If You Boost Content.

Brick-Moji Thinking face by Ochre Jelly on Flickr - public domain Aug 4 2022Out of the blue last week, someone I knew said they knew a way that I could get the site to make $500 a  month if I simply continued thrashing out content like a mad monkey.

Well, that’s not exactly what he said, but that’s how I read it. Of course, he wanted to schedule a meeting to talk about how this could be done and… well, I’m a person who reads and evaluates, not talks and evaluates. Something of worth in my mind sells itself and meetings are… well, let’s be honest. Meetings aren’t very exciting and I avoid them unless absolutely necessary.
This leads to things I have been considering over the past month or so as I wrote a lot but published nothing on the web. I have this idea I’m fleshing out and I don’t want to jump the gun on it – and oddly enough it started off as a post I was writing for RealityFragments.com.

I’m more focused on the reading and writing now than the publishing and monetization. There’s also this pressure on the Internet to write frequently when I’d rather take my time and be happy with what I put out for a variety of reasons. When something comes with money, it generally asks for a bias and I’d rather the bias be mine or the readers, or a combination of the two. Money can easily change that when someone wants to pay you. This isn’t my first rodeo.

What also happens with such things is that for lack of something to write, you end up rewriting, and if I have written about something I generally don’t revisit it until something has changed. I don’t write reviews of technology because you only really know how good a technology is until years later. Hype, as it is, is overhyped.

However, what I was pointing out was how silly it is that, being in Trinidad and Tobago, I would have to start a company in the United States to get paid by Stripe for WordPress, etc. And that’s a problem I think that can and perhaps should be avoided. I am slowly working on some solution(s) on that.

Writing For Myself: Issues.

NSB Aug 25 2014I’ve been looking into self-publishing, and other ways to write the things that I want and make a bit of cash on the side. Certainly, it’s not a way to get rich since we all can’t be bestselling authors, but it’s a way to do what I enjoy and derive some income. I know people who are on Substack, who are on Medium, etc, but all of those sites are dependent on Stripe.com, which doesn’t work well with being in the Caribbean unless you start incorporate in the United States. That seems like a ridiculous step, really. And given Stripe.com is the default for WordPress.com for accepting revenue, and my sites are on WordPress.com, it’s even sillier. Not that PayPal is much better. They are good enough in countries they support, but really, they suck outside of them, and with the issues I have had in PayPal in the past with them just deciding to lock an account for no reason and then unlock it without explanation… well, you can see how that would be a problem.

The Caribbean has had many writers of value out there, published, etc, so the problem is not the content in the Caribbean. It’s that the Caribbean is not getting a fair shake.

I am not ashamed to say that the acquaintances I have on social media do not seem to read, or share. Facebook algorithms presently have me in account restriction because I had uploaded a parody video that got their algorithm hot and sweaty, which in turn means my posts there aren’t highlighted at the top.

So Facebook is useless.

What does one do? Well, I’m not sure yet, but I know I’ll keep writing and working on the book. Maybe I’ll just self-publish and let the public sandpaper it into shape.

Still, it makes one think about the disparity caused by the way that the entire Internet socioeconomic ecosystem works, and what feeds the artificial intelligences that they are training online. That isn’t too far from technocolonialism.

Thus, a challenge. Something I’ll continue working on.

Restarting and Reimagining.

Mayaro Sunrise 2016

KnowProSE.com has been my core domain for roughly 20 years, probably more like 22, but I’m uncertain and don’t care to check. In that period it has morphed, it has been many things, and at the core of it my personal evolution and it’s evolution grew to become an issue. I even thought last year that I would finally put it to rest, instead working on RealityFragments.com, but only recently have I been working consistently on that site.

Much has changed. For a while, these past few months, I had ideas on rebuilding the site in Python to do some really cool stuff, but while I do enjoy the coding, and I do enjoy the ideas, I think I was getting a bit ahead of myself.

Something happened, though, that got me back to this and addressing the site. I encountered a like minded person with similar challenges, and in listening to her and her accomplishments, she’s figuring out what to do. That is something I know about, the reinvention of myself as I have moved from one place to another, from one interest to another… and so I told her on the phone yesterday, “Maybe the trick isn’t figuring out what you should do based on what you have done but instead figuring out what you’re going to do in the future.” Something to that effect. She thought it was profound, or said as much, and I sat there thinking it was high time to take my own advice.

How do we move forward? The Internet has turned most of my accomplishments into detritus, with people with megaphones talking about their accomplishments in print, while the accomplishments I have made over the years- decades- have had their pixels recycled. I just wrote a little about that in WorldChangin, but it’s a bit bigger than that one example. Companies I have worked for are gone, closed or bought out, websites that I have written on have disappeared, and everything I have done seems to be like sand through one’s fingers. It’s all been meaningless, one might think, but that’s not true at all.

