Tag Archives: blogs

Twenty Years of Blogging – Congrats to Dave Winer

To Blog or Not to Blog

To Blog or Not to Blog

Dave Winer has played, mostly unbeknownst to me, a critical role in the development of blogging and other forms of online communication, including outliners and other types of online authoring and publishing software. I have been blogging for about ten years and I just recently came to realize his role. Actually, ever since I began following him on Facebook and experimenting with his numerous free offerings, e.g. Little Facebook Editor, which currently allows you to post to both Facebook and your WordPress blog, as well as edit and update both simultaneously, Little Card Editor, with which you can upload graphics (with added text) to both Facebook and Twitter, and Fargo, a quite useful outliner I’m using for a couple of things I’m working on.

Today, he posted in celebration of his twenty year anniversary of blogging. It’s an interesting explanation of what he’s been through (not exactly pretty) and what he thinks he’s learned from it. You can read it here. It’s really worth your while, especially if you’re a blogger and you sometimes wonder if it’s worth it.

I occasionally wonder why I’m doing this, as I’ve no intention of making any money off of my efforts but, rather, am merely looking for a way to express myself and, hopefully, reach a few people who like what I have to say. My biggest reason for blogging nowadays is to leave something of myself for my children, who may or may not find anything of value in it. I keep writing, though it’s sometimes a struggle – especially in terms of sharing some of my more personal thoughts, observations, and desires.

Anyway, this is my way of thanking Dave for what he’s done and recognizing his work in making all this possible. If you’re a blogger, you may not realize the role he’s played. Perhaps you should. At the very least, I always find it interesting to learn more about how we got to where we are. It’s frequently not terribly apparent unless you seek it out.

Mazel tov, Dave. Thanks for the ride. I, for one, am deeply appreciative.


All Hail The Beneficent, Ubiquitous Keyboard

There’s a little sort of game going on in Facebook lately. Someone is challenged to list three things they’re thankful for for seven days, at the same time tagging a friend each day (or something like that) to do the same. I haven’t been asked to do it, and I have no plans of doing it either, as it just seems to spread out and broad to do justice to the recognition of those things we might be thankful for. Nevertheless, it does give me pause and I have been thinking about what I would say should I choose one or two specific things for which I’m thankful. There is one seemingly mundane thing that keeps popping into my head. My ability to type.

I can’t imagine how different my world would be if I had to use what an old girlfriend of mine called the “search and destroy” method of typing. Most people use the more pastoral term “hunt and peck”, but she spent several tours with the USO in Vietnam and her life was colored by her exposure to that war, the military, and her involvement in the movement to end it. If I were hampered by that inability, my social presence and my ability to communicate would be virtually non-existent.

I was fortunate. In Junior High School I took a typing class; instead of what I haven’t the faintest, but I recall it seeming to be the most useful option at the time. As a result, I learned to touch type. Later on, when I was in Law School, I secured a position as a legal secretary for a sole practitioner who did a lot of contract and property damage work for several of the largest car rental agencies in the country. We were very busy and my workload was challenging enough that my speed increased. I’ve never been as prolific as the best, but I was up to a little over 80 wpm, with few if any errors. That’s not quite as fast as the average person can speak, but it’s a respectable clip.

IBM Memory Typewriter

The IBM Memory Typewriter

The job turned out to be a major turning point in my life, as I was introduced to the early stages of office computing and word processing. We ended up getting an IBM Memory Typewriter, the one built on the correcting Selectric, but with a dial providing memory for 50 separate pages. We moved up shortly to an Artec Display 2000, which used two 8″ floppies and had a scrolling display of approximately 30 characters. I don’t remember if it was LED or LCD, but the characters were red. We used it for pleadings, and wills and trusts.

Back to typing speed and how critical it is to communication in today’s world. I don’t really have to imagine what it would be like, because I had an experience with a colleague that pointed it out rather clearly, though it took months for me to recognize what was happening. I was working with the Director of our newly formed Program Management Office at what was then the Rocketdyne Power & Propulsion business unit of The Boeing Company. We were at almost opposite ends of the main office building in Canoga Park and I was upstairs in what was called The Annex. The distance between his office and my cubesickle was around 400 yards; not a huge distance, but it took time to walk back and forth. Plus it meant passing through the Executive Office area and there were always distractions.

