Hello, my name is Dramagirl, and I’m a webaholic …

Several of my latest posts here have focused on the flood of social networking sites I’ve been attracted to during the past few months. In fact, an entire theme has developed with these often apologetic posts. I’ve been a bit whiny really, using the sad excuse that such play aka experimentation is all grist to the mill of future posts.  Well that’s not going to cut it for much longer I can tell, and besides I and the blogosphere have changed for good.

For a start, the applications and services just keep coming. Oh yes, I could duck for cover or simply ignore the chatter about this or that new service that floats by, but it’s proving extremely difficult. You see the playing has brought new friends whose own interests lie in the social networking sphere, and so the chatter tends to orbit around this activity, if not entirely exclusively. Yes, blogging is not the same … at least it’s diversified beyond what I’d imagined when I began blogging 3-4 years back, and it’s all because of the technology.

This time last year I was recovering after the August 31 Day Blog Challenge. It was brutal folks! Yes, I survived along with other hardy bloggers determined to ‘get it right.’ There the focus was all on good (traditional) blogging: thoughtfully crafted posts, collegial commenting, shared tips on time management and sound GTD principles. During the month anxieties emerged from time to time … how long should a good blog post be, apologies for poor spelling, syntax and so on.

I also took part in a Comment Challenge in April this year. As you can tell from the title, it was about learning more about the art and craft of blog commenting, and sharing the conversation around.  Such a challenge is now showing its conceptual age, at least in terms of how ‘big’ bloggers and micro bloggers are commenting on one another’s ideas. Now it’s about short and fast, but hopefully not superficial responses. Posts and comments from services like Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, Tumblr and Jaiku sent from desktop, laptop or mobile phones now appear on aggregated sites like the mighty FriendFeed, where I daresay they are far more visible and engaging of diverse opinion and comment than here on the humble but still unbowed traditional blog post. And of course you can link your blogs to FriendFeed as well;  a cross-link to this post will appear on my FriendFeed site as soon as I hit the publish button here on Word Press.

But when it comes to speed of uptake, indeed turnaround in attitude towards traditional blog writing, what about Seesmic eh?  As you might be aware if you’ve come here before, Seesmic is the video conversation tool which has really engaged me for the past 6 months or so. There appears now … out there … to be a complete turn around in attitude towards what’s called video blogging or vlogging …ugh!.

Now, when I installed Seesmic video commenting capability here back in April and encouraged visitors to leave a video comment, I was at first disappointed at the lack of uptake, especially during a Commenting Challenge.  I got the distinct impression that most bloggers were not keen to do ‘barefaced’ commenting … indeed many declared it wouldn’t last and for all sorts of reasons, none of which frankly convinced me much. It set me thinking and has provided food for much thought and conversation. Now what has happened to the hive attitude inside 6 months … well, try Googling ‘popularity of video blogging’ and see what you get! Not the put-downs and pooh-poohs of 6 months back, but what comes close to a ‘told you so’ attitude. Well, told you so! And then yesterday, a new video commenting app called 12 Seconds was released out of invitation-only into public testing. This is video blogging or commenting on speed. Yes, 12 seconds is all you get to make your video comment. It’s kin to Twitter and its 140 characters. This is opening up conversation and comment to experimentation. I for one, am delighted to puddle around and see where this leads us.

Friday Factoid

Science Daily tells us that researchers now have a new gene pool of subjects to gather data from and to experiment with …  internet junkies. Apparently that’s about 10% of us. Oh well.

‘Hello my name is Dramagirl, and I’m a webaholic.’

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Blog Packrats Anonymous listen up!

January is a month that looks in both directions – in the manner of Janus the Roman god who gave it his name. For many in the southern hemisphere it’s still summer holiday time, whilst others have already had to kick off the beach wear and struggle back into work clothes. A good tidy up the desk, the drawers, kitchen cupboards and the dreaded spare room is the order of the month. Here’s an update of a post from 2 years ago.  Most of it holds true; I’m an inveterate packrat and still get a kick out of the mail inbox at zero with everything nice and tidy on the online desktop.

Whilst I’ve been on holiday I’ve had a chance to devote extra time to blogging. This has resulted in researching and testing more than my usual quota of applications and web tools. Some get dumped almost immediately, either because they don’t pass my design test for usability, or I’ve already got something that does the job better. However, it doesn’t stop me snooping around for tools that make my blogging more productive or the experience more fun.  I subscribe to the Macbreak Weekly podcast for an entertaining take on all the goss on Mac-related tools.  More importantly though, I get most of my information and tips on new services via my RSS feeds which I access using Feedly, a Firefox extension for Google Reader.  Feedly also pulls in Twitter – another place for hot tips on new apps and services which come recommended from fellow tweeters. Continue reading “Blog Packrats Anonymous listen up!”

The Time-Poor Academic Part 1: a seasonal story

It’s a bit of a catch-cry right now, this ‘time-poor’ thing. I’m pondering over my own state of being right now. Yes, it’s the end of the academic year in Australia, with all the attendant closures to projects: courses, exams, report-writing. Add to that the inevitable start-ups for 2008 looming on the horizon, and you can start to feel overwhelmed. Lots to do, so little time! Oh my paws and whiskers! If I am not organised, the uneasy early panic feelings get worse and it seems as though I have no time at all.

