Categories
journalism technology writing

Worth reading this week

A quote I’ve been pondering lately:

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.”  — Bruce Lee

Some interesting stuff that I stumbled across over the last few days:

Yes, This Photo from Everest Is Real – What happened to the days when Everest was the achievement of a select few? Now it looks like an assembly line of rich people all jockeying to get up and down the hill before they die.

Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think (Taming the Mammoth) – So much of what we do in life is predicated on the decision making of “what will other people think?” This is a great treatise on living on your terms in a way that minimizes the unfound fear that prevents so many of us from pursuing things that can bring us more happiness in the limited time we have.

You should have a personal web site – I’ve been meaning to get back to blogging for a while. This little article caught my eye and prompted me to dust off my blog and get writing again. Thanks Mark!

Incognito no more: Publishers close loopholes as paywall blockers emerge – I used to work at an online newspaper and I led some of our paywall integrations. I was always discouraged by the technology because I immediately saw the flaws and workarounds that could be used to skirt them. But seems I’m an outlier. As this article argues, the vast majority of website visitors aren’t tech-savvy enough (or couldn’t be bothered) with trying to go around paywalls (I suspect quite a few just give up and miss out on good content once they hit the end of their free viewing period).

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? – I haven’t read the whole article yet, but I was directed to this story while reading Digital Minimalism. Really interesting arguments to be made for limiting screen time, especially for kids. I’m still working through the book, but my fav quote so far: “Regular doses of solitude, mixed in with our default mode of socialite, are necessary to flourish as a human being.

I’m always interested about what you read this week too. Feel free to share what you’ve been reading in the comments below.

Talk soon!

Todd

Categories
journalism news technology writing

#PayForJournalism

What a beautiful May long weekend this has been! The weather has been good (for the most part – especially if we ignore last night’s rain), the schedule has been light so that it hasn’t felt too hectic and the kids have been having fun all weekend which makes things more enjoyable around the house.

And I have found some time this weekend to sit and catch up on some of my reading. I’m always reading something, but my magazine pile tends to stack up over time as it is always my last priority given that my iPhone, iPad and Kindle are almost always within arms reach. I don’t know if it is the influence of Digital Minimalism, which I am working my way through on my Kindle, or if it is just the chance to sit on the back deck in the sunshine and relaxing lay flip through a magazine, but either way, I chipped away at my magazine pile a bit this morning.

Side note: Is it ironic that I am reading Digital Minimalism on my Kindle? It is a digital device, but it is a purpose-built digital device designed to allow for uninterrupted reading. I’ll go with the later, but am curious to hear your thoughts too!

In the June 2019 issue of The Walrus, Jessica Johnson, in the Editor’s Letter (sorry… I couldn’t find a copy of her letter online so you’ll have to find the paper copy if you want to read the whole thing), Jessica provides an overview the business model of writing for pay in journalism (from the 1929 Saturday Evening Post to Apple News+ and everything in between!). The decline in revenue in the newspaper space has been well documented over the last two decades. The Internet set out to make information free, yet the free model cannot sustain quality and accuracy.

The tide is starting to turn though. As Jessica says, “The good news is that there are pivotal conversations taking place in government, in boardrooms, and in newsrooms about the role of journalism in our society”. We are seeing the hashtag #PayForJournalism more often. And Jessica’s call to show our appreciation for quality journalism via our wallets is an important reminder of the need to support quality journalism.

I’ll leave it to Jessica to wrap up this post with her parting words from her Editor’s Letter:

If you read a free article – or ten – online today, please make a donation or subscribe to The Walrus or the independent journalistic outlet of your choice.

Categories
technology writing

True Fans – Even the NY Times knows about them!

Facebook - Building a Better News FeedIn my recent Wordcamp Hamilton presentation, I talked about how to build your own fanbase to support your writing. In that presentation, I talked about Kevin Kelly’s suggestion that all you need is 1,000 True Fans to support your creative career.

A recent article on Medium.com by Lydia Polgreen, Editorial Director, NYT Global, entitled “Why people pay to read The New York Times“, mentioned the following:

We used Facebook to push stories out to potential readers, to get people to sign up for our Spanish-language newsletter, Boletín, and to drive traffic to our home page. Just as it does for so many other businesses, Facebook helped us find our true fans.

This is spot on with my talk, where I mentioned that you should use social media to drive traffic to your home page and to get people to sign up for your newsletters. Social media is a fantastic generator of eyeballs. The key is to use it to drive traffic to your site. Be wary of building audience on someone else’s turf (like Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or <insert flavour of the moment here>).

