Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Bit Literacy

For the last few days, I've been reading Mark Hurst's new book, Bit Literacy: Productivity in the Age of Information and E-mail Overload. Self-published by his company Good Experience, the book is slim, but high quality. And I expect no less from Mark.

Full disclosure: Mark owns the domain name I once asked whether he'd be game to give that up in one way or another, and he said no. Now I know why (kinda). In the book, he uses the phrase "media diet" in a very meaningful way, and one that's not far from my original usage in this blog. It'll be interesting to see where his URL goes.

That said, the book is good, as are his ideas. Having just read an idiot's guide to GTD -- and spending time with a friend who's come up with his own system for GTD for creative people (filmmakers and the like), this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

Seth's not wrong: Mark's book could be the Elements of Style for the online world. Like Shipley and Schwalbe's Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, the book is a Miss Manners for the Net set, and it's worth reading.

But what's important? According to Mark, everything should be easier.

Bits should be light. In boxes should be empty -- this is possible, and I've achieved it using Mark's method. Files should be easily found -- also easily made, given Mark's naming scheme. Reading lists should be more manageable. And files -- photos, Word docs, and the like -- should be more easily filed... and shared.

The book is good. I can't communicate what I've done very well now, but it's awesome. The next time I email you or send you a file, judge my progress. I might not meet cute, but I'll try.

On Friend Surfing

Within the last few weeks, I've become aware of a new behavior that I'm not sure about. When receiving friend and event invitations via services such as Facebook and Twitter, I respond, and then I do something else.

What else do I do? I see who else the person who sent the invitation is friends with. I don't do this as a way to gauge whether the person is worth befriending -- I don't judge people based on their social networks. What I do do is see who I should already be friends with. Case in point: Today I received an event invitation from Amit via Facebook, and after declining -- I just can't do it -- I checked out who else had yet to respond. I found at least three people who I already know -- and to whom I'm already connected via other social networking services. So I asked them to be my friends in Facebook, too.

This isn't aspirational. I already know and am already connected to the people. It's playing catchup. These are people I could be, should be, already connected to in this service, as well. And the experience makes me think several things.

1. While I appreciate and sometimes use the Import Your Address Book feature in order to see who in my Gmail I want to add to a new social network service, such imports aren't enough. They're overly broad and intrusive, that address book might not be the best source on which to draw, and it's a hassle to go through and deselect the people I don't want to add.

2. I'm lazy. I don't take the time to import existing address books, and I don't take the time to see whether people I know are already involved. I wait for them to find me. Or I wait for our mutual friends to find them for me. Does this mean I don't want to add them? Hardly. It just means that it's too difficult.

3. We need a unified way to maintain friendslists, and an easy way by which we can add them to new social network services. We need to be able to export friendslists, import friendslists, and otherwise replicate existing relationship sets in new tools.

4. FOAF needs to accelerate. If existing ways to do what I've just expressed are to succeed, they need to move far forward, and fast. We need a friendslist standard that can be exported, imported, edited, updated across multiple services, and so on. Until that happens, we'll be wasting our time in increments.

If I'm missing out, if what I want to do already exists, please school me. Because otherwise, I feel like I'm spending my time unwisely, I feel like I'm not interacting with folks in all of the ways I could, and I feel somewhat like a bounty hunter -- a bottom feeder.

What's up with that?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Event-O-Dex XXIX

Sunday, April 22: I probably won't make it tonight, but the fine folks of Hard Case Crime are holding a reading at KGB Bar. Starting at 7 p.m., participants can thrill the quills of Jason Starr, Max Phillips, Peter Pavia, and "Richard Aleas." Aleas is the pseudonym of Hard Case proprietor Charles Ardai.

Do You Have Any Requests?

It's an absolutely beautiful day in Brooklyn. C. and I went to the bakery to get almond croissants and cafes au lait before heading to the park with the Sunday Times and Daily News. While in the park, I was amused by two performing couples.

