Above is a screen grab from Google Images' search page. At right you'll see a smattering of the sweetgum tree seed pods that fell in our yard this spring.
I know they're sweetgum seed pods because I took my phone out of my pocket, took a picture with it, uploaded the photo to Google Images (you can do this by clicking the photo icon at the right of the search field), and it spit out and bunch of like images that I could click on and learn about the contents.
Pretty much none of that last sentence made sense 20 years ago. A phone in your pocket? Maybe if it was a cordless, and you definitely couldn't sit down. Take a picture with your phone? I'm not even sure that was on anyone's radar. The rest of it? Well, google.com was first registered in 1997. Pretty much all Internet 20 years ago was dial-up, and even the "high speed" stuff still took a long time to upload a photo. There were probably people working on the "what is this a picture of?" thing, but with the sort of speed I found this out with? Not even a thought.
Next time you complain about poor cellular signal or the crappy battery on your phone, remember that it wasn't too long ago that if you wanted to talk on the phone you had to be attached to a wall, and if you wanted to take pictures, you had to carry your camera bag.
Something I did recently was this. I compiled some of my blog posts, edited them a bit, and put them together in an ebook to sell on Amazon. It's called Resolutions for the Rest of the Year, and is meant to give you the tools to set and accomplish goals now that most people have given up their New Year's resolution.
Almost as important to me as putting the book together (it's short; go ahead and give it a shot, why not?) was the process. Let me tell you how I did it, so that you can do it, too.
First, I redeemed a coupon I had for Scrivener, an amazing $40 piece of software (that's without the coupon). It makes it really easy to organize a book, and will help you compile it for pretty much any format — Kindle, iBooks, hard cover, soft cover, PDF — and provides you with a bunch of tools for proofing and organizing research and putting together keywords to embed in electronic versions.
Next, because it's such a complete piece of software, I took advantage of a special on a Udemy course on Scrivener (at this writing there's not a special, but almost 20 hours, it's still a deal at $169 for Mac or Windows).
Then I put the actual product together. If you're going to try this, be honest with your self and understand that the software's easy enough to learn, putting the product together is the hardest work.
I did some searching for royalty-free art to turn into a cover (feel free to pay for some, too), put the cover together, spelled a word wrong, went back and did the cover again, and thanked my eyes for catching that.
Next, I signed up for Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon's Kindle publishing platform. It's a fairly simple process (it took about 15 minutes) to upload the book and cover, add some keywords, price it, confirm that I own the copyright on the book and click the submit button (which is the scariest part, but that was the goal of the whole project — pressing that submit button).
I sent that on a lunch break, about 2 a.m., and by the time I woke up about 10 a.m., I had a book on Amazon.
I went over to the local sports bar, tweeted my beer, and within a couple of minutes, the owner walked over and introduced herself and chatted for a few minutes. We've been back a few times since. If you're in Georgetown or Southside Savannah, go pay Rachael's 1190 a visit.
You may have seen my post about our experience at Gribble House a couple of weeks ago. Whoever's handling their Twitter account has been very responsive via favorites and saying thanks every time I mention them — including when we checked in on Swarm, when I dropped the audio into SoundCloud and when I posted about our evening.
Another one who's all about the favorites are the local foxes (I think they're sister shops, but I'm not 100 percent sure on that), Coffee Fox and Foxy Loxy. They serve different neighborhoods, but both with excellent coffee and food that smells really good (we haven't eaten at either). PERC also gets a shout for being helpful; the foxes both serve their coffee. It's delicious.
We're still new here, though, and have lots more places to try. Chef Brandon at The Olde Pink House has been really friendly; we're excited to get over there some evening, hopefully soon.
Whom are we missing? Tell us, please, we're still out exploring!
If you're still able to hear from wherever you are, Amy, this is for you.
One of the more more formative events in my life — from the perspective of shaping my attitudes about politics, war and my industry (news) — was the series of terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, collectively known as 9/11.
Amy Toyen [via]There is a whole cohort registering to vote this year who might vaguely remember their parents' reactions that day, another getting drivers licenses who were too young, and more becoming bar and bat mitzvot who were just being born.
It was 13 years ago, and it's very much etched in the brains of almost every adult today, but very soon that won't be the case.
We didn't have Twitter on 9/11. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have YouTube. We had Google, but it was still nascent and not doing enough traffic to be archived multiple times daily as it is now — the Way Back Machine picked it up on Aug. 23, 2001 and didn't come back until Sept. 17 of that year.
Residential broadband was just coming into being. Cell phones were really just starting to become a thing everybody had, though most people were still hanging onto their home phones (many because they needed a home phone line to access the Internet).
Despite our seemingly limited ability to communicate (ha!), we still had a problem then knowing when to shut up. News went on for days about 9/11 to the exclusion of just about everything else. NPR, CNN, Fox, it didn't matter. The stock market was closed the rest of the week. Baseball was shut down. If anything else was going on in the world, it was invisible to U.S. media.
The early reports — yes, we did have 24-hour cable news and the Internet — were crazy. 10,000 were dead, another hijacked plane was heading for L.A. and one maybe toward Chicago. And then it was over, and we sheltered in place around our TVs for three days.
