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News and opinion on blogging,blog consulting, professional blogging, blog software, collaboration, knowledge management, and other related topics.
Updated: 11 years 8 weeks ago

The Homely Scientist made the top five in the Canadian Blog Awards!

November 24, 2006 - 6:48pm

Wow ... I even beat myself by a healthy margin ;-)!  That's what I get for submitting two of my blogs in the same category.  The results are here, you have to scroll down to the bottom to see the SciTech results.  This means that Homely Scientist is in round two!  Yahoo!  Okay, the next round of voting starts tomorrow (Saturday) ... so please visit the Canadian Blog Awards and vote (for me)!

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C|Net were you trying to be funny or insulting? Girl Geeks list backlash

November 23, 2006 - 12:37pm

When I saw the C|Net article this morning about the Top 10 Girl Geeks, I thought, cool this could be really good.  Come on you have the first female astronaut (technically cosmonaut) as the lead image, this has to be serious.  Now while there are some extremely worthy people on the list (Marie Curie, Ada Byron, Grace Hopper for example), including Lisa Simpson and (WTF) Paris Hilton on the list is just insulting.  I know so many women in tech who are f-ing brilliant.  Far too many to list.  Rob Hyndman has some great suggestions (Caterina Fake and Mena Trott are on his list and were the first two to come to my mind).  Mark Evans, Maryam Scoble (a girl geek herself). and Jessica Guynn are joining the chorus about this plainly ill-advised (or ill-edited) article.

So ... I'm betting C|Net is going to be doing a little damage control soon ... like maybe in their own offices?  Wonder how many women working at C|Net are going to start showing their geek pride come Monday?

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Interface breakthrough ... Minority Report interface demoed, how we should be interacting with computers

November 23, 2006 - 12:19pm

My buddy Alex sent me this link to a YouTube video (the title refers to an unfortunate drawing bit at the end).

I don't think there is any sage commentary that can come close to what you are just going to see.  I'll leave discussions for the comments.


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A little holiday fun ... what makes Tris tick?

November 23, 2006 - 10:43am

Maryam did a word association test and being a slow day here (even though it isn't Thanksgiving in Canada) I thought I'd do a couple too.  Okay being left-handed (and I'd say rather left-handed in that the dexterity in my right hand is pretty darn low) I figured the right-brain/left-brain test would be interesting (lefties are supposed to be strongly right-brained) ... the results surprised me a bit:

Brain Lateralization Test Results Right Brain (50%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain.
Left Brain (48%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain
Are You Right or Left Brained?
personality tests by similarminds.com

So it seems that I have some kind of balance going on behind the two halves of my brain.  Hmm.  Okay one of the tests I've taken a few times is the Myers-Briggs test.  Similarminds offers a version of this, well I think this was pretty bang on (at least given my mood at the moment).

INTP - "Architect". Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population. Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

When I took M-B in grad school I was an INTJ (J=judging).  It seems that I might be mellowing out over time.  Frankly, I know this to be true.  I was very judging as a lad.  Now, not so much.  Okay those of you who know me, I'd be interested in what you think about these results.  What I'm really interested in are people who haven't ever met me in person and those who have.  I have a feeling that my IM-enabled online personality is different than my real-word personality, but I'm not sure.

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Breaking news: IE7 being pushed out today

November 22, 2006 - 11:08am

I've been running IE7 on my laptop since Beta 2 and installed the final version as soon as it was out, today though my other computer (Lorraine's and the kids' machine) ran the updates as scheduled and lo and behold I was prompted to update to IE7.  So this is the big day.  The day that RSS is supposed to start taking off.  The day a lot of Internet users (since a lot Windows users rely on IE) are going to see orange RSS buttons and tabs for the first time.

Should be fun.

Funny this hasn't caught the eyes of Techmeme yet.

Updates:

I send out an e-mail to my bloggy friends about this and one friend commented that this post is a wee thin.  Well that was intentional.  I wanted to get this out fast then then update a bit. Denise has already blogged it this morning, but she hasn't had a chance to try it yet.

