Twitter Relevancy and Facebook’s Faults


A few days ago, The New Yorker posted an well-written article by The Verge co-founder Joshua Topolsky titled “The End of Twitter“. His article suggests with the stagnancy of the Twitter network that the relevance of its’ use now and in future may be be called into question.

It is difficult not to concur with the writer that Twitter on its’ face has seen a period of division and at the corporate and platform level. A few changes over the last year sparked a noticeable amount of understandable outrage from users. Those users for the most part seemed to have adapted. There are still many Facebook users who bemoan the useless changes it continues to undertake and promote as positive. Even with the changes Twitter has made and is planning to make, it still saw a modestly small growth in the number of users in 2015. By comparison, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are still seeing much more rapid growth. Tolpolsky correctly points out in talking about Facebook that “the company has demonstrated its mastery of product focus and long-term commitment to user experience.”

What Facebook has definitely not mastered is the understanding of user privacy rights within the context of its’ own terms and conditions. In November of last year, I wrote about my unpleasant experience in great detail about Facebook’s having taken mine and many other accounts hostage for questioning user identities. You can read that post here. Facebook’s user settings do not guarantee the privacy it so readily promises. I respectfully disagree with Topolsky that Mark Zuckerberg’s “one identity” concept has made Facebook “a much safer space to engage.” Recently I engaged in a long conversation with a police officer who candidly told me that there has been a significant spike in incidents of stalking and harassment related to social media. In almost 100% of the incidents investigated, the acts are facilitated through use of Facebook. Further research has indicated Facebook to be very much at the heart of incidents involving cyber-bullying.

My own personal experience has turned me almost completely off of the service altogether. I was preparing to re-start a professional page for my writing work, deciding against it in the end. Humbly, I admit to still being a user of the service on a personal level. The difference is that I have gone from being a frequent user of Facebook to almost inactive. Security-wise I have found it is now very easy to swiftly report and block abusive users engaged in harassment on Twitter compared to Facebook. A few years ago a family member experienced some abusive harassment which should have resulted in a shutdown of that users’ account. Facebook did not deal with this user at all. Made it seem like concerns are not addressed at all. So my personal experience between the two platforms has very much been more favourable to Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely appreciate that this does not mean Twitter users are completely immune to anything hurtful.

Facebook’s growth in revenue has not necessarily meant an increase in users. In a Forbes article written by Parmy Olsen posted at the beginning of 2015, it was reported that according to research firm GlobalWebIndex, 2014 was a year where Facebook saw a noticeable drop in users.

Even so, it still remains the most powerful social media platform in the world. It may prove to have longer staying power than some of us would like. Businesses looking to expand their internet presence are at the very minimum, being advised to bring their business online to Facebook. How many times are you out shopping and see a sign that requests you “Like us on Facebook”? It’s a favour asked almost by any business nowadays.

Personally and professionally, I have found a much better experience within the screens of Twitter. I believe it to allow for a significantly larger global reach. You can really see more content that you actually want to read. I have found Facebook to be very guilty of littering my feed more so with uninteresting and irrelevant content that does not even come close to being of personal interest.  For creative types, the soon to be changed 140 character limit on Twitter has been a writing lesson within social media. It challenges users to get creative within a confined space. Some users like comedian Norm MacDonald have taken Twitter to a new level by brilliantly telling entire stories within a series of tweets. There was a time when Facebook limited how much you could type into a status update. Twitter seems ready to take that next step.

Twitter is evolving in its’ own way. Hopefully the dust will settle at the corporate level and they can focus on bettering itself as a company. A better company surely will mean delivering a better product for all users. Twitter is still relevant. Hopefully better business decisions will result in a better social media experience. Twitter really has the potential to prove itself better than any other program. It can become more relevant than currently perceived. I really hope it is not the beginning of the end for it.




A Window Into Writing

Computer room after

This photo tells a thousand tales. Maybe even more. It was a room at the house I spent the majority of the first 19 years of my life in. My youngest memories of this room were of it being a “toy room” that would occasionally double as a spare bedroom. It was usually in a state of disarray. It also housed two bookshelves that were full of encyclopedias and other miscellaneous reference books. That desk was left with the house when it was cleaned out and sold. The window used to look directly out onto a branch of a maple tree that almost touched the side of the house. That tree was long gone. The view was of the side of the yard which had grown into another part of the adjacent forest. To the right, out of range in this picture, is an old flue that carried smoke up and out of the house from the old wood stove. In reality, that stove did not do a great job of heating the house. The warmth from that flue certainly did help to heat up this little room and provide a very comfortable spot to work in. Especially on the few bitterly cold winter days we had.

