Giving Balticon a Miss

I remember vividly when I got started in podcasting. I managed to finagle the admission cost and travel expenses out of my then employer to attend Apple’s big developer conference, WWDC, the very year they announced podcast support in iTunes. On the first day, I visited the local Apple store to pick up an audio interface for my laptop, hoping to record my very first audio at that conference. Sadly, thanks to the ignorance of an Apple “genius,” my first recording happened a week or so after I got back.

Live events have been a large part of my experience of podcasting. That has tapered off in recent years but early on I was invited to a lot of interesting conferences, conventions and events due to being a podcaster. One of the earliest was Balticon. I had befriended a few local area podcasters through a now long defunct meetup. One of them got me invited as a participant some eight or so years ago during that early, heady rush. Even as I started scaling back my speaking engagements a while back, I kept going to Balticon. It is local and so was easier on the pocketbook, not to mention including so many of my friends.

The problem is there was a valid reason I scaled back in general. Oddly, the events I got asked to were rarely tech focused. Like Balticon, many of them were science fiction conventions. I happen to like science fiction. I have fond memories of the earliest cons I attended back in college. When trying to find my voice, though, as someone talking about technology, public policy, and society, an SF/F convention is an odd place to find myself. That tension has only grown over the years.

Each of the last three or four years, around this time, I have debated with myself if it made sense to go back to Balticon. Up until this year, I ultimately decided I had the patience, energy and enthusiasm to make the best of it. This year, I don’t think I do any more. Professionally and personally, the past twelve months or so have been trying, to say the least. Many of the reasons I looked forward to Balticon on a personal level have evaporated, or even worse, become reasons not to go.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll go again in the future. It will depend on a lot of things, things I couldn’t even predict right now. If you are going and would like to get together, up to a point, I could probably manage that, since the convention is still local for me. Just message me privately.

Refining My POSSE Setup

Dave Slusher responded yesterday to one of my posts tracking my experiments with implementing a POSSE strategy on my web site. He clarified a couple of things. POSSE actually stands for Post Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere. POSSE as a concept is being advanced by the Indie Web folks. I have been following the Indie Web constellation of ideas, as well. They claim that strategies like POSSE are in some ways an improvement over federation, a concept which as much as I like it has gained little traction. Federation simple means you post wherever you want and your info flows to federated services seamlessly. Email is probably the most popular example of a federated system.

With federation, there still may be barriers that interfere with simple sharing of information. The examples Indie Web give run along the sentiment none of the existing services directly support federation so you have to adopt something new and try to cajole all your existing online connections to do the same. As the short history of the idea has demonstrated, that’s just too much inertia to overcome for all but the early adopter set.

By contrast, implementing a POSSE approach puts your content in front of your friends and followers wherever they happen to be. It concentrates on the ownership of the origins of that content (the Post Own Site part) so that if there is some issue with a particular aggregator on the other end, it limits the impact on your ability to generate and propagate the information and messages you want. Perhaps a fine nuance but one I have been pondering since Dave’s correction.

I am now onto the second day of an ad hoc weekend project to make my existing site (and one new one) drive a POSSE strategy by simply adding to tools I had already been using, primarily WordPress. I think I have things dialed in a bit better and have found some simple solutions to the few workflows I laid out in my last post.

For the link sharing workflow, I realized I was overlooking that I could extend my RSS aggregator, Tiny Tiny RSS. Doing so makes more sense to me since my aggregator is the canonical store of my curation efforts, not my web site. Tiny Tiny RSS supports plugins, as so many tools do, and I found plugins to share directly from it to Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. You can follow my curated links directly out of my aggregator or continue to follow along on Twitter. Up until now, I had only really been sharing links there but I think I will experiment with pushing those links to Facebook and Google+. I will keep an eye on the reaction of my connections on those services and adjust as seems appropriate. Regardless, this workflow should work much better using more of the right tool for the job.

For the workflow of sharing blog posts, I returned pretty much to the typical configuration of SNAP. I restored the templates it suggests for each target service which is pretty much an excerpt and a link. I set these up to auto post anything within the categories I use for blogging, on both my sites.

