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12 posts from November 2011

On The Need To FOCUS In Our Age Of Hyper-Distraction...

I was amused by a bit of synchronicity yesterday. I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how to better focus my attention. The "bright shiny objects" of our social media world have tended to pull me away from what I should be doing and suddenly I've found that it will be near the end of a day and I haven't accomplished those things I'd set out to do in the morning.
"Oh, look, there's a butterfly..."

It's VERY easy to get distracted. Go to do research and pull up an article... only to start clicking on other headlines and photos... and then somewhere in there remember what you were researching...

The topic of "attention", or our lack thereof, has been much on my mind.

So I was amused to find two articles yesterday that both hit this topic straight on:

  • Developing Razor Sharp Focus with Zen Habits Blogger, Leo Babauta is actually a blog post written back in July 2011 by Jane Genovese, who also produced this wonderful mind-map/graphic that I've included in this post. (A larger version is in her post.)

    Jane discusses a free ebook from Leo Babauta, "Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction" and lays out her own suggestions and commentary about how to focus more. It's a well-done post with, again, a stellar graphic. (I've subsequently downloaded Leo Babauta's ebook, too.)

  • Don't blame the information for your bad habits is an interview over on O'Reilly's Radar site by Mac Slocum of author Clay Johnson about his upcoming book "The Information Diet" that hits many of the same themes. While this interview is admittedly self-promotional as Johnson's book is an O'Reilly book, it nonetheless has some good thoughts in it. Here's a quote I liked:

    In other words, we don't suffer from information overload — we suffer from information overconsumption and poor consumption habits. The solution is just as simple as a successful food diet. It's about building habits and healthy choices for yourself, and sticking to it.

    Tim O'Reilly also had a good comment to the post that included in part this:

    Time is a precious resource. You don't get it back. Thinking through what you want to produce as well as what you want to consume, and how much time you'll allocate to each activity, is a good start. But there are a whole host of productive steps you can take to remove cruft from your information diet.

Both of these posts came to my attention yesterday... ironically, of course, both through social media. The first through Google+ and the second through either Facebook or Twitter (and possibly both).

Regardless, they do hit on a crucial topic - how do we manage our time and our attention? How do we focus on what is important? How do we not get distracted by all those forces around us that entice us?

I've been taking some steps over the past few months to increase my focus (including of note to only read email at particular times of the day)... and I need to take even a few more.

What steps are you taking to tame the distractions?

UPDATE: Chris Brogan wrote a great post on this topic on Dec 2nd: YOU’RE NOT AS BUSY AS YOU THINK

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MarsEdit 3.4 Now Available for Offline Blogging on Mac OS X

I was very pleased to see this morning an update notice for version 3.4 of MarsEdit, my favorite tool for writing blog posts on my Mac:


This 3.4 release is stated to be focused around improvements to the media management system and I can already see some changes to the UI, such as this "Section" box in the upload window (that I don't honestly know yet why I'd use it):


I'm looking forward to learning more about the new changes and how they can help with handling media in my posts. One of the reasons why I love using MarsEdit is because it gives me a consistent editing platform across my various blogs, some of which are on WordPress and some of which (like this one) are on TypePad. One set of keyboard shortcuts (which I have enhanced and added to). One editor window. Plus, of course, the ability to edit from anywhere that I am, regardless of Internet connectivity.

If you are on a Mac and haven't tried out MarsEdit for writing blog posts, I definitely have found it incredibly useful and would encourage you to give it a try!

P.S. And no, I do not have any affiliate relationship with MarsEdit - I'm just a very happy user.

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Want to make money from your blog hosted on

In a fascinating move today the folks at Automattic, the company behind, rolled out WordAds, directly competing with Google's advertising offerings. As they state:

Over the years one of the most frequent requests on has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads. We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

Right now there isn't much information beyond what can be found on the application form:

Only publicly visible blogs with custom domains will be considered for this program. ...

Selection will be based on level of traffic and engagement, type of content, and language used on a blog. Some blogs may not be accepted. Entering the form below does not commit you to the advertising program. It just signals your interest in learning more.

Personally, I don't have any blogs hosted on (outside of some experimental sites), so I won't be applying... and I actually share the feeling that most advertising hasn't seemed to me to be very attractive (which is why I don't run any on my sites).

While this is limited now to blogs on, it will be interesting to see if it expands beyond that if the program is successful. Competition certainly is good and having even more options available for bloggers who want to use advertising is good news for all of us.

If your blog is on, will you apply for this program?

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Om Malik's Reflections (and Stats) on 10 Years of Blogging

Om malik
Over the weekend Om Malik published a great piece that's worth reading if you are a writer / blogger:
My 10 years of blogging: Reflections, Lessons & Some Stats Too

It's a wonderful story of how Om first got into blogging... providing some history and names that will be familiar to many. He also provides some rather incredible stats. Here's just one of the sets of stats:

  • 11,165 posts
  • About 3 posts a day, every day for roughly 10 years.
  • About 2.06 million words.
  • About 215 words per post.

An amazing amount of content over all those years. His post has more stats and some great charts.

