Kevin Purdy

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So Grateful

31 Aug 2011

If nothing else, this Wednesday morning still life will help me look back one day and reminisce. “Hey, remember when everybody screwed with their color settings on photos from $200 phones?”

Everything I have, everything I’ve been able to do, and everything I am is due to the compassion of others. Friends and relatives who tolerated and encouraged me in my upbringing. Teachers, professors, editors, coworkers, and contacts who trusted me not to embarrass them too much. And, today, a growing network of people I can turn to and ask dumb questions. I bet it’s much the same for you. It’s nice to be thankful and grateful, when you can, for all the people who have a hand in helping you do things and not starve while doing them.

Also, my wife, without whom I would have a very different, very dollar-menu-oriented existence. I have proof of this.

You wouldn’t see that gratitude in a glance at my Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts. I am all too susceptible to “self-enhancement,” “self-reinforcing spirals of reciprocal kindness,” and other implicit social media trends detailed in Evan Ratliff’s great Wired essay. I try to promote others, I try to keep my accomplishments in perspective, but I don’t do online what I used to do so well in my newspaper career: bitch, reveal, and put odds and deadlines on future disasters. I know people who engage in that flip side of sharing almost exclusively, and that’s not grand, either. But I do think I could do more to quit making like a low-wattage megaphone quite so often.

Part of that is my line of work. I write mostly for online publications, or the web component of print publications. When a piece goes up, I feel a good faith obligation to point to it and give it what exposure I can muster. I also appreciate the built-in check that puts on my writing: if I’m ashamed to show it to people and put my inherent stamp of approval on it, maybe I should have spent a bit more time on revisions. I’m also lucky to have a larger Twitter and Google+ audience by means of my work at Lifehacker and on the Complete Android Guide, and some measure of connectivity in my Facebook friends list, and I occasionally use them to promote the good work of friends, acquaintances, and strangers I think are firing on all cylinders.

Do I need or want everyone following me to know my quirks, downfalls, struggles, and moments of utter self-doubt and despair? Probably not. Am I aware that taking the “just-lucky-to-be-here” approach gets on people’s nerves just as quickly? Yep. Are rhetorical questions just a lazy way of getting to the point? You betcha. So let’s just say that I’m going to try and appreciate the people who make what I do possible more often, and also try to be a more responsible self-promoter. (Fellow guilt-promoters: I’ll gladly take advice and experiences on that front at kspurdy@gmail.com, or @kevinpurdy).

So here’s a good start, with some self-interest: what I’ve been up to lately, contained in a single blog post that doesn’t show up on your phone every two hours.

Google+ book

Now that I have a countersigned contract with O’Reilly, I should be less nervous in announcing that I’m working on a Missing Manual book covering Google+, Google’s newest, much-discussed social network. Except that I am, in fact, scared at the challenge, not exactly chugging toward a scheduled go-date, and feeling as though writing my own book, on my own deadline, and setting my own template and style guide left me far too spoiled. So think good thoughts about the people who are handling me at O’Reilly. They are trying their best to keep me from falling off the horse as I tilt at, and over-explain, various Google-y windmills.

Regular writing

I’m contributing regularly to Fast Company’s Work Smart section and TechRepublic’s Google in the Enterprise blog, I’m occasionally found going a bit longer at ITWorld, and I recently went very, very long on the challenges of publishing for tablets inside Media Magazine. All of these editors have put up with a host of excuses, bad puns, and Google-Docs-copy-paste copy nightmares. They are kind people.

TEDxBuffalo

The last time I wrote about TEDxBuffalo here, I was an eager volunteer, helping out with a very loosely knit project to put a TED-licensed conference together. We met in coffee shops, we talked about all the things we wanted to have at the conference, and then, when the lead on the project dumped everything and moved away, the conference didn’t happen. That is, at least, the much shorter version of that story.

This time, we have a time, date, and place, we have a very intriguing set of speakers, and an amazing team that’s making sure all the details, funds, food, and other details are in place. I’m the organizer, but I mostly just write things that need writing, double-check things, and email people who are doing a lot of great work..

Complete Android Guide App

One person I’m really, really grateful for is the publisher of the Complete Android Guide, 3Ones (and, specifically, Kelly Abbott. In his time between 30 other projects, he walked my how-to book into an actual Android app, so somebody who’s just getting into their first Android phone can look up how to fix and fiddle things right there, on the screen. It’s 99 cents in the Android Market. Give it a look.