Showing posts with label Blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blogging. Show all posts

Friday, March 25, 2016

So You Wanna Blog? Part 2

In my first blog post in this series, we took a look as some of the ways you might approach blogging.  In this post, we're going to look at some of the more technical features and some things you should do with your post.  Now, I say should and all I really mean by that is if you want to maximize your viewership, there are definitely some things I recommend. 

Blogging Platform

But first, let's talk about platforms.  There are a bajillion blogging platforms out there.  This blog runs on Blogger.  But there's also WordPress and Tumblr and many others.  Platforms matter and while I chose Blogger because I am a heavy Google-product user, if I had a time machine, I would go back and choose WordPress.  Largely I recommend WordPress because it has better SEO (what is "SEO"--search engine optimization, which basically means, it gets better positioning in search results.  You would think Blogger does but apparently, it's WordPress.  I would imagine with its popularity, this is also potentially true of Tumblr.  Still, I did appreciate in the earlier days, the simplicity and ease of Blogger.  I'm a bit bummed that it seems like they are no longer doing much in terms of upgrades to the platform, but it still does the trick for now.  If I were to rank the easy and usability for neophytes, it would be Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress in order of easiest to hardest.  

What Goes Into a Blog Post?

What I'm going to talk about here is certain content to include in your blog posts that will likely improve its visibility on the internet.  Now, I mentioned before that you should blog largely for yourself and not worry about building a readership per se.  That's still true, but figure it this way:  it shouldn't stop you from at least making sure you've created a pathway to your door, just in case people want to stop by your house.  


You should make sure to include titles for each of yours.  Interesting, titles that include numbers get more readership (e.g. 7 Things You Should Know About Blogging, 99 Problems But My Internet Connection Ain't 1).  Titles should be relevant, indicate if it is part of a series, and be playful.  
Word cloud in the shape of a cat of this blog post.
Add cats, whenever possible!


Including images is a must for your blog if you want to attract attention.  The images bring in people for two reasons.  The first is that it increases search visibility for general searches, but it also increases traffic to your site when people do image searches; your image may show up.  However, the best way to secure or increase image-related traffic is to make sure you do two things.
  1. Be sure to name the file relevant to what it is.  
  2. Be sure to use alt-image tags.
For the first one, by naming the image file something relevant "bookshelf.jpg" if it is a bookshelf is that this can be used as some of the information used to produce the search results.  That is, the file name helps the search engine classify it for when someone searches for it.  Alt-image tags work along the same line but there is another great reason to use alt-image labels: they help people who have visual limitations.  The alt-image text is a description of the image.  Often, folks with visual limitations use screen-readers to read text on the screen.  When the screen-reader encounters an image, it will read the alt-image text.  
In acquiring images, I have two recommendations.  The first is to use Creative Commons to find images that you can legally include on your blog and not potentially violate copyright.  I also recommend using Tagxedo to create a word cloud for your post, which as you can see on this blog, I am a big fan of!


The blog design including the side bar, heading, and text should have a consistent and clear design.  I tend to prefer sans-serif fonts and a strong contrast between font color and background.  Otherwise, even I have trouble reading what I wrote.  Additionally, a consistent design of fonts, spacing, layout makes it easier for readers to determine where to focus attention.  

Headings and Subheadings

Along the lines of consistent and clear design, I encourage using headings and subheadings within the blog.  Besides providing good navigation for the reader, headings also serve another purpose with regards to SEO in that they also become ways of improving rankings of blog posts in search engines. Of course, like so much else within blogging, these should be used but not abused.   


Linking is often the lifeblood of blogs and also contributes to improving a blog's SEO.  Any given post should link to other content such as points of reference, material being discussed, alternative points of view, or even funny asides.  It's also useful to encourage exchanging blog-links with other blogs or responding to and linking to other blog posts.  While some of this is used to create traffic, the other half is equally important:  providing elaboration, details, or supplemental material for your particular post, so that you can focus on your content, and use other resources to reinforce it.  


Tags and labels are merely a way of classifying your blog posts.  As you can see to the left of this blog post, there is a word-cloud of labels based upon popularity of given tags or labels.  I find this is a useful means to communicate to readers about the content of the blog as well as myself to consider just where my energies are largely focused.  

