Om Malik’s advice on writing good blog posts

Om Malik has published his advice on writing good blog posts and it is a treat for writers. He is one of my favourite writers and I had to share this with you.

Om Malik is comfortably one of my favourite writers and he has published advice on writing good blog posts which he used to send to new writers at GigaOm. His post is titled “How to write a good blog post”:

How to write a good blog post 

When I think about bloggers/writers who I admire, Om Malik is in my top 5 or 6 writers and I love his article. I highlighted so much of his article for my own reference purposes but two of the sentences that really stand out for me are these two:

So the trick is to write posts that are more informed, more insightful, and more respectful of the readers. In my opinion, you are informed not just by talking to people but by being able to take the time to learn about things you like to write about.

These aren’t the only gems, of course. Orli Yakuel pointed out another wonderful quote on Facebook:

If you are a blogger/writer and you are passionate about your writing, read Malik’s post. Better yet, subscribe to his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Update (2016-03-29): I may have referred to this before but this January 2016 piece by Malik is also worth reading:

How to keep writing when nobody gives a shit?

Photo credit: Om Malik by Christopher Michel, licensed CC BY 2.0

Plotting a course around business failure

6 course corrections for businesses to follow if they want to avoid business failure.

Nathan Jeffery is an entrepreneur, developer and speaker (among other things) who I have mentioned a couple times in the past (including when he basically saved this blog after I almost killed it). He recently published a series of blog posts that essentially plot a course around business failure that every entrepreneur should read – yes, every single one! 😉 – and I want to share them with you:

Micro Failure

Nathan tackles the popular notion that failure is something to be embraced, even sought after. While there is certainly value in the lessons you learn when you fail and not repeating those mistakes, it is a mistake to romanticize failure. As Nathan puts it:

When you fail in business you lose money and often wreck the lives of your employees. The current flippant and arrogant approach to failure is disrespectful to everyone who works with and depends on you for their livelihood.

Do what you love

I believe strongly in doing work you are passionate about. When you do work that doesn’t challenge you and doesn’t tap into your passions, it can be soul destroying (almost literally). At the same time, there are some practical considerations and a different way to think about fulfilment in your work that aren’t usually mentioned in the myriad articles about doing what you love.

You need to get satisfaction from producing quality work; this is especially true for the creative industries. Your clients will hardly ever comprehend how much effort you’ve put into your work, and quite often they won’t really care, many won’t even thank you. You need to be happy within yourself and get joy from the work you do.

Take Ownership

This short piece is really about taking responsibility. When you take responsibility for what you do, take ownership of your decisions, you make the choice to take more control of your life.

Taking ownership, to me, is more than taking responsibility and being accountable for your actions or lack thereof. You need to constantly be learning and questioning situations, especially when things go awry.

Focus and Commit

There are many ways to distinguish between businesses and one perspective that is increasingly relevant is to distinguish between businesses is between those that specialise and become experts and those that try to do everything and don’t do anything particularly well. I thought about specialisation and hyper-specialisation often in my previous career and I see it in my new industry.

Do one thing, maybe two but whatever you do, do it so darn well that it’s all you need to do. You can expand your service offering once you have a big enough team to handle it. There’s enough work out there for specialists to exist.

Hire a boutique accounting firm

Accounting is not even remotely something I enjoy dealing with or even have a clear handle on despite needing to understand legal accounting in order to set up a practice as an attorney. At the same time, having your books in order is essential if you want your business to function effectively so make the right decisions about who manages those books.

You need to know and understand what is going on in your business’ finances. Accountants can make mistakes. By understanding what is going on in your business’ books, you’ll not only be in a better position to manage your business but you’ll also have a better chance of spotting mistakes in your financial statements should your accountant slip up.

Pay for good contracts and use them

On this I am more than a little biased. In my previous career (and in one aspect of my current role), I wrote contracts for my clients that were intended to give their commercial relationships better structure and protection.

Unfortunately contracts are perceived as largely superfluous, to a large degree because they are often badly written and poorly understood and, as a consequence, regarded as “necessary but preferably no longer than 1 page”. Contracts are a critical component in business, it is worth having them done properly.

Hire a good lawyer, pay for good contracts and use them.

Image credit: Map by Unsplash, sourced from Pixabay and released under a CC0 Dedication

How to make “working from home” work

Working from home can be terrific but it requires a certain discipline to make it really work. Daniel Jalkut shares his lessons and has some great tips.

Daniel Jalkut has published a terrific post titled “How to survive working at home” in which he touches on the thrills and challenges of “being your own boss” while “working from home”. I did this for many years and even though I’m currently employed, I still see the benefits of having developed some of these habits when I do get to work from home.

There are many advantages to working from home, but the privileges come with challenges that not everybody is equipped to handle. How will you manage your time, cope with isolation from coworkers, and draw a line between yourself and the hustle and bustle of family life? It’s not as easy as any of us imagined when we were daydreaming in our office jobs.

