New Year’s Resolutions and Plans for 2012


This morning on the way into the office I listened to a podcast from Harvard Business Review on How To Keep Your New Year Resolutions. If one of yours is to put more good in, why not listen to podcasts while your in the car. You can find HBR Ideacast here.

So yes, I had resolutions. I’m not going to share them with you here, but so far I am keeping them and I intend to have an awesome year, which I am going to put a massive effort into. Of course I have broken that down into many parts with goals and plans. I am very much into using technology, particularly in the area of lists and plans, time and people management. That’s what I wrote about in my book Unleashing The Road Warrior. The technology has changed a little since I wrote it, I now have an iPhone and iPad instead of a Palm or Windows Mobile, but the principles are the same and even the apps are still very similar if not more visual and a larger form factor.

Anyway, I was working through how I can improve my productivity and one of the things I realised was that in some cases I am a good multitasker, but in general by personality I am a sequential operator and that’s what I do best. I raise this partly as a note to self, but also as something for you to think about. Do you know how you function best? How you get the best results out of the day? Do you know what time wasting activities you get yourself bogged down in? In NLP we learn about different types of people and even school teachers are taught about whether people are tactile, auditory, kinetic etc. I’m a mixture of all of them, which is perhaps what makes me a good connector, but I digress.

I have always thought of myself as a good mutlitasker and in some cases I am. For example I am a songwriter. When I perform my songs, my left hand is up and down the fretboard, my right hand is picking or strumming, I recall the lyrics, sing them and engage with them, I monitor the audience and engage with them, I listen to make sure I am in tune, I make sure I’m breathing from my stomach and so on. That is multitasking. But it is something I have trained myself to do since the age of 9.

I can’t tell you that I can hold a phone conversation, read and comprehend an email, sort out files on my desk and monitor my websites concurrently. I can’t do justice to more than one thing at a time, especially as I get older. But the other thing I have done very well probably also since around the age of 9 is do many things sequentially and to a pattern. For example I have always read 3 or 4 books plus a few magazines sequentially, but effectively at the same time. I read a chapter out of one, then a chapter from another and so on. The same way that many of us today look at web sites, but what I do is give my full attention to those things at the time. I have intense interest but a low boredom threshold. I need stimulation.

What does that mean to my resolutions and plans for 2012? I am going to use my strengths more effectively. I am going to create a list (I like numbered lists) of things I want to achieve every day in business and in my personal life. There will be many but they will be achievable. Some will be repeated several times during the day such as

  1. Calling clients
  2. Contact people in my networks
  3. Meeting clients
  4. Calling potential clients
  5. Checking Emails
  6. Managing my social media accounts
  7. Managing my blogs

But others will be things like

  1. Take a walk
  2. Think of something or someone I am grateful for or to
  3. List 5 daily goals for the next day at the end of each day
  4. Look after my health
  5. Enjoy my family
  6. Remember that the quality of my life is determined by the quality of my thoughts (I borrowed that one from someone else who had a list of 35 tips.

I will end up with a list of perhaps 20-30 things that I will read every day. They won’t be long winded, they will be practical. At the end of this year I will have had an extremely productive year in many aspects of my life and next year you can ask me how it went. Maybe I will share some of it on my blog, but this blog is normally about technology and the future rather than more personal information.

My question for you is how are you going to make this a better year for yourself, your company, your network, your family and the people you care about?

Seth Godin on Kindle


It’s a shame that Seth doesn’t support direct comments on his blog, but maybe that’s because he wants us to read what he writes rather than the huge numbers of people who would want to comment on his blog.

I won’t paraphrase his blog about the Kindle because I think it’s worthy of your time to pop over to his blog and read it for yourself.

I have promoted eBooks for a number of years including writing one myself, Unleashing the Road Warrior, which you can buy from many sites including the new eBook site ReadingIt which I am involved with.

I also wrote a FREE Whitepaper which might add to the story called Are eBooks Ready to Come of Age, which has been used as readings in a number of universities.

