The news sucks, try a good blog

Face it, the news can be a real downer. And is it really the truth? If you stick your head in a septic tank and report every detail of how things are decaying and falling apart in there, yeah, it’d be true, but the question is how true. Outside, a tree blooms, children play, birds sing. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, perhaps truth is in the heart. If that’s true, what kind of truth do we want to put there?

I’ve seen some great truths, some beautiful truths, some helpful truths at 100bloggers.com. The material you’ll find can help improve your game of life, but even more amazing is that you can get in conversation with these folks, and they’re up to great things, writing books, forging networks, and making this little blue brown ball a little better. Check them out, from the founder Troy Worman, to the wonderful Phil Gerbyshak, Trevor Gay, and many others.

A friend once related a horrible study where the mad white coated scientists put cats in a vise so they could see the world, but not interact with it for a long time, and then dissected their brains and compared it to a normal kitten’s development. He said they found it was mush. Don’t let your brains become mush! The bloggers need your comments and interaction to keep them going, and it will help your brain too. See you in the blogosphere.

An Inconvenient Note

My wife and I saw a movie in downtown Missoula last night, “An Inconvenient Truth“. I came out moved, despite having heard about global warming for many years, I was shocked at how bad it really is, and how well understood the crisis is. Please please, if you care about the planet, check out the film. It was very well done, and it deserves your attention. At the very least, you’ll be more prepared in case we don’t turn the tide. It’s pretty clear Katrina was a result of global warming, and Katrina will look like a picnic if the trends aren’t significantly reversed. Here’s the official site for the movie, www.climatecrisis.net.

Want to host a conference?

Conferences are wonderful opportunities to network, meet people, and to learn about the topic area of the conference. If you’re fortunate enough to be a speaker, the opportunities increase even more.

A friend of mine works in the financial sector and he often tells me that conferences are an excellent marketing opportunity. He leads financial seminars at conferences and finds that these sessions are a unique way to promote his products and services to a wider audience. In financial services marketing staying one step ahead of the competition is fundamental, and attending conferences allows you to keep an ear to the ground.

What about hosting one though?

Tim O’Reilly has invited friends in the computer field to participate in his exclusive “Foo Camps”. They’re conferences that are bascially self-organizing, if you’ve been lucky enough to be invited. But some didn’t feel like waiting, and they started “Bar camp”. You just find a space with several rooms where speakers can speak, invite whoever you want in whatever topic area you like, and let them create the conference.

Would like you like to host a conference? If you need some inspiration, check out this video.

Generous Web Conspiracy

Browsing Phil Gerbyshak’s quite generous offerings, full of great links, I found this link to Bill Kinnon’s mention of the Generous Web. Bill’s post describes beautifully how one billion online people sharing freely and generously of their knowledge is creating a powerful force for good, a disruptive conspiracy that is changing the world.

Generous websters share the best of what they see on the web, and they do it rapidly through links (and there are wonderful links on Phil’s and Bill’s sites). I challenge everyone to go and do likewise, be a part of the generous web. Take from it, and also add to it. There are many challenges around today that are asking for the best from each of us. Join the conspiracy!

Thanks, Hugh!

me & my macbookproHello from a hotel in Battle Mountain, Nevada. It was as far as I made it last night on my way back to Montana from San Francisco. Notice my new shiny MacBookPro, showing the inbuilt iSight running on iMovie. So this is sort of an iBlogPost. Thank you to Hugh, it was through his support and encouragement I took the bold step of getting this sweet machine. I was seeing it everywhere in California, as I roamed JavaOne 2006 in Moscone Center, San Francisco, hoping I’d get to show of my new MacBookPro, and it was all over the place. Including on the big stage. I was roller blading around Golden Gate Park yesterday, and someone was using it on the side of a road. It was someone who was part of a movie crew.

