Maintenance, our human flaw and a dreamed of plugin

икони на светци

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build
and nobody wants to do maintenance
.”

— Kurt Vonnegut

Today has driven home to me Kurt Vonnegut’s quote regarding maintenance. He is right. I’m guilty of that flaw too. Most of us are. We want to get on to the next new thing; maintaining what we’ve done previously doesn’t have the same energetic oomph.

I’ve been trying to get a web page removed that has misleading and downright wrong information.

From what I’ve been able to determine, the page was created in the mid 1990’s. It even refers to a fundraising event for 1996/97. Even more alarming, the corporate name hasn’t been valid since 2004 — it has a forfeit status.

The page also refers to a charitable tax number that isn’t a charitable tax number at all but a file number. And the charity lost tax status as a charity in 1999.

In trying to get the page removed, I found it was part of a larger community site, likely created in the mid-90’s. The page is dated April 1997. The community site it is on cannot be contacted — phones just ring (no voicemail) and emails go unanswered.

I tried contacting the domain host thinking they could help but found out very quickly (they responded immediately) that it was actually pointed to yet another host. I’ve now sent them an email in the hope of getting this page removed.

It all boils down to a maintenance problem and what I call the great digital landfill.

And I’m as guilty as the next person. A few months ago, on one of my sites, I took a lot of pages offline and have been slowly updating them and putting them back up. But as I sit here, I’m dreaming of a WordPress plugin that for all I know already exists. But here is my dreamed up plugin (or what it does):

  • It applies to pages or posts or both (it is an option).
  • It has a time frame you can set: one year, two years, three years etc.
  • It alerts you (via email?) that a page is up for review.
  • It gives you seven days to review and okay or update the page.
  • There is an “Okay” button.
  • If the “Okay” button isn’t clicked, the page goes to an offline status  (Visibility = Private).

Well, it seems one way of making sure information is current. I guess the problem would be having every site in the world on WordPress — which I would not object to!

Social media school and learning curves

(Most of what follows was written prior to reading Chris Brogan’s Social Media Fatigue. It would be a very different post had I read his post before writing this. But it seems serendipitous that my post and his should coincide.)

The entanglement of social media grows.

We all had to have blogs and then certain types of blogs, like WordPress. And then we all had to be on Facebook and not long after we all had to be on Twitter. This was followed by a need to be on foursquare and then an insistence we all have QR codes. Now we’ll all soon need to incorporate Google+ and so the entanglement grows.

Despite all our talk about simplicity and usability (the latter not so much anymore), we continue to impose layers of complexity on our social tools that entangle us like pretzels gone mad.

The irony is that much of that entanglement is a result of trying to keep things simple.

Our sites are littered with icons for the various social media platforms that are out there so a visitor can share a link with others. But it is getting to be like trying to buy shoes for walking or running at a sports store.

The walls are cluttered with hundreds to choose from. Some are for walking, some for running sprints, some for long distance, some for combinations of both, some may be for running in different time zones … and so on. And each comes in oodles of styles.

We stare at the walls blankly, overwhelmed by all the choices, and often end up saying, “I guess I didn’t need new shoes after all.”

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to layering complexity. Want to leave a comment? How would you like to do that? Use your Disqus account? Open ID? Facebook? Twitter? In theory, it is easier to just use one of those accounts. However, that ease is lost in the complexity of trying to decide just which one of all those social media platforms to use. You have to go through a grocery list of them.

And heaven help you if you assign different purposes to your various accounts and use one to comment or link when it’s intended for another account.

You could say one for all is best but then that works best if you’re a one trick pony: your business is your life or you have only one interest. I like social media items but I also like old movies. Most people I know that like old movies have only mild interest, at best, in following social media news. And most people I know that are interested in social media couldn’t give a damn about old movies.

It seems best to separate them but then that adds a level of complexity.

I suppose I could go on, but I think my point has been made. I also think there is a follow up post in the works because while I wrote the above yesterday, I didn’t look it over again until this morning after having read Chris Brogan’s post, Social Media Fatigue. I guess I’m one of those people he is referring to.

But the post and it’s point have me thinking because it has reminded me that the platform is secondary. What you write and why is the important thing.

Yes, I’m sure there is another post coming …икониПравославни икони

Intersection: I reveal what it is I do

холови гарнитуриYou never know where ideas and help are going to come from or when. Yesterday I paused from working and found two posts that helped me discover something I’d been looking for a long time. What was I looking for? What it is I do.

For me the most painful, almost unbearable kind of writing is biography. I don’t mean a book about me. I mean short bios on blogs, social media, resumes and so on.

A friend of mine on the west coast, Tzaddi, had a post yesterday, Common Threads, and she echoes what always bothers me. We insist on niches. The more specific the better. We’re in a world crazy for modifiers.

