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.
A couple of months ago I talked about Project Parabola – It’s Reorg Season. The project is basically concluded, and not surprisingly, resulted in a small number of layoffs. In a really sad situation an employee walked over to my cube and asked if I had a plastic bag or a box—at first I thought he was joking, but then quickly realized he wasn’t joking. I have to say: watching this was really painful, and frankly, his manager should had a box ready for all of his stuff. That was particularly crappy.
As part of Project Parabola, a small number of employees were let go—they got a basic severance package of a week of salary for each year they worked for the company, along with their vacation pay. Additionally, they get the use of an outplacement service, (I’ll talk more about this later). So how can you prepare for a layoff?
- Always be looking—never stop looking for jobs. Your company doesn’t care about you (seriously no box?) so why should you be loyal to them? I’m not implying you should job hop—but talk to
human traffickersrecruiters (I love the good ones, I really do), and see what’s going on. By all means, if you see something that looks interesting to you, wrangle your way into an interview for it.
- Keep your resume/CVs up to date and tailor them to the specific job description you are applying for. Notice that I have used plural forms there? Yes, it’s fine to have resumes tailored to specific types of jobs. In fact, it’s a good thing.
- Network with others NOW, not when you need a job. By networking, I don’t mean handing out business cards. I mean building relationships with people. You don’t have be BFFs, but you do need to know people well enough to ask them for a favour, later.
- Join user groups and participate in them. Attend some meetings. Most user group meetings are free. Take advantage of that. My mantra is NetworkToGetWork. Remember that.
- Participate in social media, even if you can do it only on a limited basis. Your reach is so much larger there. Still do local, in-person networking, but don’t ignore the virtual opportunities.
- Update LinkedIn—make sure your skills and profile are up to date. Don’t wait to do this when you need it. Do it now. In fact, in my presentations on Career Management for Data Professionals, I tell people to set a reminder to update their profile monthly. Not only does this keep your profile up to date, it notifies people in your network that something has changed. That gets your name in front of them on a regular basis. Regular updates also have the benefit of not signalling your boss that you might be looking for a job.
- Help people now, not when you need help. In addition to building a network you should have a reputation of helping others. I don’t mean just offering to help, but spending time to give others advice, write a helpful blog post, answer an email or to give someone a ride to a SQL Saturday or DAMA event. Note: I may have had assistance in writing this post. Thank you, anonymous helper. If you ever need a job, you are on my list of people to help.
- Read up on negotiation methods. Don’t wait until you need those skills. Get them now. Practice them. You’ll need them even during a layoff. In fact, you should know what to do when you get a lay off notice a head of time. Your rights and obligations vary by jurisdiction, but generally you don’t have to sign or agree to anything right then and there, even if they tell you that you do.
- Have two month’s salary in savings—severance and unemployment will help, but having a nice cushion is very good. I know this one is really difficult. But having a cushion allows you and your family to choose better options.
One other thing to remember—you are going to lose all computer access. This means your files and contacts will be gone. Make sure you keep copies of your contacts and any scripts or tools that you would like to retain, at least the ones you are allowed to take with you. Be sure you keep your personal files and contacts separate from your corporates ones.
The Good News
Depending on what your data source is the unemployment rate for database professionals is between 1-3%. The US Government defines full employment at 3%, so that means it won’t take you very long to find a new job. The one thing I recommend highly is leveraging the outplacement services you’ll get as part of your severance package. Those folks are professionals and can help you write a really good resume. Aside from that some other things you should do are:
- Leverage your network. Let folks in your user group and personal network know that you are looking for a new gig (I’m assuming you are in a user group if you are reading this—if you aren’t, you should be). The best jobs frequently never make it to a formal posting. This is where all that user grouping, social media
workfun, blogging, and generally being a great resource to others is going to pay off, in a big way.
- Update LinkedIn. Yes, I said above to do this regularly. You still need to do that. But right now you need to let that network know you are looking for a job. Do not under any circumstances change your title to Unemployed or something weak like that. Change your title to the type of job you are looking for (and are qualified for). This is the time to leverage your networks, so your networking profiles need to reflect the fact that you are looking for a new project.
