November 2011 archive

On The Need To FOCUS In Our Age Of Hyper-Distraction…

I was amused by a bit of synchronicity yesterday. I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how to better focus my attention. The "bright shiny objects" of our social media world have tended to pull me away from what I should be doing and suddenly I've found that it will be near the end of a day and I haven't accomplished those things I'd set out to do in the morning.
"Oh, look, there's a butterfly..."

It's VERY easy to get distracted. Go to do research and pull up an article... only to start clicking on other headlines and photos... and then somewhere in there remember what you were researching...

The topic of "attention", or our lack thereof, has been much on my mind.

So I was amused to find two articles yesterday that both hit this topic straight on:

  • Developing Razor Sharp Focus with Zen Habits Blogger, Leo Babauta is actually a blog post written back in July 2011 by Jane Genovese, who also produced this wonderful mind-map/graphic that I've included in this post. (A larger version is in her post.)

    Jane discusses a free ebook from Leo Babauta, "Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction" and lays out her own suggestions and commentary about how to focus more. It's a well-done post with, again, a stellar graphic. (I've subsequently downloaded Leo Babauta's ebook, too.)

  • Don't blame the information for your bad habits is an interview over on O'Reilly's Radar site by Mac Slocum of author Clay Johnson about his upcoming book "The Information Diet" that hits many of the same themes. While this interview is admittedly self-promotional as Johnson's book is an O'Reilly book, it nonetheless has some good thoughts in it. Here's a quote I liked:

    In other words, we don't suffer from information overload — we suffer from information overconsumption and poor consumption habits. The solution is just as simple as a successful food diet. It's about building habits and healthy choices for yourself, and sticking to it.

    Tim O'Reilly also had a good comment to the post that included in part this:

    Time is a precious resource. You don't get it back. Thinking through what you want to produce as well as what you want to consume, and how much time you'll allocate to each activity, is a good start. But there are a whole host of productive steps you can take to remove cruft from your information diet.

Both of these posts came to my attention yesterday... ironically, of course, both through social media. The first through Google+ and the second through either Facebook or Twitter (and possibly both).

Regardless, they do hit on a crucial topic - how do we manage our time and our attention? How do we focus on what is important? How do we not get distracted by all those forces around us that entice us?

I've been taking some steps over the past few months to increase my focus (including of note to only read email at particular times of the day)... and I need to take even a few more.

What steps are you taking to tame the distractions?

UPDATE: Chris Brogan wrote a great post on this topic on Dec 2nd: YOU’RE NOT AS BUSY AS YOU THINK

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MarsEdit 3.4 Now Available for Offline Blogging on Mac OS X

I was very pleased to see this morning an update notice for version 3.4 of MarsEdit, my favorite tool for writing blog posts on my Mac:


This 3.4 release is stated to be focused around improvements to the media management system and I can already see some changes to the UI, such as this "Section" box in the upload window (that I don't honestly know yet why I'd use it):


I'm looking forward to learning more about the new changes and how they can help with handling media in my posts. One of the reasons why I love using MarsEdit is because it gives me a consistent editing platform across my various blogs, some of which are on WordPress and some of which (like this one) are on TypePad. One set of keyboard shortcuts (which I have enhanced and added to). One editor window. Plus, of course, the ability to edit from anywhere that I am, regardless of Internet connectivity.

If you are on a Mac and haven't tried out MarsEdit for writing blog posts, I definitely have found it incredibly useful and would encourage you to give it a try!

P.S. And no, I do not have any affiliate relationship with MarsEdit - I'm just a very happy user.

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Want to make money from your blog hosted on

In a fascinating move today the folks at Automattic, the company behind, rolled out WordAds, directly competing with Google's advertising offerings. As they state:

Over the years one of the most frequent requests on has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads. We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

Right now there isn't much information beyond what can be found on the application form:

Only publicly visible blogs with custom domains will be considered for this program. ...

Selection will be based on level of traffic and engagement, type of content, and language used on a blog. Some blogs may not be accepted. Entering the form below does not commit you to the advertising program. It just signals your interest in learning more.

Personally, I don't have any blogs hosted on (outside of some experimental sites), so I won't be applying... and I actually share the feeling that most advertising hasn't seemed to me to be very attractive (which is why I don't run any on my sites).

