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Peeking up from the rabbit hole

Ah, yes, hello again. Got stuck digging into a new rabbit hole. Basically, I have been in a massive “must-learn-more-things” spree of late, and apart from sorting out my servers (well, actually Rackspace own them I guess) and catching up on my WordPress MultiSite configurations, along with nginx, fast-cgi_cache, php5-fpm, to varnish or not to varnish (currently I do one server and not on the other) and various CDN’s, I have also taken a fondness to Sass (have done lots of Less, but previously no Sass).

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Photo by Abstract Machine.

Sass in turn led me to Ruby stuff, and whilst catching up on that I came across Jekyll (which I’ve never previously touched) and Github Pages. As I now peek up for a brief “hello” I come from 4 different “sites” or “apps” with various development configurations of Grunt (which is my new best friend), Sass, WordPress themes, Jekyll & Github Pages tests etc. This evening I also discovered Yeoman which I am installing as I type this.

Just thought I peek in and say hello as I was in the neighborhood, and as progressbars are progressing in the other window.

Oh, it’s ready over here now, see you later. Over and out.

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Reboot, refresh, restart

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So, has it been one year already? I normally change everything with this blog once every year, write a few posts in a flurry and then shut up for 9 months. Oh…blimey, it’s been almost two years this time! Guess I’ve been horribly busy with work and/or family.

Anyhow, new server, new solution, new theme and a new plan. Let’s see where it lands this time.

One thing is for sure: I have lowered the bar quite a bit, and have started thinking I should follow my own advice when it comes to publishing online: it (perhaps) does not need to hold “the awesome answer to everything“. It can be just a reflection, something interesting, even something minor, a nugget for that day or something I’ve seen. To only publish the indisputable “truth” means  there wouldn’t be much publishing happening. Perhaps I’ll increase the noise, and if you do not like it, please move along. Perhaps I’ll find something to publish that will tickle your fancy or you just get to see sign of life.

I actually reflected on, and traced, why I stopped writing myself: I got a beta invite to Medium. That was great. A lot of people I admire were writing some very clever stuff there, and I was invited to join them before it was open for “everyone”. However, that also became the undoing of me publishing things online, at all. I got caught up in trying to work out what, and how, I should best use the moment and ended up in a classic “writers block”.

I almost fell out of my writers block when I found Kirby, but instead I got all caught up with the technical possibilities in the small little database-less system, and I tried and tested pretty much everything I could do in WordPress, Drupal and other system at it, and it handled it fine. That was still not me writing though, that was me finding the tools to do writing in. Then it stopped again.

Then I discovered Ghost. Excellent system, very promising indeed, go check it out. Found a nice theme for it too, only to then find that I couldn’t actually update my (test) Ghost blog reliably enough from my iOS devices, so I ported the theme in question to Kirby about halfway. By that time WordPress updated again, with a new fresh look, at the same time as old server needed a refresh (which in geek speak means “destroy, erase, improve” which in turn means “start again”). Now we are here. Lets see how deep the rabbit hole is over here.

Lets get personal…or not…

In 2009 I read an excellent article in Wired where journalist Evan Ratliff tried to “vanish” and stay hidden for a month. In case you haven’t read it I really recommend you do, you can find the article over here. In short he offered $5.000 of his own money to whoever found him within a month. To make it a little bit more difficult he had to do certain things at given times, to give his followers an opportunity to catch up, and his office let out clues now and then of his whereabouts and/or actions.

It was a good read indeed and I kept it in my head for quite some time afterwards, both regarding the learnings of how Social Media was used to find and/or track someone, but also I started asking myself what “traces” I leave behind from my online activities. I had all but forgotten about it when I saw a BBC programme on TV the other night, where journalist David Bond, who was very concerned about all un-necessary data collection happening in various places in his daily life, tries to stay “off the grid” for a month. To complicate it somewhat for himself he had also hired two private investigators to find him.

During the show, when David is doing his background research on things, he orders whatever data the (UK) government has on him, what private companies has on him etc. After a while he had gotten 123 replies, each containing a dossier of the data the various companies/instances kept on him. Loads. The pile for commercial companies was the largest, though all of them were rather big.

What about your data?