The key things that I totally agree with Seth on are:

  1. eBook prices are crazy. Why should you pay a similar price to a hardcopy book? The cost of publishing is tiny in comparison to printing on paper. It is more sustainable as trees don’t need chopping, retailers don’t need huge margins, so someone is being greedy. Readingit.com is a startup founded on the concept that the writer should enjoy the majority of the revenue from their professionally edited book.
  2. The Kindle is easy to use, you don’t need to be a technology buff and with good internet access downloading new books is easy. It’s about reading not about technology.
  3. The Kindle display is more like paper and therefore doesn’t give you the eye strain that I have suffered from on many longhaul flights because of the backlighting, just the same as when you are at your computer too long at a tme.
  4. The Kindle doesn’t give you the same fuctionality that I wrote about in Are eBooks Ready to come of age. In Palm and Windows Mobile devices and others, you can highlight, annotate, bookmark, draw and other features which mean that you can readily access information you want to revisit and you don’t ruin the book with lots of scribbles and ear tagged pages. Like Seth I have several thousand books and it isn’t easy in a hurry to find the book you wanted and which of the many post it flagged pages you wanted.
  5. While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

    Thanks so much for your support:)

Is that a Blackberry in your pocket or?


I’ve spent the last 3 days at the GeoCart’2008 Conference. It was an academic conference with speakers and attendees from all over the world. The content was excellent and I found it fascinating to see not only the results of academic research in the modern world of geography, location based technology research and web mapping, but also some of the great products that have and are being developed. But this is not what today’s blog is about. Perhaps more on the conference in the next few days.

I was an exhibitor at the conference and during the quiet times, was checking my phone for messages and emails as the Internet services at the venue at Auckland Univesity were shocking. I was in a building next door to the Auckland university IT Campus and the best local internet I could get was 128kbps. This morning I was listening to a podcast while I was in the shower about Internet services in Mali and how their pipe was only 2Gbps. Being landlocked they have to rely on other countries for access to the submarine cable. They would be horrified at the speed I got in Auckland, but I digress.

A number of people asked if my phone was a Blackberry and how did I like it. My answer was, yes, indeed it is a Blackberry, as issued by my company. Do I like it? I intensely dislike it. I’m a power user of mobile internet, after all I wrote the book, Unleashing the Roadwarrior and I taught companies how to improve efficiency in the field using mobile and wireless devices. Unfortunately I no longer walk the talk.

You see, to me mobile and wireless computing is about efficiency and touching things as few times as necessary. I’ve come from the world of touch screens and along with the book, published texts including Mastering your Palm and Mastering your Pocket PC.

For people who only use the phone ‘killer apps’ of voice and text, the Blackberry is a wonderful device. It has a qwerty keyboard so if you don’t use txt abbreviations, you can type your messages without having to remember the buttons and as a phone, it is perfectly adequate. If you are a Baby Boomer, the ability to do these things as well as read, send and receive email is wonderful. Attachments are another story, but you can send and receive email and you can do it securely through your MS Exchange Server which makes the IT Department happy. It does also synch wirelessly with Exchange for my contacts and calendar, but that’s pretty much where the fun and utility ends for me.

Here’s what I did with my Blackberry over 3 days at the conference. I sent and received a couple of urgent emails. I sent and received a couple of Twitter messages (which all but exhausted the ability of the browser.

Here’s what I could have done if I still had a Windows Mobile or Palm device. Actually I do still own old models, but they are old and I don’t really want to carry multiple devices anymore, although I could possibly consider a new Windows Mobile, Palm or iPhone, given the right opportunity, especially since there is now an iPhone Reader:)

I could have made lots of notes using handwriting recognition on the touch screen. I can write Graffiti or block characters without having to look at the device, so that I can concentrate on the speaker. These would have been written straight into MS Word, so that I would have them available for other purposes, such as copying and pasting into my blog. Instead I used scraps of paper, one of which I have already misplaced.

I could have taken photos of exhibits, slides and delegates for future use and reference.

I could have beamed my digital business card to others who used similar devices.

I could have shown off some of our mapping technology on the IE browser, even richer if the phone also had GPS, which my Blackberry doesn’t. (Mine is probably 2 years old) Relevant given that I work for a mapping company, specialising in web mapping API’s, routing, tracking and car navigation.