For the lifestream workflow (thanks Chris Miller for reminding me of this term) I re-thought my approach. I like the idea of posts to a specific category being handled a little differently but tweaked that to try to make it a little more intuitive. I still withhold life stream posts from my main page and my feed, as I figure these introduce a bit more noise so should require a little more intent and action beyond just visiting my site. If you navigate into my archives or view the life stream category itself, you can now see these intermingled with the rest of my posts and all on their own, respectively.

That left cracking the length constrained vs. free form content problem. I didn’t want to be editing sharing templates post by post, that is a retrograde action, introducing more work rather than simplifying. I had the idea of adding a second config for each of the social services I use. Each new setup would have a template more appropriate for direct posting, that is just the contents of the post on my site without any link back or other extra information. SNAP’s free edition doesn’t allow adding the same social service more than once, however they are running a sale on the pro edition right now. For just under fifty bucks a year you get both the pro upgrade and support for Google+. I went ahead and bought the upgrade, figuring it was cheap enough over the course of a year and if it worked, would be well worth the monetary cost.

So in my SNAP settings as an example I have two entries for Twitter. The first uses the blog post template, the second a template that just shares the text of a post on my site. The first autoposts anything I publish to the usual categories for my blog. The second only autoposts when I publish to one of three life stream categories.

The last piece of the puzzle, at least for now, is that I have gone from one life stream category for everything to three. I kept the existing category so that I can write a short post and simply have it go everywhere. I added one for long form content and added it in SNAP only to those services that don’t have length constraints, like Facebook and Google+. The third category is for short form posts for, you guessed it, Twitter which has its character cap. If I have a longer message I want to share everywhere, I can write it once, adding it to the long form category. Then I can chunk it up and post it as a series of length appropriate entries to the short form category. Tying this all to autoposting to remote services and sites means that if I only have my phone, everything will still work simply by using the right category in the WordPress mobile client. This is critical since up until now, a lot of what I post on the various social services I post from my phone.

The view of my life stream category on my own sites may at times appear a little repetitive. That original category contains the other two, but it is closer to what I think is ideal. Hopefully that makes sense. Or if it doesn’t, trust that it makes sense to me. Or just visit my web site and explore for a bit. At least I think this will all work for right now. It is good enough for a weekend of noodling around, anyway. I will continue to tinker, sharing updates as I come up with improvements or interesting possibilities.

Initial Impressions of a POSSE Setup

I’ve only been playing with SNAP, a WordPress plugin, a few hours, but have some initial thoughts.

NAND Cat Has a Posse, used under CC-BY thanks to Flickr user Paul Downer

NAND Cat Has a Posse, used under CC-BY thanks to Flickr user Paul Downey

I started down this path thanks to Dave Slusher who wrote about POSSE which stands for Post to Own Site, Share Everywhere. I like this concept a great deal. Investing the typical time more and more folks do in communications and information only to have that effort evaporate at the whim or circumstance of the platform, tool or channel of the moment seems very foolish to me. I had been experimenting with Bridgy but still manually sharing all of my posts and posting shorter thoughts directly to all these sharing outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

I stood up a second site for another set of interests of mine. Doubling my existing workflow was not appealing in the slightest. I decided to take the plunge with the WordPress plugin, SNAP, that Dave mentions. For the most part, I really like it. With a little fine tuning, content showing up on sharing networks looks native but cleanly and clearly originates from my site. I will warn that this is a power tool, which affects the effort to set up and how smoothly it supports more than one workflow.

In terms of the installation, just getting it into WordPress is easy enough. Connecting it to other services may require a good deal more effort. I have only connected Twitter and Facebook so far as Google+ requires some additional bits. For both Twitter and Facebook, I had to sign up as a developer and essentially create new applications with each of those for each of my sites. The SNAP documentation for this is superb but this may be outside a lot of people’s comfort zone.

For the primary workflow of simply sharing regular blog posts, SNAP is great. You can configure templates for messages to each with some pretty clear replacement parameters (although finding the list from the plugin is pretty much impossible, I bookmarked their documentation page.) Unlike other tools I had tried previously, messages can be tailored so they look native to the sites on which they appear. This is a huge plus as the current crop of popular sharing sites increasingly penalize anything coming in that doesn’t smoothly fit into their design, flow and expectations. Mismatched updates often get down ranked, defeating the point of sharing everywhere.

