Archive for the 'Communication' Category

I’ve got a usage peeve to share.

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

It’s the twee use of “I’ve” when the contracted “have” isn’t helping another verb.


  • “I have an idea about that.”
  • “I’ve known her for twenty years.”
  • “I’ve done all the laundry.”
  • “I’ve got to head to the airport now.”


  • “I’ve an idea about that.”
  • “I’ve a usage peeve to share.”
  • “I’ve three guitars.”
  • “I’ve an affected take on English diction.”

It applies just as much to “we’ve,” by the way.

Now, go and sin no more.

The Day of the E-mail Demon Legion.

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
They dropped their swords and ran.
Because that’s how scary I am.

I was going to write something about how this legion of demon e-mails almost caught me unawares, nearly overwhelming my inbox in a way that could have tipped the scales away from civilization as we know it and toward bloody chaos.

But then I thought: b-o-r-r-r-r-r-i-n-g. And besides — I’ve written that post. (Moral of the story = cut your inbox load down to size.)

Anyway: Demon legion. Me, all by my lonesome, standing in an empty field. Beat them back with nothing but a spear and a proper attitude.

So that was my day. How about you?


(Photo by Shane Huang, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

Obvious, yet still crazy, thoughts on modern communications.

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I was just passing notes on Facebook with a high-school friend . . . who now lives in Beijing.

We were talking about the ready availability of pizza there. When I lived in Beijing in the summer of 1988, one of the complaints of the American high-school and college students living in my dorm was the lack of pizza anywhere in the city. I have fond memories of hitting a Pizza Hut with two of my traveling companions the night our group got in to Hong Kong.

(Foodies in the audience will be relieved to know that, even at 16, I recognized that pizza — a fortiori pizza from Pizza Hut — was not the food that made Hong Kong famous. Yes, I sampled the local delicacies while I was there.)

So here’s the thing: I’ve been on e-mail steadily since 1994, when I lived in Scotland and used it to talk with friends in the States. But even then — and much more so during my 1988 tour abroad — I was heavily reliant on airmail for my telecommunication.

My mother sent me a series of letters, maybe two per week, while I was in Beijing, and she numbered them so I could see if there were any gaps. Two of them never arrived. I also talked with my parents on the phone a few times while I was in China — a long process that involved dialing a special number for an English-language operator, giving that operator the number to be dialed in the United States, hanging up, and then waiting an indeterminate amount of time (could be two minutes, could be 45 minutes) until the operator called back to complete the call.

The contrast with today will be obvious. I chit-chat with my mom, my dad, my sister, and a host of friends all the time via e-mail, Facebook, blog comments, cell calls, text messages, and Twitter.

You remember that post where I exposed myself? In the wake of that, I’ve become Twitter pals with Mish Gay, who started the “Exposed” project. We talk (read: “trade a few quick tweets”) a time or two per week. She lives in Fremantle, Australia, but I talk to her as much as I do to some of my Austin Twitter pals — and I see her as much (i.e., never) as some of my Austin Twitter pals.

The moral of this story is nothing fancy: it’s easier than ever before for us to communicate with one another. But you knew that.

The real question, I think, is this: what are we doing with it?


(Photo by Cedric Sam, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

Against “frak.”

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Also “fark,” “frakking,” “farking,” “farging,” et cetera.

The characters on Battlestar Galactica — whence “frak” comes — may be forgiven: they have television censors to deal with. But the rest of us? No.

By the way, I once heard a friend of mine say “What the flip?!” about something. Not that either, please.

My point: we have lots of great epithets in the English language. For that matter, nothing prevents you from shouting “Merde!” when the time is right, with bonus points if you sound like a Parisian cabbie doing it. You can pick and choose what you want to say, and — in my humble opinion — it’s far better to use the swear you actually mean, rather than an Olestra / Splenda / Mockolate version of a swear you’re too timid to actually say.

So, instead of “Thing X is a farking pain to do” — which I read today in a blog comment thread — try one of these:

  • Mild: “Thing X is a complete pain to do.”
  • Less mild: “Thing X is a complete pain in the ass to do.”
  • Warmer: “Thing X is a damn pain in the ass to do.”
  • Warmer still but censored: “Thing X is a $%^& pain to do.” (I mean if you actually type “$%^&” as opposed to, say, “gosh-darn.”)
  • Hot: Just go ahead and drop the F-bomb. That’s what it’s for.

Who’s with me on this?

(Image source.)

Digging out of the rubble of an overloaded inbox.

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that there were more than 1,600 e-mails lurking in my Gmail inbox — most of them unread.

After using many kinds of arcane Inbox-Fu, there are now . . . 11 messages.

Since I’ve taken vicious whacks at my work e-mail, too, there are now less than 80 messages total in all of my inboxes. This is a psychological relief, but it’s also a pragmatic advantage since I’ve more or less stopped using project folders in e-mail. The messages that remain represent most of the live obligations I have underway.

Now to cut that pile down even smaller . . .

(Photo by Rob Brewer, used under a CC-Share Alike license.)

A wee note about Twitter.

Monday, September 14th, 2009

It’s not you — it’s me.

