Watching the river go by

25 April 2008

If you’re a regular reader of our humble blog, you may have noticed that we like rivers here at Snagsta. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Alex G’s theory about project management being a bit like white water rafting.

This week we’re picking up comments from recent blog posts from both Nic Brisbourne and Stowe Boyd about slower flowing rivers.

One of the reasons we set up Snagsta was to cut out clutter and help people deal with the perils of information overload. This is why Stowe’s concept of dealing with information such as feeds, news and status updates struck a cord with us here at Snagstaville.

Stowe likens this flow of data to a river of information. Instead of trying to intercept and process it all, he suggests only looking at it when you can and sample what is passing at any given moment.

He goes on to say that you shouldn’t waste time worrying about missing things because if anything’s really important it will be written about later and will therefore flow by again shortly.

Makes a lot of sense to me.

As always, we will sign off with a list. As this week’s topic is a peaceful one, I thought it appropriate that we showcase a complementary list about contentment from the wonderfully content Leo Babauta from Zen Habits.

Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment

1. What’s important. First, take a step back and think about what’s important to you. What do you really want to be doing, who do you want to spend your time with, what do you want to accomplish with your work? Make a short list of 4-5 things for your life, 4-5 people you want to spend time with, 4-5 things you’d like to accomplish at work.

2. Examine your commitments. A big part of the problem is that our lives are way too full. We can’t possibly do everything we have committed to doing, and we certainly can’t enjoy it if we’re trying to do everything. Accept that you can’t do everything, know that you want to do what’s important to you, and try to eliminate the commitments that aren’t as important.

3. Do less each day. Don’t fill your day up with things to do. You will end up rushing to do them all. If you normally try (and fail) to do 7-10 things, do 3 important ones instead (with 3 more smaller items to do if you get those three done). This will give you time to do what you need to do, and not rush.

4. Leave space between tasks or appointments. Another mistake is trying to schedule things back-to-back. This leaves no cushion in case things take longer than we planned (which they always do), and it also gives us a feeling of being rushed and stressed throughout the day. Instead, leave a good-sized gap between your appointments or tasks, allowing you to focus more on each one, and have a transition time between them.

5. Eliminate as much as possible from your to-do list. You can’t do everything on your to-do list. Even if you could, more things will come up. As much as you can, simplify your to-do list down to the essentials. This allows you to rush less and focus more on what’s important.

6. Now, slow down and enjoy every task. This is the most important tip in this article. Read it twice. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a work task or taking a shower or brushing your teeth or cooking dinner or driving to work, slow down. Try to enjoy whatever you’re doing. Try to pay attention, instead of thinking about other things. Be in the moment. This isn’t easy, as you will often forget. But find a way to remind yourself. Unless the task involves actual pain, there isn’t anything that can’t be enjoyable if you give it the proper attention.

7. Single-task. This is kind of a mantra of mine, as I talk about how to single-task all the time. But it’s an important point for me, and for this article. Do one thing at a time, and do it well.

8. Eat slower. This is just a more specific application of Tip #6, but it’s something we do every day, so it deserves special attention.

9. Drive slower. Another application of the same principle, driving is something we do that’s often mindless and rushed. Instead, slow down and enjoy the journey.

10. Eliminate stress. Find the stressors in your life, and find ways to eliminate them.

11. How and why to slow down. This is such an important point, that I’m going to point you to two other articles on this.

12. Create time for solitude. In addition to slowing down and enjoying the tasks we do, and doing less of them, it’s also important to just have some time to yourself.

13. Do nothing. Sometimes, it’s good to forget about doing things, and do nothing.

14. Sprinkle simple pleasures throughout your day. Knowing what your simple pleasures are, and putting a few of them in each day, can go a long way to making life more enjoyable.

15. Practice being present. You can practice being in the moment at any time during the day.

16. Find inspirations. Learn from the best.

17. Make frugality an enjoyable thing too. Instead of delayed gratification, try enjoying life now while saving for later.

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Trust me I’m a blogger

18 April 2008

After Phil’s underwear post last week I thought I would try to drag our beloved blog out of the gutter and back up on to the pavement where it belongs.

We were lucky enough to snag another excellent list from marketing guru Seth Godin this week (with his permission of course). We like Seth over here at Snagstaville, because he:

1. Likes lists and likes sharing them with us;
2. Sports a stylin’ shiny bald look;
3. Has his own plastic doll forged in his image; and
4. Knows an awful lot about viral marketing

He recently wrote an excellent list about how to improve your writing skills by thinking like a blogger (more about that later).

The list fits nicely next to a post he made a few days later about how blogs can help you build trust. You can read it here but if you want the 5 second summary here’s what he had to say.

Building a foundation for whatever you want to do next in books, blogs or “twits” on Twitter is the way to go. It must be done with patience and over time. He goes on to say that the best time to look for a job next year or a sale in three years time is right now. And that:

“…you must build trust before you need it”.