I’m still here, and I’m more than the sum of what I have done. Part of this is my own doing. I don’t self promote, instead thinking that my works should stand on their own. This particular naivete is something I think I will stand by because it’s not about me except for one thing: I’d like to think, in some way, that what I did helps move the world to a better place. I have tried. I will continue to try. I don’t want the limelight, and I never have – and when I had it, I didn’t capitalize on it as so many have. I suppose my narcissism gene was malnourished in my youth.

Then there’s the practicality: Income is a bit of a necessity. It doesn’t need to be much, but with the world going as it is, a positive flow is necessary.

So what does this mean? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I need to work things out, including KnowProSE.com. I have been working on a book, but who hasn’t?

Here, I think, I’ll focus on the more professional parts of myself, while RealityFragments.com will be where I fiddle and play.

And maybe, just maybe, something will work out. Expect daily updates again, for there is much to write about.

Using Social Media.

It seems strange to me when people write about, ‘On Facebook’, or, ‘On Twitter’… or, ‘On Social Media’. I think it lends itself to the thought that people are above it. As if they have no responsibility for their actions and reactions, as well as what those reactions and actions cause.

In the same way, I’m not sure that ‘in’ social media is much better, because that lends itself to a thought of powerlessness – surrounded by.

Which is why I write, ‘using social media’, or, ‘using Facebook’, or… using whatever. These are tools, and unless Thoreau was correct about men becoming the tools of their tools…

We use tools.

So it may be semantic, but it might be powerfully so.

The Reading Problem.

Reading enlightensWe’ve all encountered it. We post an article on some social network and someone comments without reading the article, or not reading it properly.

As someone who writes, I went through the stages of grief about it. I can apathetically report that I don’t care as much as I used to about it. Many people tend to skim headlines, sharing them without thought, and then blaming the Russians or whoever the headline targets for everything.

As someone who reads, I’m confounded by it. When I read that skim reading is the new reading, some of it began to make sense:

…As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species’ brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one’s herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential “deep reading” processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading… — 

The bad news is that anyone who read that didn’t skim it, and therefore doesn’t need to understand it on a personal level. The good news is that there are people thinking about it.

But there are other things, things that also need to be addressed. Some people don’t even skim articles, they skim headlines – and in a rush, for whatever reason, they share it. Before you know it, things with no actual truth to them, or just enough to be shared, inundate the entire web.

Issues, too, of framing with technology come into context.

And what it really boils down to is that, aside from how much we might like to think people who are demonstrably susceptible to all of this are ignorant, as a society we generate a lot of things to read. Publishers understand the need for sticky headlines and ‘cover art’, and are good at it.

People don’t have enough time to deep read things, and they don’t want to be left out of an accelerating world – but are proud of themselves when they can type out the 4 letters, ‘TLDR’.

People who figured all of this out long ago have capitalized on it. Fake News, coupled with Big Data analysis of what people are interested in, allows some impressive amount of sharing of information that should probably be tossed in a pyre of literacy.

So, what to do as a writer? Well, the answer to that is simple: Keep writing.

And, as a global citizen on the Internet? Deep read. Don’t skim. Encourage others to do it.

 

Let It Marinate.

downside www

One of the things that makes the rounds in the blogosphere as a ‘truth’ is that you have to blog every day.

In a niche, if you follow another ‘truth’.

This leads to all kinds of crap content. Really. People reblog other people’s blogs, trying to capitalize on something someone else wrote in the hope that they can write it in a more popular way so that their blog can get traffic so that…

Take a breath.

That’s the newspaper business model. That’s the 24 hour news business model. It’s driven by advertising, as many blogs are, and that incentive can actually cause a decrease in quality.

An example: I picked on sex toys in Trinidad and Tobago recently. The story the newspapers carried was rushed, was not well researched, and of course provocative. When Finance Minister Colm Imbert called it fake news the next week, I laughed – because, of course, he pointed out that there’s no definition of what a sex toy actually is. In the video interview, it was even said that a woman had her edible underwear seized by Trinidad and Tobago Customs. The joke from the peanut gallery was that it was a snack. My joke would have been that Customs didn’t know how to use edible underwear- you don’t seize it. 

As it turns out, a company named Websource had simply sent out a circular stating that imported sex toys could be confiscated, and were not permitted through their service. The government’s alleged ban was hearsay. Hearsay is heresy in factual reporting.