Around 5th grade my folks bought us our first computer. Despite a few hiccups with the system eventually it ran smooth for many years. Several years before Dad would even allow an internet connection in, it became a great little home office of sorts. In between trying to find Carmen Sandiego, racing cars and running sports simulators, it was a place where I worked on learning to type and write. I spent many great hours hanging out in this old room. I was determined to find Carmen Sandiego, take Micheal Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to an NBA title on one of the first NBA games made for PC, and write a few creative lines for the printer.

Every time my brother and I advanced in our respective investigator ranks on Carmen Sandiego, we would print out certificates of promotion and tape them up to the walls. 

Microsoft Windows 3.1 was great. Even with the graduation to Windows 95, I was still using 3.1 for quite a while on the old systems. Incredibly, Dad’s old computer ended up getting scrapped while it still had 3.1. Only a few years ago. It still ran! Back in the day I never really thought that I was learning to type or write. I was very much into writing stories and poems with one of my best friends. We would write music reviews, jokes, poetry and “song lyrics”. Using Microsoft Works or NotePad, I would print them on an old dot matrix printer that took forever to spit out one page. I remember writing out lists every week of the music I was listening to most. A top 5 countdown of tunes. It only would change slightly every week. Those lists were really fun to write out and share. It sometimes was a way to get turned towards newer acts that were worth listening to.

The old computer had what one of the “blue screen” versions of Word Perfect. I was a bit afraid to use it. Something intimidated me about having to think of all the shortcuts a person would have to learn while using it. It was just easier to write in MS Works and save everything immediately. Proper formatting was far from my mind at the time. 

Whether it was writing lists or playing games, that old room was a place where I learned to type. I always felt this gave me a major advantage when I went into high school and started typing out a handful of school work on the screen. I was still in junior high school and able to type more than 70 words per minute. For the time, this was seen as impressive. Today, kids have an even greater advantage where they are using technology at younger ages. Their typing speeds by the time they hit high school are probably incredible.

This picture reflects a thousand fond memories. Coming across the photo earlier this week instantly brought me back to those fun long hours of reading, gaming and writing.




Fiscal Year End for Writers


This week I spent some more time working on my year-end for my writing business. As someone who finds math very trying, I really wanted to come up with a way to manage the accounting aspect of things efficiently. After seeking advice from an Accounting Firm, starting in 2010, I started a very basic template in Excel that helped me streamline things. It is a template I am constantly improving on.  Each year I file my income tax returns with a great software from Intuit called TurboTax.  The version I use is for Home and Business.  It specifically has templates that allow one to enter certain expenses and the income one earns from a business like mine.

There is the reality of my work life that I have to factor in as part of my year end work. I have a day job. So part of my writing business year end is filing the necessary tax returns for my day job. So the version of TurboTax that I use allows me to enter all of the numbers from the day job’s tax paperwork and the business at the same time.

As I was writing this, I spent several minutes trying to get the best angles on all of the screenshots and photos of my demo spreadsheet. I cannot seem to get the photos the way I like them.  So I will write out the best demonstrations I can of each worksheet that forms part of the overall spreadsheet.

I should note that this is not meant to be a substitute for advice from an accountant or legal counsel. This has been an effective tool for me as I keep track of things in my writing business. It is meant to help stay organized.  As I reside in Canada, your tax requirements might be different and what you need to keep track of could be different.  Make sure you consult the proper professionals in those areas.   

Sheet 1 – Invoices and Payments.   5 Columns

On the first worksheet I will list the date of invoicing the client, or if you want, you could make it the date you were paid for the work. The second column would be the description of the work. Be as detailed as you can. (i.e. writing website content – cooking website). In your third column, type in the invoice amount.  Fourth column you could write the amount received in your currency.  This is particularly important.  As you need to keep accurate track of your additional income, make sure you have the number correct.  In the fifth column, you would have transfer fees.  The transfer fees would reflect something like the fees you would pay PayPal if you accept payment via that method.  Depending on where you are, this could be another business expense.  Check your laws to see if they could apply.

Sheet 2 – Expenses.    4 Columns

This section of the spreadsheet is where I keep track of each of my expenses. After the first column showing the date incurred expense, the second column should state the place you incurred the expense.  Your third should include the reason for the expense.  I should add here that each receipt, I immediately write on it in pen the date, and the reason the expense was incurred. This is in case the receipt ink wears off.  The final column is of course the amount.

Sheet 3 – Final Totals.    2 Columns

I set this worksheet up in order to keep running totals of business expenses that are allowable as per the applicable laws. For example, As I incur office supplies or expenses, I will add it to the running total under this worksheet. Since I work the writing trade from home, I can claim something that is in relation to my home such as the cost of electricity.  So as I pay a power bill, I add it to the running total under the column of “electricity’.  The columns are one for the type of expense, and one for the running total.