One couple was doing the word puzzle in the Times magazine, both chain smoking. They alternated cigarettes. He'd finish his, and she'd light another. When she stopped, he'd begin again. She was polite enough to hold her cigarette far away from her so her secondhand smoke didn't waft past him, but the rest of us in the park benefited mightily.

We also benefited from a duo of young girl violinists. They came into the park, set up a music stand, and laid their cases open on the ground in front of them for the deposit of dollar bills and coins. I was quite looking forward to their music in the park on a Sunday, but they were horribly out of tune. Catch 22: You can't really ask them to stop playing because it'd discourage a behavior worth encouraging. Besides, others in the park might have been appreciating them more than I was. Regardless, next time, bring a tuner, ladies.

Reminds me of an old Archie comics gag: "Do you have any requests?" "Yes. Could you play as far away as possible?"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Coffee, Crime, and Community Development

This morning on the way to work, I read Scam #5 1/2, a March 2006 issue of Erick "Iggy" Lyle's wonderful DIY zine. Subtitled "The Epicenter of Crime: The Hunt's Donuts Story," the zine celebrates the history and passing of a donut shop that was once a nerve center in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood. Originally written in 2004 for the Guardian (the article never ran), the piece doesn't seem dated at all, and Erick's handwritten introduction adds quite a lot to the article.

The story is multi-faceted. On one level, it's an epitaph for a beloved hangout. On another, it's a metaphor for the racial and economic tensions that can accompany gentrification. And on yet another, it's an untold history of an entire neighborhood via a single retail establishment. Erick did a ton of research and interviews, and it's surprising how much could be wrapped up in and influenced by a donut shop. For example, did you know that about 90% of the independent donut shops in California are owned by Cambodians? Isn't that fascinating?

One of the best zine offerings I've seen from Erick, and albeit a little old, still worth the $2 or $3. You can order from Last Gasp -- linked above -- or direct from Iggy hisself: Erick Lyle, P.O. Box 40272, San Francisco, CA 94140.

Getting a Read Done

I've been seeing more and more references to GTD lately, and while I've been fascinated by the fetishistic aspects of GTD tools such as the CrossItOff.List notebook and binder clips and notecards, I'm not that familiar with GTD principles. In fact, while I own a copy of David Allen's book Getting Things Done, I haven't finished it and have left it sit unread for months.

So when Jeff Davidson, the man behind Breathing Space offered me a review copy of his 2005 book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Things Done, I thought it'd be a great way to check two things off my to-do list. I wanted to learn more about GTD, and I've never read any of those Idiot's or Dummies guides.

Once I decided that the book was as much designed for skimming as it was for reading, I made quick work of the text. There are a lot of solid principles, tools, and resources included in the book, making it eminently useful. But at more than 300 pages and occasionally overly breezy and anecdotal, reading it can feel like an impediment to finishing it. Kind of ironic, given its topic.

Building on where Edwin Bliss began with the first GTD book, Davidson looks at the challenges faced by workers, including information fatigue. That, then, becomes the basis of the book -- managing your information, distractions, and workflow. Focusing on organization, time management, efficiency, and effectiveness, Davidson looks at ways to increase your energy level, prioritizing projects, your workspace -- that section alone inspired me to clear 20% of my desk and rethink what I keep in piles -- quickly process paperwork so it doesn't linger long, file records, make lists, manage projects, and run meetings.

Some of the more useful practices and tools recommended include Gantt charts, PERT charts, concentrating on important but not urgent tasks and projects, completion thinking, the Pareto Principle, and using meeting management software.

The book's worth a quick skim and is organized well for light reading. No less than the illustrious Shannon Wheeler provides the clever illustrations for the book.

Thanks Jeff, for sending the book. Sorry it took me so long to... get it done!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Reviewing My Reviews

It appears that I achieved my 500th Yelp review today.

For some time, I've known that I've loved Yelp, but 500 reviews? Sheesh. I had no idea how much so.

