Filtering by Category: LifeHack

Uses of RSS

(via and bloggingpro), a great list of things people can do with RSS, compiled by Tim Yang

  1. Get the news as it happens from multiple news sources
  2. Collect your email from all your email accounts in your RSS reader (mailbucket)
  3. Track Fedex packages
  4. Get notified of bargains at Ebay (rssauction)
  5. Get stock updates
  6. Get the weather report (wunderground)
  7. Find out what people are saying about you, your company or your product online (technorati or pubsub)
  8. Get music, radio programs and TV clips
  9. Stay updated on someone's schedule (RSScalendar.com)
  10. Get cinema schedule updates
  11. Read your favourite comics
  12. Find out what other people surfing (del.icio.us...)
  13. Automatically backup your weblog posts
  14. Get software updates
  15. Get the latest bittorrent files and ahem, p*rn

Some readers add other functions in comments:

  1. traffic conditions (maps.yahoo.com)
  2. get up-to-the-minute police and fire events (incidentlog)
  3. video game statistics
  4. jobsearch (rssjobs)

Douglas Coupland about meanings, patterns and combinations

I like this quote taken from "Miss Wyoming" by Douglas Coupland:

"That's what Vanessa does for a living," Ryan said. "At RAND. She finds meanings and patterns. Combinations" "What's your speciality?" asked John. "Like Ryan said, I'm a finder" "A finder?" "Just what it sounds like. Ever since I was a kid, if something got lost, people came to me to find it for them. I'm able to locate things. I ask questions. I look at data. I make connections. And then I find what's lost.

Why do I blog this? I find that Coupland just found the right word to express this feeling I already had.

Social Software rules

A french linkedin-like website claims 4 very relevant rules while using Social Software:

  1. Don't rush, results are slow to appear
  2. No pain, no gain: enter properly the medadata (your description/profile, invite your relevant relations, ... endorsements...)
  3. Give to receive: endorse others + answers to others (as far as possible)
  4. Respect the netiquette

Why do I blog this?Because I think those rules are relevant to learn which social behavior to adopt on the Internet.

Why and how running a newsletter?

Since lots of people still don't use RSS aggregator, I've came across 2 resources:Basically, why creating a newsletter

  1. Keeping in touch with customers (give them special offers, remind them about your site, ensure loyalty, provide useful links)
  2. Developing relationships with people who have similar interests to you
  3. Providing an industry or group of people with proprietary information
  4. Just for fun!

How do you send a newsletter:

It wouldn't be very fun sending out an email message to 2,000 people every week via your desktop computer. I know there are many people out there who run huge mailing lists that say it works fine, and all that, but really, it isn't the most convenient way to do it. It takes up a lot of your time.

A nice solution is getting someone else to send it out for you. It's easy, fast and usually very cheap, often free. Usually all you do is send one email to their server, and it sends it out to all your subscribers. Very painless. Of course, there is a catch. Most of them will attach a small (or sometimes large) ad to your newsletter. There are a number of companies that offer free newsletter mailing services, including:

  1. Groups Yahoo: From what I have seen, this is one of the best free servers on the Internet.
  2. Listbot: This one has recently been improved... they now support larger messages and also allow your subscribers to sign up via email.

Concept checklist:

  1. What areas are you knowledgeable in?
  2. Can you bring something extra to an already well covered topic? (i.e. gardening)
  3. If not, do you have focused knowledge in a particular niche? (i.e. growing tobacco)
  4. Do you want to make money? If so, is your potential audience really desirable for advertisers? If not, how will you be inspired to keep working on it?
  5. Do you know of any competing newsletters? If so, how is your newsletter going to be different from existing competitors?

Why do I blog this? I've been concerned lately by the topic of 'running a newsletter'. It surely won't be for Pasta and Vinegar, it's more related to a potential start-up project with some folks about futuristic trends.