And, almost on queue, Facebook popped up today to say that they are going to change the behaviour of content delivered to people’s newsfeed on Facebook. Facebook is going to fine tune your feed so that “friends and family come first”. This means less of a focus on publisher’s content and more focus on status updates and photos and videos from your friends. (additional commentary from NYTimes here)

It’ll be interesting to see how this alters the dynamic between the Social Network and its publishing competitors/partners as they continue their courtship dance in the online world.

And, let this serve as yet another reminder to build your own home and foster community where you can control it.

That’s it. G’night!

Todd

 

Categories
philosophy technology writing

Top 10 posts from the last 10 years – All you need is love!

toddhdow trafficIn my earlier post celebrating 10 years of blogging, I promised to share my top 10 posts from the last 10 years (based on page views). I’m not really surprised by the results. But, that’s because I watch my traffic stats on a regular basis. You might be a bit surprised though. The top results are not what you’d probably expect. In reverse order, here are my top 10 posts from the last 10 years based on page views (with a bit of commentary along the way):

Juravinski Hospital10. I had cancer… Wait… what?
I’m a bit surprised that this post made the top 10 as I just posted it a month ago. But, it was a pretty alarming story and a lot of my friends and family were aware that I was sick, but they didn’t know all of the details. So, this summary post was shared far and wide. (and, everyone loves a good story of doom and gloom, right?) 🙂

The God Solution9. Dawkins Part 4: The Objective Roots of Morality
My Dawkins series has received a lot of traffic over the last few years. Atheism is a popular topic and my objections to Dawkins’ The God Delusion have received a lot of traffic (and hateful comments). And, my book The God Solution has generated a fair amount of traffic as well. It is no surprise that some of my Dawkins writing has made the top 10.

8. Should atheists have children?
This is the most controversial post on my blog. I am not surprised that it made the top 10, but I am a bit surprised that it wasn’t higher on the list.

7. Is there any difference between pacifism and nonresistance?
This post was a response to a reader comment. I do get a fair amount of referral traffic from search engines, and I suspect that this is the source for a lot of the traffic to this post. (I haven’t done an exhaustive analysis of the relationship between referrers and my posts so I can’t say for certain).

6. Dawkins Part 7: The Slippery Slope of Abortion
This is a perfect storm of traffic generated by an interesting blog series (I had plenty of readers during the time when I ran this series) and great SEO. I regularly see high traffic to this post due to the popular keywords associated with this page: Dawkins, abortion & atheism.

5. AGAPE – unconditional love
Here’s where things get interesting. I am constantly surprised by the amount of traffic that my series on love has generated over the years. Although it wasn’t the intent, these posts continue to be huge SEO traffic generators for my site. My site consistently gets listed in the first page of search results for search terms like “philia love”, “examples of eros love”and “types of philia”. I see plenty of traffic to these posts on love on a daily basis.

God Delusion book4. The Atheist Delusion – Why I don’t agree with Richard Dawkins in 10 parts
I dedicated a great deal of time writing a response to Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion“. I even wrote a book on this subject! Therefore, I’m relieved that my Dawkins posts are listed in the top 10 for my blog.

3. Dawkins Part 3: Problems with Organized Religion
Organized religion is an easy target for atheists and theists alike. There is lots of common ground in this discussion. Thus, this post really resonated with a lot of people. And, I do regularly see some SEO juice via Google referrals coming to the site by people searching for “problems with organized religion”.

2. EROS – romantic love
SEO generates a lot of traffic for this post. I’m the top beneficiary of this search query: “examples of eros love”, which appears to be a very popular search term.

philia love search result1. PHILIA – friendship love
It seems that plenty of people are looking for love on the internet. My series on love has generated a lot of traffic to my site, and my post on “PHILIA – friendship love” has generated over twice as much traffic as the second most trafficked post (EROS – romantic love). Searching for “examples of philia love” delivers this post as the top search result on Google. This wasn’t my intent when I wrote these posts, but it has become clear that these posts are seen by Google as great reference sites for these terms. I won’t complain!

Who would have thought that my posts on love would dominate the top of this list? I’ve been watching my traffic over the long term and my posts on love regularly generate a lot of traffic, so I wasn’t surprised that they came out on top. But, without knowing my stats, I would have been very surprised to see these posts at the top of the list.

What do you think? Any surprises? Any questions? And, more importantly, what can I learn and do differently after examining my top 10 posts from the last 10 years?

Todd

 

 

Categories
personal philosophy technology writing

10 years(ish) of blogging!

I reached a pretty cool milestone in December 2015 – 10 years of blogging! My first official blog post is dated December 29 2005 (Welcome!). My blog, then called Wirepaper, was meant to be my geek home online, but has since shifted to focus more on my writing pursuits.

Wirepaper

Over the years, I have talked about religion, politics and IT stuff (Mac vs PC)… I think I’ve covered all of the main topics that you’re supposed to avoid when talking in polite company.

