Buy my book: Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read edition

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Just a couple years ago I had never written a book, fast forward to the present and my third book is winging its way to a finer bookstore near you. The world is a crazy place, I tells ya.

My first book was all about WordPress, to which many a wag said, "If you love WordPress so much why is Blankbaby hosted on TypePad?" This was often accompanied with a sneer, as if the questioner had caught me doing something particularly nasty. I would calmly explain that one man can love more than one blogging platform (I'm like a blogging Mormon).

The truth is, I'm a big fan of both WordPress and TypePad. This clearly explains why my second book was all about, you guessed it: Amazon's Kindle. When no one bought that book I was fairly certain my writing career was at an end.

I wouldn't let something like a career ending book stop me from pitching my editor a third book about TypePad (OMG!). Shockingly my editor, Cliff, thought about it for a little while, checked with some business-type folks, and in a matter of a few weeks I had a contract in hand. That just left it up to me to write the thing (An aside: I find the process of getting the contract signed and receiving the first advance check to be quite exciting. Starting the writing process is something I find quite vexing [just ask anyone who has worked with me on one of my books. I'm slow to start], but once I get going I'm like a writing train barreling down the paragraph rails... or something).

The kind people at Peachpit sent me 25 copies of my new book, called Building a TypePad Blog People Want to Read, and I did what any normal person would do: laid them all out on our dining room table and took a picture of me making a face in front of them:

Scott with a tableful of books

Here's the real point of this post: buy a darned copy of the book. I know you'll like it.

Oh, and if anyone out there works for TypePad (or SixApart), contact me! I'd be happy to have a little contest/promotion with ya. I need to do something with all these books, so I might as well give some away!


Tweet tweet, here's your password

twitterpassword.jpgOne of the many reasons I love OS X is because it includes a tiny little program called "Keychain Access," which does more than one might assume. It is sort of a central place where OS X stores passwords, credentials, and the like.

I use Keychain Access fairly frequently to come up with random passwords for various things. Today, I needed to create a blog account for someone, so I turned to Keychain Access to create a memorable, but complex, password. See that third password option? Twitter!

When the Twitter obession crosses over into password utilities it is clear to me that all the cool kids are using some new, and little known, service. I wonder what it is.


You don't see Bloomberg News and Gawker mentioned in the same sentence that often

Here's an interesting note from the In Online Journalism, Burnout Starts Younger article in the Times:


"Some media outlets, including Bloomberg News and Gawker Media, now pay writers based in part on how many readers click on their articles."


I've long thought that rewarding pageviews like this leads to worse reporting rather than better. It rewards people who are willing to state a ridiculous opinion, or post a silly rumor, rather than cultivate the trust and respect of the reader.

If I were in charge of Bloomberg News I'd wonder how we ended up being lumped in with Gawker.


New Kindle DX, as compared to the old Kindle DX

I'm sort of an eReader junkie. I love 'em, for some odd reason. I have seven of the suckers, and the newest member of the McNulty eReader family is the Kindle DX, second gen.

What makes the new DX different than the old DX? It is cheaper (hurrah!), the case is graphite, and Amazon claims that the eInk (that's the screen technology used in the Kindle) has 50% better contrast.

Is it true? What better way to find out than taking some pictures that compare and contrast (I'm so funny) the two. Check out the whole Flickr set, and read on for the highlights.

At first glance, the new DX is much crisper. I'll write a full review after spending a little more time with the DX.

The new Kindle DX is on the left, the old on the right:

The Kindle DX family

Here both Kindles are displaying the first page of John Scalzi's The God Engines. As labelled the new DX is on the left, the old on the right:

Side by Side Kindle DXs

A chapter heading, new DX on left and the old on the right:

Side by Side Kindle DXs

Amazon also change the labels on the Kindle DX buttons. The fonts are smaller and the Prev/Next buttons are now labelled with arrows which make the Kindle a little more international:

Amazon changed the buttons on the second gen Kindle DX

Higher Education Web Symposium - July 21 & 22, 2010

I don't know about you, but I love me some good conference. And if you're interested in improving user experiences, then have I got a conference for you. My friends at Penn are throwing their third Higher Education Web Symposium on July 21st and 22nd in good old Philadelphia.

Don't let the name fool you, though. Even if you aren't a Higher Ed worker I'm sure you'll get something out of the conference if you're a developer or IT project manager. Just check out the speakers and the agenda and I'm sure you'll find something that piques your interest.


Scott Explains - This time with feeling

I mentioned back in April that I was starting a new blog called Scott Explains. And then I didn't really post to it. I was in the midst of putting the final touches on my new book (which I will blog about once it is available), so I neglected my new baby.