I can’t recall the exact dates, but it was very early in our use of Instant Messenger; so early that I had to point out its value, as most of the older staff (which meant all of the Executives) perceived it as only a toy their kids used to communicate with each other. I kept sending IMs to this Director, but he never answered them, nor did he respond in anything resembling a timely manner to emails, so I was forced to walk to his office repeatedly during the day.

It wasn’t until a couple of months had passed that I happened to be sitting with him in his office and he was answering an email. Watching him type . . . ever so slowly and painfully . . . made it clear why he never responded to me. He had to hunt anew for each letter and, with his two index fingers, peck them out in a long, excruciatingly difficult session. He clearly hated it. I know I was cringing as I watched. I never sent him an IM after that day.

I’m thinking the ability to type is one of those essential tools we seldom think about — perhaps take for granted — without which our world would be far less rich and fulfilling. I can type this post, tweet, post to Facebook, engage in lengthy, spirited debates with dozens of widely dispersed people, and participate in a plethora of other forms of communication or collaboration relatively easily, all because of my ability to type quickly and accurately. I imagine this is true for almost all, if not all, of my friends and acquaintances.

For this I am deeply thankful.


12 Things You Should Know About Lists

I’ve received plenty of advice or, more precisely, offers to subscribe to newsletters, attend webinars, or purchase books on how to get more traffic to one’s blog. I’ve never been all that interested in them though, truth to tell, I sometimes read a few paragraphs or so. One of the great “formulas” for blog writing is “The List” which, for some odd reason, amuses the hell out of me.

Lists are ubiquitous and endless. Virtually anything you can think of has been – or can be – reduced to a list and chances are someone has created one. In that spirit, today I did a little poking around to confirm my suspicions. For your dining pleasure I bring you 12 lists of 12 things you should know about something or another.

  1. 12 Things You Didn’t Know Your Smartphone Could Do
  2. 12 Things to Know About Medicare Advantage Plans
  3. 12 Things to Know About “Lifted” Suspension Engineering
  4. 12 Things I Wish I’d Known
  5. 12 Things Wedding Photographers Want to Tell You, But Can’t
  6. 12 Things You Didn’t Know You Could do With Mason Jars
  7. 12 Things No One Ever Tells You About Babies
  8. 12 Things Every Gender-Nonconforming Child Wants You to Know
  9. 12 Things You Might Not Know About World of Warcraft
  10. 12 Things Your Nail Salon Doesn’t Want You to Know
  11. 12 Things You Might Not Know About Elephants
  12. 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself

I got these from searching Google for the phrase “12 things you should know about”, which returned a little less than 50 pages of reasonably relevant material. Some of the results were for different size lists. Five, ten, and seven are pretty popular size lists as well, each one returning around 40 pages, though the time-honored dozen provided the largest return.

I don’t know what this means or what it says about us (writers and readers). I’m not really big on formulaic writing, though I’ve recently done quite a few case studies, which must follow a basic format in order for them to make sense. Still, there’s something about the ubiquity of lists that grates on me a bit. Maybe my next post should be “13 Reasons I Can’t Stand Lists.”


Move Along Now. There’s Nothing to see Here.

Be Careful What You Say

So . . . after deciding to open up a bit and start to share a little more of what I want to share, rather than what I think I need to be sharing (mostly business stuff), I’m still struggling with how best to do it and what, exactly, I feel comfortable with writing about. It’s actually bothering the hell out of me that I can’t pull the trigger and get out some posts on the things that matter to me: My children and the circumstances of their joining our family (international adoption); my feelings about the direction our nation is heading in (backward), as well as the responses to it; education as it relates to where our nation is going (both school and life-long); and my thoughts regarding these subjects.

My biggest conflict revolves around my children and how much I can share without violating their rights to their own story. Yes, I believe they have rights like you and I and I wish to respect them. On the other hand, I’ve learned so much from raising them and from dealing with their circumstances and my role in them that I want to share how it’s affected me as well as the things I think need to be done to lessen the burden for them and those like them, many of whom I now call friends and from whom I’ve learned much.

Painful and difficult as it is, I’m determined to write more frequently, though the past few weeks surely haven’t evidenced that. Nevertheless, I intend on pressing on even if I trip, stumble, and fall. I’m deeply thankful to those of you who take time out of your precious day to read what I have to say and I really appreciate the comments I occasionally receive. I’ve sat on this post for far too long, so I’m going to fire it off even if it feels more like a placeholder than anything else.


