“10 books that have stayed with you”

A couple of people have tagged me in the “10 books that have stayed with you” challenge that has been floating around on Facebook. The challenge is to list 10 books that resonated with you somehow; not necessarily the “best” or anything, just books that have stayed with you.

I replied to the first person who issued me this challenge that I wasn’t sure I could do it — while I’ve certainly read plenty of books, the influential things in my life have tended to be movies or television shows. I was a voracious reader as a kid, but am on something akin to a novel-every-two-plus-years pace these days (in that I start a novel, read a chapter every few weeks, and finish it two and a half years later). So I genuinely wasn’t sure I could do this. 

But tonight Melissa tagged me in her list too, and when your wife throws down the gauntlet you’ve gotta pick it up. So here’s my crack at this. In no particular order (with Amazon links):

• “Dune” by Frank Herbert
• “Armor” by John Steakley
• “Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000” by L. Ron Hubbard
• “Red Storm Rising” by Tom Clancy
• “Imagica” by Clive Barker
• “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeir Hansson
• “It Will Be Exhilarating” by Dan Provost, Tom Gerhardt and Clay Shirky
• “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
• “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams
• “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury

What I’m Playing
I picked up Velocity 2X yesterday; it’s this month’s free PS4 game on Playstation Network. I played for about an hour last night and got through maybe 11 of the game’s 50 levels. It’s not a challenging game by any means, and the intent is that you replay levels repeatedly in an attempt to pick up every item in a particular level in the fastest possible time — thus velocity. It’s clever in that it is a mashup of side-scrolling platformer and top-down shooter, to the extent that both genres are available in a single level in many circumstances (you start as top-down shooter, “dock” in a certain area of the level so you can find a switch that you need to open a gated area, and once inside the dock you change over to side-scroller so you can run to the switch). It’s clever. But the game’s challenge comes not from being able to finish a level (during my time playing, the levels were so easy that not completing one didn’t even feel like an option — granted, I am only about 20 percent of the way through the game), but to finish the level perfectly (by snagging all of the level’s collectables and reaching a certain score threshold) while at the same time finishing ahead of a time limit. However, once you’ve beaten a level there isn’t much motivation to replay it to beat the time limit unless you want the achievements; the “XP” you get as currency for reaching certain performance thresholds in each level is used to un-gate future levels, so it may well be that by the time those gates take hold, you’ll have to farm previously-completed levels to get enough XP to unlock new stages. Which, honestly, might just make me quit playing. 

It’s fun. I’m glad it was free. I’m not sure I’ll ever beat all 50 levels, though. 

Fun stuff from social media today
• Bungie put out a rather awesome live-action trailer for Destiny; check it out here. Bring on Tuesday…
• Ikea put out a brilliant ad for its 2015 catalog, “bookbook”. Watch it on YouTube

20140507-BartlettMetrics for May

I have updated my monthly measurement of social media follower data on the Big Two channels of Facebook and Twitter for the institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Audiences for the seven state universities were measured on the morning of Monday, May 5; the two-year colleges were measured around noon the same day. The methodology is simple; the channels are all visited and whatever follower number is being represented by the service is entered into a Google Docs spreadsheet by hand. The spreadsheets are available publicly; you can visit them here:

• state universities
• state colleges

MnSCU State Universities

There isn’t much to report this month; there were no real standout changes in any category for any of the seven schools, and for the most part everyone’s growth was slightly down from April.

  • Bemidji State went over 15,000 total followers with 11,877 on Facebook [0] and 3,449 on Twitter [0]; we picked up 413 total fans since the April measurement and our total audience is still more than 300 percent of our enrollment.
  • St. Cloud State is about two months away from being the first of the MnSCU state universities to go over 30,000 in combined fans and followers. Their Facebook growth was up [0] to 22,392, and Twitter’s up to 6,892 [0]. They’re on pace to hit 30k sometime in the second half of June.

As an aside, St. Cloud State’s audience is one of the reason I’m considering adding a column that shows changes by percentage rather than a raw number. For example, their growth of 370 is a 1.68-percent bump from last month, while our growth of 309 is a 2.67-percent bump. It still means we’ll never catch them, but some additional context for data is always helpful.