While this is limited now to blogs on, it will be interesting to see if it expands beyond that if the program is successful. Competition certainly is good and having even more options available for bloggers who want to use advertising is good news for all of us.

If your blog is on, will you apply for this program?

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SOPA Updates: Matt Cutts Summary, European Parliament Resolution, Sandia Labs, BSA

US Capital
In the ongoing debate around the controversial "Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)" bill in the US Congress (that I have covered previously here and here), there are four updates worth reading:
  • First, Matt Cutts provided a comprehensive SOPA update last week talking about all the online activism and support against the bill. Great collections of links, and I loved this part at the end:
    I thought we’d have to wait 20-25 years before a critical mass of people would defend the net. But SOPA has brought that day a lot closer. SOPA galvanized the tech community, from start-ups to venture capitalists to the largest web companies. SOPA was an unexpected shock and a wake-up call. Well, guess what? Now the internet is awake. And I don’t think it’s going back to sleep any time soon. We might need to rally again in the near future, but we can do that. The internet learns fast.
  • Sandia National Laboratories responded to a request from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren with a letter outlining why SOPA wouldn't work and would decrease our cybersecurity.

  • The European Parliament adopted a resolution that included among its many clauses, one (#25) that spoke specifically to SOPA/Protect-IP issues:
    Stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names;
  • Finally, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represents many of the largest tech companies and had been promoted as supporting SOPA, clarified their position and indicated that the law as written is too broad and could have unintended consequences.

All in all a much better situation than was the case two weeks ago...

Image credit: jasonippolito on Flickr

Please note that this blog post represents my personal opinion and has no connection whatsoever to any employers or other organizations, either past or present.

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Om Malik’s Reflections (and Stats) on 10 Years of Blogging

Om malik
Over the weekend Om Malik published a great piece that's worth reading if you are a writer / blogger:
My 10 years of blogging: Reflections, Lessons & Some Stats Too

It's a wonderful story of how Om first got into blogging... providing some history and names that will be familiar to many. He also provides some rather incredible stats. Here's just one of the sets of stats:

  • 11,165 posts
  • About 3 posts a day, every day for roughly 10 years.
  • About 2.06 million words.
  • About 215 words per post.

An amazing amount of content over all those years. His post has more stats and some great charts.

His "10 lessons learned" are also a great read, particularly his #4 about writing every day, and #5 and #8 which speak to the civility that has always been a hallmark of Om's writing.

I began "blogging" back in May 2000, before the term "blogging" was really even widely used. My writing back then was largely about open source and then in 2001 increasingly about voice-over-IP (VoIP) as the startup I was with (e-smith) in Ottawa was acquired by Mitel Networks and I entered the telecom space.

At that time, there weren't all that many of us who were regularly writing online about VoIP / telecom matters... Jeff Pulver, of course, and Andy Ambramson, Tom Keating, Alec Saunders, Aswath Rao... and probably a few more that my aging memory forgets.

And, of course, there was Om.

He was always there to write about what was happening in the overall telecommunications space and specifically in the "new" world of communications over the Internet. In those early years, we were often referencing what others wrote on their pieces... it was a smaller world and we all pretty much knew each other. (Although in truth I only met Om face-to-face once or twice at one of the various conferences like VON.)

I don't recall now what Om originally called his site but pretty soon his "GigaOm" site became one of THE places to go to stay up on what was going on.

Gigaom 1

It was quite inspiring to watch as Om took the leap and turned his passion into a full-blown media site... and then a whole network of sites. Even as he encountered and survived health issues, his "media empire" kept growing and growing and growing...

It's certainly been an impressive first 10 years... and I look forward to Om's next 10 years. His "big picture" writing has always been thoughtful and I'm looking forward to seeing even more of it.

I enjoyed, too, one of Om's reflections toward the end of his post:

" curation and sharing of content has become as important as writing. By sharing videos, photos, links, or quotes we are all essentially editors and the sharing itself is an act of editorializing."

Curation (even while some dislike the word) is a key part of what we are doing these days, and I've personally enjoyed Om's "Om Says" newsletter and sharing he's been doing.

