and the winner is.

Yesterday after work a few of us headed over to the 2nd annual i.e. Start-Up Competition, an event that Tumblr sponsors. A bunch of local startups compete for a grand prize of $10k and a peoples’ choice award of $2500. Jim and I introduced i.e.’s new Tumblr blog onstage, which was a lot of fun. And it was just neat to see all the entrepreneurial energy in Richmond and the incredible ideas these people have for providing services that are clearly needed. I saw merit in pretty much every single presentation, but my favorites were The Storytellers Channel, RVAFarms, Speakeasy, Tumbleweed, Richmond Food Co-op, and HourWise. Some of these guys had fantastic ideas, and you can read a super-short synopsis about each of them here. Speakeasy ended up winning the grand prize, with Dragon Grips winning the peoples’ choice award. All of this promising news about creativity and innovation in Richmond, plus cheese and wine and nerdy conversation? It was a good night.

regularly scheduled programming.

[Note: This is probably the only post on my blog that I continually update. Though it was originally posted in 2010, I update it regularly since what I’m listening to changes over time, and some podcasts begin and some end. Enjoy.]

Lately I’ve been asked a couple of times for some internet recommendations, so I thought I’d post an update of the blogs I’m following and the podcasts I’m listening to.

Favorite Podcasts

Using podcasts and audiobooks is amazing, because it’s hands-free, which allows you to listen and learn while you’re doing some mindless task.  Instead of staring off into space, you can be getting stuff done and reading the Classics.  Life is short, people.  It may seem painfully un-sensational at first, but I promise that if you get into the habit of listening, it’ll be way more entertaining, educational, and stimulating than reality TV.  Trust me.  Here are just some of the times I’m usually listening:

  • while working out (long runs seem like no time at all)
  • while putting on makeup and doing hair
  • while washing the dishes
  • while walking to work
  • while driving anywhere
  • while gardening

And here are the podcast recommendations:

Books

Librivox (Free public domain books. LOTS of them. Which can be subscribed to individually as podcasts, if you want. Or they have a standalone app.)
Audible (Audiobooks to buy.)

Faith

The Robcast
Ask Science Mike

Folklore / Storytelling / Life

Welcome To Night Vale
The Moth
Storycorps
This American Life
Serial
The Longest Shortest Time
Invisibilia
Anything Ghost
Hometown Tales
Otterly Rad

History / Archaeology

History Replays Today
Archaeology Channel

Stuff You Missed in History Class
The Thomas Jefferson Hour
Virginia Historical Society
The Bowery Boys: New York City History

Science / Tech

Radiolab
Science Friday
Community Signal

Etiquette and Grammar

A Way With Words
Awesome Etiquette
(from the Post family)
Modern Manners Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life
Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

So yeah…those are my favorite things to listen to. Of course you can always search your podcast app for more stuff that you’re interested in. I believe that in the post-iTunes world I tried apps like BeyondPod and Pocket Casts for my Android phone, and now I use the amazing Overcast on iOS.

Favorite Feeds

Using RSS feeds to consume stuff on the internet is amazing, as I’ve preached about before, because:

  • It really lets you filter the web for your specific interests.  All of the stuff you want to hear about, none of the garbage you don’t.  Or very little of it anyway.
  • Posts are delivered to you pretty much as soon as they’re published.  So instead of finding out about a fun event two weeks after it happened, when you finally got around to checking the web site, this way you find out as soon as it’s announced.
  • It cuts down on just surfing around to waste time, as long as you keep it pared down to the most useful feeds — constantly removing ones that no longer interest you or aren’t worth reading, and adding new ones you want to try for a while.  Vigilance is key, because otherwise your feeds list can spiral out of control like your browser favorites did in 2001 (ha! remember those?), causing them to become a chore to sift through instead of something you want to do.  And we do not re-make the mistakes of the past, if we can help it at all.

