yoman

How I work: All my tools

I never thought I’d be this person, but I use so many tools for my work – mainly online – that it’s a little ridiculous when viewed in a list.

Here, let me show you:

  1. Google Keep – for notes
  2. Trello – for notes
  3. Google Calendar – for planning our days
  4. Google Drive – for collaborating on documents and spreadsheets
  5. Dropbox – for backing up and sharing my hard drive
  6. Toggl – for timing myself
  7. Asana – for working on tasks
  8. Insightly – for organizing contacts
  9. Paper – for taking notes

There are a few others but I’m not going to mention them since they’re really marginal (and it’s getting embarrassing).

Here is an overview of how I/we use each tool and a bit about what I like and don’t like about them:

Google Keep

google-keepThis is where I keep notes on the go. Like, really on the go. I can make notes in Trello, in a notebook, in Asana and in other places, but Keep is the simplest tool I know for this. You can quickly open up an existing note or a new one and throw pixels on the screen.

It has the option for a regular note or a check list. The check list works so easily and smoothly – it’s amazing.

The main drawback: The only reason we started using Trello was because Google Keep kept not syncing and we’d literally lose stuff we’d written because of this. It was very upsetting.

Trello

trelloWe started using Trello very recently because of the syncing problem in Google Keep. So, while Keep is where I keep my own personal notes, or notes relating to work that Nati, my business partner, doesn’t need to see, Trello is now the place where we write notes to each other and other things that we don’t have any other place to put.

This is some of the boards we created:

Notes to each other – For example, I write a note to Nati and after he reads it, he either archives it because there’s nothing to add or he moves it to the next column “To discuss” so we’ll remember to talk about it the next time we have a meeting on that topic. This is in place of WhatsApp – that way the message doesn’t get lost and we aren’t disrupting each other. And that way, WhatsApp remains the place to discuss time-sensitive things.

To discuss – This column is where we put things we want to talk about. For example, I need Nati’s help with my time management and so I put that in this column.

To do – All our tasks are supposed to be in Asana but since Asana is a very heavy website and a cumbersome app (read more below), sometimes new tasks go in here before they’re moved into Asana.

Other things – This is stuff to keep in mind.

There are a few more boards and we’re still figuring out how best to work with Trello but in general we try to keep it as empty as possible. Because it’s ideally only a short stop in our work flow and if things are there forever, it’s probably a problem.

One of the things I love about Trello is that it works incredibly smoothly. The syncing is basically instantaneous, the app and web version load extremely quickly and dragging-dropping is smooth as anything. After the syncing problems with Keep and the loading issues with Asana, these benefits truly please me.

Google Calendar

google-calendarOne of the things we try hard to do is plan our work days in advance. We give ourselves a half hour at the end of the day to plan the following day. No, we don’t always go 100% according to our plan, but it’s an opportunity to think about everything we have on our plate and to prioritize well. It also means that even if things don’t go according to plan, we still have in mind what our priorities are. And in the cases that we do go according to plan, it’s very satisfying!

And in case you’re wondering, we give ourselves a half hour opening session at the beginning of every day to discuss anything of importance, an hour lunch break and a half hour closing session at the end of the day (to organize the following day).

Google Drive

google-driveGoogle Drive is in some ways the god of online tools. Often when working on huge amounts of content with a team, this will happen in a shared Google spreadsheet. I use Dropbox for most of my files (will discuss Dropbox below) but Google Drive is the magical place of collaboration. We have worked on projects using Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets and Google Slides.

The main drawback of Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets is that they are truly lacking compared to Microsoft Word and Excel. Word’s documents are way more attractive and both Word and Excel carry way more functionality than Google Drive. I see Google copying Microsoft over time but that is happening really slowly.

Dropbox

dropboxDropbox is the way I keep my entire computer backed up. I pay an annual fee for 1TB of storage space and I have all my photos from my phone automatically upload to my account.

The thing I love the most about Dropbox is the sharing of content (as opposed to collaboration). When I need to send someone a bunch of photos, instead of attaching them to an email, I create a share link to the folder in Dropbox and send that to them.

I am aware of the fact that Google Drive works in a similar fashion (and costs the same, last I checked) but I have been using Dropbox for a while and love it so am not changing right now.

Toggl

togglThis is an amazing tool for timing yourself.

