Private Notebooks

One of the blogs in my RSS feeds spat up an article on making better use of your time.  The author went through and discussed some of the things he's done to make his workflow better and to eliminate some of the time sinks that inevitably creep into a daily routine.

While I'm onboard with some ideas (a couple of years ago I dropped almost all my mailinglists in favor of RSS feeds) and disagree with others (RSS feeds are for collecting -- gotta get 'em all!) what I want to talk about today is the idea of Evernote.

I was a OneNote fan for a long time. I still am. However, I switched to Linux two years back, and then moved to a Mac a few months ago. The switch to Linux required a virtual machine to keep OneNote around, but that was a little cumbersome. Then moving to a Mac, I wanted to integrate into that OS more. Thus, I switched to EverNote (Yay cross-platform!). Doubly helpful is their cloud storage of notebooks that I can see and use on many other devices.

I've glanced at OneNote a couple of times but never seemed to really get what it wanted me to do and what it could do for me. I've also looked at Evernote a couple of times with more diligence -- mostly because of the web-based service and being synchronized/accessible by iOS devices, of which I have a couple now. And today, triggered by the article above, I downloaded and installed Evernote.

Having done that I think I "get" what Evernote wants me to do, and what it will do for me. It is very cool -- the recognizing text out of images is neat, and upgrading to Premium might be worth it only for making all my vendor PDFs searchable from one place. But I'm still not sure I want to buy into it, and today I figured out why.

Evernote, and I presume OneNote, is a really well-done Wiki program. It is easy to get data in, easy to organize and find data, easy to store and easy to access. Evernote is a brilliant success at this.

The problem is: it is private by default.

Not just organization-private, but individual-private. By default, what goes into it isn't viewable by arbitrary people.

Which for a lot of applications, is great! You don't want your private business, your secret sauce, just out there for anyone to take and copy. This is the value you add.

Like the joker says, if you're good at something, never do it for free.

But for what I want, generally, I want public-by-default. A lot of the problems I see and fight with and solve professionally have proprietary details, but the underlying logic of how to line the hoops up to jump through to get the result I want -- that's general. And usually I solve it with some hints from the Internet, usually from other people's blogs and wikis showing what they learned when they did what I'm trying to do.

And therefore I feel a duty to give back to the Internet. Thus, the public wiki, where I put out what I've learned. There are some articles which I am proud of up there. (Some others, not so much.) And very occasionally I get an email from someone saying "thanks!" (or "you are wrong/incomplete, here's why"). But the hit counts on some articles keep going up. I'm doing my part to make the Internet include answers, not just questions.

Now that I've wrestled that revelation out of myself, I'm going to try Evernote for a while to see if it will fit in my workflow. I'll probably even up for the Premium for a year -- I've spent more than $50 on worse things.


The Problem With Curing Autism

One of the things which has been bumping around in my head the last week has to do with the autism story that went through the media last week.  The sum of the story is that a research study suggests that for some people, autism is a diagnosis they can lose.  That they can grow out of autism.

One of the articles I read (but have lost) made reference to patients who "no longer met the clinical diagnosis of Autism."  This caused me some thought.

The problem is that autism is, currently, a diagnosis made through the accumulation of certain numbers of behavioral symptoms.  There is no arbitrary mechanical test, through blood or DNA or pathogen detection, that can arbitrarily draw the line between autistic and non-autistic.  Treatment, therefore is about teaching autistic people how to deal with their natural tendencies to replace unhelpful behaviors with more productive substitutes.

The problem is: if you have masked a behavioral symptom to the point that the behavior is not detected, have you actually cured anything?

Consider an amputee.  You can replace the missing limb with a prosthetic with such quality that to the casual observer there is no difference between the amputee and a non-amputee.  However you have not actually solved the underlying problem: there is a missing natural limb.

Similarly, giving autistic people coping mechanisms is useful, but it isn't actually curing anything, and until we really understand the underlying biological pathology and can take steps that cause real change in that pathology, we can't claim to be curing autism.



Today's Penny Arcade is on The Big Bang Theory.  (Well OK its more about some kind of game with The Big Bang Theory thrown in as a punchline, but work with me here.)

I know more than one person who watched an episode of Big Bang Theory and at some point said something along the lines of "I know it's funny, but I'm uncomfortable laughing at myself."

Sheldon is an exaggerated parody, but many of his foibles are based in real life tendencies.


I'm going to attribute this to Martin Luther King, but I may be wrong:
"One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."
Most "activists" today seem to want to weasel out of the penalties for breaking the laws, to hide from the consequences.

If the crime is unjust, fight the crime.  But if you do the crime, do the time.  Take responsibility.  Stand up in a court of law and say, "yes, I did that."

(Inspired by seeing the quote here.)


And Hey

...it only took me an hour to figure out how to automatically share my blogger postings with Google Plus.

Of course that's because I'm an idiot, not because it's not intuitive in any way.

Google Plus Content

Dear Google,

The reason why nobody is using Google Plus is because there's nobody else using Google Plus. And the reason why nobody is using Google Plus is because there's no content in Google Plus. And the reason why there's no content in Google Plus is because A) there's no audience for directly-created content and B) there's no easy way to add other content creation feeds that people are creating anyways.

Take Facebook. I don't use Facebook. I don't like Facebook. But there are a couple of people out there who do use Facebook, but don't use Twitter. For whatever reason. However, I can add my Twitter content to my Facebook content. Now, I'm generating Facebook content, which encourages people to interact with me, which encourages me to check Facebook periodically. Now I'm technically a Facebook user. All because I'm able to send my Twitter content (which is easy for me to generate) to Facebook. I win, the people who only use Facebook win, and Facebook wins.

Who's missing from this discussion? Google Plus.

I'm a Twitter user. That's where I am today. That's where the bulk of my audience is, and where I can arrange things so that the rest of my audience can find things (ie: Facebook integration).

But since I can't even get my Twitter content added to Google Plus, I can't even get my foot in the door. Or you can't get my foot in the door, to mangle the metaphor.

So: if you make it easy for me to add my already-created content to my Google Plus feed, my feed will start having more regularly generated fresh content. Which increases the likelihood that people will read it here. Which increases the likelihood that I'll be back here to interact with them.

Which increases the amount of time I'm back here using it.

Which means: you'd win.

So in conclusion: make it easy for the content I'm generating anyways to get added to the content my Google Plus followers can see. And maybe, just maybe, there'll be people using Google Plus.

But if you don't make it easy for me, I'm not going to do it.


(Originally posted on Google Plus.)


Wordpress Fail, A Continuing Series

I know blogger gets no respect, but blogger doesn't do this: http://www.leancrew.com/all-this/2012/12/wordpress-3-5-and-the-deathly-auto-embeds/

(Found in my drafts folder which is why it's getting thrown up now.)

The Obvious Joke

Thought it would be funny to capture my updated avatar picture with the hemochromitosis announcement.  I don't think I'll stick with that avatar for long, but I think it is a good joke for a short term.

I waited something like three weeks to post that joke, waiting on the blood test results.