Direction Going Forward

It has been a long time since I have done an update on this page.  This has mainly been to the fact that I worry about all the random things I’m up to, posting about them on this page would make this blog non-cohesive and random.  I think I’ve picked the worst of the two evils.  Instead of having content here, even if it is unrelated, there has been nothing posted at all.

What this page is going to serve as going forward is a non-topical personal blog.  The hope is that this will serve to foster discussion on topics I am currently working on.  With the many things I’m working on, I think it would be too difficult to have a site that focuses exclusively on any of them.

While the main news-feed will be non-themed, I will do my best to come up with an organized way to tag my posts so that if you are interested specifically on one topic, it will be easy to filter posts specific to that topic.  If I notice a pattern to the themes of my posts I may schedule specific days of the week that are exclusive to a particular topic.

It is my hope that by forcing myself to get content up here, I will be more diligent in keeping up with this page.

What are some of the things you want to be more consistent with this year?

-Chris

3 Things I Learned From Blogging Everyday for 1 Week

I took the last week off to take some time to review how I will be using this blog going forward.  I have taken a look at the stats to see what has been working and what hasn’t been working.

I set out to have a blog where there would be regular updates.  That first week of consistently updating taught me a lot of things that I will be using for this blog going forward.

First: Readers enjoy certain kinds of content over others

That first week the two most popular categories of posts were about Japan, whether it was language or moving there, and the other was photo focused posts.  I do think both of these things speak to what we want as people when we visit other’s blogs.  We want to read about adventure, and see pictures of adventure.  Its like watching tv shows about fabulous homes.  We like to consider the alternatives to what we are currently living.  Whether those alternatives are better or worse, will of course depend on what you as a person value.

Next: Photo posts get better reactions than long wordy essay posts

I know this post specifically ignores this.  But I do think a lot of our experience is visually driven.  That is why science shows with eccentric hosts do a lot better than sitting in a classroom reading about things from a teacher who needs to prepare 4 other lessons for the day.  I do think there is going to be a huge demand for things like SciShow, Crash Course, Vsauce, and the like on Youtube.  These shows do well because they respect the human attention span.  Photos and (short) videos respect that people don’t want to commit half an hour to an hour for you to explain something.

Third: You have only a moment to capture someone’s attention, then its gone.

I mainly announced blog posts through Twitter and Facebook right now. It is where my friends are, and where I can find people I already have some kind of rapport with. It is a lot harder to find strangers to share ideas and start conversation with. What I learned that first week is that you need to speak to what sits close to home for people, and quick.

I know I don’t like when someone takes a long time to get to the point.  I want to know what I need to know as soon as I can, without all the extra noise that comes with the package.

So here are the challenges I want to tackle as a blogger:

1. Be informative, and provide something valuable.

2. Try and provide that value with the least amount of noise as possible.

3. Leave the more wordy stuff to ebooks and mediums that people come to expecting to spend more time developing ideas and information.

Of course this plan will see some changes as this site develops and finds its niche subject. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about challenges you face with sharing your ideas and thoughts with others, and how to do it in a way that they can follow, and not be bored, feel free to leave them in the comments below, or tweet me @ctriff on Twitter.

P.S. Feel free to subscribe to my blog.  If you are a wordpress member just click the +follow link up top.  If you wish to get updates via email to this blog, there is a link on the side navigation for you to do that as well.  Feel free to let me know in the comments if you use RSS feeds and I can look into getting that setup as well.

Thanks again for reading this post, and talk to you soon.

-Chris

Reflection on a video from code.org

CNN recently reported on a video featuring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and quite a few others.  The article included a link to a youtube video wherein several everyday people talk about how they came to learn how to code.  It includes a few celebrities that one would be surprised to learn that they were interested in coding.

I was lucky enough to have access to a coding course when I was in high school.  It was a rather neat experience learning how to do complex things with the computers and write software.  It wasn’t something that I pursued while I was in University, but it is something that I continue to be interested in.

