I was really happy to see such a great turnout for today’s session on how to get started blogging at Enterprise Data World (#EDW13). I wasn’t just happy to have a full room, but that I got so many great, insightful questions and comments.
My Get Blogging slides are available for download now.
Some of the resources I mentioned during the talk:
- WordPress.com This is my blogging platform of choice. You can set up a blog in 10 seconds, for free.
- WordPress.org Same platform, but if you want to host it someplace yourself. You can also find a third party host and they typically will have this ready to install from their catalog of approved applications. It’s free.
- Windows Live Writer http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/essentials-other-programs This is what I use to compose most of my blog posts
- TechSmith.com Home of Camtasia (video editor of my choice) and SnagIt (my screen capture tool). You want these.
- ERwin.com Go To page for all things ERwin, including their blogs (under the community page)
- Embarcadero.com Where to find ER/Studio blogs
- Dataversity.net Home of numerous blogs and articles
Remember, if you start blogging, I want to hear about it so that I can share, comment, and help you promote your writing.
- Why did you start blogging?
- Why do you currently blog?
I started blogging over on infoadvisors.com, my main website, in March 2006 in order to help data architects and other data professionals find information to make their days go smoother. This was a natural outcome of the more than a decade long community management role I held on our discussion groups, since they were primarily about users of data management tools helping each other. It was like building my first Lego set, something I did just this past year. Yes, my first one, ever. Yes, that’s in the picture. It was fun for me, but not so much for everyone else. Just like when I first started blogging.
I think from our stats I did a fairly good job of sharing information about events, tools, techniques and maybe a few rants. Just a few. I didn’t like the platform I was using, Dot Net Nuke, so I started a WordPress-based blog (this one) earlier in the year. This allows me to blog more often. I’m liking the new platform, but still trying to carve out enough time to get something of quality written.
I also blog at Dataversity.net. That has provided me a slightly different audience, but still heavily data related. There is an in-progress series about Normalization Myths and a few rants over there. Just a few. You should go check them out.
In thinking about Jason’s questions, I realized that I really blog in hopes of influencing people to think more about loving their data — ensuring that data has the best quality that we have time and resources to support. I think that’s a good fit for my social media use, as well. There aren’t many people in the data architecture niche blogging – I know of only a handful and I have a blog post coming up soon that lists who I’ve found. Compared to other topics, I think we data architects are going to find it tougher and tougher to influence the IT profession since for the most part we as a group avoid social media, blogs, and other newer forms of information sharing. So while I’ll still blog because I like doing it, I want to start writing about more actionable topics – do this, then change that. Make a difference. Love your data. that sort of thing.
And I hope to that more often I’ll actually be able to influence people to make their data be better.
Updated with a new technique for filtering: the Global Filter. See half way down.
I tweet a lot. According to Twitter I’ve posted more than
50,000 60,000 tweets since I joined. I happen to know that Twitter lost a few thousand more last year, so yeah, I tweet a lot. I even use the phrase "avid Tweeter" in some of my bios.
Some people started following me and exchanging Tweets with me because I tweeted about NoSQL, big data, open data, open government, data modeling, normalization, databases, SQL Server, DB2, database design, data architecture, the Zachman Framework, or other data-centric topics. And then there are those who followed me because I shared information about Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, Atlantis, STS-135, Juno, Ariane rockets and my attendance at various NASATweetups and SpaceTweetups. Others decided to follow me because I shared information about Technical Barbies, specifically @venusbarbie and @data_model. These girls travel with me as I attend events and meet interesting people. Others followed me as I covered live events about Toronto’s government failing local citizens. Some people have followed me because I’ve worked with them in the past, attended school with them, or met them at a family event. The point is that people follow others because they are interested in what the other person is sharing at some point in time.
Some Twitter users create many accounts and tweet only about a single subject from those accounts. They mainly broadcast information from those accounts and rarely converse with others. Think of these accounts specialized Twitter accounts. To a degree, the Technical Barbie accounts are like that. But that’s not how I use Twitter. I use Twitter to build relationships with people, to share interesting things that I come across in my travels, and to share links to stories about things I think others would be interested in. If I Tweeted only in only about one topic, I’d meet fewer interesting people and I’d discover fewer connections to a variety of people.