Now, if that is setting the scene somewhat, I have started thinking a little bit more about what data we actually leave behind us. Not only is it personal data (telephone numbers, address, birthdays etc), but as the online world is changing right now, we are also leaving quite a lot of “meta data” behind us, which, if someone really wanted to, could be used to draw conclusions about us, what we think, who we like (and don’t like) etc. I am thinking of Google(+), I am thinking of Facebook etc, as we are enticed to plonk people into groups/circles that carry a special meaning to us. It might sound innocent enough, and “we trust them” to not mis-use our information…or do we? Or is it ignorance on our part?

Now, those mentioned services sit on data predominantly regarding you and your interaction with their service, and as you know (the faces of) Mark, Sergey and Larry, you feel safe, right? So what happens if you connect it all via services such as Klout or my latest entertainment, Empire Avenue (those two are just examples, really)? Services that are built on the fact that you share with them whatever you are doing in any of your other networks? What is your data trail there? What conclusions can be drawn from it? How do you know they will not be selling it to the highest bidder 3 years from now?

Who do we trust already today?

A tweet this week (by Chris Heilmann) also highlighted this question, based on that hacker group Anonymous had been banned from Google+ and that they, Anonymous, were going to start up their own social network. The tweet in question said: “So Anonymous are working on an own social network… Would you join that with your real data?” which made me think “No” rather instinctively. It was however followed by the trail of thought above: what do I, or anyone really, know about the creators of various networks/services/apps where we happily part with most things about our lives? How do I know they are not “worse” than Anonymous (who basically are objecting to censorship)?

Now, being a developer, social media active, interactive marketing person and pretty much anything digital, on a professional level, and taking pride in once having asked for the title “Digital McGyver” during a job interview, I obviously like that small garage outfits can come out with new ground breaking services that are awesome, really cool and solves a bunch of old problems in new ways, and I really wouldn’t want it all to be owned by large global corporations, who would struggle with being fast enough or flexible enough to act on time. However, it has made me think a little bit about what data I part with, where I part with it, and how it can be combined with other data I might have parted with.

Not bovvered?

Are you concerned about these things at all? Or are you just trusting whatever service you use to behave correctly, now and for the future? Or are you only seeing benefits with the fact that Amazon knowing everything about your movements on their site so they can suggest stuff that you are more likely to be interested in? Are you blasting out your holiday plans on all networks you are on, letting the world know how awesome you find your current trip to New York is (which means your home is…well, alone…)? Do you trust that your Internet Service Provider will not change your billing based on where you surf?

If you are not at all concerned, try googling yourself to see what comes back. After that you can try different services such as beenverified.com (US only), 192.com (UK only) or Ratsit.se (Sweden only) to see what they will tell you, or for that matter you might be surprised by how much info that can be found by almost anyone if you have a car. If you are in Sweden you can try this link to Transportstyrelsen. If they will tell you those things they might tell me those things, and I might find a small fee to not be a too large fee. Would you like me to find that info? Now, what if I start up a service that you start using (say a Facebook app/game called Farmville, or MafiaWars, and I ask for pretty much full access to your user account)?

As you notice this blog post doesn’t have a conclusion, or a specific type of advice, just some random thoughts that crop up now and then when I least expect it. Just saying: be careful out there, and scrutinize anyone who wants information from you, about you. Especially be on the look out for what the combined knowledge of your various data can do to you, and what the picture will look like if you overlay all the publicly available data about you.

Services I have joined lately

As you quite possibly know (as you are reading this) I join lots of new services that pop up. Almost all of them, as I come by them, and if they let me in (which can be tricky enough at times). The reasons for this varies of course, but one of the main things is that when colleagues and/or clients ask me if I have heard of a particular service I prefer to have first-hand knowledge of it. Also, obviously, I don’t want to miss out on new things as people have come to expect me to know stuff about…errrr…stuff.

