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!


journalism news technology writing


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.

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 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!




Writer’s Digest – Poor Customer Service – RESOLVED

Update Fri Apr 29: Great news! Writer’s Digest stepped up in a big way today to resolve my issues. Yesterday, I emailed a copy of this blog post to Writer’s Digest editorial support. And, I tweeted a link to this blog post to Writer’s Digest’s online Twitter curation team (@writersdigest@brianklems, @chucksambuchino, @jessicastrawser and @robertleebrewer). By 9:30 this morning, I had two emails in my inbox from two different support people that included links to the two issues I had originally requested (March/April & May/June).

Needless to say, I am extremely pleased with the way they resolved my issues. I have resubscribed to Writer’s Digest and gladly recommend their products due to the excellent customer service that I received today. Special thanks to everyone that assisted me with getting my issue resolved today: Missy Fenn, Online Circulation Coordinator for F+W, Shannon Smyth, Email Customer Service for Writer’s Digest, Brian Klems, Chuck Sambuchino, Jessica Strawser and Robert Lee Brewer.


I’ve been doing a fair amount of research lately to make sure that I have the latest tips and techniques pertaining to writing and publishing online. One resource that I was extremely excited to read was Writer’s Digest. Their two recent issues (March/April and May/June 2016) look like they have a great deal of good content in them. The May/June issue is especially interesting – it is their annual “Web issue” and it contains their annual ranking of the top 101 best websites for writers. I was really excited to subscribe to Writer’s Digest’s digital subscription.

I subscribed two weeks ago (on April 18) and I have yet to receive the current March/April issue or the next issue (May/June). I have reached out to Writer’s Digest three times to sort this out. But unfortunately, after my third interaction with their support team today, I had no choice but to cancel my subscription. I’m sharing my full story here as a cautionary tale to anyone else that might be interested in subscribing to Writer’s Digest. Buyer beware!

Note: I have reached out to Writer’s Digest for one last chance at resolving my issues. If they are able to help me out (and redeem themselves from this disappointing situation) then I will update this post.

I want to share my recent poor experience dealing with Writer’s Digest magazine’s subscription support team. My goal is to make you aware of this interaction and to ask for Writer’s Digest’s help in turning this into a positive experience for me (and to share that good news with the readers of my blog).

On April 18 2016, I subscribed to Writer’s Digest’s digital only product online. I was compelled to subscribe because of the content in the March/April and the May/June issues of Writer’s Digest. I subscribed expecting that the March/April issue would be my first digital issue (I did subscribe in April, after all) and that I would then receive the May/June issue in a couple of weeks.

Upon subscribing, I received a link for the January 2016 episode and was unable to find a way to obtain the March/April issue. Using the WD subscriber services website, I submitted a request asking for assistance on obtaining the new issue. I have still not heard back from WD pertaining to this email request.

A couple of days later, I called WD subscriber services to try and obtain my first issue. The person I spoke to was quite sympathetic and he told me that he would submit a request to have the May/June issue emailed to me within the next couple of days. I am still waiting for this email to arrive.

I called WD subscriber services again today (on April 28 2016) to try to obtain my first issue. This time, I spoke to a person named Trevor. I explained the situation and he put me on hold to try and figure out how to help me. He came back on the phone and explained that he was unable to send me either the March/April or the May/June issues as part of my subscription. He said that if I was interested in either of these issues, that I would have to purchase them individually from the WD web store. This was less than ideal, as the original reason that I subscribed was to obtain these two issues as part of my subscription.

I asked if there was anything else they could do and Trevor said there was nothing further they could do. I asked him if I could unsubscribe and he said yes. So, he canceled my subscription with no questions asked.

There are two problems for me here:

  1. I am unable to obtain the products that I wanted to purchase via an annual subscription to WD. I feel misled as I subscribed during the period where the issues were available.
  2. Trevor, the subscriber services person I dealt with, seemed eager to cancel my subscription, which seems to be the opposite of what a subscriber services support person should be trying to do. He did not object to my desire to STOP purchasing a WD product. In fact, he helped put money I had already given him back in my hand, rather than helping me and making me a happy customer (who would remain loyal for many years).

From what I can tell, Writer’s Digest offers advice to writers about how to build audiences (among other things). And, from what I can tell, Writer’s Digest is helping writers expand into digital subscriptions (subscriptions are a great ongoing revenue stream). Unfortunately, in this instance, Writer’s Digest has failed to earn a digital subscriber by missing the mark on not one, but THREE interactions with an eager customer.

I am sharing my experience for two reasons:

  1. To highlight my issues with the hopes that Writer’s Digest can avoid similar poor experiences with customers in future; and
  2. To try one last time to obtain the March/April and May/June issues as part of a digital only subscription (I will gladly pay the posted price for an annual digital only subscription).

I have emailed the above note to Writer’s Digest and I am posting a copy of this letter on my website ( as well to share my experience with my readers. If we can resolve this and/or if you have feedback to offer, I would be glad to update my blog post to reflect any further communications that we have together.

I look forward to hearing back from Writer’s Digest.

A disappointed customer,

Todd Dow


cystic fibrosis philosophy

Which book should I publish first?


I need your help. I have three books that are fairly close to complete. My question: which one should I publish first?

That’s where you come in. Please answer this poll and let me know where I should focus my efforts:

And feel free to provide feedback for each of the books I’m working on:

  • Cystic Diagnosis: A Handbook for families living with Cystic Fibrosis
  • Holy War: A History of Christian Violence
  • The God Solution: to the Atheist Delusion (or What Atheists Fail to Realize). A response to Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”.

Thanks for your help!