The last time I made any significant change to the design of this blog was when I moved it from being a guest on to my own domain. That was in 2005, and at the time, I had to ensure that the blog would be readable by my Mom on her 800×600 screen. So I took a then-new WordPress theme and adapted it to my needs by putting it onto a piece of wood and banging a few nails through it.

My original design constraints became irrelevant more than five years ago, but every time I thought about changing the appearance of the blog, I thought about the mass of CSS and PHP I’d have to deal with and put the project aside for another day. Or year.

This week, though, I started assisting the Webmaster of
the Los Gatos Silver Tongued Cats Toastmasters club in moving our site from FreeToastHost to WordPress (a project not yet complete), and he showed me how easy it was to make changes using modern themes and their associated widgets. So I spent this afternoon updating this blog to use the Weaver theme; the hardest part was figuring out how to get my Google AdSense to display where I wanted it (under the title) at the full width of the page (the answer: put the AdSense code in as a snippet instead of using the header widget).

I’m not sure that I’m finished with the redesign, but it certainly seems more modern (and less tiring to read on a widescreen display). Comments are welcome, of course.

Apologies and Thanks

One of the key points that Marshall Goldsmith makes in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There is the importance of apologizing to people when you’ve made a mistake and thanking them when they’ve made a contribution (or even an observation).

So, in that spirit, I have to apologize to people who’ve made (or tried to make) comments on this site for the past few months; I discovered last night that I’d done something to my WordPress configuration which was sending comment notifications into the ether (actually they were probably spamming some unknown user sharing the same hosting provider), and therefore, any comments from “new” people were stuck waiting for approval, and I wasn’t seeing comments from “old” people, either.

I think I fixed everything up, but for those of you who may wonder what’s been of interest to my readership recently, I’ll call out the “lost” commentors and comments here:

Summarizing all those comments was a lot of work, but fun — maybe I’ll do it again some day.

Some thoughts on Twitter

I started to play with Twitter in late July. My first few posts were answers to the Twitter question (“what are you doing?”) and they were incredibly dull. It didn’t take me long to give up on Twitter — I hadn’t found the secret sauce.

But I didn’t quite give up (probably because I had a bookmark on my iPhone, and I kept seeing the site when I hit that browser window). I started playing with Facebook, too, and saw some of my friends there add a Twitter app to their pages. I even sent a couple of @replies to friends, but it was all one-way broadcasting on my part.

And there was one other use I had for Twitter: Remember the Milk, an online to-do list which I’ve also been toying with as part of my Getting Things Done efforts. RTM featured a Twitter interface, so I could easily add a task to my list by sending it a direct message from my phone — and since I had 200 messages a month, whether I needed them or not, it seemed like a win to me.

Early in December, I started noticing (and following) more and more IBM friends on Twitter, and then I had a conversation with Sacha Chua, one of the people I mentor at work. She convinced me to give Twitter a more serious try, so one evening, I started looking at replies to people I was following and inserted myself into a conversation or two.

It didn’t hurt a bit. And I found myself conversing with Industry Names like Ed Yourdon and pundits like Michael Krigsman. Not necessarily about industry topics, either. It’s amazing how much can fit into 140 characters — the sidebands are amazing!

And then on Boxing Day night, I was stuck in a crafts store while Diane was shopping, so I sat down with my iPhone and turned to Twitter. There was a discussion of painkillers happening, and somehow it swam into my ken (probably indirected through Robert Scoble). I didn’t actually have anything to add, but it did remind me that I had a big bottle of expired aspirin to dispose of, so I tweeted a question. And I got an answer (which I still haven’t acted on).

But I also got drawn into the general conversation (hey, I was bored!), and by the time Diane was finished (and it wasn’t that long), I was following a bunch of people I hadn’t known existed 30 minutes before. And they were discussing serious topics like Susan Reynolds‘s cancer (hence the painkillers) and silly topics (too numerous to mention).

And I’ve been wandering around those discussions and increasing my circle of contacts for the last week.

Is Twitter a substitute for face-to-face contact? No, definitely not (especially when the avatars change for special events like Frozen Pea Friday, or @newmediajim’s birthday), but it’s a good way to meet people you wouldn’t encounter in a more focused environment. And if you happen to find you have something in common, you can chat with them and even choose to follow one another’s tweets. (And there’s the secret sauce!)

I wouldn’t use Twitter for mission-critical communications — there are clearly scaling limits, both technological and human — but it’s a useful tool to have in the toolkit, and it’s fun! And if it weren’t fun, it’d be a lot less useful. What could be more boring than reading streams of 140-character messages from total strangers?

Using my voice to get things done

I’ve had Jott on my speed-dial list for a while, but I haven’t made extensive use of it. And I’ve been using Remember the Milk to manage a few of my tasks…but again, not seriously.

But that may change, now that the two services are integrated. I like the idea of being able to dictate a quick voice note to myself and have it show up in my task management system. And having more of my tasks in RTM will encourage me to use it for even more of my tasks — or at least that’s my theory.

And, as the previous entry in this blog shows, I can now even use Jott to blog — short blog entries, to be sure, but sometimes I only have a little bit to say.

Hmmm, if brevity is the soul of wit, does enforced brevity guarantee I’ll be wittier?