Take a look at these numbers:
- This is my 267th post.
- There are 2962 authentic comments on this blog.
- My posts have 203 tags in 39 categories.
- Total views crossed 100K quite a while back.
- These numbers usually don’t mean much to me. But I always use a trick while climbing a mountain. When I am exhausted and feel like I can’t go up any further, I turn and look the other way around. Seeing how much ground we’ve covered and how much height we’ve attained, is a re-energizing technique that works.
- However, the need to look at these numbers now did not arise because I’m exhausted writing on this blog. Since I started An Unquiet Mind over two years back, I have written exclusively here. And now I’ve come to a fork in my path.
- Discounting my professional writing at MakeUseOf.com, I have decided to start a separate personal blog exclusively focused on technology, specifically social networking and social media websites and technologies.
- Since I began a writing career, I realized that being an early adopter of new technologies, I needed to participate in online communities of like-minded technology enthusiasts and industry influencers.
- While Twitter has been one vehicle to achieve this, FriendFeed has been more empowering. To retain the intellectual flavor of An Unquiet Mind undiluted, I decided to post technology related content separately. Also, it did not make sense to direct the 90K+ MakeUseOf subscribers interested in cool websites, software, and internet tips to An Unquiet Mind!
- Since I am known as the Social Geek in these tech circles, my technology blog is of A Social Geek. I chose Posterous rather than WordPress as a platform since it’s flexibility suits my needs better. Feel free to follow/subscribe to A Social Geek if you’re so inclined. Posts from there are also displayed in the sidebar here. Thus, my blogs reflects my two personae on Twitter – @SocialGeek maps to A Social Geek, @Palsule maps here.
- At this milestone I also decided to experiment with a different theme, primarily for one reason: it gave me the push to do the necessary housekeeping of this blog that has been on the backburner for a while. I have reorganized my categories, which are now displayed at the top. Hovering your mouse over them reveals sub-categories too.
- I think this will help An Unquiet Mind remain unquiet about things that matter. I think unquiet minds rule over matter, but never mind.
Image: Janus, the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and endings.
I have been chosen to contribute to MakeUseOf.com on a trial basis. I have loved MUO since a long time, and I am eagerly looking forward to writing about “Cool Websites, Software and Internet Tips”.
MakeUseOf.com has 54K+ subscribers, and is part of PC Magazine’s “Top 50 Blogs”.
This is my first foray into professional writing since 1996. Wish me luck!
PS: Do you like the new About Myself?
How much can Artificial Intelligence learn from your writing? Your gender? Your MBTI personality type? Can someone find out such things about you from your writing?
GenderAnalyzer tries to guess the gender of the author. From over 6000+ votes on the site, it appears to have correctly guessed the gender 58% of the time. An Unquiet Mind’s homepage rated almost gender neutral:
Since these services do not crawl web pages, they only use the page you specify as their input. So, to get more credible results, use larger sources for input. An easy way to do this with your WordPress blogs is to specify your favorite tag/category URL. So since a lot of my posts have the ‘India’ tag, giving http://mahendrap.wordpress.com/tag/india gave a lot more content to analyze, and hence came up with a more accurate assessment.
Typealyzer takes the text from a URL you specify and classifies it according to MBTI personality types. It can be fun! Here are An Unquiet Mind’s results:
It is important to remember that this purports to classify the writing style of the author, not the author’s personality type (ignore the marketing byline). Thus, even if my personality type is iNTJ, my writing style is iNTP.
This is a classification based on Carl Jung’s archetypes.
I guess the above two are for those who want to date or make friends with other bloggers!
Some of the other classifiers at uClassify are interesting too – find out the mood of the writer, the tonality (formal/informal) of the writing, similarity with authors of famous classics, etc.
In The Writing Meme, I had mentioned about using the right tools. Here are a few tools I’ve recently found.
Readability is a bookmarklet you can add to your browser toolbar to make web pages easy to read. For example, here is Thomas Friedman, with all the clutter of the NYTimes site:
Here is the same page with Readability:
TidyRead is very similar to Readability, but offers an ‘Option Bar’ at the top, where you can change display settings at will – this makes it very convenient and easy to use:
Practice Speed Reading
Free Online PDF to Word Converter
PDFToWord is a really cool site, when you want to easily convert PDF documents to word for editing. It retains all the formatting, tables, graphics, links, etc. making it quite indispensable if you often use both PDF and Word file formats. Oh, and you should have the Save as PDF extension to Office 2007.
Text Analysis Tools
There are a few shareware programs for analyzing text in terms of word counts, word frequency, etc. It is not-so-easy to find truly free programs, so here are a couple of options:
Text Statistics Generator is a bare-bones tool, giving you quick analysis of number of word occurrences. Here is the CPI(M) manifesto for the 2009 elections analyzed:
The excellent UsingEnglish.com site has an Advanced Text Analyzer, which I think is more useful. The caveat: to use the advanced features, you have to be a registered member of their site (registration is free).