Couple things to note.  First, when you are forced to update, okay forced might be a strong word ... but I think it's a good idea to update, it will take several minutes and you will have to reboot.  Second, odd that this comes just before American Thanksgiving.  Maybe Microsoft figured that with the lower overall load (people having family time vs computer time) that the servers wouldn't get swamped.  If true, that's pretty smart.

Now as a (pretty) long-time IE7 user and a long-time tabbed browsing fan there are a few things in IE7 to learn and get used to.  First, make sure tabbed browsing is actually turned on.  I don't think it is turned on by default, so you'll have to go to options and do it.  Ah, options ... which brings me to another important thing ... the default menu bar is not visible by default (I think this is to give more browsing room).  Fear not, the stuff you need is under Tools next to the tabs.

For Tabbed browsing, crtl-t creates a new tab.  So does clicking the little tab next to farthest right tab.  Oh and that little tab with the four squares on it?  Gallery view.  Let's you look at a small version of all open tabs.  You can switch to a tab or close it from there.

Couple tricks that I like to use.  First, when closing IE with more than one tab open it will ask you if the next time you open IE if you want to re-open those tabs too.  I usually click the yes box.  But ... if you want to really save something for later, you can create a Favourites group of all open tabs then re-open them all at once from the new Favourites sidebar (the star).

RSS.  Well RSS handling is a little weak.  IE wasn't really designed to be an RSS reader.  Yeah, you could use it like that if you only have a few places to keep up with, but I don't recommend it. But ... at least people will see the orange RSS symbol more and more.

Compatibility on websites shouldn't be a huge problem.  I haven't seen any major glitches in months.  Now, plugins are a different story.  Some might not work and others might crash IE.  I'd proceed with caution, unless you just updated them.

Well, that's what I have thus far.  Post is a tad richer now.

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Vote for me at the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards, please?

November 17, 2006 - 10:47am
I submitted two of my blogs to the Canadian Blog Awards ... they are in the same category, Sci-Tech.  So, A View from the Isle (my bloggy homebase) and Homely Scientist are up there.  While I see now that is was stupid for me to submit both in the same category (I didn't think both would be accepted), how about this ... you, dear readers, choose which one you like and read more and vote for that one.  Haven't read HS but like VftI, vote VftI (and vice versa).  You can vote more than once, just not more than once a day.  Please vote for me! The first round of voting closes November 21st. Tags: ,
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Vote for me at the 2006 Canadian Blog Awards, please?

November 17, 2006 - 10:47am

I submitted two of my blogs to the Canadian Blog Awards ... they are in the same category, Sci-Tech.  So, A View from the Isle (my bloggy homebase) and Homely Scientist are up there.  While I see now that is was stupid for me to submit both in the same category (I didn't think both would be accepted), how about this ... you, dear readers, choose which one you like and read more and vote for that one.  Haven't read HS but like VftI, vote VftI (and vice versa).  You can vote more than once, just not more than once a day.  Please vote for me!

The first round of voting closes November 21st.

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Jim Turner hits the nail on the head ... blogs and the NASCAR sponsorship model

November 17, 2006 - 9:05am
Jim has a wry sense of humour.  Hey anyone who can put up with my snoring for two days and isn't romantically involved with me has to be a good guy.  Jim just sent this link to his first post of the morning over to me.  It's funny, it's telling, and you know I think we have to see the irony and satire in it ... as a warning for what we could become. Go read it, but put your coffee down first.  I take no responsibility for laughter-induced coffee spewing on keyboards. Tags: , ,
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Jim Turner hits the nail on the head ... blogs and the NASCAR sponsorship model

November 17, 2006 - 9:05am

Jim has a wry sense of humour.  Hey anyone who can put up with my snoring for two days and isn't romantically involved with me has to be a good guy.  Jim just sent this link to his first post of the morning over to me.  It's funny, it's telling, and you know I think we have to see the irony and satire in it ... as a warning for what we could become.

Go read it, but put your coffee down first.  I take no responsibility for laughter-induced coffee spewing on keyboards.

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Inkjet or laser, which printer should I choose?