Someone today complained to me about the fact that I sometimes tweet or retweet posts that are not in English. They want to be protected from having to see a foreign language in their Tweet stream. Personally, I find that a bit sad, but I pointed out that they could use a feature of their Twitter client to translate foreign language Tweets into English, which I cover below. Another person complained to me because I tweet on topics other than data. I’m not sure what to do with those complaints because I’m not just an English Data Robot. I think that sound incredibly boring, too. However, I have met a non-trivial number of data-space-government people who share an awful lot of similar interests as I do. In fact, some of us are planning a NASASpaceSQLPASSTweetup in the near future.
Having said all that, I do recognize that not everyone is interested in all the things I’m interested. I’m pretty sure my spacetweeps generally don’t care about normalizations and that my data friends don’t want to see more than one or two astronaut photos a year. You do want to see at least that much, right? That’s why the Twitterverse invented some nifty features and approaches to allow people to manage some of the overload of Tweets coming their way.
Hashtags aren’t an official part of Twitter, but early on Twitter users realized that they need a way of tagging and filtering the fire hose of Tweets in their stream. When I attend events, I try to use a hashtag to add some useful meta data to my Tweets. This tagging allows follower to do a few things:
- Find Tweets from the event, even from people they don’t follow
- Filter out tweets they don’t want to even see
- Archive or repost Tweets someplace else about one topic.
Last week I was a-Twittering like crazy, as were 59 other Twitter users, at #SpaceTweetup, an invitation-only event hosted by the European Space Agency in Cologne Germany. There was indeed a fire hose of information coming at us and we were making ourselves busy by posting photos, videos, and messages about all we were seeing and doing. Most of use included the word #SpaceTweetup in our messages so that we could easily see what others were sharing on Twitter. If you had an interest in space, this was a treasure trove of AWESOME stuff about ESA and their missions. Plus astronauts — lots and lots of astronauts. If your attitude about space stops at Tang and space pens, then this hashtag could have been your friend as well. Almost all Twitter clients have a way to filter out tweets from a specific person or with a specific word. I primarily use Tweetdeck as my Twitter client, so the examples below are from there. If your client doesn’t have a similar feature I suggest you find a client that does.
The button with the downward arrow is the column filter button in Tweetdeck. It allows you to include or exclude Tweets within a column based on criteria you supply. You can choose to filter on accounts, text, the source, or time of day.
To filter in or out content, use the plus sign or the minus sign. For filtering out Tweets with certain hashtags, you’d want to choose TEXT from the first field, then the minus sign from the second, then fill in the hashtag in the third. Let’s say for some crazy, crazy reason you didn’t want to see any Tweets about #spacetweetup:
The above is what your filter setup would look like: TEXT – spacetweetup.
From that point on, you just wouldn’t see any tweets that had that word, spelled exactly that way, in that column. If someone is on a rant (Who, me?) and you just want to temporarily stop seeing all her Tweets, you could use the Name field plus her Twitter ID to filter out her rants for a while. Once the coast is clear, you could just click on the X to remove the filter.
Of course, if you really, really need to see tweets only containing a certain phrase, you’d set up an inclusive filter and you’d see only Tweets containing that one phrase.
Our blog uses categories on posts. You can use these similarly to hashtags to find posts on a single topic or to filter out posts on topics you don’t want to read about. How you do this is dependent on your RSS feed reader. I’ll try to put together a post with one example soon.
New: Global Filter
In addition to the column filters, you can add a global filter to Tweetdeck to stop all tweets meeting certain criteria.
Here you can put words like NASATweetup, or runmeter (my running application) and you’ll never see them again in any column. You can also hide users, but I’m not sure why you’d want to do that rather than just unfollow someone. I guess perhaps if you wanted to give the appearance of following someone while not having to see their Tweets. I still recommend you just unfollow them, though.
The From Sources criterion would let you block things like Tweets from Foursquare if you feel they are useless or silly.
For my friend who complained about my non-English Tweets I told him to use the Translate feature of his Twitter client to do the heavy lifting of participating in the conversations I was having and retweeting. Unfortunately for him, he decided that this was too much work, so he still wanted me to stop my non-English Tweets. I can’t help him. But you have the magic right in front of you to be part of the global community.
Here’s a sample Tweet coming from ESA Italia and it’s in…wait for it…Italian.
