Fighting death by PowerPoint… How to make a presentation and not to bore your audience to death.
Archives for July 2007
What the hell…it’s late-July and we haven’t hit 100 degrees (Fahrenheit)! This is unheard of in this land-of-heat. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love the fact that we haven’t gotten above the mid-nineties so far this year, but as a native Texan, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop – will it be snow in September (snow is a magical mystery to central Texas most years) or 101° come November. Add in the tremendous amount of rain (my friend Rick had two of every animal congregating in his backyard) and it’s enough to cause a short circuit in this little brain of mine.
Luckily, Austin has a ton of great outdoor restaurants, pubs and cafes, not to mention parks, so I’ll enjoy it as much as possible.
When WordPress or another Web app starts throwing fits and kicking out fatal errors due to memory, make sure the local php.ini (same dir as the scripts) is allocating enough RAM. 8Mb is not nearly enough.
Growing up in the safe confines of the middle-class womb here in the U.S., it is easy to lose sight of the larger world around me. While I count myself a student of history and a constant consumer of information, I tend to focus on specific periods of the past (World War II, the Crusades, the founding of the United States etc.) or on specific realms of the present (the intricacies of the war in Iraq or the convoluted meanderings of those seeking the Presidency). So, having heard an amazing interview on NPR, I was excited to pick up the copy of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah that Sarah had read for her book club.
Reading the book feels like you are sitting across from a friend in a coffee shop, or over a pint, learning about a past that is both intriguing and scary. The informality of the telling pulled me in quickly and made the environment that much more real, as it remained very personal throughout. He didn’t pull back to the 50,000 foot view to tell you the maneuvers of each side, or the political gambits played by the government and the rebel forces. Instead, he told you how he ran from the rebels and soldiers alike, how he eventually became a soldier at the age of thirteen, how he returned to what was left of his childhood a few years later, only to be forced to escape to a new life far different than he could have ever expected.
It is hard to reconcile the giant grin on Ishmael’s face adorning the back cover, with the stories he tells. I grew fond of the boy who listend to early rap cassettes, practicing his dances for a talent show, and I could never quite come to terms with the thought that the same child became a killer many times over. His story cuts to the core of what it is to be human, dissecting the constant struggle to do what is “right” versus what needs to be done to survive. It’s also important to note how “right” can be defined in many different ways for the same situation. It may mean leniency and generosity, but it can just as easily mean vengeance against those who killed your family and took everything you had, including your sense of security and childhood.
I cannot recall any news reports or history books that could deliver this sense of day-to-day, on the ground reality, and I truly hope that school systems across the U.S. add Ishmael’s work to their reading list. It is important for us to look beyond our borders and the confines of our regular reality, keeping our eyes open to the fact that there are problems much larger than ours around the globe. What we do about them is another question – one which I am turning over in my head.
I highly recommend you pick up a copy of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Amazon), or if you have read it, please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts.
Your Group is Popular, Now What?
Now you ensure that it remains that way. The more popular a group is, the more important it is for the manager and/or moderators to be actively involved in monitoring the group, keeping the links fresh and on-topic, and ruthlessly eliminating spammers. I’ll repeat that last part as it is a very important to me – managers and moderators need to eliminate spammers quickly. In managing the Web Design group, I have spent a fair amount of time deleting off-topic links and banning spammers. I have a lot of patience with people who may not understand where the topic dividing line (or massive gray area in the case of the design group) is, occassionally adding off-topic posts. But when I see a spammer (they tend to be pretty obvious), I ban them instantly. Sadly, a lot of group managers don’t do this, and a lot of great groups are filled with junk, lose their active members, and turn into that empty lot down the street wfull of broken bottles. That pisses me off. I blame the spammers for the most part, but let’s face it, a part of that degradation is the result of lax managers and moderators.
Don’t Be a Lazy Landlord
If you manager or moderate a group, no matter its size or activity, give it some love. It doesn’t take much time to delete spam or off-topic links, and banning a member is easy, though hopefully not something you have to do often. Out of the 2,200 folks subscribed to the Web Design list, I’ve only had to ban 8. After a while, you’ll find that the spammers don’t even bother messing with your group as it isn’t worth the time, and your group members start to participate more, contributing some great, on-topic items. If the spammers keep coming at you, and you find that you just don’t have the time to keep up, send a message to the group and ask for people to help you as moderators. Just make sure that anyone that you set up as a moderator has been an active member of your group, and submitted at least a couple of on-topic links in the past. If you see aperson who is constantly adding spam to your group, or others that you a a member of, its time to call a Gardener.
Tending the Garden
In addition to the natural roles of managers and moderators, there is a small group of users that have been set up as Gardeners by Larry and Todd at Ma.gnolia. Gardeners are a unique role that I haven’t seen in other systems around the Web. We have the tools to remove the benefits that spammers gain by filling Ma.gnolia with junk, but we aren’t site-wide administrators. So, while I, as a Gardener, can mark an account as a spammer, I cannot ban that user from the site, nor can I remove any of their links. That’s a good thing. I may notice someone filling groups with spam, but its not my right to jump into those groups and take over the role of manager. Additionally, that account may be valid, just very focused on a single subject, so I, or another Gardener can go back and undo the “spammer” flag setting. We all make mistakes, and its nice to know that they are easily rectified if a Gardener misjudges someone.
So, if you spot someone that you think is spamming, feel free to send me, or another Gardener a message through Ma.gnolia, so we can look into it.
But Wait, there’s More!
I hope this has shown you how easy it is to maintain your group. This is just one in a series of articles about Ma.gnolia, so please check back in the next few days, or subscribe to my feed.
If you have any questions about managing,or moderating a group, please leave a comment, or start a discussion on one of the Ma.gnolia boards!
Okay, so I had absolutely no plans to watch any of the Live Earth concerts. My plan had been to work on the laptop and mining the DVR to catch up on the various programs I’ve recorded over the last six weeks, but then I saw this amazing performance by a giant group of drummers (they were called SOS something, but a cursory inspection of the site didn’t how them), mixing rock, Brazilian, Japanese, Scottish and African percussion styles So, now I have the concert footage running as I work, occasionally muting it to avoid some of the less-than-interesting performers (Genesis without Peter Gabriel is just Phil Collins and I could do without him in my life) and the hosts, who prattle on, which I guess is their job.
In between the concert is some interesting information, and I truly hope it encourages more people to step back and think. I know that I sure as hell need to do more to act on the issues that are important to me – overcoming inertia can be hard. The conservation and environmental messages and delivered very well, they use the medium of television to the fullest – I just saw Robert Patrick, (think T2) with a set of garden shears trimming bamboo in what can only be described as slightly menacing, which is perfect delivery and attention getting. As he is clipping it, the narrator talks about how much more beneficial a stand of bamboo is over a stand of trees in relation to eliminating carbon and generating oxygen (30% – not too shabby).
Now, if only they hadn’t polluted the airwaves with Madonna.