Waiting, sometimes, is the best thing to do. You don’t have to be the first to publish. You can simply aspire to getting it right before you publish.

So it is with any kind of writing, any kind of social media posting, any kind of sharing of information – even in person. You don’t have to fill what you perceive as voids with inaccurate or incomplete information.

You can wait.

More often than not, you should.

Write frequently, write well, and don’t focus on being first.

Focus on getting it right.

Global Audiences, Global Publishing

Cloudy Earth

I wrote ‘Local Context In All Context In A Networked World‘ a few weeks before I wrote ‘Writers Without Borders‘.

That there’s a common theme is not a mistake. On a planet where we now can know almost instantaneously know what is happening on other parts of the planet, we as a whole aren’t really that good at communicating across the very same planet. Beyond the obvious, where lack of internet connection is a problem, we face other human challenges.

Language remains a barrier. There have been strides in automatic translation, but it’s still far from perfect and may always be. Our language evolves, enough such that ‘figuratively’ and ‘literally’ mean the same in our newest dictionaries – both figuratively and literally. Colloquialisms defy translation because they are so easily misinterpreted in other parts of the world.

‘Paw paw’, using Google Translate today, translates to the Spanish ‘garra’ – which translates back to ‘Claw’. In Trinidad and Tobago, ‘paw paw’ is a colloquialism for ‘papaya’. A green paw paw is not a green claw, at least in Trinidad and Tobago.

Babel. It’s all meaningless babel. And in a world that makes more and more use of Natural Language Processing, such that large amounts of information are analyzed and presented to a human without human interaction, there could be a human at the other end of that software wondering why people in Trinidad and Tobago eat claws.

Then we get into different acronyms – there are so many acronyms around the world.

Now, one can argue that other people need to learn everything. One can spend a lot of time doing that, and being insulted by people who don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate – or worse, insulting people who don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate. Is the goal to fight over these things or is it to be misunderstood?

For me, it’s to be misunderstood. For corporations, it’s about being understood. For governments… well, maybe not, but at least some of us think that the goal of governments should be to be understood.

Think Global, Act Local‘ doesn’t make as much sense on a planet where we actually do act globally by sharing information.

We need to think global and act global – and still act local.

This is a hard thing to think about. It’s alien. Our societies evolved as much through distance from other societies as other things – in fact, the distance was a large part of helping define a society. Immigration departments have taken over that job, and while they do serve a purpose, I have yet to hear someone happy about immigration. In fact, if they were happy, immigration would probably detain them.

But… Writing?

But what does that mean for writing in particular? Honestly, not as much as one would think if writers adhere to some good practice developed over the course of the 10,000 year history of writing. Things like, when using a potentially unknown acronym, expanding it the first time. With technology that is now a few decades old, we can link to a reference.

We can give appropriate context. We can tag our content, and for the sake of the space-time continuum, we should have dates and times instead of simply, “yesterday” or “Tomorrow” or… These have been standard communication guidelines for centuries, if not millennia.

This is not hard.

Writers Without Borders.

Chimpanzee playing with a laptopWhen Renard Moreau wrote about the six things that baffled him, I had to respond – and I did. Yet there is more I’d like to say on the topic of, “Where are the bloggers from Trinidad and Tobago?”.

There was a time when I was considered to be a blogger from Trinidad and Tobago. Geographically, right now, I would have to agree to the fact that I’m blogging from Trinidad and Tobago. And I’d also have to agree that I’ve been writing a few posts lately that are about Trinidad and Tobago, because I happen to be here and I happen to notice things.

GlobalVoices once thought I was a blogger from Trinidad and Tobago, but then they realized I lived in South Trinidad and that I didn’t write incessantly about Trinidad and Tobago.

I lost clique status, quietly, and my feelings were not hurt. That’s just not what I write. And I also don’t write about places where unicorns dance around rainbows with leprechauns, for that matter, and much of what is written about Trinidad and Tobago seems to be that. Just like everywhere else I’ve lived or experienced. That’s just not what I see.

I believe writers are witnesses of a sort. What we witness defines what we write, be it science fiction, be it fiction, or be it obituaries.

I see dead people”, said the obituary writer.

There are more places to list than a single nation, and to define me by one nation is a little insulting.

The truth is that there are two things that legitimize a writer: Actually writing and not being horrible at it, and being read. My dues in that department are so old that the receipts add up to broken links.

But back to these borders, these boundaries that people want to neatly place other people in when their sock drawer is likely in need of more attention instead. I write. Others write. And when people write, certainly they color their writing with what has made them… them. Yet, unless they marched around under a specific nation’s flag all the time, it’s hard for me to imagine a writer to be from anywhere.

