2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2010. That’s about 31 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 37 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 172 posts. There were 22 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was March 3rd with 123 views. The most popular post that day was I’m GLAD We Didn’t Own the Podium.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, danpink.com, bashford.ca, and google.ca.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jeremy piven, chris wolstenholme, adrian bashford, klee irwin, and christopher wolstenholme.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

I’m GLAD We Didn’t Own the Podium March 2010
1 comment

2

Is Muse’s Chris Wolstenholme Really Jeremy Piven?? February 2009
5 comments

3

Using photos from other people on your Blog… August 2007
3 comments

4

Klee Irwin – John Waters’ Illegitimate Love Child? July 2007
6 comments

5

RBC VISA Policies: Watch Out for “Overlimit Fees!!” September 2007
5 comments

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Who Hasn’t Seen the ‘Last Lecture’?

Randy Pausch’s last lecture has come up in several recent conversations I have had, and I am always surprised to find people who haven’t seen it. I mean, the guy was on Oprah, everybody must have heard of this guy or his book by now!

We are coming up on the two year anniversary of Randy’s last public post to his blog (June 26th, 2008) before his death on July 25th 2008 of pancreatic cancer, so it might be a good time to remind the world (well my small world anyway) about his gift to the world: His Last Lecture.

If you still don’t know if you want to invest 70 minutes of your life on this, watch the 10-minute version that was on Oprah. But I challenge you to watch this, then not watch the 80 minute version; so pick… 80 minutes or 90 minutes.  😉

One Less Voice

Using blogging as a marketing tool for a new business, I have put a lot of thought into the value of adding yet another voice to many that already exist online discussing a topic. The internet is not old, but to a great extent the though leaders for each discipline have already set up and staked their territory online. Some have used their credibility created offline and made a graceful translation online, while others have used this new medium to establish their thought leadership.

So what does this mean if you want to build your own audience in an established field?

With so many voices online and off, anyone with a casual interest in a topic is completely overwhelmed by the many opinions that are provided. One more voice can be very useful for deep discussion amoungst afficionados interested in the fine points of a topic, but only the most followed/respected in a field will get a large audience of the ‘casually interested’.

But there is an alternative to appeal to the mass audience: the digest.

The very challenge that faces the new blogger –the plethora of voices– can provide an opportunity. Those that don’t have the time to devote to a given topic, but still have an interest, can benefit greatly from the activity of a good online editor. One negative aspect of print publications was that they were barrier for writers and/or topics that didn’t fit with the editor’s goals. On the plus side, they did provide a service to the reader by selecting content that was relevant to the target audience, met editorial standards, and provided new knowledge to the readers. The same magazine or paper was unlikely to publish material that was poorly written, didn’t provide an opinion with supporting evidence, or repeated themes published in recent issues.

The online editor or ‘digester’ can still have great influence in a field by adding their own observations and by selection of content, but has to avoid misrepresenting content to avoid loss of credibility and authenticity, very significant keys to online success.

Consider becoming one less voice, and instead, an exceptional collector of content.

Attribution: I wanted to mention the article that triggered the idea for this post.  It was an article entitled “Lessons Learned from Seth Godin” by J.D. Meier. I realized that, while the article  provided some service for Godin afficionados –like myself–, it provided even greater value for those with a cursory interest in Seth’s areas of expertise, who would benefit from a very well done digest.

Finding a Unifying Theme: Step 1 – Eliminate Superstition

On or around March 1st will mark my last day with Nortel after over 12 years. How is that for a push to find what you really want to be doing?

So, time again to answer the question, what will be my Unifying Theme?

For the attentive reader, you will recall that the title of this blog came from the book Freakonomicsby Levitt & Dubner. When in discussions with their publisher, they were confronted by the apparent fact that their manuscript didn’t contain a ‘Unifying Theme’, which –in their publisher’s estimation– was essential to a successful book. Because Levitt & Dubner could not immediately articulate what their theme was, they capitulated to the publishers and addressed the lack of a unifying theme right at the start of Freakonomics.

