Blogging

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Ever since I started using @ValentinoV on Twitter a bit more actively, which is now more than a year ago, I have also been exploring different methods of announcing my new blog posts to the world.  One of the methods I use is sending out a couple of tweets to my followers.  So far I had been adding the prefix [Blog] as a standardized way of working and I also add relevant hashtags, such as #SSRS when the post is about Reporting Services.

Here’s an example:

Tweet using the [Blog] prefix

Then Jamie Thomson, aka SSIS Junkie, made me aware of a blog post he had posted earlier this week.

The power of Twitter: being able to quickly contact someone without the need of email

And in that post, he introduced an interesting alternative to what I (and a lot of other SQL Server bloggers) was doing!  Instead of using that [Blog] prefix it’s better to use a hashtag!  Why is that better?  Well, because searches and filters on hashtags work better than searches on just plain text. In fact, he proposes several hashtags.  Have a look at his post for the details: Bootstrapping SQL Server bloggers and blog readers with Twitter!

And here’s my earlier tweet reworked as per Jamie’s proposed standards:

Tweet using Jamie Thomson standards

However, the #blogged hashtag is not the one I will be using.  Several other bloggers commented on his post that they’re more in favor of the concatenation of #blogged and #sqlserver into #sqlblog.  I like that proposal because it’s closer to my earlier prefix and it uses less characters.  Given the nature of Twitter, if we can deliver the same message using less characters then that would be the preferred method, right? So that’s the one I will be using from now on!

I’ll even demonstrate it by updating this post once I’ve tweeted about it.  Yeah, a recursive blog post!

Tweet to demonstrate usage of the adapted standard

Have fun, and spread the word!

Valentino.

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Dear Reader,

If you have read my previous post, you know that one of my articles was in the running for the first ever SQLServerPedia Awards.  And guess what?  I’ve won in the Business Intelligence category!

At first I wasn’t convinced that I’d be able to get enough votes.  Jen Stirrup had been scoring quite a bit as well.  But after a couple of days I noticed that my votes kept coming in too.  So I decided to contact some more people, such as ex-colleagues, the experts at Experts Exchange, and even my neighbours!

The result: 181 votes, which is 53 more than the next contestant in the category.  If you’re one of those 181: thank you!!  In the overall score list, my article ended up at the third spot!  Not too bad for a first-time nominee I suppose :-)

I can now add an extra logo to my blog:

SQLServerPediaAwards_badge-winner-bi

And my statue is on its way too.  Plus every nominee will receive a T-shirt.  Hopefully it’s one for regular use and not another one in the “suitable for household chores and bike cleaning only”-category…

Ow, congrats to all other winners and nominees!  To be honest, the nomination means more than the actual voting.  To get nominated, the editors (Iain Kick, Kevin Kline and Jeremiah Peschka) need to select your article out of all those present at SQLServerPedia.  Which means that it needs to be of a certain quality.  While the voting only shows how many people you know…  But the winner badge sure looks nice of course :-)

Have fun!

Valentino.

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I Need Your Help

Dear reader,

Usually I’m helping you out by posting articles, quick tips or just some narration of my experience on my blog.  This time however I’m the one who needs your help.

I’m happy to announce that one of my articles – Your First OLAP Report, republished at SQLServerPedia – has been nominated in the 2010 SQLServerPedia Awards!

So, may I kindly ask you to vote for my article?  You can find it in the Business Intelligence category here: http://pulse.sqlserverpedia.com/awards/category/business-intelligence/

As you can see, I’ve got quite some competition so I can really use all the votes.

Many thanks!!

PS: I’ll reward you by continuing to post articles and other posts on my blog ;-)

As usual, have fun!

Valentino.

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A while ago I had been thinking to do something about the amount of comments on my blog.  When I divide the number of comments by the number of visitors, I’m getting a really small percentage.  So small that the first two digits following the decimal separator are zeroes!

Maybe that’s because I’m not frequently asking people to actually comment on what I write.  Everyone is free to comment, but I’m not asking for it explicitly.  Most people will only post a comment when they don’t agree with what I wrote, or when they have an issue that might (or might not) be related to the post’s subject.  And some people will post a comment when they’re really satisfied with what I wrote, for instance because it saved them some/a lot of time.  But only a minority of visitors are actually doing that.

And that’s okay, I’m not expecting everyone to post a comment every time they read something here.  On the other hand, that means that I don’t know anything about you besides what the web statistics tell me.  All I have are some numbers indicating things like “most visitors are coming from the US”, or “post A was the most read post in the last X months”.  But it doesn’t really say anything about you: what’s your name, what are your daily activities, who do you work for, and so on.

But, Who Are You?

Then I came across a blog post by Adam Machanic, where he’s doing exactly what I’d been thinking.  His post is titled Who Are You?.

Following his example, I’m asking you now to post a comment here.  Tell me (and the world) something about yourself, anything.

In case you want to know something about me, I’m sure there’s plenty to be found on this very site, for instance in my About page.

If there’s something about me that you couldn’t find and want to know, post a question here and I’ll answer.

And How Do You Stay Fit?