These last few months I have joined a bunch of things too, but these 3 currently stick out:

Google+

Google finally released its almost fabled Google+ (yep, that is the word Google, with a “+” after it), and after what felt like an eternity I got access to it. I felt like I was the last person with the latest toy, but regardless, now I am in there. Clicking around in it made me somewhat confused, so I wanted to read up on what others thought. Some screamed Facebook Killer! others screamed Twitter Killer! and lots of people screamed lots of things. By now everyone obviously has scrambled in with their opinion, and making sure it is heard, and links like these still pop up ever so frequently right now: Google+ Challenges Both Facebook and Twitter

As the dust settles, these are my initial thoughts, which may change over time (as it indeed still is early days):

  • It is quite tricky to get to grips with how and why I should use Google+. Apart from it being a “fuller” version of Twitter, and with less of my “friends” on it (compared to for example Facebook) I apparently am not alone in these thoughts, and even though I see benefits with several of the features I still was a bit confused about how to work it all out, and then how to work it all. If you are in the same situation you might benefit from these links:
  • Why can’t I in a decently simple way integrate with other social networks? I mean, I right now do status updates to either/both Facebook/Twitter from Hootsuite/Ping.fm and Instagram. I really don’t need yet another place to start typing that’s for sure, I am infrequent enough as it is right here. :)I quite simply need it to be more connected from apps and services to make it easy enough for me to update Google+ when I am updating everything else. Same goes for images, which in Google+ case is handled by Picasa. Sure, fine (though I am a Flickr boy at heart), but not even Picasa is that well connected from things such as Instagram etc. This blog attests to this too, I obviously would like to enable it to send out a message to my Google+ stream that I have posted an article, without manually having to go there and type it all up.Then again, I see lots of really long articles written from the people I follow, from within Google+, so this might be a problem only I have and that everyone else is perfectly happy with how it is today.
  • I am really looking forward to when it can all be integrated with all the other Google services I am already using today. That should be compelling for business reasons too.
  • I really would like to have my circles as “check boxes” where I choose to show my stream from circles 1, 3, 4, 5 and 9, not all of them at the same time, nor would I like to pick one circle at a time.
  • You can of course find me over here, should you want to “circle” me. :)
  • Obviously I had to add a +1 button to the site too, which you can find in the Sharebar to your left (on most screens).

Empire Avenue (EA)

Empire Avenue is a game. I am saying this as it can sound like it is all kinds of other things depending on who you listen to, but really, it is not. It is a game. In short, you can buy shares in people and companies, and as they go popular more people want to buy shares in that company, which in turn drives up the share price. The currency is fictional “eaves”. As your portfolio goes up in value more people want to invest in you, and your price goes up accordingly. Simple.

To add to this they have added points for activity on social networks. Today any activity on Empire Avenue (doh), Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Pages, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube is counted towards your profile, but they will apparently be adding more social networks in time.

A typical example of a stock going up was the one for Google, immediately after the announcement of Google+.

My own summary (12 days in to the game):

  • My social activities doesn’t really affect the game, not in eaves nor in points otherwise.
  • It is surprisingly detailed in its handling like a stock market. People could learn a thing or two about economy and financials by playing the game. Srsly.
  • I had to start seeing it as a game, and even more so, I had to start seeing it as a stock market from the eyes of a trader who owns a portfolio. If I want my share price to go up I have to sell off shares that aren’t doing too well EVEN if that means selling shares in my colleagues and friends (if they are dipping).
  • I have actually met more people (online) and made more new contacts within the social networks mentioned since I started playing EA. This also means that even though the game mechanics doesn’t give me much benefit in-game for my social activities, my social networking has grown, and we have of course exchanged shares in each other along the way.
If you would like to buy shares in me you can find my profile over here, where you will find I am actually doing rather well, and have been going constantly up, whilst giving good dividends to the people who has bought shares in me. :)

Summify

Summify is an aggregator of tweets that tries to make sense of them. You can find my Summify profile over here and as you see that is actually a dated link, i.e. with a date in the URL, as it shows the “edition” of that particular day.

So, summify basically trawls through my friends on Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader, works out their posts, and if they find several posts (re-tweets etc) or repated links, it starts collecting them. Once every 24 hours it publishes the Top10 of those collected articles into a newspaper, much like paper.li does. In case you have missed paper.li, have a look at “my” paper over there called Mixed Bag Of Interesting Stuff.

One of the benefits with Paper.li is that I can pick a few topics and concentrate on aggregating tweets around those topics. That I can’t do with Summify. On the other hand, on Summify I get to see (and verify) who the sources were for any given article, and thereby I can validate them myself.

Both paper.li and Summify are stupid in the sense that it can create and publish articles in languages that I don’t understand, under my name.

I shall compare the two a little bit closer in the near future and possibly write a summary on what I think of them.

