New Year’s Resolutions

I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I’ve made three. It’s been a couple of tough years filled with change and I finally feel more settled with a company I respect and a comfortable home, so it’s time to challenge myself again! Here are my three challenges for this year.

1 Say Yes To Scary Stuff

Seek out and say yes to opportunities to speak at conferences or write for professional sites. I always get a lot out of doing this, and saying yes to one often leads to more opportunities. I’ve connected with a group of friends and we’re going to encourage and mentor each other to step up and take these opportunities.

2 Be More Creative

My job and my hobbies lead me to spend a lot of time staring at screens, and I want to have more fun and be more creative.

I want to get back to crafting, when I’m not looking at a screen I like knitting, sewing and fabric art. I want to complete at least four craft projects this year. One is something for a friend’s baby, that shouldn’t take long!

I’ve started a new Instagram account called 101 Good Things, where I make very bad drawings of things that make me happy. It’s a nice combination of making me notice the happy moments and have some fun trying to draw it. I am really bad at drawing hands, there may be improvement over the year.  Not sure whether I’ll stop when I get to 101.

Back in 2010 I reviewed Caffeine for the Creative Mind but rediscovered while unpacking, it’s 250 exercises to help you be more creative. I’m going to test the exercises and see what works. I may even post some of them here.

3 Read More Books from More Diverse Writers

I didn’t read enough last year, and I missed it. This year I want to read more, and from more diverse writers. A friend of mine posted this list, from R. O. Kwon, and I’ve added about 10 books from it to my wish list. I received an amazon voucher for Christmas but it’s not going to cover it!

  • by a writer who identifies as LGBTQI
  • a classic (not a re-read)
  • a poetry anthology
  • a Booker or Pulitzer prize-winning writer
  • by a writer from Africa
  • by a writer from China
  • by a writer from another Asian country
  • by a writer from a country I haven’t visited

I’ve started Middlemarch, so that’s the classic covered, I’ll take recommendations for the other options.

 

Let’s see how well I do – I’ll review at the beginning of December.

Welcome to 2018

One sure prediction is that the new year will bring a slew of predictions, some glowingly optimistic and some confidently pessimistic. I’ve sifted through the predictions in the digital world, and here’s my summary, plus a New Year’s gift.

Artificial Intelligence

As the use of big data, algorithms and the digital technology has evolved artificial intelligence has moved from the esoteric into real world.

It turns up in marketing, with a series of caveats. It’s behind an app to identifying snakes, with caveats about what that does for our relationship with nature. It’s contributing to how we brew beer and AI is what makes chatbots smart enough to be helpful.

The Webby Awards Trend report notes that we still trust humans over AI, but I suspect we’re not always aware of where AI impacts our lives. We will see more practical adaptations of AI in 2018.

Virtual Reality

I like the idea of virtual reality, but my experience so far has been that it doesn’t add enough to my experience to compensate for the awfulness of the headset. Frankly I’d rather read a book and imagine the worlds. So the story-telling in VR needs to improve, and the devices need to get better.

So far the biggest use seems to be in gaming but even there users are underwhelmed, the Economist reported in December that VR has failed to live up to it’s hype, and added that there is a “distinct whiff of urgency in the air” as VR struggles with poor equipment and unsatisfactory content.

The devices are starting to get lighter and prettier, however they’re still relatively expensive.


Will 2018 be the year that the devices and the experiences improve?

Blockchain

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin and other crypto-currencies, it has other uses in making digital information exchange more trustworthy.

We’ll see these tests scale more widely along with more novel uses, I’m sure there are smart people out there looking at how blockchain could be used more broadly to securing our online identity.

Bots

Bots get a lot of bad press, they were exploited in the 2016 election and throughout 2017 to deliver false information to a screen near you, eroding reasonable debate and internet freedom according to Freedom House reports.

However due to advances in AI bots are starting to get better at customer service than humans. Will 2018 be the year we pass the Turing Test on a help-desk call?

Cybersecurity

This remained a big issue for business last year with major breaches in a range of industries from food retail, email, healthcare and governments.

Companies spend increasing proportions of their IT budget on cybersecurity and introduce restrictive measure to protect their data (USB sticks are frequently banned for example), 2018 will be the year of innovation in cybersecurity as companies struggle to reassure customers that their data is safe.

Social Media

Social media will become even more commercialised, expect more of those ads on Instagram, and more promoted posts – and more ways to promote content – on all platforms as the pressure increases for the platforms to be profitable and for company use of social media to demonstrate a return on investment. This won’t be pretty.

On the plus side we’ll see more tweaks on the platforms to encourage engagement; expect more platforms to adapt the Facebook emoticon model, and more uses of video and live-streaming.

My New Year’s Gift

In an attempt to be more consistent with my blog posting I developed a content calendar, I’ve added the various “International Day Of…” dates that might be useful along with a few significant birthdays and events. I’ve added a few content ideas, and I’m sharing the framework so far in case anyone else finds it useful.

