The Medium Has the Message and My Blog Is Trying to Catch Up

I’ve really been digging the content I’ve been finding through Medium for the last few months or so. The Web is ever-evolving and to me Medium represents a new paradigm for Web publishing and content consumption. It’s sort of blogging combined with content crowd-sourcing combined with highlighting like I have on my Kindle combined with… Well, it’s unique, so it’s not really just the sum of those parts.

To me, one of the best parts of Medium is the Staff Picks and Top Stories. These two categories give me solid content to read that is either vetted by the platform owners or popular with the platform readers. One of the cool things about this is that it cuts across all topic areas. I’m as likely to want to read one of Eric Elliott’s (@_ericelliott) excellent posts about JavaScript and its communities like this or this or something like When the heck did learning to code become cool? And why it sucks to be a beginner today… which are squarely in my own wheelhouse to interesting takes on Web design like Optical Adjustment – Logic vs. Designers.

But what makes it even more fun is the stuff I run across that to many people would seem sort of random. None of us is so one-dimensional that we cannot enjoy reading something completely new to us. Medium ensures that when we go off on one of those mental tangents, that it’s a higher quality one.

When I spot one of these seemingly random posts, I can see about how long it might take me to read it, so it’s clear going in if how much time I’ll need to invest. (I’m a pretty fast reader, so for me the number is usually an upper bound – YMMV.) Those times must be built up magically based on how long people really spend and the posts and seem pretty accurate to me.

How many minutes?

The biggest thing I notice as I read posts on Medium is that I feel a need to up my own game, to write more pithy and valuable posts. Ever since I started blogging, I’ve had a little voice in my head that writes posts that come out of ordinary, every day experiences. These aren’t the “here’s a piece of code to fix a particular problem” posts, but often the softer stuff that makes the fact that the code exists have more purpose. It might have nothing to do with my professional life at all. (Maybe it’s hard to believe, but I do have a few other interests besides SharePoint.) I wish I actually spent the time to get more of those posts written.

I found an article that shows how to make your own blog a bit more “Medium-like” and I’ve added some new plugins to my blog here based on those suggestions. (See WordPressium: Creating a Medium-like Experience)

As of today, you can do a few new things on my blog…

Selection Sharer

Courtesy of Hans van Gent’s Selection Sharer plugin, you can now highlight any piece of text in one of my posts and send it as a Tweet, post it to LinkedIn, or send it in an email. (This assumes I ever say anything quotable, which I know is a huge assumption.) I would expect that he’ll add some more sharing options over time.

Reading Time

The Reading Time plugin adds some info on how long a post might take to read. You’ll see the estimate based on an average reading speed at the top of each post as you visit it. As you stay on the page, a little progress bar shows how much of that time has elapsed. Of course, reading a post full of code is different than just reading prose, so time will tell how useful this is. It can at least be a little game; can you beat the progress bar?

I hope that you find these two new capabilities useful. Let me know what you think!


My Blog’s First Year at WordPress and "Are You Being Served?"

On the occasion of my blogs’ first birthday here at WordPress (it’s longer in the tooth than that, but I migrated over from Windows Live Spaces on 2009-01-06), I wanted to have a party, but that seemed excessive.  Instead, in an a propos coincidence, I saw a post over at my friend Christophe’s fantastic Path to SharePoint blog entitled How to get your SharePoint question answered.

Path2SharePoint Path2SharePoint 5:18am, Jan 06 from Web — New post: how to get your #SharePoint [end user] question answered

It seemed like a great idea for me to outline my own mental framework for answering all of the questions, suggestions, and raves (well, OK, not so many of those).  My thinking is pretty similar to Christophe’s, I think.

Issues or questions  on my blog posts

If you see something in my blog that you don’t think is right, then by all means let me know with a comment on the post.  I find enough things out there on the Interwebs that I think is sub-optimal or just plain wrong and none of that does us all any service.  I welcome error corrections, constructive criticisms, etc., but flaming insults don’t usually make the moderating screen.  I let almost every legitimate comment through, but only if it is civil.