Ok, so those are some of the basic things to consider with your blog to maximize readership but most of these recommendations also speak to creating a well-designed and well-thought out blog.  

I don't know that I have a third in this series, but if I do, I will let you know!  Thanks for reading!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, February 19, 2016

So You Wanna Blog? Part 1

I’ve been blogging here for about six years (here's my very first blog post).  I’ve come to really enjoy it and find it a useful means of exploring different ideas, sharing interesting things, and engaging in occasional dialogue.  I’ve had a variety of ideas about why I blog over the years but have largely settled into blogging as a practice of writing and reflecting for myself and if others join me—hey, that’s great!

In fact, it's taken years to figure what my blog is about and how to best use it.  It’s largely about coming up with prompts for myself—which to the general reader is probably a bit eclectic:  what I'm reading, things I'm seeing (wow--now that I think about it, that's pretty boring--oh well, I still enjoy the act of blogging).  

Getting Started...or Not

The hardest part of any blog has been keeping it going.  Most blogs die quick, lonely deaths in the first months of their creation. I stumbled a lot with my blog in the first few years.  I’d post a few things and then not come back for weeks (even months!).  But three things happened that helped me get a focus. 
  • Thing #1:  I took a course where we were required to blog regularly.  So, now I had to post regularly on a topic (what I was learning) and thus, began a series of posts called, “Adventures in Learning." his led to:
  • Thing #2:  Realizing that serial posts are useful and if there are things I do regularly, I can make them into series that I regularly post about.  From this followed:
  • Thing #3: I decided to do year-long projects or my 365 Projects—where I attempt to do something every day for a year. 

 Now, I have an abundance of things to post about, whether it’s short stories, photos, running, or different recommendations.  This means I’m rarely at a loss of what to write about and the bigger challenge is about time. 

What to Blog About

Word cloud of this blog post
However, I recognize that my focus is really an out-of-focus approach.  My blog is a smorgasbord of content and I’m sure that dissuades some readers from subscribing.  That's where I work best but that might not be where every blogger works best.  If interested in blogging, my first recommendation is to brainstorm what you want to write about or what you want to explore through your writing (recognizing that they are two different things--the first creates you as more of an authoritative voice and the second as an explorer and sense-maker).   You might consider blogging on that which is directly tied to what you do in a professional sense (highly recommended for people trying to improve their employment opportunities) or to something completely different (the internet can always use more cat blogs--really, I'm a firm--and biased--believer in this).  

When you have a topic or area you want to explore in hand, you really should brainstorm the hell out of it for numerous different ways you can write about it. Here, I highly recommend Chris Brogan’s blog and his book, Social Media 101.  He has a series of different posts/chapters that help generate topics.  Ultimately, you need to come up with both 1-shot posts and series of posts that you could produce with it.  

For instance, if you were into Canadian comics, you could do any of the following:
  • Themed-posts tied to several classic or modern titles.
  • Compare and contrast of a title from the past and present.
  • Weekly or monthly close-reads of specific titles series or just a random title each month.
  • Top 10 lists (Favorite 10 moments in Canadian comics, 10 best artists in Canadian comics, 15 times I wanted to give a character a hug, 10 Facepalm moments when reading Canadian comics, 10 things you find in every Canandian comic).
  • Reviews of different authors' life-works.
  • Interviews with Canadian artists & authors.
  • Contrasts of Canadian comics with other countries' comic output.

Basically, you want to have a bunch of different ideas for posts and particularly easy-to-repeat posts (e.g. weekly reviews), so that you can spend less time thinking of what to write about and essentially, create a writing schedule of what you want to cover and when.  

Keep Committed, But Don’t Get Committed

My next recommendation is to not go hog-wild.  Don't be overly ambitious in your writing and try to do 5 posts a week.  Start slow with a post a week or every other week.  Ease into the rhythm of posting but make sure you make a commitment to do it regularly and schedule accordingly or it's likely to fall by the wayside.  In truth, most blogging platforms allow you to write and schedule the post to be published at a future date.  Take advantage of this and if you feel like you can write 10 posts in a single day, then write them and schedule maybe 2 a week.  This gives you 5 weeks to produce new content.   For instance, this year, I've already written about 150 of the blog posts that will be published.  By pre-loading them, I know that I have content for much of the year and can focus on other things (like teaching, learning, working, etc).  Spread out the blog posts until you know what kind of consistent rhythm you can have with your blog.    