If (a) you’re following me on Twitter, (b) I’m not following you back, and (c) you care, here are a few relevant notes:

  1. I follow back relatively few people — less than half — who follow me. Yes, I’m missing out on many stimulating conversations, possibly including yours, but it’s a defense mechanism I’ve adopted to help manage my limited attention.
  2. Notwithstanding the prior point, I’m happy to talk to you, whether we follow each other or not, whenever you get my attention with a tweet to @Twalk.
  3. Even with my approach of limited follow-backs, I’ve fallen way, way behind on reviewing the new-follower notifications that Twitter e-mails to me.
  4. If these were personal e-mails, I’d never declare “bankruptcy” on them. But since they’re automated notices — in many cases informing me that I was followed by a Twitter spammer — I’m wiping the slate clean rather than trying to dig through a pile of several hundred notifications.
  5. If you want me to follow you, the simple expedient is to strike up conversation with me via Twitter.

Thanks for your patience with my sometimes haphazard methods.


(Photo by davis.jacque, used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license.)

Failure to grasp the concept, Rorschach edition.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Bear with a kneejerk reaction here, because I haven’t read the connected story, but this item from the New York Times home page gives me pause:


No, psychologists, it’s not an issue of whether Rorschach inkblots will be available online — but how you’ll operate when they’re online.

To repeat a simple concept: Not whether, but when.

The mighty wind of the Internet is a great leveling force, for both good and ill. But in too many cases, defenders of the status quo (lookin’ at you, RIAA) pretend that they can make that force go away, rather than dealing with it.

So far, the Internet is winning.

An easy way to help a job-hunting friend via Twitter.

Monday, June 8th, 2009

(If you don’t use Twitter, this post won’t apply to you. No worries — I’ll be talking about something else soon enough.)

Step 1: Read this post by my friend Chris Bailey about the importance of “weak ties” in a job hunt. Moral of the story: if you were looking for a job, you’d be likelier to get good leads from people who knew you a little less well; therefore, your “weak ties” via Twitter might be particularly helpful to your friend who’s looking for a job.

Step 2: Go to TweepSearch, where you will be confronted with a search bar. (Apologies for the small images; click any of them for bigger versions.)


Step 3: Enter your Twitter handle (with its @ symbol) — which will limit your search to people you follow or who are following you — and then you enter some significant search term, like the city you and your job-hunting friend both live in. Thus:


You’ll end up with a list like this:


Step 4: If the results are too broad, you add another descriptor, thus:


You now have a delimited list of people you know (or “know”) via Twitter who might be relevant to your friend’s job search.

Step 5: Shorten the TweepSearch URL using a shortening service. (I’m partial to Is.Gd.)

Step 6: Send the link to your friend via Twitter direct message, with an explanation for why the people on the list might be relevant to his or her job search. Your friend can then look through the list and follow people as desired.

Step 7: As appropriate, make introductions for your friend as you would by e-mail.

Et voila!

What are your best tips for using social media to enable job searches?




Heeding my own (Twittered) advice.

Monday, September 1st, 2008

In the course of my Twitter blatherations, I try to offer reminders to myself — and to any of my followers who happens to be tuned in — about how we can live and work better. Here are some samples from the past few days:

  • Today could be as good a day as any to do the best work you’ve ever done. Just an observation.
  • Cognitive dissonance is good for you. It shows you that something needs revision.
  • Statements of the blindingly obvious: It’s amazing what you can do when you just stick with one task until it’s done.
  • This whole “stress” thing I’ve been doing lately? Pointless & potentially lethal. I should heed my own advice:
  • Now is the time when I take thing off the To-do list and move them to either the Done list or the Not In This Lifetime list.
  • And for my next trick, I will be removing stressors from my life one by one.
  • I’m sucking wind in some areas of life. It doesn’t work to bear down harder – you have to think things through & get real about obligations.
  • Trying to do things the thoughtful way. It’s hard.
  • The quickest way to get through an unworthy project is to abandon it without remorse.
  • An important piece of productivity wisdom I heed too seldom: “Slow the F__K down.”
  • It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that I’m going to have to do much more of my work offline, or off the computer altogether.
  • How would your life be different if you got yourself to stop worrying?

I find that 140 characters can be plenty for getting across a slice of wisdom.

What short-form insights would you suggest?


Rapid-fire 2: Correspondence.

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

No big deal, but if you’re one of my regular correspondents — or, heck, if you merely aspire to such an exalted status — please expect slower, shorter, and less obsessive message-answering from me. In other words, please expect me to be a sometimes-bad correspondent going forward.

Why? Mainly so I can devote more time to my New Year’s resolution to “Eliminate unfinished business in my life.” I don’t expect to be quite as bad about correspondence as Neal Stephenson, but I do intend to pursue some “good procrastination” on things like correspondence so that I won’t do bad procrastination with my Ph.D. work, my book-writing, et cetera.

Have no fear — if you send me something that needs a response, you’ll get one. But it may take a little while. Otherwise, please expect loads of radio silence in place of my usual chatter.

Oh, and expect me to display a light heart as I get my Big Work done.


(Picture by L. Marie.)