Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reading what you want to read in 23 easy steps...really

I used to cruise all around the web reading things that interested me. Not any more. Now the information I want to read comes straight to me each day. It's called RSS and it doesn't' involve giving your email address, your mother's maiden name or any other private information. RSS brings information, or "feeds," right to your desktop. I subscribe to well over one hundred feeds. Can you imagine how long
it would take to surf to a hundred web pages each day on the off chance
that they'd changed something? I don't have time for that and neither do you. RSS fundamentally changes the way we get information. It's not all that difficult to get started.

The Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn writes a great intro to RSS here: Chicago Tribune | Eric Zorn.
He's using bloglines, which isn't my preferred RSS program, but it's free and works well. I've been using Newsgator for the last year or so. Why? Because Outlook is always open on my desktop and Newsgator plugs right into it. All of my subscriptions show up in folders very similar to my email folders.

If you want to learn more in less time, RSS is the only way to go.

via LifeHacker

Publishers getting on the e-book wagon

jkOnTheRun is linking to a BusinessWeek article today the hints that gradual changes are afoot in the publishing business.  This year Google, Random House and HarperCollins will move more that 50,000 books into e-formats.  The key is going to be the distribution model.  Right now e-tailers like Amazon require you to download an ebook…obviously. Apple’s success with iTunes and Sony’s forthcoming Reader are going to challenge thi somewhat.  In another post JK writes that:

Author Scott Sigler first made news when he decided to release his book EarthCore as a weekly podcast last year. Sigler produced the audio book himself and released it a few chapters at a time via podcast and garnered 10,000 subscribers. The innovative author has now achieved a "second first" by putting the audio novel on the iTunes Music Store. The entire 20 episode audio book can be purchased from iTunes for $9.99 and it will be interesting to see how well this sells. It could pave the way for other authors to self-publish in audio format.

The publishing industry is changing.  You can bet that many people, both authors and publishers, will be watching these ventures. 


Away with the overflowing inbox!

How do you feel when you look at your email inbox?  Many of us would say we feel vaugely sick.  Most everyone gets more email than they ever want to see and many are driven by it.  They are always waiting for the next email to arrive so that they know what to do.  That’s a terrible way to live, frankly and isn’t very productive.  It makes you reactive instead of proactive and the weight of undealt with emails is a tremendous mental drain.  So what do you do with all those emails sitting in your inbox?  I would suggest you come up with a system that keeps your inbox empty of ALL mail.  I don’t get that many emails in comparison with most, maybe 20-40 a day (not counting spam).  But unless you get well over 200 hundred a day, it is possible to keep your inbox empty and your head clear.  It is possible to refuse to allow your inbox to drive your day.  Read each email one time and then process it.  Here’s how…


Julie Daniel, a staff coach for the Getting Things Done organization offers us six different types of emails and what to do with them.  I’ll list them as they were summarized here at What’s the Next Action.


  • Email you've read and there’s no action associated with it and you don’t need to keep it for reference. So delete it!
  • Email you've read and there's no action associated with it right now but perhaps on a later date. So incubate it or file it!
  • Email you've read and decided there is an action but you are not sure what the action is. So incubate it or defer it!
  • Email you've read and decided there is an action and you know what the action is but you haven't come around to doing it. So put it on a Next Action list in the appropriate context!
  • Email you've read and decided there is an action and you actually did the action. But now you are waiting on some sort of reply from someone or they need to track the outcome of that action. So put it on a "Waiting For" list!
  • Email you haven't read yet. Those are the only emails that should be in your Inbox!


If you do this you’ll relax more, drop fewer balls and feel more in control of your life and, especially, your inbox.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

New version of Microsoft Office finally named

Hey, for those of you who are following the new version of Office scheduled for release this next year, Microsoft has just given it the stirring name of "2007 Microsoft Office System." I'm loving the Beta, to be honest, and think people are really going to enjoy this new product when it ships.

Jensen Harris gives some information on how to participate in the Beta 2, if you're interested.
Chris Pratley also gives some good info.
You can find out which products go with which suite here.

