A new home

05Oct09

I haven’t taken my blog seriously enough, even though I know better. Recently, I found myself in a few situations where I wish I had done more work on my digital presence, but that still didn’t motivate me to actually do something about it. Then one day, Smashing Magazine tweeted out one of my earlier posts (about Twitter @ replies) and this blog got thousands of hits. Oops.

So, I bought my domain, attended WordCamp Seattle, and spent hours learning the basics of WordPress. Here’s the result so far:

http://www.veronicasopher.com/ 

It’s my new virtual home. I hope you’ll keep visitng me there, and continue to give me your feedback. Thank you!


Poke, poke.

26Aug09

For the record, I’m anti-poking on Facebook. FB hugs, ignored. FB quizzes, hidden. FB farm animal tossing or drink passing, rejected. Basically, I’m just a party pooper on Facebook. No fun at all.

There’s one game I don’t hide if my FB friends play it, and that is Bejeweled. My very talented friend Joey Trimmer does great work for Popcap Games, the maker of Bejeweled. Also, I’m holding on to this crazy idea of a custom Bejeweled game for a jewelry retailer. More on that in another post. (Don’t you dare steal my idea!)

Ty got on Facebook early this summer, with my knowledge and support, of course. I suspect it took quite a while before I noticed his first “poke” to me, because I never pay attention to that part of the Facebook “home” page. I didn’t ignore it. In fact, I poked him back. A couple of days later, another poke from  him. Again, I poked back. Nothing fancy. No super pokes or bling gifts. Just a regular little FB poke. It has now become a quiet little ritual between us. During the school year, he sends me text messages when he gets home, just to check in. Now we poke each other on Facebook. No additional message needed. It’s a little signal between us. We don’t talk about it when we see each other. We just poke, back and forth. It tells us we’re in each other’s thoughts when we’re apart. These pokes don’t happen every day, but I look for them now. They make me smile.

Don’t get any ideas though. Unless you’re Hawkrider1, I’m not poking you back.


Entertaining family and friends at home is one of the greatest joys in my life. I like to cook and bake. It’s fun to try new recipes, modify them or create variations. For holidays or special occasions, I love hosting nice gatherings, from menu planning to decorating, to sending guests off with carefully packaged goodies. I’m no Martha Stewart. If I had to choose, my style would be more similar to that of Ina Garten.

Our schedules have been a lot more hectic in recent months. Some weeks, there’s an event every evening. Sure, we see lots people at various functions, but conversations are often rushed. I haven’t seen my best girlfriends very much. TJ and Ty are still waiting for me to go fishing with them. The vegetable beds are not doing nearly as well as they were last summer. It seems I need a vacation just to catch up on LIFE. Consequently, we have not invited friends over as often as we once did.

My Singaporean friend, Karen, had received a care package from home during Chinese New Year. She knew I love quite a few of the items she received, so she and her husband graciously invited TJ and me for dinner in their beautiful condo in downtown Seattle. Bruce, who is a sake expert, gave us a sake 101 lesson, and we tasted several wonderful sake he had just brought back from Japan. Karen made dinner with abalone from Singapore, braised meat, and an assortment of her homemade chili sauce. She even put a whole container of spicy shrimp rolls in our take-home bag of goodies because she saw how much TJ enjoyed them. We were touched. We could have dined out at a fancy restaurant, but the experience would not be nearly as memorable.

I’ve been thinking about all this lately: the sheer joy of being in good company, the sharing of good food, and the need to deepen connections. The food and the atmosphere play a large role in these friendly gatherings, but perhaps I’ve focused too much on them. It’s time to take it to the next level, and I don’t mean adding to the selections on the cheese platter. :)

A few weeks ago, we started inviting 1 or 2 friends over for dinner on week nights. I had some initial anxiety about it because our friends might see a pile of unfolded clean laundry in the family room, or a blob of liquid hand soap by the sink in the powder room. The pillows on the couch may be covered with cat hair. There may not be the perfect bottle of wine in the house, either. But good friends wouldn’t mind all that. When we invite friends over on a regular day, we’re sharing a slice of our everyday life. We want our friends to come as they are, even if they’ve had a rough day at work and need to vent. We can learn about each other as people, not avatars or profiles. I could be making a humble stirfry of shredded carrots and Taiwanese cabbage with garlic, or a big pot of curry with chicken. These are dishes that come with very fond memories, and offering them to good friends means a lot to me.

I hope our friends always feel welcome in our home and leave with a good feeling. Not because we serve up a perfect prime rib (which, by the way, is always a bonus) or great cocktails (though that never hurts), but because we’re sharing what is the best and the dearest to us. There’s always room for another place setting or two at our table.


Walk the puppy

26Jul09

This blog was born on December 1, 2008. This is the 12th post. Like several other posts, this one started with a nudge from one of my favorite bloggers, Brett Nordquist.

