Bloggers Gonna Blog

Can anyone who blogs call themself a blogger? Seems like a dumb question, but I guess it depends on what the definition of blogger is. To oversimplify – one who blogs. Is it that simple? Because that would be too easy, right?


What you do and what you are

I’ve struggled with this blogger identity. On my Twitter bio, I still have not claimed that label for myself. Instead of saying what I am, I simply say what do, “I blog…” And if that makes me a blogger, cool.

But what you do does not necessarily make you whatever that thing is. I sleep, but I’m not a “sleeper.” A dog barks, but it’s not a barker; it’s a dog. My wife bakes, sometimes, but she’s not a baker.

Another example is photography. It’s a side-hobby of mine (see my Gallery). I label myself an enthusiast for it. I own several cameras. I geek out on the gear, the craft, and the art. I’ve practiced shooting. I try to develop my eye for shots. I take and make photos in camera and in post processing software (Lightroom).

But I am not a photographer. Why? Because I don’t get paid for pictures. So I’m not a professional photographer. My day job is not photos, or writing.


Regularity is key

Let’s bring it back to being a blogger. What is a blogger? It’s a person who publishes or shares their thoughts online. But a key word to add to this definition (thanks to the Oxford dictionary) is, “regularly.”

Posting to a blog on a regular or consistent basis is vital. Blogs are considered defunct when the blogger doesn’t post for months at a time. For me, this is a big deal. I’ve started many blogs only to end up missing in action. Even my Jason Journals blog has gone on hiatus before – yikes! That is why I’ve always hesitated to self-identify as a blogger.

Consistency is not my strength. It takes lots of planning, self-discipline, and concerted effort on my part. And that still doesn’t always make things work out. So I’ve kind of had this personal standard: I can only call myself a blogger after I’ve blogged regularly for one year. Because if I could stick with it that long, then the label would stick.

But I admit, I feel closer to accepting the blogger identity now because I’m on my longest stretch of regular blogging ever! Yeah, I feel good about that. Part of me just wants to assume the identity of – blogger. I like writing, word-smithing, etc. If I keep it up, I may even get good at it someday!


Labels and identities

Beyond the blogger label, in general, I think someone who posts words online can also be called an Author or Writer. But “author” seems more associated with published books, not blogs. And they’re usually paid for their writing.

But by definition, a blogger is one who writes online regularly, not professionally. They publish their writing often, and money may or may not be involved.

Anyways, I’ve got to stay focused on the doingjust blog stuff, man! I enjoy it, so my chance of success in being a blogger is decent. I don’t know if that necessarily means that what I do and what I am relate to who I am. But that’s getting too deep.

Keep it simple. If you blog enough, then yeah, you’re a blogger.

Oh, and drink coffee. Seems like that’s part of being a blogger. Works for me!


Are you a blogger because you blog? Or do you blog because you are a blogger? What do you think? Write below, or write to me here! I like hearing from you!

A Chromebook Experiment

Chromebooks are interesting computers – all-Google-or-nothin’ laptops. They’re popular because they’re simple and affordable. But some people still think Chromebooks are too limited because they’re “just a browser,” nothing more. But what more do you really need?

Simplicity is a strength.

If less is more, then a Chromebook is enough computer for most people. When you think about it, a web browser is all most people use most of the time. Besides, Chromebooks do have web-apps that run in their own windows.

But what about the other limitation that Chromebooks only work while online? Well, that’s not entirely true. You can do a lot while offline. Plus, you’re almost always online anyways.

With wi-fi and cellular data everywhere, you’d be surprised how seldom you’re without an internet connection. It’s practically a utility nowadays like electricity. If the power is on or your battery is charged, you are most likely using the web.


They’re Google

A few years ago, I was all into the Google ecosystem. I had an Android smartphone and used all of Google’s services online. So for me, a Chromebook was a nice fit. That’s when I bought a super affordable Samsung Chromebook 3.

So the biggest reason I chose a Chromebook was because I used almost nothing but Google stuff. You know, Photos, Maps, Docs, Drive, etc. It made a lot of sense. A Chromebook, like a nearly pure Android phone or tablet, is pure Google running Chrome OS.

I can say firsthand, logging into a Chromebook with my Google account and all my email, docs, photos, and music just being there was super nice! Like Apple’s own mantra, it just worked. I could even watch my movies from the Google Play store (streaming or download for offline viewing).

They’re Simple

Another reason I chose a Chromebook back then: they’re just so simple. The software is not not crammed full of accessory apps, antivirus software, or third-party utility programs. They have just what you need, the stuff you want, and that’s it. Imagine that!?