Around the same time I read Freakonomics, I was trying to figure out a title for my blog. What was I about? What was I going to write about? Would my blogging lead me on a path to discover where my true motivations and passions lie? Or would I –as I suspected– continue to find a diverse range of topics interesting –and blog-worthy– but never find any one area compelling enough to focus a large percentage of my time? At least as a consolation: if a book as successful as Freakonomics can succeed without a Unifying Theme, it must not be all that important!

You can imagine how crushed I was to learn, in Levitt & Dubnert’s sequel Super Freakonomics, that they had discovered that their first book actually did have a unifying theme. They decided it was: ‘people respond to incentives (although not necessarity in ways that are predictable of manifest)‘. In hind sight, I am really glad they didn’t lead with that!  The ‘no unifying theme’ preamble was much more mysterious and compelling!

Rats!!  Now they have gone and found their ‘Unifying Theme’, what about me?! Should I become an (micro-)economist?? And do micro-economists feel inferior to macro-economists?  But I digress…

Back to the topic at hand: what do Unifying Themes have to do with superstition?

Superstition has several definitions, but I am concentrating on actions based on “a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.” (dictionary.com)

While you may think of things like ghosts, Friday the 13th, etc. I am thinking of more every-day examples:

  • Belief that if you just had more money, you would be happier.
  • The behaviours that got you where you are, will get you where you want to go.
  • Your income says something about how valuable a person you are.
  • You can work for the same company your whole career.*
  • Other people can give you the affirmation you need to make you life worthwhile.
  • People are only motivated by money.
  • Retirement will make it all worth it.

Its pretty easy to understand where superstitions come from: when you discover two things that often correlate, but don’t spend the time or energy to discover if they are causal. Just imagine the successful executive who has many good attributes, but also regularly yells or belittles her employees.  It would be fair for her to assume that her personality is what got her success, but is all of it really contributing to her success? If she stopped yelling at employees would the success go away? Might her performance actually improve?*** You don’t want to be like the pigeon that keeps dancing in a circle expecting food, just because the researcher once trained it that food would appear.

To find the ‘Unifying Theme(s)’ for your life, I think the first place to start is by removing your superstitions and gaining a better understanding of what really makes you happy. Test those assumptions in life that have kept you from doing the things that you want to do. Get your friends, family, co-workers to reflect back to you what they see as your motivations and passions. Better yet, invest some time and money in a good mental health practitioner** who can illustrate your superstitions and motivations. Various tools can help you find out your preferences, one of my favourites is from Gallup Research: StrengthsFinder 2.0: A New and Upgraded Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths

Enough from me. Any advice from my audience on your approach to finding your ‘Unifying Theme’? Success stories are particularly welcome!

* Not one I ever had. I can’t believe how long I lasted at Nortel. There is probably a whole other blog post on that one.

** Finding one of these is hard, but very valuable.

*** There is a good book specifically addressing this topic: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

New Year’s Resolution 2010: Blog More & Eat Less.

2009 was a funny year for me, in many ways it was my best year yet, but one thing that really took a back seat was my blogging.

I stopped blogging so much because of an epiphany that the world already has an abundance of ideas, what was missing was ideas that lead to action, and I decided to spend more time on the latter than broadcasting the prior.

But when it comes down to it, what is the most tangible benefit of writing?  Is it to inform, to change minds?

The inescapable benefit is that writing –and more importantly blogging– is to force yourself to take ephemeral thoughts and ideas that reside in your mind and crystallize them on the page/screen.  Your ideas become more concrete, and you end up convincing yourself (or not) of the strength of your ideas, and learn more about yourself.  When you can build a strong belief in your ideas, that becomes a major contributor to action.

Blogging is like a debate with yourself, with an audience that forces you to play fair.  🙂

Happy 2010 everyone!

