Thinking Noise

I’m really good at tuning out sound around me when I need to work, which comes in handy when you work on a floor with 120 other cubicled people. I’m able to listen to music and, depending on what I’m working on, listen to podcasts. The only time I find myself distracted by others talking (and at a reasonable level, I might add–I have polite cubicle-mates!) is when I need to read and absorb something. During those times, I need to plug in and I cannot listen to music.

I’ve been using binaural beats apps for a few years now to help provide background noise (I have a box fan running while I work but its purpose is keeping my 77 degree office bearable). More recently, I began using Binaural Beats, which has a  simple interface and a timer function, which gradually transitions you from one mental wavelength (focus) to another (alertness). The science and health benefits of binaural beats aside, it works for me.

Another resource that I like: myNoise.net. I prefer the Flying Fortress (propeller noise) generator but there are many others.

A weekend in June

A quiet weekend. I did some work stuff (it’s conference season), shopped for some grown up clothes, and watched a number of episodes from season 2 of Orange is the New Black. I even cooked. And cleaned.

I’m about a third of the way into the final book in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy. I predict that Lireal, the Second Assistant Librarian, is going to be kicking some serious Dead ass. Sam is far less annoying in this book and I expect to learn about his mysterious power. Above all, I’m looking forward to Mogget being terrifying again.

I’ve been using a Jawbone Up 24 for about a week now. I like that it integrates with LoseIt (and tons of other apps). It’s surprisingly comfortable to wear at night and the sleep data it collects seems to be about as accurate as can be expected for $140 sans physician’s care. The pedometer data seems to be in line with clip-on belt pedometers I’ve used in the past. The mood tracking seems goofy but that too, is a data point. Tracking energy levels seems to be the intent: I feel lousy doing on-and-off again stretches of caffeine intake or I sleep restfully on nights with more water intake and physical activity during the day.

I didn’t learn anything new because of this device. I know that my desk job is hastening my demise and that I should get enough sleep. I suppose the real value is in data collection and correlation, and the sense of accountability that comes with that big picture, painted in brightly colored graphs.

And now for a picture of my dinner. Because the Internet.

Sausage and peppers

Flow

Things I love: lists and hierarchies. Other things I love: clean, simple design. Marry these things into a big, happy, polyamorous union and you get Workflowy.

Workflowy is a clutter-free tool for making lists and organizing your brain barf. I’ve been using Workflowy since the beginning of the year to track errands and goals and make travel and career plans. I can imagine myself using Workflowy for writing (outlining), if I ever have time to write again. Recently, I used Workflowy to outline an upcoming training workshop on curating metadata for photographs.

Lists in workflowy

When getting started, it’s helpful to view some of the short video tutorials (like this one) on Workflowy’s site to learn how to use all of the features, such as quickly expanding and collapsing lists. Some features are listed below but the biggest feature for me: simplicity. My list is big but the load time is next to nothing. The interface is clean. Minimal distractions = get more work done.

Features

  • Click and drag to re-order items in your lists
  • Keyboard shortcuts (when logged in, click the “Help” button for more info on shortcuts) makes it easy to transfer your thoughts onto the screen quickly
  • Searching your lists is handy, especially as your lists get longer
  • Tags (#) and attributes (@) allow you to tag items with tags like #today #urgent #phonecall or with attributes like @Jen @Jes; tags and attributes become hotlinks, which when clicked, returns all other items with that tag or attribute
  • Item completion allows you to mark items as Complete, which allows Workflowy to function as a to-do list; you may toggled between Visible and Hidden, depending upon whether you want to see your completed items or not
  • Mobile interface allows you to view and edit your lists from your mobile device (phone, tablet, etc.)
  • Sharing and collaboration allows you share a list or sublist at whichever level you choose; you may ‘unshare’ a sublist at any time

Represent

There are some things that companies and organizations do with their social networking presence that make me batty. Perhaps a few of these things annoy you too? Here are my rules for managing an organization’s social media presence–just in case any of those types care what I think. They should–I may have money to spend some day.

Content Management

Social networking sites are not to be used as a substitute for your company’s website.

If I see that your website is four months out if date, then I tend to think that something might be wrong with your company. Is it still in existence? Is everyone too busy? Do they not care? Suggestion: Facebook can pull in feeds from blogs. Post official news to your company’s blog and Facebook will automatically add that post to your company’s wall. Going a step further, Facebook can be set up to cross-post to Twitter. Much of the dissemination of your company’s official news can be automated.

Content managers: it’s good to keep in mind that your company will always own the content that is posted on the company’s server. Sure, it’s easy for people to loot content appearing on your website but at least you aren’t legally surrendering your rights to your company’s videos by posting them on Facebook. Post the videos on your site and then post a link to the relevant webpage onto Facebook. Always consult the terms of service of a social networking site and understand what that site does with your content. Track changes to terms of service here.

Push unique content to each of your company’s social networking sites.

Some redundancy of information across a company’s website, blog, Facebook wall, and Twitter feed is inevitable. Be sure to give consumers a reason to subscribe to the your blog’s RSS feed AND like your company’s Facebook page AND follow you on Twitter by offering a unique experience in each arena. Example: here in Bloomington, Scholars Inn Bakehouse (@ScholarsInnBake) has daily specials that are only advertised on Twitter. Another example: every morning, Bloomington Bagel Company (@BBCBagel) Tweets the soup selection at each of their locations, while BBC’s Facebook page seems to be used for more general news.