And on the hardware side, a Chromebook’s simplicity means you don’t need a power hungry processor, which in turn eliminates a noisy fan. This also results in lighter weight and longer battery life. Chromebook hardware is much like a tablet! But you get a built-in keyboard (no fussing with Bluetooth) and a “case.”

They’re Affordable

Chromebooks are amazingly inexpensive. I scored mine for less than $200 after tax, brand new, from a big-box retail store. And I never felt like I “cheaped out.” I got super value in a great deal.

Because Chromebook’s are so low in price, you can afford an upgrade to a new one every year if you wanted to. Or you can spend a little higher on one for a better screen and faster processor yet still save on cash compared to traditional fancy laptops or ultrabooks.


They’re Not Private

My Chromebook set up did not last too long though. My Android phone plus Chromebook combo, nice and simple as it was, was broken apart when I switched back to owning an iPhone. That, in turn, led me to go all-in with Apple stuff. So I ended up switching to a new and nicer combo – iPhone plus iPad.

I’m now about as Google-free as I can be. I deleted all my Google data and turned off or restricted as many of Googles services and features as possible. Nope, I don’t use Google search. I use Duck-Duck-Go. And no to Goole Maps too! I use Apple Maps.

One reason I prefer Apple over Google is because of privacy. Google wants all your data to throw ads at you and feed their machine learning stuff. Apple respects your privacy and would rather not have your personal data.

That said, if the privacy stuff does not bother you, and you’re really into the Google ecosystem but have never tried a Chromebook, I would recommend it. Seriously. But I would tell you to not get the cheapest one. Shoot for closer to the middle range to get a bit more memory, CPU power, and at least a Full HD 1080p display.


Do you like Chromebooks? Are you a desktop, laptop, or tablet person? Sound off below, or shoot me a message. Thanks!

We All Have A Like Button

There’s a lot to like out there. Like…pizza! I like sharing my interests with others who are like-minded. You and I like connecting with people. We all like the camaraderie, the feeling of belonging, and being accepted. We like to be liked!


Please push my like button

Clicking “like” became tremendous on Facebook. In an article about the birth, growth, and strength of the “Like” button, for example, it aptly states:

“Like’s growth is a result of both design decisions and the human craving to be, well, liked.” – Victor Luckerson, The Rise of the Like Economy, The Ringer

We seek validation from others; you see this online. Social media gives us a huge way to crave approval or affirmation, like a child starving for attention.


Self-awareness is cool

I think we should be aware of our need or want for social approval since it’s such a big deal – a fundamental force – in our lives. It affects our actions everyday, and it influences key life decisions.

With this self-awareness in mind, I came across a fancy term:

Self-Aggrandizement – the action or process of promoting oneself as being powerful or important.

Because you and I like to be liked, we promote ourselves – especially online – as being like-able or important. In another word, cool.

The way we present ourselves online – our digital persona – is affected by our deep desire to fit in with others.

But we also want to promote ourselves as better than others. We compete for attention online. People only have so many “likes” to give. So we brand ourselves some way to attract those likes.

Like, hey, I’m cool like you and cooler than others. So we should be friends.


Promoting authenticity

There’s a theme in the blogosphere – authenticity.

Many personal bloggers strive to be genuine and authentic. They don’t just wanna score cool-points; they value real connection – a relationship – with their readers.

Authenticity is admirable!

Part of being authentic includes being self-aware. Reality check – we should recognize our own desire for popularity and be watchful of our urge to promote our own importance.

If you are honest with yourself and admit to some self-aggrandizement, two good things can happen: first, you can avoid sharing online primarily for attention (e.g. promoting yourself as a brand). Second, it will cause you to also be more honest with others.

Honesty is a key part of authenticity.


Getting real

Besides my own blog, my Twitter account is my social media hang-out online. I know I’m not popular or cool. I don’t have many followers. And my account has no blue check-mark badge, meaning I am not a Verified person. Being verified is all about authenticity.

And I’m cool with that. I’m not important enough to be verified! How awesome is that? Ok, little joke there.

At the top of my Twitter profile, I pinned this Tweet:

I’m trying to be witty with irony and honesty. It’s a way of saying I’m cool with being not cool.

But at the same time, I’m aware that I might sometimes try to come off as cool; I hope to not come off as pretentious.

So my pinned Tweet is like a humble-brag. It sounds like I’m one to “promote myself for promoting anti-self-promotion.”

Just like everyone else, I struggle with authenticity and self-aggrandizement. I sometimes waver between honesty and hypocrisy. I am a paradox of both vanity and modesty. Yep, sounds like I’m human after all.