I could make a decent guess at what it says, but instead, I just go to the Translate feature of Tweetdeck to see what it does say:
And what do you know, it isn’t a Tweet about fat attractive alien pasta, but a Tweet about photos taken with 3D glasses:
My anti-multi-lingual friend feels that all of Twitter should be in English or stay the heck away from his Twitter stream. And you know what? He can work on doing that by not following people who share in multiple languages, which is what he chose to do.
Saying Sayonara When None of That Works
How do I know my two friends chose not to use these features? Because they chose to tell me they thought my Tweets were not meeting their needs and they needed to let me know they were unfollowing me. The great thing about Twitter is that it isn’t a friend model, like Facebook where both parties need to agree to be BFFs in order to see each other’s posts. Twitter works on following model: you follow people and they may or may not follow back. So you can unfollow people without affecting them at all. It’s poor etiquette to announce your unfollows. If you have good friends and you want to let them know you think their inadvertent crotch pics are starting to look intentional, then by all means contact them to ask if they need a new phone case or some intervention. But announcing that you are leaving is not cool. I keep using the cocktail party analogy to explain Twitter. If you were at a gathering with several discussions going on, you wouldn’t turn to the others and say "your conversations are non-value-add. I’m going to leave this conversation and go on to another one that caters to my needs only." Well, if you would do that, then good thing you are leaving. Normally you’d either try to steer the conversation in other direction or you’d wander off to another. Only jerks would say "your conversation sucks, so I’m leaving" in front of everyone else.
So to summarize:
- Use a Twitter client. You’ll never "get" Twitter if you don’t.
- Use the hashtag and filter features to tailor the tweets you see. Adjust those filters as needed.
- Follow people when they are interesting, filter them if they are doing something right now that isn’t, and unfollow them if it turns permanently uninteresting to you.
- Don’t announce you are unfollowing. Just do it. Don’t feel guilty and don’t ask the other person to stop being complex humans.
- If you need to read only single topic information, go with mailing lists, forums, or RSS feeds from curated sources. Twitter isn’t any of those.
- Use the features of your RSS reader to filter blog posts, too.
The awesome Thomas LaRock (blog | @sqlrockstar ) has updated his Rockstar Blogger rankings and…I’m still on the list. It was about this time last year when I first made the cut. If you recall, I’m in the bottom group, TempDB:
The tempdb group has the bloggers that I want to recognize for doing good work. However, they are also the group of bloggers that could most easily fall off and never been seen again, just like a temp table. There is no line separating names in this group, because they are all equally eligible for promotion or relegation back into my general RSS feeds.
Read more: http://thomaslarock.com/rankings-faq/
I didn’t changes groups and I didn’t drop off, even though my blogging hasn’t been as strong as it was in the past. And I didn’t move up the list, even though I’ve shared all kinds of great Canadian rock star knowledge with Tom. Will dig up some Stompin’ Tom Connors and some more Nickelback for him to try to improve my score for the next ranking event. Speaking of that, maybe I should send him some Rankin tunes, too.
Anyway, one of my goals for the next few months is to do a better job of blogging and engaging the community so that I might perhaps build a buffer zone between me and the temp table that is below the TempDB group.
I recommend you read and follow the bloggers on the Rockstar list. They produce the best work out there.
If you comment on blogs, you might have noticed that your comment is missing a picture or avatar next to your comment, but other comments have them. You might see a blank next to some and a “placeholder” picture next to others, as shown in the snippet from our blog.
An avatar is a usually a cartoon/drawing/character that isn’t realistic but embodies who you are…or who you think you are. It can also be a photograph that clearly shows your face or a portion of your face. You often see these user images on forums, blogs and social networks.
I’d bet that if your avatar isn’t showing up on comments, you are wondering why your comments look so…anonymous…or plain. The reason that Rob and my avatars are there is because we are commenting through our blogging accounts, but the reason that other commenters’ pictures are there is because they registered with a third party service called Gravatar. Gravatar stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. You can create an account there, upload a picture or avatar and provide your e-mail address. Then when you leave comments on blogs that have special plugins or services to use Gravatar, your picture will show up next to your comments. It works when you provide the same e-mail address on the blog comment that you did when you registered for Gravatar. In other words, your e-mail address is the key used between the blog and the service to find your picture.
The most common blogging and forum platforms will automatically show your Gravatar when you provide the right e-mail address (which usually is not shown).