November 14, 2006 - 4:09pm

I have a Lexmark All-In-One printer.  Had it for three years now.  I recently bought a new black ink cartridge for it.  Set me back over $40!  Forty dollars!  That's a lot of cash.  I can take my kids out for a nice lunch on that!  Go to a movie!  No, I have to use it for my printer.  I've been having the internal debate with myself about the merits of continuing this enslavement to Lexmark and their inkjets.  I do have a Brother HL-1440 laser printer that I picked up for $25 ... works pretty well, just needs an new toner cartridge and drum I think.  But for colour printing, I think next round I'm going colour laser.  They are only a few hundred dollars now (for a basic model) and the cost of consumables (on a per page basis) is really low.

Think I'm nuts?  Well DevHardware has a pretty thought provoking article on this topic, give it a read and then see if you think I'm nuts.

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Canadian academics fleeing US servers ... the chilling effect of the Patriot Act

November 14, 2006 - 4:03pm

Although I am American by birth and an immigrant to Canada, often I feel much more Canadian than American.  This is one of those times.  This piece on WebProNews chills me.  Canadian researchers have moved there RefWorks services off US soil to Canadian soil for fear of falling under suspicion of the U.S. government via the Patriot Act.

The RefWorks tool permits researchers to manage reference information and citations as they delve into a variety of topics. Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing noted how a subset of researchers have become so concerned at the potential for running afoul of US authorities who may investigate their work that they have been moving their accounts to hardware at the University of Toronto instead of the US server they had been using.
"There's concern among scholars that they could be identified and flagged if they are doing research on sensitive areas (North Korea, terrorism, nuclear weapons)," Doctorow wrote.

It's a sad, sad time when yet again scientific research is chilled or halted due to the politics of one government.  Can't wait for a change down south.

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Ever want to ask me the tough questions about blog metrics? Here's your chance I'm on Conversations with Experts this month!

November 14, 2006 - 3:58pm

Last week Denise Wakeman made my week.  She invited me to be on Conversations with Experts and talk about blog metrics and audience measurement (the talk I gave at Blog Business Summit last month).  Here's the interesting bit though, usually the guest expert gives Patsi and Denise a list of primer questions for the chat, well I'm turning this on it's ear ... you submit your questions for me to answer!

I really want to make sure your top questions about blog metrics are answered.  To submit a question all you have to do is go over to the post announcing the session and leave a comment!  What could be easier?!?  Don't be shy, please send in your questions.  I will do my best to answer them.  The session is on November 29th at 8:30 PM EST (which is 5:30 PM for yours truly) ... Denise and Patsi will be sending me the questions a few days ahead of time so get yours in early (that way I have more time to think about the answer!).

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b5media launches a business channel and check out my latest blog--Pimp Your Work!

November 14, 2006 - 10:20am
It's been a long (long, long, long) time coming, but today b5media has officially launched its new business channel.  There are some awesome, awesome blogs launched today (this is just a taste of what's to come) here's the list:
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b5media launches a business channel and check out my latest blog--Pimp Your Work!

November 14, 2006 - 10:20am

It's been a long (long, long, long) time coming, but today b5media has officially launched its new business channel.  There are some awesome, awesome blogs launched today (this is just a taste of what's to come) here's the list:

  • Business & Blogging: blogs for business: how to use them effectively for results.
  • Copyblogger: copy writing secrets
  • Digital Money World: everything you wanted to know e-currency and how it is transforming online commerce.
  • Franchise Pick: secrets and information about franchises
  • Home Biz Notes: the ins and outs of how to start and run a successful home business.
  •  Pimp Your Work: tips, tricks and secrets on how to “pimp your work” from best utilizing technology to how to survive cubicle life.
  • Slacker Manager: everything from review books on management to talk about productivity tips and tricks.

Pimp Your Work is the one I've started with two other uber-cool bloggers Lena West and Scot Herrick.  We're going to be talking about all the things you can do to make your work life better.

Me?  You can probably guess ... software, collaboration tools, working at home ... all the stuff you've been reading here.

