Where you can find me on social media in 2015

Given that I recently wrote a post about how I update and manage my social media profiles, I thought it might be useful to have a post letting people know where they can find me on social media.

Like many people, I started out on a wide variety of platforms, but in recent years, I have whittled it down to just a few on which I am regularly active.

Twitter

My primary social media presence is on Twitter. I like Twitter, I like that it forces me to keep my updates short, and I generally like its interface and features that it provides. It is to Twitter where I make the majority of my updates. You can find me on Twitter at @jamietr.

Facebook

I maintain a Facebook page that I update fairly regularly with blog posts and many of the same things I post on Twitter. I try to respond to all comments left there. If your preferred platform is Facebook, and want to connect with me there, you can do so via my Facebook page.

Ello

I am on Ello, although I don’t know how active I will be there. It is easy to keep Twitter and Facebook up-to-date because I use the Buffer app to help automate updates there. Ello requires a separate action on my part. And while I like the interface, I just don’t know, from a practical sense, how often I’ll update there. But if you want to connect with me on Ello, you can find me at @jamietr.

Other social media

While I have a presence on other social media, I don’t regularly update or make use of it. I just don’t have the time, and three social media outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) plus experimentation with a fourth (Ello) is more than I handle. But, if you are interested, you can also find me on:

I look forward to connecting with you in 2015!

Blogs I’ve enjoyed in 2014

Every now and then, I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have such a great audience here on the blog. Each year, the numbers keep going up, and it always surprises and pleases me. As I write this post, the blog has passed 1.2 million page views this year, and has seen nearly 600,000 visitors pass through its turnstiles. I am grateful for each and every one of them. So it only seems appropriate that I let you know about the various blogs that I have been reading this year, and I urge you to check them out at your leisure, if they suit your tastes as well.

New in 2014

Here are some blogs that were new to me1 in 2014:

Old reliables that I still enjoy

  • John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. John’s blog is the example I strive for  on my own blog. I like his clarity of thought, and the wide range of topics that he covers.
  • SF Signal. My source for genre news, and pretty everything else when it comes to science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
  • Brain Pickings. Eclectic blog where I find something interesting and/or useful every week.
  • Buffer Blog. Great insight into a startup company.
  • Bud Sparhawk’s blog. A great counterpoint to my own (generally upbeat) posts on a writer’s life. Bud is a far more successful writer than I am, and it is fascinating to read about his approach to the craft.

And in 2015…?

Any suggestions for blogs to read in 2015? Drop the in the comments. And thanks once again for reading.

Notes

  1. But not necessarily new to everyone else

New books I’ve obtained over the holidays… so far

Iam, apparently, still on my nonfiction kick for the most part. I will finish up my re-reading of Caesar and Christ today, and begin a long-awaited re-read of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. After that, I think it is back to nonfiction, and here is some of the nonfiction that I’ve acquired around the holidays to fortify me.

  • The Autobiography of Mark Twain (Volumes 1 & 2) by Mark Twain
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli1
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves

I can’t say this with certainty, but I am beginning to get the feeling that I write better fiction when I am reading nonfiction. I think when I am reading fiction, I am too liable to fall into the trap of trying to imitate the style of whatever author I happen to be reading.

In any case, I am looking forward to all of these books in the new year.

Notes

  1. I read this in college, and even wrote a paper on it, but I have no memory of it today.

Going Paperless: Managing Social Media Profiles with Evernote and TextExpander

Once a year, I’ve gotten into the habit of reviewing and updating my social media profiles. You know, what I say about yourself on Twitter, or Facebook, or LinkedIn, and what I send to publications when they request biographies.

JTR Twitter

I generally only do this once a year, and I use 3 tools to manage the process:

  1. Evernote, where I store my profiles from year-to-year.
  2. TextExpander, in which I keep my updates profiles for easy insertion into email messages and other documents.
  3. The Press Kit page on my blog, where I made the profiles available to anyone who requires them.

The annual review of my social media profiles

I know that there are people out there who change their social media profiles frequently, but I strive for consistency of message. I also like to keep my profiles professional for the most part. So I review them once a year and decide what updates, if any, need to be made.