Can you imagine what Twitter and Facebook would have looked like on 9/11 — especially considering that, even today, nobody with any first-hand knowledge (as in, having been there) would have had any cell phone service (much like that day)? It might have taken days to dig out some facts, instead of the hours it took us.
Let me ask, then: Do you use your social networks responsibly?
My last Tweet was a share of launching a Twitter listening experiment back on February 19. I haven't sent out a Tweet in six weeks, then. I have responded to a couple of direct messages, but nothing any of you all would see.
My thinking was, "I spend an awful lot of time on Twitter, I don't follow many people, and I feel like I give a lot more value than I get." So I followed some more people, and read when I wanted to read, but refrained from tweeting. Here's what the last six weeks have shown me.
The numbers. I gained 20ish new followers and, after an initial drop, my Klout score increased by 4. I recognize that Klout is influenced by my other networks, and a short series of posts specifically influenced that jump.
I got engaged and didn't feel an immediate need to share. Major life event, yes. The world needing to know? Not right away. That felt kinda good. We actually waited a full 24 hours before telling anybody. We called our siblings, parents and uncles and aunts, emailed a bunch of people, and then put it on Facebook 30 hours later (it's amazing how many people are looking at Facebook after midnight on a Friday night/Saturday morning).
I went on vacation and just enjoyed my family. We went to Charleston, S.C., to visit my parents, with a side trip to Savannah, Ga. And, while I pulled out my phone frequently enough to log the places we visited, it felt good to be present with the people and places, without using Twitter as interlocutor. That included the drive down and the drive back, by the way.
I missed idle chatter. Sometimes we just talk to Twitter like we talk to the dog. We know the ears will perk up for a second but no one needs to respond. So let me tell you, I've done a lot of talking to the dog, and it's the wrong venue to share things like the story of the guy who was killed when he tried to ride his lawnmower across a highway.
I missed joining in. I'm a sports guy anyway, but my job has me covering a lot of sports in addition to what I'd normally follow, so I'm pretty well engulfed in sports from late afternoon until about 1:00 in the morning, when all the west coast games wrap up. I haven't joined any of the March Madness or, even more difficult, baseball spring training, talk.
I missed being helpful. I'm a reasonably helpful guy. I know some people, I know some stuff. When Twitter asks a specific question that I know the answer to, I get some satisfaction from knowing that answer and being able to help out someone who is asking for help. That hurts both me and the answer-seeker, which is just silly.
It may take me a little time to get back full force. Then again, first pitch of the Red Sox' season is in a little under two hours, so it might not. Ta.
It's finally happened for me. Or maybe it happened a long time ago and I'm just realizing it now.
Twitter has become a giant time suck for me. I check it without purpose, just to see if anybody's said anything interesting. I write stuff here and there, and, in general, I've been following about a twentieth of the people who are following me.
I just followed something on the order of 100 new-to-me people on Twitter. A handful of them are people I know but for whatever reason hadn't been following. Some of them are complete strangers.
Some of them are just people whose bios sounded interesting. Some of them are people who do things I'm interested in.
From now until the end of March, I'm going to use Twitter only to listen and learn. I'll respond to replies and I'll favorite Tweets here and there that I'd like to refer back to, but I'm going to stop leaving the window open and reading the same Tweets over and over to see if anybody has said anything in the past twelve seconds.
So, I'm going to listen and learn and expand my Twitter network and perhaps, from that, my real-life network. I'm going to write long-form a lot more (including here; grab the RSS feed if you want to be informed when I post), and I'm going to spend the time that I'm just staring at Twitter now to do more important things.
If you have some Twitter folk I should be aware of while I'm re-ordering my Twitter life, please @ me or leave a comment here.
One of the things I've struggled with most throughout my adult life is work/life balance. Typically I either work too hard or live too hard.
Right now, I hold two management positions and one entry level position at a gym. I co-chair a civic group, and I sit on the steering committee of another. I try to spend as much quality time as possible with JB and Rufus, the black lab we rescued in January.
I also try to be a good son, brother and friend – not to mention a sports fan, writer and avid reader.
And then there's my health to consider.
How the hell do I keep it together?
Well, some things aren't where I'd like them to be, and some things are. I set a weight loss goal at the beginning of the year, and it's gone to hell. I'm evolving it to a body composition goal – not a very aggressive one (I'd like to be down in the 15% body fat range; I'm currently at 22%), but one that makes me healthier feeling and healthier looking (the latter of which wouldn't be so important if I didn't work in a gym, but I do).
Saying no. I'm currently a community manager, member services and day care manager at the gym, and next week I start coaching a new group fitness program. I'm doing my multiple organizations. When someone asks if I want to create a new website or something along those lines, I say no. Typically, my phrase is, "I'm not currently taking on new projects."
Productivity software. I use Google Documents, Google Calendar, Dropbox, Facebook, Hootsuite. I'm using a smart phone and a netbook and an iPad. I share everything in the cloud, and people share with me. I have whatever I need wherever I am.
