Leap Day

Leap Day turned out to be a surreal, warm, perfect day (65 degrees!). Such an occasion DEMANDED a walk along Clear Creek Trail after work. Do you know those times when the sky and air and sun are just too perfect to bother getting out the camera and fussing over the framing of a shot? I hope you do.

While I know that I really ought to be gravely concerned that we’ve had a winter that was MUCH to warm while people in Europe are freezing to death, it has been a very enjoyable winter. So what if the globe is warming and allergy season lasts through February!

Of 2011

As a policy, I never make BIG plans or resolutions on New Years because I like to think that I’m empowered to make those big dreams, decisions, and plans at any moment in time. There is something about this time of year though. The days are darkest now, a time for quiet introspection. Some observations on 2011:

  • I’m tough; WAY tougher than I thought. I never would have known this if I hadn’t stepped out of my comfort zone. To those who helped, encouraged, or shoved me out of that safe zone, whether personally or professionally: thanks again.
  • I’m a sap. Yeah, I KNOW. So. Uncool. *sigh* But there’s no use denying any more how much I adore kittens, underdog stories, and watching Love Actually. I’m a total hopeless romantic. And, given that this sappiness is not going to go away, no matter how much I try to ignore it, I refuse to feel guilty about it anymore. I will no longer feel compelled to have to wait until Christmas to watch Love Actually. THERE.
  • I’m internalizing other people’s B.S. far less. It’s about time.

In 2012, I wish for you a discovery. A big one. The kind that realigns your understanding of yourself or your relationships or your community. The BIG discoveries are sometimes–in fact, usually–scary (2010 was a doozy for me). After some time, you realize that the discovery can either be something that weighs you down or sets you free. I hope that in 2012, I’ll have a chance to pay some of my good fortune of 2011 forward to others. Cheers.

Autumn Excursion

Appropriately enough for the first weekend of October, the weather was clear and crisp and the sky was the kind of shocking blue color that makes you slow down and breathe a little deeper. THIS was the weekend that I would finally see Spring Mill State Park village when it was actually open. Tim wanted to see Saint Meinrad Archabbey, which is a hour past Spring Mill, so we decided on a road trip.

Tim pointed out that I take very few pictures of people when I travel. It’s TRUE. I’ve always been that way. I have no explanation to offer. However, I can offer a few landscape-oriented photos featuring aforementioned shockingly blue sky. I may have gone a little overboard with the HDR toning in Photoshop (the photos really didn’t need it; the blues and reds and greens really were that vibrant) but perhaps collecting photos exhibiting flagrant HDR abuse is precisely your cup of tea! In any case, enjoy. Click an image for the 1920 x 1200 wallpaper. I’m happy to share but please observe the license below.

Creative Commons License
This work by Jennifer A. Liss is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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

Words in the Stars

I heard some words on this episode of Star Talk with Neil DeGrasse Tyson that I wanted to write them down somewhere:

(paraphrased slightly) People over-define the scientific method. You know what it is? Do whatever it takes to not fool yourself.

Isn’t that the cardinal rule for living! But hey, it’s tough to do, which is why it’s codified and taught to kids in school.

I recently saw Tyson on The Daily Show (see it here) and was impressed by his knowledge, his friendly demeanor, his adventurous spirit, and his wordcraft. On the same radio show linked above, I loved this image: “The universe is flinching.”

Right, quotes recorded.

Flying Fortress

Inside of the B-17 Bomber, Aluminum Overcast. Photo by Tim Johnson.I was incredibly excited to see the restored B-17 bomber, Aluminum Overcast, which was was in town this weekend at the Monroe County Airport. We kept hearing and then seeing it fly over the house–prompting many a mad rush to a window. Tim and I didn’t get to see it take off and land as we wanted to (one day, I WILL fly in one of these!) but we did take a ground tour. It seemed a more faithful restoration than other B-17s I remember being through. The only big component that was missing was the top gun turret, which, if in place, would have made it very hard to take tours through from nose to tail.

Before taking the tour, we did a walk around of the plane. The ball turret was open so that you could see the small space in which the gunner was confined. Two men in EAA coats, who I assumed to be the men who pilot the Overcast, were wiping down each of the engines, a task that took them the better part of an hour. Their pride in the bomber and all that it signified was evident. They worked slowly, deliberately. They were eager to talk to the folks milling about or standing in line, especially kids. What they did was special. This bomber was special. The most recent stat I could find claims that there are now fourteen B-17s flying these days (which IS slightly better than the ten I knew it to be about a decade ago). Between the cost of keeping these birds in the sky (can you imagine filling THAT tank?!) and losing the aging vets who served on these aircraft–it’s as if an entire chapter of history is drawing to a close. It’s frightening to think that these warbirds might not be in the skies in fifty years and that there will be no one living who remembers what it was like to serve on them.

There are more pictures over at Flickr. See here for more info on Aluminum Overcast and where it is currently touring.

The Herald Times put together a video (available online for those with a subscription) that included scenes of a couple veterans telling stories of their service cobbled together with historical footage and background on the bomber. I especially liked a comparison of aviators then in comparison to now. Sadly, the HT did not identify the veterans they spoke to. I’ve transcribed the story from one man below:

War is a terrible thing and it’s unfortunate that we haven’t, as human beings, learned to avoid it. Wars today are more brutal, I believe, at least the ones in the Middle East, than the ones the Harold and I were in.  As an example, when my brother, [Bill], bailed out and he was in his parachute coming down, he heard a FW-190, which is a German fighter plane, coming at him and he knew that [the German pilot] was going to turn his machine guns on and cut him in two. But [the German pilot] dipped down under him and went behind and went out there and made a one eighty. And [Bill] thought “Well, he’s really gonna do it to me this time.” And [Bill] could hear him throttle back and he turned around and looked and [the German pilot] had his flaps down and his wheels down and his canopy throwed back and when [the German pilot] got even with him, [the German pilot] saluted. Bill said “I saluted him back.” They don’t do that today.  They blow you up at a moment’s notice.  That’s the difference in warriors today.

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.