A Business Technology Place

What if I had started writing earlier?

An article in a recent edition of the alumni magazine from my university contains a story about a family finding letters from a deceased relative who was a college student in the early 1900s. The family agreed to share the letters with the living history program at the university. As you can imagine, these personal notes contained historical information not only about the young student and his feelings but about the campus and the events in the world around him as well.9169068026_53f8cc86f0_k

What if I had started writing earlier in life? I would find stories about network equipment, break-fix of computers, and wiring closets.  I expect I would have recorded commentary about operating systems in servers and computers and how to connect them together. I would have written about the challenges of remotely connecting computers from home via modems or ISDN lines. Most likely I would have analyzed software design and specifications from the viewpoint of a waterfall approach.

More than the technical know-how, I would be curious to see my attitudes and feelings about the subject matter. This is what helps historians get to the next level of understanding of the documents they examine. For me personally, it would provide a glimpse into the technology and business concepts during that day and time. Would I still agree with my own attitude and reflection 20 years removed?

I know now that writing has a role in our lives that can leave a lasting impact. It’s a great habit and hobby to start even if you just for write for yourself. It helps me with the day-at-hand as a way to organize my thoughts and reflect. Written documents provide an artifact to examine later for research. I often look back through my writings for specific keywords to help with formulating my thoughts.  I wish I had started writing earlier in life.  My first blog post was November 8, 2008 and this will mark my 452nd post. It’s been a good journey and I can say better to start late than never.

If you aren’t writing your thoughts somewhere, it’s a good habit to consider. Do it for yourself even if you don’t publish content publicly. You’ll be glad you did.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Dinuraj K via Flickr Creative Commons.

6 years of blogging. It’s a habit.

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece about becoming an accidental blogger. It was a introspective post as I examined my thoughts about writing and the purpose of blogging.   This Saturday will mark 6 years of blogging and this is my 394th blog post on The Merchant Stand. I didn’t set out with a goal to write a specific number of posts. I just started to write.I summarized my thoughts in the Accidental Blogger post as

The writing has given me a place for self expression. It helps me think deeper. It makes me think about practical implications and application of things. I’m learning to write better. I’m learning to process information better.

Typically my inspiration comes from some event that happened in the previous week or some other piece of print that inspired thought. My weekend routine now includes writing and I’d classify it as a habit. I think about writing through the weekend until it’s done. I have a need to satisfy the craving. So I write. It’s not really for audience, although I make my writings public. I write about topics and events that have influenced my life. If others find it useful and converse it’s like a bonus for me.

God willing, I’ll keep writing. Maybe 6 years will turn into 12. Maybe I’ll discover new truths about myself. Maybe I’ll influence others. Maybe I’ll develop new skills. I look forward to the journey with keyboard/pen in-hand.

 

eLibrary used more than paper library

With my trusty eReader, a 2nd generation Kindle, I have a growing library of eBooks spanning multiple categories. My library contains fiction in the areas of suspense, mystery, fantasy, and paranormal. My non-fiction collection includes books in the areas of marketing, business, biography, and spiritual topics.

In my home office, I have a bookshelf that contains printed books spanning the same types of categories. That’s my pre-eReader library. The collection has decreased in volume over the years because I have given away some books in an effort to reclaim space.

Recently, I referenced some material from a few eBooks in a blog post and it occurred to me that it was not the first time I had used my eBook collection for reference. I asked myself

“Do I reference the eBook material more than paper books because they are my newest books or because it is easier to search electronically to find material I have previously read?”
 

Do other people, and specifically writers, have the same experience? With my eLibrary, I have referenced passages, notes, and highlights more than I ever did with my paper book library. I didn’t plan it this way. It’s just something I’ve observed.

The answer, at least for me, is due to both characteristics of my eLibrary. While it is easier to search and find material, I think the relative age of the content of the library also means that its top of mind for me to think of as potential reference. Perhaps the biggest contributing factor is that I didn’t start writing/blogging until just before I acquired an eReader. So the probability that I will want to reference material from my collection increased.

The Kindle has built-in search capabilities to make searching for keywords and passages easier than thumbing through paper books. Additionally, Amazon offers a web site that keeps all of my Kindle highlights and notes in one location that is accessible via a web browser. So I can look for some of my references regardless of location and whether or not I have the Kindle with me.

A view from the Kindle online management area

At the end of the day, I think eReaders are turning our Library of information into something that will be more used. I sold books off my bookshelf to make space. That’s not such an issue with the eReader. I can carry a large library with me. The accessibility and ease-of-finding the information is a game changer for our library.