Another consideration is to not be afraid to recycle or connect to your content elsewhere.  For instance, whenever I have something published on another site, I’ll include a snippet here .  These are easy posts and help you to turn your blog into your ongoing writing portfolio.  It’s also useful because you may have readers interested in checking out other work by you. 

Do It For Johnny!—No, No, Do It For You

Another consideration is to realize that in many cases, you will not have a huge audience.  It will take time to get an audience.  As I've said, I've been doing it for about 6 years and am only now getting about 8,000-10,000 visitors a month.  Many of them come to my blog and leave rather quickly.  So I tend to encourage people to not think about blogging for anyone else but themselves.  If others show up, great, but in the meantime, it's your own thing.  There are definitely ways you can expand your audience but I always recommend you focus on writing and worry less about the audience.  Otherwise, you're constantly hunting for numbers and that game gets old quick.  

So that's my first go round with this topic.  Keep an eye out for my next post, where I covered some of the content you might want to include in your blog posts.  If you don't want to miss it, then mayhaps you should sign up for the newsletter?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

1001th post!

Word Cloud - By Any Other Nerd 1001 Post
So here it is--my 1001th post.  I'm pretty proud of myself that I made it into blogging this far.  I started it 5 years ago and am still going strong.  In fact, it was less than 3 years ago, that I was celebrating my 200th blog post, so that should tell you something about how much I've taken to blogging.  In fact, I've been pretty impressed in that I get about 10,000 hits a month.  I consider that to be pretty good for a blog that is just a miscellany of my mind.  

While I liked the early years, it's really been the last three years wherein I pushed to challenge myself to regularly write and produce on my blog through 365 Projects and that's helped immensely in getting over the 1000 threshold.  

In looking at my most popular posts, only one of them comes from before the 365 projects.  In fact, there's the breakdown:
  1. Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury
  2. The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket by Yasunari Kawabata
  3. The Sequel, Remake, Redux Edition
  4. The Sacrificial Egg by Chinua Achebe
  5. But Who Can Replace a Man? By Brian Aldiss

Now, what's interesting is not only that a random Ray Bradbury story is my most popular post of all time, but that it still has more visits than if you added spots 2-4 together.  It has over 11,000 hits and for the life of me, I cannot understand why.  

So where has all this blogging lead me to over the years?

In that vein of continuing to hone my writing and enjoying sharing the blog with people, here is a list of my favorite 10 posts on this blog:

  1. Spaceballs: The Value of (Re)Viewing
  2. Beyond the Class; Or What I Hope They Take From My Course
  3. On The Death of a Student
  4. Tales of Running: Resilience & Mules
  5. Tales of Running: The Two Demons I Run With
  6. Tales of Running: That was Hard...Let's Do It Again!
  7. 10 Ways Running Reminds Me of Learning
  8. On Becoming a Reader – Part 1
  9. On Becoming a Reader – Part 2
  10. Compassion and Fatigue in a Social Media World

From this list, it's pretty clear to see that running has been a big feature of this blog.  When I look at the time I started to running, I know that writing about it--sharing my expereinces and working through the challenges of running--in this blog proved instrumental in formulate my identity as a "runner"--but it's only now that I realize that it also formulated my identity as a blogger.  My ongoing musings about running led into finding other ways of constantly engaging in writing on the blog and coming up with my 365 Projects and such. Teaching and my work in higher education has also been important and this has been a place for me to negotiate and reflect my role as an educator as well.  

Well, I think that's all I have.  It's been a great 1000 posts and I hope to keep going strong.  What about you reader?  Are you blogging?  If so, share over your link.  If not and you're just reading this one, I'd be curious to hear what were some of your favorite posts.

Thanks for reading and see you at the 2000th celebratory post!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Share This: Social Media for Personal Professional and Organizational Use

So many of my (so very few) readers know that I regular work with social media in my various capacities as instructional designer and instructor.  I have also been a social media strategist for NERCOMP and NEPCA over the years and provided consultations on social media for different individuals and organizations.  Social media is something I think, read, discuss, and use a lot.  So when I learned last year that Jeanine O'Neil had decided to step away from her courses on social media at North Shore Community College's Community Education (their noncredit courses), I talked with her and them noncredit program to find out about trying to fill the gap.  

