Introducing Meta-Manage, a new management blog

For around a year now, I’ve been thinking about starting a blog about management. I really enjoy studying project management and I’m loving my master’s program, and I feel like I have a lot of ideas to share, but I was lacking focus. A recent lunch with Jeremy Bartley of ThinkDigital.io really inspired me, though. There are a ton of resources written by project managers for other project managers, but what’s really lacking is helpful advice for regular workers, small business owners, and managers who don’t necessarily know all the jargon and particulars of project management. Helpful articles for those audiences would be a real boon.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. I love the idea of helping other people do for themselves. While I’m more than happy to be hired as a consultant, my goal is always to help people learn the principles and steps so they don’t need me anymore. If I can help people become self-sufficient, then mission accomplished. And more often than not, this goal leads to me having even more work and getting to do even more advanced and exciting things.

So I began thinking, and building, and writing. I decided to launch early and iterate often, so the site isn’t what I would call “done.” But it’s to a point where I can start sharing content, and I’ll expand and improve as I go.

If you would be so kind, please take a look. Re-share and point other people to the new blog if you think they might be interested. Submit suggestions and requests for articles. And let me know what other resources might be helpful for me as I write and develop. I’m particularly looking for book recommendations and people on Google+ and Twitter who share inspiring and fantastic thoughts.

Meta-Manage

Web | Google+ | Twitter

When this blog started

My first blog post on this site was on September 1, 2007. I have had a blog since 2003, and it’s clear that the first post wasn’t an introduction to a new site but was instead part of an ongoing blog., so I’m not really sure why that was the cut-over date.  It’s not a post introducing this blog, and it’s not very neat or clean.

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Why do you want to be published?

I was reading a discussion on Writerface the other day where the poster wondered about getting published. He was having quite an ordeal, having received numerous rejection letters and the like, and as I read through the forum thread I received confirmation that everyone deals with the same issues. It has always been difficult to get published, but with the current state of the economy and the decline of print media in general, publishers are even more hesitant to put work into print, especially for untested authors.

Being the sort of Internet-junkie I am, though, I couldn’t help but wonder why people want to get published so much. Yeah, I fancy myself an author, or at least I will do once I finally finish writing a book, but I’m doing it because I like to write. As I read through the forum, the fight to be published was portrayed as a fierce struggle, but for what?

Why do people want to be published? I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who not only intends to self-publish but who gives his work away for free online, so my thoughts are probably more cynical than accurate, but I could only come up with the following two reasons.

1) For the money

Shakespeare got to get paid, son, and I recognize that. I also recognize that publishing companies have far greater marketing capabilities than an individual, and one shouldn’t expect any marking from a Print-on-Demand (POD) Publisher. It’s hard to get your name out there and get noticed, and having a real publisher pick up your book and print/advertise it makes a huge difference.

But I can’t help but notice all the independent online businesses that are doing pretty damn well, and in particular I look at webcomic artists for a lot of my business inspiration. They put their work online for free, sell art and merchandise, and I read a great many who make a living off it. But even if you don’t make a living from the work, you can at least supplement your income. They do their own advertising, their own work, and most of the webcomics I read have visitor counts in the tens of thousands every day.

2) For the recognition

Maybe it’s just gratifying for a publisher to select you for publication. I could see feeling like you’ve really made it as an author when someone gives you the external feedback of publication + money, and that pat on the head would go a long way towards legitimizing one’s work. After being published, you can be secure in knowing that you don’t just think you’re a good writer. You’re good enough that someone else was willing to pay you for it and stake their own name, money, and time on your writing.

Part of me can’t help but point out that you can get that same recognition by working independently, if that’s what you really want, but seriously… if that’s your motivation, you should probably close your laptop and stop turning out crap just to make people like you. Write what you want because you want to write it. Communicate something you’re passionate about, and if it’s good, people will read it. If it’s not, well, at least you tried, I guess. Maybe learn to write better?

Recognition will come if you deserve it.

There’s no Rhyme or Reason, or is there?