Other things

Some time ago I started comparing aggregation/curating services. Scoop.it and Amplify.com for example. I am also waiting/hoping I will get a beta invite for Twylah soon, which apparently will make sense of my tweets (a thing I haven’t managed in years myself, hehe) and will present it all nicely. Apart from that I have been looking into the difference between Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages and Facebook Apps, as I have found it all to be somewhat confusing, seeing as they overlap each other on quite a few areas, whereas they are pretty much incompatible with each other on other areas. Stay tuned if you want to know more about that.

Career Tip #4

In the Career Tip Feature I am doing right now we have reached tip #4, after having gone through the following ones so far:

  1. Plan your day on your way in to work
  2. Complete one thing every day
  3. Learn (at least) one new thing every day

This fourth one is a bit trickier to formulate in a clatchy short sentence Continue reading

Career Tip #3

Ok, so far in this list of career advice we have the following points:

  1. Plan your day on your way in to work
  2. Complete one thing every day

Who knows, I might end up with more points in this list than I first thought, but hey, let’s cross that bridge when we get there and for today concentrate on the next one, which actually is the most important one of them all, and which has been completely critical to my life and my career. I actually started this when I was 13 years old, and at the time it was mainly focused on guitar playing, but as the tip proved successful I quickly adopted the thinking to other things in life (Aikido, Chemistry, Far-East history, studying languages, programming etc), and needless to say, to my work when I got my first jobs. If you are going to do only one thing from this list, this is the one you should pick:

3. Learn (at least) one new thing every day

Again, this is all in relation to you and your knowledge, it is not about someone else and/or their knowledge, and it is all about mindset. What is new knowledge to you might be old knowledge to someone else. Your knowledge, of things that you do almost without thinking today, might be new knowledge bordering on magic to someone else.

Apart from the fact that learning new things is fun we have spent most of our lives learning things. In fact, we should be pretty good at it! Then BAM!, all of a sudden adulthood happens, which lead to professional careers, we sort of step out of learning mode and people too often find themselves thinking they should know it all, and to have all the answers, otherwise they wouldn’t be very good at their jobs, right?

Wrong.

“It is what we think we know that keeps us from learning.”
- Chester Barnard

To continuously learn and picking up new skills, amending old skills, asking questions when something is unclear, those are the signs of being professional more so than burping up something old and stale which was never understood or thought through properly the first time, let alone now. Learning, and wanting to learn, is a sign of health, professional pride and of being an insightful person.

To me, working with knowledge workers, the people who never stop learning make the best decisions, mainly because they have never stopped wanting to perfect what they do, whilst being open-minded and self-critical enough to go for the best solution, not only The Solution they know of from the past. They have done all the mistakes. They probably have a few successes in there too, and they might just have picked out the nuggets that make it work on a regular basis. They in any case definitely are the most likely people to land it near the target.

Ignorance is NOT bliss

Ignorance is boring

. by nettsu

I am pointing this out as people often are ashamed for what they don’t know. Stop trying to appear like you understand it all even if you don’t; ask those who know how and/or why, or just research it yourself (though asking people who actually know usually is the best research).

“I said that an expert was a fella who was afraid to learn anything new because then he wouldn’t be an expert any more.”
- Harry S. Truman

Agreed on his analysis, as that is all too common in how people see themselves, and their relation to what they do not know.

Here’s a News Flash for you: most people know a lot less than you think (some even know less than they think, but that is for another blog post I think). Just like you, most people are often confused, amused and some sometimes even scared by the fact they have gotten to where they are without some knowledge (which they don’t have, but have seen or heard about) they think is critical/vital. The work life in the world out there is full of people scared of being “found out”, and they think that showing/highlighting that you don’t know everything is a first step on a very slippery slope downwards.

You can do yourself a favour and do what you can to avoid becoming one of them.
If you instead embrace the fact that you don’t (yet) know everything, but that you are working on correcting this, it will actually make you stronger, both in the eyes of others and to yourself, especially in the near future when you notice a very tangible difference in where you were and where you are now.

Showing that you want to continuously learn usually lead to people being intrigued by what you in fact do know (perhaps the things you learnt on a previous day). It also opens up for people to feel quite important, if you ask them how they do something they normally do but that you do not understand and you ask them to explain (though this obviously involves actually, as in Actually, listening, a not too common skill these days…).

So how do you go about it?