[LifeHack] Blogpost structure

I am trying to move forward into work efficiency. Blogposts from Pasta And Vinegar will have the following structure from now on:

  1. title with the [category]
  2. content with the link + author + date when available
  3. a short note with "why do I blog this" to explains why it interested me

I am not sure whether I will have time for the last note but it might be a nice way to get the point of what interests me and why it is relevant for my work/purposes.

[Social] People who don\'t like to network + social software issues

I refuse to hobnob for advantage by Lucy Kellaway (financial times).

The whole networking process defeats me, in particular the business cards. I keep my own at the bottom of my handbag, and they are usually a bit grubby on the rare occasions I am required to produce one. Other people's cards go back into my bag, and get fished out whenever I spring clean it. They then sit on my desk for a while before eventually going into the bin. (...)The more I think about it, the odder I find the whole networking process. The very word is off-putting: it sounds so pushy and calculating. The point of networking is to meet someone more important than you are. But if everyone goes to a party determined to network, the whole exercise becomes self-defeating. It also offends against the idea that we work in a meritocracy, where talent will out, eventually. In true life, of course, talent does not always out. The smarmiest have an annoying way of getting to the top. But it does not follow that the collecting of business cards at drinks parties is a good use of time. Ah yes, networkers say.

Besides, social software's relevance is also discussed nicely in the New York Times (with regard to the business model) as well as in other blogs like andy oram.

[LifeHack] What is your RSS consumption strategy?

That's a question I always think about: how to cope with a too large number of RSS feeds? Roland Tanglao answers:

here's how I plan on eliminating my RSS information overload: Subscribe only to 150 blogs at the most. These 150 will be people not search feeds from PubSub, Feedster, etc. and I will read them every day or at least try to. And I will update this list and add and remove people at least once a month. This group I will call MUSTS.

For the companies and blogs that I write, I will create PubSub and Feedster feeds for these companies' and blogs' keywords as well as RSS feeds for links to their URLs. This will be called WORK. I intend to keep this list to 100 feeds or less.

The rest (over 500!) will go into NICE TO READ and I will set them to the items to auto-expire so that if I don't read them for 24 hours, they are deleted. And if I find something in a NICE TO READ consistently, then I will promote it to MUSTS.

Of course, as he claims, "There's no need to read everything". I tend to think about this as the first rule. The first month I used a news aggregator I used to read everything and then I noticed that being updated is not a matter of reading stuff once in a while. It is rather to read a bit on a regular basis.

Another thing important is the notion of node, some people can keep track of stuff you're interested in but you don't have time to browse about. For instance, even though I am interested in blogs and syndication I don't really check website about it. Instead of reading specialized blogs on KM or blogs, I aggregate 2-3 of great blogs about it.

[Tech] Technorati cosmos within NetNewsWire

Today I am focused on semantic web tool. One of the winner of the Technorati Developer Contest. Dave Sifry announced the winners. I am particularly interested in what Niall Kennedy did: AppleScript plugin that you add to NetNewsWire which will subscribe to the Technorati Cosmos RSS feed for the item a reader is currently reading.

Users now have a quick and easy way of staying informed about the latest information related to items of interest from the convenience of NetNewsWire. You do not even have to be online to subscribe to the cosmos!</blockquote

[Tech] Durl: a RSS feed for del.icio.us URL queries

(via roland), a new tool that seems really promising: Durl. To put it shortly, it's a search engine for del.icio.us.

Enter a url to retrieve information about people who delicious'ed it. del.icio.us already provides this service, Durl completes that with an RSS feed containing those results and trend history graphs.

As Roland points it the added value is related to the keyword (metadata) added:

And this is very efficient because it leads you to people who not only bookmarked the URL, but also assigned to it some pertinent keywords or tags, giving you new and fresh ideas.

