When Do The Filters Come Off?

As I've written in the past:

You’re better off assuming anything you input into social media, SMS, iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, or whatever can and will be made public. Act and share accordingly.

Likewise, I assume everything I post will eventually be read by someone I wish didn't. I had some experiences where I didn't experience appropriate discretion and had some unpleasant side effects as a result. This means I usually exercise a fair amount of editorial restraint on most everything I post.

The reality is, I don't have a whole lot of real-life friends that I can talk to about things anymore, at least not any that I can reliably see on a regular basis. Even if I did, I'm not always great with verbal communication, even though I can speak a lot at times.

This leaves writing as my way of working through things. It's also how I learn things as well, it seems.

Sadly, there is an increasing number of topics online that are third rails and cannot be debated or discussed in any rational sense without the proverbial firestorm being unleashed on you. One only has to look at the upcoming Presidential election in the US to find the latest edition of this: two repugnant, polarizing figures, one of which will likely be elected "leader of the free world" and not "seize power" as some media outlets might portray it. That is, unless the American electorate wakes up and realizes there are other choices out there, one of which is Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld.

My rather innocuous posting on Facebook got largely ignored, thankfully, and didn't degrade into a flame war like I see so many other political posts do. Maybe I have better friends than most, though based on their Facebook posts, I know most of the ones that have declared are backing major party candidates.

The reality is, because of the threat of something degrading into an argument, I don't even participate in the conversation. At all. It means not posting about controversial issues and rarely participating in conversations around these topics. Besides, who on the Internet really cares what I think, anyway?

This inability to have real conversations about things that matter to me extends into the real world, too. Forget the controversial topics, if you were to put potential discussion topics in a Venn diagram, the intersection between me and a significant portion of the population is quite small. Add Aspergers into the mix, and you have a recipe for a lot of listening and not a lot of talking. Or dominating conversations if it happens to be one of those few topics I actually care about.

But mostly, I just get exhausted from having to filter everything I say or write.

You Still Have to Do The Work

From There Are No Fucking Keys To Success

If you try to avoid the work by looking for all of their “keys” you’re only wasting time, procrastinating, and letting yourself down. And here’s the thing, I can’t guarantee that putting the work in will mean you’re going to succeed. But not putting the work in does mean you’ll fail.

There are always things one can optimize about how one does the work, different ways to approach a given challenge. Those are helpful to learn, but they won’t matter a bit unless you actually do the work and implement them.

There’s another reality here: just because something worked for someone successful, doesn’t mean it will work for you. The only way you’re going to find that out is to do the work and find out.

Guess what? You’re probably going to fail. A lot. And that’s ok. If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. Which is also a part of doing the work.

If You Want To Be Seen, Show Your Work

From Make Your Work Public or You Don't Exist:

That’s the world we’re living in: open, competitive. A world where people don’t read your cover letter — they search your name on Google and Linkedin.

What have you achieved? What comes up if I Google your name?

If nothing comes up, I’ll assume it’s because you haven’t done anything. That’s because my brain is dumb and takes shortcuts. If you don’t market yourself on the internet, you’ll suffer from the comparison with those who do.

Many years ago, I used to joke my website was purely for shameless self-promotion. These days, it's very true, though I actually have a few different sites out there, depending on whether it's something related to infosec, a personal thought, or my podcast, when I decide to resume publishing. And, of course, my inane drivel on the social medias.

Unlike in the days where I did technical support of Check Point FireWall-1 (back when it was called that), a lot of the "work product" I generate these days is not something I can show. This is because the stuff I write is largely for specific customers and contains customer specific information. That said, I do share many of the generic insights publicly.

I can assure you that, if you get in front of people you've never met before, they're going to Google you. After nearly every meeting involving people I have never met before, I get connection requests on social media from people at those meetings.

The more you put out there, the easier it is to influence the way other people see you. Of course, that can be a double-edged sword, so be careful what you put out there.

Never Been Happy with the CMS

It seems like every couple of years, I will change the CMS that is used for my various websites. This has resulted in some messy, messy transitions. As it is right now, phoneboy.com and phoneboy.org are both using Jekyll, one hosted on a VM somewhere, the other hosted on GitHub. For what I am doing on these sites, I believe this is the right tool.

This site, phoneboy.info, has been on 10Centuries the last few years (after being hosted on Posterous, Posthaven, and Wordpress). I just had it migrated to version 4 of the platform, which itself is still "beta." While the frontend is lacking at this moment, which will hopefully be fixed soon, the backend is much more usable for me, which means I might actually write a post once in a while.

Of course, I wonder how long I will remain on these CMSes. Because I've never been happy with whatever CMS I use for more than a few years…

Are Computers Killing Our Culture?

From How Computers Are Killing Our Culture:

Whether your desire to have a clean, perfect document is pathological or simply a result of the way you want to present yourself to the world, we are eliminating some of our finest work when we edit ourselves online, on the computer screen, in our writing programs.

