Great Finds: Online Backup - I Love MozyPro

After years of steadfastly remaining loyal to backup solutions that I could hold in my hand - but which proved time-consuming and frustrating and annoying - I gave in.

I investigated online backup services, where you send encrypted copies of your files to be stored on their servers, and chose MozyPro.

I love MozyPro. It's easy to install. It will backup daily. Hourly. Whenever I tell it to do so. Quietly, in the background, it's protecting me right now.

And, if I want to see what's been stored and when, I just hit the little icon in the toolbar, and I see the long list. There are my emails. There are my Word documents. There is a spreadsheet.

PLUS - and this has to be the best part - if I get confused or scared or have a question, I can call and speak with a real, live human 24/7. 365 days a year. FOR FREE.

And, yes! One that speaks English as their first language. One who is patient and kind and knowledgeable, not a snoot doing his best David Spade impression.

Oh, and price. PRICE!! I'm paying less that $15/month for 20GB of storage.

I love MozyPro. So did lots of impressive reviewers, and I think you will, too.

(There's also a free version, but I'm not sure what bells and whistles you get tho I do know there's no 24/7/365 technical support.)


Great Writers' Rules of Writing: Orwell, Heinlein, Twain & Leonard

George Orwell gave us Animal Farm and 1984. In his 1945 essay, "Politics and the English Language," he discussed writing - and I like PickTheBrain's synopsis of Orwell's teachings to these five rules:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word when a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive when you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an ordinary English equivalent.

Robert Heinlein produced science fiction classics like Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. His Rules of Writing are so popular, you can buy them on a tee shirt:

1. You Must Write.
2. Finish What You Start.
3. Refrain from Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
4. You Must Put Your Story on the Market.
5. You Must Keep It On the Market Until It's Sold.

Mark Twain's 18 Rules of Writing are hilarious - and true - and while too long to list here, can be read in their entirety at the PBS site in Twain's 1895 Essay, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." Here's an excerpt:

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple and straightforward style.

Finally, the well-known rules established by Elmore Leonard in his 1991 essay for the New York Times, "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle," which has been expanded into book form and is currently for sale on his website and elsewhere, if you're interested. They include:

1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
4. Never use a verb other than ''said'' to carry dialogue.
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
11.If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.


Writer Lawyer Tip: Web vs Print - A Must Read Article for Writers

This jewel of an article, written by Paul Gillin and entitled, "How the Coming Newspaper Industry Collapse Will Reinvigorate Journalism," is something that is worth dropping what you are doing, right now, to read the darn thing. Twice.


Google Announces KNOL - Is it a Good Thing, or An Expanding Tool of Evil?

We all know that Google is against Evil: it's part of their posted Corporate Philosophy (see no. 6).

So, yesterday's announcement -- of Google's latest offering, KNOL -- must be a good thing, right? Well, let's ponder this for a moment.

Considering the Source

There are folk out there that just don't trust Google. Last year, Adam Penenberg's well written article at MotherJones.Com described Google as "...the greatest threat to privacy ever known, a vast informational honey pot that attracts hackers, crackers, online thieves, and—perhaps most worrisome of all—a government intent on finding convenient ways to spy on its own citizenry." (I just love how he used the phrase 'honey pot,' don't you?)

There are even websites created and maintained solely for the purpose of monitoring Google as an evildoer, including GoogleWatch.Org and IsGoogleEvil.Com.

GoogleWatch doesn't believe that Google is pure evil, but does state that Google is a "privacy time bomb," and gives some pretty scary arguments supporting its position. They report things like Google hires spooks (Google engineer Matt Cutts used to work for the National Security Agency) and Google records everything it can and doesn't tell what all it knows.

IsGoogleEvil.Com hasn't posted in a year, but their blog has lots of stuff that still makes valid points, like (1) everytime you use your Google Toolbar, Google's expanding its stored information on you, along with the sites you surf; and (2) it's possible that Google can database your hard drive with its Desktop Search feature.

Considering KNOL

First, here's what Google has to say about its new venture: "We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that. The challenge posed to us by Larry, Sergey and Eric was to find a way to help people share their knowledge. This is our main goal."

With KNOL, separate web pages will appear on specific topics with the author being credited for their creation and content. There can be many KNOLs (knols being used as "units of knowledge") on the same topic, and one author can create as many KNOLs as she likes.

It will be free. It will come with lots of helpful tools to make the KNOLs "well organized, nicely presented, ... [with a] distinct look and feel." The author can include lots of links to other sites with info, as well as place advertising on his KNOL.

As for 2.0 issues, readers can submit comments or ask questions, as well as expanding the KNOL by offering edits or additional content. Readers will be able to rank KNOLs, and write reviews of KNOLs.

For a sample KNOL, check out this Google example by author Rachel Manber.