Part of me can see the following logic. You wrote this because you want to communicate something, so you want that to get to the most people possible, and a publishing company can do that a lot better/easier/faster than self-publishing. Most self-published work gets read by only a few dozen people due to lack of advertisement, so if you really want to get your words out there, you have to go through a publishing company. Self-publishing, either through POD or on the Internet, just makes your message part of the noise, and you’ll get lost in it.

That’s a valid argument, but I don’t think it’s true. There are more books published in a single year now than in all of history, so being in print doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get noticed. Obviously, advertising makes a huge difference (do you really think Twilight would have been a hit if it had been POD published with no marketing?), but there are plenty of examples of run-away-hits (such as The Shack, apparently) that spread due to word-of-mouth.

You can’t account for what Makes It and what doesn’t, so I’m inclined to think that good work will be rewarded. If what you write happens to be good and liked by people, you’ll get noticed regardless of where you are or how you’re publishing. Just make sure you’re enjoying yourself along the way and the rest will fall into line.

Kampyle Reviewed

Kampyle

A few months ago, I came across a blog that had this neat little button at the upper right-hand corner, lurking unobtrusively and offering to take my feedback on their site. Rather than comments on content, Kampyle offers users the ability to comment on the site itself: its layout, overall content (rather than a specific article), its colours, etc. I thought this would offer a unique and helpful way to garner feedback from readers about what they liked and disliked on the site, which would help me make things better.

For the purposes of this review, I was going to link to the article where I first saw the Kampyle button and was a bit surprised that it wasn’t there anymore. Then I smirked a bit, wondering if they had removed it for the same reasons I am.

I’m removing Kampyle from my site, not because it’s a bad service, but because I haven’t found my users to use it in a manner that’s helpful to me. Rather, its presence has been potentially detrimental to my blog.

First, I want to say that the Kampyle service is free and easy to integrate into your blog. You need to put a short snippet of javascript into your header (code provided by Kampyle) and you’re done. It’s attractive, easy, and gives one a warm fuzzy feeling of providing another means of contact for users.

However, I found that only a few users commented on my site, and those comments were largely positive. For those of you who work in customer service or have to receive surveys, this is a bit of a surprise. Generally, the only people who fill out feedback forms are people who are dissatisfied with something, so having all positive feedback is odd. But via a medium like the Internet, it makes sense. Why waste time complaining when you can just surf away?

The positive comments told me things were great, but what I found more frustrating, they were often comments on specific articles. Notes to tell me that some instructions worked well for them, or that they liked a particular blog entry. While I appreciated the praise, I wished people had put their comments in the comments section on the blog article. Communication through Kampyle doesn’t allow for dialogue because it’s usually anonymous, and even if the individual did put contact information in, only I would see it. No discussion between readers can occur.

Of course, I don’t blame the commenters for this. They used a really nice communication tool to communicate with me, but its presence has had unintended consequences for my site. As such, I’ll be removing the code to better encourage people to use the commenting features built into WordPress.

Kampyle really is great, and I like it in theory, but I don’t know that it has a good place on a blog. If I was running a business website that had less commenting opportunities or means for discussion, I’d definitely put Kampyle on there. I might look into putting it on some of our sites at the University soon. But for a blog that’s ostensibly trying to encourage discussion within the articles itself, I don’t think Kampyle’s a good fit.

Twitter as RSS

I’ve been following more people on Twitter, namely webcomic artists and bloggers, and have begun to notice that several of them update their Twitter every time they write a blog post. I’m a little conflicted about the practice, though I suppose it makes sense; redundantly putting information out in multiple places helps ensure it’ll get read by the most people. Since I subscribe to their RSS feeds, though, it first came across as somewhat over-the-top and obnoxious. Then it supplanted my usual RSS feed.

As much as I love RSS, and even Google Reader (my RSS reader of choice), I found that it’s really nice to read people’s words on their own site. People who blog or create web comics usually have decent websites, and as it turns out, the conventional wisdom is correct: a good frame accents the art and emphasizes its beauty.