I try to time myself throughout my work day. Because of the nature of my work, I only need one task per client/project, which keeps things simple. I also have a task called “Admin” where I time anything that is not billable but is work. That includes: working on leads, business development, accounting, marketing and the opening and closing meetings of the day.

And why Toggl? It’s simple as anything and just does what we need it to do. Recently we created a shared workspace where we can time ourselves on shared projects and we’re pretty happy with that so far. I also love the email I get at midnight every Saturday night which shows me what I worked on the past week.

And why time yourself? Because then you know what you’re doing with your life :) and you can price things more accurately as time goes on.

Yes, it’s often really hard timing yourself, both emotionally and technically. Sometimes it stresses me out and doesn’t let me get into a work groove. Sometimes I feel self conscious about how long something is taking and I just want to do it without thinking about that. Sometimes I make a mistake and time myself on the wrong “task” and then need to try to figure out how long to remove from that task and add to the right one.

But I still believe it’s important, especially if you have your own business, and I guess the way to get past the emotional obstacles is to try to take the data with a grain of salt.

Asana

asanaOh, Asana… It’s the talk of the world.

I was so resistant to use it. I really hated it at first because it wasn’t useful to me and so I found myself still keeping notes in a notebook on the side. It was so frustrating.

But we knew we needed a project management system and Nati thought Asana was a good one, and so we persisted through my resistance. In concrete terms that meant that we spent many hours and tons of thought on figuring out how to make Asana work for us.

And we succeeded!

I don’t even know where to start talking about Asana. I guess, the best place to start is by saying that we pronounce it differently than everyone else. I pronounce it the way I learned to pronounce it in yoga class, putting the emphasis on the first syllable. But, it seems that since it’s an American product, the accent is actually put on the second syllable. We refuse to cave in on this. Sorry.

It’s during the opening session of our day (which periodically is longer than the normal half an hour) that we move tasks from Trello to Asana and organize Asana. We have understood over time that a project management system only works if you go over everything written there on a regular basis, around once a month. We have a “Project” per project and we love using the assignments, deadline and tags. I love the calendar view. In the list view we love the ability to create sections by putting a colon after the title of a task.

We’re trying out the new boards option (copied from Trello) and so far we don’t love it as much as Trello, mainly because you can’t see a long task name (which is really important to us) and it’s very spacious with big font which means you can’t see a lot of info in your screen at once.

The main drawbacks of Asana have nothing to do with the functionality and everything to do with the user-experience. Namely, the web version loads so slowly that it’s almost funny (we take turns laughing/crying about how long my PC takes to load and how long Asana takes to load). And the app is so annoying to work that I often opt to use Keep or Trello and then move things to Asana later.

I’ve now decided to give the app more of a chance and am playing around with it more but from what I know, here are the issues I have with it (the app):

  1. You can’t choose the default workspace or project that the app opens up to. The default for me is the workspace I need the least and the tasks is “My Tasks” which is also something I need less. I don’t see a way to change these settings.
  2. You can’t share from the browser to Asana – This is a huge drawback for us. We often need to share first to Trello and then later move things to Asana.
  3. It’s too hard to add a new task to the right place – with the correct project, assignee, etc.
  4. You can’t start editing a task simply by tapping on the text; you need to tap the tiny little edit button first.
  5. You need to tap “Save” to save your edits but since the “Save” button is passe, I am concerned I’m going to lose my changes.
  6. Switching between projects is a basic need for us but in the app you need to tap twice just to get to a complete list of projects.

K, I’m trying to say that we love Asana, not hate it. I guess the point is that it’s so amazing that the drawbacks still aren’t enough to keep us away.

Insightly

insightlyThis is our shiny new CRM (contact relationship management). I’ve been searching for a CRM that does what I need for so long. And managing contacts is one of the biggest challenges in a business. There are so many categories of people – service providers, potential clients, colleagues and many more – and it is so hard to keep on top of people according to your needs. And so we were pretty (hesitantly) excited when Nati happened upon Insightly. First, it has a nice user interface. Phew. Also, the free version offers a lot of functionality.

The entry types that we use are Contacts, Organizations, Leads and Opportunities. We don’t use Tasks and Projects because we need all action items to be in Asana.