Simple. Write, and keep, lists. Make them as secret as you want, but make sure you set aside some time to prioritize your list, and then start chipping things off that list. When I say prioritize it could be wise to let your position in the rest of the world dictate the order. I often prioritize things on my lists that I know will be of importance in this (or the next) project at work that I am (or will be) involved in.

For the synergy between these career tips, do yourself a favour and keep this daily task separated from the “Finish one thing every day”, as if you separate them you can end up with a double whammy for your career boost. ;)

Also, when saying “set aside time”, that is quite literally what you should do, every single day, unless work has actually enabled you to learn your thing for that day by its own course. If you are closing in on your work day and you honestly can’t say to yourself that “Yep, today I learnt a new thing and can tick it off my list“, spend the last 30 min of your work day to sort it out. Failing that, make sure you do it when you get home (family/friends/pets permitting of course).

Some things take time to learn, so on my list (which has about 50 things on it at any point) there are no progress bars, but I have in fact figured out quite a lot about quite a few of them already, just not enough to be able to say I now know it. I think a lot about things, and I could probably make an educated guess where it will land, but me, being me, I need to prove it to myself. That is my rules for my learning though, and you should set your rules to suit you, your life and your learning.

“The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.”
- Einstein

I never regret things (as I believe I would actually repeat whatever mistake I have made again if I was re-winded to the exactly same spot back in time, and all the variables were the same, so regret would simply be a waste of my energy. Energy which I instead could use focusing ahead, not to waste it on regretting bad decisions from the past, which at the time appeared as the best out of the options given) but if there is one thing that comes close to regret for me, it is this: I never took a journal of the things I learnt over the years. It would have made for awesome/amusing reading today, at least for me.

Career Tip #2

Continuing on yesterdays blog article about career tips, today we have reached tip #2.

If you are anything like me, and I know I am, you have lists of things that need doing. Some things are more important than others. Some of those things on the list are quite fun, and the reason why you took the job in the first place. Some things on the list are really tedious and boring. That normally means you disregard the “priority” of things and go for the most fun ones instead until you run out of them, and then you hang around Facebook/YouTube just a little too much, until it is almost too late, especially as the budget (and thereby the available time) all of a sudden was slashed with 1/3 yesterday and you have nothing tangible to show of value when the boss calls for an emergency meeting. This is where todays tip comes in:

2. Complete one thing every day

This obviously plays wonderfully well with yesterdays tip, which was “1. Plan your day on your way in to work.” and only if you come up empty on what you could possibly complete today you should get worried.

Apart from turning this in to just another boring blog post that says “do the boring things first, before they get to be the most important things“, let me give you a hint on how you should re-create those task lists in the first place instead:

Firstly, if you have things in your task list that are too big you will never finish them off. “Ensure World Peace“, “Build Death Star and paint it pink” or “build Enterprise Intranet for the largest global bank in the world” type of tasks are too large. Get rid of them, and do so by breaking them up in smaller and nicer chunks.

Break it down

Preferably those chunks should be small enough so you can do several of those things in one day. This is where I should remind you that we are still only aiming to finish one of them each day as our benchmark. Even better is if those chunks are big enough to be able to announce them should someone, like your boss for example, ask you what you have done today, without your boss/colleague thinking “why are you telling me this?“.

This kinda rules out “send e-mail” and “make phone call” type tasks, unless they are really important and really big, but if they are I would probably suggest you look over your communications strategy instead, as those things probably should be communicated in face-to-face meetings if possible.

Much like I mentioned in the article yesterday, this tip is for you, personally, to make you feel that you are achieving things, that you move forward, and that you can look back at this day and remember it as “yet another successful day where I finished X, just as planned“. The project/colleagues/boss/employer will benefit from this too, but that is a lucky co-incidence, right now we are focusing on you and your career. One of the best ways to get to that stage is by re-defining what is an achievement in the first place.

Why are you doing this?

Your current career task at hand is to come across to your boss as a [amazon_link id="1590598385" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]clever and smart person who gets things done[/amazon_link], and who constantly delivers, as that is what every boss anywhere actually need from their work force. What you need to do is to instill your boss with the sense of constant progress in general, and regarding you in particular, as that will keep the boss carefree, but the only way to do that is by making sure you have that feeling too, and preferably because it (by then) will be true. Make sure you are the solution, not the problem.

