How to Start a Blog

Way back in 2007 I wrote a blog post about Starting to Blog. It is time for an update because one of the links has been broken by other web site updates and there is now new web site information. I got a comment recently about the old blog post which shows three things:

  • • Blog posts are an enduring resource that can still be useful and referenced years later
  • • Periodic updates are needed to refresh links where source reorganizations or deletions have been done
  • • Topics need to be revisited because Internet information progresses quickly
  • The blogging format inherently takes into consideration the time element with date stamping but web sites commonly don’t update their “What’s New” section and they are often years out of date. Continuity is important as lack of updates is a quick way to see if information is stale and hasn’t been given attention recently.

    My thanks to Lisa Addington for bringing to my attention an excellent “How to Start a Blog” site that is getting regular active updates.

    BTW: I fixed the link in the old article because it just might be used again.

    On Chasing the Right “Zero”

    I like the quote by Merlin Mann and reference by Shawn Blanc because I think it is an important perspective to keep in mind that all the inputs we process should be associated with helping us to produce outputs however indirectly. Focussing on outputs gives meaning and purpose to why we should bother to selectively pay attention to the inputs that continually bombard us.

    On Chasing the Right “Zero”:

    Merlin Mann:

    Put to best use, Inbox Zero is merely a philosophical practice of learning to be parsimonious about which and how many inputs we allow into into our lives—and, then, to responsibly but mindfully tend to those inputs in a way that is never allowed to hinder our personal commitment to doing the work that really matters to us.

    To paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson: Inboxes are good enough in their own right, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for work.

    (Via Shawn Blanc)

    A System Approach to Going Paperless

    We live in an information packed world which is growing by leaps and bounds everyday. With all that information it is easy to get overwhelmed and get your space cluttered especially if you are trying to manage stacks of paper.

    One way to reduce your paper overload is to use some digital tools to not only reduce the clutter and space for old filing cabinets but also to make your information instantly retrievable.

    A system that works for me consists of the following tools:

  • Scansnap scanner
  • PDFpen OCR or Devonthink database OCR
  • Spotlight searching
  • Dropbox file syncing
  • Scansnap Scanner

    I really love my scansnap scanner because it is compact on my desk and it can quickly scan paper in colour or black and white on one or both sides. Most of all it is quick and easy and can be setup to automatically use a scanning software workflow. The scansnap is designed for paper feed so if you have other items like books you may want to also invest in a flat bed scanner.

    PDFpen OCR

    My preferred format for digital documents is PDF and PDFpen is a specialized tool for doing all things PDF including Optical Character Recognition (OCR). There are various types of PDF documents but the most useful kind are those where the scanned image has its text portions converted to digital text because it can then be found when searching for keywords. PDFpen has lots of features for pretty much doing whatever you want with PDF documents including things such as editing, annotating, signing, appending, merging, etc.

    Devonthink Pro Office

    As useful as PDFpen is for working with PDF documents, in my workflow I actually use Devonthink Pro database to OCR and capture PDF documents first because in one step I can organize my document in a database. I can still use PDFpen later if I want to make changes to the document. In addition to the regular database functions Devonthink also has some Artificial Intelligence to find associations between documents that you might not recognize when manually filing. This helps you to become even more organized and do more with your information.

    Spotlight Searching

    The Mac operating system includes a search capability that can find keywords not only in the file names or keyword fields but also anywhere in the text. This is extremely useful as people have found when doing Google searches on the Internet. You don’t have to rely on remembering which file folder you saved the file to and you can find files in several ways such as topic, date, and filetype. There is also a show in finder option to quickly access the desired file. This works for all files and for those that were saved in Devonthink that database has additional searching capabilities.

    Dropbox File Syncing

    With file sharing services like Dropbox you are not limited to accessing documents on your main computer. You can also access them from your iPad tablet and iPhone. There is also a feature for quickly sharing files with friends or clients. Dropbox is a free service that adds a folder that syncs between all your devices. You save files from any device into the Dropbox folder and you can then access them from any of your devices. Once you have this capability you will never want to go back to trying to remember what computer you saved a file to. If you decide to use Dropbox do yourself and I a favour and use this Dropbox affiliate link. It is a Win-Win where you and I both get an extra 250MB of storage space for helping to spread the word about this excellent free service. There are options to pay for additional storage as well if you need it.