The things we love so far are:

  1. Email tracking – While emailing a contact, we often BCC an Insightly email address which sends the email to our account and connects it with the relevant contacts there. <3
  2. The Gmail addon – With this addon you can hover over a name in your Gmail inbox and see if that person is in Insightly yet. If they aren’t, you can add them from the addon. There are some drawbacks but mostly it’s amazing.
  3. Tags – We use it to track different types of contacts. We’re just sorry that tags aren’t cross-sectional between, for example, Contacts and Organizations.
  4. Links – This is really beautiful. You can link between anything and anything and write something about the connection in a small field.

The main drawback we’ve found so far is that the tags aren’t cross-sectional and the search doesn’t read tags or the entry descriptions. I think it only reads the entry names.

Paper

yomanThe other thing I use is paper. I use a paper daily planner – a yoman – and a notebook. The yoman I use for the overall plan of my days and stuff I need to remember to take care of that isn’t necessarily work-related. And my notebook I use for taking notes during meetings and for brainstorming.

Why don’t I just use Google Calendar for meetings? I find it too difficult to have a feel for my day – including outside work – with a digital calendar. And as for the notebook, the notes from there get transferred into one of the online apps the first chance I get.

Drawbacks? None. Physical notebooks are wonderful!

One more thing…

Nothing works unless you work on making it work. All these tools are only working for us because we have spent (and in some cases continue to spend) hours and a lot of thought on how we need to use them in order for them to work best for us.

Also, all of these tools only work if you go into them and reorganize them periodically.

Both of these tasks might sound like a waste of time – and yes, they’re timed under “Admin” (see Toggl) which is not billable – but having a working system is golden. It means you can arrive at your workday, have a real handle on what’s going on and focus on the tasks that are the top priority. Of course, as mentioned above, the plan doesn’t always work out as well as you’d hope – there are many dynamic factors including emotions involved – but I believe that our days are more productive and way more organized because of how we manage ourselves.

casey-neistat-december-2016

People I admire: Casey Neistat

Maybe a blog post every other day makes more sense than daily blogging…

Anyway, as I give some thought towards getting back into my personal blog, I’ve made a short list of themes I could write about, hoping the added structure will help keep me going.

Here are the themes:

  1. How I work – entrepreneurship and work
  2. Ideology & philosophy – what rules I live by and what I (don’t) believe in
  3. Health – mental and physical
  4. People I admire and why

So let’s begin with Casey Neistat in the theme of people I admire and why.

Casey Neistat…

I kept hearing his weird name from my sisters and nephew who are obsessed with him. One of said sisters is 40 years old and is one of Casey’s biggest fans along with thousands of teenagers. But now that I’m totally into him too – I’m currently in the process of watching all 500-ish of his daily vlogs – I can safely say that he is amazing and worth watching no matter your age.

So, Casey is the first person I’m going to talk about for one very good reason: He is the person inspiring me to get back into my personal writing. Here are the main reasons I love his videos and respect him very much:

He’s principled

He has his principles and seems to stick to them. Here are a few I’ve noticed:

No matter all the opportunities he gets and the challenges of being recognized all over NYC (and often beyond as well), he (almost) never puts people down. He has talked about “bullying” a few times and strongly opposes it. He did one video where he spoke up against the people who bully him in the comments of his videos but I can’t seem to find it right now.

Second, he seems to know what he’s comfortable sharing and he never shares more than that. Namely, he doesn’t get too personal. For example, although his family is in his vlog, I feel like I know almost nothing about their relationships.

He works hard. In a way this isn’t a principle because it seems to be in his blood but it still is inspiring to see someone consistently work so hard. For example, it took him anywhere between 2-7 hours to edit each daily vlog. That’s insane.

He’s amazing at what he does

He is an unbelievable videographer and editor and he is extremely eloquent and well-thought out. It’s actually daunting how talented he is but no one should compare themselves to Casey Neistat because he’s sort of a machine reincarnated as a human (watch him live his life for a bit and I think you might agree). Anyway, he’s unbelievably talented at what he does.

He is inspiring

I have a lot of emotional ups and downs. When I’m down I could feel fearful, sad, tired, hopeless, etc. And I often find that watching a few of Casey’s videos improves my mood. I don’t know why exactly… I think it has something to do with him being very upbeat and creative. But whatever the reason, I find his videos to be helpful to me on an emotional level and I appreciate that so much.