For the second time, this summer, I will be teaching:  
Banner that reads: Share This: Social Media for Person Professional and Organizational Use.  A course from Lance Eaton @leaton01

This course will run on Wednesday, July 29 and Wednesday August 5th from 6pm-9pm at the Cummings Center in Beverly.  Previous participants have said that this course provides them with a strong understanding of social media that goes beyond just how to use it or why to use it, but a solid grounding in the benefits of using it for self or organizational promotion as well as developing an extensive social network of people to provide new opportunities and connections.  

The course description is as follows:  "Get introduced to social media and the various methods of using it for personal, professional and organizational purposed. We will cover the nuts and bolts of social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Blogger. Gain deeper understanding on how to use these tools for different opportunities and engagement with different populations. Explore marketing, advertising, and connecting with customers and communities. Review social media issues including proper etiquette, privacy and quantifying social media interactions."

To register, please visit NSCC Community Education page for more details (The course ID is: CSP207-ACN-17124).  

For those interested in learning more, below are a few artefacts of the course:  

Course Introduction Video on Youtube

Course Introduction Slide Deck on Slideshare:

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Share This: Social Media for Personal, Professional, and Organizational Use

So many of my (so very few) readers know that I regular work with social media in my various capacities as instructional designer and instructor.  I have also been a social media strategist for NERCOMP and NEPCA over the years and provided consultations on social media for different individuals and organizations.  Social media is something I think, read, discuss, and use a lot.  So when I recently learned that a Jeanine O'Neil was contemplating giving up her courses on social media at North Shore Community College's Community Education (their noncredit courses), I talked with her and them noncredit program to find out about trying to fill the gap.  

For the first time, this late winter, I will be teaching:  

Share This: Social Media for Personal, Professional, and Organizational Uses

This first course will run from February 24-March 10 on Tuesday evenings from 6pm-9pm at the Cummings Center in Beverly.  I hope that this course will provide individuals with a strong understanding of social media that goes beyond just how to use it or why to use it, but a solid grounding in the benefits of using it for self or organizational promotion as well as developing an extensive social network of people to provide new opportunities and connections.  

The course description is as follows:  "The program explores social media and how to use it for personal, professional, and organizational purposes.  The course covers the nuts and bolts of social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, and Blogger, while also providing some deeper context on how to use these tools for different opportunities and engagement with different populations.  The program addresses marketing, advertisement and connecting with customers and communities through the use of social media.  Participants will also have opportunities to consider issues of social media including proper etiquette, privacy, and quantifying social media interactions."

To register, please visit NSCC Community Education page for more details (The course ID is: CSP207-ACN-17124).  

For those interested in learning more, below are a few artefacts of the course:  

Course Flyer

Course Introduction Video on Youtube

Course Introduction Slide Deck on Slideshare:

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, January 6, 2014

End of the Year Part 3: About those Goals....

For those that have been reading this blog, you may remember that last year, I put out some hopeful goals to achieve in this past year.  Well, let's play the accountability game and see where it lands us.

It's time to take a run through the goals and see where I landed.  I achieved less than half the goals that I set out to do, but that's ok in my book as there were other accomplishments this year that warrant mention.  

Do 10 pull ups

Not even close.  I'm still somewhere around 4.  I didn't make as full use of the pull-up bar in my apartment as I should.  I don't think I took this goal as serious as I did others but I do think it is an entirely achievable goal.  I just need to strategize a bit more.

Eat out only once a week.  

This one too quickly fell off the radar as I got busy and distracted.  Again, strategizing can help me improve upon this and I am also shifting more into using a budget so I hope that helps me as well.  

Fill the Good Deed Jar

This goal fell by the wayside by the end of February, if I remember correctly.  I found it hard to keep up with as well as wondering about the nature of what my "good deeds" were.  Is a good deed soemthing that you would do regardless or somewhere you will go out of your way?  If I do it in part because I remember I need to do it so I can record it, does it count?  

Make Significant Progress on the Book

I made some but not much progress on this.  However, it has been folded into my 2014 goals and there is reason for me to believe that it will get accomplished.  Timing didn't work out and there was a lot going on.  However, I have purposely put aside time to focus on writing said book.   