  • Minnesota State had probably the only really significant milestone for this measurement period, edging over 20,000 total fans and followers for the first time. They’re the second MnSCU university to get there; St. Cloud State got there sometime between Dec. 17, 2012, and Feb. 13, 2013 (I didn’t do a measurement in Jan. 2013). They went over 15k on Facebook and should be at 5k on Twitter when I do my next measurement in June. They continue to grow at a pretty impressive rate; they gained 641 total fans and followers since the April measurement, a 3.27-percent bump (another reason I’m considering percentage changes).

Across the other universities, Winona State picked up another 313 total and is at 12,890; MSU-Moorhead went over 3,000 on Twitter for the first time; Southwest Minnesota State edged over 4,000 on Facebook for the first time; and Metro State continues to add a dozen Twitter followers a month despite not tweeting for four years (which reinforces the notion that, while these numbers may be fun and somewhat interesting, in the grand scheme of things they don’t mean a whole hell of a lot).

MnSCU State Colleges

This was the fourth month that I measured audience size for MnSCU’s state colleges in addition to the state universities. The data is new and the audiences are comparatively much smaller than the state universities[0], so there’s not much to say regarding trends – particularly since I’m still discovering new data points that haven’t found their way into the previous measurement periods.

One thing that jumped out was Anoka Technical College on Facebook; I had them at 454 fans in my April 2 measurement period, which was exactly even with what I had them at on March 3. However, this week they were up to 948. I’m curious to know what they have been doing; 109-percent growth in a month is pretty crazy, and the gain of 494 was higher than any of the state universities (even St. Cloud).

Minneapolis Community and Technical College added 120 Facebook fans; they’ve been growing quickly there[0] and have overtaken Lake Superior College for the largest audience among the two-year colleges at 6,329[0].

Finally, Itasca Community College joined Twitter last month and already has 116 fans. Welcome to hell, y’all.

#BartlettMetrics for November

MnSCU social media follower data

For the last few months, I’ve been sharing some notes about social media following totals for the seven state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system on Twitter.

I started compiling the information for use at work, just as an easy way to compare us to the other six schools, on a “when I remember to do it” basis back in mid-2011. This fall, I started updating it at the beginning of each month so I could include the data in some monthly metrics reports I give at our Office of Communications and Marketing staff meetings. After seeing that the information was going to be updated regularly, I decided to make the Google Docs spreadsheet where I’d been stashing the data publicly available and to give shout-outs on Twitter to the other schools when they passed some noteworthy follower milestone.

Yes, I know that the raw number of followers isn’t a particularly good — or even useful — way to measure an organization’s social media presence. There are some useful insights to be found in the data, however, especially if you’re looking for patterns or trends and not necessarily at the raw number of followers.

#BartlettMetrics

The #BartlettMetrics hashtag was born in October during a direct-message exchange with the social media manager at St. Cloud State. Make no mistake – it. is. awesome. Especially given my background in sports information, I love this and am rolling with it.

This month, I decided to expand a bit on the few tweets I sent out this morning and play with the data in a bit more detail.

#BartlettMetrics update for December, 2013

Looking at the spreadsheet that was updated this morning and the first thing that became immediately obvious to me was “growth is in the tank across the board.”

We only picked up 80 new Facebook fans since the last measurement, and both Crowdbooster (+102) and Sprout Social (+126, net +110 with 16 un-likes) reported us as having far lower-than-usual new fan counts for the month of November.1 As a point of comparison, both were our lowest in the last 12 months (since Nov. 2012, in fact).

New Twitter follows were down also; after six consecutive months of adding more than 200 per month, we were down to 143 in November (Crowdbooster reported a gain of 81 followers in November, and Sprout Social reported a gain of 129.2)

Others were off as well; Minnesota State added a total of 601 followers in November, far and away the highest total of the seven schools I’m tracking, but their lowest in six months and coming off of back-to-back months adding more than a thousand people. Winona State only added 210 after picking up 1,500 over the previous three months. Southwest Minnesota State only added 71 after gaining about 550 over the previous three months. MSU Moorhead stayed relatively on course with 171 new fans, on par with where they’ve been for four of last five months.3

So everyone is a bit off, even though none of this is remotely scientific.

In terms of milestones, then, there wasn’t much to report. Minnesota State went over 4,000 followers on Twitter. I was expecting Southwest to go over 5,000 total followers for the month, but they fell just short at 4,942.

And Metro State’s account somehow continues to add a few Twitter followers every month despite not tweeting for years.

What can you take from all of this? Not much. Everybody’s trends are off for the month, but looking back this mirrors what happened with us in November of last year as well. We will see if everyone rebounds in December.