Here is one of Casey’s videos. See what you think:

2016-12-03-13-13-37

Daily blog? Hmmm

If I actually end up daily blogging, this will be Blog #1.

It isn’t so sudden and it definitely isn’t out of nowhere, but it sure is extreme for me to even consider daily blogging when I am in the midst of juggling so many other things.

And of course it’s over Shabbat (Saturday) that I think of these insane new projects, let alone take them seriously. It’s the one day of the week that I don’t work. With all my daily responsibilities fallen to the wayside, my creative juices are rejuvinated and, at the time, these great ideas to take over the world (in ways other than those I’m already implementing) seem like good uses of said juices.

It makes sense I’m drawn to this idea because I miss my personal writing, something that gets little attention since my writing career took off. That’s the irony. I always wrote, about whatever was going on in my life – I wrote about nutrition when I was a dietitian, about Judaism when I was struggling with my place in the religious world and about dating when I returned to Jerusalem and hoped to revolutionize the dating system (hint: I failed).

But since I began writing – read: website content management, editing, proofreading, translating, event calendar management, etc. – for a living, I find that I do almost no personal writing.

This is because all my writing energy goes to my work. This is something I didn’t expect when I worked towards a writing career, but I try not to feel down about it because writing for a living was my dream!

(P.S. Dreams are never the same in reality as they are in our minds.)

Anyway, the other issue I have with my personal writing is that almost every topic I decide to write about turns out to be too personal once I get into it – either for me or someone else – and then it gets really complicated and then I give up. It is such a huge challenge to write from a personal place without writing in a way that’s too personal.

This makes me think of two people.

First, is a woman. A poet. She came to read her poetry to a group of elderly people in the day center where I worked while I lived in Vancouver. She got up in front of the clients and shocked us all (well, those of us who could hear well enough) with a a piece about passively lying on her back, staring up at the ceiling… While her husband had sex with her.

In retrospect, who cares that it was in front of elderly people – I’m sure they had plenty of sex in their lives. But Lord, wasn’t that a little more exposure than she wanted? Apparently not.

The other person I think of is Casey Neistat, the super famous YouTuber who daily vlogged for around 500 days (almost completely) straight. His daily vlogging warrants its own blog post because he is so incredibly inspiring and talented and inspiring (yes, repeatedly purposely) but my point here is that he made a video about his life and thoughts for around 500 days straight and never put anything in that was more personal than he felt comfortable with (I didn’t ask him but I can just tell). His wife and two kids are in there but I’ve never seen him and his wife hug or kiss. I know almost nothing about their relationship. He stopped putting his baby’s face in the vlogs after a certain point. And no personal conversations made it into the videos.

On the one hand I felt the lacking and yearned to see or hear something more personal. But on the other hand, I would think that it was because he was so strict with his own guidelines that he was able to keep it up. There was no question – those personal things weren’t going in. And so he worked around that in an extremely artistic and still interesting manner.

Anyway, I know I have a lot I’d like to share and I’m going to try getting back into that. At the very least I’m going to try to blog a little more. And at the very most I hope to get into blogging daily. Let’s see who will win – less or more. :) Stay tuned.

image resizing hack august 2015 9

Photo resizing hack (for images from the web)

Please note: Two days after I wrote this, screenshots and all, Fotor launched a new user interface to their website. Oops! So, some of the steps might look slightly different but it should still work the same. DML

Often images are the bane of the website content manager’s existence. Finding them, making sure you have credit for them, resizing them properly… It’s all quite tedious and often can take longer than the actual written content!

So when my colleague showed me how he resizes images using the Fotor collage creator, I got pretty excited. He uses the collage creator not for its intended use but I think it’s going to save me a lot of time. This is especially useful when you’re working on a site where you need to upload the exact same size image. In this case, it’s best to set up the Fotor collage creator once and then leave it open, ready for your use throughout the day.

This hack can work for images saved on the computer but as far as I’m concerned part of the fun of this hack is that it works with images from the web without having to download them first to your computer!

Here’s how to do it. I’ll use a Facebook image for the example:

1. Find the image you want on Facebook, right click on it and save the image URL.

image resizing hack august 2015 1

2. Go to fotor.com and click on MAKE A COLLAGE.

image resizing hack august 2015 10

3. On the left hand side of the screen are a lot of settings. Scroll all the way to the bottom. Click on the lock button so that the height and width can be edited independently and put in the dimensions you need. Click “Confirm.”
image resizing hack august 2015 2

4. In the collage area, delete all the extra boxes until there is only one left.

image resizing hack august 2015 3

So it ends up looking like this:

image resizing hack august 2015 4

5. The border will be automatically set at 10. You can change it to zero also on the left hand side.

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6. Click on the down arrow next to “Open” and the click on “Web,” the bottom option.

