Sunday, 29 June 2008
For the past several months I have had the pleasure of improving my communication effectiveness while at the same time reducing my reliance and the massive amount of time I used to spend on email. Tools like Twitter, blogging, and - yes - actively making sure I am using the telephone (remember that thing?) have all contributed to my big picture of improvement: Use better tools where they make the most sense, rather than relying on the cumbersome and often ineffective email medium.

What prompts me to write this? Luis Suarez works for IBM and today's NY Times online contains a piece written by him where he discusses his change away from email. I can relate and have had many of the same experiences.

Email is often chastised for a variety of shortcomings, among them the frustrating fact that often people come across (or are perceived) in a way they do not intend. Maybe the reader perceives the writer is angry or being short when that's not the intent. If I had a dime for every email-miscommunication I'd observed (or been a part of), I'd be a rich man.

Systems like Twitter (assuming you can forgive that app's famous reliability and availability issues), allow community information sharing in a manner you can never get with email, and which classic instant messaging doesn't quite do. Post your thoughts, questions or whatever you're up to and others who want to follow your thoughts can read then in your "tweets." And if they wish they can respond, either publicly (called replying) or in private (called direct-messaging). Twitter is basically a public broadcast communication system of short messages, with private messaging capabilities also available. All Twitter communication is (hopefuly) archived for access and reference later on if you like. The signal-to-noise ratio, however, can be quite high, especially when people use it like an instant messaging client (which it is not really suited for, in my opinion). You can tune the SNR of your tweet feed by choosing whose communications you subscribe to. Too much noise from Joe? Just stop following his tweet stream.

Instant messaging is well-suited for casual, right-now conversations where archiving in the "cloud" is not as important. I can archive all of my instant messages locally, but I have to be on the archiving computer where I was writing to read the archives. It makes it easy to do provate chats with one person and add another person(s) if needed, although my use is almost always 1:1.

Of course, email works well - even best - for some things. I try to avoid using it as a filing cabinet, or at least limit it to specific critical uses. But by pulling all the real-time conversations out and using the real- or near-real-time tools, by email bloat has been significantly reduced, hence the amount of time I need to spend in it is less than the quality of the time I do spend there is higher.

Finally, the telephone. When it comes to making personal connections, nothing beats hearing the other person and them being able to hear you. It's real time in the most "real" sense. You can argue that voice and video capabilities of IM applications fill this need, and you'd be right. But there is something about the phone that really works well.

One other side effect of the technology growth I have noticed (and it's also probably a result of life changes for me as well) is that I don't blog quite as much as I used to. A lot of the quick thoughts that I used to turn into blog entries end up being tweets on Twitter or IM messages (or just left sitting on my brain's virtual table).

How have you changed your communication habits as a result of technology? Or have you?

Add/Read: Comments [2]
Sunday, 29 June 2008 11:27:18 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 26 June 2008
Trevin pointed to a cool site called Wordle, where you can enter a bunch of text and the web app then creates a visual image representation of the text, where the most commonly used words are larger. You have control over many aspects of the visualization, such as font, colors, layout direction, removing common words, how many words to display in the image (default is 150), etc.

I copied the text from the home page of my blog just before posting this and used Wordle to generate the image below. It's interesting to see what words flat to the "top" of the list. Makes me thing that maybe you can tell something about people from their writing, and as such from the words that dominate what they write.

You can make your own at, and see what you learn about your own writing. There's also a gallery of wordles created by others, which I got quite caught up in for a while, reading what others have created. Wordle was created by Jonathan Feinberg, who works in IBM Research with the Collaborative User Experience group.

Add/Read: Comments [4]
Random Stuff
Thursday, 26 June 2008 11:00:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Tuesday, 24 June 2008
Everything about this video - The Website is Down - is so sarcastically and stereotypically hilarious. Josh Weinberg (the creator) is my new hero.
A mashup of true and mostly-true stories from IT hell. If you've ever called tech support and wondered what the hell they are doing down there... well, this should answer some questions for you. Starring Apache, Windows XP, Linux and Halo (among many others).
Note: There's some very NSFW language and visuals. You have been warned.

I'm not going to post video here -- You need to go to the site and watch the whole thing, and then be sure to check out the geeky interactive UI at the end.

(via Chris Pirillo on Twitter)

Add/Read: Comments [3]
Humor | Random Stuff | Tech
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 19:15:51 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
I've traveled to Europe with my iPhone before, and despite activating an international data plan I ended up spending a bit more than I wanted to (by about $100). But Raven Zachary came back home to a $800+ bill, and there are many tales of others having even worse experiences.

Raven wrote a blog article offering some tips to keep your costs down, all of which are good. So, if you are traveling out of the USA with your AT&T iPhone (and yes, that DOES include to Canada or Mexico, so do your homework), check out what he wrote.

As of today, there is no "unlimited" international data plan available. It can get very expensive to deal with email attachments and use the maps program, or even just to check email the same way you do back home (meaning automatically every n minutes). With the 3G network coming on the new iPhone and the associated roaming costs for high-speed access projected to be higher, this all becomes even more important.

Until AT&T makes it a little easier to be their customers, and simplifies things for those of use paying them big bucks for service, you'll need to order specific international services and configure your iPhone in certain ways to make sure you don't get nailed and you'll have to search the 'net to find sources to read about the problems and related solutions. I feel sorry for people who get completely blindsided (and there are a lot of those people out there). So much for seamless, don't-have-to-think-about-it use, eh?

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Apple | Mobile | Tech | Things that Suck
Tuesday, 24 June 2008 06:49:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Friday, 20 June 2008
Jeff Martens had an idea, one I had been thinking similarly about - but he vocalized it first (or "tweeterized it" might be more accurate). I jumped right in and created a new LinkedIn group called "PDX Tech," a networking group for people in the Portland, Oregon general area who work in what we will loosely define as the technology marketplace.

If you'd like to join the group and you meet the above requirements (which are not too restrictive), just click here and sign right up.

In the first 24 hours we already have a substantial group of people who have joined, but I know there are many, many more out there in PDX-land. Hope to see you on the group list!

Add/Read: Comments [1]
Friday, 20 June 2008 22:29:13 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback
 Thursday, 19 June 2008
The Mars Phoenix crew has just announced they've discovered ice on Mars. There will be more tests soon, and ones that should be more direct in their analysis. Today's discovery is based on the visualized disappearance of some white material from the surface over the past few days. From the Mars Phoenix web site:
June 19, 2008 -- Dice-size crumbs of bright material have vanished from inside a trench where they were photographed by NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander four days ago, convincing scientists that the material was frozen water that vaporized after digging exposed it.

"It must be ice," said Phoenix Principal Investigator Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tucson. "These little clumps completely disappearing over the course of a few days, that is perfect evidence that it's ice. There had been some question whether the bright material was salt. Salt can't do that."
Very cool stuff, and it will be even more interesting to see what's next:
Also early today, digging in a different trench, the Robotic Arm connected with a hard surface that has scientists excited about the prospect of next uncovering an icy layer.
And how/where did the news come to us? Via Twitter!

You can follow for regular updates if you wish. The specific ice updates from today on Twitter are here and here.

Add/Read: Comments [0]
Random Stuff
Thursday, 19 June 2008 16:36:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  Trackback