Here’s the CPI(M) Manifesto word cloud:
Why use text analyzers? Website designers using SEO techniques need to identify keywords that they can use to maximize site traffic and ad revenue. The SEO philosophy is use targeted keywords as frequently as you can to improve your search engine rankings.
As a writer, I find these tools useful the other way around. Often, I find myself overusing a word in an article. Word frequency analysis can help identify which words and phrases you’re overusing in your writing. Maybe that’s the time you need a thesaurus!
If you find any of these tools useful, or have other ones to share, please feel free to comment.
Nita has kindly tagged me for listing strengths of a writer that I aspire to have. I read a few excellent writers who’ve contributed to this before, like Suburban Life, The Individual Voice, Joe Felso, MariaCristina, and of course, Rambodoc. I liked MariaCristina’s way of listing each strength along with an example. All these writers excel at their craft, leaving me dumbfounded. So as Nita suggested, I will start by blanking out previous insights and starting afresh.
- English is my second-language. I couldn’t write basic, decent English till I was 17 years old. The Wren and Martin grammar they taught us in school was an insipid, laborious, meaningless exercise. It was several years later that I discovered The Elements of Style, and entered the world of English writing. If anyone asks me which is the one book to read about English writing, that is it. This "little book" can be read here for free.
- Be intimately knowledgeable of William Safire’s Rules for Writers.
- Read. After you’ve read, study it as a writer. Reading as a reader is different from reading as a writer. You cannot write unless you read. You cannot write well unless you study writing as a writer. Over time, you won’t need to read twice.
I learnt the above by applying film appreciation skills to the art of writing. Watching movies doesn’t make anyone a better actor or director or script-writer. Only if you watch the movie from a script-writer’s perspective will you learn about the art of script-writing.
- Honesty, passion, sincerity, and practice. I need not say more.
- Voltaire said "If you wish to converse with me, define your terms". We may not want to be as unreasonable as that in our daily lives, so let’s just say "If you wish me to read your writing, you better be able to back up your words with definitions". There is a difference between ‘knowing’ the meaning of words to be able to make good conversation, and knowing the meaning of words you use to write.
- I meet two kinds of people. On one hand are passionate lovers of words and language. They are finicky about whether they prefer Oxford or Merriam Webster. On the other hand are those who respond "whatever", when you painstakingly explain the precise meaning of your interpretation of a word. If you wish to improve vocabulary, subscribe to A.Word.A.Day – I joined in 1995.
If you wish to write well, overcome inertia and proactively refer the dictionary and thesaurus. In the pre-Internet era, we used to have these huge reference books by our side to refer when we were writing. Now, it’s so simple!
- Writing is 99% thinking and 1% typing (or penning). What this means is that you can engage in the act of ‘writing’ when your commuting, or having a shower, or lying in bed. I often think of topics, structure, elements of the content, and the key message, while I’m away from the computer. When I do get a chance to type, it is just a matter of crystallizing what you’ve already thought through.
- If the 1% typing takes 99% of the time, you need to learn typing. I learnt typing on a physical typewriter in my 10th grade, when I decided on IT as my career. Then I improved my speed using typing tutor software. It has paid handsome rewards. I’ve met people who fumble at the keyboard and proudly talk about how their hands can’t keep pace with their fast-thinking minds. I wondered why their smart minds never gave priority to improving their typing skills.
Improving your typing speed helps you write faster and better, since you are not distracted with typing and can let your mind flow freely, while your hands automatically type it for you.
- Be comfortable. Do not confuse external environmental factors with your ability to write. Have you slept well? Is the background noise or lack of sufficient light hampering you? Don’t get frustrated and give up. The negativity may be an external influence, not an innate inability.
- I initially used to have trouble imagining my reader while I was writing. Then I learnt to write ‘to myself’. I no longer visualize or imagine a reader, I write as if it is for me to read.
- Use the right tools to improve your efficiency. Choose the chair, keyboard, mouse, and screen according to your ergonomics. I use the Opera browser as its inbuilt shortcuts help me tremendously in referencing and researching while writing. Select your tools as per your convenience and use them efficiently.
- If you’re Indian, you might want to check this presentation I’d made about avoiding common English errors. People from the same culture where English is a second language tend to make similar mistakes. This essentially works like a meme. A typical Indian example is ‘updation’, which can be commonly found in Indian English, but is not an English word.
The above are factors that help me to write better. It is a never-ending road, so I too need to revisit each of the above regularly. As Nita correctly and graciously pointed out, I’ve a desire to learn about the craft of writing and am still learning.
(Image Credits: Details of a Waterman 42 Safety Pen, public domain.)