Finding social rhythms

We have limits on the number of digital profiles we can keep active.
I have six digital profiles that I use regularly for various purposes. Here’s the list in no order of significance: Blog site, RSS reader, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. My activity on each varies from week-to-week based on a variety of factors including my schedule and purpose of communication. I’m not closed minded to changing in the future. But at this point in time those are the areas that comprise my digital life.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect six digital areas are far more than most people try to maintain. I’m not active on Pinterest or Instagram or (insert your favorite site not listed here). It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy learning and exploring, but my capacity to participate is limited by my other choices.

Our digital participation is subject to change.
I think we all gravitate towards the spaces that give us the most value. By that I mean, a place where we connect with people and information. This is a place that we can consume information that provides knowledge and benefit to us, but it’s also a place that allows us to contribute information back to the space.

We may create profiles and try them for a time before abandoning the profile for something else. Twitter is a good example. I see abandoned profiles all the time. Many have created a Twitter account to see what it’s all about but have never contributed any information on their own. LinkedIn is another good example. One could argue it’s a professional expectation now to have a LinkedIn profile. But most people don’t use LinkedIn for professional activity such as networking, knowledge share, or research until they are actively pursuing a job.

We develop social rhythms based on the platform and content.
Maybe you don’t think of it that way. But we are all creatures of habit. I know I try to find a rhythm for producing and consuming digital content. It’s a challenge and requires dedication each day. As I see it though, my digital lifestyle is about learning, thinking, and growing. Even though contributing content isn’t directly related to my compensation at work, keeping an expertise and knowledge molds my thinking and knowledge for work activities.

Here’s some examples from my routine:
* My RSS feed is like my newspaper. It contains profiles of information sources that I want to read regular updates. Some of them are media outlets while others are blogs from individual thought leaders.

* LinkedIn is a always-on professional networking forum. I can keep track of my professional connections changing jobs, adding skills, or sharing pieces of information.

* Google+ is like combination of a RSS reader and discussion forum. I’ve created circles based on topics and when I view the stream from an individual topic it’s like reading a RSS feed. I’m finding that Google+ is more rich with discussion about topics than a typical blog or media publication. Much of the value of Google+ comes in reading and participating in the comments after each post.

* My blog is a my thought sandbox. I use the blog to record my thoughts, practice writing, and experiment with digital publication.

Platforms may come and go. But our basic need to communicate doesn’t change.
Regardless of what digital platform(s) we use or how we use them, we are driven by a need to communicate. “Social media” is just a term to wrap around social creatures. Maybe the current platform we use is discontinued in the future. But we’ll find another one to use because of our basic need to communicate ideas with one another. How much or how little we contribute is based on our rhythm for consumption.

I’m always searching for ways to stay in rhythm or to develop a more complete set of habits in my life. Let me know what works for you.

How to create an archive of Google+ blog posts

There’s a growing movement that supports Google+ as a next generation blogging platform due to it’s built-in interactive aspects, audience reach, search indexing, and digital capabilities. One of the biggest proponents of the movement is +MikeElgan and he recently posted about his support of Google+ as a blogging platform. Traditional blogging platforms provide methods for auto-generating an archive of posts. Archives can be chronological or topical and provide readers with a quick way to link or search into the contents.  For writers using Google+ as a blog publishing platform, +ShawnHandran posted a way to create an archive of the Google+ blog posts.  Handran’s method was to manually maintain an archive in a public Google doc spreadsheet.

That made me think about my recent post of automating my digital life with the tool from If This Then That. Using this service, it’s possible to automate a RSS feed into a Google doc spreadsheet.

So putting the automated service together with Shawn Handran’s idea, here are the complete steps to create an archive for public Google+ blog posts.

1. Create an RSS feed for your Google+ public posts.
There are many tools to do this. One that +MikeElgan recommends is Pluss Feed Proxy for Google+. When you visit the site you can choose the option to “Login with Google”. This will generate a URL for your RSS feed.

2. Create an account on If This Then That.

3. With the ifttt profile create a recipe that uses the RSS feed from step 1 as the trigger.
There are two options: a) All RSS posts b) Posts that contain specific keyword phrases.
I recommend using the option for keyword phrase matching because you may want to create public posts that are not blog posts.

4. Then for the output choose a Google Doc spreadsheet.
Note: You don’t have to use Google Docs as the output. There are a variety of platforms that provide service to make a document accessible via URL (Evernote, Sky Drive, etc.)

5. Share the google doc spreadsheet.
Do this by clicking the share button in Google docs and making the file publicly viewable.  Get the URL of the file.

6. Add the google doc archive to your Google+ profile.
On your Google profile in the links area add an entry for Blog Archive and put the URL of the public Google Doc.

That’s it! The recipe on IFTTT does not trigger automatically. But if you create a Google+ post and share with public using your keyword, then you should see the archive within 30 minutes or so.

Let me know if you have any questions.