His "10 lessons learned" are also a great read, particularly his #4 about writing every day, and #5 and #8 which speak to the civility that has always been a hallmark of Om's writing.

I began "blogging" back in May 2000, before the term "blogging" was really even widely used. My writing back then was largely about open source and then in 2001 increasingly about voice-over-IP (VoIP) as the startup I was with (e-smith) in Ottawa was acquired by Mitel Networks and I entered the telecom space.

At that time, there weren't all that many of us who were regularly writing online about VoIP / telecom matters... Jeff Pulver, of course, and Andy Ambramson, Tom Keating, Alec Saunders, Aswath Rao... and probably a few more that my aging memory forgets.

And, of course, there was Om.

He was always there to write about what was happening in the overall telecommunications space and specifically in the "new" world of communications over the Internet. In those early years, we were often referencing what others wrote on their pieces... it was a smaller world and we all pretty much knew each other. (Although in truth I only met Om face-to-face once or twice at one of the various conferences like VON.)

I don't recall now what Om originally called his site but pretty soon his "GigaOm" site became one of THE places to go to stay up on what was going on.

Gigaom 1

It was quite inspiring to watch as Om took the leap and turned his passion into a full-blown media site... and then a whole network of sites. Even as he encountered and survived health issues, his "media empire" kept growing and growing and growing...

It's certainly been an impressive first 10 years... and I look forward to Om's next 10 years. His "big picture" writing has always been thoughtful and I'm looking forward to seeing even more of it.

I enjoyed, too, one of Om's reflections toward the end of his post:

" curation and sharing of content has become as important as writing. By sharing videos, photos, links, or quotes we are all essentially editors and the sharing itself is an act of editorializing."

Curation (even while some dislike the word) is a key part of what we are doing these days, and I've personally enjoyed Om's "Om Says" newsletter and sharing he's been doing.

Thanks for 10 years of writing and sharing, Om! Congrats on the milestone!

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And So Google Finally Announces the Formal Death of Google Wave in 2012...

And so at last comes the end of one of Google's most intriguing and useful collaboration platforms... Google Wave. Amidst the long list of services Google is killing off as part of its latest round of "spring cleaning" was this note about Wave:

  • Google Wave We announced that we’d stopped development on Google Wave over a year ago. But as of January 31, 2012, Wave will become read-only and you won’t be able to create new ones. On April 30 we will turn it off completely. You’ll be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. If you’d like to continue using this technology, there are a number of open-source projects, including Apache Wave and Walkaround.

I admit that from the start I was a big fan of Google Wave. I wrote about Wave a good bit here on this site and used it both personally and professionally. Wave's ability to allow real-time collaboration was really quite incredible, as I documented in this video about collaborative note-taking at a conference. In fact, I still use it weekly as Shel and Neville use Wave to plan the outlines for each For Immediate Release podcast - as a weekly correspondent I use the wave to see what else they are going to talk about to avoid overlapping or to build on what is being discussed elsewhere. They also get to see what I am going to be talking about in advance of me submitting my recording. It also provides an easy way for them to get the links for the show notes.

Plus, as an advocate for an "open Internet" where can control your own data, I loved the promise that the "Wave protocol" would allow for federation between Wave servers... that it would allow for the creation of a distributed and decentralized architecture for collaboration servers.

Sure, Google Wave had a user interface that was very "different" and took some getting used to. It definitely had some clunky aspects to it... and the massive hype around it led to outsized expectations that clearly could never be met.

And now, two years after Wave's launch, some of the features in Wave have migrated into other Google products. Google Docs has a real-time editing capability very similar to what worked so well in Wave. Google+ amusingly has the "play back" capability in its Ripples feature. There may be other features in other services I haven't noticed. It's clear that that work involved with Wave had an impact within Google.

Now it's left to open source projects like Apache Wave and Walkaround to carry on with what Google Wave started. It will be interesting to see what can be done... I'm certainly going to be exploring both projects in the time ahead.

Goodbye, Google Wave, 'twas nice knowing you...

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How The NFL Loses With Its Copyright Takedown Notices On Video Clips

I'm not a regular football fan. Sure, I enjoy watching a game if it's on somewhere and I might watch the playoffs or Super Bowl... but watching football is not part of my daily/weekly routine.

Still, when I saw an tweet about the video of an amazing touchdown run, I went to go look because such feats are often great to watch.

But... after pressing the "play" icon, here's what greeted me:


Yep, the NFL apparently issued a copyright claim to YouTube to have this clip taken down.


43 seconds.

My initial thoughts, of course, were extremely negative to the NFL ("What a bunch of losers!").

My second thought was... oh, well, there are a ton of other interesting sports and other video clips to see.

NFL Loss #1: Any Potential Interest I Might Have Had

Right then, the NFL had a moment to engage with me and remind me again of how exciting the game can be!

Maybe I might have said to myself that I should watch games some more and perhaps take up my brother-in-law on his invite to come over and watch the Patriots play. Maybe I might have read up more about what was going on within football. Maybe I might have looked for some other football video clips.

Regardless, I would have been more positive about football and the NFL.

