Moments are precious

photo by Pedro Figueiredo (@pfigas)
This was initially written for the SHiFT blog. 
Afraid that it would get lost in the web, I am republishing it today.

He sat down on the concrete facing the sun, somewhat cloudy and cut in half by the sea, placing the phone by his side. No more work. This is their time.

She walked out of the house holding a cup of tea and wearing sandals because after all the alarm clock showed the weather would be nice during the morning.

They both work a lot and have full schedules, but this is their time. This is the time when they sit and talk to each other, share their concerns and what makes them happy. This is the time when they shut down the world around them and truly connect.

In a world where work is demanding and where bells and whistles go ding every now and then, they realize the importance of logging off once in a while and enjoying the simple things life has to offer. The sunset and the sunrise, a nice meal and an amazing view, an artist playing on the street. Sure, they do snap a photo every other moment, but only because they feel the need to share it with one another or with a closer friend.

— What are you going to do today?

They talk about work and conference calls with people from the other side of the globe. She talks about how she loved the flowers he had sent the other day. Lilies.

— It’s funny how you always figure out a way to break my routine in the most beautiful way.
— You know it is important to me. And like I always said, when something is important you find a way.

He doesn’t know that she bought a new gadget for him, a picture frame that connects to the web and shows pictures that she sends him.

When they spend more than a few days without “their time” he always goes back to a digital photo album in his phone, pictures he took around the time they met, pictures of her and doodles he kept. There’s a post it note safely stored in a notebook, and he keeps the picture at hand for some unknown reason.

They met when they were working together on an event. Well, not really together. They stood in the same room once and everything else were long exchanges of emails, online conversations, documents worked on online. They found themselves commenting on the same blogs, sharing the same love for music, having the same tenacity for life. It’s strange, but personal values and emotions do travel in a world of Zeros and Ones.

— The other day I found an old document, something you sent me.
— What ?
— A silly story that you wrote to make me feel better, remember?

We are building a digital world that connects more and more with our daily lives. Even digital artifacts like an old document can now hold an immense personal value. And when we can replace our house keys with a mobile phone or a biometric device, we are in fact connecting that house, that home, to our own physical characteristics. Every day we find ways to connect information to more and more aspects of work, citizenship, and relationships.

— I got a message the other day from city hall. My proposal to build a playground in the neighborhood was accepted.
— That’s great!
— There’s even a 3D draft. You have to take a look and tell me what you think.

Technology is also getting easier to use everyday and it is amazing the sort of things that right-brain and left-brain people come up with. We build new instruments, share music across the globe, play it live from 8 different locations and think it is normal. It is not. It is amazing! It is marvelous and it is something with the potential to revolutionize the world in a couple of heartbeats without us ever realizing it.

— The sky looks amazing today. See?

They are standing on opposite sides of the planet, looking at the horizon. When he sees the sunset, she sees the sunrise. He misses her everyday and once in a while finds some crazy idea to make her smile. He sent her flowers the other day, after a few phone calls and a wire transfer, card and everything. The florist was kind enough to print out the message he sent from his tablet as if he had written it himself. This isn’t enough, they still talk every chance they get.

Whenever I think about technology it is never because of the latest gadget and the latest feature, it is always about how it can let me connect to others. The goal of technology should be to improve our quality of life, physical and psychological, as an individual and as a group. It should also allow us to work and collaborate better and with greater ease. I feel the best technology tends to be the one that bridges both the analytical and the creative side, our left and right brain.

They say goodbye and close the call. This was their time and it is precious to them, and it is more than a video call, it was a shared moment, and moments can be invaluable.


Special thank you to Pedro Figueiredo for the use of the photo.

This is not madness. This is … THE INTERNET!

sparta

The Portuguese government sometimes comes up with some harebrained ideas. The latest is a project to tax devices where I might wish to make a copy of copyrighted work that I have already paid for.

