Can digital work survive like paper?

For the past month I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from the hit play Hamilton, based on the book Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. I finally downloaded the Kindle edition of the book and started reading it last week, and I’m struck by the author’s references to the writings of people of the 1700s. Some of the references are to letters and other documents that seem fairly obscure. In fact, in the book, the author notes that we’ve learned a lot of what we know about Alexander Hamilton from material that’s come to light only in the last 50+ years, as more than 22,000 pages of Hamilton’s writings were published.

Of course we’re used to reading books and material written centuries ago. From the Bible to ancient texts from early civilizations, Shakespeare and the great writers of all genres and eras, right up to the entrance of the digital era…even the not-great writers…the every-day and common recordings of business, home life, letters, journals, etc…all of it was written on materials that were physical and perishable.

But they were also savable. Keepable. And findable. Readable. And re-producable.

I can’t help but wonder, as I write away on my keyboard, if the words I save to my blog will be readable hundreds of years from now, if they’re only in digital form?

If I stop paying for my domain name, and make no provision to move the posts to a new site, or have them printed, I suppose they would disappear, as if I never wrote.

Here’s an interesting post on this problem…and it is a problem. While I fully expect the digital world to be with us forever, if we don’t experience nuclear winter, or some catastrophic natural event that shuts us all down, the digital world is fragile is ways that the physical world is not. With the changes to technology over time, and the ongoing necessity of financial backing, the issues of who pays to maintain websites, domain names, provide tech support, etc., are thorny.

And it seems there aren’t really good long-term solutions.

I’ve spent the last decade transitioning to digital everything, and I don’t regret that. But reading about information dug out of letters from the early 1700s has made me think about my letters, or rather, my lack of letters. I email, and text, post Facebook messages. But it’s extremely rare these days that I write anything that could be found twenty years from now, likely, much less two hundred years from now.

To be honest, most of what I write doesn’t merit saving…most of it’s just the stuff of everyday life. But then, that’s how we know about the past…because someone wrote about everyday life, and we can look back through time, through letters, through newspapers and books, old photos and journals.

Of course there are printed books and materials everywhere, even in this digital age. I’m not concerned that the future won’t know our time. There’s a huge volume of printed work that will surely exist, long ages from now.

But I have to admit, I’m becoming thoughtful about my work. Do I care if it doesn’t survive me? And if I want it to survive my time on earth, if writing is part of the legacy I want to leave, what do I do to make sure there’s something savable, keepable, readable, after I’m not around to pay to keep a website live, or deal with tech glitches?

It’s not as if this is a totally new thought. Of course I’ve had the experience of clicking on a link only to find that it doesn’t work. Someone set up a site, once upon a time, and then eventually quit maintaining it…you get a message that the page can’t be found, and whatever was there once, is no more.

Could ages past have more longevity than this modern time, with all our sophistication and technology? I think that’s entirely possible. Maybe even probable.

Read the post I linked above…it will make you think.

I suppose someone, some enterprising young start-up company will come up with solutions, there for anyone who is able and willing to pay for digital immortality. But who knows what that would look like?

And I’m thinking…maybe there’s something to be said for printed books after all.

 

 

Advertisements

A friend asked me how to start a blog…

A friend recently mentioned she’s thinking about starting a blog, wondered if I had any suggestions.

Well of course I have suggestions!

Actually, though it would have been better planning on my part to have this post come first, it makes a nice pairing with this.

laptop and phone

But to begin at the beginning…a blog is a combination of the words web and log = blog. Blogging began in the late 90s, and at first blogs were really just online diaries or journals.

What a long way we’ve come! Some stats I found said there were 152 million blogs online in 2013. One snapshot of blogging activity put the number of daily blog posts at 1.13 million in March, 2015.

There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, which I use, Tumblr, Blogger, Medium, Squarespace, Pen.io, Svbtle, LiveJournal, and Weebly are popular options, and offer a variety of features. They’re pretty much all designed for the non-technical user. You can choose basic free options (usually) or go with more customized options and pay a range of fees depending on your needs and budget.

There’s a lot to learn, but fortunately it’s easy to step in and learn on the go. You can usually go with a domain name that uses an extension of the blogging platform (often the domain name is free if you do this). If you want a custom domain, you can check out sites like GoDaddy and Namecheap to see if the name you want is available, and then register your chosen domain for a small fee. There are lots of domain extensions, and you can read about the best options, depending on the purpose of your site and a host of other factors.