The follow-up minor tip to this would be that you inform your colleagues and your boss about your achievements at regular carefully chosen intervals (please try to do this without coming across as a Quisling/@zz-licker/brag/Know-It-All, as that is never appreciated by bosses nor colleagues). However, do see it as marketing, as it is. The product is You, and you are appointed as the marketing manager for You.

The benefit with this type of “marketing”, if done correctly, is that your colleagues will see you as a high achiever and your boss will see you as an excellent problem solver. Even if you skip/fail the marketing part you will at least have a string of daily achievements in your back when you go in for that performance review with your boss (which, regardless of what they say, will be affecting the salary review). If you choose not to do the “marketing” bit, jot down what you have achieved somewhere where you can remind yourself and others about it later, just in case. ;)

This is not smoke and mirrors, nor will it in the long run have been about how you cut and slice it as the overall goal (deliver on time and on budget) will remain. Instead this is about how you make that journey getting there.

Economy of scale

If nothing else you will set a good standard for your colleagues (which is awesome for…errr…Karma points…), and perhaps even influence a few of them to do the same. If you think about it: when was the last Friday where you could point at five clear achievements from that week? Now start multiplying that with the number of people on your team. Imagine what you, as a team, could achieve if you all did this!!

If you are working in a large organisation, and perhaps your team is, say, 20 people, and you all achieve (at least) one thing per person/day, that could be “talked about” or “mentioned” by the water cooler, that would be 100 discussions that could be overheard by colleagues from other departments. Either that could generate more business or it could help you in attracting staff from other departments who would like to work with “those productive energetic guys”, which by then would be your team.

Career tip #1

There are a couple of things (well, 4-5 actually) I have been making into habits over the years when it comes to my work life, so I thought I might just as well share them with others here, as they should be generic enough for any working person, regardless of title, role, employer etc. They will not come in order of importance, but in order of a work day, so let’s start with this one:

1. Plan your day on your way in to work.

On your way in to work” could of course be “whilst having your morning shower” or “whilst eating breakfast“. Whatever works for you, as long as you make it a part of your morning ritual before you reach your work place, by which time it will be too late.

Having a plan is rarely a bad thing. The only thing better than having a plan is Being Prepared, to avoid (nasty) surprises. However, “having a plan” and “being prepared” are tightly related: it is tricky to be prepared unless you have a plan, and have given the different possible outcomes (of today) some thought. You should obviously always try to plan for success, but if that doesn’t happen in the way you hoped, for whatever reason, it is good to have identified where it possibly could go wrong and how you should tackle that, before it happens.

Remember that you should be doing this for your sake, not for the sake of the project/boss/company/client, all of who will benefit from it too, but you are doing this exercise for You, not for them.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

If you just do a couple of “what if today gives me…?” to yourself you will have thought about possible problems and their possible answers before they are presented to you, you will be able to answer quickly and without wavering on your voice, and you will come across as really knowledge-able and competent (mainly because you are).

Remember though: this exercise is meant to make you work less, and more focused, not to worry more. It is also meant to cater for the smaller things; the big things you should have sorted, and planned for, already. The ideal situation is that you think of things, quickly followed by a memory of having sorted it out already, and to prepare yourself for the unknown in the remit of how you will handle a colleague being ill and similar.

The less you will have to “think on your feet” when presented with a problem, which is rarely under forgiving circumstances and even more rarely delivered by someone who is understanding and helpful, is a good thing.

Shit happens, you’d better be prepared, as that is a part of every day, at least on average, at least on all work places I have ever had.

My Social Network set up

When talking about online activity in general, and social networking and/or social media in particular, I often get asked:

How on earth do you keep track of the 7000+ [on Twitter] people you follow, and what they say?

I also often get asked:

How do you have time to be active on all the services, you appear to be literally everywhere!?

There are a two very simple answers to that: “I don’t.” and “I am not.” Yet it appears like I am. This post will clarify how I have things set up, what goes where and when, and what I actually read, and where I actually do my input.

The Main Services

If we start this from the total view it looks like I am active on the following services, to name the main ones:

You can see the contents from a bunch of those networks to the right of this post, under the headline Lifestream, which also has a navigation item in the top navigation. Not all of the networks from the list above though, and you’ll soon understand why. :)

The Order of Things

Now, no one could possibly be active on all of those networks and have a job and have a family, right? Besides, I have other things to do than to sit around updating everything everywhere, not to mention the updates would be rather boring after a while, as there would be no new/interesting input from someone who spent 35 hours per day updating online services.