It’s not enough to be a writer (or designer, or musician, or fill-in-the-blank). What kind of writer are you?

There are definitely good reasons for asking such questions. The problem, however, is that they are limiting. If I’m an SEO writer, the implication is that I am not a radio copyrighter. If I’m known as WordPress designer, the implication is that I don’t design non-WordPress sites.

Our modifiers box us in and this is what I’ve always resisted. Boxes are boring. And as far as writing goes, I truly believe that if you are a writer you can write anything. You may have to get up to speed on some style aspects, but you can write it.

So what Tzaddi wrote really resonated with me. But her post was about common threads in her work. She discovered her clients, who all seem very different, had something in common and it was there she discovered what Tyler Tervooren talks about on his Advanced Riskology site.

He has a post titled, What’s your secret mission? I read his post and shortly after read Tzaddi’s and later lines of thought intersected and I suddenly knew my secret mission.

When I first read Tyler’s post I didn’t think I had what he refers to as a secret mission. It seemed very much like, “What do you do?” To that I’ve only ever been able to answer, “I write.”

But later I started thinking in terms of common threads. Were there any in the different things I do all day, in my various jobs, my posts … in what I do when I do what I do. I think there is and that is because those two posts I’ve referred to intersected. I realized there is something I’m always trying to do.

My secret mission, which is really not so secret (though I guess it was to me for a long time) is this:

Help people communicate with clarity, integrity, humanity and respect.

It’s that simple. That’s what I do.

(By the way, I also believe that is the way you communicate effectively.)

En vacances? Not really

The other day I came upon some writing I did quite a while ago. By “a while” I mean fifteen to twenty years ago. Amid all that writing I found a series of stories I wrote. I had put them together under a tentative title, Rather Short Stories for Rather Small People. Other than being short, what they had in common was silliness, a quality I absolutely love (in moderation).

I posted one of them on one of my other blogs. It is called The Bluey-Do. You may not like this kind of thing but I really love writing this way. Have a look.

Video boy

On the weekend I was at a friend’s wedding in Saint John. Actually, it was at the couple’s house in South Bay. The view and ceremony were beautiful. Of course, I took about 270 pictures.

So I spent most of Monday and Tuesday (and bits of Wednesday) making a video of them. In other words, I made a video that has no video. I’d love to post the end result here or elsewhere but unfortunately I have no rights to the music I used and the couple that got married prefer not to have their day on the Internet.

Putting the video together reminded me of when I worked on radio ads. Everything is in the editing and I can spend hours and hours tweaking this, adjusting that and so on. There is a funny irony about editing. When it is really good, no one notices it. That’s what good editing is about.

Final note

One last thing about that other blog of mine, Sunday Stories. It’s a kind of test site. I use it to play with design and to rough out story ideas. Some stories are finished; some are starts to ideas that aren’t fully developed.

As you can see if you go there, I’m currently playing with the WordPress TwentyTen theme. I’m quite liking it but haven’t really played with it fully. I’m still mucking about. Thus, the nav chnages, the header changes and on and on.

So … while I haven’t been doing much on Writelife recently, I have been busy elsewhere. I’m also doing a rethink of my blogs. It may be nothing will change; it may be some small changes are coming. There may even be big changes coming. Who knows? I’m still in the “mulling things over” stage.

Today’s theme is rabbit warrens

Today I have a post over at Thoughtwrestling, one I’m both happy with and unhappy with. Actually, I don’t quite know what to think of it. I like it, but it’s not quite what I was hoping for.

The post is called Can we choose to be creative?

It produced a number of rabbit warrens, or burrows, as I was writing it. It was essentially about how we hit creative roadblocks by thinking too much. Ironically, one of the reasons I had problems with it was because I was thinking too much. In a sense, the post was an example of what it cautions about.

You wouldn’t know that by reading it, however. You wouldn’t know that I have about five drafts on my computer. You wouldn’t know that as it was written, a new (though related) idea would pop into my head and I’d be off into another warren.

It’s interesting to note that you don’t always know you’re in a warren until you’ve been there for a while. Once I realized what was going on, I stopped. Then I started patching up what I had come up with.

I found myself in another warren this morning. I had the silly notion that I would finally update my various blogs to the latest versions of WordPress and Thesis. Oy!

One of the reasons Writelife has a slightly different look today is because I’ve lost a few customizations. Now I have to track them down and figure out how to get them back. Keep in mind, I don’t use WordPress or Thesis every day. So whenever I go back to them it always begins with the question, “How did I do this the last time?”

I had roadblocks I hadn’t anticipated in both cases, the post and the upgrades. They both took up more time than they should have simply because it took me too long to recognize I was in a warren.

I think I’ll put a big poster on the wall in front of my computer that I’ll see every day. It will read, “Are you in a warren? Then, get out!икони