(Via www.imore.com)

Paul Graham’s tips for start-ups, curated

Stelios Constantinides has curated his favourite Paul Graham tips for start-ups in a handy Medium post titled “Paul Graham’s Startup Advice for the Lazy“. Handy reading for entrepreneurs of various shapes and sizes.

Image credit: Power Point by Robert Scoble, licensed CC BY 2.0

Dave Morin’s rules for happiness

It’s almost the weekend here in Israel so here is something to guide you through the rest of the week and into the weekend. There are many happiness tips, here are Dave Morin‘s “5 Simple Rules for Happiness“:

Image source: Dave Morin by Christopher Michel, licensed CC BY 2.0

 

Tips for new Olim moving to Israel

Our friends have been asking us about our move to Israel late last year so I started preparing a list of tips that have helped us and thought I’d share them.

First, a little disclaimer:

  1. These tips don’t replace advice you get from the various agencies and Israeli Ministries that have published terrific guides and “how tos”. These organizations include the Israel Centre in South Africa; the Jewish Agency and the Israeli Ministry of Absorption. Read those first, they are great resources, very helpful.
  2. These tips are our hacks that worked for us (mostly). You’ll find other people have their own too (check out Adventures in Aliyaland and Welcoming Olim too). These may work for you, they may not.
  3. We moved from South Africa so some of these are more relevant to South African Olim who are moving to Israel from there.
  4. I’ll probably update this post as new tips come to mind and I’ll indicate the changes in the text. Feel free to suggest tips of your own in the comments and I’ll add them to the list and credit you.

Shipping your stuff from SA

  • Share containers are cheaper but make sure your container will ship soon or you could wait a long time for your stuff. Sometimes it is cheaper in the medium term to take a container for yourself if you have enough stuff.
  • Weigh up the relative costs of taking all your appliances versus just buying new stuff when you arrive in Israel. Think about how long you may need to wait for your fridge, freezer and washing machine.
Flying into Tel Aviv
Landing in Tel Aviv

Aliyah admin

  • Do your citizenship stuff at the airport if you can. It makes a huge difference and means you can start functioning effectively when you walk out of the airport building.
  • It is worth making sure you have the right Hebrew spelling of your names before you arrive so you can give that to the Ministry officials in the airport. Sometimes they come up with weird spellings of names and changing names afterwards is possible but a bit of a pain.
  • Make appointments to meet with the Absorption Ministry and schools liaisons as soon after you arrive as you can. It gets the ball rolling.
  • You will need to open a joint bank account before you meet the Absorption Ministry liaison so do that as soon as you arrive (we went with Bank Leumi and we’re happy with them – we also received our cards in a week which helped with other stuff).
  • Start ulpan as soon as you can. Knowing Hebrew isn’t essential but it really helps day to day. Check when classes begin and whether the ulpan schools in your area offer convenient classes.
  • You’ll need to pick a healthcare provider when you become a citizen so research the options before you arrive. We went with Maccabi and we are happy with them.

Communications

  • We went with 012 Smile/Mobile and they have been pretty good. Good coverage and pricing.
  • Mobile contracts are theoretically 12-24 months but, in practice, you can usually cancel on a month’s notice so changing isn’t too problematic as far as I know.
  • You’ll probably need a credit card to place your orders so open your bank account ASAP. We received a credit card in about a week.

Bank accounts

  • Credit cards work a little differently. The whole balance is paid off on a day you can select each month. You’ll need to make sure you have enough in your check account to cover that payment and remember that your day to day card transactions don’t come off your cash balance as you go, only when the balance is paid each month.
  • Israelis use checks so order a checkbook and refresh your memory how to fill them out. Remember to use American date formats!
Crossing the street
Crossing the street

Travel

  • You don’t need a car as much as you did in SA, not nearly as much.
  • Cars are really useful for travel beyond public transport routes and when public transport doesn’t operate (like שבת).
  • Aside from that, get a Rav Kav card (you can often get one from the train station but ask around). Pre-pay money for your bus rides (each bus line/company may require a separate balance). You can also load train travel passes onto your Rav Kav card so it becomes a sort of universal public transport card.
  • You can pre-pay money for bus rides on the bus itself when you get on. I pay about 50 Shekels at a time. You’ll figure out how much you’ll need as you use public transport. I think the minimum deposit is 30 Shekels. A bus ride in Modi’in is about NIS 4,20 and about NIS 6,90 in Tel Aviv.

Getting stuff done

  • You don’t need to be able to speak Hebrew for most of what you need to do but it helps, even if you know 5 words. You’ll learn more.
  • Don’t be too polite. As helpful as Israelis generally are (some aren’t), they are also really busy and work hard so you have to be persistent and nag at times.
  • You may think that sending a text message or email will help move things along but, often, you just have to go to an office and deal with it in person.
  • Its ok to be forceful. You don’t have to be aggressive but be assertive. It isn’t that easy for ex-South Africans but it is an important life skill for us newbie Israelis.
  • Don’t take it personally when Israelis give you a hard time or are abrupt, it usually isn’t meant to be personal. Israelis aren’t big on patience.