I wonder: If I did 500 reviews in less than a year, how many will I do in the next year? Am I doing useful reviews? What geographic areas would Media Dieticians like me to explore, if any?

Apparently, I like Yelp. Help me like it better!

Post-Traumatic Stress Order

My friend Mark Goulston, whom I used to edit -- and whom I respect mightily -- has a new book coming out.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for Dummies feels like an odd title for an important book, but given the recent happenings in Blacksburg, I think it's an important text.

The city may still, but at one time, I know that Blacksburg had quite the active home taping and DIY music scene. Some examples include Squealer Music, which released an out-of-print compilation tape of area bands. Do some homework and support an area band, label, zine, or community group. They could use our help.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Event-O-Dex XXVIII

Monday, April 16, 2007: QuickMuse does a live event at the Strand in which Paul Muldoon and Brad Leithauser will compose new poetry before an audience. The event is co-sponsored by Knopf, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and WQXR). 7-8:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 19, 2007: This sounds like quite the lineup... Morex Optimo, Sunshine Club, and Room rock out at the East River Bar, 97 S. 6th St., Brooklyn. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay awake for the late band!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Freelance Righter

It's been awhile since my name has been in the pages of Fast Company magazine as a writer -- I remain in the masthead as a contributing editor for the Web site, and I continue to write for the blog. In the May issue of the magazine, however, I have my first in a long time article, and having just got my copy in the mail today, I'm thrilled silly.

If you get the magazine, be sure to check out page 66 of the print version. Otherwise, the Web team has amped up the article online as a slideshow. Not only do you get to see the one-page piece, you get to see the wonderful art by Josh McKible in all its glory. Thanks, McKibillo!

Flylite is a pretty cool service. I suggest you check it out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Covering All the Baseball

The best way to watch baseball is, of course, outside. This is especially true for lower-level amateur league baseball, even little league. It's true for minor league. And it's slightly less true for major league. True baseball is enjoyed out of doors, with a chain link back stop and a water fountain standing in a pool of gravel.

If you can't catch a game outside, what's the second best way to take in the sport? Is it television? No. Baseball doesn't belong in a box. In many of the larger stadiums, the game is small and far away enough that the box diminishes the experience only by containing it and shaving off the edges. Besides, with baseball's pace, do you really want to break it up with TV commercials?

No, the second best way to catch baseball is on the radio. A transistor radio, held in one's hand, placed in one's bicycle basket, or propped up against a lawn chair in the yard, is the perfect transmitter for baseball. It's compactness and portability means that you can take the radio anywhere, which means that you can take baseball anywhere. Some people even listen to the game while at the game.

Additionally, there are ghosts in radio. Spectral hisses, pops, echoes, and audible depth. Memories of clean-sheet summer nights with the windows wide open. Nervous huddles in the basement waiting for the tornadoes to pass by. Even ghosts of games past. When a baseball game is aired on the radio, all games are in the air.

Tonight, I signed up for GameDay Audio from For $14 a year -- a year! -- you can listen to games live while they're in play, as well as games in the recent past. You can even listen to about 100 classic games if you'd like to dig even deeper.

I'm listening to the Mets, 3-0 against the Phillies. The previous pitcher walked seven batters to give the Phillies two runs, and then he hit a batter in the leg. There are commercials, sure, but there's something special about radio announcers, the sound of the game in the air, and the ghostly hiss that even seems to come across on GameDay Audio.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spam of the Day

File under Phishing, but I just received a relatively smart spam email:

Your history shows that your last order is ready for

To visit ://

Please visit the site to complete your order. Because you have
ordered from us previously, your prescription is pre-approved.

Thank you,

Lidia Joyce
Customer Services

If a Web site I do business with frequently sent me this email, it might have been of actionable interest. Take note, Minimus and But as it is, it's just not recognizable or clickable.

To the phisher's credit, they're reflecting an activity that frequent online customers want, need, and would act on. If only it were for real.

