Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Reading more, writing more

People around me say I’m well read, or consume a lot of reading materials. That may be true, but lately I feel like I’m in a bit of a constant cycle of going through my subscriptions, and reading shorter form stuff, with a lot more context switching than I expected.

So it was kind of a great surprise that I managed to sit thru and polish off one book on my Kindle in the last day: What Men Say, What Women Hear: Briding the Communication Gap One Conversation At A Time by Linda Papadopoulos. In hindsight, all I can say is I wish I read this book much earlier. I highly recommend it, and maybe will export my notes later, but this quick 240 page read released in 2011 is what I consider “life changing reading”. You really can bridge the he-says/she-says gap.

But back to my point of reading more. It’s probably worth consuming, and then also having some output. Which is why I aim to blog more (I mean I have thousands of notes in Evernote; but that isn’t shared, is it? Current count: 21,457).

Last year started off like this, but I lost momentum as the year progressed; in the first week, I finished reading Choose Yourself by James Altucher. It’s kind of a good book to read once, around the time of the New Year’s, I would reckon.

I don’t know if my thoughts or commentary are worthwhile on issues that I don’t directly involve myself in, but if I’m going to read and even have a one liner comment, I’m thinking it makes sense to blog it. Sure it can also be federated to Twitter. Importantly though is I have my searchable archive on the Web. And I think this is what the crux of blogging is all about – I don’t only have to produce signal all the time, sometimes noise can be good too. (after all, isn’t that the premise of social media? We create a lot of noise, and it seems to work too.)

A blog I once thought was extremely popular in its space, I finally came to realise has quite a pathetic readership on a per article basis. Maybe this is because while RSS isn’t dead, you can’t help people trying to not extend its use (Google Reader’s demise was really an issue).

Anyway, back to my thoughts on consumption. Consumption has to be coupled with some kind of action, beyond it being all in my head. I’m using this process to expose my brain, and clear it up for other more important things.

I also think that there’s plenty of insights one can gain from reading all those news subscriptions I have. One more thing: trying to get reading more stuff, faster. No point going below Instapaper 500, only to see it bloom to 780 again. I’m going to make it more manageable again.

Time is something you can’t get back again which is why I liberally zap thru podcasts these days. I prefer audiobooks.

So while I don’t think I can read 52 books this year, I should feel good if I finish 20 books this year? And remain on top of all my subscriptions: NYT, WSJ, FT, The Economist, Nikkei Asian Review, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Atlantic Monthly (thanks to a friend’s kind gift!), and Monocle. The rule of going thru the item the moment you get it, is very important. I also have a habit of picking up Bloomberg Businessweek in airport lounges; a great resource, but if I’m to stick to my plan of seeing the airports less, I may eventually think of getting a subscription to that (or at least ensuring the Club’s library has a copy). I occasionally also enjoy Harvard Business Review (at the Club and online). Needing to “re-integrate” to Malaysia again, I think I might have to start consuming The Edge daily/weekly, because that’s probably the only sensible newspaper that exists in the country.

So, let’s see how much I can read, how much I can write, and how all this consumption (and output) helps me get great stuff done on a daily basis (connecting the dots, strategy, outreach, ideation, etc.)

P/S: a timely tweet that seems to be going around:

Writing on my iOS devices

The last couple of blog posts have been written on my iPhone. Before that (and this) was composed on my iPad.

Sure, adding links seems to be quite difficult. Alt/Mac+Tab is generally quite handy when it comes to sitting by my laptop.

The new workflow feels very much like writing on Facebook. I just write. Let the words flow. It doesn’t matter where I am, I take it all like it’s being a status update. And then when I hit publish, I come back to it later on my laptop (the reality is that I sync it with MarsEdit and edit on the desktop client) to add relevant links.

This kind of method probably works well when I’m not doing a technical blog post, but something that resembles a status update or a story.

I still have to work out how to automatically post the posts to Twitter, and if possible post to Facebook as a status update (I recall that we could sync Notes back in the day, but that feature was removed). I’m thinking either the body makes it, or the first 2 paragraphs or I make use of excerpts wisely.

It’s not that writing on a laptop is a bad idea. It’s just that when I’m on my laptop, I’m usually online and have other work to do: emails, terminal, etc. I’ve used my iOS devices mainly for consumption of content (WSJ, NYT, FT, New Yorker, The Economist, Instapaper, Kindle, NewsBlur) — but with a lot of dead time, it’s not a bad device to also be a device to create, to some extent.

The WordPress apps are pretty good. They don’t handle images well, i.e. They don’t resize them to be sensible for web. Plus I very much like my images to also be on Flickr (I can live without that though). But posting 3MB photos in the main body just seems silly.

I’m sure I can eventually improve this workflow by posting items as a draft first, so they don’t reach the public till the links are added. It’s all an experiment, but I’m already liking the new additional ways to push content to this site.

Evolution of expression – have blogs really changed?

Apple PensLinkedIn allows blogs (a publishing presence – read LinkedIn Builds its Publishing Presence). Medium is a place to read and write things that matter (a curated blog). Svbtle is a new kind of magazine. There are networks like Read & Trust, that eventually make magazines out of content.

WordPress requires setting up. It means you’re serious about writing something. WordPress.com is hosted and eventually you pay for it. Tumblr just got a billion dollar exit, for what? Allowing you to easily express yourself.

Have blogs really evolved or have people just found different mediums to get published? All mediums come with different levels of control. Discovery is crucial. Will end users ever get RSS or do dashboards need to be built?

Are future generations going to forget to write?

StackAs someone that spends a lot of time in front of a keyboard, many get a kick out of the fact that I always have a notebook with me (usually a moleskine or field notes of some sort) and a battered up montblanc pen.

I did learn to write cursive back when I was in junior school, but it never lasted and my scrawl basically took over and this is what I write with till today. Yet I write a whole smattering of things from TODO lists to meeting notes. Yes, I am one of those people who go into a meeting room not to tap on a keyboard or touch a tablet’s virtual keyboard – I usually write long form notes recording all sorts of information, which I then review later. I’m no Richard Branson, but you can be assured I always have a notebook & pen handy. (additional reading: Pocket Notebook of 20 Famous Men, What’s in Richard Branson’s notebook?)

Today’s FT Weekend had a column by Gillian Tett: Handwriting: a joined-up case (read it!). The takeaway quote from that: “It is keyboards that really matter now in the global economy, not penmanship”. It seems teachers are suggesting that its better to learn keyboard-skills over writing. 

There’s much wrong with this. For one, default keyboards are QWERTY which exist to slow you down (compared to DVORAK layouts) during the times of typewriters. Yes, that’s how old keyboards are – they’ve not changed since the days of the typewriter.

Writing is a life skill. You don’t always have a keyboard/touch keyboard all the time.

I however do feel that we’re in yet another midst of a digital native vs digital immigrant. I myself might be a digital immigrant compared to kids of today. Generations are made every 10 years (at minimum in this fast paced tech world), in my opinion (though Wikipedia suggests its a minimum of 20 years). Will we see the future forget to write? How much will be lost to digital rot (remember 5 1/4 disks? 3 1/2 floppies? Older hard disks, etc.)?


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