I have two other workflows I am still working on. The first is simply using my site, as Dave discusses, as the source for my usual social updates. I have a couple of plugins I use, as he suggests, to have a hidden category for purely social content on my site. Posting to those then only shows on the intended target and if someone follows a link back I provide. Unfortunately, the differences in content size limits makes this a bit clunky. WordPress supports one or two ways to break up content and SNAP can take advantage of those. But if I want a long update on services that support that chunked into three or more shorter updates, there is no good support for that. I am contemplating going back to what I was doing, but doing it via my own site–writing one long post then just simply copying that out into several shorter messages, massaged to work better on services with tighter limits.

If SNAP would add a character count to WordPress, for starters, then introduce a way to add markers that are invisible on my site but SNAP uses to break up posts into smaller pieces, as needed, that would be splendid. I haven’t looked to see if their Pro version does this or it is on their roadmap. I also haven’t looked to see if they have a robust way to suggest features. I have, after all, been using it less than a day. I will give them the benefit, continuing to investigate and push even if I have to fall back on some manual labor in the meantime.

The other workflow I use is Twitter specific, for sharing links out of my RSS aggregator. Usually I simply compose a tweet with the title of an article, its link, a via if warranted and then in any space left a comment. Predicting how SNAP will mangle such a post if composed in WordPress is proving difficult as it isn’t leveraging Twitter’s own URL shortener or offering its own. Again, the lack of character counting on posts is frustrating, I feel like using WordPress/SNAP for this is a bit like aiming blind. I am less concerned for this workflow since my aggregator is my canonical source for link curation and has its own way to share a feed of what I have shared, with my comments attached.

I have only just started using SNAP’s own comment import. Dave recommended Bridgy over this feature but that service doesn’t appear to support more than one site per sharing service, a use case I now inhabit. Also, it has always bugged me that it was a service rather than a tool I could host and run myself. I did like that Bridgy used an emerging, open standard, web mentions, so I may look for a third option that has the best of both. I’ll share more thoughts as I have more experience with the import feature.

 

More or More of the Same?

I ended the web site and podcast where I had been discussing some of my other interests, in particular around beer, brewing and cocktail culture. I don’t want to discuss the reasons why. While that project is definitely over, my interests and pursuits related to it continue. Once or twice I have brought those, here, with an OK reception. I’ve been thinking about how best to continue to share and discuss those interests. I am of two minds.

This site and podcast, largely by happenstance, has had a a pretty consistent set of themes on which it focused. If I were to expand that drastically, I worry it might be jarring or off putting to readers and listeners who follow along for just those discussions. I do have an idea for another site, a successor to the now defunct project, where I might like to house another constellation of interests, especially as I am really ramping up my pursuit of home brewing.

On the other hand, I have always viewed this site and podcast as a reflection of myself. As focused as the writing and discussion has been, that has been an accident of my interests, not an intentional focus on just the few things I touch on over and over. Home brewing, beer and libations, as well as some more recent interests to which I’ve alluded as well, are just as valid for consideration. One of the advantages of a well categorized and/or tagged endeavor like this one is listeners and readers can easily skip the things in which they are less interested and stick around for the rest.

Whatever I decide, I’ll share another post so folks are clear on where new content will be appearing so they can follow along if they like. In the meantime, I am genuinely curious to know what all of you think.

Should I explore all of my interests here in a single site and have faith that folks can and will self select and filter down to what they like? Or should I spin up a fresh site where folks can subscribe additionally if they want to read and hear about my ongoing efforts in the space of home brewing, beer and other things related?

Grateful Despite a Tough Year

Used under CC license, by Marc Levin on Flickr

Used under CC license, by Marc Levin on Flickr

For a variety of reasons, not all of which I have discussed, this has been a tough year.

To be fair to others, I have only spoken of the positive reasons for my job change. The story is always more complicated and those complications took a great toll on me and my family. A job search is exhausting under the best of circumstances, let alone when you are dealing with some incredibly difficult personal issues. I have been touched directly by the spectre of mental illness that seems to be rife in the world of technology and only now is being more openly discussed. I am not prepared to share details though there are some broad topics I will discuss in a more personal way when I am ready. Suffice to say that everyone in my family is safe.

