Categories, shmategories…

I haven’t ever seen the point in categories for my blog before now (I’m still not sure I do).

But making a virtue out necessity and ignorance, I can’t turn off the category thing in the theme I am using for this blog and rather than having it jarringly state “UNCATEGORIZED” in the byline for each piece, I thought I’d set some up.

The challenge is that my ideas about categories change all the time, its partly why I prefer the versatility of tags to the taxonomy approach.

So rather than focus on topics, I’m going to have categories based around the different ways I am thinking and working on this blog:

  • Public notebook: This is the default – my blog is my public notebook ahead of anything else.
  • Speaking: Notes and slides and things that support specific events where I am speaking.
  • Me and My Web Shadow: Things connected with the book I wrote. I think I will write posts here from now on and then cross-post them out to the book’s website. I don’t have enough attention/time to divide myself between different blogs and do much with them, so Open… will continue to where I post everything and connect to the rest of my online presence.
  • Brilliant Noise: This is my new project. A think/do tank of sorts, a home for a lot of projects. But more of that later this week, I hope.
  • Media & brands: This is what I started out writing about as the main focus for this blog, and mainly what my career has been about up until now. I expect to still write about it, but it is not the only focus of this blog.

: : Now, unless I can say that I am ignoring all the dates in the calendar and renaming them all “J” I am going to have to work out how to fix the number thing in the byline for my blog posts…

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Writing, running, pain and finding the perfect space

Writing is hell. That’s why writers spend so much time trying to find ways to make it slightly less helliish.

For instance, I gained a new impossible dream today – to have a writing studio like this one…

Private Library from A Space In Time on Vimeo. Via Open Culture

Funnily enough this incredibly expensive writing environment reminded me of a £4.99 one that I started using recently (thanks to a tip-off from my Dad) the Writer app for the iPad. It really is very lovely, basically because it removes all distractions from the screen and lets you get into your scribely flow… well worth a try.

I’m also reacquainting myself with Ecto, the Mac blog editor. Lovely. It is as close as I can get to Live Writer. (Please Microsoft, do a Mac version, I would even buy Office to get it. Seriously.)

The value of these editors is tat they remove fiddly bits from trying to write a blog post. They make it quicker, so you’re not mucking around with uploading images or trying to figure out with your knuckle-scraping understanding of HTML why the text is appearing without paragraph breaks, bullet points or with question marks in odd places (all issues for me using the otherwise lovely Canvas theme on my WordPress blog these past few weeks).

What you need for writing are tools and spaces (physical or just emotional, states of of mind) that let your mind go free and the words to come quickly.

Writing is torture. As one of my favourite crime writers Lawrence Block says in his book about writing Telling Lies for Fun and Profit (and I’ve heard this so many times, in different ways, from other writers) writing is, very often, incredibly hard, almost painful. No one writes on a Sunday just for pleasure, he says, unlike painters or musicians where even the amateurish practice of the craft can be an end all of its own. Writers must persevere, must prevail, if they are to create anything at all.

I think that writing my book last year actually took a long time to recover from. I don’t think my blogging has ever been the same since. It brought upon me some species of trauma.

That’s one of the reasons that What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami is one of the most useful books to read if you writing things of any length (beyond, say 10,000 words). Writing is like long distance running, he says: lonely, you compete mainly against yourself, against your deep desire to give up and do something less uncomfortable.

There are many moments of course when you hit that elation, that flow, that Hunter S Thompson is quoted about in The Proud Highway: “I haven’t found a drug yet that can get you anywhere near as high as sitting at a desk writing.

Acutally, when I was searching for that exact quote I found that Hunter S Thompson also said: “Writing is the flip side of sex – it’s only good when it’s over.

But still, it’s like running. Sometimes when you are training, on a long run, you get the runner’s high after 15 minutes of slogging through the rain. It’s hard to justify the rest of the misery sometimes, just for those moments though, you have to have a clear iea of a bigger goal, and more than that just a lot of bloody minded drive to make yourself get out the door in the morning to run. Get up to your desk and start creating prose instead of wandering through the web or your social networks.

Writing is hell. But I can’t stay away.ZZ3C117589.jpg

Never rest on your assumptions

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According to this heat map of geo-tagged Tweets around the world, Indonesia is where most of the Tweets in the world are coming from today, at 10.00 GMT.

Of course the US hasn’t woken up yet, but still… I had no idea it was so popular in that country.

The other statistic here that piques my interest is that there have been Tweets from 202 countries already today. That’s more than the number of countries in the United Nations.

It’s a reminder to me that you should not rest on assumptions or think because you understood a network a few weeks or months ago you understand it now.

Obliged to Kathryn Corrick for the link…

Educational stalking

Interesting to read of the English teacher who encourages their pupils to cyber-stalk strangers. It’s an excellent, practical lesson for them about just how much information people reveal about themselves online, often without considering the consequences.

Clarence Fisher explains his lesson:

Wanting to teach the kids in my class about concepts of digital footprint and online safety, I used three people well known from the edusphere as examples: Will Richardson, Jabiz Raisdana and Jeff Utecht. I introduced these three friends to the students in my class by giving them only a photo and a name. I simply told the kids in my class: find out all you can about these three guys.

The students made a list of places to search. They started with simply Google and then soon expanded to other places such as flickr, youtube, twitter, wordpress, linkedin, delicious and facebook. They expanded into a Yahoo domain search and searching other sites such as whois.net. Soon their lists of information began to grow.

Take a look at his blog post to see the detail they uncovered and noted on their classroom flip-charts. Granted the stalking targets are people who have chosen to live in plain sight online for some time, but the exercise is still a very useful one. This is an example of just one:

201011130937.jpgStalk. Stalking. Stalkerish. These are words which have found their way from the news pages into everyday vocabulary.

At the irritating, but mostly harmless end of things, I’ve heard young people describing someone who won’t take being ignored lightly (posting to their Facebook wall when texts, emails and DMs have been ignored is described as “stalkerish”).

Slightly more blood-chillingly there are the encounters with strangers that remind us that living in public online is not something to take too lightly. Shea Sylvia’s account of an unsettling phonecallin a restaurant from an unknown other while eating at a restaurant, is a reminder for us all that geotagging out location openly may not always be a good idea.

What a fantastic way, then, this teacher has found to show young people how managing their web shadow (or digital footprint as he terms it) is something to take very seriously indeed.

Via Ewan McIntosh