Thanks for 10 years of writing and sharing, Om! Congrats on the milestone!

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Skype 5.x Beta For Mac OS X Includes Hidden "Push To Talk" Feature

Skypelogo-shadowIt turns out that the Skype 5.x Beta releases for Mac OS X have a hidden feature. In my last Skype-related post about the simultaneous release of 5.7 Beta for Windows and 5.4 Beta for Mac OS X, I mentioned that the release notes for the 5.7 Beta for Windows included a "Push To Talk" feature that was not in the Mac OS X version. From those Windows release notes:

Push to Talk

We have introduced a Push to Talk feature in Skype. Many people who are playing multiplayer games have requested this from us.

With this feature you can set a hotkey which will toggle microphone muting on Skype call.

You can set the Push to Talk up on the hotkey's selection under tools > options > advanced > hotkeys.

In my post, I mentioned that while I personally wasn't sure I saw the need for this feature, it was an example of the continued missing parity between the two products (Skype for Windows, Skype for Mac OS X).

This morning I received a nice note from Skype's product manager for the Skype for Mac product letting me know that this "Push To Talk" feature actually is included in the Skype for Mac 5.x Beta releases, albeit as a hidden feature.  To use "Push To Talk" during a Skype call, you need to press (ready for this?):

Control + Option + Command + Up Arrow

Yep... three keys with your left hand and then the up-arrow with your right hand. (or yes, you could press the command and option keys on the right side, but you still need the control key on the left side.)

It does work.  I tried it on a call and found that once I pressed the key combination the call was in "Push To Talk" mode and I had to hold down that key combination to speak.  I was also able to just click on the icon of the muted microphone in my Skype window to leave this "PTT" mode and go back to regular microphone usage.

Unfortunately, unlike the Windows version, there does not seem to be any way, yet, to configure the key combination. I don't regularly play multiplayer online games so I don't know whether this particular key combination is a problem. It just seems to me to be inefficient in that it requires both hands.  It would be great if Skype would allow the configuration of this key combo as the 5.x release for Mac OS X leaves beta.

Anyway... for those of you using the Skype 5 Beta for Mac OS X, you, too, can now use "Push To Talk"...

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Want a Great Weekend Project? Consider Applying for an Internet Society Job

The Internet Society is hiring! We've got about 10 open positions right now...

17 Nov 2011 Technical Outreach for Identity and Privacy
14 Nov 2011 Regional Bureau Director, North America
09 Nov 2011 Director, Development Strategy
04 Nov 2011 Membership Program Coordinator
27 Oct 2011 Sr. Manager, Next Generation Leaders Programme
18 Oct 2011 Internet Development Manager for Africa
28 Sep 2011 Application Development Specialist
27 Sep 2011 Sr. Director of Business Development and Resource Mobilization
27 Sep 2011 Administrative Assistant
09 Sep 2011 IT System Support Specialist

To apply, just follow the links here or check out the main Internet Society Careers page. I believe strongly in the mission of the Internet Society (as I explained before) and encourage you to consider the openings... we're looking for some great people to help the organization accomplish even more!

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Oops… Posted to the Wrong Site… See the Correct Link here

Oops... this post about Google Wave is really over at Disruptive Conversations: (Keeping this post up because it already went out in social networks...)

And So Google Finally Announces the Formal Death of Google Wave in 2012…

And so at last comes the end of one of Google's most intriguing and useful collaboration platforms... Google Wave. Amidst the long list of services Google is killing off as part of its latest round of "spring cleaning" was this note about Wave:

  • Google Wave We announced that we’d stopped development on Google Wave over a year ago. But as of January 31, 2012, Wave will become read-only and you won’t be able to create new ones. On April 30 we will turn it off completely. You’ll be able to continue exporting individual waves using the existing PDF export feature until the Google Wave service is turned off. If you’d like to continue using this technology, there are a number of open-source projects, including Apache Wave and Walkaround.