Almost everyone. We did have a loss, a beloved family pet. Losing our enormous and giant hearted canine boy was the last in a series of losses in my personal circle of friends and acquaintances this year. For a while, every week seemed to bring some news of a friend going through some new hardship or of a friend or friend of a friend being lost to us.

At times like these, I am amazed at the resilience of the human spirit. I tweeted a sentiment at one point, that my life had become a blues song that I didn’t yet have the skill to play. I don’t think I was exaggerating all that much. Somehow, despite that parade of woes, we all managed to soldier on, my family, my friends, and myself.

I usually sit right on the fence about taking this holiday to reflect publicly about the nature of gratitude. Like a lot of holidays observed in the US, Thanksgiving isn’t without its issues in terms of the tension between the history we want to believe and the history that actually happened. Most years I give it a pass or just use the opportunity to reflect on open source and free software projects for which I am grateful. Doing so has seemed safest.

After a year like this one, the temptation to expression ingratitude, or even anger, is great. Circumstances could have been different, allowing me easier choices. I could have been more patient, more mature, avoiding at least some of the difficulties I went through. The arbitrary losses–fuck cancer–almost beg for railing against, shouting down a seemingly cruel and uncaring universe.

That would feel good, momentarily, but ultimately wouldn’t lessen the difficulty. Anger and recriminations rarely do. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

When I have opened myself to the positive, whether that is simply relieving stress or trying to learn from adversity, or is the abiding love of those close to me, I appreciate the great truth in King’s words. Gratitude is a powerfully positive emotion, embracing it seems like the better call.

I am grateful for my family for their unconditional love and support. A lot of what happened in the latter half of this year was legitimately shocking. The surprise and confusion on sharing our troubles did not stem the tide of care and compassion in the slightest.

I am grateful for the friends who stuck with me through this year. Not all of them did, perhaps another tick mark in the ungrateful column. Those that did, just as with my family, reminded me not to take my closest relationships for granted.

I am grateful for the experiences that helped me understand that it is never too late to learn and to grow. Some of those experiences were entirely pleasant, like tackling the skill of guitar playing late in life. Some were a bit more trying, the various lumps I accrued through the job search that spurred me to try harder, to be more aware of what I could do, and to appreciate how I still needed to stretch and to grow. I am trying to be grateful even for my failures, whether anyone else considers them such, as prods for me to do better the next time, as a person and a professional.

I am grateful for my listeners and readers who despite my near fading away from writing and podcasting hung in there. Many shared very positive messages of support. I have tried to reply to each and every one. The feeling of being welcomed back with such warmth and enthusiasm is the best reason to spend more time thinking, listening, writing and sharing.

Whether you had a good year or a bad year, I hope that you can find something to be grateful for. Looking back at my modest list, maybe it is simplest to start with the things you take for granted. Despite your own hardships, slight or immense, for what can you admit some gratitude and in doing so, hopefully feel even some small measure of solace?

In Some Small Measure, Wisdom

Picture of the Interior of the Jefferson Memorial, taken by Thomas Gideon

Yesterday I took what ended up being an epic walk. I have already written about how I have been walking more lately. Walking more has been easier over the last two months. I had been taking days off or at least working from home while focused on my job search. The other week, I had a sudden run of days in DC but hadn’t yet come up with attractive walking routes to help me keep up my new habit. In looking around an online map of what was nearby, I found Constitution Gardens. The Gardens truly are one of the hidden treasures of DC and I wish I had found them sooner. There is a huge water feature within which is a small island that has a ring of stone engraved with the signatures of all those who signed the Declaration of Independence. The Gardens are a decent half hour walk from where I work. Worked–today is my last day and my new gig is located much closer to home, in the suburbs.

During that first walk to the Gardens, I paused near the World War II memorial and happened to noticed the Jefferson Memorial was close by. On that day, I promised myself I would come back to see that site before my last day working in DC. I did just that yesterday, taking advantage of some cold but stunning weather.

The online maps make the memorial seem far closer to the Gardens then it is, at least by foot. I walked around the World War II memorial. I crossed several beating arteries of downtown traffic and started around the tidal basin. The view of the memorial as you walk under the cherry trees is breathtaking, especially on a clear, sunny day like yesterday. The view lingers as the walk around the basin is a good twenty minutes. When I finished my visit, I continued my around the other side of the basin which is even a little longer than the side I walked on the way down.

