Growing Beyond All-In-One Social

Recently people are paying more attention to how their social network information is used. Facebook has been getting the most press (with good reason), but people are starting to take a harder look at their use of social media platforms in general. Seems like a good time to revisit some of the basics about what the deal is and how to work with it.

What’s the deal?

All-in-one platforms concentrate everything you share and see into one tidy package. Usually for sale. You might understandably feel slightly betrayed having everything you’ve ever shared or visited fed into AI/PsyOps to promote consumerism, authoritarianism, or anything else people will pay for, but that’s the deal.

Even if you value your privacy somewhat, and recognize the risks of making everything you do readily accessible to anyone claiming to be doing marketing, you are still probably going to choose to have a social media account. The key is is to control what you publish, manage your interactions, and try maintain enough perspective to avoid being sucked in by Pavlovian conditioning, random reinforcement and other tactics.

Here’s a few tips that might help, both on the receiving and posting ends.

It’s OK to miss a post

The social reward for checking posts like a gambling addict is real, and social networks reward that behavior, but social networks are the social equivalent of junk food – fine in moderation provided you balance it with other social contact. If you have other social contact, missing a post is no biggie. You’ll catch up on anything important when you connect.

When you share on social media, you are connecting to an audience that includes only a subset of your friends (along with robots, lurkers, and other people you didn’t even realize were there). Not all your friends will see your post, even if they are on the same social network. And you are probably not going to see everything your friends post either. That’s all OK.

To maintain perspective, make sure you are connecting outside of social media for a reasonable percentage of your total social time. What’s reasonable is up to you, but every couple of months or so, self check you’re still comfortable with your balance.

Have more to show

Consider sharing more thoughtfully. Seriously consider appropriate recording. If you write articles or create other media, that should be somewhere on the net in addition to being shared on social media. There are platforms for writings, music, videos and other media (for memorable links, make a membic). If you’ve never recorded anything outside of a social network, try going back over your posts for the last month to see how you are presenting and what your voice might be. Adjust as needed to make sure you are happy with how you are coming across.

Recording deeper artifacts separately over time creates a searchable archive reflecting a powerful aspect of you independent of any filtering your social net decides to apply for its visitors.

Read other sources

Social networks can be helpful for alerts about events and news, but you owe it to yourself and others not to endorse anything you haven’t actually looked into. Not everything actually comes from where you would expect, and the reasons behind posts can be equally surprising. Don’t despair, a little analysis can make your social network perusal much more interesting.

Sometimes people fall into relying on social networks for news because they don’t have time for other sources. Take a timeout for few minutes to learn about RSS, and try out an RSS reader. You’ll probably gain your time back, and more. As a side benefit, you’ll be able to easily follow any of your friend’s blogs without having to visit their site to check if anything’s new. An RSS reader is a primary phone app.

Make time to stay in touch

Continuing on the theme of underutilized old-school technology, consider your calendar. If you have trouble making the time to stay in touch with extended family, far flung friends, or other acquaintances, put it on your calendar. For increased success, schedule contact sometime that’s not a holiday.

On holidays, if you have some time, reflect back on rewarding social interactions you’ve had over the past year. You might find they weren’t on social media.

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Growing Beyond All-In-One Social

What About All Those Articles?

As you read through news related to what you do, you probably glance at hundreds of article listings per month. Out of those hundreds of articles, you probably select dozens that seem worth reading. Out of the dozens of articles you read, maybe a handful are worth remembering.

In That Case

Based on your perspective, what were the most noteworthy news articles you read last month? Last year?

Having a fast answer to those questions gives you a sense of agency, direction, and perspective. A mechanism enabling that capability enhances your working memory, allowing you to easily find references and improve your feel for trends, focus areas, and patterns.

Knowledge In, Knowledge Out

At the time of this writing, it’s not viable to train an AI to reliably detect articles you think are worth remembering. There are automated services that will tell you what you should be interested in, but if you want to read and think for yourself, you are going to need to read and record link references yourself. Preferably just after you’ve finished reading an article so you don’t have to skim through it again later just to remember why it was memorable.