Doing stuff for me. I get up early. The first thing I do is pour a cup of coffee and take the dog for a walk. I get my coffee, some movement, some fresh air, and I get the great feeling that comes with having a creature look at me and be like, "OMG it's Josh! It's Josh! It's Josh!" as I'm dragging myself around.
After that, I sit down and write on the dog blog for 10-15 minutes. It's enough to get the creative juices flowing, to make sure that I'm writing daily, and to make sure I'm not starting my day out with work. I also make sure there's a walk after dinner. More fresh air, more movement. It's time for me (even if it's also time for JB and the pup).
Limiting communication. Even with my staff, I have communication rules. Email me whenever you want. I will respond when I can. Only call me if it's an emergency; only text between the time I get to the club and 8pm, and even then, don't expect a response right away. Also, while I'm working, the best way to reach me is to call the gym. I don't sleep with the phone in my bedroom. If I go to bed early, I can be reached when I wake up. Sorry.
And that's it. Yes, I still have some work to do to get the balance where I'd like it. But I'm doing so much better now than I was in December.
Note: Yes, I have some Google+ invites available. Get in touch if you're lacking.
After trying to enter the social market ineffectively with Wave and Buzz, Google is trying something new this year: Google+ (g+).
On its surface, g+ looks like a cleaner (interface) version of Facebook. It's primarily a news stream of people you follow, but with some key features I'm starting to find useful. Ahmed Zeeshan writes more about Google+ for the average Facebook user, but these are the things I like most about g+:
Circles. You can break your Facebook friends into lists and vary permissions on those lists, but it's really difficult. I've seen this used most often by teachers who put their students into one list with very limited permissions, and everybody else in another list. Circles use a drag-and-drop interface to sort people, and as you go to share something, you can share it with everybody or with one or more of your circles. Maybe you're a photographer and a lacrosse player; you don't want to bore all of your g+ contacts with every aspect of your life, so maybe you only share your photography stuff with fellow photographers. Or maybe in your "other life" you're a bartender, and you only want to share the wild and wacky stuff with your patrons who are following you, not your boss at your accounting firm.
Lack of reciprocity. In Facebook, you have to agree to have your stuff shared with someone by accepting a friend request. Like Twitter, if you find me interesting, awesome. I don't need to find you interesting as well in order to let you see my stuff.
Discovery. Like Twitter and unlike Facebook, it's easy to find new people who might be of interest for you to add to circles. Cool.
Sparks. Get a news feed of your favorite topics (think location, sports teams, workouts, recipes, that kind of thing).
Another thing people seem to like is the Huddle feature, which is basically a group live chat (remember AOL chat rooms? yes, like that).
While the g+ mobile app is still awaiting approval in the Apple app store for iPhone/iPad/iPod (though there is good mobile website functionality), it did launch with an Android app, which has a clean, crisp interface. It's missing the ability to read sparks, and the ability to re-share, both of which I think are going to be important.
Due to its late entry into the social market, I'm initially wary of building out much of my g+ use. It's tough enough keeping up with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, while at the same time remembering to actually live life. What would entirely destroy my use of g+ is if people start moving their Twitter streams through their news feeds – it's why I only use LinkedIn for groups, and probably not as often as I should.
The other thing I need is the ability to play word games (seriously – it is by far the thing I use most on FacebooK).
Down the road, I'm likely going to have to pick either Facebook or Google+. G+'s entry after I've spent five years with my Facebook profile means I'm probably going to choose Facebook, unless g+ can reveal to me a brand new way to use the network that I haven't thought about (other than using a huddle to have a virtual meeting with my coworkers).
It was 10:30 on a Tuesday night when I got a notification that someone had posted on our Facebook wall – and he wasn't happy. Rather than respond right away, we discussed our response among management and slept on it, which led to a mildly productive exchange (blacked out boxes are the complainer's name, red boxes are the name of an employee):
The member came into the club a few days later, and I asked if everything had been taken care of, noting that I was the person responding to him on Facebook. He noted that it had, and apologized for the way he reacted.
That was all well and good until he went to work out. When he came back up, he told me the real story: He had a really bad experience at a prior gym and didn't want to get roped into anything. He described that prior experience, and it was definitely not the way any gym should have treated him. He seemed happy.
The next day, here's what came up on our Facebook page:
I think with the initial Facebook follow-up and the phone calls and emails from the membership team, we were able to at least get him into the gym. It was the experience of seeing us face-to-face and talking to us that really clinched the deal, though.
Remember that your customers are people, not just complaints (or kudos). Invite them into your world, and you'll learn a lot from each other.
Check out this video from strength coach Zach Even Esh. It's him holding a camera, pointing it at himself and his stuff. He's half-in, half-out of the frame much of the time. If you get motion sickness, it probably hurts worse than The Blair Witch Project did.
You know what, though? It's about Zach's passion, not about his camera skills. That's what I want to hear about. I don't need flashy editing, I need Zach's take on things.
On the blog post in which he used that video, there's a second video of a BMX race through Manhattan, much of it shot with a helmet cam. It's not winning any production awards, but it provides an energetic kick in the butt for the morning. Or your afternoon lull, whatever.
Check out Zach's post on not letting your passions slide. Go do something you're passionate about. Worry about the content of it, not the production value.