2017

As we say farewell to 2017, here’s a reminder of what the world thought was worth searching for – it’s a two minute film from Google based on search data. It’s like a time capsule of the year.

 

Image: New Year’s Day  |  geralt on Pixabay  |  CC0 1.0

Unplug

I first read about “unplugging” a couple of years ago, and then was inspired by Baratunde Thurston‘s account of taking a structured break from digital communications about a year ago. At the end of 25 days of zero online time he says “The greatest gift I gave myself was a restored appreciation for disengagement, silence, and emptiness.” His digital detox of 25 days led to new insights on how to be balanced in a hyper-connected world, and he says he developed some new habits.

Unplugging is an idea that has grown, and even has its own day, although there are naysayers. I agree that one day off doesn’t make much difference, but I suspect most of us could examine and re-balance our digital habits. Fast company produced a guide to unplugging, including ideas for daily or weekly habits.

I am online constantly; my work, social-life and hobbies – including blogging – keep me online for many hours every day. So the idea of a break from digital appeals, during my sabbatical it really didn’t seem necessary, but now that I’m back at work in a tide of email that’s changed.

I have decided that the Christmas/New Year period is a good time to take a digital break. As I’m still working some days it’s not a complete break. But I’ll be unplugging where I can. That means no blogging, no twitter, no Slideshare, no G+, no LinkedIn.

Apart from catching up with friends and family, I will be taking time to read, to write, and to think. See you next year!

Keeping those New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Are you keeping them? This time of the year there are a dozen articles on how to keep your New Year’s resolution, the ads on TV are swamped with offers from gyms and diet companies.

The most common resolutions include; losing weight, exercising, and saving money. All good things but it seems to be very hard to stick to them – even though we know that it’d be good for us. Fortunately there’s lots of advice on how to stick to resolutions, and tools and apps to help us.

One of the most common pieces of advice is to share your goals with friends and family members who will support you. But there is research around that suggests the social acknowledgement of your planned goal is enough to trick your brain into thinking something has already been achieved. Here’s a TED talk explaining more.

Whether that’s how your brain works or not all the advice on keeping your resolutions says that you have to make it a habit, and that means doing something pretty much every day for at least 30 days.

One site offers a cool way to track your progress over 100 days, Give it 100 was founded by Karen Cheng, the woman behind “dance in a year”. The site allows you to upload a short video each day showing how far you’ve come. Lots of people are using it to document their efforts to lose weight or to exercise, and some people are showing their progress at learning a new skill. My favourite of these is skels who is learning to unicycle, it’s such a joyful thing to learn, and she’s doing really well.

That’s another secret to making and keeping resolutions, think less about what you should do, and more about what makes you happy.  Pick something that you actually like doing, and build on that.

Lego Image New Years Resolutions (1/52) / CC BY 2.0

Cyclist Image screenshot from give it 100 website

New Year’s Resolutions

What do I want to be different in 2010? I don’t make big “resolutions”, my world view is that life is a journey so you can take a step forward, or backward or change direction on any day. But the new year is a great opportunity to reflect on whether  I’m still heading somewhere I want to go, and determine whether some adjustments are needed.

Work

  • More balance in which goals I focus on, in 2009 I was very absorbed with one big goal, in 2010 I need to spread my time across all the goals of my team more evenly.
  • Learn more about communications, online communications, managing technology, managing other people and managing “up”. The first four of these area a continuation of what I’ve been learning for years, I know I like these subjects. The last one is more difficult for me, I know I need to “work the politics” more, and make sure I have buy-in before acting. I’m getting better – but it’s still a learning point for me. Mind you, having a manager who knows the online world is helping me a lot!
  • Keep delivering, I want to deliver more smaller results this year. This means better planning and speeding up our development cycle. We’re in a good position to do this in 2010.
  • More fun with my team, we’ve had a tough year, and 2010 will also be extremely busy as our company goes through a lot of change. I’m lucky to have a great team to work with, but I need to find some more ways to pull us together throughout the year.

Personal

  • More Writing, I started working on this blog seriously at the beginning of 2009, that’s going to continue, but I want to try more fiction writing. So short stories for a creative writing course, and another attempt at NaNoWriMo.
  • Learn to rollerblade, I’ve had such fun trying to ice-skate I’ve decided that the fun should continue in summer.
  • Travel somewhere I’ve never been before, I have two cities on my must see list; Istanbul and St Petersburg. But I’m also thinking about India, an online friend lives there and the superb photos she posts have got me inspired. She posted about the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, which led me to look up Ganesh (pictured above). He’s worshipped as the god of education, knowledge and wisdom. He’s also the destroyer of obstacles, sounds like a handy guy to know.

image Ganesh 2009 /Pranav Yaddanapudi/ CC BY 2.0