Microsoft is also going to bundle OneNote into the Home and Student version, which is pretty exciting. OneNote is an app I could no longer be without.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

How effective is email?

I've been growing increasingly disenchanted with email as a communication medium lately. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I'm getting disenchanted with the way it's used, not with the medium itself. It's one of the least effective forms of communication because it lacks all the meta-language of phone call or better yet, face-to-face communication. The "meta-content" of your voice like tone, pace, pauses, etc., are all missing from email as is facial expression...duh. Some studies suggest that almost seventy percent of communication comes through this meta-language.

What's problematic is that, according to this University of Chicago study, people consistently overestimate their ability to convey tone in email. Check out this Lifehacker post about the study. To boil it down:
The reason for this communication disconnect, the researchers find, is egocentrism...
Think about. We are more and more chosing modes of communication which are easiest because they leave the other partner out; they begin and end primarily with the "sender". We don't have to (immediately) respond and alter our tone, pace or choice of words, to be understood by the "receiver." Unfortunately, with email it is all about ME. When communicating let's try to pick the most effective modes first.
  1. Face-to-face
  2. Telephone/VOIP
  3. Voice mail
  4. Email
Good luck communicating!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Great Tablet PC Demonstration

While Tablet PCs are catching on, it's still a challenge to demonstrate to people quickly what is different about them. The differences go way beyond simple differences in hardware. The difference is in the experience.

This week James Kendrik posts an outstanding video demonstration of some his favorite applications. Notice I didn't say "tablet" applications. These are all great applications that work normally with Windows XP. With a tablet, however, they get a whole new level of usability. It's a good demo of how to use:
  • Outlook
  • OneNote
  • Internet Explorer
  • MindManager
  • Activewords
  • and others.
These are all programs I too use almost daily (with the exception of JVC Gantt, which I'd never seen. If you are curious about what different 'ink' makes head on over and download the 17MB video.

jkOnTheRun Audio Edition: jkOnTheRun Audio Edition #11- Tablet PC demo video

Ink isn't about 'geek' it's about communicating

Yesterday I had another one of those "this is why I have a tablet" moment. I was communicating, via Skype and Windows Messenger Live (thanks for the invite Rob!) with our field book keeper in Macedonia, the next country over from mine. We run a holistic ministry center in my city and I was talking with the bookkeeper about how to best communicate the financial details to our mission team and our national co-workers. She and I have been struggling to come up with a graph that best illustrates the data I want to communicate, but I just couldn't get it across to her.

I looked down at my WM Live window and noticed a pen icon....a ha! I quickly sketched the type of income/expense graph I was looking for in the Messenger window. This was the first time I'd used messenger and it took ten second. I hit send and a moment later heard her begin to laugh.

"You sure love your new toy, don't you!" she said.

"Ah, ya. But it's all about communicating. Now you know exactly what I'm looking for, don't you," said I.

I'll be the first to admit that I like gadgets because they are cool. But at the end of the day, I like them because they get the job done. It's not about 'geek;' it's about communicating.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Speed-Reading Techniques

I don't remember who to 'hat-tip' for this; the page has stayed open in my browser for days. Most of us are exposed to enourmous amounts of information these days. None of us have time to read all the things we might, but this page has some great techniques to build your capacity to read more in less time. They're not are minor adjustments in behavior that bring positive change. Good techniques are long-term, major adjustments in paradigm that will cause significant down-stream bonus. Tips just require that you remember, techniques require that you practice.