Now I'm once again posting to Scott Explains, so you should check out how to delete email from your Gmail account using iOS 4 and how to add a folder of apps to your iPhone's Dock (I even shot a quick video for that last one).


Memorial Day 2010: A Lancaster County weekend in pictures

This was our third time spending Memorial Day in Lancaster County (check out the 2009 version of this post) and it is official: it is now a tradition! Huzzah.

This time we spent the majority of the weekend in the Churchtown Inn's lovely Covered Bridge Cottage. I will admit that I was a little worried about the cottage based on some online reviews, but I don't know what cottage these people stayed at. The Covered Bridge Cottage was fantastic. Well appointed, very cozy, and fast wireless Internet? Who can ask for anything more?

This year I decided to leave my fancy-pants DSLR at home and see if I could take some nice pictures with my little point and shoot camera (I have a Canon PowerShot S90 , which is a great little camera).

All the pictures below were taken with it, and to tell you the truth I didn't miss having my DSLR at all.

We started off with a quick trip to the Lancaster Central Market where Fiesta Sunshine Mix is always in season:

Fiesta Sunshine mix

Then we were off to the lovely town of Lititz, PA to meet Becky and Eric (this is a picture I took of myself waving at them through the cafe window):

Waving Scott

I think it is a state regulation that while you're in Lititz you must visit Wilbur chocolate:

Wilbur sign

Becky and Marisa talking about lady things:

Becky and Marisa

Becky grew up in Lititz, and I grew up in Yonkers, NY. Imagine my surprise to find a little bit of Yonkers in Lititz:

Yonkers

This was the first of many antique malls we stopped at during the weekend. This floor was a little sparse:

Marisa in an empty antique store

The first of many yard sales we stopped at. Marisa found these boxes of old jars in under 5 seconds:

Marisa finds old jar

One of Marisa's favorite places is this junk store in Columbia, PA. I think it is a little gross, but she loves it (and they've really cleaned it up since last year). Here are a bunch of nails using good old Bethlehem Steel:

NAILS

I've taken this same picture every year for three years (2008 version and 2009 version). Here's the 2010 version:

Year 3

Here's the view of the front of the store:

The shop

The happy couple in front of a bridge:

Us

Marisa's newest obsession is Pyrex. She found lots of it:

Marisa grabs as much Pyrex as she can, moments before she makes a break for it.

Marisa is ready to fight that fire with a tiny spatula:

Marisa will show that fire

You kids can keep your iPads, the Kindle DX is my faithful companion (though I did bring my iPad along with me as well):

Kindle DX - because I'm super cool

Baby goat:

A couple of baby goats were escaping

Marisa can find the nearest Goodwill no matter where you place her in this great country of ours. This is the rather unusual Goodwill Discount Center we found in our travels. It was attached to a normal Goodwill that we spent some time in. After about 30 minutes I said to Marisa, "Don't you want to check out the discount center? It is right down this hall." She said, "No, we should go." I knew she was trying to make me happy but I couldn't conceive of stopping and NOT going to the discount center. I'm glad we did because this is what it looked like (and Marisa found a rare Pyrex bowl):

Odd Goodwill

For all your Amish Stuff needs:

Amish Stuff!

AT&T touts new smartphone data plans

Last night AT&T published a release that re-jiggers their data plans for smartphones (which on AT&T basically means: iPhones) and iPads. The new plans replace some existing unlimited plans (the unlimited iPhone data plan actually has a limit of 5 gigs a month, while the unlimited iPad plan was truly unlimited). The new plans are:

  • DataPlus: 200 MB of data a month for $15
  • DataPro: 2 GB of data a month for $25

Existing customers can keep their old unlimited plans, but new customers will have to choose one of these two new plans starting on June 7th. Oh, and AT&T will also finally offer tethering (starting on the 7th as well) for an extra $20 a month above and beyond any data plans you might have.

For iPad users this is a little bit of a raw deal, if you ask me. The truly unlimited data plan that AT&T offered was a fantastic deal, and now not so much. However, for iPhone users I think these new plans will work out quite nicely.

I have an iPhone unlimited data plan for which I pay $30 a month. That got me to thinking, can I switch to one of the new plans and save a little money? Here's my data usage on my iPhone for the last few months:


myiphonedatausage.jpg

I have no idea what I was doing in February, which is the shortest month of the year, but clearly I required LOTS of data. But even than I didn't even break a gig.

Looks like I'll be switching to the DataPro plan to save a couple bucks.

Now, what I'd really like to see is a lower voice plan. At the moment I pay $39.99 a month for which gives me 450 anytime minutes and 5000 night and weekend minutes. That's the cheapest plan I can get and 16 days into the month I've used 23 out of 450 anytime minutes and 27 out of 5000 night and weekend minutes. Plus I have 4,162 rollover minutes to use.