One of the basic questions to sort out is your purpose for writing. Are you targeting a specific interest, niche market, type of reader / follower, or blogging style? Do you want a blog focused on food, fashion, photography, travel, current events, family issues, etc., etc., etc. ?  Do you plan to use a lot of photos and graphics? Do you want a poetry blog? When you choose your focus, that will likely define a lot for you…give you a sense of overall goals, style, voice, etc., which will all factor into how you present yourself to the world.

An important decision to make early in the process is if you want to create income from your blog, or if you want to sell products. If you want to generate income, you’ll need to choose a platform that accommodates ecommerce, something that isn’t always an option with free platforms.

Trust me, giving these questions thought up front can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. At the same time, if you start small and / or on a free platform, and then find your goals for your blog changing, you can always transition to a paid platform or add features that will take your blog to a professional level when you’re ready.

Once you’ve made these first decisions, you can set yourself up and get ready to write.

There are no rules in this blogging world, so if you want to write every day, three times a week, or once a month, you can choose whatever works for you. I would suggest the more consistent you can be, the more likely you’ll grow a consistent following.

And that’s the next big thing. Growing an audience is one of the challenges, but also a lot of the fun of blogging. Share your posts on social media, with your email list, invite friends to check out your blog and share on their social media platforms. Before you know it you’ll have some readers (followers) and you should also be reading other bloggers posts and following any that appeal to you.

Blogging is a community activity, and you’ll find a lot of camaraderie as you find other writers who share your style and interests. Or maybe you’ll find writers who are very different to you, but are intriguing and great to read. I’m often inspired by other bloggers, and while you should never copy or plagiarize, reading other blogs will help you learn, gather good ideas, and generally improve your writing.

Here’s a tip, as you wade into this world, if you see a term referenced you don’t understand, just Google and learn. Google and YouTube are your best friends if you need help with the technical aspects of all this. Often I find tutorials on YouTube are better than the official how-tos…I think it’s because people posting to YouTube are doing reviews and tutorials mostly for do-it-yourself types, so I find instructions are usually provided on a layman level, which I love.

Also, many, many books have been written on the subject of blogging, if you want a guide at hand as you get set up. I suggest reading reviews to see what sounds best for your needs. There are books that focus on the different types of blogs, so if you know the specific niche you want to create, look for a book that corresponds.

Last, if you think you’d like to try blogging, just jump in and begin. You’ll learn a lot, maybe surprise yourself, and you can always move at whatever pace is good for you. No pressure to do more than you choose.

Good luck, and if you’re reading this and decide to start a blog, let me know! I love to check out new writers!

~ Sheila

 

 

Here I go!

I’ve been in a bit of an upheaval in the past few weeks. My house is once again on the market, which feels good. I’m hopeful, fearful, wondering about next. But this also gives me a lot of motivation and incentive to tackle some chores that I’ve been avoiding for a while now…the dreaded sort, pulling out and evaluating everything with a view to: KEEP / DON’T KEEP and SELL / DONATE. Or worst of all: WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS????

There are a lot of questions to answer, and work that I’m still doing..will be doing until I’m literally heading out of town. And that’s good too. Busy keeps me going, productive, and positive. And who knows how long it will take to sell? I don’t want to jinx myself, but you never know about these things.

I’m trying my hand at a few new things. I decided to use my Alaska experience as a bridge to a new adventure, so I’ve written a short e-book, So, You Want to Move to Alaska? Hot off my keyboard today. I self-published on Amazon’s Kindle site, and whether it sells two copies or two thousand, it was a good experience for me to work through. It takes a day or so to show up on the Kindle site, and I’m excited to see how it looks in final form. I see they offer an option for updating, even after the initial publication, so that reassures me in case I find a typo right away. Even after proofing, it seems like there’s always something missed.

I understand that non-fiction books are a good source of ongoing income…the more you work at putting titles out, the more chance you’ll make sales. The price is low…$2.99, but the idea is to make up in volume what you lose in the per-book sales amount. I’ve got a second title already in the works.

Anyway, the process is free. I wouldn’t say it was painless, but I think I’ll be able to do a second book much more easily now that I’ve been through it once.