I use Feedly for this, and they’re now allowing people to share their feed collections, so here some of mine if you need reading suggestions:

https://feedly.com/tess

I also read books! Paper ones. Books I’ve been reading lately can be found on Goodreads.

I’d like to see your recommendations, too.  ❤

public service announcement.

This is a public.  Service.  Announcement.  With guitaarrrrrrrrrssss!
— The Clash

Despite the fact that people don’t have guns to their heads forcing them to sit on Facebook all day, I hear a lot of people complain about how annoyed they are about different aspects of it.  This is what it sounds like to me:

  • “Oh, that site I choose to spend my time on is all clogged up with Farmville requests!”
  • “Waaahh, that site I choose to be a part of is less useful to me because I don’t want my grandparents reading all my posts.”
  • “Sniffle sniffle, this annoying person updates their status 97,000 times per day and I choose to look at it EACH TIME!”

I understand that novices at the social networking game have been lured in with promises of getting back in touch with their friends from the City High School Class of 1909, and have been confronted with a flashy, fast-paced interface and a confusing world of seemingly endless privacy settings.  It makes sense that they might find this whole thing overwhelming.  The rest of you know how to use help documentation and have no excuse.  It’s for the many novices who have asked me for help on this, as well as for the rest of you who are too embarrassed to ask or too lazy to type a search into Google, that I present these tips for easier Facebook navigating.  There are lots of other ways to improve Facebook for yourself, but these are probably the ones people ask about the most.  I sincerely hope they help you make your decision to enjoy social networking, or to abandon it.

Hiding

or How to Make It So That You Don’t See Certain People

  • When looking at your homepage, scroll down to the offending person’s post.
  • Roll the mouse over it.
  • A little Hide button will appear.  Click on it.
  • Click on Hide John Doe or whatever the person’s name is.
  • Now this person’s posts won’t appear on your wall!  If you go to John Doe’s page purposefully, you can still see whatever he posted, but otherwise he won’t exist to you anymore.  Huzzah!  Now, assuming he is a really nice person IRL, you can get back to focusing on that aspect of your acquaintance.

Lists

or How to Make It So That Certain People Don’t See Your Stuff

  • At the top, right-hand corner of your homepage, click on Account.
  • Click on Edit Friends.
  • Click on Create New List at the top of the page.
  • In the box that says Enter a name, enter the name of your list (for example, “people I don’t know very well.”)
  • In the box below that, scroll around and select people to add to it.
  • Click Create List at the bottom of the box.
  • Now that the list is created, we can edit the privacy permissions for the list.  At the top, right-hand corner of your homepage, click on Account.
  • Click on Privacy Settings.
  • Click on Personal Information and Posts.
  • Here you can choose WHO can see WHAT on your profile.  For example, the the right of Photo Albums, click on Edit Settings.
  • You’ll see your different albums.  For each one, click on the little drop-down box with the arrow and select Customize.
  • In the Hide This From box, type the name of the list you’d like to hide it from, and click Save Setting.
  • You can do this for different categories of things, such as your bio, your posts, other peoples’ posts on your wall, etc. etc.  Have fun!  Keep in mind that nothing on the internet is ever truly private (read: you will still need to exercise discretion), just more difficult to find.  Now people you are acquainted with but barely know will not see ALL of your business by default, but will be able to get in touch with you if they need to.

Linking

or How to Display Signs of Life Without Ever REALLY Keeping Up Your Facebook

  • Sign up for an account at ping.fm.
  • Link all of the sites where you do post regularly (Flickr, your blog, Twitter, whatever) to ping.fm.
  • Set it so that when you update those sites, they automatically update Facebook.
  • Never log into Facebook again except to respond promptly to event invitations, answer direct messages, and kill some time at the office (in which case, you’ll be delighted to see everybody’s overly zealous updates).