Akula_nudge

A great mentor and friend, Cheryl Nichols, says starting a blog is like getting a puppy. She makes a good point. Starting and maintaining a blog is a responsibility. It requires constant and consistent care and feeding. It demands that I research new things and acquire new skills.

Another one of my favorite people on Twitter, Todd Friesen, recently blogged about why he doesn’t blog too much and admitted he doesn’t have very good excuses. Sheepishly, I agree (about my not having good excuses, not Todd). That post got 22 comments, mostly from people who identify with the sentiments, so I know I’m not alone, but hey, don’t let me use *that* as an excuse.

In my Blackberry “memo pad,” there’s a running list of topics and notes waiting to be blogged, including several from a “blogging 101″ meeting with Jeff Shuey. The truth is, I’ve abandoned several posts in the draft folder, because I took too long to finish writing about a perishable topic, or I think it’s been discussed too much already, or it ends up feeling too personal to publish. I’m also very critical of my own writing. There is enough crap content in this world, and I certainly don’t want to add to it.

Maybe I just need to relax. There’s been so much focus on the amount of work this “puppy” requires that I forgot to have fun with it. Maybe my blogging experience should be more like walking a puppy: Some running, some walking, often stopping to sniff out new experiences, and meeting new puppies and their bloggers. Maybe I could take more pictures along the way, too.

What makes blogging fun for you?


Spectacles

21Jul09

Ty got his 1st pair of eyeglasses today. He’s been anticipating its arrival for over a week. I suspect he really likes them. He had spent quite some time selecting _the_ frame after his eye exam 10 days ago. Instead of showering him with “mom’s opinion,” I suggested that he ask a young lady clerk in the shop for feedback and backed off. She was friendly and gracious, and reassured him of his choice. He looks great. The “Transitions” tint makes him extra cool. On the way home, he also got a new hair cut.

Ty has been doing lots of new things this summer. In addition to advancing his C++ skills, he’s also blogging, Twittering and Facebooking. These are not foreign subjects to him, as TJ and I have openly shared our experiences and discussions with him since last year. I’m especially interested in his blog, although he has been challenging me: “I started blogging well after you did, and yet I have more posts than you do.” It’s okay. A little competition is healthy. Good to know he’s keeping scores on this front. It tells me he’s watching what I do, and I’m glad.

While I’m confident in my understanding of Ty and how we’ve approached his exploration in social networks, I’m also very fortunate to have encountered some great parents and their blogs: Brett Nordquist, Kim Nordquist, Barb Jacobucci, Bryan Zug, Jen Zug, Mike Henneke, Jeff Shuey, and Giyen Kim. Whether they know it or not, I’ve learned a lot from their writing and from conversations with them. Many nights, their posts have reassured me and lifted my spirit. Sometimes, Ty and I read these blogs and laugh together.

It’s such a joy sharing experiences with Ty, and it will only get better as he grows older. He is confident, sharp, observant, and thinks critically. Now he looks even smarter (and geekier) with those spectacles. :) Look for a picture of his new look on his blog soon.

I hope he always knows that I’m very proud of him.


A tweet from Jeremiah Owyang this morning reminded me to jot down my thoughts about changes to Twitter’s @ reply rules and how users have adapted to it.

jowyang_twitter_replies

The Problem:

For those who aren’t familiar, Twitter users previously had the option of choosing to see all @ replies (including replies to those they don’t follow) from the settings menu if they wished. A few months ago, that option was removed. Twitter users can now only see @ replies if they follow both the sender and the receiver of that particular tweet. This change created quite an uproar among Twitter users. (Search #fixreplies on Twitter to see the reactions.) One of the biggest complaint is that seeing all @ replies was facilitating the discovery of new users and for observing conversations of interest. I personally agree with this.

The Upside:

Now that not all my followers will see my @ reply tweets, I feel more relaxed about sending more “acknowledgment” tweets to people, such as those done after an event or as a thank-you. I’m also more inclined to carry on social conversation with friends in a few tweets, which I’m sure we all enjoy doing from time to time.

The Hack:

As soon as the @ reply rule changed, some Twitter users began looking for a work-around. The trick is to not put the @ user name at the very beginning of the tweet. There are 2 ways to accomplish this:

1) Insert a character such as a period (.), a dash (-) or an exclamation point (!) before the reply message. I don’t like using ! because it’s commonly used for SMS commands on many location based social networks. This hack also causes you to lose a character space in the 140 limit.

shelisrael_dot_tweet

2) Move the @ user name to a different part of the tweet sentence. This is my personal preference. It doesn’t cost you a character, and also makes the sentence flow better, IMHO.

shihwei_reply_tweet

The New Issue:

Twitter took away from its users the option of selectively viewing @ replies. Now users are adapting their tweeting habits around it by using hacks. Unfortunately, this creates a new problem for those who previously did not wish to see all @ replies. They are the ones who no longer have a choice, as the hack essentially forces @ reply tweets into their stream.