My first response is to get back into GTD land. I usually begin by dusting off and updating the file system which has gone down in the last month or so of activity; begin checking my supply of manila folders, labels, and making lists. Add to these tasks, a deep pondering of my calendar. I don’t know why I love calendar-grazing; it’s been a habit of mine for years. Maybe trying to control what I sense can be an out of control spiralling of my time. As if paper control can wrestle me away from the curiosity that leads me down new lanes and byways and into procrastination land. But I work at it.

So, here I am in productivity rev-up mode again. I’m using the tried and true for me Omni Outliner Pro with the Kinkless GTD Apple scripts add-on. Truly a terrific organising combo. I’ve tried others, but this one beats it hands down for me. Can’t wait for Omni Focus which I believe is on the way.

I make daily notes in a Moleskine Pocket Notebook. I love the size and feel of this little book; it goes everywhere with me. Key appointments and to-dos made on the fly go in here and get put into either my iCal or GMail calendar when I’m back at a computer.

I’m syncing my iCal and GMail calendars with Spanning Sync so I can keep them all talking to each other nicely. If I am really feeling anxious about being too far away from my calendar, I can access it with my Nokia N95 mobile phone or even my iPod, all using Spanning Sync. If I can’t sync contacts and events and to dos across several computers my system crashes and I spiral into self-castigation mode. That’s where the notebook wins.

The rest is really up to me. How I work out how much time and the best time to spend at processing what’s on the lists will be the subject of another post.

Building a New Blog

Now that I am a fully-fledged member (survivor) of the 31 Days to a Better Blog Challenge team, I am ready to build a blog based on what I have learned since August 1. I thought that this could be a good personal challenge for me. The last few blogs I’ve built were from the ground up, and I thought were not too bad at all. That all changed as the days of August rolled by.

So what advice am I giving myself as I start a new ‘niche interest’ blog which I’ll use as a resource for my students? First, get a platform that works for me. I’ve been struggling with Edublogs out of WordPress and have felt like a dope because of it. I’m a Blogger kind of gal, and it’s worked like a treat for me … even though it doesn’t have the pages facility which I’d like to incorporate into the new blog. Still, I’m persisting with Edublogs … part of the personal challenge to learn another platform.

Second, will be to go through the 31 Days to a Better Blog check-list and incorporate the relevant tasks. These are the days and their tasks which seem most relevant during the build phase:

  • Day 3: Search for and join a forum (ok already in a discussion list so a good source of contacts and themes there)
  • Day 7: Plan and write a series of posts before it’s released into the great out there, and then plan a week ahead
  • Day 8: Comment on a blog I’ve never commented on before (find one in the niche)
  • Day 10: Make sure I have an uncluttered side bar and keep it that way
  • Day 12: Get out there and introduce myself to another blogger in my niche area
  • Day 14: Check out the ‘competition’ and build on their strengths
  • Day 22: Make sure new readers understand the basics of my blog and how to use it
  • Day 24: Make sure my titles and other bloggy tags and so on are optimised for search-engine use (hadn’t thought of this in former blogs)
  • Day 26: When I find one, link up to a competitor-colleague.
  • Day 28: Get a mission statement out there at the outset
  • Day 31: The SWOT analysis task … keep this in mind as the build progresses. What would I like the blog’s strengths to be? What weaknesses should I attempt to avoid? What are the opportunities a smart build can provide? Does this mean dipping a toe into advertising, sponsorship and all of those areas I am not inclined to consider?

Third, stay in touch with the ‘originals’ from the challenge and get them to check out the blog’s birth and development. We’ve come together again in a network ‘Building a Better Blog.’

Fourth, do the 31 Day Challenge thing again in a year or so. It will probably take a year to incorporate all of the above, forget it, and then have to refresh.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

The 31-day challenge is hotting up, at least the work appears to be getting seriously organised. There’s lots of buzzing around the blogs by the team linking up via Michelle Martin’s Bamboo Project Blog. Michelle has asked us to consider what we’ve learned during the first 7 days. For me, being proactive by getting out there (emails, comments) and making your blog known (add it to email signature lines, and Facebook.)

The latest from Problogger Darren Rowse is to plan our postings for the next week. Great idea. I scent a whiff of GTD productivity in the air! Taking Darren’s advice, I started last night by mapping out some themes whirling round in my head right now. I expanded on them ready for tweaking and posting next week. Makes sense to have some backups too. During the last couple of weeks, I fell prey to the flu that’s got Australia down and out right now. It was a real struggle for me to think straight and get content out there.

Some good tips from Darren on what to do if you do get sick and can’t blog for a day or two. The one that resonated with me: Rest!

Diversionary tactics on a Sunday

A weekend outside that is glorious, and I’m stuck into report writing and continuing the bash together a conference paper, due Wednesday. Not much of this so far. Nothing like a little bit of pressure to bring out the procrastinator in me.

What I have done is to sort photographs into smart albums (in iPhoto) using a batch processing feature of the software … funny, have never done this before. It’s a very quick and easy way to move the pix around into various boxes. That took up a good hour. Then, in to downloading the new version of Skype for the Mac. Synchronised my new Nokia N95 (a beautiful thing) with my calendars and contacts on my desktop and .Mac, and produced an entire schedule of classes for semester 2 in Omni Outliner Pro. It’s beautiful too, but the semester’s end is frighteningly close.

The countdown timer on my desktop shows 35 days till lift-off to London where I’ll spend the break. That meant that I had to check what shows are on during the time I’ll be away. Another 40 minutes of surfing, and what adventures await me in theatre land! A new production of Shaw’s St Joan at the NT, and Spamalot the musical also playing. Bring it on. Meantime, back to the drawing board.