My profiles are easy to maintain because I use only 4 variants:

1. 140 character Twitter-specific profile

This profile is what I use for Twitter, and for any social media platforms based on Twitter which limit the profile to roughly 140 characters or so.

2. 140 character profile

This is a variant of #1 above, and allows me to have a very short profile available for outlets who request it.

3. 50 word profile

This is a profile I use when I have a little more space. I used this profile frequently when I wrote guest posts and a bio is requested to accompany the post.

4. 100 word profile

This is a profile I use for places that request a little bit more information, or want a little more background.

By maintaining just these profiles, I assure that the message I send out into the world about myself is consistent across the board.

I review these profiles at the end of each year, and I do it at the end because it provides a convenient marker for looking back at any new or significant accomplishments within the year that I might want to include in the profile.

I have written before about how I use Evernote to track my achievements. This comes in handy in updating my profiles each year.

Updating my profiles in Evernote

I update my profiles in Evernote, and rather than overwrite the old note containing the profile, I create a new note with the new profile, one for each of the four listed above. This allows me to see the overall history of changes I’ve made to my profiles over time.

I create one note for each profile, work out the kinks there, and use Evernote’s built-in character and word counts to make sure I’m sticking close to the lengths of each profile.

Profile Note

Once I am satisfied with the updates I’ve made to my profile, I copy the updates and paste them into the appropriate social media platforms.

Updating my snippets in TextExpander

One big time-saver I’ve found is to have my profiles and bios available as snippets in TextExpander. This allows two things:

  1. I can access them quickly, to reply to an email, or insert them in a web page, without having to hunt them down.
  2. I maintain consistency by not having to reinvent them each time I am asked for a profile or bio.

I use simple abbreviations for my snippets so that I don’t have to stretch my memory to recall them. Here is what the snippet for my 140 character (Twitter) bio looks like:

TextExpander bios

Updating my Press Kit page on the blog

The last step in the review process is updating my Press Kit page. I maintain this page as a place where media outlets and others can go to for accurate bios and author photos when needed for a publication or interview.

The Press Kit contains the most up-to-date profiles and bios that I have. Granted, I often only update my bios once a year, but as I try to keep them simple, the changes tend to be small and subtle


Having the information centralized and managed from Evernote is convenient because it makes it easy to search, and to see changes over time. Having the snippets in TextExpander probably save me more time than I imagine throughout the course of the year, especially as I am asked for these things with increasing frequency. Having them on the Press Kit page makes for a convenient self-service model.

Most importantly, for me, is the fact that the profiles vary in length, but not in message. They are consistent with one another, and that helps to ensure that I am sending out a consistent message for all of my profiles.


If you have a suggestion for a future Going Paperless post, let me know. Send it to me at feedback [at] jamietoddrubin.com. As always, this post and all of my Going Paperless posts is also available on Pinterest.

Last week’s post: How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything.

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FitBit devices must have been a popular Christmas gift this year

As I mentioned late this summer, my blog traffic seemed to have peaked in late August or early September. I was probably averaging 4,000 visits/day at that point. At around the time I gave up my regularly scheduled Going Paperless posts1 the traffic started decreasing. These days I probably average right around 3,000 visits/day.

So yesterday was something of a surprise. I didn’t post anything new, and I was offline for much of the day, celebrating Christmas was the family. But I peeked at the stats late in the morning and was astonished to see an unusually large number of visits. Indeed, by the end of the day, I found that nearly 9,000 people visited the blog yesterday. That’s the most in  a single day in probably half a year. At one point, there were 112 active visitors on the site at the same time. I typically average around 15-20 active visitors at any one time.

Active Visitors

Naturally, I was curious as to why there would be such a large amount of activity on a day where I posted nothing new, and a major holiday at that. So I poked around and discovered that the vast majority of yesterday’s visitor were visiting posts I’d written on FitBit devices. From there, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together, and realize that there are probably a lot of people out there (my in-laws included) that received FitBit devices for the holidays, and were figuring out how to use them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go setup a couple of FitBit devices.

