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Playing with planner (linux, emacs)

Today’s been a busy day. I don’t suppose I can get planner to nicely work with all the rest of emacs, can it? I rather like emacswiki…

Alright, seems to be fine. Planner’s actually pretty nifty. I’ll pop the description into my remembrance agent index on the next scan, I suppose; maybe it’ll be useful.

I wonder if I can get the wiki to recognize non-wiki words. That would be pretty nice.

Off to dinner with me now.

May 8, 2012

This was my very first post. I was trying out the note-taking capabilities of Emacs Planner. In the beginning, it didn’t support blogging. I built that feature afterwards, and eventually migrated my posts over to WordPress when I decided to move blogging systems.

Planner was a personal information manager for the Emacs text editor. I had picked up Emacs again after rereading Unix Power Tools, and I was curious about some of the packages that were available for it. Planner looked like a great way to keep track of my tasks and notes. The Remembrance Agent mentioned here was another bit of software available for Emacs. It continuously looked at a few hundred words around your cursor and suggested relevant files, which was a really cool way to find out that you’d written about something similar and had completely forgotten about it. I’ve since then moved on to using Emacs Org Mode to manage my tasks, although I haven’t quite replaced the “Here are other things similar to this” functionality provided by Remembrance Agent. I just write about things again and again.

Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

My Big, Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) are:

  • Revolutionize computer science education by making it highly individualized and experiential.
  • Become a world-famous expert on creating systems for planning one’s life. Instead of pushing a particular methodology, I’d like to work with people’s current ways of planning, suggesting improvements and software/hardware to support their life.

I’m at the 1st Philippine Blogging Summit right now with my BHAGs firmly in mind. It’s _amazing._

The first person I talked to was J. Angelo Racoma, an old friend from my BBSing days. After chatting about blogging, talk turned to what we’re both up to. He told me about his work at http://i.ph . I told him about my BHAGs.

It turned out that his wife is into tutoring, and one of the things they’re planning to do in the future is set up a tutoring portal to help students, parents and tutors find each other. Neato. That looks like a great fit for what I want to do. =)

As I explained my BHAG for teaching and training to him, I realized that one of the things I really, really, really care about is quality assurance for teachers and tutors. I firmly believe that it’s not just about technical knowledge, but it’s also about teaching and communication skills. I don’t think we’re paying enough attention to that, and I think that’s a compelling sales point.

I also got to meet Gabriel Narciso. He started by asking me if I was still into open source. Of course! He then asked me if there was a native version of OpenOffice.org for Mac OS X. I remember OpenOffice.org used to support the Mac, so I should be able to find one. =) Good deed! I told _him_ about my BHAGs too. It turned out that he used to work at Franklin-Covey (as in, _the_ Franklin Covey franchise in the Philippines!), and is now into executive coaching.

Wow!

Let’s say that again. Wow!

_That’s_ why you should practice talking about your BHAGs until you can squeeze it into a small-talk conversation. Joey Gurango told us how wannabe entrepreneurs would give him two-inch-thick business proposals and expect him to have the time or interest in reading them. He said that’s entirely the wrong way to do that. You start with your 90-second elevator pitch. You get people interested. Then you go for your executive summary—the shorter, the better. You get people hooked. When you get them hooked, _then_ you hit them with the business proposal.

BHAGs work the same way. Refine them until you get a sound bite. Say it with confidence and passion. Get them hooked. Explain the rest over lunch another day!

May 8, 2012
It’s interesting to see how much has changed and how much has stayed the same. I’m no longer focusing on computer science education, although I’m delighted to see that self-teaching resources are becoming more popular. I’m still interested in productivity tools and systems. I care a lot about teaching and tutoring, and the need is even more concrete for me now because we’re seeing what J- and her friends struggle with. I have new goals around writing, drawing, and tracking. I still have to practise explaining them, though!

Structuring content

What do I write about that other people might find useful/interesting?

  • Emacs-related stuff
  • Personal information management and productivity
  • ShortStories and FlashFiction
  • Teaching reflections (haven’t been posting anything on this lately)

How do I currently organize things?

However, my wiki is not as organized and easy-to-read as it can be. It’s difficult for people to find Emacs-related code and posts, for example. There are a lot of posts all over the place. I need to make it easy for people to browse titles so that they can get an idea of the things I blog about as well as spot something possibly useful. Articles should also be linked to previous articles in the same topic.

The “Recent topics” thing in my sidebar is a good start. That way, people who visit my page instead of using an aggregator will be able to see a list of posts even if I skip days.

Hmmm… I wonder how I can improve the way things are organized, not only for people who read this on my site but also for people who aggregate things…

May 8, 2012

I think a lot about how I can organize the information in my blog so that I can find things again and so that other people can make sense of my brain. My latest attempt is to manually maintain a topical index of my blog posts. WordPress plugins also help people discover old blog posts.

The links here are no longer useful because I’ve stopped using Planner to organize my notes. I’ve moved my Planner notes into WordPress, though, so you can browse through the categories and subscribe to them at sachachua.com.