I do feel that with the increasing prevalence of technology, learning how to make it do new and interesting things is going to be an important skill.  I don’t think that everyone should learn how to code, as everyone who is passionate about their field feels that the world would be a better place if everyone knew a bit about their subject. What I do think is important that we teach everyone, is the basic skills of learning and problem solving that can enable them to learn and contribute in whatever walk of life they choose.  Too often you talk to people who have gone through school, and all they have come away with is what they think they don’t have the skills or natural talent to do.

Too often I am told by people that they can’t learn Japanese because they didn’t even do well in English, their native language, in school. This is tragic in my opinion, because doing poorly on some essays and reading comprehension exercises should not equate to being poor at language. Rather what should be taught is the strategies used to to learn how to be a more effective essayist, or how to negotiate meaning from highly symbolic literature. People can then translate these skills over to other areas of their life.

Back to the benefits of teaching kids to code, I definitely think that it could be part of applied learning of math for many kids. I do think kids should at least be introduced to basic coding, so that if they choose to continue the study, they have an informed decision when making that choice. As well I feel courses should be offered at all levels of education for coding so that students can learn about coding more in depth if they chose.  I know once I become more comfortable with coding, I would love to work part-time with a school teaching students how to code.  I do have the credentials to do this, and I think it would be neat if a local school took a chance to teach coding through mobile development.  There are so many resources out there that schools could use to teach Android, iOS and desktop application development.

What do you think?  Do you that every child should at least take a brief section in school on coding?  Do you feel this is where the new sectors of employment are going to be for us in the economies where manufacturing has taken a smaller role?  Let me know what you think in the comments below, tweet me @ctriff, or message me on google+.

What Gets You Out of Bed?

Tokyo First Snow 2013-12There’s the question.  What gets you out of bed each morning?  Perhaps school, work, exercise.  For me it is the thought of possibility for the day.  Yes we all have to work and pay the bills, but ultimately is that the reason we come into this world?

Here is the challenge I want to lay down for myself today: Make the world a little better place than it was yesterday.

My training background is adult education, and for me my belief is that knowledge awakens us to the possibilities that we didn’t know were there.  It is very easy to feel helpless when you don’t think you have alternative choices.  We live in a time where if you have any question, or want to learn anything, the answers are a few short keyboard keys and a click away.

Right now I am working on learning how to program.  Not for any particular reason, other than I feel one should always be learning and picking up new skills.  Moreover I would like to eventually start a series of articles that explains programming concepts in terms that non-technical people can understand and appreciate.  After finishing my goal of living in Japan for a bit, this is my new reason to get out of bed. New challenges, new opportunity.

So what is getting you out of bed today? Embrace of new challenges and opportunities, or routine?  Let me know in the comments below, tweet me @ctriff,

We may not have flying cars, but 2012 is amazing.

Today’s post will be a reflective one.  I want to write about how much the world has changed in the short 27 years that I’ve been here.  I’ve gone from a time where record stores still have records, to where the concept of physical media for distribution of art and ideas is becoming antiquated.

Not only that, new technologies have made opportunities that existed to those with great capital and resources, available to everyone.  From smart-phones that can have a world of data, research, and people at our finger-tips, to consumer DSLR’s that give near-professional (some would argue full professional quality) video opportunities to regular people on regular budgets, the world is full of all kinds of opportunities that our parent’s generation couldn’t even fathom.

Not to say that the new generation hasn’t been without challenges.  People are working for many more years, homes cost more, and moving from point A to point B via vehicle transport is always getting more expensive. And yet, technology is offering many opportunities that don’t require us to go far to help other people.  Distribution channels can bring ideas from South Africa to Tokyo.  From Berlin to Edmonton.  From Los Angelas to Yellowknife, the world is now a vastly more connected, smaller place.

Technology has opened whole new ideas, worlds, and people to a whole generation.  If it weren’t for technology and the internet, I probably would have never finished my teaching degree in Japanese and English education.  I would not have had the opportunity to connect with and share ideas, language, and culture with people whom I’ve had great pleasure and fortune to share a part of my life.

I would love to start a conversation with you about how technology has impacted your world.  Feel free a comment below, and at reply me on Twitter through @ctriff.

Till next time

Chris

Finally Remember Names With Confidence by Using Social Media.