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7. Paste the image URL which you saved in the field that pops up. Click “Open.”

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8. You’ll see it load in the bottom right hand side of the screen.

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9. Drag your photo into the collage space and drag it around until it’s situated the way you want.

10. When you’re done, click on the save button which looks like a floppy disk.

image resizing hack august 2015 9

Done. Do you have any awesome ways you edit photos for web? Please share in the comments!

En dash, em dash, hyphens—how to use them and how to create them in WordPress

How many of you writers differentiate properly between the usage of the hyphen, the en dash and the em dash? Not yours truly! Until today, that is. I hereby vow—well, not exactly, of course—to explain to you how to use these three little beauties properly in your writing and to then use them properly myself.

Photo source
Photo source

According to this piece on Get it Write Online

The hyphen is used like this:

Twentieth-century
or
Well-being

The en dash (which is the width of the letter N) is used like so:

7:00PM–9:00PM
or
August 17–September 2

And the em dash (which is the width of the letter M) is used like this:

I went to the store—the one on Keren Hayesod—and I bought the damn apple.
or
The apple turned out to be rotten—or so I believe.

Now how do you create en and em dashes in WordPress?

Aha! This is the second most exciting part of this post. Turns out WordPress is all ready to go with en and em dashes. I learned from this post that if you simply write two hyphens next to each other, without spaces, you’ll get an en dash and if you do the same with three hyphens, you’ll get the em dash.

– this is a hyphen
— this is an en dash
— this is an em dash

Finally…

All this being said, is this whole topic passe or do you think it really is good for writers to make sure to use these punctuation marks properly?

P.S.

According to this piece, the official way to create en and em dashes is like this:

In any software program that handles text, the em dash can be typed on an enhanced keyboard as Alt + 0151—that is, hold down the “alternate” key and type, using the numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard, the numbers 0151. The en dash can be typed as Alt + 0150.

What links should open in a new tab and how to do that in WordPress

Sometimes when you click on a link it opens in the tab you’re in and other times it opens in a new tab. Here I’ll explain when to choose each option and how to make a link open in a new tab in WordPress’s editor and menu. These instructions work for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Which links should open in the same tab?

All regular links within the same website should open in the same tab. That means that if on the deena.co About page there is a link to My Writing, it should open right here, where you are.

And now the above paragraph has two examples of links opening in the same tab because this piece is in deena.co and so are those links.

Which links should open in a new tab?

All external links should open in a new tab. So, for example, if I now mention that I have a new post on habitza.com, the link should open in a new tab. Here is a link to Dear Introverted Man,.

Also, links to media should open in a new tab. For example, if my friend’s catalogue page includes a link to the catalogue in PDF format, when you click on the link to the PDF, it should open in a new tab.

These rules apply for menus as well.

How to make a link open in a new tab in WordPress

In a regular editor

1. Click on the link you want to edit.
2. Click on the Insert/edit link button in the WYSIWYG:

linking1

3. In the popup check the box “Open link in a new window/tab”:

linking2

4. Save and check your changes.

In a menu

1. Click on Appearance > Menus
2. At the veeery top of the page, click Screen Options:

screen options1

3. Make sure Link Target is checked:

Screen options2

4. Minimize Screen Options.
5. Go to the menu item that should open in a new tab. Click to expand this item. Click on Open link in a new window/tab:

menu new tab

6. Save and check your changes.

Good luck!

Dear WordPress client, those aren’t categories. WordPress lingo 101

Lingo shmingo and yet one cannot deny that if we all take a moment to speak the same language things will go that much more smoothly. WordPress clients often call items in the menu “categories,” which is understandable. The problem is that the word category has a very specific use in the WordPress Universe.

photo source
Please take my hand and I’ll tell you all about it. photo source

The main menu/main navigation and menus in general

You know those items at the top of the site with lots (or just a few) links to other places around the site? That is called a Menu. The main one that shows in the header on every single page of the website is called the Main Navigation. But it is made of a WordPress Menu. (Tip: WordPress Menus are created and edited in the Dashboard at Appearance > Menus.)

