A lot has been happening over the past couple of weeks, quite a few things I want to write about and ideas to explore. It’s just been a very busy couple of weeks, and all of my writing (and coding and much of my thinking) has been aimed at my day job. You know, the one that pays the bills.
Here’s a list of drafts I’ve created in the past two weeks or so that I’m working on in bits and pieces and will hopefully start pushing out in the next couple of days. Or maybe over the Christmas slowdown. (“Christmas slowdown”? Yeah, that’ll happen 🙂
Layers of abstraction and the cost of convenience
Passion and Warfare in St. Louis – an evening with Steve Vai
If everyone gave him $20
From Android to iPhone
Some notes and thoughts on WordCampUS 2017
Accidents of Phenotype
The work of art (as opposed to “a work of art”)
And one I haven’t started yet that I’ve had in the back of my mind for years and was brought to the front earlier tonight, that will likely be called What Capital Wants (see Capitalism is Skynet for a hint what that might be about).
But right now I need to put together some notes on a proposed talk about crowdsourcing innovation for JiveWorld 2017.
Something has been lost. Before algorithmic timelines, message length restrictions and mass surveillance there was a more robust world. It’s a distributed world that still lives behind the centralized allure of social networks. It’s a world where every person owns a small part of the internet, where they control their medium and communicate freely.
My first blog post was back in June 2003, on the subject of knowledge management. Over the next few years, I wrote quite a bit, and quite passionately, about KM and also started up a blog about autism, eventually merging the two into a single blog. My last post was in April 2011, following a blast of posts related to Autism Awareness Month.
I’m not really sure why I stopped. Partly it was the job. I was traveling quite a bit out to New Mexico doing some integration and testing on the project I was on at the time. And part of it was probably just simple burn out. I’d run out of things to say. Actually, I think I had just run out of new things to say. My thoughts kept coming back around to the same things, and even when I was posting about new stories or new events, it always seemed to be from the same frame of mind. And I’m not really one to repeat myself. (I kind of get that from my son.)
I’m also not really one to read what to me is repetitive writing. When I was younger I would subscribe to different magazines (pre-web!) on a variety of different topics. Invariably, though, the articles would repeat themselves. Not exactly, but the same basic things, over and over again. Of course, as I mentioned to someone on a different topic today, the challenge is providing content that new readers can access and find of value while also maintaining the interest of and providing value to current subscribers. Unfortunately, the scale usually tips in favor of the new reader.
When I started a new job in August 2011, as a solution designer and community manager on a large government enterprise social network, I thought the creative juices might start flowing again. And while I did start writing again, it almost all happened “behind the firewall” inside the ESN. And, unfortunately, I ended up repeating myself quite a bit from those earlier years from my blog; the state of KM and social inside the firewall in 2011 was about where it was outside the firewall in 2006 or so. Which in many ways was great: all that I had learned, all that I had written, all my ideas and suggestions to others on how all this could work were now my job, something I could actually put into practice as I helped the various organizations understand and adopt the principles.
I’ve missed blogging in public. Not that I’ve been away from it completely, at least as a reader. There is an incredible amount of great work going on in the realm of Enterprise Social Networks and, more specifically, the ideas around Working Out Loud, and I’ve been an avid consumer. I figured it was about time for me to start giving back again.
I considered simply rebooting my old blog(s), and picking up where I left off. In the end, though, I realized that I would be better off – and my thinking would be more free – if I flushed my mental cache, started with an empty cup, adopted a beginner’s mind. No doubt things will creep in from my past learning, but I will do my best to look at them fresh and anew.
On Monday (24 September), the Social Media Club St. Louis (@SMCSTL) hosted a panel of bloggers to discuss, what else, blogging. It has been many years since I first started blogging and the reasons and results of blogging, not to mention the tools, have evolved quite a bit. The panel shared some great insights into what motivates them to blog, and what they get out of blogging. Continue reading “Blogging, St. Louis style”
Like modern musicians, bloggers and others using social media have an almost unfathomable selection of tools available. But in the end, it is about making music, not using the tools.
To make music these days, musicians need to know just a bit more than how to play their instrument. A guitar player, for example, needs to be able to play the guitar (a given), but also must have an understanding of how the guitar is built, what accessories provide what features, how to mic the amps. Likewise a drummer, bass player, or other band member. Then comes the process of recording music to produce a song and, hopefully, all the work that goes into putting on a live performance. There are a seemingly endless supply of options available to these musicians that must be overwhelming at times.
Kind of like the seemingly endless onslaught of new collaboration tools and ways to communicate with others.
A little over 5 years ago, I wrote the following:
I’ve been messing around with blogs (with varying success) for over 5 years now, have set up and contributed to my fair share of other online sources like wikis and as a commenter to other blogs. But I’ve only recently really understood the value and, yes, appeal of text messaging and the ability to send photos and videos from anywhere on my phone. And, though I’ve recently signed up and started experimenting with Facebook, I’m still not quite sure exactly what to do with it. And don’t get me started with things like Twitter – as much as friends and others praise it, I just don’t get it.
Of course, it has only gotten worse (better?) since then.
I have spent the better part of the past year or so exploring and trying out new tools, seeing where they add value or don’t. I still don’t use Facebook much, but have found my groove with Twitter. I see the value and potential of Google+ but just can’t quite get into it. On the other hand, I have come to love and rely on Jive in our “behind the firewall” social/business network. I’ve signed up for many of the niche services that have come out: I really like Instagram, Untappd is a cool idea, and I don’t get Pinterest (at all). A quick look at the feed selection list for the Lifestream plugin for WordPress gives an idea of what’s out there. I have no idea what most of them are, and this isn’t even all of them! (Lifestream provides a way for you to add “generic” feeds for all those that they’ve missed.)