The time and distance (an hour and a half and more than four miles respectively) were only part of what made the walk epic, at least to me. Thomas Jefferson holds a special place in my regard. He attended my alma mater where we refer to him as either Young Thom or Our Thom. We used the latter especially around UVa students. Jefferson founded UVa but he was a student at William and Mary. The claim to him is part of the two schools’ long standing rivalry.

More importantly, when I was just getting involved in online activism, exploring topics around creativity and intellectual property in a post-digital, post-network world, a quote of his spoke to me deeply. In a letter to Isaac McPherson, he wrote this particular turn of phrase in talking about intellectual property, its nature and how we should think of its regulation, for instance by copyright:

Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.

Visiting his memorial was a touchstone. At first I thought also it might be a farewell, a sort of personal resignation. I am leaving the world of working directly for the public interest to return to private industry. The memorial is filled with inspiring quotes, four of them in massive panels interspersed with openings out onto views of the tidal basin, the Potomac, and parts of DC. A more subtle quote is worked into the stone just beneath the dome.

I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

Standing in a contemplative space dedicated to someone whose writings called to me across the generations, thinking about this transition in my life, that last part really struck me. Even though for reasons related to my own pursuit of happiness I was leaving the service of the public interest, in my own way I can certainly hold to fighting every form of tyranny over the mind of man. I can do so wherever I find myself, not in the least on this site and in my podcast as I am renewing and recommitting to my writing and thinking here.

That thought touched off what I hope is at least some small measure of wisdom I can take away from this job, more so than I have managed to realize when leaving jobs past.

Earlier in my career, I often gave into the urge to demonize the the people or experiences from a job I was leaving. I’ve read enough to understand I am not alone in feeling the urge to do so. Humans are story telling creatures. We continually weave a story of our own life. Our own individual narrative first and foremost supports who we think we are. When the world around us is at odds with who we believe ourselves to be, we feel pain in the form of cognitive dissonance. The easiest way to relieve that pain is to change our narrative, despite the facts, to restore the version of ourselves we believe is true.

I increasingly believe the secret of true wisdom is to resist rewriting our personal narratives. If we admit our own faults, the tale becomes the richer for it. We invite in opportunities to learn, to actually grow and honestly become more of whom we would like ourselves to be, in fact and deed. In holding more to the complicated, messy, objective facts of our lives, we can better embrace humility, honesty and courage, rather than simply rewriting the narrative. If we revise our story, we miss that chance to harness our faults and mistakes to urge us on to do and be better in the future.

Searching for Myself

Detail of an orrery made by Benjamin Martin in London in 1767, used by John Winthrop to teach astronomy at Harvard, on display at the Putnam Gallery in the Harvard Science Center, used under CC-BY-SA, by Wikipedia user Sage Ross

I sat across a table today from an account manager at a staffing firm. I didn’t expect to be there. I had taken a phone screen the week prior, my first in-depth technical assessment, that I thought I had completely fumbled. Looking back at my notes from right after the call, I wrote in big block letters, FAIL.

Right after that, I wrote three quick bullet points, things I needed to do in order to avoid failing like that again. In a nutshell, I had not prepared for the call. Things I knew when I was more actively programming refused to pop instantly into my head. Instead, I struggled even though I knew I knew the answers to his questions. The questions were mostly what I call technical trivia, information that is easily searched for online and rarely demonstrates a grasp of useful programming knowledge or skill.

I have since made good on those action items in my notes. I promised myself I would not take an opportunity for granted again, preparing as best I could for each one from here forward.

I have been on the job search a handful of times over the years. I am not sure I previously had such a moment of self awareness. In the past, even under difficult circumstances, I found it too easy to take my knowledge and skills for granted. If I failed, I wrote it off and blithely looked towards the next opportunity. If I had to be charitable in explaining myself, I suppose I would say that more often than note I have had the good fortune to be looking when time was a luxury, when I was still employed. Dismissing a failure without learning from it didn’t seem to carry any meaningful risk.