Smart guy that Seth.

Here’s his list about how you can improve your writing if you start thinking like a blogger:

1. Use headlines. I use them all the time now. Not just boring ones that announce your purpose but interesting or puzzling or engaging headlines. Headlines are perfect for engaging busy readers.

2. Realize that people have choices. With 80 million other blogs to choose from, I know you could leave at any moment (see, there goes someone now). So that makes blog writing shorter and faster and more exciting.

3. Drip, drip, drip. Bloggers don’t have to say everything at once. We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time.

4. It’s okay if you leave. Bloggers aren’t afraid to include links or distractions in their writing, because we know you’ll come back if what we had to say was interesting.

5. Interactivity is a great shortcut. Your readers care about someone’s opinion even more than yours… their own. So reading your email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy to stay relevant.

6. Gimmicks aren’t as useful as insight. If you’re going to blog successfully for months or years, sooner or later you need to actually say something. Same goes for your writing.

7. Don’t be afraid of lists. People like lists.

8. Show up. Not writing is not a useful way of expressing your ideas. Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy.

9. Say it. Don’t hide, don’t embellish.

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What underwear should Paul wear?

11 April 2008

Okay, this Twitter post (a ‘tweet’ in geek-speak) is a silly example but it illustrates a much less trivial point. With all the clutter on the web people are increasingly turning towards recommendations to help with their decisions. It saves time and the results are a lot more reliable (well… Paul may beg to differ!).

But the process of acquiring these recommendations, as you’ll see from the following examples, can be quite inefficient. You might email a friend who then has to spend 10 minutes digging through old emails to find the one on ‘Tips for Vietnam’. Worse still if you post a question on Facebook, A Small World or LinkedIn you could have several people chasing around for suggestions for you. Great for you maybe, but it results in a lot of duplication of effort. And it can also be rather hit & miss depending on who’s online at the time or, if you’re using Stumble Upon, depending on when you’re online.

The chaps at RecommendBox have a better and more structured way of looking at this problem. You select who you want to receive recommendations from or send recommendations to. It eliminates the duplication mentioned above but is still a fairly intervention-heavy manual approach.

Snagsta is creating a platform that hopefully solves many of these problems and automates the process. If (and we know it’s a big if!) we build huge database of interesting individual lists then finding things within the lists of friends and like-minded people can be done without interrupting them.

I took the time to consider Paul’s dilemma and ultimately recommended he wear a tasteful leopard-skin thong. But in a few months time, all Paul will have to do is slide over to Snagsta and snag something from this list we recently received:

Underwear with a message for all moods and occasions

1. Bridget Jones’s Granny Pants – sends a strong message and that message is ‘Here. But no further.’

2. Edible – need i say more

3. Boxers – bit of a tomboy

4. Commando – doesn’t leave much for the imagination but is at least unambiguous

5. Leopard-skin thong – hopefully they’re changed more often than the wearer’s spots

6. Y-Fronts – hang on! This is supposed to be a girl’s list…

7. Satin – that’s better

8. Lace – femininity with a touch of class

9. Crotchless – come hither

By the way, Paul Walsh is one of my favourite bloggers. For all things internet from someone who ‘speaks his mind and then some’ check out his blog.

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Testing Times

4 April 2008

ateam.jpg 

Somebody, somewhere said a problem shared is a problem halved, and I have a problem I’d like to lay on you, Gentle Reader.

We are starting to put Snagsta through its paces, which has been fun and all, but the next step is for each of us to put together a small team of hand-picked testers and get some (useful) user feedback. Now obviously I want my team to outperform Alex and Phil’s by some considerable margin, which is where my problem arises.

What is the optimal make-up of my team?

Here’s whom I think should be in:

1) Mister Internet Savvy – someone with a good understanding of what is already out there and some hands on experience using other comparable sites to tell me how we match up.

2) Little Miss Newbie – to contrast with above, she would be able to give me the perspective of a new Internet user to really test how intuitive the site is.

3) Sir Overly-Critical – somebody who is happy to point out the flaws we just wouldn’t have thought of. Even if he drives me crazy.

4) Miss Dedicated – you know the type. Their homework at school was always 8 pages longer than everyone else’s. Hopefully she will pick up most of the actual issues.

5) Mr. Way Out There – a creative type who will probably not find much actually wrong, but will come up with a hundred ideas we never thought of for us to sift through.

So who am I missing? Or is this the wrong approach? With such a small sample, does it make more sense to fill with “dedicateds” first and worry about the rest later?

To close, I’d like to offer a list of fun 404 pages that are worth checking out:

http://www.bluedaniel.com/404.shtml
http://www.newyorker.com/404
http://www.zug.com/404
http://homokaasu.org/errors/404.html
http://www.psycho78tacoma.com/404
http://www.psychpage.com/404
http://technorati.com/404

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