- Take the downtime to rest, exercise and learn new skills. Is there a new database feature you’ve been wanting to play with, but couldn’t implement at your old job? Now is the time to learn it.
More Advice on Job Hunting and Layoffs
I’ve blogged about this topic before; you might find these posts helpful, too:
Do you have a blog post with career advice? If you leave a comment here on my blog, you can choose that post to share it, too. Share the love.
My Lessons on Layoffs
I’ve been around a while (I’m not old; I’m experienced), and I know a lot of this stuff, but “Do you have a bag” was still a surprise to me. There weren’t many rumours of layoffs out of Parabola, so even though the total number was small, it was more eye opening. The number one thing I learned yesterday though, was to bring a bag, a plastic trash bag, and keep it in my desk, because MassiveMegaGlobalMegaCorpTM probably doesn’t care enough about you to give you a box to put your belongings in.
Because everyone needs more moustache in their lives, right?
I can’t wait to visit with Commander Hadfield via the International Space Station this Thursday at the Canadian Space Agency Day in the Life of Chris Hadfield CSATweetup. There’s even a phone call with William Shatner. We’ll also hear from CSA scientists and investigators and Astronaut Jeremy Hansen (@astro_jeremy)
There may be photos and tweets. Set your filters to stun.
I was invited to attend a NASA Budget Briefing as part of a recent NASATweetup held at NASA Headquarters on 13 February 2012. I’ve been to other NASA Tweetups, but this was a new type of event for both attendees and NASA. First, the topic was more administrative than any others. No fire or sound waves. No Florida hair. Heck, one of the people I hadn’t seen for a while said "You look different". My response: "You’ve never seen me in work clothes".
The first two NASATweetups I attended were launches (STS-134 and Juno). Both of these had 150 attendees with a two-day program of speakers and presentations, then a launch. This meeting was part of an existing event, a media briefing about the 2013 Fiscal Year Budget. Yes, this was PowerPoint and spreadsheets, for the most part. However, the content of those presentation materials was going to show us which programs were moving forward and which ones were going to have to change or be dropped completely. Being a data professional, this was my type of event. I wanted the data and the budget wasn’t going to be released until one hour before the event. That’s a fast read of a set of slides and some large documents. I went for the slides.
The second thing that was different: this tweetup was much smaller. The original registration limited attendees to 20 and I think we had just under that. The most important difference was that we were going to be part of the media, able to ask questions along with the traditional media. This is a first for NASATweetups and I’m not sure how many other US Federal media briefings have involved a mix of traditional and social media. I was excited that I could be part of this new approach to media, especially because it brought together two of my passions: space and social media. More on that mixing later.
The first thing that was different from other NASATweeups: We received no badges or swag bags…because traditional media don’t get those, either. If I do one of these again, I’ll bring my own badge or credentials.
In the opening statements, Bob Jacobs announced this new era and took our photo, which was posted to Twitter.
You can see him pause to take the photo in the video below. I think that was our second sign that this press briefing was going to be different.
This year, we are trying something a little different. As well as traditional media representatives, for the first time we have invited members of the social media community to be a part of today’s presentation, and we will be taking questions via Twitter using the #AskNASA. So we thank everyone for joining us for today’s presentation.
We will go over some of the ground rules first, but well, wait a second. I want to make sure I capture this. If we are going to be social media, I need to do it from here too.
MR. JACOBS: Okay. Got a Photo.
I’ve listed some links in the related section below of the analyses of the impact of the new budget, but the ones that were of note to me:
- STEM education and outreach was cut from $138 million dollars in 2012 to $100 million. That’s a significant cutback to this program, but only a tiny portion of a tiny portion of the overall US Federal budget. This is going to make it more difficult to find and retain qualified people in the future. I’m also guessing that other organizations are having their STEM budgets cut as well.
- ExoMars program will need to be re-programmed, meaning that we will not be collaborating with the European agencies for these Mars exploration programs . This has left ESA scrambling to find other countries to help with these programs, most likely Roscosmos.
DataChick’s Question on Open Government and Open Data
I was fortunate to be called upon to ask a question:
Let’s take one more question over here, and then we will take a couple from Twitter, and then we will go to the field centers.