To save a memorable link reference, you’ll need to save the URL (or equivalent reference identification), and the reason why you are saving it. For retrieval, an overall rating and tags are extremely useful, but the most important thing is to record why you are saving the link. Your notes will trigger your memory later. They’re the foundation for insight and perspective.

The Flow

If you are going to record memorable links, you need a quick and easy way to do it. A handy button that doesn’t work in all situations is going to skew your memory towards only the sources that support the handy button. There are two reliable ways that work across all devices and sites:

  1. Copy Paste: Copy the link location, open your link archive tool, paste in the link, add your reason why you are saving it.
  2. Mail it in Copy the link location, mail it to yourself with the reason why it you are saving it.

Use whichever you are more comfortable with for your situation at the time.

The Reward

Once you’ve recorded a few dozen entries, things get interesting. An extremely low noise, tightly curated expert selection of article links, each with your reason why it is noteworthy, is compelling content. That content reflects you well. It can be added to your website, made into a website on its own, serve as an RSS newsfeed for interested readers, and post through to social media channels as you want.

For your own reference, instant access to your most recent memorable links and your top rated links can be illuminating. Searching through your memorable links by text and/or keywords quickly pulls up references when you want them. Exporting a selected subset of the links you’ve remembered can form the basis for your own article or other analysis.

Membic

Membic is a free, open source, full data access tool built from scratch for managing memorable links. It handles everything described above and extends those capabilities to enable collaboration with friends or colleagues. To start getting perspective on what you read, try it out at membic.org

What About All Those Articles?

How To Organize Your Resource List

When your expertly curated resource list grows to a dozen links or more, you need to organize. Organizing isn’t difficult, but it’s a drag to have to do it repeatedly. Here’s what you need for easy access to your reference links that you only need to set up once:

Search Filtering

Landing on a list of links can be daunting, but if you have some idea what you are looking for you can find it fast with search filtering. Search filtering is a search text box that automatically filters the displayed links as you are typing. Even with a lot of links, search filtering finds what you are looking for in seconds.

Filtering looks at the link text, but also at your description. Searching the link text finds resources based on what they are. Searching your description finds resources based on why they are helpful. Searching both gets you serious retrieval power.

Search filtering is probably the single most important tool for accessing your resource links, but it’s only helpful if you know what you are looking for. For easy access, you want more ways in.

Categorical Keywords

When you are not sure what resources are available, or you want to quickly focus your view, selecting by categorical keyword is a fast and easy way to start. Categorical keywords are effective because they are tailored specifically for your resource links. Selecting by keyword provides pushbutton access to relevant resources, and it gives overview information about what kinds of resources are available.

To create category keywords, look over your current links and divide them into 4-6 general subject classifications. It’s ok if a resource link belongs to more than one category. It’s also ok if you have fewer than 4 categories, you can add more later if you need them. Your list should have several links for each category now, and the potential to hold more resource links in the future.

Categorical keywords are more powerful when they are not obvious search terms. If you are having difficulty categorizing, or if your links do not naturally categorize into a handful of higher level keywords, it’s better to skip categories and focus on type keywords instead.

Type keywords

Where categorical keywords classify links within the subjects they are related to, type keywords classify links based on how they present information. For example a list of new technology resources might have categorical keywords like “biotech”, “computing”, “energy” etc. and type keywords like “overview”, “reference”, “research” etc.

Type keywords are most useful when you are using your resource list for a few specific purposes, or when you want to support other people accessing your list for specific reasons. In those cases, providing a type keyword to use as a general filter can be extremely helpful for focusing in on relevant resources for the purpose at hand. Type keywords can also be used together with search filtering.

Be very sparing with type keywords. More than 4 gets hard to work with. If you are not absolutely sure a type keyword will be helpful, add it later instead. The best way to know when to add a type keyword is to pay attention to those times when you are searching and wish you had an additional type filter to help narrow the results. If you find you aren’t using a type keyword, delete it.