I admit that from the start I was a big fan of Google Wave. I wrote about Wave a good bit here on this site and used it both personally and professionally. Wave's ability to allow real-time collaboration was really quite incredible, as I documented in this video about collaborative note-taking at a conference. In fact, I still use it weekly as Shel and Neville use Wave to plan the outlines for each For Immediate Release podcast - as a weekly correspondent I use the wave to see what else they are going to talk about to avoid overlapping or to build on what is being discussed elsewhere. They also get to see what I am going to be talking about in advance of me submitting my recording. It also provides an easy way for them to get the links for the show notes.

Plus, as an advocate for an "open Internet" where can control your own data, I loved the promise that the "Wave protocol" would allow for federation between Wave servers... that it would allow for the creation of a distributed and decentralized architecture for collaboration servers.

Sure, Google Wave had a user interface that was very "different" and took some getting used to. It definitely had some clunky aspects to it... and the massive hype around it led to outsized expectations that clearly could never be met.

And now, two years after Wave's launch, some of the features in Wave have migrated into other Google products. Google Docs has a real-time editing capability very similar to what worked so well in Wave. Google+ amusingly has the "play back" capability in its Ripples feature. There may be other features in other services I haven't noticed. It's clear that that work involved with Wave had an impact within Google.

Now it's left to open source projects like Apache Wave and Walkaround to carry on with what Google Wave started. It will be interesting to see what can be done... I'm certainly going to be exploring both projects in the time ahead.

Goodbye, Google Wave, 'twas nice knowing you...

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3 Whitepapers You Need To Read To Understand How SOPA Could Damage DNS And Decrease Security

US Capital
How exactly will the proposed "Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA)" impact the DNS infrastructure of the Internet? What are the technical and engineering problems caused by the proposed bill? How will the bill actually DECREASE our national cybersecurity?

I covered the basics of SOPA (HR.3261) and its companion bill in the Senate, S.968, the "PROTECT-IP Act", last week and and in the time since I wrote that post the public opposition to SOPA has mounted dramatically as people have come to understand what exactly these bills will do. Like many, I applaud the intent of these bills to protect intellectual property, but am concerned that the mandated mechanism of "DNS filtering" proposed by these bills will have serious negative consequences.

If you want to understand the technical issues with the proposed mechanism, there are three whitepapers I would recommend for reading - and for sharing with your legislators. (I've sent the links in to my representatives.) I'd note that the first two documents were prepared back in the spring of 2011 to address the U.S. Senate's version, the PROTECT-IP Act, but the mechanism proposed in SOPA is essentially the same.

  • Internet Society Perspectives on Domain Name System (DNS) Filtering (direct link to English PDF)
    In this easy-to-read paper, the Internet Society explains why DNS filtering is not a solution, how the mechanism can be easily circumvented and how it will "not solve the problem, interfere with cross-border data flows and services, and undermine the Internet as a single, unified, global communications network." The document discusses the issues of "collateral damage" of website blockage, explains some of the non-technical issues and provides links to further resources.
  • Security and Other Technical Concerns Raised by the DNS Filtering Requirements in the PROTECT IP Bill (PDF)
    This whitepaper was written by 5 of the leading DNS designers, operators and researchers and dives into significant technical depth. In particular, it looks at how the proposed DNS filtering mechanism would break the implementation of DNSSEC, a newer method being deployed to help secure the DNS infrastructure. The paper, too, addresses how easily DNS filtering can be bypassed (and provides very simple examples demonstrating this) and the security issues that come with that circumvention. It also looks at the "collateral damage" issue, the impact to content delivery networks (CDNs) and the overall impact that DNS filtering would have to the Internet.
  • Cybersecurity in the Balance: Weighing the Risks of the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act
    This recent paper from Allan A. Friedman, a Fellow at the Brookings Institution, frames the SOPA/PROTECT-IP debate in terms of the impact to national cybersecurity. It again covers the issues with DNS filtering, impacts to DNSSEC, unintended consequences, etc., but does so from the point-of-view of how this will affect the cybersecurity position of the U.S., both domestically and at an international level.

All three of these papers are good to read (and share) to understand the technical weaknesses of the proposed solutions in SOPA/PROTECT-IP.

Please do pass them along so that people can understand the technical issues with these proposed solutions.

Image credit: jasonippolito on Flickr

Please note that this blog post represents my personal opinion and has no connection whatsoever to any employers or other organizations, either past or present.

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