Quality interaction

Interact with individuals who reach out to your company online.

Don’t be THAT company, you know, the one that posts information to its Facebook page or Twitter feed and then ignores any subsequent comments or replies. You CAN respond to people who comment on your company’s wall posts. This is not merely good web marketing, it is good manners. Since most people have instant access to Facebook and Twitter, they will often leave a complaint (or a compliment!) on these networks, rather than search out your homepage, find out how to contact you (far too often, this is a difficult feat!), and write up a formal letter/make a phone call. Respond to replies in timely fashion. Check your social networking sites’ notification settings and make sure that someone can be on hand most of the time to manage these consumer interactions.

Don’t spam your audience.

If you have to post the same event to everyone’s feeds four times in one week, please find four unique ways to do it.  Or better–only post twice in a week. I’ve witnessed the number of “likes” go down on a company’s Facebook page after a really aggressive week of in-your-face promotion. It’s easy to overwhelm a person’s Facebook feed. Example: I blocked the Library of Congress on Facebook because they routinely posted fifteen times a day, completely monopolizing my Facebook feed. These were fifteen unique posts, mind you but still, they were off-putting. This brings me to my next point:

Learn the difference between how people use Facebook and Twitter.

In the previous example, if the Library of Congress had made the same fifteen updates to Twitter, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Why? Because these networks are different beasts and people do not use them the same way. Think about it, have you ever tried to catch up on a couple days worth of Facebook posts? It’s obnoxious! Twitter is super easy to scan quickly.

In addition to frequency, be aware of immediacy. Don’t tweet those photos you snapped at least week’s film fest. It’s already ancient history (sometimes two hours ago seems like ancient history in Twitterverse). Instead, post those photos in an album on Facebook. Tweet at conferences, cons, etc. in the moment–and be sure to find out the correct hashtag to use in your Tweets so that others at the event can find you too. Facebook is a mix of immediacy (announcing the launch date of a new product) as well as legacy (a photo album of a recent event).

Am I the only one with these business social media pet peeves? I’m sure I’ve missed some.

Paper.li

Yesterday, I posted about a tool that lets you pull content from your WordPress.org blog, rearrange the content, add chapters, sections, etc. and publish the whole thing in an ePUB, PDF or TEI format. Too cool! Sure, you end up with duplicated content but people love choices. I don’t want to read your short story collection online on my phone. I want to read it on my iPad. If given the choice, I’d grab the PDF file and plunk it on my iPad rather than visit your site and clicking through your endless pages on your blog–an activity that is dependent upon having a wifi connection.

I happened upon another tool that represents information from a feed in a different, interesting and useful way. Paper.li pulls in content you specify from Twitter and outputs the results as a newspaper. To see examples of how organizations have used paper.li, check out implementations by GOOD and the Indiana University Bloomington Archives (on Twitter as @IUBArchives).

Hitchcock's The Birds Meets TwitterIt’s brilliant. As a user, I like the quick, easy-to-read Twitter feeds when I’m on the go but the newspaper layout certainly plays up to my inner news junkie. This tool also has a harmonizing affect upon the Twitterverse. Often, scrolling through Twitter updates is much akin to a standing in a crowd people who are shouting out you in 140 characters. The paper.li experience is customizable, typically built around a theme.  In this way, paper.li adds a little cohesion to the cacophony.

More can be found on paper.li’s blog.

Life, a Miscellany

These last two weeks, I’ve lacked inspiration and I’ve had little time to do much besides getting the new Starrynight website ready to go live. You can take a peek at the test site here. I still have a lot of content to move but I don’t anticipate the style and navigation to change drastically. Unless of course, some tells me that hate so-and-so and that I need to change it or else they won’t love me anymore (Tim, I tweaked the orange color–hopefully, it’s less painful now). I’ve had fun with this redesign. I even got brave and played with a little php. I have no idea what I’m doing but my changes didn’t seem to break anything. So, success?

I’ve listened to about three-quarters of Northanger Abbey. It’s… different. I feel absolutely nothing for any of the characters. I know Austen is writing satirically but I’m not a big fan of the genre that is being mocked to begin with. Austen is not being nearly as ruthless as I’d like. I want horrible things to happen to Catherine Morland. I’m probably not meant to feel that way about the heroine. She’s just so damn clueless and she keeps making the same mistake over and over. Every character in this book could die and I’d clap and cheer. They’re all too two-dimensional–even for satire. All of you. Die.

In other news, The Cavaliers just announced their 2010 program, or parts of it, at any rate. Interesting concept. I immediately thought of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World but that film has nutty, vaguely carnivalesque theme music, which judging from the show logo is probably not what The Cavies are going for. In any case, I look forward to June!

In OTHER other news, my microwave may not be malfunctioning after all. Russ has used it a few times with absolutely no problems. He is convinced that there were small bits of metal in the green beans I was reheating. Oh, I feel much better now that I know the microwave won’t EXPLODE; however, there was METAL in my GREEN BEANS. Russell could not understand why I would not be consoled on this matter.

200

Puddles is 200- posts that is, quite young by web standards. A babe!

When I realized that the 200th post loomed near, I wondered how best to usher in the terrible two’s. A retrospective? Ugh, lame, that’s what archives are for. An introspective account of the usefulness of blogs as self-therapy? Gag. Cake? Candles? No, I’m going to let this one slip quietly by. Let this post be merely a milestone.

Happy 200th PIP.