Begin learning programming.

I did take a course on Cascading Style Sheets and Wordpress.  I plan on taking more courses this spring in programming through my college in both the credit and non-credit programs.  So I'll consider that as a reasonable start that I will hopefully continue with through the next year.

Fill the Thankful Jar

I kept this up longer than the Good Deed Jar but fell out of habit with it.  However, I did also follow through in the last few months with a daily reflection of what I am thankful for at the end of each day and identifying those things that made me thankful for that particular day.  

Run a marathon 

I totally nailed this goal and liked it so much I plan on running several in the next year.  I was quite ecstatic that I did this, enjoyed this, and want to do more of this.  To get a fuller picture of how I achieved this goal, check out the blog posts on running on this blog.

Keep regularly blogging. 

I was also successful in this goal in that I have about 70 posts for 2013 which means I averaged more than 1 blog post a week.  I'm happy with that goal and know that I will do even more in 2014 given the projects I have coming up.  

Other Achievements Attained

Beyond the goals I purposely set up, I did end up achieving some secondary goals.  I finished my Master's Degree, which I was pretty happy to be done with.  I also cleaned up my living space significantly, getting rid of stuff I didn't need or no longer had use of.  It felt good to get rid of the excess, though I know there is most likely more to do.  Besides that, I completed several projects at work of which I am proud and have even created a hybrid-flexible course (to which I will have more to say when I teach the course this spring, but that I did it and developed all the videos for the course (over 10 hours) is also a solid accomplishment.  I also read over 400 books this past year, to which I'm pretty happy with and feel that I gained much from that experience.

Ways to Improve Attaining Goals

Vicuna Peak - Source:
How do I get to the top?
In looking at the past year, the successes and the failures with my goals, I think there are clearly some ways that I can better guarantee success.  Granted, these are what work for me but I imagine they are useful to others as well since many of them came from different books on learning and development.

1. Make a visible list.

Having a list on hand that I can regularly refer to has been quite use.  It's a good way to hold myself accountable as well as remind me of what is left to do.  It also means others can see it (which is useful when we get to #3).  

2.  Chunk your goals.

Running a marathon sounded nearly impossible unless I chunked it.  I chunked identifying a variety of other races of shorter distance that I could build up to.  I started with a five mile race in May and ended with a marathon ibn October.  I set markers for where I should be in my training and the goal took care of itself in that I didn't feel too overwhelmed by the task.  I was certainly nervous but comfortable with attaining it.  

3.  Talk/Write about your Goals

It's clear that the goals I wrote about, were the more successfully achieved goals.  Running and Reading (maybe that's what I should rename this blog?) are two things I did a lot in the past year and also wrote about a lot.  That what I write and talk about also help me achieve my goals is not surprise as much of the literature out there tells us that when we speak more to something, we are more likely to achieve it.  Thus, I may end up writing more about my goals throughout 2014.

4.  Reward and appreciate your progress.

I found it also important to celebrate progress towards the goal.  It doesn't have to be huge but giving time and space to recognize that I have made progress helps reinforce the work and keep with it.  

Goals for 2014

So what am I laying out for goals in 2014?  I've got a couple to tackle:

1.  Run at Least 4 Marathons

As I've said elsewhere, I really want to work my way up to doing an double-marathon (50+ miles) in 2015.  The only conceivable way I can think of doing that is by getting in lots of mileage next year and get used to the distance. Regardless of the 4 marathons, I definitely want to try to run 30 miles at least once next year.  But more importantly is just getting in the runs and keeping the distance over the next two years. 

2.  Complete a Half-Marathon in under 2 hours

Equally important, I want to try complete a half-marathon in under 2 hours.  The best I've done thus far is about 2 hours and 6 minutes and I think I can shave off those six minutes.  I would love to get myself under 4 hours for the marathon, but I'm not sure I'll see that year.  We'll call that a secondary goal for now.

3.  Read a short story every day.

I've mentioned this on the blog already, but I aim to read a short story every day for 2014 and write about it here on the blog.  It will be a different challenge than last year's reading challenge. I also have to be care with this one so that it doesn't interfere with Goal #5.  But thus far, I am doing pretty well with this one.