High level general media types (e.g. book, video, movie, music etc) are best kept conceptually separate from type keywords to avoid clutter.

Ok, enough about keywords. On to ratings and time.

Favorites

Quick access to your favorite resource links is super convenient for accessing those resources you most recommend. Anyone who trusts your judgement enough to be looking through your resource links will find your top recommendations immensely valuable. Everyone loves an expertly curated top 10 list.

There are only two hassles with a favorites list: choosing and updating. While that’s pretty much everything, you can do this automatically sorting by rating and recency. Think of your favorites as your most recent, most highly rated resource links.

That’s not to say that rating things isn’t hard. Here’s a strategy:

  1. Start with your highest rating (5 stars or whatever)
  2. Consider these guiding questions:
    1. How relevant is this resource to your list?
    2. How important is it?
    3. What is the overall quality of the resource?
    4. What is the primacy or authority of the resource?
    5. What is your affinity? Did you create this resource or wish that you had?
  3. Adjust your rating down as needed.

You can also adjust your rating for anything later it it turns out not to be quite as great as you first thought, or if it turns out to be more helpful than you expected.

Most Recent

Frequently, the resource link you want is one that you recently added. This happens partly because that resource is still in your active memory, but it may also be especially relevant to your current situation professionally or socially. Viewing your list of resource links purely by time is important to support quick recall that works with your memory. Seeing your recent resource links also provides a sense of context for how your list is growing, and provides fresh info for anyone visiting your resource links page.

Showing your most recent resource links is straightforward, just remember to only go by creation time. Fixing a typo or changing a rating does not move a resource link to the top of the recency display.

Conclusion

Organizing your resource list automatically is essential to avoid getting bogged down in presentation maintenance. All these features and more are available for free at membic.org.

Hope that helps.

How To Organize Your Resource List

How To Present A Resource List

Creating a resource list is easy. Making it presentable is not. When confronted with a list of the most interesting links in the world, people still zone out after the first few entries. So how do you make a resource list worth reading?

Say Why

“What” is apparent from the link title. “Why” is what makes the resource link worth presenting in the first place. “Why” is also what makes a link worthy of consideration. For each resource link, put a sentence with it stating why you personally think the link is worth presenting as a resource reference. Why do you think it’s important? What’s memorable about it?

If you do nothing else to make your resource list approachable, say “why”. People are reading your list because they trust your judgement, help them understand why something is worth their time.

Need more reasons why “why”? How about being able to find things better via search? How about remembering what you thought was great about the resource when you look at it next year? Seriously, if this takes any time at all then it probably isn’t that great a resource. Write a sentence why each resource is worth the time.

Make it look nice

Now that your resource list has been transformed from a boring generic list of links into a personalized, curated, compelling list of awesome resources, it’s time to add some imagery.

Maybe you don’t like this. Maybe you feel people should be able to read a list of awesome resource links painstakingly curated personally by you without needing graphics. Here’s why you want pics with each link:

  • Recognition and memory: People find and remember books by their cover. The cover might not have much to do with the content, but it’s helpful. Resource links work the same way.
  • Visual separation: A thumbnail image looks way better than a bullet point.
  • Light and shiny: Lots of text feels heavy. Pics add bling. Bling is compelling.

In addition to making your resource list easier to read, you are helping keep photographers and graphic design artists employed. Apropos those folks, make sure you have permission to use any graphics you find. If there’s an image you can reference from the resource itself, that’s best.

Organize

If either of the previous suggestions looked too hard to bother with, you may as well skip this part and jump right to the conclusion for help.

You’ve probably noticed that even a really nice looking, personalized resource list starts to feel long after a dozen items or so. What to do?

Breaking the list into sublists helps, and works well until you get more than a few items in each section. After that, attention loss starts to kick in, so only the first section gets any actual consideration. You could try a collapsible tree, but then it’s hard to see what resources are available. You can’t hide information into sections and still get an idea of what you are looking at. That’s why search is better than a taxonomy when you start having more resource links.