My little Kindle book!

I’m also launching a YouTube video channel. Or at least I’m working on doing that. I’ve got a camera in hand, and I’m sorting out the process, and content.

I’m also changing the focus of ReVision Me. I had initially thought I would use that site as a business platform for writing and editing, focusing on healthcare documents…policies, strategic plans, etc. But I find my heart isn’t really in that. I’m still working in that world for my day-to-day income needs. But now I think I’ll focus the concept of ReVision on women my age…maybe men too, eventually, but it seems safe to begin with the gender I know.

In taking stock of where I am in life, I realize, for what it’s worth, that I could be a poster child for AARP. I’m 53, female, vibrant, energetic, looking to renew and extend my working life. I have a multitude of interests outside of work, I have extended family and a wide range of life experiences. I love the digital world, and I think I have something to offer.

I know there are already a lot of sites that cater to women, and even women of my profile. But I have a voice too, and I want to use it. So, I’ll be updating some of the work I had done on ReVision Me to bring it to a new focus. I set it up on the WordPress.org platform and will likely have affiliate advertising to help sponsor the site….another new adventure.

And last, I’m thinking about Etsy. Not sure how I can be part of that marketplace, but I’m intrigued, and I have been for a while now.

My challenge is to focus, and to look toward a new launch. Waiting is always the hardest part, isn’t it? Maybe if I’m busy enough it won’t be too too scary.

A little blog grooming

Ah, nothing like some sprucing up to feel refreshed! Today’s assignment helped me take a look at some widgets I’ve been neglecting, ignoring, or had lost in the transition from one theme to another.

The great thing about WordPress is that there are so many customizable features, many available for no extra charge. The longer I’ve worked with the dashboard options, the more comfortable I am with experimenting, moving things around, using my choice of words or position for the features I want to add. Thanks, guys, for making it simple and giving me a more polished look!

The main focus of today’s assignment is on branding…what is my brand, and how do I stay consistent in everything I publish? Well, that’s going to take a little more thought to define. But asking the questions is a great beginning. And for now, I’m content to let thoughts of brand percolate a bit while I work on some of the more concrete elements.

For anyone reading who hasn’t checked out blogging, dive in! I promise you’ll find your horizon expanding and your knowledge growing. (You’ll learn what a widget is. 🙂 )

And you can’t beat the price!

~ Sheila

Too old? Absolutely not!

From a recent article in New Republic:

Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. “Young people are just smarter,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its “careers” page: “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

And that’s just what gets said in public. An engineer in his forties recently told me about meeting a tech CEO who was trying to acquire his company. “You must be the token graybeard,” said the CEO, who was in his late twenties or early thirties. “I looked at him and said, ‘No, I’m the token grown-up.’ ”

Read the whole thing.

I love the quote. “Token grown-up.” I can’t say that quite describes me, but I understand the mindset.

I’m dabbling in a world that belongs to youth. Or at least that seems to be the not-so-subtle message that frequently goes hand-in-hand with the universe of tech. And some days, when I’ve lost my way, trying to make sense of terminology (have you ever looked at the Google Testing Center site?) and the next link to the next to the next…well, some days I wonder: is it true? Am I just kidding myself that I can create a presence in this world, learning as I go, learning from stumbling and self-support? Oh, I pay for things along the way: books, and an occasional training program or an upgrade for my blog. I do a lot of reading, trying to stay current, trying to figure it all out.

It is overwhelming. But I also know that even if the technology we have today had been available when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have dived in. Because I was busy with life, and raising kids, and keeping milk in the house.

I’m still busy. But now I have a lot more free time to invest. Life doesn’t revolve around school schedules, or youth group activities. I’m working my own hours, my own pace, for the most part. And while I have plenty of self-doubt to fuel the fires of insecurity, I’ve also had successes to bolster my confidence. And I think I’m not the only one of my age and experience who has freedom and incentive to navigate in the brave new world. I see a lot of people with more than a few years under their belt out in the digital universe.

The truth is, I’m probably more valuable in the work force now than ever before. And I would guess that’s true of a lot of people my age. We don’t have as much pressure at this stage. We’ve seen business booms and corporate cycles, we know the buzz words and the corporate-speak. We know how to read the writing on the wall, and how to get the job done. And while I may not be start-up CEO material, not being a 20-year-old, fortunately, that’s not the role I’m seeking.