Pct. Enroll stat

One thing I haven’t managed to update for everyone is the total followers as a percentage of enrollment stat. This is primarily attributable to the fact that everyone in the system was down in enrollment this year, and only us, St. Cloud State and Winona State had fall enrollment releases on our respective websites. I’ll add that back in for everyone at some point in the future, once their fall enrollment can be gathered from other sources (I should just call them all and ask).


  1. And, yes, it drives me absolutely nuts that the Crowdbooster (+102) and Sprout Social (+110) numbers are different. It’s the kind of situation that makes it quite difficult to take any of this seriously. 

  2. See [^1], above. 

  3. Moorhead’s outlier is a gain of 403 in August; aside from that they’ve been around 190 for the last five months. 

Helen’s story, too many words on Transformers: Legends, and a recap of my weekend movie blitz

Helen’s lion story
A couple of weeks ago I had the girls in my office for a half-hour or so to account for some unusual schedule quirk between Mel and I. During that visit, Helen took a red pen and wrote a story for me on two Post-It Notes. Here is her story (with her spellings).

“Once apon a time there once was a lion that was 74 years old and was good at socker. And a professional ninja and his favorite subject was geography.”

Tell me you wouldn’t read the rest of that story if there were more Post-It Notes.

Teaching social media in schools

I just think there are way more important things to teach kids without diverting more valuable education time to something like social media…

Transformers: Legends
There’s a game available on iOS and Android called “Transformers: Legends”; it’s a free download with in-app purchases, and I started playing it about a month ago. It is a typical game; you can play for free, but your actions are limited by the game’s currencies — two of which you can buy for real money if you are so inclined.

The three currencies are credits (money used to pay to combine a Transformer’s robot-mode card with its vehicle or other alt-mode card to create a more-powerful version, or to use cards as raw materials to upgrade other cards); Energon (an “energy” that is used to undertake missions; each attempted mission segment costs 10 Energon. You start with 100 but can increase your upper limit to 136 by progressing through the game); and Battle Cubes (which are used one at a time to buy essentially pointless player-vs-player battles, and more importantly to begin fights with bosses in special weekly events called Episodes). Energon gets used up pretty quickly; you can spend a full charge of 13 turns in a few minutes, and when you have emptied the full 136 it takes 2 hours to recharge. Battle cubes can be expended in less than a minute, and recharge at a rate of one per hour. The Energon and Battle Cubes can be purchased with money.

Each turn in a “mission” has one of several outcomes — you play a mini game to shoot down incoming rockets by tapping them to earn credits; you discover one of three common or uncommon character cards assigned to that mission; you get to face off against a “boss” that has about a 20 percent chance to drop a rare-quality weapon; or you play the worst implementation of five-card Monty ever in a game for a chance to win a rare-quality character card. The rare is one of five cards on a board, which are flipped over and “shuffled,” and you tap a card to select the one you think is the rare. However, you will quick learn that the shuffle animation is the same very time and offers no clue as to where the rare ends up. So to win, your best bet is to just pick one of the five cards and stab it every time until the rare happens to be there. It is super lame.

The game also adds regular (weekly, basically) episodes — contrived storylines involving some Transformers characters that you are supposed to defeat for some reason. Basically it just adds a fifth possible element to each mission turn — a “boss fight” matchup against an opponent you can buy the opportunity to fight for one Battle Cube (or fight it with additional damage bonuses for two or three Cubes, which you should rarely if ever do). You earn points for beating each boss, which escalate as the bosses get stronger (and quickly to the point where you have to ask other players for help to defeat unless you want to spend many of your own Cubes to attack it repeatedly yourself — which is a waste of the game’s most valuable resource), and when the boss is defeated everyone who participates gets some sort of reward — typically tokens to buy more cards from the in-game store.

The episodes have two different reward ladders — one is based on your overall ranking for most points earned among all players who participate in the event, and the best rewards are locked up here. For this to be worthwhile at all, you have to finish in the top 5,000 (that level gets you an ultra-rare card, its alt mode and its matched weapon; if you don’t have all three the character is basically useless from a gameplay standpoint) — which at this point in the game’s life means you have to play pretty heavily during the episode and really work to maximize your boss points-per-cube metrics in the last three or four days of the event. By that point there is essentially no advantage to fighting your own bosses; you are better served to farm killshots from bosses fought by other players and get essentially free points over and over and over again.