Sheet 4 – KM Breakdown.    3 columns

In Canada, you can claim the total amount of kilometers you might have to drive in order to conduct business. I only recently added this sheet since I was required to take a few road trips in relation to the business. So the three columns here are pretty straightforward. Date, Reason, Distance.

When I drafted this outline, I fully intended to include pictures to demonstrate each part of this worksheet. It just won’t work properly the way I intended it to. I hope the descriptions make sense. If anyone wants a copy of the demonstration file that I wrote up, I will send a copy if you drop a line to my business email –

Staying on top of your business ultimately leaves you with more time to create and more time to work.







Thriving on Criticism


I have never been offended by a negative review of my books, or anything I have written for the web and print. Unless someone is defaming your name and reputation, neither should you. Rather, I have learned to thrive on it and move forward.

It is not an easy thing to do. No one should believe it ever is. No matter what aspect of writing you are in, you want to communicate well so your freelance clients are happy. Your readers are happy and most important, you yourself will be happy. No one is perfect in the word business and life. You cannot please everyone. Remember that a book with a 5-star review on Amazon does not mean it will be enjoyed by everyone. It certainly helps from a visual and sales perspective to have positive reviews out there. Everyone can agree on that. No one truly sets out to write a bad book. The same way that no one sets out to write, produce and film a bad movie.

I have been very fortunate to have read a very small number of negative reviews of my work. I count myself as one of the lucky ones. There have been only a couple of instances where I had to go back and re-visit work for freelance clients who were not completely satisfied.  I was able to resolve one of those issues completely and learn some valuable lessons. The other incident involved a potential client who suddenly wanted to change a proposed pay rate to a penny per word

Maybe there are other reviews out there that I have yet to see. I really do not know. My valuable time needs to be spent working more. Writing more. Continuing to bring in and grow my business and grow my readership.  Negative reviews have only inspired me to keep going. To keep working, and to keep writing.


It all comes back

Johns Pass

A few weeks away from the grind is always good. Come to think of it, even a few days away can help to regulate life.

When I was down south I initially planned to work a little each day as and if I felt like it. A large notebook would be all I needed. If I were to fill a page or two every morning I could call it a job well done. That did not happen and I was perfectly fine with it. The one morning I brought the notebook to the nearby cafe I managed two very scattered pages. I spent part of the morning watching Pelicans fishing. Many appeared to be successful. They competed with other dive-bombing birds who splashed down in a hurry to find something to eat from the ocean.  I was probably distracted by the dark coffee and anticipation of sunshine and the cold beer that would come a few hours later. There was a few lines of funny that came to me over the break. I would get those down on my phone for possible future use.

There was never a sense of disappointment over not accomplishing a goal that was set. After all I was there for a break which I really needed. I’ve come to grow very fond of that area and look forward to seeing it every December. To have weather warmer than home and to run in pure white beach sand multiple times per day. Because I tend to write so much now there was never a fear of not being able to pick it up again. It all does come back. There was such an influx of work that I just kept putting out what I could. I met my deadlines and started a few things where needed. I am back at it.

2016 looks like it will be another busy year in the word business. Thank you for reading and commenting. The best to all of you for the New Year. 


content pool

A few weeks ago I was working on the content pool for the upcoming weeks. Trying to sort out which ideas would work well and what kinds of things I might want to talk about. Somewhere in the recent past I was in a Twitter exchange with S. Usher Evans (Follow her on Twitter @s_usherevans) where we might have been talking about brainstorming blog ideas. Somehow the term Blogstorming came to my mind. I didn’t reach far back into my Twitter feed to clarify.

It’s not any different than actual brainstorming as part of the creative process. My thinking here though is that it might focus your inspirational quest to think of ideas that will be meant solely for your blog. I’m very much into planning most of my posts in advance. Although there are several posts on this site that were written as they happened. Especially over the last year. The feedback has been very positive and I am grateful to all readers for their comments and critiques.

I’ve covered content pool and generating ideas for your blog here before. When I think of Blogstorming now it really has helped me narrow my focus a bit on what I want to say here. Sharing ideas and selling books are still ultra important. Sharing knowledge is also something I enjoy doing. In this business you are going to develop your own ways of working. Someone else’s writing advice is not going to work for you. Still, you might learn some little tip that will benefit your practice. One of my mentors made a point to tell me years ago that anything that really works for you can benefit someone else who wants to learn. I’m a much better writer for sharing my knowledge. So often I Blogstorm about those kinds of things because readers really seem to enjoy that kind of content.

Blogs are a great forum for sharing personal stories as well. Over the course of this year I have shared much in the way of those stories. There are more stories to tell so I will Blogstorm some more and figure out what stories I might want to tell.

When generating content ideas for your blog, start to think of it as Blogstorming. Focus on what you want to say and how you want to say it. Enjoy the process of inspiration and taking those ideas to the screen.