For me, at least, the issue is that my thoughts can come and go so quickly that I can't even get them out on the page (virtual or otherwise) before they disappear into the ether. It's even worse when I try to write stuff out longhand, which is only legible to myself, and even then, only barely.

On the other hand, I know I can obsess over my words. Even a 140 character tweet can sometimes take an eternity for me to write. And I know the minute I hit the post button, the information is out there, in the ether, indexed, and searchable nearly instantaneously. Even if I decide to delete the post, someone can screenshot it and reshare it without my knowledge or consent. Further, I have no control over it.

At least with a piece of paper, you can destroy your own work. Obviously it's a bit harder once that piece of paper is part of a larger book that's printed and distributed to a bunch of people, but it's still theoretically possible.

Meanwhile, that searchable, infinitely copyable aspect of computers also makes it possible for culture to spread farther and wider than it could ever do in entirely physical mediums. That doesn’t sound like killing culture to me, but it’s definitely changing it.

Our Relationship With Work and The Facebookification of LinkedIn

Work-Life Balance

I've seen many people on LinkedIn complain about how it's starting to look like Facebook. In many ways, it is, with the sharing of articles (some of which aren't necessarily about "work"), pictures (some are memes that have nothing to do with work), politics, and even deeply personal stuff. I've also heard that people use LinkedIn to "hook up" with people in non-professional settings (if you catch my meaning).

I don't know about the rest of you, but the lines between my work life and the rest of my life are pretty blurry. Maybe it has something to do with working out of my house, which I've done for the last 18 years. Maybe it has to do with the fact I spend a fair amount of time on the road, including some long international flights. Maybe I don't have a ton of friends outside of those I've met through work or other professional networking.

The idea that "work" life and your "personal" life are somehow separate, unconnected things has never really resonated with me. I suspect a lot of technology professionals feel the same way, at least based on how they are using social media of all kinds. Obviously, the folks in charge at LinkedIn must have agreed, and thus added Facebook-like functionality.

It's one thing for LinkedIn to add Facebook-like functionality to their product. It's another thing for people to actually use it that way, which they clearly are. It's simply a sign of the times.

I long since learned that social media, in all its forms, can make or break your professional career. A large part of why Nokia was willing to hire me in 1999 even though I wanted to work remotely was because of my online reputation and the corpus of work I had posted on phoneboy.com.

While I certainly post and share my share of silly, personal, and/or political things, I keep it professional on LinkedIn. This means sharing stuff that is related to my profession, personal development, or dealing with something in relation to work, kind of like this article. It doesn't mean sharing memes, going off on political rants, or pictures of my kids.

Bottom line: The Facebookification of LinkedIn is simply a reflection of modern life, at least for those of us who use LinkedIn. It's not entirely a bad thing.

The Lost Art Of Mix Tapes

These days, people have millions of songs at their fingertips thanks to all the various streaming music services and ubiquitous-enough connectivity all from the palm of our hand. 25 years ago, the closest thing we had to that walkmans and cassette tapes. If you wanted something other than an album, you had to create it yourself. It was called a mix tape, and my collection of them (that I still have) is pictured below:


You could easily buy the blank cassettes at the drug store, plug them in your CD boombox, and lay down your tracks. If you were lucky, your boombox had two cassette players that would allow you to record from one to the other. The cassette tapes went by the ubiquitous designations C30, C60, and C90, which of course became a pop song in the early 1980s:

Incidentally, a lot of what the RIAA would term "music piracy" was facilitated by these devices, as this Bow Wow Wow song suggests.

The cassettes were 30, 60, 90, or even 120 minutes in length. However, a cassette was two sided, which meant that each side of the cassette was half that length. And since the tapes were linear, if you didn't want blank spots at the end of the side, you had to have some short songs that went with just about everything (or get really lucky). And since you had only a rough estimate of how much time you had left, it took a little trial and error to make it all work.

There was always something satisfying about the result. Something that one cannot easily replicate with a playlist:


Maybe it's because the result of your hardwork is a physical object rather than just bits in the computer. There's something to be said for that.

Sharpening My Presentation Skills

I'm a few weeks away from doing a presentation at Check Point's booth for RSA Conference in San Francisco. Granted, it's one of those "carnival barker" type presentations that vendors give in their booths that are meant to last no more than 10 minutes, but it's been a while since I've created and done a formal presentation. It's also something I plan on doing more in 2016 (perhaps not in this setting), which means I need to sharpen my presentation skills.

From 3 Speaking Tips To Make Sure Your Message Resonates:

If you have a point to make, the best way to make it impactful is to use a story to illustrate.

I've always viewed presentations--good ones at least--as good stories. It's called connecting with your audience. Trust me, I sat through more than my share of boring presentations and I don't want to subject anyone to death by PowerPoint. It's why when I talk to customers, I rarely use PowerPoint. I prefer conversations. And telling stories.

