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!


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!



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.


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!



Coming soon: Dawkins & Holy Wars

In my last post, I shared my Big Hairy Audacious Goal: I want to be a writer.

That’s all well and good, but every writer needs a topic to write about. Luckily for me, I have a whole bunch of ideas I want to write about. In this post, I’ll share the ideas that are top of mind for me right now.

The God SolutionFirst up, I want to do a re-release of “The God Solution to the Atheist Delusion”. I’m happy with the original book, but I think I can make it even better. So, I’m re-editing the book to make it more polished. And I’m also adding some additional content to the book. I’m not ready to share the specifics yet, but my aim is to double the content and ensure that the book can stand on its own without needing to read Dawkin’s “The God Delusion” first. And if you purchased the original version of this book, don’t worry – you’ll be able to download the updated version from your Amazon or Kobo library as soon as the new version is released.

Next up is a project that has been percolating for a number of years now. This is an historical fiction series called “Holy Wars”. This series traces the evolution of violence from the time of Christ to present day. The early Christian state was born out of a need for a strong, united military. From this beginning came increasingly horrific, centuries-long justifications for inciting violence in the name of religion. Covering 2 millennia, this series offers historical accuracy and compelling storylines. And, I’ll be pairing this historical fiction series with a non-fiction reference guide and standalone cheat sheet for readers who want to know fact from fiction.

I’ve got plenty of other ideas, but I think this is enough for one day.

Stay tuned because I’ll be posting soon about how to get your hands on early review copies of all of my writing.

Until then, thanks for reading!





My Big Hairy Audacious Goal

Spaceman!Did you ever have dreams when you were a kid? Did you want to be an astronaut, a police officer or a firefighter? Maybe a zookeeper or an archaeologist (thanks Indiana Jones!)? I went through phases where I wanted to be all of those things and more. I’d play outside for hours as a kid, pretending to be all of those things. Or I’d be in the house responding to one life-threatening emergency after another with my Lego, Playmobil and Fisher Price toys.

But more than anything, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write books. I loved books. I remember sitting on the floor in the hallway in my house, copying (word for word – so much for plagiarism) articles from my National Geographic Encyclopedia of Animals books. I was pretty young then – maybe 5 or 6 years old. Maybe a bit older than that.

A couple of years later, I made my first book at school and shared it with others a local young authors conference (my memory of this is hazy, but I think I remember the event taking place at the Hamilton Art Gallery). I don’t have that book anymore, but I remember it was hand crafted from paper and coloured card board (for the cover), with a child’s imperfect touch. I don’t remember what the story was about, but it was short and I’m certain the story was secondary to the physical book that I had created on my own.

I tried writing more. But it was hard work. I wasn’t very creative. I didn’t have a flair for writing. My early (and brief) attempts at writing stories didn’t get very far. I only remember one of my early stories and it was repetitious, boring and lacking in substance. I found it tough to simply put words on the page. I wanted to write lots of books, I just didn’t want to do the writing. Discouraged, I stopped writing.

Stephen King autograph
Me at a Stephen King autograph session in 2013.

I kept reading though. I discovered Stephen King in grade 5 or 6. He was THE BEST! His stories were scary, they had lots of bad language and they were full of adventures, violence and lots of kids getting in trouble or causing mischief. And, he was an awesome storyteller. From simple stories like “The Long Walk”, to stories that became Academy Award winners (Misery) or near winners (The Shawshank Redemption should have won), Stephen King had it all. And he had it in droves. I had more reading than I could handle and I loved it!

I forgot about writing for a while. I came of age with the Internet and I built my career on it. I worked at AOL and Postmedia (amongst other places) as geek, building the tools that writers used to connect with readers online. I got to see the growth of the online industry from the inside. It was awesome. And still is. I still find it fascinating that such a huge economy is built from transmitting ones and zeroes all of the place. Computers make something from nothing. You can’t eat the Internet. You can’t live in the Internet. The Internet won’t keep you dry when it rains. And the Internet will not stop your neighbour from robbing you.

But the Internet does provide ALL of the information you could ever require to accomplish any of these things: it’ll help you optimize your crops, it’ll help you find, make or improve your living accommodations, it’ll teach you how to build a lean-to (why don’t more kids go to cubs and scouts to learn this stuff nowadays?!?!) and the Internet will even connect your sensor-laden house to the police to tell them that someone has broken into your house.

I started writing again in my mid-twenties. I was working on a liberal arts degree (philosophy and religious studies) on the side, while working full time in the IT field. This re-awakened my desire to write. But books were written and published by big publishing houses and only professional writers could do it. Oh wait… that was before the Internet. The Internet was revolutionizing print media. It was like Gutenberg all over again. Power to the people. Anyone could be an author. If only you knew the technology… And as luck would have it, I was one of those people that helped build that technology!

So away I went, writing and blogging and tweeting and more. I had aspirations of riches and fans a plenty. I did build community. It started with family and close friends. I’m sure some curious co-workers lurked as well. Then it grew to be people I interacted with online – peers, strangers and other interested onlookers. Then it was friends of friends. I learned from others and they learned from me. I even published a book – it was a collection of blog posts, but it was an actual book. Not a printed book – it is in e-format only, but still – I wrote a book!

Then life got in the way. Work got busier. One baby multiplied into three (not triplets, but staggered over a few years) and my numerous book ideas started aging in Google Drive.

Then I got sick.

It didn’t seem life-threatening at the time. But then the doctor told me the tumour they removed was cancerous. He said it wasn’t life threatening and that I was going to recover fully. But holy crap was it a wake up call! I started thinking about what is really important in life. This is where people can have a real mid-life crisis, rethinking their lives and making drastic changes to achieve things they think will make them happy.

I feel so fortunate. I had a lot of time to think. I assessed my life. I thought about what I am happy with and what is missing. I love my family. My wife is my soul mate. My kids are awesome. The only thing to change here is to spend more time with them. Focus on making memories because the work and the rest of the noise of life will always be there. But the kids will grow up. My wife will grow old with me and we’ll miss out on doing things when we’re young. And I love my career. I am in an exciting field doing interesting things with a great group of people. And I am growing in my responsibilities at work. I feel fortunate – the two most important things in my life are already awesome. Other things are good too: I am fairly fit (I teach karate), I have a great group of friends (who I don’t see often enough!) and I have a comforting sense of faith and I belong to a great faith community at my local church.

The one thing that stood out to me during my recovery though was my writing. I have a bunch of unfinished projects and I would regret not finishing them. So here I am, on the far side of a serious life changing event and the only thing I want to change is to write more. It’s no mistress or overpriced sports car and I can do it without disrupting the other important things in my life. And if that is my mid-life crisis, then I’m happy with that (and so is my wife!).

So yeah, that’s my big hairy audacious goal: I want to be a writer.

I’ve got about ten project ideas floating around inside me. Single books, multi-book series, fiction, non-fiction. And I suspect that at least a couple of other people will find them interesting. And my blog is the primary place where I’ll talk about my writing. I have other online hangouts, which I’ll touch on another time, but my blog is my home. So stay tuned – I’ll be sharing more about my book ideas in the near future.

In the meantime, what did you want to be when you grew up? How’d things turn out for you? And how do you feel about that?

Thanks for reading!