Speaking of WordPress… Although I haven’t been blogging publicly for a while (16 months or so, yikes!), spending a lot of time writing and making things happen behind the firewall, I have kept up with the evolution of WordPress and the great tools available in the system, not to mention the evolution of its positioning in the market from “just another … blog” to “just another … site”. I’ve read a couple of good WordPress books through my Safari Books Online subscription, and played around a bit under the hood.
I could say that all this goodness was part of why it has taken me so long to actually get back up and running. (I told @tomcatalini back in April that I was “very close” to a return to blogging, not sure 4 months counts as “very close”.) And though it sounds like an excuse it is, at least partly, true. Part of my absence has been directly related to my trying to figure out what direction I wanted this blog to take, to build on my previous blogs or to try something new. But part has been trying to understand what is possible with regards to how I do it.
A perfect example of this interplay was my discovery of different post formats, along with the Showcase page template in the Twenty Eleven theme, and how I could use it to capture and present both my own extended thoughts on things (an ounce of perception) and a log of my more random thoughts and observations (a pound of obscure).
I don’t need to worry about all those sites and services in the list above that I don’t know about, or know how to use, nor do I need to worry about all the bells and whistles in WordPress. Perhaps they will be of value to me some day, and if so I expect that I will find them if and when I need them. What I care about is what I can do with them.
Like the musicians I mentioned earlier, my purpose is not to “play an instrument” or to set up a bunch of gear. My purpose is to make music, and all this machinery is just a way to do that.
Much of what we know about the events of history comes from the personal writings – journals, diaries, letters – of the people that lived those events. Reading these diaries is simple enough – assuming they are in a language you can read – but understanding them in their original context can be a bit daunting. That’s why we have historians to help us make sense.
An excellent example comes in the form of the diaries of Samuel Pepys. Written over nearly 10 years beginning on the first day of 1660, Pepys’ diaries give an incredible insight into life and politics in London during this exciting period in history. If, that is, you understand what it is he is talking about.
Enter Phil Gyford and The Diary of Samuel Pepys. In addition to turning the diary into a blog (the first entry was published on 1 Jan 2003), Phil has provided extensive contextual detail about people, places, and events to help readers better understand the significance of individual entries and – perhaps more importantly – be able to follow the story line.
If you are even remotely interested in what was going on in London in the 1660’s, this is one site you don’t want to miss.
It’s hard not to wonder how these diaries might have been different had they been written as a blog, or if he had Twitter to post his thoughts. (I’ve asked this question before, about Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci). More interestingly, would we think about our history differently if we were reading of it in blogs and tweets instead of personal – and often private – journals and diaries?
Much of what future historians will know of us will come from our online writings. Will they get an accurate picture of our lives? Are we, and future generations, losing something by having so much out there for everyone to see? Or will future generations have a better understanding of why the world is as it is because of all this openness and discussion?
(photo: painting of Samuel Pepys by John Hayls, 1666)
I’ve blogged for many years, shared photos on Flickr and video on YouTube, and more recently joined Twitter and Facebook. Finding the line for any parent is challenging, but as the parent of an autistic son the question of how much – and what – to share about my family in public (the blog, twitter) and even in “private” (facebook) takes on a whole different dimension.
I don’t know how much, if at all, the discussion will go towards families of kids with disabilities, but even if it doesn’t go there at all I have a feeling it is going to be a great evening of conversation and a great excuse to get out and socialize in person (as if an excuse is ever really needed).
To help me plan out the direction and content for the Tramp and Tumble blog over the next couple of months I created a mind map to collect and sort the various topics that I want to discuss there. One of the things that I love about Mind Manager is that it has such a nice looking, and useful, final product that hides all the effort that actually goes into creating the map. After all, the “customer” doesn’t really want to see the sausage being made, do they?
Those who are familiar with mind maps know, though, that creating a good map takes a lot of work; planning, mapping, evaluation, re-arranging, etc. In many ways, this is no different than the process for any good writing: ideas, sketch outline, draft, revise, update outline, update draft, revise, etc. For those less familiar with the process for mind maps, I thought I’d give a little insight into how the process works for me, at least in this case.
I’ve been accumulating the knowledge that went into this map for several years now, since Ian first started competing in 2005. My first step was to create a list of questions that many parents new to the sport have as they start.
(Side note: Mind Manager does include a “brainstorming” mode, but I have to admit that for things like this I still prefer to use something a bit more “analog”, in this case my handy-dandy notebook and a set of Sharpie pens.)
The image to the right is a scan of my brainstorming list. I jotted down the main ideas, and sub-topics, as they occurred, going back later to mark them up with some ideas on what would make sense chronologically.
Having this list also gave me some ideas on how I could actually structure the topics in order to provide a somewhat consistent delivery of articles that make sense within a given time period; in this case, a week.
The next step was to convert these topics into a draft map. Again, Mind Manager provides excellent support for taking your brainstorming results and converting those into a draft map; again, I still prefer to do this part with good old pen and paper.
Pulling all of my topics and sub-topics together on this map further helped me find the ideas that should be kept together as part of a “weekly package”. The image on the left is (I’m sure you’ve figured out) my first draft.
From this draft I was able to easily create a map in Mind Manager, using the topics/subtopics in the draft as a guide. Once these were in Mind Manager, it was a simple matter to move the main ideas around to come up with the best organization and chronology. Here’s the final map, as posted on the Tramp and Tumble blog:
If you compare the two, you will see that there are many similarities but also some key differences. And just like any project, there are things from the initial idea that are not present and things in the final product that only showed up when the final draft was prepared.