SfaUT: Top 5 Posts of ALL Time

Well, actually it has been about 1 and 1/2 years since I started blogging, and I wanted to see if any ‘Unifying Theme’ has popped up.  Also, for anyone who has watched network TV, you eventually get to that episode where the money and/or creativity runs out, and they resort to running a ‘retrospective’ episode of clips cobbled together from previous episodes.  This is the blog post equivalent…

Maybe it is different for other bloggers, but I doubt it: the posts that you really, really like are NOT the ones that get the most hits!  Based on the number of hits, I should create a blog about Rogers or RBC rants, or perhaps a restaurant guide.

SfaUT Top Posts

The top post, which still receives more hits a day than any other post, is a rant about the high data roaming charges that Rogers bills its customers, which I experienced on my trip to Asia earlier this year.  Apparently this is a common experience with a lot of people, which has led to a lot of traffic to my site.  If you type “rogers data extortion” into Google, my post is the top hit (as of today).

Next, in #2 position, is a post I did about Google.  I was watching Google regularly releasing applications that I am sure others were building their entire business case on, and had a thought:  What is happening to the web start-up industry as a result of Google’s deep pockets, and free applications?  This got picked up by a web aggregator called Ycombinator at the time, and has since been changed to ‘Hacker News’.  Of those >1000 reads, about 80% were in a single day, and has since dropped to zero reads a day!

#3, and deservedly so, is my assertion that Singapore Restaurant is the best restaurant in Ottawa, and why.  It shows up on about page 6 of a Google search on Ottawa’s best restaurant, so it must only be really determined people that find it… or they are using some other search tool.  With 662 views, I hope at least a few of those people actually gave it a try, Abba and Foo deserve the business!

#4 was another fee-based rant:  This time the target was RBC Visa and their overlimit fees.  Since I don’t carry balances on credit cards this was actually a sympathetic-rant for a friend I was helping with some financial counselling.  I actually got quite angry on the phone with the RBC representative and accused them of taking advantage of people that were not financially savvy.  Now I wish I had recorded it, it may have made a good audio clip for the blog.

Finally, to maintain my lack of a ‘Unifying Theme’, the last in my Top 5 list is about an observation I made of how similar Klee Irwin and John Waters look… judge for yourself! This was my second post about Klee, who came to my attention in his hilariously funny infomercials on dual-action cleanse.

It appears that I am STILL Searching for a Unifying Theme…

Prediction Markets: Its Not Just the Republicans that Think Palin was a Bad Choice!

It seems there are now a lot of Republicans attacking McCain’s selection of Palin as a running mate after the election loss.  This is a bit of a change of heart since, on the day of the election, 71% of Republicans surveyed said McCain had made the right choice of running mate.  But I guess 29% of Republicans is still a lot of potential naysayers.

I have a great interest in the powers of prediction markets.  This was triggered by reading a book by James Surowiecki called “The Wisdom of Crowds“, which (amoung other things) convinced me that prediction markets are a very powerful way to predict likely outcomes.

So when Daniel Pink, another author I enjoy, presented the Iowa Prediction Market’s 90% chance of a Obama victory on the eve of the election, I had look at the chart that he provided:

What really struck me was the precipitous drop in the Republican’s chances that appears to start at the very end of August.  I did a quick Google search to try and figure out what could possibly have triggered this steep decline, that you can see at the far right of the graph above.

It didn’t take me long to put 2 & 2 together… McCain oficially announced Palin as his running mate on August 29th, 2008, which aligns exactly with the cliff-like drop in the GOP’s chances in the prediction market data.  McCain, considered a very leftward leaning Republican, was probably advised to pick Palin – a Bush-esque ignoramus – to appeal to the Republican ‘base’ and also increase the chances of attracting women (disaffected by the Dem’s choice of Obama over Hilary Clinton) to the republican ticket.

It sounds like a pretty sound strategy, but the prediction market data clearly shows that this one decision triggered a massive drop in the GOP’s chance of victory, and was certainly the single biggest factor in the Republican loss.

If you believe prediction markets…

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