The second tier unlocks different rewards depending on the total number of points you score. The rungs on the ladder are close together early on so its possible to get enormous rewards early in the event. However, and completely ridiculously, you reach a point where there are diminishing returns on the rewards — basically, relatively quickly you reach a point where your reward for reaching a point threshold is lower than the reward for reaching the previous threshold. Because by the time you reach those steps, your only motivation is to compete for a position on the overall leaderboard, so the game reduces the rewards to force you to buy the currency you need with real money in order to keep pushing up that second ladder. It is a seriously dirty trick on the part of the developers.

Also, the point rewards have become characters that if you have played at all seriously up until that point you will already have. So those rewards you can easily win are of minimal value; they will give your team a minor boost during the event due to their attack bonus, but once that bonus expires at the end of the event you will probably end up putting that character on the bench.

So, really, once you complete the four mission nodes on the globe and acquire everything there is to acquire on the 18 “missions” at each node, the game becomes totally pointless to play. You exist only to farm points during events, which is most efficiently done by sniping the killshot on episode bosses — which doesn’t even require you to play the game. You just sit at the event menu and wait for a notification to pop up that somebody needs help. If the boss has less health than you can deliver damage with one currency point, you kill it, earn the currency point for delivering the killing blow, and then repeat for as long as you can stand to stare at the app and deliver the three screen taps it takes to participate in a fight.

If you have a collector mentality there is some interest early in the game in acquiring the different characters and their alt-modes. However once you get all of the common and uncommon characters, you just have to play a game of chance against a virtual dice roll to complete the lineup of rare characters. Beyond that are the super rares, and it is essentially impossible to collect those without spending money. And the very good ones in terms of in-game power are reserved for episode rewards requiring a volume of points you are not going to score without spending lots of money on Battle Cubes for boss fights. But once you reach the point where your primary method of advancement is to farm killshots during episodes until your Battle Cubes run out, the game becomes pointless to play.

I reached that point on Saturday. So unless something changes, I am pretty much done with this.

Memorial Day weekend movie blitz

Star Trek Into Darkness Friday night. Completely outstanding movie, and without question the best movie I have seen so far this year. Oblivion isn’t in the same ballpark, and Trek even blew away Iron Man 3, which I also thought was quite good. Very excellent villain(s), I very much like this current iteration of the crew, and the effects and fight scenes are great. This gives me great hope for what JJ Abrams will do with Star Wars 7.

Epic Saturday afternoon. Fun kids movie; Helen loved it and Millie spent the entire movie being three. It will be fun to see again on BluRay at some point.

Hangover 3 Monday afternoon. There was really no way this could have been worse than Hangover 2, but it still wasn’t very good. The bar set by the first one was just so, so high; the two sequels were almost failed from the very start. This third one was OK; it was Chow-centric which was good, but for some reason the Chow character has spent the last two movies as a different character than he was in the first one. In the first he was fun and flamboyant and had this maybe-he-is-gay vibe; in the second he just became dirty and mean. In the third one he is a weird combination of the two; they have tried to create him as this super-villain but they pushed that so far that it’s no longer a good character, I don’t think. The writers also tried to weave in this redemption-of-Alan subplot that honestly just didn’t work. There were funny moments to be sure, but not nearly enough to say this was a good movie.

Has there been another movie franchise where the first film has been so incredibly good and the two sequels have been total duds? The Matrix comes to mind obviously, but I can’t really think of another one. A lot of really wasted potential here.

Star Trek, social media at work and Google Reader replacements

Star Trek Into Darkness
I’m going to have to let this simmer for a bit and see if I still feel this way tomorrow, but I just got home from Star Trek Into Darkness and thought it was completely fantastic. At first blush I get why the hard-core original series Trekkies would be displeased, but if you’re not in that camp it’s difficult to see what there is to not like about this movie. Fabulous.

Social media
Pinterest’s announcement from Monday about “more useful pins,” with added capabilities to display information about movies, recipes and items for sale, has had me thinking again about how I’m using social media for Bemidji State.

When I read announcements like this, my mind always immediately starts going to “Ok, now how might I be able to twist this and use it in ways that they’re not explicitly announcing support for?” This Pinterest announcement was the same way. What sorts of things to we do that aren’t movies, recipes or items for sale that might be able to make use of some of that same functionality? There are a number of things I immediately glommed onto for athletics marketing — ticket sales, merchandise, etc., and there might be some clever things you could do with the live-update data for game coverage. That’s all just ideas in my head without doing much initial exploration into how any of it works though. But there are some cool possibilities there, particularly given the certainty that Pinterest will be expanding this functionality in the future.