Beyond that, as I began writing this, it occurred to me that Twitter is like RSS for life. Of course, you don’t have to update regularly, but it’s easy to see where it can be used as a mini-blog for more practical purposes. I say “practical” because it’s hard to justify writing an entire blog post and giving it the front page of my site for a day about how I pulled some muscles and my shoulders hurt, but I can certainly post about it on Twitter, which shows up in my sidebar. 140 characters is about all such information deserves.

It doesn’t necessarily demand that you open your life up to every passer-by. You put as much info in as you like, and if you like, you could only use it as a marketing tool and to spread word about your other work. Whether you use it as RSS for your life or just your site, though, I think it presents a prettier picture than an XML sheet fed through a reader, black text on a white page.

That being said, I certainly don’t recommend shutting down your RSS feed(s)! This level of redundancy allows people to use whatever subscription means they like, but the key is consistency. If you start using Twitter as subscription means, you have to update it forever or accept the consequences: if you stop updating at some point in the future, you’re likely to lose at least some of those subscribers. You can post that you’re moving to a different subscription model/location, of course, but the people who use only one method and refuse all others are unlikely to change.

I currently have my blog and Twitter both posting to Friendfeed, but I can certainly see the value of Twitting about my blog. Nevertheless, I think I’ll hold off for now. My Twitter is all personal updates now, RSS for my life, and I think I’d like to keep it that way for now.

Ending Crossposting

For the last couple of years, entries to this blog have crossposted to a few different places. They automatically appear on Xanga and Livejournal, and I also have a blurb go up at MySpace when I publish something. Facebook picks up my posts through an RSS feed, but that’s not really crossposting and so isn’t addressed here.

I’ve decided to stop crossposting entries to Xanga, Livejournal, and MySpace. There are a few different reasons for this, but what it really boils down to is that

  1. It’s buggy and slows my site down, sometimes breaking things entirely, and
  2. I don’t think many people subscribe or read my blog through those sites.

If you do and would like to continue reading, there are a few options. I recommend foremost that you subscribe to the RSS feed. You can do this through any RSS reader, though I particularly recommend Google Reader myself. Some people use Netvibes, and that’s cool too I guess. There are a few others out there, so whatever floats your boat, just subscribe.

You can also visit the site directly. I usually update daily, Monday through Friday, though the time isn’t set.

If you can give me a compelling reason to keep crossposting, I’ll do it, but I don’t think there is one. Therefore, this will be the last post that shows up on Xanga, MySpace, or Livejournal.

Livejournal, and then Xanga, were my first blogging sites, but I can’t say that I’m sad to leave them behind forever. Adieu, adieu, adieu.

Improving spontaneity

I get in this bad cycle now and again where I’ll have work I need to do, not want to do it, and yet can’t bring myself to do anything else because I know that I should be working on whatever it is that needs doing. For example, right now I need to work on my creative project for my Buddhism class (I intend to write an epic poem), but I really don’t want to. And though I’d like to do some writing on other topics, I don’t want to do that either because I know that I should be working on Buddhism stuff. In the end, I get nothing done and waste a lot of time. It’s stupid.

In addition to that, I’ve found that my blogging habits have become more and more structured, and I don’t really like that. The structure is killing all of my writing because it gets me wrapped into a logical loop where I feel I can only write so much at once, only post every so often, only write on certain topics at certain times… and that if I blog, it has to be of a certain length, depth, and consideration before it’s worth putting up here.

The result is that very little work is getting done, and that’s worthless. I have the potential to have a great deal of productivity and output, but I’m sabotaging myself to try and meet some warped expectation, imposed either by myself or some nebulous “other.”

Writing is work, and it’s not easy, but I need to apply myself. Just like going to the gym early in the morning, it kind of sucks at first, but once you get into the routine, it’s not so bad, and the end results are definitely positive.

In other news, I’m considering a new writing implement. It would be nice to be mobile again, but buying a new laptop will have to wait until sometime next year. We’ll see how our tax return turns out, and how my raise looks; I also need some time to change my mind another dozen times before settling on such a big purchase. I think it would be all kinds of helpful to have something I could carry around easily (the laptop I’m looking at weighs a total of about 3 pounds less than my current one when you include the power adapter), but I want to make sure I’m making the right decision since I’m going to have to stick with it for 3-5 years.