New interview on My Biz Hub blog

I’ve recently written an new interview on My Biz Hub, with amazing baker Daisy from Daisy Brydon Creations  and I wanted to share it here as well. Daisy doesn’t believe in the impossible and her story is inspiring.

Here’s a snippet below; you can read the full interview on My Biz Hub.

“As we’re speaking over the phone, Daisy has put me on speaker.
– Are you baking? I ask her.
– I am painting a cake, she says casually.

As Daisy is painting with gold glaze on an art deco wedding cake she has to deliver on Saturday, and we joke about her super woman multi-tasking skills, we start talking about the moment she decided to start her own business.

“I was an actress for ten years and I then I went into depression quite badly” she says. “I was unemployed and in a horrible place and after much back and forth I’ve decided to go to a business event with a friend. One of the speakers at the event told me they couldn’t give me any advice on my acting career. ‘Is there anything else that you do? Anything you do In between jobs?’, he asked me.

‘-I bake’, I said!

And so it started.”

Becoming a better writer: sleep enough and write everyday

Becoming a better writer-

I was listening yesterday to two different talks, one was Beth Dunn’s “How to Be a Writing God” and the other one was Arianna Huffington’s Keynote from the same Inbound Marketing conference.

If Dunn was talking about the importance of practicing every day and keeping that streak without focusing on the quality, Adriana Huffington was talking about the importance of mindfulness, taking care of yourself to make it possible to do good work.

About writing, I had heard “pratice every day”  many times, and even though it makes sense, I was always wondering if it’s worth the effort to write if what you write is not good enough. To that, Dunn says you should lower your standards, and if you want to write well, write every day no matter what and amazing things will happen. I find this curious but I also feel a sense of relief: what? Do you mean it’s fine to write things no one wants to read and you don’t even like?

On the other hand what kind of writing should this be? Can it be any kind of writing? Or should you focus, depending on your goals? And what about writers who work as content marketers? Does writing non-fiction everyday help writing fiction in your spare time?

I also liked how she created this list of “Writing Gods”, who are people who Dunn aspired to write like. It makes a lot of sense to want to write like Leo Babauta, for example, and it makes it more achievable and measureable than “write better”.

Here’s the embedded talk if you want to know more about writing everyday and how this can help you become a better writer.

The 47 minutes inbound talk is the first full talk I hear from Adriana Huffington. I had started several other talks in which Huffington talks about business or creativity but I never made it passed the first minute. It’s difficult to say why. But I was surprised: her talk was engaging and funny. She talked about things like getting enough sleep and finishing projects even if that means you decide not to finish them. She started with a great hook: “My name is Adriana Huffington and this is my real accent”. She talks little about inbound marketing but a lot about mindfulness and being true to yourself – nothing she says is our of ordinary, actually most of it is common sense, yet her pleasure for sharing it is contagious.

9 tips for creating shareable content

headlines with numbers get more shares

If you’re a blogger and don’t read Noah Kagan’s blog OkDork, then you should. Noah writes about growth hacking, content marketing hacking and promoting content in general. His blogposts are funny, readable and insightful.

On of his recent posts, Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us goes over some of the specific traits of the most shared content. I do suggest reading the actual post, that goes more in depth over the following ideas:

  1. Headlines with numbers perform 10 times better than the rest
  2. In depth, well-researched articles packed with insights are more shared than short articles. Write more than 1000 words and aim for 2000
  3. Use at least 1 image in your post
  4. Quizzes work, so if you can find a way to include them in your content, go for it
  5. Lists and info graphics are two of the most shared types of content. If you’re writing a list, 10 is a magic number
  6. Have a bio at the end of each post to build trust
  7. Tuesday is the best day to publish new content
  8. Re-share your well-written content one week after you’ve first published it
  9. Include content from other bloggers

 

Python for complete noobs, where to start

learning python for absolute beginners

If you’re thinking about learning programming, Python is a good start. The syntax is readable, and easy to learn (unlike C++, for example). Some more advanced programmers hate the syntactically-relevant indentation (which means you’re code won’t run unless you’ve organised your code properly), but for a complete noob like myself, I find that actually helpful: it forces you to be organised in writing and thus helps your organise your thinking.