The Kingdom of Spamalot

A Can of Spam

All Hail The King!

Checking my dashboard for this WordPress blog, I discovered I have received 15 comments that have been isolated as spam. Sometimes there are legitimate comments that get quarantined and I want to be careful to review each one of them for legitimacy. What’s particularly interesting to me is how many of them tell me I’ve posted the greatest thing since sliced bread. There are two other things that seem to distinguish virtually every one of these. First, there is almost always a misspelling that generally consists of a spelling transposition, i.e. the letters are all there but not in the right places. Second, most of them use an acronym generally reserved for texting. Here are some examples:

  • YMMD with that asenwr! TX
  • That’s way the bseetst answer so far!
  • You’re the graetest! JMHO
  • Never seen a bteter post! ICOCBW
  • With the bases loaded you strcuk us out with that answer!
  • That’s raelly shrewd! Good to see the logic set out so well.
  • AKAIK you’ve got the asnwer in one!
  • Wow! Great tihnknig! JK
  • Great common sense here. Wish I’d thugoht of that
Another interesting thing is some of these comments are in response to other comments that aren’t directly responsive to what I wrote, but are clearly related to a couple of keywords in the post. For instance, I wrote a post about bacon and one of the comments was a discount offer for smoked meats, which I decided not to remove as it might actually be of interest to someone. Others are comments to a test I did.
I’m unclear on what these comments are doing for anybody, assuming they aren’t caught, marked as spam, and deleted – which is what I’m going to do with all of them. Anybody know why this happens? Are they just link fishing or something? There no doubt is a term for this I’m just unfamiliar with.

Why Are Some Large Enterprises So Darn Stupid?

 

Can you believe they blocked this?

Watch out for that fly

I worked for over two decades at a very large (and exceedingly ponderous) corporation. Actually, I worked at three of them without every leaving the location I originally hired in at. Although I worked at a company called Rocketdyne, it was a division of Rockwell International when I hired in. It was later sold to The Boeing Company and, in 2005 was purchased by United Technologies and became a part of its Pratt & Whitney family.

Each one of these organizations were not only capable of, but repeatedly dabbled in a level of bureaucratic numbskullery that I still find hard to fathom. I have yet to have it explained to me – at least in a way I can understand – why large for-profit organizations engage in activities that are guaranteed to hinder their ability to perform well or that cost far more than is reasonable. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone who’s directly involved in them can explain why it’s so, because I’ve never known anyone who said it was their job to slow down or squash anything . . . yet that’s exactly what happens in many instances.

The other day I watched a video shared with me and others by Euan Semple. I would link to the video, but it’s been removed by the user. I guess it was meant to just make the point for Euan mostly. Anyway, shortly after looking at it I came across a three-year-old email I had sent to a colleague. The video Euan shared was made by a student. It’s quite simple and shows how many of the social sites this college student wished to go to during the course of a day were blocked by the school’s policies. Maybe you’re thinking that isn’t such a bad thing, but I’m of the belief that people should be trusted first, as most are trustworthy. Should they betray that trust, then there might be consequences based on their situation. Spending 15 minutes on Facebook catching up with friends and family is not the same as spending an hour or two trading stocks online or visiting pornography sites. Wholesale domain blocking does not exhibit any level of trust at all and tends to alienate the majority of people who want access when they need it, but will not normally abuse the privilege.

Now to the rediscovered email. I’ll let it speak for itself. The episode which sparked it is not terribly important in my opinion, though it was important enough for me to memorialize and share it with a colleague whose mission was (and is) to steer the organization from simple-minded, one-size-fits-all policies and procedures. This is, I think, what it evidences. I hope you don’t think it too petty of me to point it out. I think this approach still dominates the thinking of the corporate world, as well as academia, as evidenced by the video Euan shared. What follows is my email.

I don’t know what to make of this. Well . . . actually, I kinda do. It’s kind of funny, yet somehow a bit infuriating. Allow me to explain. As you may or may not recall, the men’s room near my cubicle was recently finished and re-opened. One of the features they installed is those waterless urinals. I’ve only seen them once before, and each time I go in I make note of the name of the company – thinking to find them on the Internet so I can read something about the science behind them. Also, each of the urinals has a bee painted on them and I wanted to see if I could find something quickly about why (though I suspected I already knew). At any rate, I finally remembered to investigate both (after several weeks of forgetting as soon as I got back to my computer) and found what I wanted and decided to just click on Google images as well. The first picture was of a urinal with a fly – not a bee – painted in the sweet spot.

