Faster is Not Better, It’s Just Crappier

proofread2

I was reading a post today by a man selling a new book on using your mind and developing super awareness. There’s an irony headed your way. Can you tell?

As I read each paragraph, all was well. I was learning about various ways I could improve my mind and increase productivity. I learned that most of us are just mental slobs, barely slogging our way through life, mostly unconscious and missing everything.

But I also learned that this is OK.

We can change!

We have the power to become super aware and this book details it all in detailed detailing with extra detail.

Well, I can tell you I was getting a little excited at this point. I was thinking, yeah, bring this book on! I think I’ll buy that. I need super awareness yesterday. I think I’ll get the wallet out.

And then…

Bang!

I hit a sentence that made absolutely no sense and it was like running into a brick wall.

It was a simple mistake. A word was missing. A simple typo; the sort of thing that happens to all of us all the time. The only problem was that I saw it first. The typo had made it to the published page.

I’d been dreaming the dream of the writer and following his every word. I’d been riding on the mind-highway he’d created and it seemed smoothly paved and we were going places.

And then, suddenly, we hit a solid wall and I was lost and the dream was gone! I immediately left the page, went over to my blog and started writing instead of reading.

What the Author Lost

Notice all the things the writer wanted from me which are not happening:

  1. I did not keep reading.
  2. I did not go buy the book.
  3. I did not learn the author’s final point.
  4. I did not find myself trusting the author.

And I was also driven to such distraction that it pushed me into the stratosphere of meta-cognition where I began thinking about ALL the various examples of crappy writing out there that seem to be multiplying as we push on down the road of instant, global publishing from your pocket.

Every time this happens I get to notice how I reach a certain point, a certain threshold of ignoring errors and bad grammar. After 4 or 5  errors, my evaluation system kicks in and I start suspecting I’ve picked up some crap. A couple more errors and that’s it, I am done and gone. I have labeled the author a hack, or at least a time waster and someone to avoid in the future.

It seems the modern pressure to produce material quickly has helped justify the publishing of unproofread work.

Don’t fall prey to the pressure. Crappy really isn’t good enough. Eighty percent really isn’t good enough when it comes to spelling and grammar and proofreading in general. And if you can’t tell, hire an editor!

Here’s The Opportunity

The real damage happens when you break the spell you’re weaving in the reader’s mind. The road between your mind and the reader’s must be smooth and uninterrupted by the potholes of bad grammar and typos if you hope to transmit your message successfully.

Even a single pothole is enough to drive your reader into a brick wall and stun them into never coming back.

And they’re certainly not going to buy what you’re selling. So if you think it’s safe to publish crappy sales letters and unedited educational marketing materials, by all means, carry on! Less competition is OK by me.

Some will say I’m dumb and this extra effort is not worth the trouble in this fast-paced age of instant-on and gimme-now knowledge. “You know what I meant!” cries the lazy writer. And to those folk, I say keep on keepin’ on. I’ll avoid you and you’ll avoid me. Good to go.

But for the rest of us, we who want to create excellent work that stands the test of time, we can make our work better and better with a commitment to focused proofreading and awareness. We’ll succeed where others are eventually run down by the typo bus and forgotten—trash on the byways of excellence.

Lastly, if you’re selling super awareness and your work is filled with typos, I must say I’m a little concerned. I’m not so sure I need to buy any of what you’re selling. In fact, I think I might have an awareness book I’d like to sell you!

Boilerplate Instructions, Bane of Modern Software

instructions-bus

 

I bought a new theme to install for a client this week.

Normally, installing a theme is simple. Select theme, upload, install, done.

Unless the theme maker has decided to deviate from the standard protocols that we all know and love and which we have been happily following for years.

At that point all bets are off. Basically, the only choice now is to open their documentation and start reading their instructions line by line and following every micro-directive verbatim.

That is, assuming they have actually bothered to tell you what each little step is.

But no, in this case they just told me in generic terms to do what I had already done; the same thing that had already failed miserably.

“Go to the Appearances menu and upload your new theme.” they say.

Boilerplate instructions.

Fail.

Now what?

Oh, yeah, figure it out for myself!

Talk about lazy and thoughtless. Not a great combo!