[LifeHack] How to be creative

Few tips on the classical topic 'how to be creative':

So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years:1. Ignore everybody: The more original your idea is, the less good advice other people will be able to give you. When I first started with the biz card format, people thought I was nuts. Why wasn't I trying to do something more easy for markets to digest i.e. cutey-pie greeting cards or whatever? 2. The idea doesn't have to be big. It just has to change the world: The two are not the same thing. 3. Put the hours in: Doing anything worthwhile takes forever. 90% of what separates successful people and failed people is time, effort and stamina. 4. If your biz plan depends on you suddenly being "discovered" by some big shot, your plan will probably fail: Nobody suddenly discovers anything. Things are made slowly and in pain. 5. You are responsible for your own experience: Nobody can tell you if what you're doing is good, meaningful or worthwhile. The more compelling the path, the more lonely it is. 6. Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten: Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creative bug is just a wee voice telling you, "I’d like my crayons back, please." 7. Keep your day job: I’m not just saying that for the usual reason i.e. because I think your idea will fail. I’m saying it because to suddenly quit one’s job in a big ol' creative drama-queen moment is always, always, always in direct conflict with what I call “The Sex & Cash Theory”. 8. Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity. 9. Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb: You may never reach the summit; for that you will be forgiven. But if you don't make at least one serious attempt to get above the snow-line, years later you will find yourself lying on your deathbed, and all you will feel is emptiness. 10. The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props: Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece on the back of a deli menu would not surprise me. Meeting a person who wrote a masterpiece with a silver Cartier fountain pen on an antique writing table in an airy SoHo loft would SERIOUSLY surprise me. 11. Don't try to stand out from the crowd; avoid crowds altogether: Your plan for getting your work out there has to be as original as the actual work, perhaps even more so. The work has to create a totally new market. There's no point trying to do the same thing as 250,000 other young hopefuls, waiting for a miracle. All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one. 12. If you accept the pain, it cannot hurt you: The pain of making the necessary sacrifices always hurts more than you think it's going to. I know. It sucks. That being said, doing something seriously creative is one of the most amazing experiences one can have, in this or any other lifetime. If you can pull it off, it's worth it. Even if you don't end up pulling it off, you'll learn many incredible, magical, valuable things. It's NOT doing it when you know you full well you HAD the opportunity- that hurts FAR more than any failure. 13. Never compare your inside with somebody else's outside: The more you practice your craft, the less you confuse worldly rewards with spiritual rewards, and vice versa. Even if your path never makes any money or furthers your career, that's still worth a TON. 14. Dying young is overrated: I've seen so many young people take the "Gotta do the drugs and booze thing to make me a better artist" route over the years. A choice that was neither effective, healthy, smart, original or ended happily. 15. The most important thing a creative person can learn professionally is where to draw the red line that separates what you are willing to do, and what you are not: Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly. 16. The world is changing: Some people are hip to it, others are not. If you want to be able to afford groceries in 5 years, I'd recommend listening closely to the former and avoiding the latter. Just my two cents. 17. Merit can be bought. Passion can't: The only people who can change the world are people who want to. And not everybody does. 18. Avoid the Watercooler Gang: They’re a well-meaning bunch, but they get in the way eventually. 19. Sing in your own voice: Piccasso was a terrible colorist. Turner couldn't paint human beings worth a damn. Saul Steinberg's formal drafting skills were appalling. TS Eliot had a full-time day job. Henry Miller was a wildly uneven writer. Bob Dylan can't sing or play guitar. 20. The choice of media is irrelevant: Every media's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Every form of media is a set of fundematal compromises, one is not "higher" than the other. A painting doesn't do much, it just sits there on a wall. That's the best and worst thing thing about it. Film combines sound, photography, music, acting. That's the best and worst thing thing about it. Prose just uses words arranged in linear form to get its point across. That's the best and worst thing thing about it etc. 21. Selling out is harder than it looks: Diluting your product to make it more "commercial" will just make people like it less. Many years ago, barely out of college, I started schlepping around the ad agencies, looking for my first job. 22. Nobody cares. Do it for yourself: Everybody is too busy with their own lives to give a damn about your book, painting, screenplay etc, especially if you haven't sold it yet. And the ones that aren't, you don't want in your life anyway. 23. Worrying about "Commercial vs. Artistic" is a complete waste of time: You can argue about "the shameful state of American Letters" till the cows come home. They were kvetching about it in 1950, they'll be kvetching about it in 2050. It's a path well-trodden, and not a place where one is going to come up with many new, earth-shattering insights. 24. Don’t worry about finding inspiration. It comes eventually: Inspiration precedes the desire to create, not the other way around. 25. You have to find your own schtick: A Picasso always looks like Piccasso painted it. Hemingway always sounds like Hemingway. A Beethoven Symphony always sounds like a Beethoven's Syynphony. Part of being a master is learning how to sing in nobody else's voice but your own. 26. Write from the heart: There is no silver bullet. There is only the love God gave you. 27. The best way to get approval is not to need it: This is equally true in art and business. And love. And sex. And just about everything else worth having. 28. Power is never given. Power is taken: People who are "ready" give off a different vibe than people who aren't. Animals can smell fear; maybe that's it. 29. Whatever choice you make, The Devil gets his due eventually: Selling out to Hollywood comes with a price. So does not selling out. Either way, you pay in full, and yes, it invariably hurts like hell. 30. The hardest part of being creative is getting used to it: If you have the creative urge, it isn't going to go away. But sometimes it takes a while before you accept the fact.