For some reason, this failure was different. Maybe it was because of an earlier failure in the same search. I had come close but ultimately failed at a first opportunity when I started my search in earnest, back in September. That first chance was like all the others, I guess. I didn’t especially prepare. I relied on my wits, my ability to communicate, and luck more than anything else.

When I didn’t get that job, I was crushed. I really liked the company and the people. The whole experience was great, even doing a thirty hour quick turn around trip from coast to coast. The role was a new one to me that seemed like an amazing way to both return to more hands on technical work as well as to continue to engage my writing and speaking skills. They even found me through my podcast, rather than the other way around.

Maybe the disappointment, in myself as much as anything, was a wake up call. I had used several weeks pretty much exclusively on one job prospect.

At that time, I didn’t have an end date for my current job. I have been blessed to have my hard work during a difficult transition be rewarded by my current employer with support and patience. I now have an end date, one that is still incredibly generous, not in the least because they know I am actively looking. On some level, I knew even before I discussed an explicit end date that it would come, that it would be soon. Realizing I had worked through several weeks with no other prospects to show for it definitely lit a fire under me.

I may have over compensated. I usually am skittish about working with recruiters or staffing firms. In my experience, they don’t save time and often focus on opportunities very different from the ones I find most rewarding. Despite my prior experience, I didn’t feel like I could afford to leave anything unexplored. After I applied to all the obvious good fits, I kept on applying, to the consulting and contracting jobs I know I could do but that I would not enjoy anywhere near as much.

That is how I ended up, today, at a staffing firm talking to an account manager.

Up to this point, I had convinced myself I could and would pursue this all the way through. Part of me added, “if I had to,” to that last sentence while the rest of me, prior to today, worked hard to ignore that contingency. This account manager called me on it.

He grilled me about the usual stuff. Had I used this technology and where. What about this tool. How had I approached this challenge, solved another problem. At some point, he stopped. He looked at me and asked me frankly if I felt I would be happy at this job he was pitching. He went so far as to explain that his reason for asking is that he suspected I wouldn’t be. At the risk of his commission, he didn’t think that made sense in the long run.

For a moment, I prevaricated. I doubt he even noticed, the moment was so fleeting. I admitted he was right. I admitted it as much to myself as to him. Giving up on an opportunity, even one I knew wasn’t right, didn’t feel great. But the notion of stringing it along only to say, “no,” when a better offer came along didn’t feel any better.

At that moment, I realized that this entire  job search really was different. In the past, I have always at least tried to focus on what I really want to be doing. I haven’t always succeeded. I don’t think I was making as intentional choices as I could have, rolling with what came my way and rationalizing it after the fact. My engagement and especially my learning from those experiences were thin at best.

For this search, the stakes haven’t really changed. I still need a job, ideally before the end of this year. What has changed is my openness to being honest with myself. I am far more willing to learn from every single experience along the way this time around. Maybe opening up will improve my prospects, maybe it won’t. I am pretty sure I will find the rest of my search far more rewarding by admitting that I am both searching for a job, for a career next step, and at the same time, searching for myself.

Keep on Walking

8286401024_e0441285ef_oI woke up late this morning, at least late for a weekend. Despite sleeping in, my mind and limbs felt heavy. I skipped my usual habit of making myself breakfast from scratch, instead throwing something frozen in the microwave. Out the window, the neighborhood was gray, wet from overnight rain. I felt unmotivated to keep at another, more recent habit, of taking brisk walks on as many days as I can. I will be traveling this coming week, I knew I should get out of the house to walk when I have the time and space so I feel less bad if I have to skip a day later on.

(Photo by Derek Adkins. Used under a CC-BY-SA 2.0 license.)

The sun broke out for a moment a little later in the morning, painting the houses across the street in warm, liquid gold. That sight was all the invitation I needed. Once I started moving, it was easier to keep moving. I have mapped out a few different routes, of various lengths. I can choose based on the time and my motivation on any given day. Better yet, the routes overlap. I can make a decision in the moment, to head home sooner or to push myself, to get my heart rate up a bit more, for a bit longer.

Today I chose to take my longest walk yet. I am proud of myself. A parade of chill and drab lawns and homes didn’t dissuade me. Having the choice of a quicker loop counter intuitively invited me to choose the longer loop. In the home stretch I contemplated that decision for a bit, how just putting myself in a situation to make smaller, more active choices lead me to a better outcome.