Emacs: Changing the font size on the fly

I have a tiny laptop: 8.9″ diagonally. With a 1024×768 pixels screen
resolution, things can get *pretty* small. The following functions use
the gnome-terminal-style shortcuts (Ctrl-plus, Ctrl-minus) to change
the font size without the mouse:

(defun sacha/increase-font-size ()
  (interactive)
  (set-face-attribute 'default
                      nil
                      :height
                      (ceiling (* 1.10
                                  (face-attribute 'default :height)))))
(defun sacha/decrease-font-size ()
  (interactive)
  (set-face-attribute 'default
                      nil
                      :height
                      (floor (* 0.9
                                  (face-attribute 'default :height)))))
(global-set-key (kbd "C-+") 'sacha/increase-font-size)
(global-set-key (kbd "C--") 'sacha/decrease-font-size)

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Money management for the next stage in your life

I attended a personal finance seminar by Ellen Roseman, a Toronto Star columnist and University of Toronto alumna. I’ll write about it in more detail as I reflect more on personal finance, but here are a few new nuggets I picked up:

  • No RRSPs until I get my paperwork sorted out! Boo. Not fun knowing better practices and not being able to use them.
  • It might be a good idea to invest money into an RRSP while I’m young, then take a holiday—leaving the money there to take advantage of tax-deferred growth—and do something else with the money I’m already used to setting aside. For example, I could save up for a house.
  • You can carry forward the tax deduction you get when you invest in an RRSP, so you can invest now in order to take advantage of the tax-deferred growth and claim the deduction when it makes more sense tax-wise. Must figure out when that makes sense.
  • Four magic words: “Can I do better?” Ask for discounts!
  • Two good books: The Wealthy Barber, The Richest Man in Babylon.
  • Tour of Canadian personal finance blogs. Check ellenroseman.com for the link.
  • I should check out the TD monthly income fund or dividend funds to find a growth-oriented investment vehicle. Morningstar.ca has good reviews.
  • Might be more comfortable with a financial advisor within 10 years of my age.
  • E-mail car dealers to get good quotes without having to shop around so much.

Interesting tips came from the other attendees:

  • Skype now has a yearly plan. That’ll be worth signing up for.
  • Insurance brokers can be handy.

Worth the time.

Random Emacs symbol: bbdb-add-or-remove-mail-alias – Command: Add NEWALIAS in all RECORDS or remove it if DELETE it t.

May 8, 2012
I eventually graduated and started earning money, so I applied the advice to make the most of my RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan). The stock market hasn’t really grown much, but maybe it will in the future. Even if it doesn’t, I figured that I’ll be no worse off than most people, so I can afford the experiment.

How to talk to execs and clients about social media

“Know the differences between Technology, Features, Benefits, and Value,” Jeremiah Owyang
 advises in his blog post about effectively talking to executives and clients about social media. He goes on to provide concrete examples of all four approaches, and suggests how to establish trust and respond to indicators of interest or disinterest. Good stuff.

I’m an emerging technologies evangelist focusing on social computing in the enterprise. Some people come to me with a technology focus. They want to use a blog or a wiki, but their objectives aren’t clear, and they don’t know where to start. Sometimes they start on their own, but they quickly lose interest in it when people don’t reply to their posts or update their wiki. Part of my role as a technology evangelist is to get them from focusing on the technology to focusing on at least the benefits as soon as possible. In order to do that, I need to know who they are and what matters to them. What are they looking for? What words do they use to describe what they do? Listening is a huge part of evangelism. (This makes me want to find another term, actually, as “evangelist” brings up images of people who just talk at other people.)

When I talk about benefits or value, I talk about WIIFM: “What’s in it for me.” It’s a good idea to lead with personal benefits, and let the social benefits follow. Blogs, social bookmarks, wikis… All of these things should pay off for you on a personal level, because the social benefits might not kick in for a while. When I talk to people who are new to blogging, for example, I emphasize how it’s useful as a professional notebook for recording lessons learned and questions to explore. I talk about how the practice I get in thinking about what I think makes it easier for me to talk to other people. I talk about how my blog helps me remember what I’m passionate and excited about. When the personal benefits are established, then I can talk about the social benefits: the unexpected connections, the deeper conversations, the online and offline interactions. But personal benefits have to come first. Otherwise, it becomes a chore and you won’t be able to appreciate the social benefits.

Kids are a great way to show some of those benefits, because kids pick up the technologies that have good WIIFM value. Here’s an example: At a recent kick-off meeting, one of the clients mentioned that he saw his daughter using del.icio.us to coordinate a school project with some of her classmates. Using del.icio.us, they could quickly put together and share relevant sites. And hey, if his daughter could do that, maybe people in his company could, too.

The caveat is that it’s also easy to get locked into thinking of social media as just for the kids, or just for our personal lives. That’s why it’s also important to tell stories about older people using social media. (My mom shares business tips on her blog!) It’s important to tell stories about the business benefits of social media. (I got my job because of my blog, my bookmarks, and my other social stuff!) We need to tell those stories so that we can help people see what’s in it for them and what’s in it for their company.

So how do you talk to people about social media?

  • Listen well. You need to pick up and use their vocabulary. You need to watch how they react. People give you plenty of cues; you just have to listen.
  • Focus on people and value, not the technology. The technical details come later, when you’re talking to IT for implementation.
  • Tell stories whenever possible. They make your benefit and value statements concrete.

(xpost: The Orange Chair (team blog), personal blog, personal internal blog; thanks to Stefano Pogliani for the link)