    In this article I have focussed on my Mac and IOS based system for going digital to organize your information better. It is also possible to implement a paperless system using Windows or Linux but perhaps not so elegantly.

    Evolution of Computer Interfaces

    The Sixth Sense video from the 2009 TED in India has some thought provoking ideas not just on the evolution of computer interfaces but also the merging of the “real” and virtual worlds.

    Although some ideas (e.g. Projection of information onto people) emphasized visual techniques too much and didn’t anticipate other senses like voice recognition and virtual agent feedback whispered in your ear, it is still compelling to consider the implications of when ultra-small projectors are included in our cell phones. I especially liked how much more flexible and integrated a workflow combining the computer with paper could be.

    What is also exciting with respect to affordability are new products like LEAP which appear to extend capabilities similar to Microsoft’s xbox kinect at a price of approximately $70.

    Although it is still in the early stages, SIRI is exposing the capabilities that will eventually become commonplace for voice interaction with a virtual assistant.

    Apple doesn’t normally issue concept videos but they did do one 25 years ago called the Knowledge Navigator which included many of the items we are more familiar with today. Clearly this vision is something that Apple has worked to implement as new technologies gradually have made the capabilities possible in a consumer product.

    Incredibly the knowledge navigator video released in 1987 was released for real only one month late according to calculations made by the web site

    Based on the dates mentioned in the Knowledge Navigator video, it takes place on September 16, 2011. The date on the professor’s calendar is September 16, and he’s looking for a 2006 paper written “about five years ago,” setting the year as 2011.

    And this morning, at the iPhone keynote,[October 4, 2011] Apple announced Siri, a natural language-based voice assistant, would be built into iOS 5 and a core part of the new iPhone 4S.

    So, 24 years ago [from 2011], Apple predicted a complex natural-language voice assistant built into a touchscreen Apple device, and was less than a month off.

    Clearly there are many computer interaction breakthroughs in our near future.

    What good are you going to do with the powerful capabilities of an intelligent virtual assistant at your beck and call?

    Defeating Negative Self Talk Innovation Solution

    The quality of our thoughts has a big influence on our life.

    Knowledge is available for catching how our thoughts can sabotage our success and applying corrections to lead us in a more productive direction. There are proven benefits to using social motivation (a friend or coach) to progress to implementation from the knowledge. The following are some examples of knowledge sources on negative self talk:

    Taming Your Gremlin (Kindle Edition)

    by Rick Carson.

    Taming Your Gremlin Book
    Taming Your Gremlin Book

    “Your gremlin interprets your every experience. He has nothing good to say about you or anything you do, not to mention your dreams and aspirations. Just when you feel you’ve out-argued or overcome him, he changes his disguise and his strategy. Grapple with him and you become more enmeshed. What he hates is simply being noticed. That’s the first step to his taming. This and many other straightforward and powerful techniques await you in Taming Your Gremlin: A Guide to Enjoying Yourself.”


    “Rick Carson is a genius at exploring our inner conflicts in novel ways. …And there’s a bonus: it works.”

    About the Author

    Richard Carson lives near Dallas with his wife, Leti, and their son, Jonah. He writes out of his thirteen years as a psychotherapist and as a consultant to human service professionals. His professional background includes service as a full-time faculty member for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor for the University of Texas at Arlington Graduate School of Social Work. He is a Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas, and a Certified Social Worker with an Order of Recognition as an Advanced Clinical Practitioner. Richard is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. He consults and conducts seminars across the nation for a myriad of institutions, agencies, organizations and businesses,and may be reached at 7424 Greenville Avenue, Suite 113, Dallas, TX 75231 (214) 363–0788.

    Triple Column Technique to defeat Negative Self Talk

    by David D. Burns via J.D. Meier

    “Your mind believes what you tell it.” — Paul J. Meyer

    Negative self-talk is a common problem. The trick is to learn how to turn your inner dialogue from a critic to a coach. The Triple Column Technique is a proven practice for improving your internal self-critical dialogue.


