January 31, 2008

10 tips for new bloggers

January 31, 2008 - Categories: blogging, tips

  1. Write for one person. Don’t get intimidated by the blank screen or the unknown audience. Write for one person. Write for yourself, write for your boss, write for your coworker, write for your friend, write for your mom… but write for one person at a time. I like writing for myself.
  2. Cc: world. Recycle as much knowledge as you can. Answered a question over e-mail that other people might find helpful? Blog it. Had a great conversation that other people might learn from? Blog it. Learned something interesting that other people would like? Blog it. There’s plenty to write about.
  3. Get personal benefits. You won’t stick with blogging unless you see what’s in it for you. Me, I like being able to look back and find out what I was doing and why I was doing it. My blog helps me answer those questions. My blog helps me see how I’ve changed. My blog helps me remember how I solved problems. My blog helps me connect with people. My blog helps me make the most of time because I get lots of value out of the books I read, the conversations I have, the things I do. My blog opens lots of opportunities. As you can see, I blog for selfish reasons.
  4. Create value for others. When you tell your stories or share your ideas or pass along a tip that you found useful, you might end up helping someone months or even years down the line. Searchable blogs keep providing value in unanticipated ways.
  5. Let people discover your blog. Add it to your e-mail signature. Mention it when it’s relevant. Link to it. Make it easier for people to find your blog, and you’ll benefit by having richer conversations with less small talk and more interesting topics.
  6. Read and comment. Read other people’s blogs to learn what they’re interested in and what blogging is like. Comment on their blogs: share your thoughts or even just thank them for posting. Write about their blog posts in your own blog – great way to quickly add content and share the link love.
  7. Keep writing. Don’t expect your first post to get a hundred comments. Keep writing. You’re not writing for other people, you’re writing to discover what you have to say. You will be boring for at least the first few months, or however long it takes to throw off the writing habits you picked up in school. Keep writing anyway. Eventually, you’ll get more used to writing and you won’t have to think about writing so much. Then you’ll be able to concentrate on what you want to say.
  8. Be yourself. Don’t write corporate-speak. Don’t keep it just business. Show a little of your personal side. People will connect with you better for it.
  9. Give yourself permission to get better and better. You had a typo. You gave the wrong link. You were wrong. You changed your mind. That’s okay. It’s a blog, it’s conversational, it’s chronological. It’s okay to make mistakes. You get better every day.
  10. Have fun. Don’t treat it like homework, treat it as a terrific way to discover who you are and who other people are. Keep an eye out for your positive experiences and celebrate them!

What do you think? =)

Microsoft Excel – Alt-Enter

January 31, 2008 - Categories: geek

Jennifer Nolan reminded me tha Alt-Enter lets you put multiline text into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. I’d ran across it before, but hadn’t remembered it until she pointed it out. =) Thought I’d pass it on!

When it rains, it pours: query letter on personal finance accepted by Linux Journal

January 31, 2008 - Categories: writing

Tracking Your Finances with Ledger and Gnuplot
Most people generally stress out about their finances at the end of
the year and at tax time. A good personal finance program can help
them plan and control their expenses so that they can make it through
the holidays and taxes without wiping out their bank accounts. That
way, they’ll have room in their budgets for another year’s
subscription to Linux Journal!
My article will give practical tips for managing personal finances
with the Ledger command-line tool, and how to slice and dice the data
with awk and Gnuplot to generate useful graphs. It is compatible with
Gnucash but far friendlier for people who like working with text
files. For example, I have more than two years of categorized
financial data: some imported from bank statements, some exported from
Gnucash, and many added through the Emacs Ledger mode. I can see my average monthly expenses for any category, project my savings into the future, or export the data and graph it in Gnuplot to see how my
income compares with my expenses and to look for patterns. This makes
it easy for me to see where I am, and motivates me to keep moving
forward. I would love to share these tips with your readers in an
article around 2200 words long, accompanied by sidebars that include
tips on managing personal finance.

Part of my query letter to the Linux Journal

Okay. I can do this. What’s on the horizon in terms of extracurricular writing?

  • TLE paper, 3 pages, self-imposed deadline of Feb 19
  • Talk on Networking 2.0 (script, presentation), 1 hour, to be delivered Feb 29
  • Wicked Cool Emacs book (ongoing), finish chapter on notes management, flexible deadline but would like to finish it by Feb 7
  • Wicked Cool Emacs book (ongoing), write next chapter on Being Big Brother (ooh, that’ll be fun!), flexible deadline but would like to finish it by March 7
  • ON VACATION March 10 – 24 (may get some writing done)
  • Personal finance article for Linux Journal, April 1

Discipline. Discipline and organization.

I need to make better use of my commuting time. The DS is a nice distraction, but I need to convert my commute into thinking or writing time.

What do I need in order to do that?

I need to have:

  • An outline (paper copy, and I can put the full version in my DS)
  • A pad of paper
  • A pen that I won’t lose (or don’t care about losing)
  • Free hands to do this
  • Another way to work if I don’t have a seat or free hands (voice recorder)

Tech prop: Typing is not fun on the DS. It’s not bad for keeping data, but typing involves an on-screen keyboard. Maybe I can borrow W-‘s old Treo, find an outlining tool, load my outline into that. I’ll give that a shot.

Today: Prep outline, get everything ready for tomorrow – I have a longer commute coming up. I’m reasonably ready for the work I need to do, so I can spend some thinking time on the book.

… tap tap tap…