I've been experimenting with speed-reading since high school and probably read faster than most, but this page if full of ideas that challenged some of my assumptions and gave me insight into getting what I want out of a book.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

An open letter to publishers

I've been riding this e-book horse pretty heavily recently, but this really is the future of book publishing.  Does this mean the end of paper editions?  Of course not.  Most people still prefer to read a real paper book, all things being equal.  But the thing is, not all things are equal.  Lately I've been trying to digitize as many things as possible, specifically my Albanian language study material.  Why?  There are lots of reasons I am growing to prefer ebooks over paper fact they are the same reasons everyone else gives:

  1. Portability - ebooks don't weigh anything.  I can read a book easily on either my IBM X41 Tablet computer or my Sony CLIE.  I almost always have one or the other with me. 
  2. Accessibility - they're always with you when you need them.  This goes beyond portability; the book is quickly accessible to me.  In fact, I can open an ebook almost as fast as I can pull a paper one off my shelf and open it to the correct page.
  3. Searchable - this is a  major plus of ebooks.  Last week I was writing to a blogger friend about the book, Naked Conversations,  I was reading.  I was looking for a particular quote about Buzz Bruggeman.  In about five seconds I had searched through the book and found the right quote.
  4. Mark-up-ability - Okay, this isn't a word yet.  Paper books can be scribble on, underlined, and notes can be taken.  But you can do the same in an e-book, depending on the software one is using.  With Adobe Acrobat, for example, you can highlight text and make notes about those highlights.  What's even better is that you can then create summaries of all your comments and notes, along with page numbers, etc.  Wouldn't have that been great when writing those college term papers?

Craig Pringle sums it up better than I in an open letter to publishers.  In his intro he says:

This post was inspired by my recent experiences around two books by Michael Linenberger.  I will hold this transaction up as an example but it is not in any way atypical.   This is not about any one author or publisher.  I have ordered Michael’s books and look forward to reading them.  This post is to everyone who writes or publishes a book.  It is an open letter and feedback is welcome and encouraged.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

How does your team coordinate schedules?

Our team in the Balkans is geographically distributed over wide region.  We have personnel in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia and use a wide range of internet connectivity options from dial-up, city-wide wireless and cable-modem.  Our field has tried a number of internet based calendaring options to help everyone coordinate the field-wide schedule.  None of them have really worked though.  People with dial-up have trouble with web-based apps, others aren’t geeky enough to see the point, etc. 


Web-based calendaring applications are nothing new, but in the last few days a number of people have been writing about something new called “30 Boxes.”  The beta is supposed to be released tomorrow (Sunday).  What do you use to coordinate scheduling over a geographically dispursed team that doesn’t’ have access to a central server? 


For more on “30 Boxes” check out these guys.  It looks pretty sweet.

Thomas Hawk


Download Squad





Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Foreign photocopier frustrations

Had one of those weird, geeky-cross-cultural experiences today.  We have a wonderful digital, networked photocopier at our community center/church-plant.  We offer extremely low-cost photocopies for the community, especialy the university students.  We also offer free, limited photocopying for the local teachers.  Not only will our copier photocopy, but it will also has a scanner, document-server and print functions built in.  We’ve made good use of those functions as students and others make use of our networked computers.  Last week we had the copier serviced and, as part the servicing, the technician reset everything to default…thanks.

As you might guess, this brought scanning and printing and other network functions to a screeching halt.  This is no big deal you say.  Surely someone calling themselves the ‘missionary geek’ would have everything up and running in no time.  Here is where one of those irritating factors of missionary life surface.

Our photocopier actually came from Switzerland in an earlier life.  There it enjoyed a full and purposeful life in some small- or medium-sized office.  But somewhere along the line, it sinned and was sent to Kosovo.  It brought with it, however, its native German- and French-language packs.  That’s right, our copier only “speaks” French or German.  The whole interface is set up for only those two languages.  Unfortunately for me, both of those languages are far from my adopted Albanian.  Fortunately for me, most of the time the icons on the LCD display are pretty straightforward.  Other times, technical abbreviations like IP and DHCP are the same in any language…I guess.  But I could not get the thing to print from our computers to save my life.  I’d set it up the first time, but maybe I just got lucky.  Finally I changed some 28-letter-long German word from ‘on’ to ‘automatic’ and all was well again.  Sometimes you have to take confort in the face that most of the time you can’t irrevocably break anything by pushing buttons and seeing what happens.  Hey, it works for me!