Instead it just leaves me with a negative attitude toward the NFL and no further interest in looking for more football info.

I'm even less a fan now.

NFL Loss #2: Viral Sharing

Note the "Share This Story" part of the screenshot above:

Nflcopyrightclaim sharing

Consider those stats:

  • 831 people liked this page, with the result being that the link to this page went out in the new Facebook Ticker to be potentially seen by their friends. How many people might have seen that? hundreds? thousands?

  • 293 people specifically shared this post out into their Facebook NewsFeed, meaning that their friends would see it in their feeds. Once in Facebook it can be shared out again by others. Again, how many people? hundreds? thousands?

  • 8 people clicked the "tweet" button on this page. Countless others could have tweeted it out through other tools, or retweeted those tweets.

  • 25 people emailed it using this interface.

  • 4 people "+1"'d it.

And this only shows the numbers of people who shared the story using this widget. The story may have been shared many other times via other routes. The link to the video on YouTube may have been shared out through many other ways, too. (And YouTube no longer shows the stats for the video, so we have no idea how many people actually watched it.)

So how many people saw the link to this story? hundreds? thousands? more? fewer? Hard to say... but some number saw it and did what I did - clicked over to see what sounded like an interesting video to watch.

And all of them got the same message... that the NFL had a copyright claim on this particular video.

And odds are that they won't blame the news story or the Huffington Post for linking to the video... instead they'll mentally blame the NFL for asserting a copyright claim.

And there will be no further re-sharing...

43 Seconds

Now I completely "get" that the NFL needs to defend the copyright it has on it's content. I create my own content and have done so for many years both for myself and my various employers. I fully understand the need for protecting intellectual property.

But a 43 second video clip?

Granted, it might have been the most exciting 43 seconds of that entire game... I don't know, since I didn't watch it.

But would it have killed the NFL to make that short clip available?

It would really be "marketing" for the sport of football. It might have gotten more people talking about the sport ("Wow, did you see that amazing touchdown run?"). It would have spread virally as people shared it even more with others.

I know, I know... it's a "slippery slope" and if the NFL doesn't assert it's copyright where it can then it opens the doors for many others to post videos. And I don't know the rest of the story. Maybe this particular YouTube user has repeatedly posted copyrighted video clips. Maybe there's an "official" video clip that the NFL wants people to use... maybe... maybe... maybe...

But still, 43 seconds?

P.S. And a quick google search shows that the clip is still available on other sites...

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Must Read Piece from SEOmoz: "Duplicate Content in a Post-Panda World"

Duplicatecontent seomoz

What is the impact of "duplicate content" on the search engine ranking of your web content? What are the different ways you can wind up with duplicate content? And perhaps most importunely, how can you correct the issue?

Over at the SEOmoz "Daily SEO Blog", Dr. Pete has written a truly MUST-READ piece for anyone working with web content:

Duplicate Content in a Post-Panda World

It is a LONG, comprehensive piece that explains how Google's recent "Panda" update impacts scoring of "duplicate content" and what you can do about it. He covers:

  1. What is Duplicate Content?
  2. Why Do Duplicates Matter?
  3. Three Kinds of Duplicates
  4. Tools for Fixing Duplicates
  5. Examples of Duplicate Content
  6. Which URL is Canonical?
  7. Tools for Diagnosing Duplicates

The article has a great series of examples and links out to all sorts of resources to learn more. Although SEO has been part of what I've done for many years, I definitely learned a few new things from this piece. It's definitely worth a read!

Kudos to "Dr. Pete" for writing - and sharing - such a useful piece.

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Google+ Expands Chat/IM To Your Circles - And Across All Google Services

Google announced a few minutes ago that they are rolling out new capabilities to the chat services inside of Google+. When the expanded gets out to all users over the next 48 hours, you will be able to chat with someone as long as you both have each other in a "circle".[1] What I found more intriguing was this note:
When you and your contacts have each other in Circles, you'll be able to chat with them across Google properties such as Gmail, Google Plus, iGoogle, Orkut, and the Google Talk Client.

So your Google+ contacts will now be integrated very tightly with your Gmail and other contacts and you will be able to chat with them from whichever service you are in at the moment. Multiple interviews with folks at Google have said that Google+ was the path to further tie together the various Google services... and now we're seeing that in action.

More info here:

[1] i.e. you have added them to a circle and they have added you to a circle - it won't work if only one of you has added the other to a circle.

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My Report into For Immediate Release Podcast #623 - Oct 31, 2011

In this week's For Immediate Release episode #623, my report covered:

And if you listened to the very end of my report you would have heard an additional contribution from a "helper". :-)

You can, of course, listen to the episode online now.

Video: Google's Matt Cutts on "Cloaking" and Why It Is Bad

Matt Cutts at Google recently posted this useful video explaining what "cloaking" is ... and why it is bad for both the user experience and also for SEO / search engine results. He also explains how cloaking is different from providing distinct content for mobile audiences versus regular visitors.

I'll admit that I've never had enough interest in "gaming" Google to go to the desperate measure of this kind of cloaking... but obviously people are out there and doing it:

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