What is Python?

Python is a programming languages that promotes readability and uses fewer lines of code compared to other programming languages. This means you could write your programs faster. Python is open source and there’a huge community sharing the knowledge and the love for Python. One of the most well-known sources is Python.org.

How old is Python?

Around 24; it was invented in the 80’s by Guido van Rossum.

What’s the philosophy behind Python?

Tim Peters has a list called The Zen of Python, which lists principles, such as:

  • Simple is better than complex.
  • Readability counts.
  • If the implementation is hard to explain, it’s a bad idea.

What free courses and materials can you use to learn Python?

Codecademy Python Course: great because you get straight into using the code, not so great because the instructions tell you what to do, while introducing new and more complex information, which means you sometimes solve the problem but you’re not exactly sure why it worked.

If you’re not sure you want to start with Python I recommend watching this intro video by Jessica McKellar. It assumes no programming experience, you get started by writing you own few lines of code and you see there’s more people out there, who are as clue-less as you are, which makes it easier to deal with the fear and frustration that comes with learning something completely new.

Learn Python the hard way: this books sets out to teach your the foundation skills you need to start learning Python: reading and writing, attention to detail, and spotting differences. I really like how this book is written and you might like it to:

Whatever your reason for wanting to quit, keep at it. Force yourself. If you run into a Study Drill you can’t do, or a lesson you just do not understand, then skip it and come back to it later. Just keep going because with programming there’s this very odd thing that happens. At first, you will not understand anything. It’ll be weird, just like with learning any human language. You will struggle with words, and not know what symbols are what, and it’ll all be very confusing. Then one day BANG your brain will snap and you will suddenly “get it.” If you keep doing the exercises and keep trying to understand them, you will get it. You might not be a master coder, but you will at least understand how programming works.

If you give up, you won’t ever reach this point. You will hit the first confusing thing (which is everything at first) and then stop. If you keep trying, keep typing it in, trying to understand it and reading about it, you will eventually get it.

There are much, much more resources out there, but as a non-programmer, I suggest you start with these, get motivated and focus on doing these exercises, one bite at a time. There will be times when you’ll be tired and frustrated because you don’t get something. Just remember this is normal and happens to everyone. And keep up at it.

An Interesting Experiment with Short Content

We always talk about content being king but we forget what content really means. Content is not just text, but the sum of your concept, copy, images, extra resources etc.

Darren Rowse from Problogger recently publishes an article talking about his experiments with short format text.

What he essentially did is create a new page instead of a new blog post and he created content not by writing 250 words of text, but focusing on a large, inspiring image, adding short, meaningful copy and linked to other similar blog posts where people could learn more about the photography technique he was showcasing.

I also like how this allows you to showcase older posts without boring your attentive and returning readers with content they’ve already read.

See the actual test page here.

problogger test

Inspiring People: Sacha Chua, the Thinker who Sketches

I just spent a few minutes browsing through Google Helpouts. Something in between a youtube tutorial (my life wouldn’t be the same without it), a Google Hangout and an online course (like Coursera or Udacity).

And I just found the inspiring Sacha Chua who doodles, thinks and is in general training herself to be a better learner.

On her blog, Sacha writes and doodles about a series of fascinating things such as high energy and low energy activities (I love that outlining is an item and then skimming books and processing are different activities!)

Low-energy-versus-high-energy_thumb

and mapping what she learns so she can remember more things. I find this particularly interesting because I also remember things better if I write them down. Sometimes I actually feel I think better when I write down things. Imagine the knowledge I could accumulate if I actually revisited my notes.