And ... we're going to be having a contest soon.  Give us your best work pimps and we'll give your prizes.  Prizes like MindManager, ActiveWords, GyroQ and more!

Stop on by for a visit.  I'll put the coffee on.

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Learning some tricks of the trade, great blogging tips (and mistakes to avoid)

November 13, 2006 - 6:34pm

There are so many posts on how to blog better and what mistakes to avoid.  Yes, most of them say the same things over and over again (which is good, actually—it means I think we've got the basics down pretty well).  Anyway, WebProNews has a nice list of what I consider to be important tips, tricks, and things to avoid ... below with my commentary too

Looks Count. Yes, call me vain, but looks count. You have to be writing some pretty spectacular blog entries for me to keep reading a blog that is supremely ugly, uses a design that breaks in certain browsers, uses a trendy but hard-to-read font face, or uses the "out-of-the-box" blog design with zero customization (if it still says "Just another WordPress blog," you are on shaky ground).

I'm on the fence with this one.  Okay I agree with the "Just another Wordpress blog"  bit, but I think your template doesn't have to be killer to get traffic.  Okay, my personal blog kinda sucks in this regard, but still it's okay and people still read my stuff.  And yes, I long for a snazzier Blogware template.

Don't Hit Me Over the Head with Ads.

Ah, yes ads on blogs.  This storm seems to have blown over on whether it's okay or not, but now some people have gone a little nuts.  Too many ads distract your readers.  I have been to a couple blogs lately where the ads did get in the way of the content.  I thought I had reached the end of the post because of the way the ad was in there ... good thing I kept scrolling!


Use RSS Ads Smartly.

Yeah another hot topic.  Personally I'm not convinced that they even work so I don't bother at all.  I'd think twice before adding them into the mix.

Write Regularly.

This is a huge one.  Three to five posts a week is a minimum.  If you want to really build readers (and links) you have to blog more.  That's just the way it is, sorry.

Ignoring email. Places like FeedBurner make it super easy for people to get posts by email. Many use email, so don't forget that group and think a feed is enough.

Another biggie.  A lot, and I mean most, Internet users/blog readers don't give a rat's backside about RSS readers (assuming they even know what one is).  It's so simple, just put an e-mail subscribe link in ... I did this recently and within a week I have 10 e-mail subscribers.

Lack of About page. Too many blogs fail to tell me who is behind them.

Eh, this is important, but not really a killer.  I don't think my About page is all that noticeable, but my real and for true e-mail address is right there on my blog ... so yes you can use it and I will get the mail.

Failure to control your domain. Don't, DON'T!, put your blog up on someone else's domain.

This is tremendously important.  In fact I was talking to Wayne Hurlbert about this today.  Having a blog with wordpress.com, blogspot.com, typepad.com is great if you're just goofing around, but if you're going to be serious, spend $10 and buy a domain and use it.  Really, you'll be happy in the long run.  And hey if you're going to buy a domain, why not just get a basic hosting package and use Wordpress.  Lots of hosts have this as an easy install option for you.

Use descriptive titles and descriptions. Even if you send out a full feed, plenty of people will either summarize your posts with only titles or tiles and descriptions. Make sure what you provide is compelling, to encourage clickthrough

Lord this is so, so important.  Unless you're the likes of Scoble or Doc Searles, you can't get away with a non-descriptive, cheeky title.  Heck even though I know Robert if it's a busy day and his title doesn't grab me, I'm not going to click, simple as that.  Make sure your title (note this one as an example) gives people a really good idea of what the post is about.  While you're at it, make sure the first sentence if not the first paragraph gives readers a good idea about the post.  I see about 3-4 lines of a post, plus the title in my reader, if you can't grab me in that space, I'm not going to click.  Frankly, I don't think I'm alone either.

There you have it.  Some good tips and things to avoid, plus my own thoughts thrown in for good measure.  Fine, for those of you reading this and are yawning because you know it all ... great ... pass it on to a newbie blogger.  They'll appreciate it, I'm sure.

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Catch up on some great blog posts ... just let Easton do all the work!