But why would you want your picture to show up on someone’s blog comments? I find that when people use a common picture or avatar across all the blogs, social networks, and web forums they build a better relationship with those communities. I know I find comments more “real” when I recognize the commenter. You could think of your avatar as part of your professional brand.
There may be situations where you don’t want your picture to show up in a comment. In that case, you could consider giving a different e-mail address when you leave your comment. It might also help if you associated your professional picture with your professional e-mail address and your personal one with your personal e-mail address.
Gravatar has also introduced expanded profiles and “hovercards” that can display even more information about you if you’d like to share more. That’s an opt-in expansion of the regular avatar feature. It’s up to you as to how much information you want to share.
I do recommend that you go set up a Gravatar account. I believe your having a global graphic identifier (okay, almost unique identifier) will help you build relationships via social networks and blogs.
A Globally Recognized Avatar
Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?
Recently Jonathan Kehayias blogged about his attempts to use a script posted to another blog and the impact the use of a common anti-plagiarism/copying technique had on his feelings about the SQL Community. In Has the SQL Community Lost It’s Focus, Jonathan writes:
Now I am all for protecting your content, but if you are going to blog code it should be reusable without an abusive message like this.
We don’t know if the original blogger intended for the code he posted to be reused or not, as he did not mention that in his post. But the anti-plagiarism/copying message seems to indicate that he considers all copying from his blog, be it one letter or the whole post to be theft. I won’t copy the message here, but it says that any copying is theft and plagiarism…in not a nice way. Copyright and plagiarism are two different concepts, although people tend to think of them together. At the highest level, plagiarism is using pre-existing material (even material you wrote yourself) without proper attribution; copyright is a right granted to creators or publishers to control how their material is used.
Knowing the blogger, I’m betting that he intends for items he shares on his blog to be used to spread good practices…anywhere. He probably doesn’t want people taking his writing and pretending it is their writing, though. Which is most likely why he has put such a harsh message in is script that “protects” his intellectual property. I do understand there has been a rash of plagiarism itching through the SQL Community lately. It makes me mad and sad that people can’t be bothered to do their own work. I have paid consequences for standing up to plagiarizers and I don’t regret that for a minute. Personally, I think the words “Take Down Notice” ought to refer the person who plagiarized, not the website where it was done. This post, though, isn’t about the blogger; it’s about the anti-plagiarism practice that Jonathan blogged about.
I’ve had the same reaction as Jonathan had when I attempted to excerpt a snippet from another blogger’s content.
Fair Use/Fair Dealing
I am confident that my use of third party content is well within the bounds of fair use / fair dealing. I’m not a lawyer, but I do spend time on legal committees and have learned a bit about IP law and Copyright law, in hopes that I can be seen as a contributor to the communities I write about.
Even though fair use means that NO permissions are required prior to making use of the the material, when I see these "stealing" words in the content I want to write about, I almost always cancel the blog post. If the original writer actually feels that ANY use of their material is stealing, I want to respect that. Again, that’s not part of copyright law; it is trying to respect what the original writer feels about others quoting from and writing about their blogs.
Yes, I am well aware that other bloggers outright take an entire blog post and repost as their own work. That’s not what I’m talking about here. What I’m hoping bloggers will do is ensure that their anti-copy scripts/tools/doodads give notification that they will enforce their copyrights for uses that exceed copyright or plagiarism rules so that those of us who are concerned about both legal and community rules (etiquette) can write about each others’ posts.
If your doodad automatically accuses everyone of theft and plagiarism you could be calling your best marketers those names. Is that what you really want? Do you really want the social side of the community to stop talking about your blog posts in a meaningful way?
I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to find an outstanding blog post, get started writing about what a great point is makes, only to have to abandon it because the author thinks that any use is theft. Please take a moment to review what messages you may have posted to your site or these fancy scripts and see if they send the message you really want to say to the 99% of the people who do play nice with your content.
24 Sept 2012: updated to add more related articles shared with me today. I also fixed a formatting issue with the headings.
I’m working on a presentation…actually adding to a current one… about how effective use of social networking can help you in your career or life in general. In fairness, I’m also looking for any downsides to those things, too.
By social networking I mean Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, blogging, bulletin boards, web forums, mailing lists or other online networking / communications areas.
If you would like to share (anonymously or not) a brief story you can leave it in the comments or e-mail them to me at email@example.com .
Please let me know if you’d prefer your story to be anonymous.
If you have gained anything / lost something from social networking, I want to hear about it.
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