I have therefore only a few input tools where I submit my updates. Mainly they are:

ping.fm

This is basically an input service that blasts out your status update to other services. When I type in an update here it (currently) gets posted out to: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Plurk, Google Buzz, Yammer and Delicious (if I send an update containing a link). This is the main broadcast tool. It is also being used by the next tool, which is…

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social network client/app/service that can show you different streams of content from different places, such as Twitter, Facebook etc. The main competitors to Hootsuite are Tweetdeck and Seesmic, and both of them are good as well. I just happen to return to Hootsuite more often than I do to the other two. Hootsuite is excellent for reading (I’ll come back to “reading” later in this post) those content streams, but it also allows you to use Ping.fm when you want to post something (see above).

Instagr.am

This is on my iPhone only, and it is for photos only, but it manages to push out my images to the following services: Instagr.am (doh), Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, Tumblr and Flickr. It also allows you to check in on Foursquare.

WordPress

This is listed here mainly because I type my stuff/content for it via its admin interface. Also, when I post articles on here it can/will get announced via Ping.fm and/or Twitter.

Reading stuff

Firstly, with Social Networks, there is a difference in “being present” and “being active”. There is also a difference in “sending an update” and “reading all updates from all my contacts”, regardless of which network (Facebook, Twitter etc) we are talking about. I am probably not as fanatically present on Facebook as you are, or trying to keep up as hard with all my Twitter friends status updates as many people are.

When I’m in front of my computer, with my social “hat” on, I mainly read various streams in Hootsuite. This means there is one place for several streams. Today (it differs from week to week) I for example have streams with the following stuff:

  1. Twitter search results for “hellquist”
  2. Facebook feed
  3. Pending posts I have scheduled for publishing
  4. A (private) list where I have added people I don’t want to miss messages from
  5. List for web people
  6. @scobleizer/tech-news-people
  7. @Scobleizer/most-influential-in-tech
Notable observation 1: This means I never, as in never-ever, read my “default” Twitter stream! It quite simply moves too fast, and it mainly contains spammy messages in any case. I have sifted out the people I am interested in for my own list(s) [no.4] or get them via others lists[no.5, 6 & 7].

No 1: lets me keep track of whenever “hellquist” is mentioned on Twitter. This includes all mentions, even those not related directly to me, but as “hellquist” isn’t the most common name on the planet it is usually of interest in any case (for me). It also contains all my messages, as well as all replies to “@hellquist”.

Notable observation 2: This also means I have removed my “Sent Messages” as they will appear in the search stream for “hellquist”, and also that I have removed the “Direct Messages” (as that is 99.7% auto-generated spam in any case).

No 2: is pretty self-explanatory, and contains all my Facebook friends updates.
No 3: is there just to ensure I will not flood people with updates. When I read/surf good articles/content that I would like to share I usually add it to a schedule for when it will be posted. Otherwise, if I send out 10 links during a 1-hour window, people will think I am spamming their inboxes. Most of the sharing can live with going out a few hours later, and this is also the reason why I can set up a full mornings status updates during the previous night.
No 4: The most important one for me to be able to reply to real friends (or people of interest), and also to be able to catch up with my mates who live in other time zones.
Those last 3 lists (no 5, 6 and 7) are swapped/changed on approximately a weekly basis, but serve the purpose of being an input for breaking news from people I might not have myself, and/or people “in the know”.

When Twitter upgraded their systems some time ago they went from going rapidly down-hill as Twitter contained lots of noise, to instead enabling me to be able to view Twitter search results (and save them) and Twitter lists (which obviously can be saved), as that greatly improved the possibility of following specific topics and interests and not missing out on stuff. Their upgrade was, at least to me, a game changer, and they went back to being a valuable and good source of breaking news, information and facts.

Replying and/or reacting to stuff

I mainly read the replies/reactions to whatever I have posted on any network, via e-mail, which is the dark horse not previously mentioned in this post, yet it has a vital part. Yeah, I know, very old-school, but very reliable. Pretty much all the services mentioned in this post has settings for sending out an e-mail if someone has replied, liked or commented on a post I have made. Also, as I get all my e-mails to my phone too I can quickly decide when (and where) to respond.