In simple terms I am paying for it twice, or three times. Once directly to the content producer and then once more for every hard disk, computer or smart phone I buy. They promise that the extra tax is going back to the author, somehow.  There is a great FAQ on this subject written by Jonasnuts. You should check it out.

Keeping up the good work, she wrote a post called “Instruction manual to stop the private copy law #pl118

This is where the madness starts

As if it had not already started, I know …

The idea is to reach out to deputies in government to persuade them to fight the implementation of this tax. So far so good. How can we reach out?

The Parliament’s website has a form you can fill out. Yes, a form. No, you can’t even send yourself a copy of the email you are sending. It’s not like when you go to www.parliament.uk and get to see the email, website and even phone number of public officials. Hell, some of them even share their twitter handle.

After a few outbursts of indignation and tweets to go along, it was time to ask “Do you think they have heard about this thing called the Internet ?”.

I bet this is going to get me into trouble

Scratch that. I HOPE this gets me into trouble.

I set up a simple google spreadsheet that in less than a few hours collected most of the twitter handles of deputies. So far, what we found out is that in 231 people, only 27 are on twitter. I am not even going to mention Facebook. By design, Facebook does not allow for the transparency I advocate for the public sector.

If you want to take a look or contribute with information, please feel free. The link to the spreadsheet is below.

https://docs.google.com/a/brunoamaral.com/spreadsheets/d/1-JarcrMyqf77ZdW1ldEUfz_kziFCKkAemjsdK6Nhey0/edit#gid=0

Does the madness stop here?

Hell no. There are 27 people you and me can reach out to on twitter to let them know what we think about being taxed twice for buying copyrighted material. Lets do that. We can even invite them for a cup of coffee and a chat. They are human beings like you and me, this sort of direct dialogue should not be started by filling out a black-hole form in the parliament’s website.

Should you learn to code?

coding

If you’re in marketing or public relations, do you need to code and program software?

The answer is no. Yet, in this day and age it is best if you do know these things. I am not saying you should know how to design a full featured software or build a website from scratch (but if you can I am very happy to meet you and please leave a comment below so I can say hi!).

Knowing how the web works can help you find new opportunities to integrate content and social media, to think up new and exciting strategies for clients or your own brand. It can even be a way for you to save valuable time and resources in order to get an interesting project off the ground or deploy a decent campaign for your small business.

This is not about knowing how to setup IFTTT or Buffer. It’s about being able to build your own site, fix occasional glitches on a blog’s html (even if just in the article) or figure out ways to get the computer to do the work for you.

For example, when I teach about social media and crisis communication I always mention how being able to start a blog at a moment’s notice can be a great asset. Do you want to depend on your development team for that on a saturday night when the client is on the other end of the line?

I know a bit about programming and it is useful every day. It can be about building a webpage or code a newsletter. It can also be something like building a small script to collect data for me and save it as an excel spreadsheet. Skills that I picked up mostly from reading Lifehacker and specially the articles written by Gina Trapani.

Knowing about new technology and open source software helps me suggest campaigns or alternative routes. There are a few examples of this at The Labs.

Stepping up a level

What I don’t know very well is how to design a piece of software. Sure, I have made things that work. What I want to know now is how to plan features and how those features should work together, how to do something from scratch if I have to. This means taking a few steps back and learning the basics.

I asked Bruno Abrantes and he suggested a few online courses and tools:

Recommended by João Neves:

If you want something fun and easy to try out, I suggest Codecadamy. There is also a nice introduction to Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework called Rails for Zombies that is worth checking out.

A small update

João Mamede pointed out to me this article at Coding Horror – Please don’t learn to code. Feels too extremist but I empathise and agree with some of his arguments. Especially:

Please don’t advocate learning to code just for the sake of learning how to code. Or worse, because of the fat paychecks. Instead, I humbly suggest that we spend our time learning how to …

  • Research voraciously, and understand how the things around us work at a basic level.
  • Communicate effectively with other human beings.
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