I like to think that this is my time to shine, and to be told that my best work is behind me feels like an insult. What happened to all the slogans that say 50 is the new 30? Because the truth is, I’ve known people who were young at 60, and others who were old at 40. Age is as much a function of one’s mental state and physical health as the actual number. And we’ve known that for a long time.

So while I don’t kid myself that I’m a 20-something, hot out of college and feeling my Wheaties, or even a 30 or 40-something, I also know: I have a lot to do yet, and a long way to go. I won’t be the person churning out new inventions of technology, but I’ll be using the methods and the platforms that work for me.

And I’ll be playing nice. I’m not going to show an ageist attitude toward the young people in the tech industry. They have every right to be where they are, and I’m even happy for them to lead the charge. But don’t tell me I’m too old to participate in a meaningful way just because I’m a few decades further along. I’ve only just begun!

 

The Great Unsubscribe

I read a lot, and I often save items that catch my eye for “later.” Sometimes the stack by my desk has to be thinned out, and typically, I find a few things that I replace, still waiting for that magical future moment when I have time on my hands; and a lot more that’s outlasted its usefulness, or my interest. So satisfying to see a noticeably smaller stack after a clearing!

The digital world is no different, except that when I read something I like, I often click “subscribe.” I need more to do, right?

But if it’s easy to add myself to email lists, it’s almost as easy to undo the damage. So lately, every time I see an email come through that I’m not going to get to, again, I do the mental sort. Is this a site I’ve outgrown? Did I subscribe thinking that this would be a treasure trove of information and advice, only to realize I will never read another thing from this source?

Have I gotten on an email list by mistake? I could swear there are evil things at work in cyberspace. I know some of the junk mail that makes it through my filters is nothing I would ever request. Not sure how that happens…probably agreed to something in fine print. But even those emails have the little “unsubscribe” link at the bottom, usually in the finest of fine prints. Clicking “unsubscribe” is almost as exciting as dropping off at Goodwill…you just know you’re going to feel lighter for the effort!

So, I’m thinning my digital commitments. Don’t ask me how it works, but an email inbox can be almost as overwhelming as a physical stack on my desk. I just know there’s some great stuff buried in there, if only I had time to catch up!

It’s a little like throwing out a box you never opened from a move. The common advice is, if you haven’t opened a box a year after a move, you can safely throw it out, because you obviously haven’t needed or missed whatever is in the mystery box. I’m a little to obsessive for that approach.

But when it comes to digital files, I’m more willing to purge without angst.

The other solution is a little like moving and not leaving a forwarding address. I’ve created new email addresses over the years to better sort who gets what. Now my oldest address is for those annoying times when you need to give an email, but you know you’re not going to maintain the relationship. A second one is for orders, and I use a third one for personal exchanges. Except when I forget and use the wrong one…which is why some friends and family are mystified by my system and just send the same information to multiple addresses. My fault for making it complicated, I know.

But here’s the thing…I find it’s easier to unsubscribe than to abandon my email addresses. Because, you know, I’ve probably set up an account or two along the way with the information, and if I abandon ship, that’s going to be a problem. An old email address is sort of like a remnant from middle school…like a piece of your history that you aren’t really excited about any more, but can’t part with either. I wish I had been more thoughtful about what I would want to follow me around the rest of my life. I probably wouldn’t have made the same choice if I had recognized the reality: I’m likely to be stuck with my digital “names” till I die. What’s up with some sites treating your user name like it’s sacred? Because of course a lot of my user name choices were based on my email address at that time. Apple‘s iTunes, for instance…now that’s one I’d like to update, but I’m stuck with my original user name there forever, apparently.

I think the digital world should allow regular re-sets, don’t you? I’m not trying to do anything illegal…my personal preference in naming convention has just matured a bit over time.

But I digress. I started by saying that I’m cleaning digital house, and how good that feels. I guess I’ve just demonstrated that all issues have sub-issues. My real angst is about email and user names, less about my inbox clutter. At least I can do something about the clutter.