I decided to take a close look and clicked on the picture. Although I was able to see the picture, even open the full-size image, the website it was on (which appears in a lower frame in Google images) was blocked by Websense. What I find remarkable, ironic, asinine, stupid, foolish, and probably a dozen more useful adjectives is the category they chose to block it under – “Tasteless”. Tasteless!!!! Is there some sort of absolute scale on which that quality can be measured? It was probably the name, but what if the website was about caring for infants or puppies or god knows what? This I find not a little insulting. What children they think we are! Let’s not forget the further irony that I could, for all their blocking, see the image. Perhaps I should sue for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Here they made an attempt to insulate me from something as tasteless as this, and I was nevertheless forced to look at a painted fly in a vitreous porcelain urinal due to the incompetence of Information Technology and UTC Policy. I hope I recover. I hope I can sleep tonight.

There! I got it off my chest. Please realize this email was sent approximately 3 years ago, so some things (like Google’s positioning of images and their associated sites) have changed. If Euan’s friend’s example is any indication, however, other things haven’t changed at all. I don’t think this bodes well for any organization seeking to do its best work. My experience says it hinders creativity and innovation, as it blocks people from following leads and decreases whatever chances might exist for serendipity and loose ties to open up new avenues and approaches to solving problems.


Small Business and Social Media Marketing

Where I came from

I Was a Cubesicle Denizen

Yesterday (February 14th) marked the nine-month anniversary of my leaving Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. In this time I have slowly transformed from an employee of a large, multi-national corporation to a self-employed entrepreneur. In so doing I have changed my mindset from that of a community member and manager, responsible for greasing the skids of social interaction amongst workers with similar goals, to that of a marketer, responsible for understanding how social creates a different kind of community amongst people with a symbiotic, but not so insular connection.

I can’t remember where I read it, but I try to always keep in mind what someone said about marketing, which I can directly apply to my work – You can learn marketing, but you can’t be taught what is learned in over forty years of experience. So I’m busily studying marketing and, especially, how to utilize social media to provide a new level of engagement never before possible between a business and its customers.

In making this change I have joined the local Chamber of Commerce and a business network. I have also, since I am old and experienced enough, volunteered my services to my local SCORE chapter. My knowledge of social media was in great demand and I ended up helping a few people out even before I was officially a member.

As a result of my Chamber membership, I decided to do a little study of the restaurants in the Chamber and their use of four avenues often used for marketing and public relations, e.g. Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter. I looked at each channel a bit differently. For instance, for both Yelp and Foursquare I was most interested not in whether or not the business was listed or had either tips or reviews of it, but whether or not the businesses in question had claimed their venue so they would have some level of engagement available to them. What I discovered was surprising.

Despite the fact these services are all free to use (I’m not factoring in the expense in time necessary to wring the most out of using them), usage of all is abysmally low. The numbers are as follows:

  • Foursquare – 11% have claimed their venue (most all have been entered into the db)
  • Yelp – 26% have claimed their venue (most all exist in the db)
  • Facebook – 26% have business pages (many venues had close to 100 check-ins via Places)
  • Twitter – 26% have Twitter accounts (very few know how to use it, IMO)

I haven’t looked at all the other restaurants in the area. Nor have I considered bars, pubs, retail establishments that could benefit from the use of these four services (as well as other methods of marketing considered social, e.g. blogs), or professional services that could do the same. This does indicate to me a huge market for my services, although my experience tells me it will be a bit tough to crack, as these kinds of business owners are notoriously frugal and suspicious.

Nevertheless, I think the clear direction is for greater and greater use of social media to market small business and, especially, to engage with customers in a transformation of  how business relates to, and learns from, them. I think there’s a place for me and others like me to provide them with a bit of knowledge, some organizational help, and strategic direction.

One thing’s for certain. I am really enjoying connecting with my business roots, as I was in small business for over two decades before joining Rocketdyne prior to my 40th birthday – much of it actually in the food business. As I gain experience and knowledge in my new field, I hope to share it here on my blog. Stay tuned!


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