Items Of Interest #1

Life has been getting in the way of the writing recently. Life can be like that some times. That said, there are a number of items that I run across in my travels that I wish to share some thoughts about. Far too often I park these and wait to do a full fledged post of a single one. This often ends up with me sharing nothing at all.

Therefore, I thought I would try to correct this by doing a regular series I’m dubbing Items Of Interest. My thinking is to offer some short commentary on a number of links in a kind of traditional weblog style. I hope this is useful. Here we go…

The Last Ice Merchant (El Último Hielero) is one of the nicest short films I have seen in a while. It’s about the last of a generation of ice harvesters on Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo.

There’s still some time to get the Bomber Jacket Briefolio from Levenger for about $50.00 off the regular price. Those who have followed me know I’m a big fan of Levenger (and customer for over 20 years). That is because their quality and service are unmatched in a world where mediocrity is the norm. At only $79.00 for such a handsome piece that will last a lifetime, it is difficult to pass up. It would make a great Father’s Day gift.

Slip Notes look like a great way to manage your stack of index card notes. You do keep a stack of notes on index cards, right?

Of course, while we are discussing index cards, Noteboard is a pocket whiteboard that folds up into the size of one. It even comes with a handy dry-erase pen.

The link before last is thanks to my good friend and very talented human being Mike Rohde. Besides being in the thick doing illustrations for the next 37 Signals book, he somehow found the time to release what is, perhaps, the nicest handwriting font I’ve ever seen. Read all about how The Sketchnote Typeface came to be and buy the heck out of it. I already have at least one project I know I’m going to use this for.

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the latest Ignite 5 in Minneapolis. If you’ve never been to an Ignite event before, it works like this: 5 minutes, 20 slides, with each slide auto-advancing every 15 seconds. Speakers are selected from submissions and can be on just about any topic. It’s a lot of fun (I was a speaker last year). The talk that I think stuck with me the most this year was from Kevin Hendricks who read 137 books in one year and gave some real practical and actionable tips on reading books more. Of course, he wrote a book about his experience (and the Kindle version is currently free on Amazon for Prime members).

I’ve been becoming increasingly interested in online privacy. Towards that end, I’ve been using and recommending Cloak to others that are equally interested. Cloak is a VPN service and provides an easy way to protect yourself on public wi-fi hotspots and other places where you are unsure of your online privacy. The plans are pretty fair (as low as $1.99 a month) so it is a great deal too. Also, they just rolled out a new feature where you can make your connection country specific. This also means the ability to get around region blocks on certain content (BBC anyone?).

And, if you are really paranoid and value extreme privacy over browsing speed (because, well, freedom is never free), the Tor Project is for you.

Have a nice weekend.

I’m a full-time independent writer who works hard to bring you quality reading and ideas here daily. If you enjoy what you read here, please consider a free will donation of any amount.



littleBits is open source library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets for prototyping, learning and fun. We were given a starter kit by a friend who accidentally ordered two during their successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s really great. Especially for kids.

I spent some time playing with it with Beatrix last night and was quite impressed. The packaging and presentation was top notch. What you get are little modules one that magnetically snap together into ious configurations and make little projects. The modules are essentially divided into four color-coded categories — Power , Input, Wire, Output. The possibilities of what to do with these are largely up to your experimentation. The instructions do provide a couple of example projects to give you an idea of how it all works but the rest is up to you. That said, there seems to be an active community of folks sharing their projects ideas. A great resource.

This is a perfect thing to get kids excited about electronic experimentation and making. Beatrix had a blast in the half hour we had to play with it before bed. She insisted in bringing it up to her bedroom so that she could remember she had it to play with in the morning. Which, in Beatrix’s world, is the best vote a toy can receive.

Measure Successful Blogging In Years

There is something I have noticed the past few days that mirrors my own experience. Successful online writing is almost always measured in years. Sure, there is the rare overnight success. But, for the most part, if there is an online writer that you respect or whose name is recognizable in the circles in which you read, it is likely they have been at it for many years. Some examples…

In his wonderful, and I would argue essential, recent post — Designing blogs for readers — by Matt Gemmell, he mentions that he has been blogging for eleven years.

John Gruber, in mentioning his latest round of T-shirts for sale, mentions that he has been writing Daring Fireball full time for seven years. He has been writing online far longer than that.

Jason Kottke has been writing at for fifteen years. But I started reading him online well before that, when he lived here in the Twin Cities and wrote a blog called Oscill8.

And, of course, the first post on this site is November, 7 2003 (going on ten years). But the blog had been one internal to my employer at the time for about a year before that.

My point being this, I get a lot of people who are relatively new to online writing asking me what it takes to be successful at it. I think one of the main things is simply showing up and doing it for a long time. Not only are you bound to get better at it from such constant long term practice, but audiences are built reader by reader over the long term as well.

This was just as true of all of the writers mentioned above. They all started with a single post and just kept showing up year after year. If you would like similar success, that is the place to start.

I’m a full-time independent writer who works hard to bring you quality reading and ideas here daily. If you enjoy what you read here, please consider a free will donation of any amount.

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