Still, it again raises a question of how to roll new things into an overall strategy. There’s already so much to keep track of, and despite what I feel is a pretty successful social presence for the university right now I still realize we’re barely scratching the surface of what’s possible. We need to start making use of Pinterest; we need to start making use of Instagram; we need to start expanding what we’re doing with Google+; we probably should have a Tumblr strategy. I want to make the time this summer to really dive into this and try to put all the pieces together; ideally I’d like a clear calendar for about two weeks to just hammer away at this. I think I could put together a compelling package; right now I’m just experimenting with toys, but those toys could quickly become pretty powerful tools if I took the time to learn them properly.

Google Reader
I’ve been a bit slow to identify an alternative to Reader since Google announced in March that it was going to be shut down. Given that it will still be alive and well for another month, I figured there was time.

I had been using Reeder, which I liked; there wasn’t anything amazing about it, it just did the job of letting me manage my feeds and keep read status synced between my laptop, iPad and phone. Although its devs have announced that it will have a future after the shutdown, right now it’s a Reader client and only a Reader client. So I suspected that I would need to find an alternative in the event that the revamp wasn’t ready when Reader shut down.

I bounced around to a couple of the different alternatives that were initially discussed after Google’s announcement, but I think I’ve settled in with Feedly.

Visually, Feedly has some significant differences from Reader that I like; I follow a lot of feeds that are primarily photo or graphic posts, or have graphics as a significant element in most/all posts, and Feedly has a display option to include a thumbnail image of the graphic along with the headline and a post snippet that is large enough where it’s sometimes not even necessary to click through to the post to get the content.

But, the biggest difference for me is the visual cues that Feedly has built into the “look at all posts from all feeds chronologically in one list” view. Feedly puts some breakers in like “today,” “yesterday,” etc., that make it pretty easy to scroll through a list and catch up on the most-recent things. Particularly if I haven’t checked a particular feed for awhile, Feedly’s layout makes it pretty easy to decide to skip everything older than a week or two.

It also breaks out three “featured” posts that it identifies by running some traffic analysis on whatever feed you’re viewing and pulling out the three posts that are getting the most number of shares or Facebook posts, etc. It’s interesting, but I’m tempted to turn them off because I’m not sure how helpful they are.

Return of the Jedi
Tomorrow, May 25, is the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Return of the Jedi. I have a story. I’ll share it tomorrow.

Today’s updates for Flipboard and Springpad

Exploring new things

Significant updates were released today for a pair of iPad apps that I have a varying degree of familiarity with – Flipboard and Springpad.

Flipboard I used for a bit when it first came out, and I liked it but preferred a more traditional text-based view of my RSS feeds that I could sort by subject. Flipboard is beautiful, and it works really well, I think, for following things like Twitter and Facebook, but it breaks down and was far less effective for things like Google Reader (which I still haven’t identified an alternative for, with Google’s announcement that it’s being unmercifully killed). So it was a fun social media browsing toy for awhile, but I never did much with it.

Springpad was introduced to me as an Evernote alternative, but it never stuck. I think part of it was that I just have too much information already in Evernote and there wasn’t a “holy crap I have to have that” feature in Springpad to get me to switch. The new version that launched today has some features I don’t recall from the first time I checked it out – mostly in the templates it offers for specific post types like checklists and contact management – so it might be worth revisiting this. I still think I’d be hard-pressed to switch away from Evernote though.

The updates to both Flipboard and Springpad today added the functionality to add what both are calling “magazines” of (UPDATE: actually, only Flipboard is calling this a “magazine”; Springpad is calling them “Embeddable Notebooks.” Thanks to Springpad VP Brian Carr for pointing this out to me!)  user-created content, but both approach the idea from different directions. As we search for ways to launch a digital version of our magazine that work with our office, any time a service like this mentions “magazine” my interest is immediately piqued. Ultimately, while the new functionality in both apps is significant, neither really match my definition of a magazine (although Springpad is closer than Flipboard).

Flipboard’s implementation essentially creates a completely custom RSS feed. I created a magazine called “College Hockey” where I dropped a couple of stories from College Hockey News, and I could easily add any other information off the web that I found and wanted to add. Flipboard users could find and subscribe to this magazine and then get anything I added to the feed pushed to their board. I could add self-generated content to Flipboard’s magazines by creating a blog post somewhere and then manually adding that page to the feed. There currently isn’t an automated way to have my magazine auto-detect new content and add it to the feed, though; every post must be added manually. For what basically amounts to a custom RSS feed, that’s somewhat of a drag. Flipboard’s implementation is, for all intents and purposes, its version of Storify – and Storify is already pretty good and has traction.