[LifeHack] Tailgating employees of Apple R&D facility

I like this kind of story, told in wired

Avitzur sneaked into Apple's California HQ for six months to write a software program that, through luck and hard work, is still included on every Mac sold today.Unemployed and living on savings, Avitzur worked 12-hour days, seven days a week, to create Graphing Calculator in the unlikely hope that Apple would bundle it with new computers. (...)Avitzur and Robbins worked in vacant offices, avoided Apple security and gained access to the campus by tailgating employees as they showed up for work.(...)"We thought we were artists, and it was the responsibility of artists to get the work out there. That motivated a lot of what we were doing. But we were loose cannons and we didn't answer to anyone. There was no accountability. It was a lot of fun." Avitzur got a lot of support from Apple employees, many of whom had had pet projects canceled and were sympathetic. Skunkworks projects are a long-standing tradition in Silicon Valley. Many engineers work on personal projects in the hope they will be turned into products, even if they've been previously canceled. Companies like Google recognize the tradition, allowing staffers to spend 20 percent of their time on private projects.

Avitzur wrote up is experience here.

[Life Hack] Presentation software?

I like Edward Tufte's point on presentations. One of his reader asks how to make presentations: techniques, handouts, display technologies.In your discussion you seemed to have a dislike for using Microsoft's Power Point. Is there an alternative software package for presentations? Of course the guy misses the point: PowerPoint is not the problem, it's just a software; the idea is rather that using this kind of slide presentation (heavily bulleted) IS a problem since it constrain the information flow/thinking process.

It is astonishing that people have somehow managed to teach and to give talks for thousands of years without "presentation software"! In the first place, don't begin with the question "What presentation software should one use?" but rather with "What are the thinking-learning-understanding tasks that my displays and presentations are supposed to help with?" Answering this second question will then suggest technologies of information transmission.

So if you are teaching a course in art history or architecture, you will need to show a lot of high-resolution color 35mm slides and to provide color thumbnails on a class handout (paper). To present statistical data, you'll need to hand out annotated and sourced tables, graphs, and charts on paper.

If the presentation is about strategic thinking or project planning, you will want to avoid the dreaded bullet list. On how the bullet list makes people stupid, see Gordon Shaw, Robert Brown, and Philip Bromiley, "Strategic Stories: How 3M is Rewriting Business Planning," Harvard Business Review, 76 (May-June 1998), pp. 41-50.

And there is nothing like the real thing; show your audience the actual physical object you are talking about. If the content consists of sound and motion, show sound and motion.(See my earlier response on multi-media for more on this.)

For medical case presentations, see the display in Visual Explantions, pp. 110-111 and the articles by Seth Powsner and E.T. cited there.

