A Friend’s Crazy Idea and the Benefits of the Internet

I received an email yesterday from someone I haven’t spoken to in probably a year. In it she linked to a blog she just started where she will be writing about her upcoming dream trip.

Her first post mentions reaching out online with a particular question resulting in her communicating with people from all over the United States. Further she received helpful unsolicited suggestions and encouragement to make her adventure a little less stressful. With all of this support, she concluded the internet is “a wonderful tool to meet helpful, interesting people.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Between this blog, various online forums, Twitter, and the Wreck This Journal book blogging group I joined last week, I meet a lot of wonderful people. We discuss life, work, family, books, and even ask each other for help on occasion.

The internet truly is a great place to meet helpful, interesting people if you choose to use it that way. (And to all you wonderful people, thank you for being you!)

Have you met interesting people online? Share your stories in the comments if you’d like.

If you’re wondering about my friend’s adventure, she has decided to use her unemployment to do something she has long been in awe of: bicycling across the country. Coast to coast. Pacific to Atlantic on a bicycle. (Yes, the kind you pedal. I’m tired just talking about it.)

I wish her a fabulous and safe journey filled with joy! You can follow her progress on her new blog.

Oh, and if you see her maybe you could give her some water or a shady resting spot. She’s really nice.

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Making Twitter Less Scary

Twitter is a hot topic. I have been a member since November 2007, when the hype had really begun picking up. As with most of my web endeavors, I signed up because as a web producer it’s important for me to know the popular platforms and I learn by doing.

For a while I didn’t do too much with it- check in periodically, stress about crafting the perfect witty remark, wonder how to find people you want to follow. Little by little my participation grew. I joined conversations and “met” some really wonderful people. (Still meeting great “tweeple” in fact.)

Now it’s a dialogue, a news source, a playground, a virtual café (see “Twitter demystified…” below).

Twitter is something you don’t really get until you have been doing it for a while. (See how I said “doing” rather than “using?” Twitter is ubiquitous enough to have become a verb.) Most Twitter users I have talked to agree. So don’t wait until you “get it” to jump in.

There are many (many, many, many) articles out there about Twitter. Here are a few recent ones that I think are particularly helpful:

Why Twitter shouldn’t scare you and why you should be there:
Havi explains it best in her post Twitter demystified and debunked. She refutes some myths and likens Twitter to your favorite local café. That’s not scary at all, right? (Havi is @havi on Twitter.)

How to get started in Twitter:
Hot off the press is Your Web Coaches’ The Cool Thing About Twitter, just published today. It is aimed at small business owners, but read it anyway because the information is comprehensive and written especially for beginners. Mynde explains how to set up a kick-butt profile, what to tweet, and who to follow. It is all very not scary. (Mynde is @MyndeMayfield on Twitter. Her fellow Web Coach Wendy is @WendiCholbi.)

Twitter’s hold on the world:
If you want to understand how Twitter affects the world at large, see the article TIME posted today on How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live. They even explain why knowing what your friend had for breakfast is interesting. (TIME magazine is @TIME on Twitter.)

So there you have it. Twitter isn’t as scary as you think it is. It’s easy to join in the conversation.

Browse these articles. Then join me at the café. You can follow me here: @lifeafterweb. Once you’re there, send me a tweet. You can paste this one right into Twitter if you’d like:

@lifeafterweb I’m here. Thanks for taking the scary out of Twitter!

I promise to reply.

See you on Twitter!

Hire Alicia Please

So there’s this femme fatale named Alicia who is relocating to Boston. She is a friend of a friend whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting due to locale. But since my friend speaks of Alicia both often and highly, when I had the chance to follow her on Twitter, I thought it a good opportunity to learn more about her.

Today, Alicia tweeted this: “Playing around and exploring Google analytics for www.hirealicia.com.” Since I work in the web world, I’m always interested to see how others promote themselves on the web. I followed the aptly named link.

After spending a few short minutes on her site, I absolutely can’t wait to meet her someday. Why? Because I can ascertain her personality from those pages and she is dynamite. This is a person I would jump to work with were I properly located. Unfortunately, Jersey is a bit far from her wishes of employment in Boston.

Getting back to the web discussion, there are lessons to be learned from Alicia’s site.

  • Know your audience and speak to them. Alicia’s audience is quite obviously potential employers. She speaks directly to the information they want and need to know: what she does, where she is located, what experience she has, who recommends her, and why she is the right person.
  • Don’t just tell what you do, show what you do. Is Alicia a good writer? You bet she is. She doesn’t just tell us she’s a talented writer, she proves it with standout prose. She shows examples of her work. She lets others help paint the full picture.
  • Share your personality. As any good employer can tell you, it’s not just the experience, but the person behind the experience and whether that person will mesh with the rest of the team. Alicia leaves no doubts about her passion, energy, and confidence. Her personality is right there in plain sight.

Alicia has nailed usability with a site that is purposeful, smart, and sassy. Now will somebody please hire Alicia?

Unexpected Use for Twitter

I found the reason Twitter is useful to me. I knew there had to be a reason to the insanity of giving myself one more online venue to update. It isn’t because I’m producing any life-changing tweets. It isn’t because I’m following any vitally important tweets. It’s because in that moment I decide to update Twitter, I must answer the question “What am I doing?” which makes me pause and reflect.

