Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spring Cleaning for the Digital Age

Springtime! A time to celebrate renewal and growth. To celebrate freedom from bondage during Passover. To celebrate freedom from the tomb, real and symbolic, during Easter. To seek freedom from drek and schmutz, no matter what your religious tradition.

That would be the drek and schmutz of wayward dead leaves and twigs in the yard; crumbs and spills in cupboards. Also, digital detritus. For years, I've set aside time during Passover and Holy Week to search and purge digital detritus. Here's a short list of my best practices. Do try this at home!

Online Security
  • Ongoing erosion of cybersecurity for individuals, not just famous ones makes updating passwords a top priority. Although there are similar services on the market, I use LastPass to remember and generate new passwords. 
  • Check your browser. If you see "http://" secure your browsing change it to "https://" with HTTPS Everywhere, an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera that encrypts your communications.
  • Enable two-factor-authentication. PITA, but necessary. 
  • Review and upgrade virus and spyware protection. I use AVG and Spybot.
  • Review and delete browser extensions and smartphone apps you no longer need or use.
  • Check for updates and install them immediately. 
  • Tidy up multiple email accounts by pointing them all through one email address. Unless you have a strong reason for not doing so, set up a Gmail account and point all other email accounts through it. Use Gmail's "Labels" and "Filter messages like these" functionality under "More" to sort stuff into folders...or immediately to trash.
  • Clean out and delete the email accounts you don't use.
  • Review and delete subscriptions to eNewletters and feeds to blogs you no longer read. Exception: this blog.
Social Media Platforms
  • Review and update branding on all platforms so you're consistent across platforms. By branding I mean your: bio description, header images, color palette, logo/avatar use.
  • Review your scheduling/management software (e.g., Buffer) to ensure the accounts you want linked actually are. 
  • On Twitter: 1) Clean up follow and followers. I use a combination of WhoUnfollowedMe,  Crowdfire (previously known as JustUnfollow), Tweepi, and manually scrolling through. Use a Google search to find out other methods. 2) Review and tidy up lists, including whether you want them to become public or private. 3) If you use Tweetdeck, review and reconfigure columns to reflect your current interests and needs.
  • On Facebook: 1) Clean up your friends and Page "likes," shifting to "unfollow" if you don't want to "unfriend." 2) Tidy up the entire mess that is Facebook by using Social Fixer to filter and hide almost anything you don't want to see. 3) Review your personal timeline and delete whatever comes under the heading, "What was I thinking?"
As for hardware, I devote more time than I usually do to cleaning my desktop computer, laptops, and smartphone. I deploy a powerful combination of a compressed-gas duster, vacuum cleaner, screen and monitor safe cleaners, and cotton swabs. Don't ask how much time I usually spend.

If I add hard drive defragging, new backups, and a tour through various external drives, the whole process makes for a very pleasant day, especially if I'm listening to Mozart, the composer and Mozart, the cat, is napping.

And you? What does your digital spring cleaning include? When will you be hunkering down to do it?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Why I'm Back to Blogging (On a Personal Blog)

Hello again!
When last we heard from me back in 2015, I was explaining my decision to ditch blogging. I thought it would be a permanent hiatus. It's not because here I am, back to blogging.

Most of my reasons for going on hiatus remain true, albeit slightly tweaked. Read on.

Twitter is still my go-to platform for news and conversation.
If you follow me on Twitter (@meredithgould) you've probably noticed a gradual shift in focus. Since the presidential election, I've become more focused on #digitalactivism and #deliberatekindness. (I'll write more about my call to digital activism in another post.) I still specialize in curating content with (and without) commentary.

Medium has become my primary place for writing about writing.
On Medium (http://medium.com/@meredithgould) I write about writing. After experimenting with a few other topics, I discovered my sweet spot and contribute to The Writing Cooperative.

As for blogging...
Turns out I was simultaneously right and wrong about the value--to me--of actively maintaining a personal blogging. But ever the empiricist, I needed to test this hypothesis.