A trick I used when I was in school and had to remember lists of names, towns, facts, years, species of plants was to write them all down on a piece of paper and then stuck it on my bedroom door. I would never actually properly sit down and learn the items, just go about my life and then, 2 weeks, 1 month later when I had my exam I would magically remember 90% of it. I should re-test this.

Mapping-what-you-know-640x497

 

Thank you for blogging, Sacha.

 

My Favourite Fragments from Thoreau’s Walden

on Education (1)

“One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.”

“In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”

“Memnon, what should be man’s morning work in this world? I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still.”

“Even the poor student studies and is taught only political economy, while that economy of living which is synonymous with philosophy is not even sincerely professed in our colleges. The consequence is, that while he is reading Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Say, he runs his father in debt irretrievably.”

“I only know myself as a human entity; the scene, so to speak, of thoughts and affections; and am sensible of a certain doubleness by which I can stand as remote from myself as from another.”

walden thoreau favourite quotes

“In him the animal man chiefly was developed. In physical endurance and contentment he was cousin to the pine and the rock. I asked him once if he was not sometimes tired at night, after working all day; and he answered, with a sincere and serious look, “Gorrappit, I never was tired in my life.””

“You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments? Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, when the wind passes over it, bends.”

walden thoreau favourite quotes

“As I came home through the woods with my string of fish, trailing my pole, it being now quite dark, I caught a glimpse of a woodchuck stealing across my path, and felt a strange thrill of savage delight, and was strongly tempted to seize and devour him raw, not that I was hungry then, except for that wilderness which he represented.”

“It is neither the quality nor the quantity, but the devotion to sensual savors; when that which is easten is not viand to sustain our animal, or inspire our spiritual life, but food for the worms that possess us.”

walden thoreau favourite quotes

On Education, Teaching and Learning

on Education

I believe in a world where we invest more of our time and knowledge in finding new ways to teach people, young and old.  I believe in a time where we’ve figured out how to motivate, empower and challenge people to learn what they’re best at. What they love doing. I believe in people working in areas and in projects they believe in. Because they want to make their town, their industry, their world, a better place.

I believe in a world where teachers teach because they believe in people. I believe in teachers who are dreamers of utopias and who are specialists in the outside world who want to train the minds and bodies of those who are still in school.

I believe in teachers who inspire students to become superheroes overnight and to work hard to sustain their status.

I believe in an education system that is adapted to the learner. That’s flexible, responsive and can learn from the learner’s habit how to support its client better. I believe in a system where age is not what groups us, but skill and passion and curiosity.

I believe in a world where we understand that the ability to transfer knowledge is as important as teaching people to learn by themselves, to innovate, discover and rediscover. To love learning and never stop doing it.

 

Learn Something New in May

Have you heard of Coursera? Along with Udacity and MIT’s Open Courses, it’s one of those places where you can take a University level e-class, from professors from some of the most renowned Universities in the world, in your free time, for free.

I took Introduction to Sociology, which was interesting, but also very basic. (To be fair, I have a BA in Communications and a MS in Cognitive Sciences so be take my description as “basic” with a grain of salt if you’re coming from a background in Biology or Mathematics; it’s a very cool course and the teacher is very charismatic!)

The reading suggested in the class was awesome and I found the concept of the Google hangout seminars awesome but time-consuming and not that rewarding in terms of knowledge gain.

I also the Took Social Network Analysis course, which I didn’t finish because of the time investment it requires (I didn’t realize this when I joined the course). I intent to retake this course, as the ideas for mining social network data are mind-opening.

If you want to improve your grammar, there’s Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade, intro video below:

But otherwise there’s a wide course offer: from Introduction to Guitar, to Nutrition, Health, and Lifestyle: Issues and Insights, to Coding the Matrix: Linear Algebra through Computer Science Applications, to Health for All Through Primary Health Care.

Give it a try!

Featured images via Giulia.Forsythe on Flickr.