Overhead projectors and PowerPoint tend to leave no traces; instead give people paper, which they can read, take away, show others, make copies, and come back to you in a month and say "Didn't you say this last month? It's right here in your handout." The resolution of paper (being read by people in the audience) must be ten times the resolution of talk talk talk or reading aloud from bullet lists projected up on the wall. A paper record tells your audience that you are serious, responsible, exact, credible. For deep analysis of evidence and reasoning about complex matters, permanent high-resolution displays are an excellent start.

For a devastating parody of PowerPoint, see Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in PowerPoint, by Peter Norvig (http://www.norvig.com or a mirror site which you can easily track down in Google).

One more example. If you are teaching math, hand out the proofs on paper at the beginning of class to all the students; then work through the written-out proofs aloud in class, following the proofs on paper. That way your students aren't merely making notes and recording your words; instead they are thinking. I believe that students should THINK in class, not take notes. So give the students your lecture notes and go through them carefully in class, trying to insure understanding of each part as you go. Your voice in effect annotates and explains the material on paper. (Of course, these ideas apply widely, not just to teaching math.)

I have written specifically about making presentations in Visual Explanations, pp. 68-71.

-- Edward Tufte, May 28, 2001

[LifeHack] text editor for mac .txt addicts

Super recap about all the most important text editor. I also strongly believe in .txt files (I still have 10 years old txt file somewhere on my hard drive). On the Mac, I use subethaedit

Look, I'm only writing this for one reason: I want to know if there are lots of other people out there who are like me. Text editor addicts. (...) This is how I work, too. My todo files are good old plain text files, which I make a point of keeping well edited and up to date. As Danny said, there's nothing simpler than cut and paste. (...) My central file, the most important one, is todo.work.txt. Almost everything related to my current work is in there in some form or another. I have to be able to edit it a dozen or more times a day, and I have to do so quickly and without any fuss. (...) Some of the things I use a text editor for:
  1. Writing letters
  2. Making shopping lists
  3. Storing electronic invoices and receipts
  4. Managing lists of things (to read, to visit, to remember, to make)
  5. Editing files and templates for web sites
  6. Writing articles
  7. Pretending to write novels and works of fiction (none of which ever get finished)
  8. Writing my resume
  9. Writing a personal diary
  10. Composing posts for weblogs and mailing lists
  11. Writing, and storing, drafts for all of the above
  12. Keeping my todo.work.txt file up to date

[Life Hack] Next Life Hack Event

There's gonna be a Life Hack session at Emerging Tech Conference by Danny O'Brien and Merlin Mann

We'll take a whistle-stop tour through an amazing year in this exploding field: tracking apps that merge the geek's command-line power with GUI ease-of-use; the expansion of RSS and wiki techniques into frontline organizing apps; the spread of search and script automation onto the desktop; how plain text files are the new rock and roll.

[Blog] Academic blogging

Main points covered in the discussions at Bloggercon III about academic blogging:

1. Why should academics blog ? 2. What changes for academics when they blog ? 3. What’s the potential effect of blogging in the academic world ? 4. Why do academics make good bloggers ? 5. Blogs vs. Blackboard 6. Publish or perish ? 7. How do blogs affect the value of attending university ? 8. How can we make blogs more attractive to academics ? 9. Who should be the audience ? 10. Blogs as a student learning tools 11. University policy towards blogs?

Very interesting issues!

[LifeHack] Work tricks

(Via rodcorp) trade tricks is a kind-of "catalog of secrets only its employees are aware of—such as how waiters with heavy platters know to look straight ahead, and never down". My favorite:

Proofreader: If you’re reading too fast, your brain can “correct” typos, preventing you from catching them. That’s why it’s sometimes a good idea to read a page upside-down. It forces you to pay closer attention to individual words out of context, and you can’t race through pages too fast.
High School Teacher: When the students are acting up (or your performance is being evaluated) , turn on the air conditioning as high as it goes. The students are far better behaved when they are frozen. Note: the opposite effect does not work: excessive heat only exacerbates the issues of problem children.