4.  Do 10 pull ups.

I will aim to do this more practically with giving myself a monthly goal and weekly expectations.  I think I underappreciated the challenge of this and didn't take it as serious as other physical challenges I set up for myself.

5.Complete at least 1 book.

I have two that I'm interested in writing.  One is already written but needs serious editing.  The other needs to actually be written.  But again, I've chunked it out this year to more practically achieve it.  

6.  Eat out less.

This time around on this goal, I'm doing more with budget setting and making sure I am holding myself accountable each week.  I know that if I have to account for my spending (even if it's just to myself at the end of the week), then I'm likely to censor my spending a bit more.  I also perceive a less stressful year without having to also work on the Master's Degree that will reduce the need (or rather, want) to eat out.

7.  Meditate More

I got out of habit with this years ago, but the more I've been reading of mindfulness, the more it reminds me of its usefulness and the pleasure I gain from it.  Ideally, I aim to do this for 5-10 minutes a day or at least set that as starting point and see where it takes me.  

Well, there it is.  What about you?  What goals have you set for yourself this year?

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Recommendations on Social Media Books

I do a lot of reading as we all know and I'm quite interested in social media and its relevance to modern society.  I regularly get asked for recommendations for books to help get a grasp on social media.  I often find it hard to recommend just one book.  It's like asking who is your favorite pet or child.  Well, here is my list of books on social media that I've read and found useful.  It's a list of books I both like (Jeff Jarvis, I'm looking at you) and dislike (Nicholas Carr, this one's for you), but all of which are relevant in the discussion.  This list was composed in November, 2013.  I anticipate that I will need to update it again in another year as I continue to devour books on the subject.  All that being said, if there's any that strike your fancy, that you've read, or that you're interested in knowing more about, don't hesitate to let me know.

The cumulative knowledge that I have culled from reading all of these has been that social media may be a new format of interaction for us but is not entirely in terms of how we excahnge and have dialogue among humans.  There is ample meaningless communications that go on day-to-day ("Hi, how are you?") and there's also deep and profound communications that occur.  Social media is no different--except that unlike ever before, it can be captured and quantified.  So while some may think Twitter is a sign of the end-times and full of irrelevant material, they miss how much of our day-to-day is full of irrelevance and meaningless banter ("It's a nice day.").    And like many things in our culture, it's easy to point to simplicity (ignorant tweets) than to point to complexity (because that requires context and nuance).  But there is more value to be gained than problems when as we move into social media.

Recommended Books for Social Media

Book Cover:  The Digital Divide ed by Mark Bauerlein Image Source:
  • Anderson, Chris. Free: The Future of a Radical Price. New York: Hyperion, 2009. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Print.
  • Anderson, Chris. Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business, 2012. Print.
  • Andrews, Lori B. I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy. New York: Free Press, 2012. Print.
  • Ariely, Dan. The (honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone-Especially Ourselves. , 2012. Print.
  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Digital Divide: Arguments for and against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2011. Print.
  • Berger, Jonah. Contagious: Why Things Catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Print.
  • Bilton, Nick. I Live in the Future and Here's How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted. New York: Crown Business, 2010. Print.
  • Blascovich, Jim, and Jeremy Bailenson. Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution. New York: William Morrow, 2011. Print.
  • Botsman, Rachel, and Roo Rogers. What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. New York: Harper Business, 2010. Print.
  • Boyle, James. The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 2008. Print.
  • Brown, BrenĂ©. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden, 2010. Print.
  • Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. 50 Digital Ideas: You Really Need to Know. London: Quercus, 2011. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. Fun Inc: Why Games Are the 21st Century's Most Serious Business. London: Virgin, 2010. Print.
  • Chatfield, Tom. How to Thrive in the Digital Age. London: Macmillan, 2012. Print.
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  • Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class As Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: Penguin Press, 2009. Print.
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  • Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York: Random House, 2012. Print.
  • Matthew, and Soumitra Dutta. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World. Chichester, England: Wiley, 2008. Internet resource.
  • Forni, Pier M. Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002. Print. Fraser,
  • Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Print.
  • Hadnagy, Christopher. Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley, 2011. Print.
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Book cover: Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott.  Image Source:
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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks and Being Fabulous

I wouldn't say that I'm in the habit of giving thanks on this blog, but I do often try to acknowledge thanks where appropriate.  Last year, around Thanksgiving, I wrote a post on giving thanks and since then, I've written two other public thank you notes.  One was a letter to the editor and the  other was a dedication on this blog of people who have been so helpful in getting me to finish my first marathon.