Springpad’s implementation  is essentially a shared notebook on the service. Evernote’s had shared notebooks for awhile. Like Flipboard you can add pretty much any sort of content you wish to a notebook – sharing a link or whatever content you want to put in a Springpad note – and there are templates for adding specific content like movies, music, recipes, products, checklists, events, to-do lists, contacts, etc. So you can create content and bundle it up and share it as a “magazine,” but it seems like somewhat of an odd implementation as it forces you into one of two options for storage – either using the magazine to gather content that is stored in Springpad (which is a free service without a paid upgrade option like Evernote, meaning your content is at the mercy of the survival of the parent company) or linked from elsewhere online, making it the same implementation as Flipboard’s magazines.

As I said earlier, neither of these things really fits my idea of a “magazine,” although Springpad probably comes the closest.

So I’ve been distracted

To say I’ve been distracted and a bit over-extended lately would be putting things mildly. Here’s a rundown of my activities over the last couple of months (since Christmas really).

Social Media Strategist Certification

I joked about this on Facebook last night; I’ve started working on an online training course to prepare to take the National Institute of Social Media‘s exam to become a certified social media strategist. The course just started on Monday so I don’t remotely have a good handle on it yet, but so far it’s incredibly basic and actually isn’t all that different from the grad school courses I’ve taken online for my degree program at Winona State. I’m hoping that things pick up considerably as the course progresses.

New comic day

Roy’s had a big pile of Marvel’s Essential Horror volume 2 today; they were running a cool deal where they were giving it away for free with the purchase of a trade collection out of this pile that they had assembled on the counter, or for five bucks on its own. So I paid the five bucks and picked it up along with this week’s small three-book haul. That’s going to be a fun addition to the reading list.

One of the things I picked up today was last week’s release of the first issue of IDW’s second reset of its G.I. Joe franchise; after the second “season” of books completely fell apart after the Cobra Command storyline wrapped up, I didn’t have much hope for it. But it was actually pretty good. I’m interested to see where new writer Fred Van Lente takes the series.

Work

Work’s been crazy, to put it simply. We have so many things going on right now, and we seem to absorb more significant projects at an astonishingly rapid rate. But somehow we’ve managed to successfully juggle everything so far, and good work is getting done. The next two months until we get to commencement are going to be a sprint; the whole year has been a sprint really. Getting a breather this summer is going to be welcome.

 

Things I’ve read today

Like a vast number of users of Apple’s products, I read every post at Daring Fireball every day. It’s an Apple-centric news, information and review blog, but it’s also about whatever else its author, John Gruber, finds really interesting and things is worth the time and effort for his readers to explore, as well.

Well, Daring Fireball has been on fire for the last couple of days.

Yesterday, links to this quite excellent (albeit quite unsafe for work due to language) piece by David Simon on this absolutely ridiculous Gen. David Petraeus “scandal,” with an equally excellent followup about an FBI agent named John O’Neill. Even if you find the language offensive, read both of these pieces very carefully and consume the key message – then ask yourself what’s really important to you when we make decisions about the people we want to protect us from the dark parts of the world. When you’re done with that, do some serious soul-searching about the notion that a person taken down by some stupid sex scandal just might have had the ability to prevent 9/11. Then ask yourself again what’s really important to you.

Then, tonight, Daring Fireball had a link to a piece called “Twitter is pivoting,” by Dalton Caldwell. I’ve thrown around the phrase “500 ways to kill yourself” when describing Twitter’s behavior as a corporation over the last year or so, particularly concerning their inexplicable desire to slay the developers of third-party clients which played such a significant role in Twitter’s lofty position in the social media landscape. Caldwell’s piece is a pretty solid analysis of the path Twitter’s taking, and makes some interesting comparisons to another former social media giant that once took a similar path.

More social media news

Pinterest launched brand pages this week; I created an account for BSU back in the spring, and then never cultivated it. The launch of brand pages gave me a reason to at least touch base with the account this week, get it converted to a brand profile and verify our website. I’m still not entirely certain how to go about using this as a social media resource for the University, particularly given the vast number of balls that I already am juggling. But it’s one of those things that just feels like we have to get going.