 

Notes

  1. Yes, there will be another one later today.

Taking off today and tomorrow

I am going to spend today and tomorrow away from the blog. But I will be back on Friday with another brand new Going Paperless post for those interested.

If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry one.

Audiobooks: Listening vs. Reading

They say that with age comes wisdom, and that part of wisdom is the ability to allow your opinions to be changed with changing facts, arguments, or the natural flow of time. Long time readers will no doubt recall the opinion I once held that audiobooks were not for me. It is interesting to look at that post from nearly 3 years ago and the 4 arguments I made against my own use of audiobooks, and compare them to how my opinions have changed today.

1. The voice bothers me

I wrote,

I am so used to my own internal voice, and the voices I make up in my head for various characters, that I can’t bear the voice of someone else reading to me.

I look upon this statement today as both naive and somewhat self-centered. Since February 2013, I’ve read 80 audiobooks, and if anything, I have learned that the narrator tends to enhance the book rather than detract from it. Indeed, today I would argue that there is at least one advantage to audiobooks over regular books:

A good audiobook narrator will lead me to books I might otherwise not have chosen to read

The one dimension to audiobooks that doesn’t exist in other forms of the books (paper, electronic) is the narrator or narrators who read the books. I have found that I enjoy some narrators so much, that I will seek out other books that they have read, books that I might never have chosen to read if not for the narrator. A few examples of these include:

  • Danse Macabre by Stephen King. Read primarily because it was narrated by William Dufris, a narrator I first heard read John Scazli’s The Human Division. I probably would have gotten to the book eventually, but Dufris brought me to it much sooner, and I enjoyed the book.
  • Blue Highways by William Least-Heat Moon. My dad recommended this book to me years ago, but I didn’t read it until early this summer when I discovered that Joe Barrett narrated the audiobook version. I first heard Joe Barrett as the narrator of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, and as soon as I finished that book, I started looking for other books that Barrett narrated.

Seeking out books because of the narrator provides yet another window into a book that I might not already have read. My “internal voice” which I was so used to three years ago would never have led me to these narrators and thus opened the doors to these other great books.

2. I cannot divide my attention to make listening and doing something else worthwhile.

This is an example of not seeing the big picture. To a large extent, I was forced to audiobooks precisely because I found that my time during the day was too limited to allow me to read as much as I wanted to read. The big lure of audiobooks was that I could multitask. This has become my biggest time saving tip, one that I have talked about in a variety of places, including my “How I Work” interview with Lifehacker earlier this year.

My days are very busy. I try to break them up with exercise, and my preferred exercise is to take long walks at various times throughout the day. During these walks, I listen to audiobooks, and I can usually ensure at least 2 hours of walking–and therefore 2 hours of listening time–each day.

I find that I have little problem dividing my attention between walking and listening to audiobooks. Occasionally my attention wanders, but it is easy to go back and re-listen to what it was I missed. The same happens when reading a book from time-to-time.

Moreover, I can listen to audiobooks while doing things that I can’t do while reading: chores around the house being one big example. And then, of course, there is listening to audiobooks while on long drives where I am the driver.

So, yes, I was absolutely wrong when I said that I could not divide my attention between listening to an audiobook and doing some other kind of activity. The bulk of my listening has occurred while doing other things.

Continue reading Audiobooks: Listening vs. Reading

Writing on vacation

We have now been on vacation for a little over a week, and my consecutive day writing streak remains unbroken at 517 consecutive days as of yesterday. (I have yet to get my writing in today, but it is still early.) I have managed to write while on vacation, even though the first week has been a very busy one, with lots of driving (over 1,000 miles), and 3-1/2 days roaming about the Disney World parks. So how does my vacation writing compare to when I am not on vacation? From the standpoint of quality, I have no objective measurement, but from the standpoint of quantity, it looks pretty good:

Vacation writing

The chart above shows the last 30 days of my writing. The last 8 days (in the red box) are the days that I wrote while on vacation. I’ve written just under 7,000 words over the course of the 8 days I’ve been on vacation, averaging 870 words/day. Those last two days are up because we have arrived at our final destination for the remainder of our vacation, and have settled into the relaxation phase. The weather is warm and sunny, the pool is cool and wet, and we can relax in the run-up to the holidays. I have more time to write, and I am also less tired in the evenings, when I have been doing the bulk of my writing. I suspect this trend will continue, and I hope to make significant progress on the novel draft over the next couple of weeks.