I was right because: Since 2015, I've written two books for Liturgical Press. Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice was published in 2016. The publication date for Transcending Generations: A Field Guide to Collaboration in Church is August 15, 2017. Last month, a new edition of Deliberate Acts of Kindness: A Field Guide to Service as a Spiritual Practice was published by Clear Faith Publishing. I managed to accomplish this without futzing with ideas and content on my personal blog.

I was wrong because: I underestimated the value of blogging to keep my writing pump primed. Standard advice to writers is to write every day. I do, in fact, write every day but not always the type of writing that builds book-writing muscles. Yippee! A new hypothesis to test. Hence, back to blogging.

I still believe I'm right about group blogs for organizations because: They're a labor intensive nightmare for whoever is charged with maintaing editorial quality control.

And so here I am, back to blogging. Because I always have more to say. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

About this blog and shifting the conversation elsewhere online...

Oh right, I have a blog. This one. The one I haven't posted any written content to since January 4th. And the only reason I know that is because I just looked it up. 

I looked for the last post with text, read it, and saw that I wrote about "being present one day at a time...each hour or moment-to-moment, if that's all I can muster." Clearly, all that being present did not include blogging. Now on my mind, this question: When will it?

At this juncture I'm not sure when I'll get back to this social media platform. If ever. So much has changed since I started blogging in 2007. Blogging platforms have died (e.g., Typepad) and others have emerged (e.g., Tumblr). Blogging itself has gone through some changes. 

Years ago, long form posts, sometimes pushing 2,000 words were acceptable if not normative. By 2010-ish, micro-blogging platforms like Facebook and Twitter, plus changes in hardware, eventually rendered massive word counts as intolerable as they were unreadable on certain digital devices. 

I was fine with all these changes, including the ascendency of visual social media like Pinterest and Instagram. Having started out as a visual artist, I became a very happy camper indeed when it became perfectly acceptable to have blog posts dominated by images rather than text. Tumblr is the blogging platform responsible for that shift. I set up a Tumblr blog and then did exactly nothing with it because I had this one.

There's more to this transition from blogging, including but not limited to these current realities:
  • Twitter allows swift access to and the possibility of conversation with more people than my blog could ever generate.
  • Facebook provides a platform for sharing thoughts, insights, and ridiculousness with even more space than allowed via Twitter, plus see first point above.
  • Both Twitter and Facebook allow me to choose when and how to share my Instagram pics with a slightly different group of connections.
  • Books are my long form, a revelation I've finally arrived at as I begin my tenth and another with Liturgical Press. 
  • Public blogging no longer functions well, for me, as the place to futz around with book content.
  • Any future quasi-long form writing I might want to do online would probably be better launched from Medium.
Still, I'm loathe to completely shut down this online diary (the original point of blogging) of my interior and exterior meanderings over the years, so I won't. Instead, here's where you'll find me:
  • I'm sticking with Twitter as my personal comedy club and go-to place for marketing communications intel in the worlds of healthcare and church. Follow me on Twitter (@meredithgould) to find curated content about #chsocm (Church Social Media), #hlthsp (Health and Spirituality), and lively exchanges with tweeps from my overlapping worlds of interest.
  • I've set up a Facebook Author Page to update readers about book releases and events, with occasional whining about the process of book writing and the world of publishing. Please "Like" me there.
  • For all other longer-than-Twitter observations plus other stuff (but rarely links to articles because those I post on Twitter), "Friend/Follow" my Meredith Gould profile.
  • To see what the "eye" cultivated by decades of formal art training zooms in on, follow me on my Instagram account.
Next Advent (November 29-December 24, 2015), Schlep of the Magi will show up on FB and possibly on Instagram.

So there you have it, dear readers. I do hope you'll connect with me via other social networking platforms. Your comments and support over the years have been a blessing that, not to be greedy, I'd love to continue receiving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Magi Arrive at Long Last

The Magi didn't expect the Holy Family to be 
so much larger than life. Quite the Epiphany! 
And the trip was such a schlep, 
they decided to head home another way.