And, even with the understanding that we’re not using Pinterest and should be, and have no presence on Instagram and probably should, I can’t get out of my head the notion that the relaunched MySpace could be a very useful tool for promoting certain segments of the programmatic and entertainment opportunities at BSU… But it’s also one more thing to manage in an already overwhelming sea of things to manage.

Also, the Twitter battle between the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas over the last couple of days adds a really interesting psychological warfare angle to the fact that neither of those two groups of people seem to be able to find any way to not blow each other up. It’s like Spy vs Spy at this point, only nobody is miraculously back in one piece in the next issue.

Grad school update

I took today off work as a writing day for graduate school. I generated some new material for the final paper I’m doing with one other person in my Systems Thinking class, but the majority of my efforts were spent repairing some abysmal work that was turned in with the last version of this paper. Incredibly frustrating. I’ve got some more writing days next week, but need to shift gears and pour some massive work into my final paper for my other class; completing that is going to be a challenge, honestly. So I want to see if I can have the paper I worked on today essentially done by the time The Walking Dead starts on Sunday. Good goal, that.

Social goals

About the only thing I’m doing with regularity is Pinterest. Twitter is a pain to follow when I’m out and about like I was today (and, the fact that I missed my quota is a good indicator that I was concentrating on my paper instead, which is good). This is only my third post here in maybe nine days since I started the daily goals checklist; that’s probably the one thing I’d like to try and make an effort to do better at.

Legos

For a couple of evenings this week, the girls wanted to bust out the Legos in the basement. Helen has been building this huge elaborate… something. It’s either a ship or a house or a ship with a house on it, or even possibly just an undefined polygonal mass. Whatever it is, she’s put a ton of effort into it and it’s pretty interesting. While she was working on that, I set out to build a version of the Monster Fighters Vampyre Hearse (even though we don’t have the bones or fangs or other skeleton-y bits to really make it work) with a significantly meaner engine than the retail kit. I think Lego’s base kit is pretty awesome, but the front of that vehicle seems very undersized compared to the rest of it. Minifig scale tends to make a lot of stuff seem undersized, I realize, but especially given how chunky the back of that hearse is, the front third is pretty underwhelming.

I ended up building more of a science fiction truck, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I want to spend more time just experimenting with the way pieces can be assembled in different ways to build certain structures, and especially how bits like saws and grates and walkie-talkies and sextants are used in interesting ways to create form and texture. I was able to do a few things with this truck (and I need to get some good pictures of it; there is an in-progress shots on Instagram), but I felt like I was limited both by a lack of parts and by a lack of understanding of how to fit together parts we do have in atypical ways to construct the masses I was going for.

Overall I’m really happy with how this vehicle turned out, particularly given the fact that it was for all intents and purposes designed on the fly as I was building it. In some cases, I found a part, decided I liked it, and figured out a way to shoe-horn it onto the vehicle in a manner that made sense and was visually appealing. There’s really only one part of the vehicle I’d change, and I honestly am not sure what I’d do as an alternative. So, for now, it’s good.

Social media checklist, Day 3

Today is Day 3 of my experiment with using a daily social media checklist.

What’s working:

• Facebook. Setting a goal of three status updates per day seems like a good goal; I’ve managed to hit that relatively easily, but not without having to think about it occasionally, so I’m comfortable with that.

• Twitter. The goal of 10 tweets and three responses has been good; the responses especially I like. I’ve been more engaged with Twitter the last three days than I have been in awhile, and it hasn’t felt overwhelming or overly distracting from my other tasks.

• Instagram. It’s forcing me to look for opportunities for photos, which is good for me.

• Pinterest. Five pins seems like a good goal; it’s been tough the last two days to come up with five things that haven’t felt like I was just shoveling content up there to reach the goal. It’s good content.

What’s not:

• Read and three things from Pocket. This wasn’t a good goal, because I quickly found that I don’t have three things a day in Pocket that I want to read and delete. Pocket’s becoming a repository for stuff I want to read and keep track of for awhile. This goal has been adjusted to just “check Pocket.”

• The “write three paragraphs in an offline journal” goal. I just don’t know that I’m going to be interested in doing that every day; this is day three and I haven’t done it yet – mostly because I haven’t had the urge to write anything that couldn’t just go here. I’m leaving this goal on the checklist for now, but I could easily see deleting it in the next few days or, at the very least, finding some way to severely modify the criteria.