WordPress has the most easy-to-use menu system. You can create countless menus and stick them in different places around the site. You can also create one menu and use it in multiple places.

Here are the main places where you would use WordPress menus:

  1. One main menu in the header
  2. Possibly a second minor menu in the header
  3. A list of useful links in the sidebars
  4. A list of links in the footer

Tip: Menus are entered in the sidebars and footer using Widgets (stay with me! you can do it!).

Got it? So the main menu in the header is called a Main Menu or a Main Navigation.

Pages

Pages are static items on the site like the About or Contact page.

Pages can be related to each other as parents and siblings.

parent_pages

For example, under the About page can be Our Staff and a Mission Statement. About is the Mama Page and Our Staff and Mission Statement are the beautiful children. What a lovely little family!

In order to give the WordPress website owner ultimate control (evil laugh) relating one page to another within the page editor (see screenshot just above) does not automatically make it show up that way in the main navigation. It makes sense that you very possibly will choose to have Mission Statement show under About in the drop down under About but it’s totally up to you. (Tip: Again, this is edited under Appearance > Menus.)

Categories

Categories. OK, you ready?

Every WordPress site comes with blog functionality built in. This can be used as a standard blog or as a news section or, with a creative web developer, it might be used for other things as well.

Posts are individual pieces in a blog. They are time marked and they can be organized by category.

For example, this post which I’m writing right now is about WordPress and so I am going to put it in two categories: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Check it out:

categories

These are categories I created on my site because I know I write enough about WordPress that it warrants a category (in my case, two). You will create whichever categories you need.

And check it out, at the top of this post you can see that WordPress.com is a link. Click on it and you’ll get to all my content on WordPress.com.

Categories are general areas of interest covered on your site. You create them as needed and categorize your posts before publishing them.

How do categories connect with menus?

It’s totally possible there will be a category that is of particular importance to you and in that case you may choose to put it in your main navigation. On my site, for example, Photography is a category in my main navigation and if you click on it, you get to a mini blog, a list of all the posts I published categorized as “Photography.”

category_in_menu

And if you click on it, you get to this URL: https://deena.co/category/photography/.

An item in a WordPress menu is not necessarily a category

All this is to say, dear WordPress client, that items in the menu are not (necessarily) categories and are not called categories. There might be categories in the menu but a WordPress menu can be made up of anything: page, posts, custom post types, external links, categories or tags.

Bottom line: Categories can be in the main menu of your site but it isn’t necessary. The main items in a menu are usually pages though they can be anything.

So what do you call the different levels of a main navigation?

Because a WordPress menu can have any kind of item in them, each item is called a link. Here, let’s practice:

A link!

OK. And as far as the levels, there is the top level and then there are either the second and third levels or the first dropdown and the second dropdown. Etc. etc.

That’s it. Thank you for your courtesy towards WordPress nerds.

Sincerely,
A Wordy WordPresser

Here are the WordPress services I offer.

Why you should stop reading your readers’ comments

A very famous blogger (if only I could remember who) doesn’t allow comments on his blog. If someone wants to share their thoughts (or passionate attacks) about a piece, they can do it on Facebook, he said, in order to keep it more controlled and to keep his website clean.

Continue on, my friend. (image source)
Continue on, my friend. (image source)

Assumptions assumptions. It is assumed that having a conversation going on your blog is some great ideal. And that it’s important to interact with your readers, replying to most/all of their comments. Why? And talk about freakin’ exhausting!

I keep speaking to popular bloggers who are emotionally worn from comments left them by their faithful followers. Sometimes it’s the same reader every time who pushes the writer’s buttons. Sometimes it’s trolls (whatever that is). But does it matter? Every time, these writers spend countless joules figuring out:

  1. How to internalize the comment – what to think and feel about it.
  2. Whether or not they should reply to the comment of question.
  3. What to reply.
  4. Whether or not they should continue a conversation with the reader.

Ugh! Aren’t we writers? How did we become socializers instead?

Now, this is not only a problem because it takes up so much time and energy. It’s also a problem because of how it can affect a person’s writing.

Having to deal so much with readers’ comments has three potential negative repercussions.

