2 Questions I Ask Anyone Thinking About Blogging

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 08:26 AM with 0 comments

photo of a hand showing the number 2

As someone who is been blogging now for over eight years personally and has built commercial blogs for many clients, I can to get asked by a lot of people about blogging. Many of their questions get down into the weeds and minutia and details of a blog, everything from readership to monetization. As they spout these questions I sit back listen and then a smile usually comes over my face. I wait for them to pause and then asked me what I think.

When it's my turn, I look them straight in the eye and I tell them I'm going to ask them 2 questions that are most likely unrelated to anything they've already brought up so far. Those questions are:

1. Why do you want the blog?

It's a simple enough question, but this is something that will lead to eventually creating a vision and mission statement for the blog. For the eventual reader of the blog, this will tell them why they should not only read post the blog now but why they should come back and read in the future and even subscribe to its RSS feed or by email. Having a mission statement and goals for the blog will be is important as it helps not only to drive content but also to motivate the writer.

2. Are you prepared to commit to writing on a regular basis?

As a blog is a Web site that is regularly updated with new content, ideally your blog should also be updated on a regular basis. So the question I ask people is if you are ready to write on a “regular basis.” What is a regular basis? That is really up to the writer if it’s once a day, several times a week, once a week, every other week, etc. Whatever it is, it should be have some consistency to it. If you have been a regular reader of The Hot Iron you will know that I have change my regular basis many times over the years and now try to commit to at least once a week, but even that for myself is sometimes a challenge with my personal and professional schedule. That is why I like to ask people that question in particular.

And that is it

Note these questions do not address anything about the topic of your blog, the voice of your blog, the technology used for your blog or anything of such. As you embark down the path of deciding if you're want to have a blog of your own, I like to pull it up to the 50,000 foot level and ask basic questions and then from there determine if blogging is something that you want to pursue.

So what do you think – are these basic enough questions to ask people or are they too simple? Or do you think that they are right on the mark? I welcome the thoughts of people who were considering blogging as well as people who have been blogging for many years on questions of people should consider before they go down the path I've enjoyed very much – a great journey of creating and writing a blog.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Guest Post On The Barrel Of Monkeys Blog On The Big Wedding Gala Fundraiser

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 08:47 PM with 0 comments

Barrel of Monkeys logoThis past Saturday night, Barrel of Monkeys, a non-profit education arts organization in Chicago, held its annual gala fundraiser. Barrel of Monkeys teaches creative writing to schoolchildren in Chicago, and what the kids write is adapted into sketch comedy and performed by the same actor-educators who are teaching them. It is an amazing program that gets even more amazing results, which is why I am proud to be on its Board of Directors.

The fundraiser was called “The Big Wedding” and was based on a story written by a student in a past creative writing course. A performance of the sketch was part of the event, and it was a not-to-miss event on the city’s social calendar.

You can read my thoughts on the event in my guest post on the Barrel of Monkeys blog. After you read it, I welcome you to peruse the entire Web site and learn more about the entire organization, especially its weekly showcase of sketches, That’s Weird Grandma, which is performed every Monday night year-round (and Sundays for the month of April).

If you have any questions on Barrel of Monkeys, or are thinking of taking in a show, I welcome your questions in the comments to this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Personify Plus Literally Put Me In Front Of The Class

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 08:35 PM with 2 comments

photo of remote presentation using Personify Plus with 3D camera and mobile app

Going into my recent guest lecture on blogging at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I know I couldn’t physically be there. This wouldn’t be a problem for the professor, Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen, as she has had remote guest lecturers in the past using Skype. Though Skype was also a viable option for me, it would not truly represent “me” as I would want it to – both in my presentation style and how I wanted to present my material.

Pondering this, I recalled a presentation I saw by my esteemed colleague Dr. Dietmar Schloesser, where he used a 3D webcam and software and the service from Chicago-based Personify where he literally “inserted” himself into his PowerPoint presentation which he was giving remotely. So I wondered, could I do the same, without adding unnecessary complexity to Dr. Hansen and deliver an engaging presentation to her classes that would be like me being there?