What writers write, though – that’s something completely different. If you write solely about Trinidad and Tobago, I’d say you’re a Trinidad and Tobago writer (small market). If you write solely about the United States, I’d say you’re an American writer (big market). If you write solely about Jamaica, someone’s going to annoy you with a poorly done Jamaican accent and tell you they love Bob Marley.

It’s the way of it.

So, while there are boundaries in this world, writers that I read are not limited by those boundaries.

Stories practically write themselves everywhere. Recently in South Oropouche, a man was dismayed to walk into his own wake – and I know the fellow. The sex toy ban has everyone murmuring with friends, laughing and joking, but the ineptitude related to that government and media conversation is something out of a Pink Panther graphic novel.

But that’s not what defines me as a writer. That I am a writer has taken over a decade for me to admit, even after having published through O’Reilly publishing, writing numerous articles, and so on. But I’m a writer.

And that’s enough, really. I’m not out there flying a flag for a nation. I’m writing what’s on my mind. Nobody’s paying me at this time – feel free to send me money – but don’t expect me to change what I’m writing.

It’s my thing. It’s what I do. And I’d like to think that writers themselves are larger than the borders they live within.

Writing Bios.

P1000895We live in a world where there’s video, where there’s audio… and there’s the writing.

Many people write every day. Some, not at all. Writing, like everything else, takes practice.

I got a message today from a close friend:

How do you write so seemingly effortlessly? I’ve been trying to write a simple staff bio for a website for the past 8 hours and I have one sentence. 😥

Years ago, I would have looked at this and been astonished that anyone thought that of me – that I could write ‘seemingly effortlessly’. Nowadays, I’ll take what I get. So I responded to her, told her to just write and write and write about anything – leave, then look at what you wrote. It’s called ‘free writing’…

Sadly, I don’t think my advice helped that much. Her response was that she was going to mow the lawn.

I’ve been there. I think any writer has been there.

And I think anyone who has had to write an awful bio about themselves most certainly has been there. The Geneva Convention should have something to say about that.

Bios are horrible. How do you want to be seen? Who will be reading it? What will they think of me? What’s the line between pretentious and confident? And what do they mean 3 paragraphs? Or just one?

How can you possibly boil yourself down into one paragraph? Or three? I think that most autobiographies started off as bios where writers didn’t stop.

But a bio is not too hard, really. Clearly you can’t show people the entirety of you in one paragraph – there’d have to be a very unimpressive you. So stop thinking about who you want to be seen as.

Instead, ask yourself, “Who would these people want to know?”

That’s the secret. Generally, people want to feel confident about the person that they’re trusting with… something. So, if you’re writing a bio related to baking, you might want to write how long you’ve been doing it, what sort of baking you’ve done, and where you’ve done it.

That’s not too hard. Done right, that’s one sentence. You have a few more sentences to go. What else about you would they want to know? Well, people want to know that you’re passionate about something (hopefully baking).  And what else? What makes you a human being? What makes you human like the rest of us?

Don’t say, for example, that you collect frogs. I did that once and it went sideways. I had a few plagues of frog related things from people for about a decade. Maybe you like photography. Maybe you read. Maybe you write. Maybe you spend time with your kids, or your nephews and nieces, or maybe you like to simply sit down and read a book.

So, here’s your bio so far:

[Insert name here] has been with the company for [?] years, and has been baking for [?] years. She spends her time reading Baking Technology websites and playing with her dog, Mr. Cupcake, who also requires gluten free pastries.

There. You have a basic bio. You could add some edge to it, depending on the company or organization, but edgy cuts both ways.

It’s not hard to flesh that out from there if they want a longer bio. Play with those two parts, stretch them, and then see what is worth keeping.

And don’t be too hard on yourself. That someone wants you to write a bio typically means that they think you should have one – so do your best.

Where Communication Fails

Communication is the keyIt amazes me how people make things more difficult through communication, enough so that sometimes I wonder if there is a special group of us that talks to ourselves for lack of anyone else receiving on the other end.

Exhibit A.

Last year, here in Trinidad and Tobago, someone asked me to be a reference on a visa application – which I willingly did because I know these people. I was at their house, filled out the form for their granddaughter and thought this was done other than a phone call. There was no signature, just the filling out of a name, address and phone number – as most references are.

Time passed – maybe a week. The grandfather calls me and tells me that they had filled out the old form and that they needed a new form filled out – and so, I told him it was a simple matter of copying the information over. He said that the new document needed a signature, which I was sure was not the case. He insisted, dropped by…

And lo! There was no signature necessary. It was as I expected, the form simply needing the same information that was on the old form, that anyone could have copied over. I showed him that, and he got upset with me. I filled it out anyway. We’re friends.