AOL CanadaPostmediaWhen I first started blogging, I had already established my IT career. I had spent time working at AOL Canada as a web geek, I had worked in a couple of internal IT departments (at Celestica and Toronto Rehab Institute) and I had recently returned to the online space when I started working at Postmedia (then called Canwest) in early 2006. When I joined Postmedia, I was just wrapping up my undergrad degree from the University of Toronto (in Philosophy and Religious Studies) and I was beginning a masters degree (Master of Divinity) at McMaster University. I have since put my studies aside and continue to focus (and greatly enjoy!) on my IT career.

And here lies the challenge with my blog: my content spans some very different topics. At times, I write about IT – blogging tips, tricks and techniques, summaries of some geek stuff (especially my beloved Kindle!) and a fair amount of content about IT security (which is my primary career focus). Other times, I have written about Cystic Fibrosis Fundraising. My daughter has CF, so this is a cause that is very close to my heart.

But the bulk of my writing over the last 10 years has been about philosophy and religious studies. And I am kind of happy about this. While I do like writing about geek stuff, I think that my writing habits have highlighted where my interests lean more often than not: faith and reason. I love my IT career. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But I am more fascinated with existential concerns: where do we come from, why are we here and where do we go when we die.

I do remember every piece of tech that I’ve ever had, but I am starting to see all of that stuff as tools that we have to replace every two or three years at great expense.

Macbook AirTools? That’s it? Yes. Some are prettier than others. But at the end of the day, they are tools that we use to communicate. I’m writing this blog post on my wife’s Macbook Air. It’s my favourite writing instrument. It is lighter and faster than my aging Macbook Pro (which I fear may have finally died for good – it’s either got a failed hard drive or a failed logic board). Her Macbook Air has an SSD drive, it’s less than 3 lbs and it has 12 hours of battery life. Oooohhh… Aaaahh… Are you excited yet?

Yeah, me neither. I used to be, but not anymore.

(and this should serve as fair warning to my wife that I might be coveting her laptop on a regular basis until we fix or replace our Macbook Pro)

ChromebookNowadays, these things are commodity devices. Most of us just need a web browser. We keep in touch via webmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, . All of this could be done with a Chromebook. If you need MS Office or some other productivity tools, then a full blown laptop is still needed. But Apple has almost replaced laptops with tablets with their latest iteration of the iPad Pro.

But I digress… what was my point here?

Oh yeah – I am happy that my writing is about something other than technology. I can use all that tech that I understand for something outside of the tech community. And I’m really excited about that. That is the dream of the internet, realized. But even bigger than that, this is the dream of technology throughout history: to better our lives and to improve our quality of life.

Or, maybe it was simply to kill other people more efficiently. Yeah, that has been a key driving force for technological improvement over time as well. That and porn.

Printing PressThe internet is this age’s Gutenberg. Anyone with a commodity device is equipped to reach the world. There has never been such a democratization of free speech in history. And I feel fortunate to be able to participate in this free speech.

Looking back over the last 10 years, I’ve shared my thoughts on war and peace, the existence of God, the historical Jesus (did he exist or not?), atheism and more. And this is the important stuff to me. I’ve wrestled with where we came from, where we are and where we’re headed. I’ve interacted with people that agree and disagree with me (and I appreciate both sides of the argument to help me discern my thoughts). And because of this, I feel more centred in my approach to life and in how I continue to live my life.

Do I have more answers because of my writing? Nope. If anything, I only have more questions. But that’s okay. Because I’d rather know what I don’t know than not know what I don’t know (do you remember Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”?).

faithDoes this make me any smarter? Nope. If anything, it makes me feel more foolish for sharing my incomplete and/or inarticulate thoughts with others. But I have made some stronger relationships from my writing. And I have learned how to more clearly state my case as well.

And for that, I don’t regret any of my writing. I’m glad that I’ve done it. If anything, I am sad that I haven’t done more. But, as I said recently, it’s time for me to do more writing. I find it therapeutic, relaxing and fun. So, you can expect lots more of it.

I’m going to spend a couple more posts dwelling on my 10 years of blogging. Stick around. In my next post, I’m going to talk about my top 10 posts from the last 10 years. After that, I’ll geek out a bit and share the technical nuts and bolts for how I’ve maintained my blog over the years (it has been surprisingly simple). And, I’ll wrap things up with a post where I talk about what I am most proud of with my 10 year old blog.

Have you been blogging for a while? Does any of what I’ve said resonate with you? Why did you start blogging? Do you have one topic for your blog or has your focus drifted over time?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And, let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to write about pertaining to my 10 years of blogging.

Talk soon!

Todd