Use your Gestures to Increase your impact

This is all about body language. There's nothing worse than watching some one up on stage that's stiff and monotone. Be animated, but not too animated, because that is problematic too. I feel I'm ok at this, or at least I've never heard anyone tell me I need to improve here. Surely, I can, though.

Each of us has a natural pace of speaking. Some of us are faster, some are slower. There is no right or wrong speed, however as a general rule, you can slow your speaking rate by about 50% and still sound normal.

This is something I definitely need to work on. I naturally talk very fast, mostly in an effort to keep up with my even faster moving brain. That doesn't work when you're up on stage. Good speakers moderate various elements of their speech while presenting to maximize the effect of their message.

We'll see how well I can apply these tips for my booth presentation at RSA in San Francisco, which is happening 28 Feb - 4 March 2016 at Moscone Center in San Francisco. Stop by the South Expo Hall, Booth #S1507,if you want to make an in-person connection!

Carbs Are Evil--Even Moreso With Diabetes

From It's Carbs:

As a person with diabetes (T1D), my primary goal is to keep my blood sugar in a healthy range (for me that is 65-140 mg/dl). There is only one thing that consistently causes me to go above that range.

It’s carbs.

Now, I know there are many other factors that can cause blood sugar to rise: stress, illness, allergies, exercise, lack of sleep, menstruation … the list goes on. But let’s focus on the one overwhelmingly clear and incontrovertible variable that causes blood sugars to rise.

It’s carbs — the one variable we can actually control.

I have Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), and the challenge is similar for me. Well except that I'm not injecting insulin and haven't had a low blood sugar event (yet).

The good news for me is that I'm already very familiar with low-carb living, having done a bout of Atkins Diet more than a decade ago. Now that I know I have T2D, I'm wishing I never got back on the carb train.

And, sadly, I haven't gone completely back on the low-carb train. Overall, I consume far less carbs than I used to and when I do, I try to stick to the healthier varieties of carbs. You know, the ones that include a lot of fiber to counterbalance it.

That said I do occasionally have stuff I shouldn't. Especially during the holidays when there are so many tasty treats to eat that aren't normally around. And when I travel, avoiding carbs is damn near impossible. Especially when I go to a foreign country. Or have to spend 14 hours on an airplane.

My daily reminder of how many carbs I ate: my glucometer. If I ate too many, my blood glucose will be higher. Fortunately, I have gained a bit more self-control than I used to have. When the numbers are higher than usual, they generally aren't that much higher--my highest reading over the last 3 months was 139 mg/dL, with my average being 107.

That doesn't change the fact carbs are evil.

Yes, Normal People Use Desktop Linux

From I Moved to Linux and It’s Even Better Than I Expected]:

On a spring day in 2012, I shut down my MacBook Air for the last time. From then on, my primary computing environment — at least on a laptop computer — was GNU/Linux. I was abandoning, as much as possible, the proprietary, control-freakish environments that Apple and Microsoft have increasingly foisted on users of personal computers.

Almost four years later, here I am, writing this piece on a laptop computer running the Linux* operating system and LibreOffice Writer, not on a Mac or Windows machine using Microsoft Word. All is well.

It's worth noting that the author of the above post is Dan Gillmor. He was a long-time journalist for several newspapers (including the San Jose Mercury News in the mid-to-late 1990s). He is currently teaching digital media literacy and promoting entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

In other words, he's not a prototypical geek. That said, he was one of the first journalists to blog for the Merc, so he clearly has some affinity for the technology. But it's not someone I would expect to use Linux.

What do I use? I actually regularly use Windows, Mac, and Linux. There are benefits and downsides to all three. I’m definitely aware of the dangers of centralization that Microsoft and Apple are pushing and like that Linux provides a reasonable alternative for some use cases.

For most people, Linux has a “this tall to ride” problem that I doubt will ever be solved. Given there is so much mainstream support for Windows and Mac, people can’t just go buy random computer accessories at the store and expect it to just work. Not that Windows and Mac just work, but for regular folks, they largely do or they can get mainstream support when it doesn’t.

Obviously, if you have a proclivity for tinkering and don’t mind getting under hood and tinkering, Linux is a far better choice. Those of us like that are in the minority. Also, anyone who has to exchange data with other people using Microsoft Office (very common in corporate environments) or have to deal with specific security tools may find it very difficult to exist in a Linux-only world when everyone else is using Windows (generally) or Mac (occasionally).One area where Linux is far superior to Windows or Mac is support for older hardware. I have 7+ year old machines happily running Linux without issue, other than being a little slow.

Bottom line: I’m glad Linux is an option and for the right people in the right situations, it’s the right choice. That said, I don’t see the rest of the world getting onboard the Linux train anytime soon.