QUESTIONER (Karen Lopez): Hi. I am Karen Lopez. I am Datachick on Twitter.
One of the ways that the public, the rest of us, can benefit from all these NASA missions is via access to open government transparency and open data initiatives, like at data.NASA.gov. Have budget pressures made any changes to those programs? Will they continue to expand?
ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: Do you want to take that?
DR. ROBINSON: Okay. So NASA couple things. One is you know the administration has a very vigorous Open Government Initiative, and NASA is a participant in that. And it recently went international, and we have an international event coming up in April April, thank you April, where we will be gathering together folks from around the world, virtually, of course, to work on things. So we have very vigorous programs.
And a large part of what we do in Open Government is, as you said, we leverage off of things that the programs do already, make their data available, make it accessible, Open Government a little bit more just to point them in the right direction. So it’s really Open Government is really a philosophy at NASA that we try to put as much as we can out into the public in the most understandable way possible, and so we are doing that.
The Open Government Initiative has taken us in a few different directions, and we will continue that. We plan to keep going forward, but it is always when you talk about Open Government, it is really it is hard to predict, because we are going to do so much, right? We are going to have so much data coming in and all of that. NASA is a very exciting place to work, because now we have apps on our iPhones from NASA and a whole bunch of things, so we are already out there in terms of Open Government
QUESTIONER (Karen Lopez): [Speaking off mic.]
[Here I followed up with "So no immediate changes?" ]
DR. ROBINSON: Well, not in the near future. We’re going to assess I am looking at my partner here. I am the senior accountable official for Open Government, and then our CIO over there
ADMINISTRATOR BOLDEN: We are both looking at the CIO.
DR. ROBINSON: Yeah, we are both looking at the CIO, and it is her folks mainly who do it. And so I think we are really going to assess up to this international event, how to keep those kind of things going or not.
And with that question I was able to add my third passion: Data. As in, Love Your Data. The terms data or information was mentioned 21 times during the briefing, twice in NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s opening remarks.
This budget supports more than 80 science missions, 56 currently in operation and 28 now under development, that cover the vital data we need to understand our own planet, diverse missions reaching farther into our solar system, and the next generation of observatories peering beyond the reaches of our neighborhood to other galaxies and their solar systems and undiscovered phenomena
The missions currently at Mars the Mars Science Laboratory, on its way, and MAVEN, well into development will provide many years of data to help us understand the Red Planet and our needs in future years to meet the President’s challenge to send humans to Mars in the mid 2030s.
No, we weren’t. In some of the descriptions of the event, including the announcement of the Tweetup, we were described as "Twitter Fans" of NASA. One of the issues I can see with trying to mix fans and journalism is that…they shouldn’t mix. Sure, it’s not unheard of for a journalist to be excited about interviewing someone, but in theory they aren’t supposed to be fans. I don’t think my role there was as a citizen journalist. However, I think we Tweetup attendees did a good job not gushing all over Bolden and Robinson in our questions. In fact, I was impressed by the lack of fanboi attitude in any of our questions.
You can really tell the difference when you see this still taken from This Week at NASA coverage:
Three laptops, all running Tweetdeck in that photo. That’s me tweeting in the upper center of the frame. Most of the traditional media attendees brought digital recorders and paper. So while they were taking notes, we were sharing live. That’s not necessarily better. It’s different. Mixing social media and traditional media can work. They don’t have to compete.
Some of the traditional media people from major media organizations even retweeted my question and told me afterwards that our questions were good. I think that means the new era of mixing traditional and social media may continue. I look forward to future NASATweetups for these types of events.
In talking to people after the event I think this experiment was a success. The Tweetup crowd came up with some great questions, as did the Twitterverse via the #AskNASA hashtag. I am happy that I was selected to be part of this new era of social media, NASA…and Data.
NASATweetup Video from C-SPAN
The entire event was just over an hour. You can watch the whole thing via this C-SPAN feed.
Or if you prefer the shorter briefing of the briefing, you can watch the one minute version on TW@N at the very beginning of this video.
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.
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