It might be worth noting that if/when I get a comment/reply, and thus a corresponding e-mail, that e-mail contains a link to the comment/thread. If I want to reply back to that I do so by clicking on that link, which takes me to the comment in question, and I do my reply there, within the service (Facebook for example). Therefore I appear to be “hanging around” in that service too, even though I’m not, I am only there right then, to reply to that specific message, and will be logging out immediately after that. It is very rare indeed that I hang around in Facebook. The iPhone app is good though, for the quick replies.

So, that is my casual set up. A message sent via Ping.fm gets shot out to Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Google Buzz, Plurk, Yammer, LinkedIn, unless it is a photo going out from Instagr.am. Any likes/comments/replies come to me as e-mails, and if I want to respond to it I do so in the service in question where the comment came in. Pretty simple really.

This also means that quite a few of the social networks get updates from me that are exact duplicates, which of course also is the reason I have chosen to not include all of the networks in the sidebar on the right in my “Lifestream”. They quite simply would contain the exact same message at pretty much the exact same time.

I used to be a lot more serious about these things before I moved to Sweden. See the screengrab below, where I even wanted to be able to have as many messages on the screen as possible, and even cut out on user icons from my friends (they take up a lot of screen real estate) by using commandline clients only. :)

That screenshot (which was taken to showcase Xmonad, not my Social Networking set up) was actually older than my “proper” setup, which had more “windows” with saved Twitter searches. It is using the best twitter client of them all, TTYtter, which is awesome. :)
Before you ask, the MSN/ICQ/YIM/IRC client that can be seen in that screenshot is Finch.

Conclusion

All of this also means that I have plenty of time doing my job and seeing my family, as it all of a sudden doesn’t take that much time out of my day: my input is limited but broadcasted widely, and I only respond if someone else has responded, at a time/place that suits me.

I spend an hour or two each day (mainly during evenings when the kids/wife are asleep) just reading stuff online about things that interest me. If I find a link that I think is worthy of sharing I schedule it in for posting (in Hootsuite). I am not auto-posting (letting bots post via my account), I am just spreading the goodness I have found myself over the course of a day. The rest are just plain status updates and replies to others, and can happen at any time.

I am not claiming my way/setup is the best, or how it should be. You are quite likely to have a better one. Regardless, this is how I have it set up. Now you know.

Post its

Project/Team/Collaboration tools?

I need to find tools for project/team work that does the following:

  • Handles source code (integration), with version control (.svn, .git, .vss etc)
    • It would be really nice if it handled creative assets too (.gif, .jpg, .png, .psd, .fla etc)
  • Has task/bug tracking. Preferably connected to the source code.
  • Has project planning/current/follow-up tools with time estimation. Preferably connected with task/bug tracking.
    • It would be really good if it was adaptable to various project methodologies (and/or not dependent on a single specific one).
  • It would be really nice if it had some type of messageboard or similar
  • It would be really nice if it had some type of Wiki or other way of creating/storing project related documentation that is not source code (.xls, .doc, .ppt etc)
  • It would be really nice if there was a client area that was specific, and shielded from the project team area
  • It would be really nice if we could access it via mobile apps etc
  • It would be awesomely nice if it had a nice intuitive GUI that didn’t instill non-developers with a feeling of that they’d rather eat a live hedgehog

Now, I can find tools that handle all of those things separately. Has no one ever needed to do all those things in their projects? Integrated with the other tasks? In any one app/service? Or am I just missing one link amongst those hundreds of links I have clicked through the last few weeks?

A few examples of what I have looked at

Basecamp – no surprise there, tricky to try out online Project management solutions without hearing about Basecamp. Ticks quite a few boxes, and seems to be common enough to be integrated to/from other tools.

Pivotal tracker – seems quite competent for Agile projects, only.

FogBugz – Used it at my last job and it ticks the most boxes so far.

Projectplace – does a few things, not the others

Sharepoint/Teamer – does a few things (not-so-impressively), not the others. This is what we have internally but feel it doesn’t do enough of the requirements above.

This is just to name but a few. I have had a look at Google Docs, Huddle, AgileZen, Clarizen, AtTask etc, and they all have their benefits…and their drawbacks. I still think I might have missed something though.

How do you and your team solve the questions above?

How do you and your team work/collaborate on projects?