Wrap up

I think the more self-aware we are, the better off we’ll be. Then we will grow.

We are all works in progress. We have grace and time to do the work, to do our best, to become our best.

I don’t always like myself. But I like that I can work on that.

And maybe if I make myself better, then I’ll get more clicks on my “like” button.


What do you think about being authentic? Do you struggle with wanting to be liked? Leave me a comment below, or click here to contact me directly.

Torn Between Two eReaders

I’m kinda stuck. On one hand, I’ve got my beloved kindle paperwhite. And on the other hand, I’ve got my iPad. Both have pros and cons. The weird thing is, I’ve been a stalwart kindle lover for a long time; it’s been no contest. But that started to change recently.


Kindle eReader

I still think the kindle is the best eReader. I’ve even had a blog post in draft for a while now, talking about how and why it’s such a great device for consuming book after book.

There’s the kindle’s gloriously no-glare eInk screen. And the awesome long battery life. And the superb 6″ one-hand friendly screen size. Plus, it is the epitome of a distraction-free, single-purpose focused book reading machine.

Those are shiny superlatives, don’t you think? And good reasons to keep loving my paperwhite.


iPad eReader

I would stick with my kindle, but the idea of my iPad becoming my eReader materialized in my brain the other day. It’s kinda crazy. Maybe it was inception. Read eBooks on my iPad instead of my kindle? What happened?

Well, first off, I love using my iPad. It does a lot and does it well. And lately I’ve been leaning towards relying on it more because it’s just that good. It is my primary computer. I’m iPad-first and iPad-mostly. I rarely use my Windows PC; I would like to be iPad-only.

This touches on a bigger debate I wrote about recently: single versus multi-purpose tech.


Books App

So I decided to try Apple’s Books app. It was updated with a new look and I had not checked it out. When I did, wow, I liked what I saw.

Browsing the Books app is really nice. It has nice typography or fonts, the layout and organization so far seems easier to navigate than the kindle, and all the book covers are in vivid color! That is super nice when you’re used to grayscale cover art.

It also has features akin to the combo of the kindle with goodreads, like To-Read, Reading, and Finished lists. It lets you rate and review books. And there’s even integrated audiobooks right in the app – something I might try.

Checking out the Books app, the cherry on top was a book sale where I found one of my top books To-Read marked down to $2.99! I bought it right then, so now I have an epic sci-fi to dive into on my iPad! It’s Dune.

As I thought about reading on my iPad more, an obvious feature escaped me at first: I can also read on my phone – bonus! This would let me read a book in a pinch anytime or anywhere because my phone is always with me.

What about the backlight and eye-strain issue from reading on a tablet versus the kindle? Honestly, it’s not a big deal to me. I read on my phone and tablet all the time. My eyes are either not hurt by it or are so used to it that it makes no real difference.

Kindle App

Next I tried the kindle app. As expected, it has all the basic features of my kindle paperwhite for organizing and reading books. The one thing it lacks software wise is the built-in ability to buy kindle books in the app (lame, but not a deal breaker).

With two great eBook apps on one device, it’s like shopping between competitors; I can buy books from either and avoid them being all in one basket.


Choosing One

I don’t know if I am willing to ditch my paperwhite. I’ll have to keep weighing the pros and cons of reading exclusively on my kindle or on my iPad.

The thing that seems to be pushing me towards my iPad is a desire to minimize the number of devices I have, to simplify.

It’s a bit of catch-22 though. While I may end up with fewer devices, it also means I will rely on my iPad to do more. It’s shifting complexity from one place to another. But physical clutter outweighs digital clutter I think, so it’s a net gain.

If my iPad also becomes my eReader, then I’m asking it to do one more thing. Yet that’s exactly what the iPad was designed for: doing certain computer-ish things really well. Overall, it’s still a simple device.

Being the tech-geek that I am, you can bet I’ll be trying out my iPad as my eReader for a while. Time will tell if I am willing and able to say good-bye to my kindle’s eInk screen.


What’s your favorite way to read books? Digital or real paperbacks? Do you rely on a tablet much? Comment below or email me. Thanks!

Push Button Paradigm

Touchscreens are cool; thanks, iPhone! All glass; no real buttons to push. But I got a new device that helped me rethink touch interaction. Like The Matrix, it’s all about control.


Gaming

Thanks to Animal Crossing: New Leaf being re-released last month, I had to get a Nintendo 2DS XL hand-held game system. This device has a touch-screen like a smartphone. But it also has real buttons right next to it like any good game controller.