Questions or requests for clarification are always welcome.  I post this stuff for general benefit, so if you need more information, especially if you think it will help others, then post it.  Also, sometimes I may have posted an update or a newer post on the same topic with more up-to-date information or a better approach. I try to link the posts if I do, but try a little searching with the search box on the right and you might find more to go on.

Issues with the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services

If you have questions or issues with the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services, I would prefer that you use the Discussions or Issue Tracker on the Codeplex site.  This is mainly to keep things isolated over there that might help other users of the library.  Start with the Discussions and if we determine that something is a real issue, I can copy it over to the Issue Tracker.  Of course, if the context is a blog post about the library, then feel free to comment here on my blog.

General SharePoint questions

I try to answer every question I get, just like Christophe.  As any of you who have noticed my posts on the MSDN SharePoint – Design and Customization forum, my articles, my posts on the Stump the Panel forum (where I’m now the moderator of the jQuery Library for SharePoint Web Services Solutions forum), my Twitter activity, etc. may have found, I’m pretty dogged about it.  I firmly adhere to the adage “AN EDUCATED CONSUMER IS OUR BEST CUSTOMER”, made famous by Syms here in the States.  The more the SharePoint community knows about how to use the platform wisely, the better off the entire community will be.  No, I’m not entirely altruistic about this: I want to earn my chunk of the pie as well.  But the more everyone knows, the more we all gain.

I like the way Christophe puts this:

I’ll respond immediately if I can, but most of the time it requires some investigation, and I put your message on hold until I have a final answer (which sometimes means never…).

To be honest, there are only so many minutes in the day! In most cases you’re getting free advice, suggestions, etc., so it all happens based on whatever else is going on in my life whether it be work or personal.  Don’t forget that we all take vacations, have bad days, etc.  I can’t get back to you in 15 minutes EVERY SINGLE TIME, like some people seem to expect!

Finally, I work for a living, just like you [probably] do.  I am always looking for interesting projects for Sympraxis Consulting LLC to take on.  Sometimes the smallest little conversation on my blog turns into real paid work, but certainly not often.  If you like the way I approach things and have something I may be able to help with, let’s talk about it.

Happy birthday, blog!

Blog with Integrity

Gil Yehuda tweeted about Blog with Integrity today, and at first I was skeptical. But when I read the pledge, I was on board.

By displaying the Blog with Integrity badge or signing the pledge, I assert that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is important to me.

I treat others respectfully, attacking ideas and not people. I also welcome respectful disagreement with my own ideas.

I believe in intellectual property rights, providing links, citing sources, and crediting inspiration where appropriate.

I disclose my material relationships, policies and business practices. My readers will know the difference between editorial, advertorial, and advertising, should I choose to have it. If I do sponsored or paid posts, they are clearly marked.

When collaborating with marketers and PR professionals, I handle myself professionally and abide by basic journalistic standards.

I always present my honest opinions to the best of my ability.

I own my words. Even if I occasionally have to eat them.

All common sense (at least to me), but I’ll stand by it!

Whither Great SharePoint Blogs?

I’ve noticed over the last few months that many of the SharePoint blogs which I’ve been following for years have sort of gone away.  They are actually still there, but rather than being a source of great, insightful information about new ways to do things with SharePoint, tips and tricks, code snippets, and the like, they have become platforms for their writers’ personal brands.

Now, I don’t begrudge these guys their success at all, but I do miss their useful insights.  Knowing that Tex is going to be in Abu Dhabi talking about his recent drop-in trip to Djibouti has its enjoyment factor, but it doesn’t further SharePoint’s use in the world the same way that a nice case study or technical trick does.

There’s no shortage of SharePoint-related blogs out there, but knowing which ones are reliable at least 90% of the time is a bit of work.  I’ve read so many posts on so many blogs that I considered just plain wrong, or at the very least a really bad set of ideas.  The nice thing about the blogs of the "SharePoint old guard" was that they had already been vetted by the community.  Now that those folks have seemingly moved on to other pursuits, we all have to find new authorities.

It seems sort of sad.  Or maybe I’m just jealous about all the cool trips that they all get to take.