The Next Best Thing To Being There

Leading up to the lecture, I reached out to Personify and asked them if I could use their “technology” for the lecture. I use that term in quotes as I really had no idea what was involved in this, and to what extent the effort would be on my part as well as on campus at UW-O in the lecture hall. Thanks to help from Personify’s director of marketing Kira and solutions executive Nick, they explained the extremely straightforward concept, got me setup with their service and allowed me to use their office and one of their 3D cameras, when plugged into my notebook PC, allowed me to interact with the students some 4 hours north of me.

Using Personify Plus is similar to what a TV weatherperson does, where they stand in front of a large green screen, and the effect is that it appears they are in front of whatever image is selected, which is usually weather maps. With Personify Plus, the 3D webcam fulfills the role of the screen, where it isolates you the presenter (or presenters if there are more than one) from the background, then allows the image of you to be literally inserted into whatever presentation or what you put on your screen to share. In this case, I had a PowerPoint presentation. But as you can see from the photo below, I was able to bring up a weather map and use it just as any meteorologist would. Also notice the close-up of the 3D camera and the configuration panel on the left side of the screen.

photo of Personify Plus test with 3D camera and weather map

The Personify Plus software consists of a program installed on a PC or Mac that connects to an attached or installed 3D webcam, as well as to the Personify service. These are both intriguing elements of the Personify experience. Going into this, I really was not aware of 3D webcams, but they have been around, and more and more notebook PCs are being sold with them preinstalled. Also PrimeSense, the maker of the camera that Personify let me use, was recently acquired by Apple. Where everyone has been wondering what Apple would be doing with Beats headphones, I am more intrigued into what they could be doing with 3D! Also, the Personify service allows you to not only run presentations with you in them, but to record them as well. There is also a mobile app which, when logged in, serves as a remote control for the service, allowing you to make adjustments to your positioning as well as advance PowerPoint slides.

Putting it all together was very straightforward. Installing the Personify Plus software and mobile app were also easy. When I plugged in the 3D webcam, the drivers loaded, and then there I was, literally on my desktop. To transmit the presentation, I used Join.me, a free (and paid) screen sharing service. This was recommended by the Personify team as it had a much better streaming and video refresh rate than Skype or other services. So I connected with Join.me, went full-screen on my presentation and there I was, standing in the presentation.

I had to make small changes to the layout of my PowerPoint slides to allow for myself to not block any of the content on the individual slides. This process allowed me to rethink some of my presentation and what I was going to say as compared to what I put on the screen. It was my choice to use the lower quarter of the presentation, as I could have had myself be any size, which is a great option to have for just one person or multiple people.

Just As Successful In The Classroom

Where thus far I have talked about the technical and logistical aspects of my presentation using Personify Plus, what I have not mentioned – and what I was equally concerned about – was how it was received in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus. Even though I had discussed this fully with Dr. Hansen, she really didn’t know what to expect. And even though I have seen a presentation using all of this, I did not know how giving one myself would be like without the visual feedback you get from the audience, as this can influence what and how you present.

Fortunately, everyone’s expectations were exceeded with Personify Plus. It felt very natural for me to present, and the students in the classroom were engaged with my presentation, almost as if I was there. Feedback from Dr. Hansen was very positive, and so were the reactions from students in the class which they shared with the #uwonewmedia hashtag on Twitter.

The Next Level Of Online Presentations

I have sat through many webinars and other online presentations, and I admit that many times my full attention is not focused on it. Personify takes presentations to the next level not only with inserting the presenter but increasing engagement. I will sit there and watch all of a presentation, especially as the presenter or presenters themselves will also be changing, more like watching a video and not just a stack of static slides. Where I haven’t given another presentation since using Personify Plus, I am eager to, and have thought of other uses for it, everything from creating business videos to comedy and improv – similar to how many movies use green screens for background scenery, you could do the same for local actors on a small budget.

Have you seen a presentation using Personify Plus, or would you want to? I welcome your thoughts in the comments to this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Where Did Odiogo Go?

By Mike Maddaloni on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 at 11:43 AM with 0 comments

old Odiogo listen button

Hello, does anyone know what happened to Odiogo?

As vast and connected and telling as the Internet is, sometimes it is like finding a needle in a haystack about some things. One of them is the fate of Odiogo. It was a service for converting text of a blog post into an audio format using a computerized voice. I heard about the service years ago and have been using it here on The Hot Iron and other blogs of mine since 2007. Last year I wrote a post about Odiogo here at The Hot Iron.

A few weeks back, when I was integrating the new responsive design for this blog and was testing all links and functionality that I found the link to Odiogo did not resolve to anything, as if its servers were down. As I thought it may be a temporary issue I left all links in place. Now several weeks later, when I go to the Odiogo site, the resulting Web page is from domain registrar GoDaddy indicating the domain is available for sale at auction! Clearly somebody did not renew the domain name and the site and service is down.

So where did Odiogo go? Looking back on my own records it’s been several months since a blog post of mine was converted to audio. Any searches I have done on Odiogo did not come up with any new or recently-posted information as to their status. I am at a loss – I feel like I am looking for information on something that perhaps I am the only person looking for it?

If you have any knowledge or experience with Odiogo, I’d welcome you to share then in the comments to this post, or you can contact me directly and how to do so is listed on the About page at The Hot Iron.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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New Mobile-Friendly Design For The Hot Iron

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 10:11 PM with 0 comments

screenshot of the old design of The Hot Iron

As a regular reader of The Hot Iron, you may have noticed something a little different here, or perhaps you did not. In either case, I’d like to tell the story about the new look to the blog’s Web site, only the 3rd one in its 8 years.

Over the history of this blog my emphasis has always been on the content – updating it as often as I possibly could. As a result I have purposely not put a lot of emphasis on the design of the site. Plus, as many people read the content by email and RSS feed, some may never even see the actual Web site itself at thehotiron.com that often.

Google Made Me Do It

The catalyst for this latest change was as the result of an email I got from Google’s Webmaster Tools, a bundle of services designed to help Web site and their ranking in the search engine. The message stated that the Web pages of The Hot Iron were not mobile-friendly. Google tags Web sites as mobile-friendly on the search results page of a search performed on a mobile device, and does not for those that are not. That was more than enough reason for me to undertake this effort.

More on the actual task of integrating the new mobile-friendly and responsive design is in this post I wrote on sourcegate, a tech tips blog I run that also serves as the test site for all of my blogging technical work.

You can see a screen shot above from my iPhone of what The Hot Iron used to look like. If you are reading this on a mobile device, you can tell it is a lot clearer and formatted towards the mobile browser. If you’re reading this on a PC or Mac, simply resize your browser window smaller to see what it would look like – go ahead, try it!

So what do you think? It is easier to read or does it make a difference to you or not? Your feedback is welcome in the comments to this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Blogging Guest Lecture At University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh #uwonewmedia

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 04:54 PM with 0 comments

photo of Mike Maddaloni presenting at UW-Oshkosh

Photo credit: Wilke (‏@Wilke_411) via Twitter

Yesterday I had a distinct honor to guest lecture to college students on the topic of blogging.

I was invited to speak to 2 classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh by journalism professor Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen. As part of her classes where she is teaching the students all aspects of blogging, each student is building a real, public blog. What better way to learn blogging than with real-life experience?

As someone who has his own blogs and has built blogs for clients, I have learned on the job about blogging as well as keeping up with trends and changes to blogging over the years. One challenge was focusing on key elements to share with the students and keep it to a brief presentation with time for their questions. Another challenge was that I would not be able to be physically in the lecture hall on the Oshkosh campus, yet deliver my messaging in an interesting and engaging way.

As with my own writing style, I decided to tell the story of how I got into blogging myself and then focus on areas that I felt were important to the students, including the art and science of writing and writing on a regular basis, plus some key pointers about blogging such a sharing and social media integration.

For the presentation itself, I created PowerPoint slides and used technology from Personify to literally insert myself into the PowerPoint presentation so that when the students were looking at the screen they saw both the slide material as well as myself, as you can see from the picture above. As the Personify technology is extremely unique in itself, I'm already writing another post on using Personify and how I was successful in conveying myself, my style and my message to the students remotely – watch for it soon.

I have posted the slides from the presentation to SlideShare and you can link to it here or view embedded below. I kept the slides at a high-level and spoke to the details so that the students did not have to read slides, and by using the unique Personify technology I was able to make that happen very well. If you look at the slides and are wondering about the references to Ernest and Edgar, those are to 2 “other” famous Chicago-area writers, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as I used them as examples of different approaches to writing.

Thanks again to Dr. Hansen, the team at Personify and the students who asked great questions and shared the presentation on social media. It was great getting back into the classroom and I am looking forward to my next opportunity.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Takeaways From The Book One Word That Will Change Your Life

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, February 06, 2015 at 04:52 PM with 0 comments

Goals by nature are complex. At least that’s how I see them. As they segue to an action plan to achieve them, they must be clear and not too wordy, yet not vague or they will lose their meaning. Often times goals are “boiled-down” to a phrase or even one word for marketing and promotional purposes as a simple rally cry to those who are a stakeholder to these goals.

In the book One Word That Will Change Your Life by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page (not the guitarist), they propose you simply have 1 word as an overall goal for yourself for a year. They present a rather simplistic yet thoughtful process by looking inward, opening yourself up to discovering the word, then applying it to your year.

As I read this several takeaways came to me, including:

  • You need to find a process that works for you – The steps in this book may work for you, and also they may not. Sometimes it takes a book like this to help you though such a process.
  • Divine intervention is not for everyone – The book is based on faith in God in order to open one’s self to ”receive” their word for the year. This may be a turn-off for some, perhaps those who do not believe in a supreme deity. That being said, if you are a spiritual person, you can still follow this process without acknowledging a god to open up and find your word.
  • Maybe simple is all you need? – If you are typically someone who does not set goals, or are someone who belabors the process to do so, following a simple process in this short book may be exactly what you need.

As simple as the concept is for One Word, the book is as short. It was written to be read in less than an hour, and tells a good story on how the concept was formed, how it works and how it has been used by others. One Word was another book I owned and found when I moved – note there are more to come! I don’t recall the inspiration for getting it, but my guess it was its process meaning around goal-setting.

So I set a phrase and not a word

As I started 2015, I thought about this book that I had read a while back and decided to open up and see if I could come to a word to guide me through the year. As I reflected on where I was and what I was doing, what came to me was not 1 word but 3, and after trying to come up with a good 1 word for the 3, I decided to stick with the 3 – mix it up. As I am creeping up to my sixth decade on this planet, I often find myself getting a little stodgy and repetitive. I could be going to the same stores or reading the same blogs and sites or simply doing the same thing. Why not mix it up, expose myself to new things, foods, places, people, even if the change is slight. This way, I am making small, incremental changes in my life, which won’t seem as obvious while in the process.

For myself, I will use the hashtag #mixitup to mark things new and different for me.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on the concept of One Word and the book itself. Have your goals so far this year been a challenge and you’re looking for something new? Or have you followed One Word and chose your own? Please share in the comments to this post.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Guest Post - We Are All Capable Of Greatness And Stupidity

By Mike Maddaloni on Wednesday, February 04, 2015 at 12:36 PM with 0 comments

photo of Seahawks loud meme

Editor’s Note: Shortly before the kick-off of Super Bowl XLIX, I made a bet with Glenn Letham, a good friend and a GeoTech professional, communication strategist, geo, location and mobile tech evangelist and community manager, as to the outcome. I was rooting for my team, the New England Patriots, and Glenn was for the Seattle Seahawks. The supporter of the losing team would write a guest post for the supporter of the winner’s team blog, extolling the virtues of the victor. Glenn’s post follows.

I will add as a disclaimer, that the Denver Broncos are my #1 team, however, as a resident of the Pacific Northwest my #2 team is always the Seattle Seahawks. I'm depressed, much like every other Seahawks fan and I'm also confused, like many of you. We all are asking ourselves, why run the ball? Indeed a good question, and apparently, even coach Pete Carroll can't provide a rational explanation for that play so we'll just move on I guess.

Football, like business, is a funny business where people constantly make rash decisions... for example, imagine having in your possession, THE best running back in the NFL, and you have 3 downs to move the ball just 1 short yard – well naturally you'll elect to pass the ball rather than trying to run it! {Insert facepalm here...}

So, here we are, celebrating the newly crowned {again} Super Bowl Champs, the New England Patriots. Congrats to the Pats on a fabulous 12-4 season and for being the better team on the first day of February 2015. The Pats have loads to boast about this year including Tom Brady passing for more than 4,100 yards, Gronkowski for receiving more than 1,100 yards, and a very impressive 12-win season and an undefeated postseason – not to mention, establishing themselves as a dynasty, perhaps comparable to the 49’ers of the Montana era, or Steelers, ala Terry Bradshaw.

Let the Super Bowl be a lesson to all, in sport and business, that we all are capable of making dumb, rash decisions, yet we are all also capable of greatness. Think before you leap and remember, anything is possible!

Cheers, from a disgruntled Seahawks fan who is eagerly awaiting spring training – enjoy the celebration New England, you've earned it!

Image Credit

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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My Guest Post On The CorporateStays.com Blog

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, January 23, 2015 at 06:51 AM with 1 comments

CorporateStays.com logo

I was recently invited to write a guest post on the blog for CorporateStays.com, a service which matches luxury accommodations for travelers in select cities in the world like Montreal, Miami and Panama City. Digging into my experience with travel, I decided to write about tips for traveling in the winter months. My post, Travel Tips for Travelling to a Wintery Destination, is now live.

Where my typical writing is about business and technology, I file this under the “occasional diversion” I refer to in the description of The Hot Iron. The more I write, the more these come to mind, and the more these may be available to read by you and others.

Thanks to my good friend CT Moore and the staff at CorporateStays.com for the opportunity to write this.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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Mixing It Up In 2015 And The Hot Iron Turns 8

By Mike Maddaloni on Friday, January 02, 2015 at 07:52 AM with 0 comments

photo of 1983 Boston Red Sox program

Happy 2015! As today, the second day of January, officially marks the first business day of the year, and by now most have recovered from the merriment of New Year’s Eve, I would like to wish you all a great new year.

Where rolling to a new calendar also comes with resolutions, mine is simply to mix it up in 2015. I started the new year off much differently than I did in past years: sans kids, just me and my lovely wife at a Spanish restaurant, where just about every year that I can remember has involved Chinese food (a Boston tradition) and the past several years have been with our kids, even if they were sleeping in the next room. This was a fun change, and a great way to ring in 2015.

So in mixing it up in 2015, I am not looking to make major strategy changes, but smaller, incremental changes that I see as adding up to something bigger and better. Maybe I take a different route to go someplace, or a different approach to reaching out to someone, or simply wear a different color socks on occasion – I am hoping to stop and think when I get into doing something routine or that comes too natural to me, and think how to change it in some way.

The Hot Iron at 8

December 30 marks the official anniversary of the launch of this little blog which is now 8 years old. It’s almost wild to think I have been at this, at varying degrees, this long. Writing is something I have enjoyed more and more over time, and it has been both a creative outlet as well as a way to vent some of my frustrations over business and technology – the overarching theme of this repository. Whether this is your first time reading or you are a long time subscriber – thank you!

I have written an anniversary post of mixed sorts over the years, and if you’re so inclined you can read them for the following anniversaries of The Hot Iron: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.

This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni.

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