Fortune cookie

fortune cookie This fortune showed up a few weeks ago in a Chinese Restaurant in Missoula. Carl Jung, the Austrian psychologist and contemporary of the atheistic Sigmund Freud was one of the early great psychologists, and for me at least, more useful. Carl Jung taught things that have been proven in more modern empirical studies, such as religious conversion is often the best path to deep personal change. Rather than being stuck in a scientific materialist model, which only allowed Freud to go as deep as the sexual drives, Jung was able to delve into the realm of spirit. For many, this is a problem, because the study of spirit and the study of material science had been divided up very cleanly between the priests and the scientists. It wasn’t ok for anyone to wander into the no-man’s divide between the realm of science and that of spirit. But Carl Jung did so, and his theory of Synchronicity made for a wonderful dance song in my college years that perhaps can explain why I think fortune cookies can work.

Synchronicity is the theory of meaningful coincidences, and for me at least, I find valuable synchronicity in the fortune cookies I receive. They can be messages from the universe and the Creator, and not just a cookie factory. And it occurred to me from that fortune cookie that I am reluctant to share bad news even more than good news. But there does seem to be value in it, and it’s something I’m going to practice right now in the blog. The bad news is the meal around that cookie wasn’t very good, and we should have known better, we just forgot that the restaurant wasn’t that great. The good news, it occurred to me it would be a good blog topic and worth sharing. I photographed it on top of a Java book, as I was preparing to get to JavaOne 2006 in San Francisco. And that’s more good news, as I’m done and it was a great conference. Perhaps a topic for a later blog.

Don’t wait for someone to notice

I’ve become addicted to 43 Things recently. The website is a place to list 43 goals, and where you can give and get help and encouragement in achieving those goals. But an entry I read recently from someone who cheered one of my goals really struck home. It was titled, “Don’t stop to wave, you’ll drown”. The inspired entry quotes from a couple authors and it explained some of my problems using the 43 Things website, and how I can use it better.

The essence of the entry was that life is like a river, and you have to keep swimming. If you stop to wave, to get appreciation, to be acknowledged, to be anything, you will drown. Waiting for people to notice kills dreams. After a few days I chose a goal to give 43 cheers as I noticed others had chosen similar goals. Many have given 1000 cheers on 43 Things. But in order to give cheers, you have to get cheers. You can get cheers from others, and you also get “a handful” of cheers from the system every day. I started feeling like a lab rat hitting the lever hoping for a bit of food. I was glad when the goal was over.

The “Don’t stop to wave or you’ll drown” entry clarified my troubles. The “high” on 43 Things is being cheered, or recognized, or when someone leaves a comment or response. But it’s better not to want or need that recognition. Perhaps it’s good to appreciate the cheers, but the focus needs to be on the real goal, to keep swimming, flow with the current, and keep moving.

These new social networking websites have a tremendous power. I like 43Things.com because it offers support and encouragement. But the real power comes from giving. Giving others a cheer, or an answer to a question, or just a supportive comment, is a way to appreciate others, and to enrich the internet. I don’t want to wait for others to notice anymore. I choose to keep on swimming.

Fertilizing your brain garden

Growing up, the dogma of the day was that you had only so many neurons way before you became an adult, and after that, the number just declined. The neurons were never replaced. It was a dismal picture, and I could never quite believe it. Recent research has disproved this idea. Adult brains can grow new neurons, not just new branches on old neurons. Granted, this isn’t new news, but the implications can hardly be emphasized enough.

A great article on Kathy Sierra’s blog shows that being in an office cubical can cause brain damage, or something very much akin to it. Isn’t it strange that so much creative intellectual work would be done in cubicles? Or is it really productive work after all?

Another great blog post from Kathy shows that being around angry people causes brain damage too. Researchers have found we have “mirror neurons” that match the people around us. We just have to watch someone be a rock star, and part of our brain turns into a rock star. Or being around someone who is angry causes the mirror neurons to match, and we become angry.