I'd love to pay $20 for half the talk minutes. How about that, AT&T?


Does this mean I'm actually Internet famous now?

impostorscott.jpg

Those who are close to me know one thing, above all else, about me: my name isn't Dick Michael Michaels. And yet, according to this Facebook profile Mr. Michaels (if that is your real name, and it probably isn't) looks almost exactly like me.

Here's the picture he nabbed from me (it is from this blog post about stepping out of your comfort zone).

For some reason Mr. Michaels is impersonating me on Facebook, and harassing people (mostly Yankees Fans.. if Gruber were on Facebook no doubt my social media doppelgänger would be harassing him as well).

Thanks to Jon for sending me a link to this dude's Facebook profile (you have to be logged into Facebook to see it). I've reported him as an impersonator so we'll see how long it takes Facebook to realize that I'm the One True Scott McNulty.

Accept no substitutes.

On Twitter my bio is "I'm almost Internet famous." I think this incident nudged me a little closer to full on Internet fame.


Buy my books, in Kindle format!

Anyone who reads this blog knows two things about me: I love money and I enjoy promoting myself. Amazon has long had a service that made it possible for me to do both of these things at once: the Amazon Associates program. With Amazon Associate links I get a omission (or "kick back") from Amazon based on what you buy after following the link.

That's why I always link to my books using Amazon links, because I hope that people finding my blog will fall in love with it and then immediately buy every book I've written (in five years I've earned almost $84 with this tactic. I'm well on my way to saying goodbye to the day job). However, for the longest time Amazon wasn't allowing people to get these fees with Kindle books (and I love me some Kindles). That has all changed, though, so feel free to order the Kindle versions of these fine books:

I've also added a little Kindle ad to the right hand sidebar on my blog. I'm not expecting many people to actually buy a Kindle via this blog, but I figured why the heck not?


Writing: Lifestyle or Job?

In addition to being a wildly unstable, lonely occupation with an insane income spread, there are other drawbacks to being a writer.

via www.antipope.org

I don't rate myself in the same league as Charlie Stross as a writer, but his blog post is a must read for anyone looking to get into the writing gig. Sure, I'm a tech book author, but generally speaking I'm a pretty successful author and I haven't laid the foundation on Blankbaby Manor just yet.


See America

seeamerica.jpg

I don't know what it is, perhaps because I am getting older, or because I feel more settled... but I've been on a bit of a home furnishings kick.

I haven't ordered these framed posters yet (because Marisa rightly pointed out that I already have lots of art that needs framing) but I'm blogging it to remember them.

Something about this particular style appeals to me. Given my love of Mission and Arts and Crafts stuff, it is clear I was born about 70 or 80 years too late (though, what did people DO at work without computers and the Internet? Seriously, what did they do? Did they mimeograph funny pictures of cats and send them to one another via inter-office mail?).


Scott Explains

scottexplains.jpgWhen my lovely wife Marisa decided to part ways with Slashfood I assured her it was a good idea. I said, "Now is your chance to build something of your own! No longer do you need to be a slave to a giant corporation telling you what you need to blog about!"

She took my advice and started a very successful canning blog called Food in Jars (go ahead and visit it, and subscribe to the feed. I'll wait).

Of course, Food in Jars didn't take off right away. Marisa worked hard on it, posted lots of great stuff, and people took notice (she was even nominated for a fancy pants foodblogging award).

All the while I was thinking, "Hey, if Marisa can do it, why can't I?!" I've been blogging about technology for a good long while for other people.. so why not launch my very own Mac news blog?

I pondered that very question for a few moments and quickly realized that the world doesn't need yet another Mac news blog. That market is more saturated than something very saturated indeed.

I went back to the drawing board. I thought about what the people I admire in the independent blog publishing world all had in common: passion. That's the ticket! But what am I passionate about?

Over the last couple of years I've written a couple of books, and they haven't sold too badly (well, I wouldn't mind it if a few more people bought my Kindle book, but what can you do?). These books are all technical books, you know the sort. They teach folks how to use a piece of software or a gizmo or some such. That's when it hit me: I enjoy writing tutorials.

Why not launch a blog dedicated to teach people how to use the technology they already have? Brilliant (if I do say so myself!). And so I present to you, uncaring Internet, Scott Explains.

At the moment there is only one post up, detailing how to turn off that dumb 'Send from my iPad' email signature that is on by default on Apple's latest and greatest geegaw, but there will soon be more.

Why launch now? Over the years I've had many a great idea but I've always been flummoxed by my uncanny ability to over-think things to death. I figured the only way I would actually ever do Scott Explains was by actually launching it.