They didn’t even bother to test their own theme and discover that,

…Oh wait, we packaged it in such a way that the theme is named something completely different from what most people will expect and it’s also buried in a series of subfolders along with another thing that’s called a child theme and you’re just supposed to know that you don’t actually have to use the child theme, but if you do, you’ll need to install that first and then…

WTF!?

Here’s the opportunity…

Test your instructions exhaustively and triple-check your documentation!

Having clear, excellent instructions that actually work is just as important as having a great product.

Junk instructions could cause someone to mistake your product for junk since it’s likely they’ll fail to get it to work as intended.

And then they might just ask for a refund.

Aha, instructions just became as valuable as the product itself!

Funny how that works.

 

Photo by Seth Anderson – CC Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

 

Some Answers to Your Hosting Questions

Concept web storage.

When it’s time to move to a new hosting company, many questions inevitably arise. In this post I hope to answer a few of those questions, especially the more frequently asked and important ones.

Which Hosting Plan Should I Choose?

The hosting plan you choose will mostly be dependent upon the amount of storage space you need and how much processor power your website requires. Storage space is determined by a combination of both your website files and all of your e-mail in all of your e-mail accounts. So, if your website takes up 1 GB of space, and you have three e-mail accounts each using around 300 MB of space, you would need at least 2 GB of storage space in the new hosting account.

However, since e-mail accounts are always growing larger and websites that are active are also growing larger, you need to accommodate that growth by purchasing at least twice as much storage space as you are currently using, preferably a little more.

Most folks will be able to get away with 5 GB of total storage space in the beginning. (This is the Standard Plan at Liquid Web.) It doesn’t hurt to have at least 10 GB of space if you know that you get a large volume of e-mail and you plan to be adding lots of photographs and videos to your website which aren’t hosted on a separate server.

How Much Space Does My Account Use?

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How to Add Alternate Dictionaries and Thesauri to OS X

Select Preferences image

Here’s a short tutorial (should take 30 seconds at most) to help you add more options to your dictionary. The default is based on where you live in the world, but you can add other languages as well as set your English dialect preference (American English or British English). Also note that I’m using OS X Mavericks and the screenshots below reflect that. I’ve also enabled file extension views so you see my application file names end in .app while your file names will likely not have extensions. Just ignore that and proceed. :) )

Step 1: Launch the dictionary application (it’s in your Applications folder).

OPen the Dictionary App

 

Step 2: Select Preferences from the menu and view the pop-up list of additional options.

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The Ultimate Writing Tool for Bloggers

scrivener-header

 

Scrivener Helps You Pull It All Together

Ever wondered how in blazes you capture, organize and store all those ideas for blog posts so you always have access to them and can quickly find them and start writing?

And secondarily, but perhaps even more importantly, do you pine for a program that works with you instead of fighting you every step of the way as you attempt the sometimes hideously challenging work of writing useful and interesting blog posts?

These questions have plagued me for many years.

In the beginning, and for a long time thereafter, I struggled to manage my ideas and my written words. I wrote ideas on scraps of paper, tried bookmarking links on Delicious to jog my memory and save reference material for later, created multiple text documents in TextEdit and stored these in folders, emailed myself ideas and partial drafts, and tried many far more arcane and useless methods to manage my written words.

Of course some might (somewhat rightfully) suggest that all this effort to find a way to write was just a manifestation of Resistance, but that’s a post for another day.

Throughout it all though, when it came time to actually bang out a post, I had a devil of a time finding all the various bits of digital and physical mnemonic rubbish I had created and set to whirling metaphorically and literally all around my life. In other words, I was frustrated before I even sat down to write because I knew it would be a royal pain to gather my wits and bits. And since it was frustrating, I would rarely end up writing at all.

6 Things I Had to Have

So to recap, my writing frustrations led me to want:

  1. Somewhere to save ideas so that I could easily find and categorize them
  2. Easy and smart management of drafts and revisions
  3. A way to quickly see my word count without undue effort
  4. Great tools—better stuff than the basics in WordPress or TextEdit (the equivalent of Notepad for Windows users) but a simple and easy interface
  5. Relief from the frustration and pain with the WordPress composition screen
  6. Having everything synchronize over the network so I could write online or offline and on whichever device I happened to be using at the moment

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