As I walked through my new game-town, Phunland, and met my new neighbors (Stinky, likes to work out), I pushed my way around, through trees, literally by pushing a button. Not a touch-screen.

The analog control stick on the 2DS is like the home button on older iPhones (that Apple killed not long ago – boo, hiss). Except it’s better!

It’s concave; your thumb gently nestles into it like a cat in an undersized box. And it’s coated in a warm rubber-like material, so your thumb smoothly connects with it. No slippery glass here. Plus it moves gracefully in any direction you want.

The 2DS has many other buttons also. You can make selections and control gameplay with either the touchscreen “buttons,” the physical buttons, or both!

Playing Animal Crossing with both buttons and touchscreen controls, and after having played many games on my smartphone and tablet, I was able to directly compare the interaction and gameplay, kind of just noticing by accident. (Although I am a geek, so…)

One big reason I think gaming on the 2DS XL is better than on a smartphone is due to the physical buttons, or more specifically, the tactile response interaction model (TRIM).

The wha?


Buttons Are Better

Let’s recall, we live in a real physical world. We grow up learning to interact with it literally by a “hands-on” approach. (Infants go one step further: “mouth-on” approach.) We learn our world through playing. We interact with it through our hands and fingers.

Interacting with my digital game on-screen through analog physical buttons makes my experience more real. And the closer to real interaction, the better the gameplay.

But how is it more real if I am not directly touching game objects on the glass display? Good question.


Sensory Stimulation

The tactile response of using fingers to push buttons, which move and depress and have actual shapes and materials, provides far greater sensory feedback to the brain than a flat, monolith glass plane that’s both a display and the controls.

This superior sensory feedback makes the interaction between me and the game more connective, more addictive, and more enjoyable.

When playing a game on my smartphone, I note that I can affect gameplay; I tap the screen, then stuff happens; it’s cause and effect. But playing on my 2DS, I don’t just affect gameplay, I interact with it. It’s on a whole other level. It’s deeper. I feel it.

I even develop muscle memory. It’s the brain plus eye-hand coordination on a specific physical button layout. Fingers return to certain places. The hands’ grip makes the mind grasp the game, not just watch it like a movie. All this interaction makes a more compelling and fulfilling gameplay experience. Even in a “casual” game like Animal Crossing.


Life-like Control

Remember the Wii and its compelling interaction model? Motion controls. You played by holding physical button-festooned controllers that mimicked the real-world objects represented in the game. The Wii-mote often was the handle of a sword or tennis racket. You could even put it inside a steering wheel for racing games.

Wii games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band had life-like musical instruments as controllers for in-game instruments. Contrast that with Apple’s Garageband app on the iPad. It’s an awesome app, but is tapping tiny on-screen drums as satisfying and interactive as using drumsticks on physical drums? I don’t think so. Just ask Animal from the Muppets!

Keyboarding

For you and many others, the keyboard for typing is very familiar and comfortable. And you’re likely aware of the physical versus touchscreen debate.

When the iPhone debuted, the interwebs were tangled in flame-wars of Blackberry keyboards versus iPhone glass. Spoiler alert: iPhone won the war.

Or did it? There are hard-core typists and writers out there who accept smartphones without real letter keys, but they will never give up their mechanical clackity-clack clicking keyboards.

Why do you think cool gadgets like the Freewrite Traveler exist? Because people like pushing buttons.

I am able to type on my smartphone and even on my iPad’s glass keyboard; they work well enough. But a real keyboard is much better.

You and I are normal to prefer a physical keyboard with real concave buttons to push down into a recessed cavity, then feeling the key pop back up just to do it all over again.

Some of you are old enough to remember entire school classes where it was:

k, k, k, space, d,d,d, space, j, j, j, space…

You could feel those keys mash down. You could even hear loud clanks and clacking sounds. Typing was kind of visceral in your mind because it was so tactile and aural.


Touch Point

The point is simple. Despite being dominated by glass touchscreens, you and I still love to press real buttons.

We’re real physical beings. We’re made for real physical feedback, the tactile response. And one that’s more than a mere tap on a glass plane with almost zero sensory gratification. Yes, simple is good, effortless is good, but tactile is good, too. And it feels better.

It took me months to get over my iPhone 7’s fake home button that does not actually depress down. I maxed out the haptic vibrating feedback and still had difficulty getting used to a button I can’t actually push!

We want buttons with shape, material, and movement that give us physical interaction. It makes experiencing our world more real and thus our reality more tangible.


Don’t you like pressing buttons? Would you touch the subject? Touch-type your comments below or message me. Thanks!