Archive for February 10th, 2009

Stephen Colbert tries to understand how we decide

| February 10, 2009 | Reply
Stephen Colbert tries to understand how we decide

Stephen Colbert mixes it up with Jonah Lehrer, author of “How We Decide.” The disjointed conversation does have its serious moments, with the focus being the emotional self versus the rational self. Sometimes I wonder whether Colbert is tempted to drop his character for ten minutes and just have a good conversation with a thoughtful guest. This might have been one of those times.

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Reading On The Rise

| February 10, 2009 | 7 Replies
Reading On The Rise

According to this report, reading is on the rise in America for the first time in a quarter century. It’s difficult for me to express how pleased this makes me.

Civilization and its discontents have been in the back of my mind since I became aware of how little reading most people do. To go into a house—a nice house,well-furnished, a place of some affluence—and see no books at all has always given me a chill, especially if there are children in the house. Over the last 30 years, since I’ve been paying attention to the issue, I’ve found a bewildering array of excuses among people across all walks of life as to why they never read. I can understand fatigue, certainly—it is easier to just flip on the tube and veg out to canned dramas—but in many of these instances, reading has simply never been important. To someone for whom reading has been the great salvation, this is simply baffling.

Reading, I believe, is the best way we have to gain access to the world short of physically immersing ourselves in different places and cultures. Even for those who have the opportunity and resource to travel that extensively, reading provides a necessary background for the many places that will be otherwise inaccessibly alien to our sensibilities.

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You too can be part of the Web 2.0 (if you’re willing to invest time and money on technology).

| February 10, 2009 | 1 Reply
You too can be part of the Web 2.0 (if you’re willing to invest time and money on technology).

I was born in 1956, when ordinary people had far fewer opportunities to communicate their ideas to mass markets. For most of my adult life, there were only a few choices to get the word out. You could send out mass mailings or you could hit the telephones, dialing number after number. You could hang paper flyers on telephone poles and fences. You could knock on doors and talk to the folks house by house. Or you could stand on a soapbox and shout your ideas.

These traditional “techniques” are still available and they are still sometimes quite effective, at least to those with hordes of volunteers at their service. The Internet, however, has opened up many additional possibilities for spreading your ideas far and wide. With that great power, however, comes serious responsibility to spend the time to obtain a working knowledge of the underlying technology. How many bloggers are out there now? At least 100 million.

Being a proficient user of a word processor is only the first step. Putting your written work on your own website also requires you to understand at least the basic tools of blogging software. With those two steps, you might already be on a big slippery slope.

Many people are perfectly happy blogging on a free site such as LiveJournal MSN’s Spaces or Google’s Blogger, or one of the many sites with low fees as long as your traffic is modest (e.g., Typepad). Choosing to place your blog with one of these simple on-line sites keeps things really easy. You needn’t ever load any software or maintain the “backend” of your blog.

In 2006, I suspected that I would want to take advantage of many modern day multi-media tools. That’s why I chose to base my blog on WordPress. Going with WordPress allowed me to take advantage of numerous constantly evolving add-ons. I chose it because it kept my site flexible for using multimedia technology that, in return for its flexibility, can require a substantial investment in time. If you’re like me, you will thus develop a love/hate relationship to the flexible do-it-yourself blogging software and the many multi-media tools that allow you to feed your blog in sophisticated ways. You’ll become enthralled with the power these things give you to package your ideas. But you might also become frustrated when you see how much time it takes to learn to make proficient use of these tools.

Here’s an ironic twist: Since 2006, the free online sites now allow you to easily incorporate many kinds of images, sounds and video on blogs. Therefore, if you aren’t exceedingly greedy for technology or traffic, you can now have it all. Yet you’ll still need to decide how much multi-media to incorporate into your blog, even if it’s free and simple. Therefore, much of this post applies to all of us who have decided to jump into the world of blogging.

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