I could have quickly referenced web sites discussed during the papers and bookmarked them on the spot for future reference and integration with my favourites on the desktop.

I could have drawn mind-maps to enhance my note taking.

I could have read one of my eBooks, after setting up and while waiting for the delegates to arrive in the morning, or checked the daily paper.

I could have made audible notes and embedded them into an email, or even recorded segments of a presentation.

I could go on, but if you want to know all the other things I could have done, read my eBook, which you can purchase at ReadingIt.

It’s about efficiency, about touching things once but having access to them in lots of ways. It’s about being able to combine real time research with the discussion on the browser. You see, we can think and take in a lot more in the time that a presenter speaks, and in terms of our points of reference. It’s about then being able to access any of those pieces of information, communicate them and collaborate with other people.

Instead I have a few pieces of paper that I hope I won’t lose.

I guess this is about the dichotomy I live and work in. On the one side there is an infrastructure designed to keep data secure and cater to the lowest common denominator, for the most of whom, without training and motivation, even a Blackberry is overkill. On the other side, a busy person who wants to make the most of the information, people and media available at any given point in time. To leverage it.

The conference providers gave the delegates a CD with copies of all of the presentations, which was great. But it is pretty analogue and although I am very interested, I will probably never get around to looking at it. I will hopefully get to some of my notes, along with notes from other events that I havebeen to recently, scribbles on pieces of paper or the backs of business cards.

Then of course there are podcasts. I am big on maximising my time and whenever I am in the car, walking, exercising or doing chores, I am connected to my iPod.

So, yes it is a Blackberry in my pocket. Would I recommend it to anyone? No. Not unless all you want is a phone that does exchange / text email really well. That’s all it was designed for. I want more! I’m a busy person who wants to multitask. I want a touch screen, preferably multipoint. I want efficiency.

Using CAPTCHA to digitse old books


This morning in the shower I was listening to Digital Planet, one of my favourite podcasts from the BBC. No I’m not sad, I just like to maximise my time:)

They interviewed Luis von Ahn about how Carnegie Mellon University is are using CAPTCHA technology to help digitse very old books that are in the public domain.

What is CAPTCHA? It is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers & Humans Apart” You will have found that many times when you register to use an application on the web, or perhaps when you want to invite someone to be your ‘friend’ on MySpace or leave a message, you will see a small clump of letters and you have to enter what you see into a text box.

The reason for this is because spammers and hackers create bots, that allow them to access information and pretend that they are real people. For example there are people running businesses where they can guarantee you lots of ‘friends’ on MySpace for a fee. Personally I am against this and ultimately it is a waste of time, because just being able to say that you have thousands of friends, doesn’t actually help you in any way.

Just to sidetrack for a moment. I have lots of ‘friends’ on my MySpace page, 3967 at last count. They are people who have requested my ‘friendship’ or vice versa and because of that personal relationship, wherever possible, I have a fan base that I can use when I have a concert or gig that I am performing. I can use this to make contact with them, even by geography, but that is really a topic for my About Songwriting blog.

Anyway, many organisations are trying to digitise as many books as possible to allow them to be read as eBooks. The best known of these is Project Gutenburg, which has already digitsed more than 25,000 books.

The problem with older books, especially those prior to 1900 is that the pages are fading and the fonts are harder to read by OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tools, which themselves are still not 100% reliable. On a tangent, I hate reading books that are not perfect. My eBook Unleashing the Road Warrior was edited 12 times to get it as good as possible and I was dissapointed to find an error on page 309 of Stephen King’s latest book, Dumas Key, but that’s another story:)

So what the Carnegie Mellon people have done is to scan the pages and have created a tool which grabs 2 at a time and feeds them into the CAPTCHA environment. So now when you complete a CAPTCHA that has 2 words instead of random letters, what you are actually doing is not only autheticating that you are indeed a human, you are also helping transcribe these old books and ensuring their texts are protected for future generations to enjoy, is that cool or what?

Personally I find CAPTCHAS a pain in the proverbial, but having learned this, I am feeling a lot better about them.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)