What's Happening Here?

There's a lot of hoopla right now that KNOL is Google's direct challenge to Wikipedia, and lots of online discussion is taking place on the viability of this threat. CNET's got Wikipedia's founder crying bring it on, and Bloomberg's just flat out labeling them direct competitors.

Personally, without having seen KNOL online yet, I don't know that we can be totally sure about KNOL's place in the world - but I tend to think it's more of a competitor to Squidoo and About.Com than Wikipedia, outright.

At Squidoo, you find author-recognized webpages on specific topics, just like KNOL promises. (Squidoo calls them "lenses.") Comments, check. Advertising, check. Ranking, check.

Over at About.Com, you've also got authors providing articles on specific topics, but not everyone is free to write an article (you have to be a selected "guide"). (Of course they're not -- About.Com is owned by The New York Times, and obviously they can't have just anyone writing for it....) However, About.Com does provide for comments, and it claims over 1.7 million articles to date.

It's true that Wikipedians sometimes jerk around and provide bad content, and an author directly responsible for content on that topic's page might serve to decrease this accuracy problem. Copyright infringement concerns could also be handled much better with an author accountable for article content.

Google may have something here, if KNOL's goal is an encyclopedic wiki of all things, everywhere. I'm especially interested in hearing what Eric Goldman has to say, since he's been betting on Wikipedia's demise by the year 2010 for several years now over at his Technology & Marketing Law blog.

However, I appreciate Wikipedia's collaborative approach and I go there all the time. Squidoo, don't go there, don't care to start. About.com, maybe. Sometimes.

I don't trust Wikipedia as more than a starting off-place (kinda like reading TexJur in my young lawyer days) but it's a good one. Google's going to have to give me a helluva lot to change that.

And, I confess that I am wondering why the heck Google sees the need to do this, anyway. Surely they've got more than enough to do when I still go to Google, Yahoo, and Ask in searching, since each engine gives me such different responses to the same query. (And, surely the Watchdogs of Evil will have their theories.)

And maybe that's all this is: two years from now, I'll go to Wikipedia and Knol just like I go to Google and Yahoo and Ask today. We'll see.


What I'm Reading: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Actually, I'm reading several books right now, but the one that made me laugh out loud in the middle of a crowded room this morning was, yep, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Audio Books - The Great Narrators

I love audio books, if and only if the books are read by an outstanding narrator.

Bad voice, monotone delivery, or over-the-top dramatics, and I pull the CD no matter how great the story may be.

I never substitute a great print read with an audio read; however, I've found that audio books do bring something to the table that I find valuable. I discover more in the work from a good audio narration. And, of course, audio books allow me to "read" while I'm out walking, or driving around doing errands, or even undertaking mundane household chores.

Listening to great writing helps me write. I hear the cadence of conversation more clearly, and I conceptualize the plot points differently than in a standard read. Nonfiction works bring their points home in a distinctly different manner than my standard yellow highlight method (mark it, review it later).

However, it's all in the narrator.

I've learned to skip any book read by its author. Few writers read their work well. Jill Conner Browne was somewhat of an exception, but I still think her Sweet Potato Queens work would be better served with professional narration.

I've also learned to choose audio books by narrator -- for example, I will listen to anything that Barbara Rosenblat has chosen to narrate. She's led me to the discovery of new writers, all because I trust her instincts to not read bad stuff.

Davina Porter is another great narrator; Jay O. Sanders is someone I like, too.

For a list of the top narrators in their field, check out The Golden Voices list. Award winners are listed, along with brief biographies being provided as well as complete audiographies.


Great Writers' Rules of Writing: Vonnegut Has 8

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing fiction:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Vonnegut adds that American short story writer, Flannery O'Connor, broke all these rules except the first.

-- Vonnegut, Kurt Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction , pp. 9-10(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999).


Wal-Mart Is Cutting 40% Magazines From Racks ( With 01/18/08 Update)

From Meg Weaver at Wooden Horse Magazine:

"WalMart, the chain that accounts for as much as 40% of many consumer magazine's single copy sales, has just released a new authorized list of magazine titles. It seems WalMart has decided to cut back on the number of magazines they will distribute. The exact numbers of titles involved are still not available but rumor has it that the list has been cut from roughly 3,000 titles to about 1,100...."

Surfing just now, I couldn't locate any new WalMart list of authorized titles, either.

JANUARY 18, 2008 UPDATE: This past Tuesday, Wal-Mart apparently released a list of 1000 magazine titles that it is purging from its shelves; however, I have been unable to find the actual list online. All sources seem to go back to one lone story in the New York Post, written by Keith Kelly, referencing the list and reporting the purge includes such big name titles as Better Homes & Gardens, The New Yorker, The Economist, Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune.