Four frivolous blogs for One Positive Day

I interrupt this Labor Day holiday weekend with something totally frivolous. It’s the first day of the month, and in honor of Kevin Hillstrom’s One Positive Day concept I’d like to praise a group of people, instead of a single business or individual. Today, in this warm and sunny Midwestern Saturday, I’d like to tip a glass of something cold in the direction of the millions of people who’ve made the Internet richer by sharing their lives and their talents with the world.

I write a professional blog, for purely professional reasons. I love it. I hope that comes through and takes some of the starch out of these posts. But there is always a level of propriety. The web may be freewheeling, but at least within these virtual office walls, I’ve placed limits on the topics covered and how they are discussed.

Blogging For The Fun of It

Most of the tens of millions of active bloggers have quite different standards and approaches. To my surprise, many are friends. I did a mental count yesterday, and realized that four of these friends who “blog for fun” were friends before they started blogging. (Full disclosure: One of them is more than just a friend. Hi, Julie. I’ll be home shortly — promise!)

A favorite of Max Estes’ blog so far

And here, I’ve defined a friend in less the Friendster definition of a close connection on a profile, and more as a “real world” friend. In other words, I’ve shot the breeze with all of them, without a business connection or prior blogging relationship. Here are their blogs, listed from most recently founded to most established:

  1. My Life As A Bunny As I write this in a coffee shop, Max Estes is sitting at the neighboring table. His newly-launched daily blog (Wow! I can’t believe he’s so prolific!) is an absolute treat (example shown above). You may notice his style. He gave me permission to use a piece of his artwork to adorn the home page of this blog. I pray he wasn’t drawing me, but I’m too chicken to ask.
  2. Marty Feldmanize Me I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Augie for years. We first bonded over geek stuff, and the store for pet lovers he operates with his wife. And yes, we’re also professional colleagues. But I hope we’re friends first. Lately, his blog has shown me a new side to this complicated individual. Similar to the original Sienfeld show, I’d define this as a blog about nothing. I’ve enjoyed taking a break with it quite a bit.
  3. Bad Ass Birds The only blog in this list with a mildly vulgar title is also coincidentally the only one I would give a solid “G” rating, in terms of content and profanity. It amazes me how a mixture of made-up birds, odd reviews of even odder films, and semi-serious summaries of 1970s Dark Shadows TV episodes could add up to something so compelling. Man! As I look around, these bloggers are making me feel so boring!
  4. The Song In My Head Today This blog is lovingly written by a talented and passionate music reviewer (who also has excellent musical taste, in my humble opinion — she and I agree so often on her selections!). You’ll be challenged and entertained by Holly’s reviews. And God bless anyone who has on her blog an Elvis Costello Week!

Could you think of a better time than now, during this sultry long weekend, to amble through some new and perfectly frivolous blogs? Go for it. Subscribe to the ones you like, and be sure to comment on them as you see fit. (Comments keep us bloggers from feeling like we’re wasting our breath!)

And if any of your friends come to you and say, “I’m thinking of starting a blog,” tell them you know someone who has seen several of his friends — mostly non-tech types – take the plunge and revel in the world they found on the other side. Give your friend plenty of encouragement and watch what happens. It’s a blast for all involved.

Thinking in mapped networks, with connections real and implied

More than a year ago I started telling trusted friends and colleagues about a great piece of software. Half-joking, I would lean forward and confide that this is one secret too valuable for me to blog about. The digital equivalent of a performance-enhancing drug, it was something I’d prefer not to leak to competitors. That is, until today. In the spirit of openness, and timed to coincide with my friend Kevin Hillstrom’s One Positive Day campaign for blogging civility, I am ready to spill the beans.

Thinking With Both Sides of the Brain

Ever since my college days I had wondered if there was a smarter way to organize my thoughts. Common note-taking techniques didn’t seem to cut it. Looking around, I wasn’t optimistic. Certainly the first personal computers, with their DOS-like lists, hierarchies and sequences, were of no help.

Then I found the books of British “pop psychology” author Tony Buzan. In a Madison, Wisconsin used bookstore, I discovered the first: a copy of his 1974 Use Both Sides of Your Brain, where he talked about something called mind mapping.

Buzan wrote that standard outlines require scanning from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. This causes the brain to work harder to make the interconnections between concepts.

Back then Buzan couldn’t have envisioned the modern solution to this dilemma, which is to boil lists down to a point where they lose much of their potential meaning and utility. Or conversely, the author will stretch out the information across a blinding sheaf of slides and spray of “bullets.”

I’m referring to Powerpoint of course, a product that Edward Tufte, author of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information and other classics, so eloquently lambastes in this essay.

Our brains are built to survey information as it is seen in the physical world, making associations through placement, space, distance and color. The more complex the subject, the greater our brain resists tidy categorizations and rankings.

Thinking In Mapped Networks

Enter the mind map. The illustration below shows a hand-drawn example. It’s one Buzan that would have been proud to call his own.

An example of a hand-drawn mind map

To the person who drew it, there is more meaning here than could be crammed into a dozen pages of lists.You can instinctively see how these maps help with lateral associations while still allowing for more formal hierarchies and sequences. As you might expect, some maps are never really completed by their owners. They are continually refined. New insights and perspectives leap off the page with every rereading. This is a good thing, because it shows how concepts can grow and deepen over time.

That was Buzan’s point, and luckily, many modern software developers have listened.

An advantage of the computer-based mind mapping tools is they are easier to share with others (you can even port some softwares’ output to other programs, including … Powerpoint!). Annotation features also help. They add explanation that is needed when you’re showing your map to others — or just trying to remember what the heck you meant when you drew it!

The best mapping tools can even be used as collaborative brainstorming aids. I’ve checked out several over the years, and the best by far is the award-winning Mind Manager. Visit to see for yourself.

Put bluntly, it could change the way you think.