Advice from other Olim

  • “If there’s one (general) suggestion I can make, it’s to leave your expectations behind – things work differently here (especially, for example, the education system). Don’t compare your new reality with your old one – just go with the flow and your life will be a lot easier. Also, don’t send out birthday invitations too early – parents just look at the day of the week and send their kids on the next relevant day (so you may end up with 15 kids on your doorstep 2 weeks early).” – Shely Mowszowski Cohen
  • “I don’t advise to apply or get your Israeli ID from the airport. Rather do it in the city you are settling in [Paul: I still recommend doing this at the airport, just remember it can be a bit chaotic getting the family through]. Due to the fact if you loose your id you can’t do it in your city but in Lod.” – Rael Jacobs

 

How to add emoticons (or emoji) to your iPhone or iPad

I couldn’t work out how to add emoticons to my messages in Whatsapp. My non-iPhone friends seem to be able to do it and I just couldn’t work it out. This morning Nastassja came into my office and showed me how to do it (boy I felt like a bit of an old fart needing to have a younger person show me how to do this). It’s actually really easy when you see how. I thought I’d prepare a quick “how to” post. I took the screenshots off my iPad but you can follow the same process on your iPhone or iPod Touch.

Step 1:

Open your Settings panel and select the General tab. Look for the International menu item and tap that.

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Step 2:

In the International window, select the Keyboards option to view your current keyboards.

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Select the option to add a new keyboard.

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Look for the Emoji option. Tap on that to select it. This will add a new keyboard to your options whenever the device keyboard pops up (usually for text fields).

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Step 3:

You can select the keyboard you want to use by tapping on the globe button.

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When you want to insert an emoticon into your message (or any text field you are typing into), tap the globe button till you get to the Emoji keyboard and select the emoticon you want to use and it will be inserted where your cursor is. It’s basically a keyboard so when you tap on emoticons, you are basically typing using them as letters.

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Step 4:

Express yourself is all sorts of ways. See if you can use all the emoji in one message that actually makes sense!

Great tips for newbie photographers

I just read Simon Dingle’s terrific post titled “Choosing a first DSLR” and it is definitely worth reading if you are thinking about buying your first DSLR camera. I sort of went through this process in December when I decided to splurge on a DSLR after years with Canon point and shoot cameras and my iPhone as my day to day camera.

I say that I “sort of” went through this process because I have had an SLR before. My first real camera was a Minolta 5000 which I received as a Bar Mitzvah gift from my parents back in the late 1980s. I think I still have my Minolta in my house somewhere but haven’t used it since cameras went digital. I took a few lessons about the technical stuff photographers who strive to do more than point and shoot should know and managed to forget much of it in the last two decades.

I did a lot of reading about camera brands and models in the months leading up to my purchase. As Simon pointed out, everyone has their own opinions about which brands are best. One of the best stories I read was Scott Bourne’s post about his switch to Nikon from Canon after 17 years as a Canon photographer. Bourne is a fairly well known photographer in his space and his decision sparked an almost religious war. His point, which Simon echoes, stuck with me:

In the end there are no wrong choices here. Each brand has its strength and weaknesses. The good news is that each makes fine gear and it really comes down to personal choice/preference when selecting which one to use.

As Simon suggests I went with the brand that appealed more to me and felt better in my hands. I went with Nikon. I like how the camera looks and feels and my Dad was a Nikon guy so that also works for me. Simon recommends not going with a camera kit but that is what I did. I bought a Nikon D5100 kit that came with AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6G and AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm f4-5.6G lenses. On Darren Smith’s advice (the same amazing man Simon suggested you follow) I read a couple reviews by photographer Ken Rockwell, particularly his review of the D5100. Between Rockwell’s review and my budget, I decided to go with that model.

One important decision I made and which I am really glad I made was to buy a 50mm lens even though the kit lenses that came with my camera covered that range. I went with the AF-S Nikkor 50mm f1.8G lens (the 1.4 was considerably more expensive) and that lens is awesome. It is my primary lens and I do about 75% to 80% of my photography with my 50mm.

Of course getting the DSLR doesn’t make you a pro. I quickly realized that I had my settings set up wrong and couldn’t focus very well at all. Its been a humbling experience because I secretly thought I was pretty good. That was largely because my old point and shoot and my iPhone took care of the messy details for me and all I had to do was aim in the right direction. I have probably taken a thousand or so photos since I got my D5100 and while much of it is about taking endless photos of my kids, a lot of the work is about getting a little better at taking clear and focused photos. Its an ongoing process.

I am really glad I went with a DSLR in the end. It was a bit of an expense but photography has been an enduring hobby and buying a better camera has given me an opportunity to take better photographs and, more importantly, capture more meaningful memories.