Today’s post is going to be short and to the point. How often have you met someone who you know you should remember their name, but can’t.  If you work or have anything to do with a public-facing job, this has probably happened to you at least once.

So how is it that some people are better at remembering names than others?

I’ll share a tip with you.  Friend people who you even have a suspicion of meeting again in offline life on Facebook.  

This may run counter to what all privacy experts recommend, but I can assure you, if you want to avoid many awkward moments, be liberal with your friending.  This is because you can keep people you know you are going to meet again forward in your mind.

The human brain is a great data organizer.  It synthesizes and purges information based on the frequency that it occurs to it.  For example if you meet people once or twice a year, the brain has a hard time keeping important information like their name near the forefront.  Whereas if you have someone’s name and their status updates in front of your eyes every day, the brain generally will have that information available to you next time you meet that person in offline situations.

So what are the implications of this recommendation for your Facebook page, and what you post there?  If you are going to have a broader social network, would it not be prudent to not post everything to Facebook.  The short answer for this is yes.  There are a lot of things that should not end up on Facebook. Even if you have your privacy settings set to Fort Knox, you should not be sharing anything online that you wouldn’t want coming back to haunt you.

What one should post to their social profiles will be a subject of future posts.  To give a brief preview of what these future posts will contain, there is one thing that should be the theme of every post if you want to build more interaction online.  Bring value to others with what you post.  This can be as simple as making a post adding commentary to local events.  Or sharing updates on a project you are working on, and can’t wait to debut at the next event.

If you have any other tips that you have found helpful for remembering the names of contacts that you meet with infrequently, but want to remember their names, feel free to share it here.  Our names are an important part of our identities, and if someone can’t be bothered to remember it, we have a hard time making those connections that leave lasting impact.

Till Next Time

Chris

How to Ruin Your Unhappiness

In this post I’ll share a small recipe that can help overcome unhappiness, or ruin your unhappiness.  I feel I should write this post as I have found myself caught in the traps that prevent me from doing the things I know I need to do to have a fuller life.

  • First way to ruin your unhappiness is fall in love with discovery and learning.

It is easy to feel helpless when you are unaware of opportunities, and information that can improve the quality of our lives.

For example most people use banks for storing and spending their money.  Many people leave additional features of their bank accounts untouched.  For example the use of online banking to keep track of spending and to process bill payments.   Not to mention using software to chart major spending categories and auto generate budgets from spending patterns.

  • Second way is to put away at least 10% of your earnings every month.

It is easy to be happy knowing that there is a financial cushion in the event of illness, job loss, or change in career.

There is also a major reason aside from the above.  If you are worried about if the next bills will be paid or not, it is hard to focus on the things that actually matter to you!

Just as extra money finds a way to get spent, having less money every month for spending finds a way to make it work.  We eat out less, cut out unnecessary monthly expenses, or even downsizing completely.

  • Third is exercise

It is tough to feel happy when out of shape and stressed.  For those who exercise, it not only helps with the health benefit,  it also is an opportunity to unwind and relax.  This is also an opportunity to spend time on no one other than yourself.  There have been many times when I have been fretting over a tough decision and gone out for a run only to come back refreshed and better able to come up with good solutions to the problems that are dragging on my mind.

  • Fourth and last for this post: moderation and balance

By remembering to focus on the essentials and selectively add wants that are within your budget, it is hard to get buried by debt and bills.  When you keep your standard of living at a maintainable level that doesn’t cut too close to our total earnings, things like a cut in pay, or a change of job have a hard time of crippling your life. 

Many people get caught in the race to keep up with the Joneses.  I can tell you that it is this race that keeps most people buried in debt, and a job loss or an illness away from disaster.

Some helpful resources related to to topics in this post:

MintLife Blog (Finance)

Jeff Goins Blog (Writing)

Michael Hyatt (Leadership)

Chris Guillebeau: The Art of Non-Conformity (Motivation)

That is it for this post.  A brief recipe to ruin unhappiness.  I would love to hear what other people have on their recipe’s for happiness (or ruining unhappiness).  Feel free to leave your recipe in the comment below or email me.