The (Interim) Solution:

Use the tools, but mind your manners. It’s up to each Twitter user to use the @ reply hacks selectively. I think Shel Israel handles this well. Some habitual “broadcasters” were using the hack well before the @ reply rule change, and I’ve had to unfollow them no matter how great they are. Others are now putting @ user names at the end of all tweets, even when it’s just casual/social chatter between friends. I suspect it’s  due to the convenience of moving the cursor in front of @ user names when replying via a mobile device.

It all boils down to respecting your followers’ time and space, and the same ettiquette applies on all other social networks. (I’m looking at you, Facebook pages!)


Over the past few months, I’ve been getting more questions about “tweetups.” Most of them come from people who have never been to one or interested in organizing one.

What is a “tweetup” anyway?

A “tweetup” is generally a meet-up of people on Twitter. It is often open, informal, with a central theme or interest. For example, most of the tweetups I’ve attended are related to social media or business networking. Some tweetups are for sports fans to gather and watch the game. There are even tweetups in the works for people and their dogs. Sometimes, it’s simply a group of Twitter friends getting together for a quick lunch or a drink after work.

Who goes to tweetups?

You do! Yes, tweetups are, by definition, organized via Twitter, but that doesn’t mean a Twitter account is required to attend. You don’t even have to know the organizer(s). As long as it’s a topic or a location you find interesting, it doesn’t matter how you heard about the tweetup. Just come with an open mind. I’ve been attending meetups/tweetups since last fall. The size of the group ranges from 5 people to as many as 60+. My first one was actually the Seattle P-I’s Big Blog weekly meetup held by Monica Guzman. People are always welcoming and friendly at tweetups/meetups. First time jitters? Bring a friend along!

What happens at a tweetup?

Conversations! Laughs! Partaking in various foods and beverages. Exchange of ideas and stories. It is very much what you make of it. Chris Pirillo holds tweetups in the Seattle area about once a month, and he always emphasizes the “social” part of social media. (See an example of his tweetup here.)

At tweetups, I usually start by saying hello to people I already know, and always make a point of spending more time on meeting new people. To me, the best part of tweetups is hearing other people’s stories and experiences. If you come to a tweetup in the Seattle area and see me, please do say hello!

Do I need to bring anything to a tweetup?

Unless it’s a potluck tweetup (someone out there is probably doing one), just come as you are! Bring business cards if you’d like, or check out contxts (business cards via SMS). It is important to note, however, that most tweetups are not hosted or sponsored. That means everyone buys his/her own drinks or food, unless otherwise announced by the organizer(s) in the event details. If name tags are made available, most people find it helpful to display their first names and Twitter names.

How do I find out about tweetups?

You can start by searching for keywords or hashtags on Twitter, such as “#tweetup” and/or your city name. Lately, a popular way of organizing and listing tweetups is using twtvite.com. Click on the 2nd tab “Find a Tweetup” and scroll through the list of cities. Other popular sites for finding tweetups/ meetups are: Facebook, Meetup, Upcoming, etc.

As more and more businesses find their way to Twitter, some are calling their own tweetups, and these usually come with some treats. For example, Hotel Max is hip on the social media scene in Seattle, and has done a very nice tweetup recently. Hopefully, I won’t miss their next one.

Can I start my own tweetup?

Yes! Everyone is free to start a tweetup. No license required. Don’t see your city listed on twtvite? Add it! For all you know, lots of people in your town are just dying to find a tweetup to attend, but everyone’s waiting for someone else to put one together. Ask a few friends to help you get the word out by retweeting the link to your tweetup details. You may wish to create a unique and relevant Twitter hashtag for all tweets related to the tweetup, but keep it short and simple.

Do you have a favorite coffee shop or happy hour spot that you’d like to share with others? Call a tweetup there! If you use a bar or restaurant as the tweetup venue, it is good to give the manager a heads-up, especially if the RSVP list starts growing. In my experience, most restaurant managers aren’t familiar with the “tweetup” concept yet, so be sure to explain that you’re not making a reservation for a private event. While I’m sure most places would welcome the business, it is a good idea to choose an evening that’s slower for the restaurant, and they’ll be more open to accommodating your group and doing separate checks for everyone.

More questions about tweetup?

I have yet to meet a tweetup organizer who isn’t friendly and helpful, so do reach out to one if you have questions about attending or organizing. Feel free to ping me on Twitter, too.

Have you been to a tweetup lately? What was the best part about it?

Have you found a local venue that’s particularly tweetup friendly?




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