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XXV

My sister, who's on dial up and an old iMac, couldn't get her birthday e-card to work, so I'd like you to check it out.

Make with the clicky!

I played the card for her, holding my mobile phone up to my laptop speaker. Then I described what happened in the card. Surreal.

What kind of computer and Net connection doesn't support this kind of Web activity?

Classy Eyed

I recently signed on as an adjunct instructor to teach a course on blogging this summer at NYU.

You can learn more about the class -- and follow it as it goes -- in my new class blog Enter the Blogosphere.

Also, I encourage you to sign up, if you're local. Should be a kick.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What If Ads Were Content?

Here's the brief presentation I gave at PodCamp NYC this weekend.

Let me know what you think!

Top Shelf Fire Sale

From ye olde in box:

To celebrate Top Shelf's 10th Anniversary in publishing, and also to announce (and prepare for) our 2007-2008 publishing line, for the next ten days -- from Monday April 9th thru Wednesday April 18th -- Top Shelf is having its biggest web sale ever. When you visit the site, you'll find over 125 graphic novels and comics on sale, with fifty titles marked down to just $3 (!), twenty-five titles marked down to just $1 (!), and a slew of other key titles just slashed! All we ask is that you hit a $30 minimum on sale and/or non-sale items (before shipping). It's a great opportunity to load up on all those graphic novels you've wanted to try, but just never got around to picking up. Get 'em while supplies last!

They're good people; so make with the clicky!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Your Assignments, Should You Choose to Accept Them

1. Get on a bus and ride it to the end of the line, or as far in one direction as you can possibly go. Recommendation: the M15 downtown toward Battery Park.

2. Ride a bus down a long stretch of street at night so you can see all the streetlights strung out like Christmas lights into the distance, rising and falling with the lay of the land. Recommendation: the B75 north toward Atlantic Avenue.

3. Cook a simple dinner. Recommendation: fry a steak in butter, boil some new potatoes and sprinkle with dry rosemary, and serve with some short-boiled green beans. Put a slice of lemon in your water glass.

4. Call your parents or a close family member from a public place like a bus or train station. Recommendation: the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

5. Listen to music you've never heard before.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Event-O-Dex XXVII

Sunday, April 8: Graphic Novelists Night at KGB featuring Jon Lewis, K. Thor Jensen, Miss Lasko Gross, Tom Hart, and puppets by the Heather and Ben Show. 85 E. 4th St., New York City, 7 p.m.

Speaking Rules of Engagement II

Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to speak at PodCamp NYC. My talk is slated for 5 p.m. ET in the Herald Square room of the host environment, and it's sure to be a doozy.

After the event, I'll be sure to upload the presentation to SlideShare, my most recent favorite Web app. Already, my brief SXSWi intro has gotten more than 100 views, and a presentation I never even gave has gotten 69.

Squidoo, where I used to work; and Oddpodz, Revver, and BrainJams, where I have friends and acquaintances, are all sponsoring the event.

That means it's Quality.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Separated at Birth

Lest anyone do this before me...



A Note About the Bubbles

Active Media Dieticians may have noticed a new aspect of the blog:

Bubbles. And link previews.

After meeting Jason of Snap at SXSWi and a follow-up conversation, I decided to add their Preview Anywhere tool to the blog.

If you like it, let me know. If you don't, let me know.

Content Is a Crime

New Year's Eve 2006, I stayed up until sunrise teaching myself Keynote -- and making a presentation deck fated never to be used.

The inspiration? My "date" that evening and the 2006 Reboot gathering in Denmark. I didn't end up going to the conference even though I'd been invited, and I didn't end up using the presentation anywhere -- other than a quick run through with some folks I worked with at Squidoo. But I thought the ideas might be worth sharing.

Let me know what you think.

Tag, You're It II

This is the brief presentation I used to introduce the panel I organized for and moderated at SXSWi this year.