Just like I shared in another recent post, I broke my problem into smaller pieces. More than that, mulling over those pieces while in the midst of them helped me make a connection. I realized at least one reason this idea works, for my anyway. I made a connection between a powerful idea and putting it into actual practice. I had an experience I will try to keep in mind as I contemplate larger projects, whether they are writing or coding. I will try to find parallel experiences that bolster this perspective of a series of simple choices.

As a budding musician, I have been thinking about a phenomenon that I realize is similar. I am best able to play a song without sheet music correctly when I don’t think about the whole song. Rather, the playing flows best when I am just anticipating the next change. I had very similar thoughts the last time I was actively studying Tai Chi. Dozens of poses are daunting all together but when in the midst of doing them, just remembering the movement to the next pose is all it takes to get through to the end.

I have been returning to reading technical books, as part of my renewed focus on coding. I have worked through more than a few short exercises and tutorials. I can bring a greater awareness and intention to these efforts. I can choose both short, attainable chunks for each time I sit down to chip away at refreshing an old skill or tackling a new one. Better yet, I can give myself some possible next steps, an invite I will just as likely accept to continue working for a little while longer, with more energy and focus.

Ironically, I had a topic on my writing list for I don’t remember how long, on the loss of motivation. Today by holding to the thoughts that occurred to me while out walking, I was able to present myself with another easier step. I have some more ideas in my notes for this topic. I took the first step by putting my butt in the chair to share some fresh experiences and thoughts. I will no doubt feel less inertia to overcome when I return to this topic, to talk more about what causes loss of motivation and other ideas for restoring it.

To My Few Remaining Recurring Donors

As you might guess from my recent posts, I am doing some stock taking and house keeping, both in my life and on the site. I just cancelled the three remaining recurring donations initiated when the podcast in particular was much more regular and frequent. One of those donors sent me a note, confused, so I am sharing my thought process here for anyone else who is curious.

I guess I don’t feel that two podcast episodes in 2014 and three in the last twelve months is not the same value on offer as earlier in the podcast when I was producing episodes more regularly.

I am trying to get better at writing but not with any expectation of support or reward. It is early days in that renewed effort for me to feel that my efforts deserve any sort of financial support. And the site and podcast have never been about the financial support, anyway.

I really do appreciate the support I have received from my readers and listeners over the years, whether that has been through just following along or sending in something more tangible like a bit of feedback or a donation.

If anyone wants to restart their PayPal subscription, I won’t cancel it again without reaching out. In retrospect I should have asked first. If you’d rather leave it canceled and send that on to another project you’d like to support, that would be fine with me too.

What News I Am Reading

old-newspaper-350376_1280One of the things I used to do was post regular link dumps. On a good day, I was able to keep these fairly short and add a comment on most or all of the stories. This type of post, for me, started as an outgrowth of my podcast. I sifted through tons of stories on a daily basis to find the handful I wanted to discuss in each news cast episode. When I stopped doing the news casts, I didn’t think it made as much sense to keep sharing these links.

My news reading has not stopped. It is unlikely to stop, it is so important to my professional life and a priority in terms of continuing to understand what matters to me personally.

A few months before Google put a bullet through the head of Reader, I switched away to a self hosted aggregator, Tiny Tiny RSS. I have been very happy with this tool. It supports everything I used to do in Reader and adds in several functions I never knew I was missing. Most importantly, the only person who can decide to shut it down is me, also its primary audience.

One of the features it offers that I use in both applications but haven’t really mentioned is sharing. I can’t remember if Reader’s sharing was internal to that application or it offered a way for non-Google users to see shared stories. At this point, it hardly matters except to point out yet another way in which Tiny Tiny RSS is superior. Anybody I set up in my server can see things I share but there is also an external feed for anyone else to use.

If you use a feed aggregator yourself, you can subscribe to my feed of shared articles. I have also added the feed over there on the right, in the sidebar of this site. That will update on a regular basis if you don’t want to subscribe but are curious about what articles I have been reading. If you follow me on Twitter, the linked items may seem familiar–they are pretty much the same so if you are happy to pick up interesting links from my Twitter feed already, then you may not need to subscribe directly to the feed.