power and I’m really looking forward to transferring my thoughts from here (on this blog) to the conference and seeing how a ‘live audience’ reacts.

Nota Bene

Just a quick note to say that there is nothing of note to note here because, like everyone, I’m pretty busy at the moment.

I’m heading into a period of 6 day work weeks, from now until the end of June.
I’m close to finishing off a website for a client despite a fairly snag ridden build. Something I’ll need to invest some time in to investigate a better way of working.
I’ve started going to the gym. Aiming for 3 times a week.
I’m also off to Spain for the first week in June.
We are getting quotes to get a new bathroom fitted.
I really must get the car booked in for a service soon, MOT is due soon as well.
I’ve got a presentation to write for a conference in September (about blogging!).

So, obviously, this evening I’m off out to the cinema. Angels & Demons apparently.

Anyway, if you are really bored feel free to scour my archives, they really are quite good.

Why everything is changing

I’ve agreed to present at this years ISTC conference, and my topic will be blogging and technical communications. It’s a nice topic title, vague enough that I can stretch it in many ways, but specific enough that it has some natural constraints.

I’ll write up some of my thoughts here, naturally, but it’s interesting that I’m starting to see how other areas of the online world, the Web 2.0 vision of the future, are coming into play.

Case in point: Rhonda Bracey blogs about the presentation Tony Self gave, based on an article he wrote titled What if Readers Can’t Read? which I’d already read, and linked to in my monthly newsletter column for the ISTC. The premise of which is:

The fundamental shift away from traditional forms of written communication (books and documents) to new media (e-mail, social networking, collaboration spaces) is something that we as technical communicators should be attuned to. The shift is not just from paper to online media… the shift is also away from top-down, autocratic communication structures to democratic, peer-to-peer structures.

It’s an excellent, thought provoking article, whether you agree or disagree, and it’s made all the more powerful by some of the videos that Tony showed during his presentation, videos to which Rhonda has kindly provided links.

One of the videos is referenced heavily in Tony’s article so I thought I’d show it here as it’s quite a powerful message and something that should be shaping our thinking in the years to come.

Without blogging, I wouldn’t have come across this and this is a perfect example of why blogging can be so powerful, however you do need to be part of this online conversation to be able to catch these snippets.

Flipping Context

At work I’ve spent the last couple of weeks mired in planning spreadsheets, shuffling chunks of information around from here to there, from that to this. It’s the kind of work that needs to get done whilst in the full realisation that it’s a bit of a drag. But, as my Mother says “You can’t always get what you want”, well should have had my mother been Mick Jagger and, let’s be honest, if Mick Jagger was my mother then it’s unlikely that I’d be blogging about spreadsheets.

Instead I’d be blogging about the fact that I was a medical marvel, having been given birth to by a man.

That’s not to say I’m NOT a medical marvel, just that I choose not to talk about THAT THING that makes me SPECIAL (you mere mortals wouldn’t understand, so don’t ask).

So there I am, sitting at my desk, an endless series of spreadsheets full of words and numbers in front of, watching as they spin and float off the screen just like they would in a big Hollywood movie full of special effects.

But hey, it needs to get done.

And then, at home, I’m busy being creative, having just finished off a website for a client and in the midst of reworking design mockups for another.

It’s a bit of a head fuck to be honest, and I find myself taking far longer than usual to get my mindset to change.

However, that’s nothing new, I always have had a bit of an issue switching context and know that it takes me a few moments for my brain to re-engage and have tried several strategies in the past, none of which work.

Until now.

Believe it or not, the noise and chatter of Twitter really does help me make that switch. Going from a rote, line by line, formulaic piece of work, to the small and digestable chunks of randomness that is my Twitter channel, allows my brain to break away from the previous context and very soon I’m able to tackle something more creative. I’ve not tried it in reverse mind you, but certainly the effect of checking in with Twitter seems to allow my brain to relax.

Does that mean I don’t value Twitter, that I pay less attention there? Perhaps, or perhaps it’s the fact that the cognitive load on my brain is different, and the switch to reading 140 character tweets helps reduce that load and allow other areas of my brain to kick in. Sort of like shifting to neutral before picking a lower gear in your car so you can accelerate past a car.

Anyone else use Twitter the same way? As a stop gap between different types of work or task?

And, whilst I’m asking, why DO you use Twitter?

P.S. My Mother is not on Twitter, neither is Mick Jagger.
P.P.S. If you really want to know about why I’m a medical marvel, ask. I’m sure I can come up with something…