Perhaps the soil metaphor for our mind and spirit is a scientific one too. If our brain actually grows, maybe it’s a good idea to plant good seeds. Like the parable Jesus used in the gospels. And maybe it’s a good idea to keep the soil fertile too with good fertilizer. Good fertilizer for the brain as well as the soul. The mirror neuron research indicates that being around happy people would lead to healthy brain soil. What do you think would be good NPK for the head? Or the mental equivalent of healthy fertilizer?

Being a programmer, my sense is it’s all about the environment. Having a healthy pleasant environment. The soil is like our experience. Going back to the issue of cubicles, is it any wonder that a company like Google is doing so well, coming up with such great ideas, when it not only gives all the programmers real offices, but Google also offers free healthy meals. How are you nourishing the environment of your life?

The Importance of Larking

This post on Bernie DeKoven’s FunLog, Intergenerational Playground Larking, has kind of blown me away. There’s always been a feeling that play is important for your health, but this post shows scientific evidence that it helps for old people to play in playgrounds.

[…] a “team at Rovaniemi Polytechnic [Finland] [or is that “Funland”?] studied one group of 40 people, aged between 65 and 81, and found there were significant improvements in balance, speed and co-ordination after just three months of larking about on the climbing frames and play equipment.

After a bout of working on the job weekends and nights in ways that did not feel like play at all, this post reminds me I better get back onto the playground, and soon!

A Blog Diet

If you’re here, you probably know what a blog is. I was lucky enough to first hear about blogs from my estemed Chief Technical Officer, Ramana Rao, the heart and founder of Inxight where I work. At least five years ago he said blogs were going to be big. I respected him, but I didn’t get it. It seemed a blog was just a website that you write articles on. Now I finally think I understand a bit more why blogs are such a big deal, and why it’s part of something much bigger that has been happening on the internet. Blogs are about a major shift from broadcast media to conversations, passive media consumption versus interactive participation. Bloggers may be able to generate some degree of popularity online just by the merit of their content, but they may hit a wall by relying on this alone. Perhaps through the use of an Instagram growth service (like this – https://nitreo.com) they will be able to reach a larger audience and build their following organically so that more people can view their content and give their blog more hits. Whilst social media is a great way to pull more people over to your blog, you could also consider promoting the blog itself. To increase your blog’s online presence, it might be worth looking into search engine optimization. This method, offered by companies like Victorious, can help bloggers to rank higher on search engines internationally. This method has the potential of drawing new readers from all over the world to your blog. Perhaps that’s worth considering too, it should help your blog to become more successful.

This post is titled “a blog diet” because diet has such a tremendous impact on our health, and blogs should be a big part of every net citizen’s diet. But perhaps the title should have been “a blog diet and exercise”. Just reading blogs won’t do it. You can’t really understand the dance until you dance yourself. Don’t just read blogs, find ones that let you comment, and post comments. Even if it’s just “thank you, great post”. You’ll understand the value of this more though if you start your own. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s fast. I like blogspot.com, but there are others if you want to google around, like WordPress (though you’ll need to host these ones on platforms like https://www.hostiserver.com/, which isn’t difficult). The important factor there is that it is a system you find easy to use and is quickly understood. Being confused and flustered will likely cause you to quit before you begin, which would be a shame!

To get you started, here are a few blogs you might want to look at:

Creating Passionate Users Kathy Sierra makes technical learning fun with her Head First series of books. There’s lots of great interesting and fun stuff here. Check it out.

100bloggers – One hundred bloggers post to a single blog space. You’ll find lots of intersting reading and interesting folks to talk to. I post here too, check it out.

In the Blogging World You Don’t Have Sex on the First Date – Here’s a great bit of advice if you want to get serious about blogging. It can be a money making career by itself, but it also is a great way to market your goods and services.

Make it Great – Check out this guy’s blog, it has lots of positive thinking in it, and references to the great blogs of others.

Gaping Void – Hugh Macleod has quite a following, with interesting cartoons. Might be fun, but this particular post has blogging advice – take as humor, but do take it.

Bernie Dekoven’s Fun Log – It’s about fun. have some every day, it’s good for your health.