Those looking to keep an eye on my day-to-day progress can always do so over at open.jamierubin.net.

My Controversial Book Post: On “Used” Books

Bookshelves

I have always had strong feelings about books. Books have been such a big part of my life that it impossible not to develop feelings about them. Lately, however, while my opinions remain strong, I’v found that they have changed in a fundamental way.

For as long as I can remember, I have always tried to treat my books gently. The thought of a creased page corner to bookmark a page filled me with horror. I always handled paperback books with tenderness, taking particular care not to crack the spine of the book. When I read a hardcover book with a dust jacket, I was always careful to remove the dust jacket so as not to damage it in the handling of the book. I was often loathe to loan out books out of fear that the person to whom I lent the book, regardless of how much I trusted them, would not uphold my standards of reverence for the tomes.

I find these day, however, that I no longer feel this way. My reverence for books has never been higher, but looking back on my gentle treatment of books over the last twenty years or so, I see what appears to be now as silly, and even selfish behavior with respect to books. Indeed, my opinion on the handling of books has taken an almost 180 degree turn. Here are just a few of the ways my opinions have changed.

Books should be used, and well-used at that

Books tell two stories: the story the author has written, and the story of readers interaction with that writing. Whereas folding down a page corner to marks a spot in the book used to look like a desecration to me, I now see it as a reader’s interaction with the book. The creased page may simply provide history: where the reader paused in their reading. On the other hand, it may provide other insights. It may be a place that the reader found particularly insightful, or particularly annoying.

A pristine book looks good on a shelf or in a collection, but a pristine book is also very likely an unread book, and what good is an unread book. Whereas I used to love the way a brand new hardcover book looked freshly arrived home from the bookstore, I now find that I much prefer the look of a well-used book. A book with a wrinkled dust jacket, and with page edges yellowed from constant touching is a beautiful sight. Indeed, sitting down with a pristine book and reading it so well that by the time the book is finished, it looks well-used has become an almost sublime experience for me.

It has also made me realize that the unique aspect of wandering the stacks of a used book store, or a library , is the fact that all of the books there are well-used, and often by many people. It is quite an accomplishment to produce a book that many people want to read, and for which many copies are printed. It is an exceptional accomplishment when a single copy is read again and again by either the same person, or many people.

Today, there is nothing that looks so good to me as well-worn book. Indeed, I see a well-worn book as a book of the happiest sort. And while I am a big fan of e-books and audiobooks, even a oft-read or listened to e-book or audiobook lacks a well-worn look.

Books should be a collaboration between author and readers

I used to cringe when I opened a book in a used bookstore, to find that the previous owner had scribbled in the margins, or worse, highlighted passages throughout the book. How could someone deface a book in such a manner?

Now, I see this in a very different light. Writing in the margins of a book is a reader’s way of holding a dialog with the author. It is an ancient method. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams frequently wrote in the margins of their books. Perhaps in middle age, the revelation has come to me that writing in my books, highlighting passages, jotting notes, counterarguments, and other things is a way for me to interact not only with the text but with the author. When you think about it, this is pretty remarkable. You can have arguments with Mark Twain, or Mary Shelly, or Carl Sagan, or Marcus Aurelius.

Marginal notes and highlights provide not only a dialog with the text, but also a history of the reader’s interaction with the text. Over the course of successive readings, a reader might find their opinions changing in the margins of the book. If you are lucky, you might come across a copy of the book with some anonymous reader’s notes already in the margins, to which you can add your own. Now, the dialog has become something more, a unique discussion among readers that potentially span decades.

Continue reading My Controversial Book Post: On “Used” Books

All of this has happened before…

While reading about the life of the people of ancient Rome in Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ this morning, I came across this brief, but rather remarkable passage concerning music in Roman life:

Old men mourned that recent composers were abandoning the restraint and dignity of the classic style, and were disordering the soul and nerves of youth with extravagant airs and noisy instruments.