Writing workflow
This week I’ve been experimenting with using iA Writer in my production workflow at work for stories. In the past, I’ve drafted stories directly in InDesign and saved an INDD file and a PDF in my archives. This year I began drafting in Pages and then moving text into InDesign; my motivation for starting was to mess around with saving documents to iCloud (I really don’t like iCloud, but I’ll post on this another time. It works just fine, but its limitations when compared to Google Drive or Dropbox are difficult to deal with). I’ve had iA Writer for a long time; I bought it on my iPad when it was on sale a while back, but I’ve never really used it. Likewise with the desktop version; an update to the desktop version brought it back to the top of my mind, so on a whim I decided to just start using it and see how it worked out.

In short, so far I am enjoying writing in iA Writer quite a bit.

The only limitation I’m running into so far is there is not remotely a straight-forward way to get Markdown-formatted text from iA Writer directly into InDesign and save the formatting. The cut-and-paste process works just fine, but then I’ve got to go through and clean up all of the Markdown indicia. For what I’m writing it’s a relatively minor stumbling block (very rarely do I write anything over 600 words), but it’s a factor to consider when thinking about using iA Writer for anything more significant until somebody comes up with a straight-forward way to import and save the formatting.

Skyfall
Mel and I went to see Skyfall tonight; what an incredibly fun movie. It was basically the perfect James Bond film – and so far and away better than the last outing, Quantum of Solace, that it’s hard to believe both movies are consecutive entries of the same franchise. Skyfall even got the opening credits right; Adele’s theme song is fantastic, and the animation was a throwback to the really excellent Roger Moore-era Bond intros. This entry eschewed Bond’s crazy gadgets – and even joked about that, with Q asking Bond if he expected to receive an exploding pen – but was filled with touches that threaded this movie back through familiar elements from the previous Bond movies. There probably will be reviews that savage this movie for its portrayal of women – which aside from Bond’s boss, M (Judy Densch), is pretty horrendous  – but in all it’s a fantastic entry in one of the most enduring film franchises out there. And, it’s simply an excellent action movie that’s well worth seeing on the big screen.

Daily social media checklist

I love participating in social media – it’s fun, and I get opportunities to easily interact with people that would otherwise be far more difficult for me to reach out to. But, it’s also one of those things that is really easy to ignore if I don’t make a conscientious effort to show up and do it. Shawn Blanc wrote about this back in July in his post, “50 things I’ve learned about publishing a weblog“; he claims his list of 50 things to be unordered, but it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the first thing in his list is “show up every day.”

I suck at showing up every day.

I’m good at showing up every day for maybe two weeks. I’ve toyed with the idea of creating a daily checklist of things I want to make sure I do on social media every day, across all of my primary presences (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.). I just hadn’t taken the time to come up with a good system for tracking things. I’ve been using 37Signals Action Method for my work to-do list (the ability to add the notes off to the side is fantastic, even though it could use some functionality tweaks), but it doesn’t have a function to have a standing to-do list that resets each day. There are plenty of apps on the App Store that will manage daily to-do lists, but it took me until today to try and find one.

The one I’m trying is Daily Deeds. Each item on your daily to-do list also is tied to a calendar that will show the days of a particular month you crossed that item off so you can look for trends – see if one item is getting done consistently, or if there is one that’s consistently not getting done, etc.

I brainstormed a short list of the networks I wanted to be sure I hit up every day, then pulled some numbers for daily participation out of the sky and tweaked them a bit. So here’s the list I came up with:

• photo on Instagram
• three status updates on Facebook
10 tweets
• reply to five tweets
• find five things to pin/repin on Pinterest
• write a post for andybartlett.com (done!)
• write at least three paragraphs in an offline journal
• read and remove at least three things I have added to Pocket

It’s aggressive, particularly the writing part, but I didn’t want to start with something that would be trivially achievable like, hey, just tweet three times and update Facebook and call it good. If this works, I’ll try and adapt something similar for work — which will probably be more aggressive, since there will be the added complexity layer of having student workers to handle some/most of the load.:)

At first glance the only thing I may end up not liking about Daily Deeds is that you either check off an item from your list or you don’t. For something like the three Facebook status updates, I think it would be nice to have an ability to give myself partial credit for getting 2 of 3 or whatever, but then I also think that might eventually make me OK with not getting to three. So we’ll have to see whether I dislike that feature or not, I guess…

Anyway, that’s what I’m trying. This blog post gives me six of the eight things checked off for today, so that’s a good start. But, the key will be sustaining this. And, as I said – historically, I suck at showing up every day. One day at a time, etc.