Why did he get upset? It took some time to unravel that. This 70-something year old man was upset because his granddaughter told him it needed my signature. She’s in her mid-20s, a product of an education system that apparently can’t distinguish between simply filling out a name and actually signing something.

It broke down to a functional literacy failure, something that I’ve found increasingly common.

Exhibit B

I was ordering a breakfast I normally order at a place I am a regular at, from a lady I normally order from and who is familiar with my order. The scene was tense for some reason as I walked in, having nothing to do with me. Yes, I asked, and she would have told me – which is why I value this relationship.

The sound of the AC was buzzing above the register, and the background noise of the busy place was at a high. I hear her say that there’s ‘No ham bacon’.

I’m puzzled by this. “Do you have ham?”

“No ham bacon”.

We go on like this for a few moments. She doesn’t speak up. I’m not understanding what she’s trying to tell me, and I know that she is trying to help me. After a while, it gets sorted out when she finally raises her voice a bit so I can hear over the background noise – when she spoke quietly, her voice was deeper and it merged with the underlying buzz.

She was saying there was no ham, only bacon.

But why couldn’t I hear her? Frankly, maybe I should get my hearing checked – I should get on that – but the other part of it was that she was upset and was making a conscious effort not to raise her voice because she was upset about other things.

This was a situational communication problem. Had we not known each other, it probably wouldn’t have ended with both of us laughing.

Exhibit C

I’d sold a piece of land to someone who was already on it – a simple solution (hack) to a silly problem caused by laws in Trinidad and Tobago – and a year had passed.

Out of the blue, I see this person is trying to contact me on Facebook messenger – by calling me (who does that?). So I message them back, and they message me that they were having trouble registering the deed. A year later.

Now, they had my phone number. After a year, this suddenly became an emergency – which is easy to judge someone on without knowing how their life is, but a year is a long time and I know that the deed registration had to have been done or I would have heard about it from the lawyer, who I do know, and who has done other transactions similarly.

Something wasn’t adding up, and it was already clear that this was a communication error.

I sent them my phone number – they should already have had it. Then they tell me that they don’t have my phone number. I respond that I just sent it. “Scroll up.”, I typed, even as I wanted to scream it.

11 messages and 5 phone calls later, they tell me that they’re at the tax office and can’t find the deed number. And this is where a lack of specialized knowledge created the core communication error – they were confusing the assessment number and deed number up, and finally, after repeating myself a few times, it sunk in. They blamed the government office for not telling them, but based on everything I had experienced with the person…

I was pretty sure that the person just wasn’t paying attention to what anyone had told them, written to them, or tattooed on their forehead. The whole situation showed over and over that they were not interested in finding out what they needed to know to solve their problem. They were happy just annoying people until someone held their hand and guided them to the right solution.

Maybe they were hugged too much as a child. I don’t know.

But this example shows not only a problem with understanding specialized things, but also the joys of dealing with people who do not listen well.

Exhibit D. 

In dealing with purchasing something, I ended up dealing with 3 separate entities who are allegedly working together: A lawyer, the seller, and the agent. During this process, I handed over documents required to the seller.

Their lawyer contacts me. They want me to come up and submit the very same documents to them. I explain that the seller has the documents, and the lawyer tells me that they can only receive those documents if I authorize the seller to release them.

The rub here is that the seller has their own lawyer that, by circumstance, I have to use. One would think that the documents that the seller had would be furnished to the lawyer. The lawyer explains that it’s to safeguard my privacy (nevermind all the photocopies of my IDs hanging around) – but it’s really a process failure.

In the course of a few hours, I get conflicting information from all 3 parties who were legitimately trying to help me around the process failure, which I ended up resolving by simplifying. I only need to deal with the lawyer. What she says is what we go with, in the hope that it all falls together properly.

So this was a conflicting communication error, caused by trying to work around a process failure. I have to wonder how many people get stuck in those loops.

So Many Problems.

This is just a sampling. All of these communication problems, at their core, are human problems. In an age when we can communicate so quickly all over the world – I remember a time when postcards were a big deal – we still don’t communicate well enough to make use of it.

We build things on communication. We build things on flawed communication. Technology is not waiting for us to get it right; it’s a wildfire of acceleration on all fronts.

Take a moment. Take a breath. Listen. Speak clearly. Know of what you speak of. Ask the right questions.

Communicate. The world actually does depend on it, and more specifically, your world depends on it.