But what to search for? Here’s where your personal knowledge really helps out: Think about the resource links you are presenting, then categorize them into four major keywords (it’s ok to have a resource link that fits more than one keyword). Now make those keywords into radio buttons people can use to filter your resource links. Nice!

Not only do radio button keywords provide fast and easy access, they also provide an overview of the kinds of resource links you are providing. It’s another way to help people approach what you are showing.

Conclusion

If your simple resource links page suddenly seems more complicated, don’t worry – all of this is already set up for you. Just go to membic.org and create a theme for your reference links. Membic themes support everything described here, and they’re free. Each membic theme can be accessed as its own web page or be embedded into your own site.

How To Present A Resource List

Mail-In Membics

One of the benefits of being an extremely large and wealthy corporation is you can get other companies to display share buttons linking directly to your site. Since by contrast Membic is a comparatively small independent organization, available options are more limited, but easy sharing is just as important. Unlike books, where it’s easiest to use the interactive auto-complete form, article links come up while you are reading various sources. You need a way to easily capture those links.

One option is just copy and paste the URL, but for some people that breaks their flow. Enter email.

Email

As a tried and true independent communication mechanism, email rocks. It works pretty much everywhere and it’s asynchronous, so you can deal with it when you have time. Perhaps most importantly, it is available from the browser share tab on every phone and tablet. And it can be installed on any computer.

Email is perfect for sharing a link to a small independent site like Membic. Simply mail the link to yourself at me@membic.org to make a new membic for your profile. Here are some examples to illustrate how that works in a few common situations:

Favorite Social Media Site

So you’re browsing through posts on your favorite social media site and come across a potentially interesting article. Here’s your flow:

  1. Click on the article to open it.
  2. If you decide the article is worth remembering, click the share button on your browser and email the link to yourself at me@membic.org.
  3. Return to your social media page and share as you normally do.
Newsfeed

Say you’re reading a news site and run into a summary or analysis worth remembering:

  1. Click the share button on your browser and email the link to yourself at me@membic.org.
  2. Continue reading the news.
Email or Text Message

Someone you trust sends you a link to an article:

  1. Click the link to go to the article.
  2. If you decide the article is worth keeping for reference, click the share button on your browser and email the link to yourself at me@membic.org.

Confirming Your Post

When you send a link to yourself at me@membic.org, membic mails you back with a confirmation link so you can can verify the reason why it was memorable and add finishing touches like selecting keywords or themes. If you made a mistake and don’t want to confirm, you can cancel editing and delete the membic, otherwise when you save, your new membic will show up in your profile and all themes you’ve selected.

Computer Browser Setup

Mobile devices generally all have email sharing built into their browsers already, and Safari has share built in on all platforms. If you don’t see an option for sharing via email from your browser menu, you might need to install a service. This happens mostly for full computer browsers. Some known examples:

  • Chrome: Search the web store for an appropriate sharing service to integrate. I chose this one.
  • Firefox: Select Additional Tools and Features off the main browser menu, then add the share button. Alternatively the Email Link action from the File menu also works.

Augmented Memory

To get the benefits of augmented memory, make a membic when you find something worth remembering. Mail-In membics are a quick and easy way. Next time you find something memorable, mail the link to yourself at me@membic.org

Mail-In Membics

What You Read, Who You Are

What you read shows a lot about who you are.

When you suggest something to read, it

  1. Reflects your own skill and expertise.
  2. Associates you with the author.
  3. Connects what you do with the article content.

Suggesting articles in addition to books amplifies these benefits many times over, so providing an updated reading list as part of your web site can do a lot for your web presence. Here’s what that should look like, and how to set things up without adding much to your weekly content maintenance.

What it should look like

People looking at your reading list are interested in

  1. seeing what you’ve read recently,
  2. seeing your most highly recommended articles,
  3. searching your links and/or browsing by category.