What am I doing in that moment? Is it what I sat down to do? Have I even touched the thing for which I came to the computer to work? I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at the happily blinking cursor that awaits my 140-character illumination and not had an answer to that question. Or sometimes my answer surprised me.

This is a multi-tasking society. I am supposed to be knowledgeable, powerful, successful, organized, tidy, all the while making sure my family is fed, has clean clothes to wear, and arrives at their scheduled events on time. I need to review a document, check Client A’s website, finish a report for Client B, reply to my email, schedule car service, feed the cats, walk the dog, and clean the baseball uniforms for the next game. Before lunch.

Having a mile long to do list means I find myself perpetually stuck with what I refer to as “one more thing” syndrome. I say to myself I will start that project timeline after I do just this one more thing. Then after that one thing I find another, and another, until the day is through and I’m trying to recall just what I did today.

In that moment of updating Twitter, I am forced to be honest about what I am doing. In fact, in that moment, I may leave Twitter without posting and get back on track.

Update 5/22/08: If you would like to follow my tweets, go to http://twitter.com/lifeafterweb.

Technology in the College Classroom: 1998 vs. 2008

As my step-sister marches toward her high school graduation next week and prepares to set off to university, I have been recalling my own university days.

I spent second half of the 1990’s in college, where spiral bound notebooks and three ring binders were staples (and yes, we needed staples, too). The only students who brought laptops to class were a few re-entry students (generally 10 years older than the rest of us and lugging around a company issued machine). Now laptops are required by an increasing number of universities.

Mobile phones were just becoming mainstream in my college years. I would estimate less than half of the students had mobile phones at that time and those who did turned them off before class. (Though, I remember being appalled when one fellow student answered his cell phone during science class.) I suspect classrooms are now filled with musical ringtones, texting, and photo sharing.

Most of us were using email for the first time on the old two color terminals at the computer lab. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sure the Internet was there, but most of us were just learning how to use it. We could go online to see a syllabus for most teachers’ classes, but they still gave us handouts on the first day assuming that most students didn’t have easy access to the Internet.

It wasn’t until my senior year that the university library made its search software available online. I was ecstatic to be able to see what books were available from afar (without lines) before hustling to the library to beat any others who may be searching for the same study of supernatural occurrences in Shakespearean literature. If only they had enabled that “place on hold” functionality before my departure… oh cursed spite.

If you really want to boggle your mind, just think of what a change my college experience was from my father’s! I think he double majored in practical applications of fire and the physics of wheel creation. (Just kidding, Dad!)

The point is college classrooms are changing rapidly. Until today, I had not thought about how different my step-sister’s experience would be from my own. So, what can she expect? The following video, created by a cultural anthropology class at Kansas State University, paints a vivid picture of college in 2008.

Happy graduation, Sis! Teach me how to effectively use Facebook before you leave for college, please. I’ll bring my notebook.

Life After Web on Twitter

If you’re visiting my blog right now, as opposed to reading through an RSS feeder (and thank you to all readers, regardless of venue!), you’ll notice a new addition to my sidebar: Life After Web on Twitter.

As with all of my web toys, I joined Twitter merely to learn more about it- how it works, how a user interacts with it, how updates are broadcast, how other people and businesses are using it. I didn’t “tweet” very much initially, but I’m still trying it here and there.

While writing my last post, How many places do I need on the web, I thought why not add my Twitter feed to my blog? If you’re interested, check it out. You can also visit Life After Web on Twitter and subscribe to follow it at twitter.com/lifeafterweb.

Also, I’m always interested in hearing how others are using Twitter. If you have any ideas or unique usages, please leave a comment.

How many places do I need on the web?

I have this blog, a website, a lightly used Twitter account, and a LinkedIn profile. I have accounts on Technorati, BlogHer, Delicious, Boxes and Arrows, and who even remembers where else. Most of the time, I forget about the ones I’ve just listed.

I tried Second Life to see what the buzz was about, but found dressing my avatar and changing hairstyles far more appealing than conversing with any scantily clad habitants or, um, Darth Vadar. I’ve been invited to join MySpace and politely declined (ok, ignored) the offers. I’ve received two invitations to Facebook in the last month.

I even went so far as to search names to see how many other people I might know on Facebook. (A few. Truth be told, I’m more into computers and the internet than most of my friends.) I’ll probably start an account, if for no other reason, to learn about it firsthand. After all, as a web producer, I ought to be familiar with these things. Why haven’t I done it yet? There are just so many accounts to keep track of and update. While my family will groan I spend too much time on the computer, I have activities out there in the real world that need attention, too.

With so many social networking sites and everyone else adding login-required features, how many accounts is enough? Is it even socially acceptable to be offline? When I’m away from my computer, I can’t help but think about the blog posts that need to be written, the emails that are accumulating with more work, the Twitter account which sits awaiting an update for no other reason than to make myself feel like I’m keeping up.

I love the web and I love all the tools out there. I will always be looking for the usefulness of the latest trends. I will always tinker around to see how things work or how I (or my clients) can make use of them.

As for Facebook, I know it’s popularity has probably already peaked, but don’t rule out a fashionably late appearance from me. Anything can happen. (Except for MySpace. I’m still avoiding that one like the plague.)

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