If you want to reach me, feel free to send me a comment here. I can currently be found through my blog; Facebook; Twitter; I have four emails that are trailing around for various purposes; and I have a LinkedIn account that I don’t really use. I also managed to stumble into Google Circles, but I tried to back out as fast as possible. Really, I’m not looking for more ways to be connected…I just need to keep up with what I’ve already begun. And at that, everything I just listed is only for personal use. Work is a separate story.

I’m going to rest now. Feeling overwhelmed by digital forces.

Three little words…

And those would be…you guessed it! Electronic health record! Life has been busy this summer, working between two clinics, both in the midst of major technology changes. I’m learning and growing with the rest of the staff. In one setting I’ve been more a facilitator, in the other, I’m a super-user. I’d like to have a cape to go with the title. Then I would know I’ve really arrived!

If you don’t know this technology, you will. Coming soon (if not already) to a health care facility near you, and pretty much everyone in this country, electronic health records take medical charts from paper, print-outs, and dictated notes to digital documents that will securely hold lists of meds, diagnoses, treatment plans, test results, diagnostic images and demographic information, all neatly and legibly…no more scrawled physician’s notes to decipher, no more jumble of physical charts.

No matter how much advance planning is done, the transition from paper to digital, or in the case of the second clinic, from one digital system to a new and more robust one, is painful. Painful, painful, painful. Workflows are different, responsibilities shift, new terminology abounds, tasks change. People get upset. Some are excited and adjust beautifully, others see it as the end of the world as they’ve known it. I see it as inevitable, and know that like any new process, a few months from now no one will think about it anymore; it will just be the way work is done. No drama, and hopefully minimal frustration. But that moment of recognition is still somewhere on the far horizon.

So this is my world, for the moment. Or it has been. I’m on a break, warming up in sunny California, escaped to a few days of RVing and slow living. I go back next Monday, ready for the “go live” in one clinic and ramping up to welcome new provider staff to the other clinic. Part-time contracting is interesting, and it can be rewarding. But this summer it’s also been just a wee bit hectic.

So, I’m glad to be back in my own little corner of the digital world, excited to pick up the threads of the blogs I’ve missed reading, and checking in to see what everyone’s been doing while I’ve been largely pre-occupied. I’ve missed my friends, and hope I’ve been missed too. Funny how you can spend all your time in front of a computer and still feel like you’ve been away!

Sunday miracle: the pulse of life

I saw this short video today and was fascinated by the images, and the potential for this technology in our lives. Watch it and be amazed! We’re all pulsing with color, all the time. We just didn’t know it.

Pulse of Life

I wish I could show you, when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being. ~ Hafiz

What’s new (new to me)

So here’s a roundup of fun new things/blogs/ideas I’ve run across…most of these are new to me, I’m sure, rather than the world at large. But just in case you’re moving at my pace of discovery, you might find these interesting:

Blogs:  These are a few I’ve found recently that I’m enjoying: Malou Prestado writes Going Dutch, a lovely blog on the adventure of merging cultures and living in Europe. She’s quite the photographer!  Domestic Diva MD is an often hilarious and irreverent source for tasty recipes, each one with a story attached, and the stories are as tantalizing as the recipes.

The Worrywort’s Guide is a blog that I can really identify with. A lot of this author’s writing sounds like me, only she’s funnier and far more clever! Photobotos is a new photo blog I’ve subscribed to, and each morning I have a stunning or funny or amazing image to view, complete with story behind the shot and technical details from the photographer. The site also provides  product reviews, useful if you’re in need of photo tech info. Check it out!

Cara Long Writes is a site that a friend of mine is doing, and it highlights her blossoming career as a children’s book author, and adventures as a mom of nine (9!).

General Info: In case you’re thinking of connecting with fellow bloggers for inspiration, encouragement, information, or tech tips, here’s a site for locating blog conferences throughout the remainder of the year. You can check out the various options and register for anything of interest here.

Here’s an article about cool sites for free items or bartered services. I was familiar with some of these options, but had not heard of others. I’m not much into looking for free things, but I am still cleaning out, little by little, and it’s good to have options for clearing out larger items that I can’t haul to Salvation Army in my vehicle. And I love the idea of bartering services, that’s something that could be hugely useful. Check out the options here.

Tech: If you use Safari as your browser, there are a lot of great tips for making it a more useful experience here. And finally, if you have an Android or Apple iOS smartphone/device, check out this free app for better photo editing: Adobe Photoshop Express; see here for more information.