140 Conf: or How Twitter is helping me get the most out of a Twitter Conference

I’m attending 140 Characters Conference on July 16-17 where I will learn about the State of Now with 139 other participating characters plus attendees, credentialed media, bloggers, and Jeff Pulver the lead organizer himself.

My strategy to maximize my experience is to do the research ahead of time. Namely, to make excellent use of that ever-so-useful page titled The Characters. But who wants to spend time clicking on all of those icons?

Enter Firefox add-ons. Sneak Peek and Who Is This Person are making my research much more efficient, and accordingly that much more likely to remain in my memory where it might do some good ūüėČ

Sneak Peek creates a hover box over a link with a snippet of the linked page according to three regular expressions defined by the user, as described in this tutorial. I created a “Sneak Peek script” by using the Sneak Peek menu item under Tools after the add-on was installed. My script shows the latest twitter updates of any person on the 140 Characters Conference Page when their icon or twitter url is hovered over.

Here is the Sneak Peek script (all are required fields):
Name: 140 Characters – twitter
Author: Sara Streeter
Author URL: http://www.sarastreeter.com
Site Pattern: ^http://www\.140conf\.com.*
Link Pattern: ^http://twitter.com/\w+
Peek Pattern: < ol class="statuses" id="timeline" >[^]*?< /ol >

(Hint: don’t insert spaces into the peek pattern ol tags like I did above – WordPress was interpreting the html tags as styling for this post)

Screenshot for Sneak Peek for twitter urls
Screenshot for Sneak Peek for twitter urls

Who Is This Person I found to be a nice supplement to the Twitter previews. This add-on requires no tweaking and allows you to highlight any name and right click, which will give you an option of “Who is this person” with an arrow down to several methods of checking up on a person (Google, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn are most useful to me).

Screenshot of Who Is This Person Firefox Add-on
Screenshot of Who Is This Person Firefox Add-on

There is another Firefox extension LinkedIn Companion which seems to be more of a bookmarking tool, not as applicable to this situation but still useful.

So far, looking through the character bios and tweets, I am amazed at the influence and depth of experience reflected in the attendee list. If each person is summed as a single character, I would say that is of the same genre as the oriental calligraphic character, in which a single collection of strokes conveys a concise and poetic concept, complete unto itself.

Blogging Passion: Why do I write?

I am¬†so not¬†even a B-lister – and the fact is, I’m not interested in blogging for status among my social media peers.¬† If I were, I’d have to work harder, for one thing.¬† Who needs that … so why do I write?

 I write for anyone who takes an interest in me through my other activities and wants to read more about how and what I think. 

There are a few impressions of me that I would like someone to take away once they have read my blog.  True to form, I will make them into bolded subheadings:

Breadth of interest
I am a student, first and foremost.  I like learning and honing new skills.  My posts show a variety of interests and a tendency to challenge myself in different technologies.

Documenting my Activities
I’ve blogged on my projects, such as NewBCamp, in an attempt to maintain a record of what I’m producing with my skills and how I’m participating in the broader social media network.

Showing a Personality
I want anyone who reads my posts to get to know me better as a person.  I have a sense of humor and an interesting take on life in general, so I hope my blog spreads the word about the character that is Sara Streeter.

Passion to Grow
I enjoy writing for its own sake. ¬†Additionally, I find that it sharpens my understanding of myself and my pursuits,¬†giving me a platform for “thinking out loud.”

Success, in blogging as in life,¬†is all relative to the intent.¬† I hope my blog posts bear witness to the fact that, hey, I’m having fun.

“Sidedish” Writing

Technology goes hand in hand with content.¬† Lots of content.¬† And that content has to be written,¬†and I’ve got to write it – at least some of it.¬† So where can I find inspiration?¬†

I would suggest that rather than looking to outside sources for topics, I start with myself – my “sidedish” writing.¬† That would be all the writing I do incidentally – updates to social media websites, e-mails to colleagues in the relevant field, chats with geeky friends.¬† I use the term “sidedish” because I think of it as analogous to the sidedish you eat along with your lunch –¬†you didn’t go there to eat it but you do because you’re there.¬† Tidbits from these casual conversations can be channeled into “main dish” writing¬†, which I would characterize as¬†whatever you’ve committed yourself to write on a regular basis that you hope will impress someone else.

Accordingly, a favor I can do for myself is to increase the quality and quantity of my sidedish writing.  Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

find sites that encourage frequent updates:¬†¬†I find that Twitter is useful in this regard for the simple reason that it generates a log of all the updates I’ve made.¬† Since I’m on Twitter,¬†I can go back to that clever update I posted two weeks ago and use it to seed a post.¬† Any site would work that encouraged me to return to it frequently and write quick notes¬†about what’s on my mind.

make friends with people who like to geek out: I want to write about technology, so I seek out friends who enjoy talking about technology.¬† Not only are they great resources for answering questions, they bring out my geeky side, and I generate higher quality content when I’m communicating with them.

take advantage of any passionate interest:¬† When I am passionately interested in something, regardless of whether it is related to my main topic, I research it and write about it.¬† Writing will come more easily to me¬†if I do it more often.¬† If I’m already in the habit of following up on my passionate interest, I will be more likely to do the same when I am writing about my main topic and less likely to keep going with something that’s actually boring me.

tag content Рemail conversations, chats, etc: If I properly archive my materials, it will make finding relevant clips of content that much easier to find.  Gmail allows tagging of email conversations rather than placing them in folders.  I provide myself with an index to my own thoughts so I can draw on them when I need them.

Improving the quality of these incidental conversations is valuable in and of itself.¬†¬†Properly archived, they will be a source of self-generated leads. ¬†When I am looking for a seed for my serious writing, that can turn my “sidedish” into a¬†satisfying main¬†“meal.”