Those who know me, know that I am generally a positive person with a very sunny disposition.  I am rarely in a bad mood and if I do find myself in a darker mood without an extremely good reason, I can pretty quickly transcend it.  But what does the sunny disposition have to do with being thankful?  The sunny disposition comes from being thankful on a very deep level.

Whenever people ask the obligatory question, "How are you?"  I often answer with a "Fantastic!" or "Fabulous!"  That isn't just the automatic response that we all have to the question that nearly everyone asks but no one actually thinks about or even considers before answering and asking in return.  (How many times have you witnessed this circulate conversation?  Person 1:  "Hi, how are you?"  Person 2: "I'm fine.  How are you?"  Person 1:  "I'm good.  How are you?").  When I say "fabulous," I genuinely feel it and I feel it because I am thankful.

Thankful For Everything

Image:  Thank you.  Image Source:
So what am I so thankful about that I can so easily and so often answer the question with such exuberance?  The basic answer is EVERYTHING.  But clearly, that needs some unpacking.  If we look at the world, it is an extremely random and chaotic place.  Never mind, that over 7 billion individual human agents are interacting among one another with exponential random results.  There are myriads more germs and other micro-organisms also travelling from human to human, animal to human, etc.  That is coupled with living on giant (and no so giant) land masses that float on plates that regularly knock into one another.  And I won't even mention weather and climate (except that I just did).  Then we throw into the mix all the ways in which modern society has created further hazards for humankind such as war, environmental degradation, and unexpected negative byproducts of "human progress" (e.g. the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and Great Pacific garbage patch).  None of this even touches upon the fact that we're essentially on a giant spaceship with a limited shield hurtling itself through space in a giant circle around a massive heating station always subject to whatever objects are hurtling through space in our direction.  All of this is to say, existence is extremely unstable.

Now, that seems to paint an awfully dark picture.  One would think amidst all this chaos, there is little to be so thankful for, but I would argue that this is a misapplication of the frame.  People view the myopic picture above and say, how can there be anything to be fabulous about?  I would flip that question and say, despite the reality of the things mentioned above, we are still a world full of people wherein the vast majority do the right thing more often than not. That is to say that things go right far more often than they go wrong.

The challenge is in recognizing all of the things that go right.

Here's a good example.  You are reading this post right now and if you've made it this far in the post, that probably means you're somewhat interested and are being provided with something that's engaging.  But can you name the millions of things that had to go right in order for this asynchronous exchange to happen?  Let's look at just 3 elements within this communication: me, you, and the blog.

In order for me to write this singular blog post, here is just a sample of the things that needed to go right:
  1. To be taught to read and write at a high school level or higher.
  2. To have access to enough food to keep me alive these past 34 years.
  3. To have access to enough shelter to not only keep me alive but to protect my body and mind.
  4. To have developed the self-awareness to be thankful in the ways that I am in order to write this post.
  5. To have access to electricity.
  6. To have access to a "computer" (in quotations because with mobile devices, the definition of this is changing).
  7. To have access to the Internet.
  8. To have access to a publishing web tool (Blogger).
  9. To have access to social media or other avenues for readers to find this blog.
In order for you to read this singular post, here is a just a sample of things that needed to go right for you:
  1. To be taught to read at a level of high school level or higher.
  2. To have access to enough food to keep you alive long enough to read this post.
  3. To have access to enough shelter to not only keep you alive but to keep your mind functioning well enough to read this.
  4. To have access to electricity.
  5. To have access to a "computer" (in quotations because with mobile devices, the definition of this is changing).
  6. To have access to the Internet.
  7. To have access to a publishing web tool (Blogger).
  8. To have access to social media or other avenues for readers to find this blog.
In order for both of us to be here on this blog (at different moments), here is just a sample of things that needed to go right:
  1. Written communication had to be created.
  2. Telecommunications had to be created.
  3. The internet had to be created.
  4. The Internet infrastructure had to be vastly developed which includes many many mainframes and connections.
  5. Computers had increase in productivity while decreasing significantly in cost.
  6. More interactive tools (Web 2.0) had to make interacting on the Internet more feasible (to the point of almost free).
  7. Blogger had to be created.
  8. Blogger had to be bought by Google.
  9. Google had to keep Blogger alive.
  10. Blogger had to maintain and hold onto all of the blog posts of all of its customers.  
That may not seem that much, but again, each item listed could be further broken down to highlight all of the things that had to go right.  For instance, consider all the things that could have interfered with either of us becoming literate?  That was rooted in millions of direct actions (our family, friends, and surrounding people affecting us from the womb to the present) and indirect actions (cultural decisions such as public education, what to do with children, etc).  When you try to tally it all up, you will come up with an almost infinite list of things that went right in order for just you and me to interact on this blog.