In other words, grown-ups complaints of “that hideous rock-n-roll” (or disco, or rap, or fill-in-your-own-genre) are nothing new, and never have been. Indeed, I’d guess that some wise person living in ancient Rome shook her head ruefully at the thought that the reaction of the elders to the music of the younger generation was nothing new; that it happened in ancient Greece before, and Egypt before that, and so on, and so on, back to the dawn of music’s history.

Or, put another way, grown-ups have been telling kids to get off their lawns for as far back as recorded history can take us.

My Favorite Guest Post of 2014

I was fortunate to be asked to write quite a few guest posts in 2014. But my personal favorite was one that I wanted to write. Fortunately for me, John DeNardo and the other good folks at SF Signal were willing to have me, and they published my post, “Daddy, What’s Dungeons & Dragons” on their site in late August.

This post came about because I had seen that a new version of the Player’s Handbook had been issued. I hadn’t played D&D in 25 years, but I ordered a new version of the book, and when it arrived, my son, 5 at the time, saw me open it, asked what it was, and when I told him, said, “Daddy, what’s Dungeons & Dragons?”

I am grateful to SF Signal for being willing to publish the post. If you haven’t seen it yet, and are interested in checking it out, head over there. You might also peruse all of the other great F&SF-related content that SF Signal and its contributors provide on a daily basis.

Going Paperless: How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything

Several months ago, I ended the regularly scheduled series of Going Paperless posts, with the emphasis on “regularly.” I felt that I was beginning to stretch the ideas I was writing about. I decided that I would only write new Going Paperless posts when I had a good idea. And so today I’m back with a post on how I use Evernote to remind me of everything.

I make use of a very simple to-do list manager that consists entirely of plain text files. It works well for me, but it has one significant drawback: there is no easy way to do reminders in my system. Fortunately, I don’t need that feature as part of my to-do list system because it is built into Evernote, and I use the reminder features there extensively.

Reminders in context

One of the great features of Evernote is that it allows reminders in context. I have written about this feature before, but it is worth re-emphasizing it here. Let’s say I get a document in the mail on which some future action needs to be taken–car registration, for example. Without Evernote, I might toss a copy of the document in a pile on my desk, with a Post-It note reminding me when it was due. I might also stick a note about it on my calendar. But the calendar note would be separate from the document itself and if I saw the note on the calendar, I’d still have to go hunt for the document somewhere.

With Evernote, I follow 3 simple steps:

  1. Scan the document
  2. Organize it appropriately (put it in a notebook, and tag it, if necessary)
  3. Set a reminder on the note to remind me that I need to take some action on it.

In the case of the car registration, I set the reminder to 10 days before the due date. When I look at my list of reminders in Evernote (on my home screen), I see it there waiting for me to take action.

Evernote Reminder

Clicking on the reminder take me to the document itself. Having the reminder linked to the actual document is a powerful feature. It does two important things:

  1. It saves me from having to remember to do the thing. Evernote will send me a reminder when it is due.
  2. It saves me from having to search for the document when I am reminded, because the reminder is attached to the document. This makes it much easier for me to act on the reminder as soon as it happens.

A substitute for Post-It notes

Over time, my Evernote reminder system has become a substitute for Post-It notes. I use it for all kinds of things. And all of those things have some sort of context attached to them so that it is easy to take an action. For example, have a reminder to test and change smoke detector batteries when Daylight Saving time begins. The note itself is pretty simple:

Smoke Detector Reminder

The “Instructions” link is simple an Evernote note-link to another note, containing the instruction manual for the smoke detector. Clicking on the link takes me to that note, so that I don’t have to go hunting for it.

Smoke Detector

I might have simplified things by attaching the reminder to the smoke detector instruction note directly, but in this case, I prefer to have a “history” of the times I changed the batteries, and so the individual notes give me that history: one note for each change/reminder. They get filed in my Timeline notebook so that they don’t clutter other things.

For those interesting in more information about using note links, I’ve written in detail about using Evernote note links elsewhere.

Continue reading Going Paperless: How I Use Evernote to Remind Me of Everything