Just Not My Type

I’ve been a but sporadic here on the blog lately.  I’ve got all this stuff in my head that I want to write about but to be honest, I guess I just haven’t felt much like the physical act of typing lately.  I’m actually a pretty lousy typist, despite the fact that I’ve tried, seriously tried, to develop a good typing technique over the years.  I’ve had typing lessons, I’ve used computer typing tutor software, and I’ve tried to force myself to use the right touch typing technique.  But all of that, and I still can’t really type all that well.

When I was at school as a student, I actually did a proper typing course.  In fact, I’ll digress for a moment and mention that my school offered something that I’ve not really seen in too many other schools since… every Thursday afternoon we did “activities”.  We all got to choose from a wide range of activities to do for a few hours every Thursday. Some students went off to play sport, running around the basketball field or ripping each others’ heads off playing football.  That was never really my scene.  I was one of those other more nerdy and anti-social children, who pretty much avoided sport wherever I could.

There aren’t all that many things I actually remember about school, but a couple of things stand out.  I remember going off to the AGL gas company in Hurstville where we did cooking lessons on Thursday afternoon.  I thought it was neat, being a 14 year old kid, jumping on a train to go the two stations up the line, finding the big AGL building, and having some other adult besides my regular teacher showing me how to cook a different meal each week.  At the time, learning to cook didn’t quite have the same prestige as being on the football team, but over the long haul I know which one has been most useful!

Back to the typing story… the other memorable Thursday activity (call me weird) was doing a typing class.  I remember being taught by our library assistant, Mrs Sobb.  She was a older lady and boy could she type!  I remember going through all the usual finger training activities – asd, asdf, asd;lk, dad, sad, fad, gad – and so on. I particularly remember that she had a set of large white mens hankerchiefs with long thin ribbons attached to each corner.  She’d tie two ribbons together behind our neck and the other two ribbons were tied to the typewriter (yes, you heard it, typewriter!)  The hankie would then be suspended like a square hammock between the typewriter and our bodies so we couldn’t see the keyboard.  We just had to place our hands on the home row, by feel, and bang out our lines of sad dads.

Anyway, enough wandering down memory lane. Suffice to say, sometimes as much as you try to learn the “right” way to do something it doesn’t always stick. But even as a “bad” typist, I’ve still written a book of 60,000 words, and a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that since I started this blog I’ve probably typed well over 300,000 words here as well.  Add in the other blogs, wikis, emails, discussion forums and various things I’ve written (typed) over the last few years and it’s interesting to consider that someone can be fairly average at something but still produce something relatively worthwhile.

I guess the lesson is that sometimes it’s more important to actually just DO something, rather than worry about doing it perfectly.

I am not a prostitute

In the past six days I’ve received six emails from various companies asking me if I’d please be so kind as to promote their services, talk about their products or otherwise just mention their wares in a blog post.  This is not a new thing – I’ve been getting more and more of these requests over the past 12 months – but the frequency of them has been increasing to the point where it now sometimes averages one a day.  In a weird sort of way, I guess this is an indication of some level of “success” in the blogosphere.

But to anyone considering asking me to be a schill for your wares, can I save you all some time?  The answer is no. This is a blog, not a brothel.

Look, I’m sure your products and services are fabulous, and I have no doubt that someone, somewhere may be interested in them.  I even kind of admire the fact that you “get” the power of new/social media enough to take the initiative of asking regular people like me to spruik the benefits of your products.  It’s nice that some of you couched it in terms of “take a look at what we do and if you think it’s a good thing, perhaps you can tell people about it”… that’s at least a respectful way of asking for promotional assistance.  But the answer is still no.  If I thought that a blogger was writing about something for any reasons other than their own, I would lose all faith in whatever they had to say, never being sure exactly where the line was between opinion and advertising. I’m used to being lied to in the traditional media, but I expect better from new media.

To that online university offering a 3 year degree program… it sounds like an ok idea, but no, I don’t want to include a link to your site on my site.  Actually, what is it with online universities? – I have had a ton of requests from quite a few of them, all asking me to include a “simple text-based link” to them, many even offering me reasonable cash payments to do so.  The answer is still no.

To that multimedia organisation that is “creating a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others”… thanks for asking, but no.

To the flashcard company that wanted me to review their product on my blog, no, sorry.  Actually, after looking at what your product and educational philosophy is all about, it’s probably better I don’t write a review for you. Any tool that focuses on creating better ways to do rote learning is not something you want me to review, trust me.

To the other flashcard company who also wanted me to write about their “unique free services” in one of my upcoming posts, thanks but no thanks. Again, I’m less than impressed with services that help me learn better at the lowest end of Blooms taxonomy.

To the childrens’ book online website that was keen for me to write a review of their product in exchange for a 6 month premium subscription… nope.  Thanks for thinking of me, but asking me to blog about your product, and then telling me how much my readers would benefit from it is a less than subtle way of disguising how much you think you might benefit from it. Thanks, but again, no.

And to the commercial blog run by an online school that was interested in me reposting one of their recent posts, because it would “appeal to my readers”, thanks for thinking of us all, but no.  If the content is compelling enough, people will find it without my help.

Like I said, I appreciate being asked (although you can all stop asking! The answer is still no!) and I suppose it’s nice to think that other people might consider this blog to be worthy or influential enough to ask for a bit of free publicity.  If this happens to me, I can only imagine how many of these requests are made to other bloggers with some real influence!

The bottom line is that Betchablog is, and will remain, independent.  I’m not interested in writing about anything other than what I’m interested in writing about. I don’t take money in exchange for opinion. I won’t write about anyone’s product or service unless I want to do it for my own reasons.  I certainly won’t put links into my posts that I’ve been paid to put there.  I’m flattered to be asked, but even thinking about doing it makes me feel dirty.

Image: ‘Soho Street

It's about the Conversations

We may be just a couple of NYFBs, but I had the pleasure yesterday of catching up with Jenny Luca from Melbourne, author of the Lucacept blog. Jenny was in town with her friend Helen to attend a presentation by Garr Reynolds on how to do better presentations. We made tentative plans to catch up and fortunately things fell into place and we were able to actually meet up.

After the ridiculously difficult task of finding a parking spot, made all the more difficult by the fact that I left my wallet at home and so had no money to pay for even meter parking, I eventually found a legal parking spot only a short walk from where we could meet. Thank you universe.

Jenny is one of the refreshing voices in the Aussie blogosphere, with so much passion and enthusiasm for education and how technology can make it better. I was very keen to meet up and have a chat. After finally meeting on the corner of Grosvenor and George streets, I suggested we go take a look at the new Sydney Apple Store at King and George, just a few blocks away. We talked all the way up the street, into the Apple Store, up the stairs, and I think we talked the entire time we were there. Helen got into the shopping spirit and picked up a nice set of Bose speakers for her son’s Mac, but I think Jenny and I just talked the whole time.

Eventually we went over the road, found a little coffee shop in the Strand Arcade, and sat and talked some more. As Jenny and I observed numerous times, it really IS all about the conversations and although I love the intellectual to-and-fro of the blogosphere, there is something very nice about having a face to face conversation. Jenny has a lot of great insights and ideas, (despite her insistence at being a mere noob, her Clustrmap gives a different picture!) and I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to catch up with her in person.

Heck, it’s even made me an even more LR.