Cube Reaction Pro Now that I’m asking for some interactivity from you, let’s add one more question.  Given our profession, we’re probably not getting enough physical activity during our regular daytime tasks.  So, what are you doing to stay in shape?

I tried running for a while but found that I couldn’t get myself into those running shoes frequently enough.  Then my eldest daughter started to take swimming classes.  And I decided to go swimming as well while she’s being kept busy by the swimming instructor.  So every Wednesday evening I swim for about half an hour.  In that time I can do 700-800 meters.

And recently I’ve added an additional sport to the list: mountain biking.  I try to get on the bike once a week, either Saturday or Sunday.  Distances so far reach between 25 and 55 kilometers.  Terrain so far includes small paths through forests (known as single track), mud, roots and trunks, cobblestone, sand, paths through agricultural fields and also regular road.  The region where I’m doing this is not flat either, so physically this requires quite a bit more than swimming.  But I really like it, it gives me a sense of freedom and I get to see some nice landscapes, and trees from real close-by.  Currently I’m using a second-hand bike which I have bought for a good price from my brother-in-law but by next year’s Summer or so I’m planning to buy a new one.  So the MTB on the picture is not my bike yet, but it’s one of the possibilities on my list for next year.  I’ve got official dealers for Cube, Trek and Specialized close-by so it’ll be a difficult choice :-)   If you happen to know one of these brands and you’re happy with it, do post a comment to share your experience!

With these two sports on my list of sports activities, I’m happy and I can feel the difference as opposed to no extra activity at all.

How about you, what do you do to keep up the shape?

Looking forward to those replies!

Valentino.

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In this post I’ll be comparing the different places where I write blog articles.

Here’s the location list:

  • home office
  • garden
  • train
  • work

At Home

My Office

The pink animal clock of Windows 7My home office is the place where I’ve written most of my posts so far.  It’s a quiet place, even when the kids are at home, because there’s a hallway in between that room and the living room.  So it’s a good place to write, easy to concentrate.

Our youngest daughter though, three years old, may occasionally take a peek through the glass door.  In fact, sometimes she even comes and sits on my lap to watch what I’m doing.  Her favorite clock type in Windows 7 is the pink animal, not sure what type of animal it is.

But that’s okay, as I’m using my free time to write these articles I occasionally need life to interfere and remind me about that fact.  That’s usually the time to stop writing and spend some time with the family.

Pros

  • Fast internet connection
  • Quiet, good for concentration

Cons

  • No fresh air

My Garden

Weather forecast for today, June 4th 2010: 23°C!Now that the weather has started to prepare Belgium for Summer, I prefer to spend my spare time outside sitting in our garden.  And sometimes, usually during the nice warm weekends, I want to use some of that time to produce an article.  With my wireless network, parasol, table and chair, I’m all set up for it.  While sitting outside I can even keep an eye on the kids, who are also outside playing with their slide, trampoline, swing, …

Pros

  • Can get something done while not missing out on the nice weather
  • Internet access (provided you’ve got a wireless network)

Cons

  • Laptop seems to run a bit warmer, probably because it’s warmer outside than in my office
  • Need an electricity plug for longer sessions

On The Road

In The Train

My new Swiss Gear Ibex 17-Inch Notebook Backpack Recently I’ve bought myself this backpack and it was the best thing I could buy.  My current client are the Belgian Railways.  Their offices are of course located close to a train station, so most of the time I’m commuting to/from work by train.  A one-way trip takes about 45 minutes and my main occupation so far has been reading or sitting with my eyes closed listening to music.

Until now.  With this new backpack I can easily take my laptop with me and use it to write, or to play with SQL Server, prepare a demo, ….  In fact, right now while I’m typing this I’m sitting on the train.  Without the backpack it was just too painful.  I need to walk about 8 minutes to get from the train station to the offices of my client and with the standard Dell bag the weight of the laptop is just too much on my shoulder.

In the mornings I still close my eyes though, that’s just too early to get something useful done anyway.

Pros

  • No time wasted doing nothing
  • More free time at home to spend with wife and daughters

Cons

  • No internet – no quick lookups
  • No internet – publishing will be delayed
  • No internet – links will need to be added later from another location in my list above
  • May get noisy on the crowded trains – difficult to concentrate
  • No mouse connected due to not enough space – I so miss it!
  • No electricity (but my battery lasts long enough so not an issue)

At Work

Well, actually, I’m just kidding here.  You thought it was for real?  Did you jump down straight from the top to get to this section?  I think I may have scared a couple of people, such as my employer.  Which is actually the intention of this paragraph, ha! (If you’re one of those, post a comment!) :-)

I’m not one of those guys who has the possibility to blog and get paid for it.

Conclusion

Even though I’ve listed quite some cons on writing while sitting in a train, I still like it.  Just because it’s much more productive than anything else that can be done at that time, and the time spent on the train is not something that’s optional or depends on a decision.  At home I can decide to make some time free for writing, whether if it’s in my office or in the garden.  But the train is a place where I will certainly spend some time each working day.  I can’t decide to not spend time on the train.  Except when I commute by car – which is something I do when I’ve got a meeting or info session in the evening – but that’s another story.

Real conclusion: sometimes buying a backpack can save you time.

Time for me to start the weekend and get off the train!

Have fun!

Valentino.

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