Your reading list should not have a category outline. You don’t want to maintain a taxonomy, and reading classification names is not enjoyable. Assign keywords to links and let people browse by keyword.

Every link should have a short note from you about why it is worth reading. The note makes the links personal. It helps others and it will help you also if you search your own reading list later.

Your reading list should have an RSS so automated trackers can follow it.

How to set things up

To avoid adding to your weekly content maintenance workload, integrate your reading list updates with your social media posts. Connect a social media automator to your reading list RSS to handle both at the same time. Reading list entry updates make great social media posts.

You read a lot. Train yourself to recognize that moment when you just finished reading something impressive. Words like clarifying, comprehensive, energizing, insightful, or brilliant might spring to mind as indicators something is memorable. FWIW, something is brilliant if it seems obvious and clear in retrospect, but you would not have been able to articulate it before. When you read something like that, add it to your reading list immediately.

Avoid the trap of saving for later. That only saves time if you never read it again. Take the few seconds to record it while the context is fresh in your mind. Let your reading list manage the reference context for you.

Next steps

Set up an account, and create a membic theme for your reading list at membic.org. Click the membic theme settings for the code to insert it into your website, and the RSS address for connecting it to automated tracking. Check this previous article for an example of how to connect your theme to your social media automatically.

What You Read, Who You Are

Eyeballs, Mindshare, and RSS

The noisy and fast paced battle for eyeballs is slowing. If you are one of the popular few that have managed to rise above the din, congratulations. Whether you’ve made it or not, expect that visibility is going to continue to get more difficult, and more hierarchical, as the noise floor continues to rise.

What if you don’t have time to post all the time while feverishly monitoring all your social media feeds?

You are going to post less. Make it count.

What to post and where

The first step in communicating more effectively is to differentiate between ephemeral and memorable. Your reaction to the latest headline is ephemeral. An article that does a great job contextualizing recent events is memorable.

Continue to do whatever you do with the ephemeral. For the memorable, first post it for reference, then do whatever else with it. Where to post:

  1. Blog

    If you can write a few paragraphs about your reaction to something, write a blog entry. I use WordPress, YMMV. If you don’t currently have a blog, setting up and getting started will take an hour or two, but after that creating a new blog entry is simply create/edit/save. If you have a website, make sure your site references your blog, and your blog references your site.

  2. Reference

    If you just want to keep a link and a sentence why it was memorable, add an entry to your reference links list. I use Membic, YMMV. If you don’t currently have a list to track your references, setting up a membic theme will take an hour or so, but after that you just write/edit/save. If you have a website, embed the reference links from the theme as a page within your site.

  3. Calendar

    If something is time dependent, put it on a public calendar. I use Google Calendar, YMMV. You (and anyone else) can overlay your public calendar on top of your personal calendar for a complete view of what is going on. If you have a website, embed the calendar as a page within your site.

Posting memorable content generally in addition to socially adds depth to your web presence, and provides a way for people to connect with you even if they are not involved on your favorite social net. It helps others, and you will find it helpful yourself.

How to monitor

Returning to the original issue of feverishly monitoring all your social media all day trying to keep up, it’s ok to let that go every once in a while. Balance your socializing with some in-depth contact.

For those friends whose insights you value, ask if they have a website, blog, reference links list, or public calendar. You can merge the calendars into yours. For everything else, merge them all into a single source with an RSS reader. I use Feedly, YMMV. It may seem a lot at first, but keeping up takes a fraction of social media time, and it’s high quality stuff.

Talk to your friends about RSS

Like email, RSS is older technology. It’s not as old as email, but it’s definitely an old school web approach from a time before some of the web giants were quite as giant. It’s seriously powerful, and it’s seriously underutilized. Many people I’ve talked to haven’t even heard of it, so it seems worth mentioning.

Newspapers, news channels, blogs, reference lists, and other web sources have RSS feeds. Using a feed reader, you can gather all the sources you want to track into a single comprehensive overview. Check it out.

Eyeballs, Mindshare, and RSS