You’re welcome.

twitterpated

So I said I would follow up with my impressions of Twitter, after using it for a while.  The timing of my entering the world of Twitter ended up being no less than perfect.  I mentioned in my last post about it that I seemed to be inundated with hints from the general universe that I needed to try Twitter, all within about a 24-hour period.  I had been holding off, because I didn’t want another hassle of something else to maintain online.  But as it kept coming up, it seemed like it was becoming something I needed to at least have an opinion about, for discussion’s sake.  So I took the plunge.

Since then, even more buzz has occurred about this phenomenon:

  • Matt Morton blogged about me blogging about Twitter, and included his own perspectives.  He is really correct about the “talking points” aspect.
  • Tripp pointed out that tech guru Robert Scoble officially slammed the gate on all early adopters of Twitter…right after I joined.  Phew, that was a close one.  I would really be forced into the depths of shame to be called a late adopter of any new technology.  Seriously though…what a weird coincidence.
  • Tripp published his own ideas about why he uses Twitter.

So…my impressions of Twitter, after a couple of weeks of using it.

  • It presents some fantastic talking points.  I have to agree with Matt on this.  If you follow someone on Twitter, instead of saying “So, how’s school?” the next time you see them (and having them answer back “Ehh…it’s school”), you will actually have a specific thing to ask them a question about.  “So, I saw that yesterday you tried that new restaurant.  How was it?”  You’re way more interested in your friends’ lives when you know exactly what’s interesting in those lives.
  • It helps you get back in touch with people.  For example, as much as I really liked several of my former coworkers at my last job, I just don’t see them anymore.  Now that I’ve joined Twitter and a couple of them are on there, I feel like I’m right back in touch with them.  Twitter is our new “water cooler talk.”
  • It reveals interesting details about your friends, previously unbeknownst to you.  I was surprised to see how many of my friends, for example, didn’t realize that I work out in the mornings before work most days of the week.  It’s a huge part of my day, and it’s basically the reason why I’m not out at 11pm like the rest of you.  Also, I’ve realized that all Matt Morton and Chris Stewart do in their free time is play video games, watch sports, and flirt with each other via Twitter.  See, I had no idea about that before (j/k dudes, j/k).
  • It helps during a crisis. Last Tuesday was the first day of Dan and I having to be apart for a week, so of course I told him to call him that evening.  Well, my cell phone was “searching for service” for a couple of hours.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get in touch with Dan, and I didn’t want him to think I was ignoring him, or had been kidnapped or something.  I was freaking out because I couldn’t figure out whether my phone was broken, or if there was an outage.  There was absolutely nothing about it on the news or the web.  After posting a tweet about it, though, a couple of people responded saying their service was also out.  So I knew it was something the phone company was probably working on.
  • It’s the first source of news. Faster than a speeding bullet, people.  Users post things of national importance, or very personal importance…either way, Twitter users are the first to know.  I found out that Charlton Heston died via Twitter, and I also found out that a friend was pregnant via Twitter. People also post about terrible traffic that they’re stuck in, so that you don’t get stuck in it too.  Good to know!  And I assume that if I was like “OMG, crocodile in my kitchen,” everybody would drop their laptops and come and save me.
  • It really doesn’t require much effort.  You’re in charge, so you decide how much effort to put into it.  Obviously, if you update a lot, you help keep things more entertaining for your friends.  But if you don’t feel like it or don’t have anything to say, you don’t have to.  It’s that simple.

Now the, whole assumption that those points are made under is that you’re only following people who are your friends IRL, or at least an interesting friend-of-a-friend IRL, or maybe important figures in the world of technology or politics or whatever it is that you care about.  The tweets they post are interesting because you already know them, and / or care what they have to say.  I’ve seen a lot of people asking about Twitter, saying “but why should I care what a bunch of strangers are doing?”  That’s just it — you’re not following strangers.  You’re following your friends.  So of course you care.

So that’s my verdict — so far, it’s a lot of fun, and definitely worth the tiny bit of effort you put in to use it.