And that's the piece that many of us don't see.  We are more aware of bad things happening because of their rarity in our lives.  The fact is, that if you are waking up in a bed, are fairly certain where your next meals are coming from, and capable of reading this blog, you are far ahead of the game.  Your life in totality is good.  That's not to say that bad things won't happen and that real serious bad things shouldn't be acknowledged.  But to only acknowledge the bad and never take time to recognize all of the things that went right, is to wrongly stack the deck.

Something as simply as arriving to work carries with it a range of things to be thankful for.  First is that you arrived safely.  Consider all the things that could have gone wrong from slipping on ice on the walkway to your car malfunctioning to being hit by other drives to being mugged or suffering an illness on the way to work.  But no--you arrived safely and soundly.  There is the fact that you are employed and have a means of income.  That someone values you enough to pay you to do something.  (I recognize this is a harder nut to swallow but given competition for jobs and resources--there are after all amply people qualified to do any job that you are doing--regardless of whether you dislike your job or believe you are underpaid, you are being trusted and paid for services you are providing; not everyone is so lucky).

I do my best to stack the deck rightly so and acknowledge as much of the good in my life as possible but also recognizing that I'm probably only seeing a fraction of it all.  In that, I mean I recognize that for everyone 1 thing I can tangible recognize as going well for me, there are probably at least 5 things that went well that I didn't know about directly.  In truth, it is impossible for us to be fully aware of all the things that go right in a given moment, hour, day, etc.  There are just too many different things to account for.  Look at driving:  Each car is composed of hundreds of moving and interacting parts that allow you to drive.  Multiply this by the amount of cars on the road.  Throw in the road infrastructure (roads, signage, lights, guard rails, etc) and random pedestrians, cyclists, animals, etc.  It's nearly impossible to comprehend all the things going right and that's just driving.  What about when we sit in our homes or work-spaces?  But all of it goes well 99.999% of the time.  Yes, that's a statistic that I just made up but I wonder if it's not far off the mark when we consider all the factors surrounding us that could do us harm.

Which brings me back to why I feel fabulous so often.  There's much to be feel fabulous about.  So many things in our lives, goes extremely right and for me to be anything less than fabulous undervalues all those things that goes right and I don't want to do that.  Because in valuing all those things that go right--in being thankful to those myriad positives, it makes the negatives much less potent.

However, in the last few months, I been trying to take that thankfulness to a new level.  First, my partner and I introduced a new idea into our relationship.  Before bedtime each night, we share about what we're grateful about.   It's big and small things.  Sometimes, there are clearly important things to be grateful for.  Yet other things regularly make the nightly list (my kitties and partner being regularly acknowledgments). People who say their prayers at night are not new to this idea but one does not need to be religious to be thankful for the many good and great things that we have to be thankful.

But again, I find myself wanting to take this idea of thankfulness one step further.  In August, I had the pleasure of hearing Carrie Stack, from the Say Yes Institute speak at an event at North Shore Community College.  One thing she emphasized that has stuck with me is to reach out and to say thanks to people for the things they do and be willing to go the extra step to make that thanks public.  That is, make you publicly acknowledge when someone has done you a good service and especially, if it relates to someone else's work--be sure to not only let that person know but their employers.  As Stack emphasized in her presentation, giving such public thanks goes far for you, for the person you are thanking and equally important, for others who may be present.  We have plenty of examples of people griping and complaining, but maybe what we need is more examples of people saying thank you to people.

So what are you thankful for?


About 2 hours after finishing the post, this TED Talk showed up on my newsfeed and I feel in many ways, it sums up my experience.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.