November 13, 2006 - 6:01pm

Easton Ellsworth posted 50, yes 50, links to post that he considers great in the last little while.  Yeah, one of my posts is in there (flattery will get you links) ... but there are some other awesome ones by other folks near and dear to me too ...

Okay and this is my contribution on his list—Tris Hussey on what to do when someone steals your blog content.

Lots there to read.  If you can't find at least one new or cool article to read, you're not trying hard enough!

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Listen to podcasts on your cell phone? Um, no thanks.

November 13, 2006 - 2:20pm

I don't get this.  Two services launched recently, Podlinez and Fonpods, as announced by Techcrunch, that allow people to listen to podcasts on their cell phones.  Maybe I'm just behind the times, but I don't understand why you'd want to do this.  Given the commercials I see on TV, using up one's cell phone minutes is a big issue.  So why would you want to use up more minutes just to listen to something that you can download as an MP3 and listen to on your phone's MP3 player (since that seems to be the hot new feature) or normal MP3 player?  If someone calls during a podcast you're going to have to ignore it and hope they leave a voicemail or switch to it and miss the rest of the podcast.  Just doesn't seem like an efficient system to me.

So tell me, am I missing something here?

Hat tip to Lifehacker.

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Can a PDF late edition save newspapers?

November 13, 2006 - 1:33pm

Mark Evans (formerly of the National Post and now VP Ops of b5media ... and a friend of mine) wrote about a new service (?) offered by the Ottawa Citizen to allow commuters (and others I supposed) to download and print a rush-hour news day wrap up edition of the paper in PDF format (this follows on the heals of a similar offering by the Toronto Star).

Mark is skeptical of whether this will actually work or be used.  I have to agree with him.  I don't think I'd print out something that I could just get from my RSS feeds and if I did use it, I'd likely just try to read it on my PDA instead of wasting more paper.

Sure, it's an interesting idea, but I wonder if there is a better technological solution.  If what I see on CPAC (the Canadian version of CSPAN) is any indication, I'm betting that there are a ton of people with Blackberries and other PDAs in Ottawa.  Why not develop a nice application for those platforms?  Something that would appeal to info-junkies and not force them to carry something else around (like paper).  I'm sure RIM would be into that.

I'm all for newspapers trying to stay relevant, and I agree with Mark (from a previous TalkingTech episode) that newspapers need to get more into analysis than reporting the news.  Information moves so fast that by the time I've picked up the paper, I know the news, what I want to know is what is means.

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Wordpress/Automattic blog police or just protecting their brand?

November 13, 2006 - 12:34pm

Dave Taylor, a guy who is a friend and I listen to closely when he speaks, wrote a thought-provoking post about a problem with Wordpress.com shutting down blogs who violate their terms of service (TOS).  Dave calls them out and hangs the label "blog police" on them.  I think while Dave has a point, Wordpress needs to give people at least 36 hrs to respond, I also think there is another side to this story.  Jim picked up on this as well in his post on the topic.

Here's the thing.  When Matt, et al started WP.com they wanted to setup an alternative to Blogger.  Blogger had become one of the tools of choice for splogs (not so much any more, but still a problem).  They wanted a service where people could just blog.  Blog for fun, not not really for profit.  It's clear in the TOS that you may not put ads on the blogs or posts.   We ran into this when they stripped all Q-Ads ads from peoples' blogs one day.  We knew that we were treading on borrowed time, but it wasn't until a few people just made WP.com blogs that were solely about ads did we run into trouble.  I think Automattic is doing the right thing to protect their brand.

I wouldn't recommend WP.com as a place to host or start your business blog either.  It's a great place for a personal blog.  It's a great place for a practice blog, but there are too many long-term problems (not just the TOS, but also permalink and domain issues) to make it a business blog site.  But that's fine with me.

I think Dave is being a little harsh.  Yeah the blogger's blog shouldn't have been yanked without much warning.  That can be changed.  Matt is a very reasonable guy.  Wordpress.com doesn't want to become the next stop for sploggers, so they are being extra careful.  Maybe too careful, but given the battle against sploggers is a long and hard one, I think it's justified.

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