  1. A feel good picture (image source)
    A feel good picture (image source)

    It could have the writer calculating what/how/how much to write too much based on the readers. This could be misguided based on one or two verbal people who have nothing better to do than try to get your attention. It could also be based on not getting comments, the thinking being that if I didn’t get comments, it must not be a good piece or maybe I’m just not a good writer.

  2. It could make the writer obsessive about what comments she’s getting and how many. It could have her returning to a post many times on the day it’s posted in order to see how it’s doing. This activity is supposedly based on the above-mentioned assumption that it’s of utmost importance to read your readers’ comments and interact with them. But this what writing is supposed to be about? I don’t remember reading about the importance of obsessing over readership/commenting in On Writing by Stephen King.
  3. It almost definitely creates a situation where the writer becomes dependent on external feedback – writing passionately after getting good feedback and hiding miserably in a corner after negative feedback. And when you’re bombarded with feedback (silence is feedback too), it’s a creativity-sucker (or a muse-muter).

I think one of the great challenges for writers is figuring out how to tap into our own feedback system and decide selectively who is worthy of our listening ears. From whom am I truly interested to hear what they think and continue developing my writing accordingly? This is a question not to be taken lightly!

For now, this piece is dedicated to the talented bloggers I know who periodically curl up in a corner because of the interactions they need to deal with online. When I hear about it, I feel like giving them a virtual slap and saying, “Don’t you see that you’re writing is good? Continue on, my friend. Continue on.”

The use of dramatic words in a not-dramatic industry

I don’t know why but I repeatedly see website development clients pushing their service providers to rush. Is it just in web development or are clients of all kinds pushing their service providers to do everything faster? And better too, I’m sure.

computer
Look at your new website! Isn’t it beautiful? photo source

To the chagrin of web dev clients the world over, I believe there are certain words that should never be used when discussing building a website. These include:

  1. Urgent, and
  2. Critical

Work for a client should ideally be done in a normal amount of time, but is it really necessary to make it urgent?

And here’s the irony. Almost every single time, at one point in the project (if not more), the work comes to an absolute and complete halt. I mean 100%. And not because of the web developer or project manager or graphic designer.

Wait... How did we get here? image source
Wait… How did we get here? image source

Nope. At some point, the project stops because something happens to the client. They realize their attention needs to be put elsewhere for a few days/weeks/months. They run out of cash. They find they have difficult decisions to make regarding the site. So many possible reasons, with the exact same outcome: a project that’s on hold.

I find rushed projects to be problematic but it isn’t only because of the stress of having someone push and push, feeling like you’re never working fast enough. It’s also because I know – I just know – that there is a 99% chance that this mad rush to the finish line will stop so fast that the worker will be left trying to figure out what just happened.

Being part of a regular flow of a project is fine. Sometimes it moves faster, sometimes slower, sometimes it needs to be put on hold for a bit. But after being pressured by a client to rush, when the client becomes the one to hold up the project, it’s tempting to start giving them talks about the importance of keeping a project going, even if under normal circumstances the delay wouldn’t have bothered you too much.

The talk won’t work, though. Because the same way that the project should have moved at a natural pace to begin with, including fast movement, slow movement and pauses, it will need to stop when the client needs to take that breath, whatever the reason may be.

And that’s OK. And you know exactly why. The reason it’s OK for the project deadline to be pushed off is because it wasn’t really urgent. Nope, it was just a really nice website that hopefully one day soon will be a really nice live website that will be enjoyed by all who visit it.

And when that happens, it’ll be really lovely.
Not at all critical.

Is the website still breathing? image source
Is the website still breathing? image source

Why do you complain about free services?

I always find it so strange when people take things for free and then complain about them. Like Facebook. OK fine, complaining about Facebook is one of the tenets by which our technologically-connected society lives.

But to think that something better is actually coming to you from these services is absurd. It’s like getting a present from someone and complaining to them that it isn’t good enough.

Unfortunately we really are getting in that mindset. We’re aware of the better things out there and we’ve been trained to get lots of free things so that we’re beginning to think that that’s how it should be and if it’s different, we’re being screwed.

Dan Ariely, in the video below, talks about what a big leap there is between free and practically free. Once something is free, starting to charge for it is very difficult.

I’m always curious to see what happens the day Google starts charging for services like Google Analytics or Google Apps. Ah, an interesting, revolutionary, sobering day it will be.