    J.D. Meier’s blog post is a concise, to the point, step by step, explanation on how you can use a simple tool to challenge self critical dialogue.

    About the Blogger

    J.D. Meier is a Microsoft manager known for his work on agile project management. I highly recommend subscribing to the RSS feed of the Sources of Insight blog.

    Learned Optimism

    by Martin Seligman

    Many of these techniques are based on the research of Martin Seligman who was the founder of the positive psychology movement and was elected President of the American Psychological Association for 1998. Martin’s Learned Optimism book includes the principles, experiments, proven results, and benefits of learning optimistic thinking.

    I have written previously about Learned Optimism in my Glen’s Life blog.

    If you liked these references you might also like:

    * The Dirty Dozen: The Twelve Words You Should Eliminate from Your Daily Vocabulary by Rajesh Setty
    * Excuses Begone!: How to Change Lifelong, Self-Defeating Thinking Habits by Wayne Dyer
    * Why Your Life Sucks: and what you can do about it. by Alan Cohen

    I Will Change the World

    I took a trip in a time machine and saw a talk from the 2023 TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference today. (In case you are wondering the time machine was designed on an iPad 3 which is being announced next week). The speech was clichéd but nevertheless it was well done.

    I found the speech by (the character) Peter Weyland, an inventor of humanistic robots, interesting because I recently gave a speech myself about how future borg will look more like humans than robots. The technology will be advanced enough to provide its capabilities and be almost invisible because the interface will adapt itself to humans instead of the other way around.

    This vision of the future although not explicitly shown in the 2023 TEDtalk will be disturbing/frightening to a lot of people because it suggest that humans will lose control and the robots will take over. The related Prometheus movie trailer (Movie to be released June 8 2012) is even more of a horror story of what could be our end.

    Of course it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Just recently a new book called Abundance has been released that also presents a picture of the outstanding changes that are accelerating us towards our future and should provide some reasons to be optimistic about solving some of humankind’s most difficult problems. Another Peter, Peter Diamandis has given a TEDtalk in 2012 called Abundance is Our Future. In this scenario technology slays scarcity of resources and the population explosion is seen as a boon rather than a disaster.

    It is beyond dispute that massive change will be experienced as time goes on and there will be winners and losers.

    The question is – are you seeing the upcoming changes as a source of opportunity or of doom?

    Are you going to be driven by fear due to the amygdala (lizard) portion of the brain?

    The even bigger question is what are we going to do to create the type of future we want to live in so that time machine can be given a tuneup?

    Your Voice Will Give You Away

    Seth Godin, one of the most prolific and wise marketers, writers, and speakers, recently wrote about public speaking on his blog.

    “It’s extremely difficult to read a speech and sound as if you mean it.
    For most of us, when reading, posture changes, the throat tightens and people can tell.

    Reading is different from speaking, and a different sort of attention is paid.

    Before you give a speech, then, you must do one of two things if your goal is to persuade:

    1. Learn to read the same way you speak (unlikely)


    2. learn to speak without reading. Learn your message well enough that you can communicate it without reading it. We want your humanity.

    If you can’t do that, don’t bother giving a speech. Just send everyone a memo and save time and stress for all concerned.”

    I am trying to ensure that as part of speech preparation I rehearse multiple times to both help memorize the speech and also see where it needs to be edited for flow and time.

    You have seen the result when a speaker didn’t do this rehearsal.

    We all suffer from not having enough time to prepare but try to balance whatever time that can be allocated between time spent creating content and time devoted to rehearsal to improve the quality of speech delivery. If you can’t be excited and present in the moment[1] to deliver a speech just mail it in.

    [1] Not being present in the moment reminds me of the Hindenberg disaster video as applied to speeches crashing and burning. If you don’t prepare to be persuasive and bring the humanity of your presence (that Seth mentions) to the speech you might set off the speech equivalent of the disaster to humanity stated in the Hindenberg video.