November 19, 2009

Living in the Poverty Trap

This blog isn't normally for self-confession. But I read an article that I know applies to more people than me, so I had to share it. When you earn less than $25,000 a year you fall near enough the federal poverty level that there are a lot of safety nets you can take advantage of. Sure, it's no picnic living that close to poverty and most are trying their best to climb up the economic ladder. But what happens to your earning power as your income rises? Turns out that between $25,000 and about $45,000 there are a couple 'dips' where tax increases and loss of those safety nets actually means you are effectively bringing home less income than when you were earning $25,000. (This varies by cost of living in your area and a few other factors, of course.)

Megan Cottrell pulls together a few reports to paint a clearer picture of the Poverty Trap. As she says, don't fall in, you may never get out. What Megan describes is so familiar to me. As someone who spent a lot of his career as a 'coordinator', 'specialist', or entry level manager my earnings have been right around that part of the dip where it's just impossible to get out. Everytime you earn a little raise you actually fall farther into debt.

I'm not complaining, I know what I need to do to make it over the hump. I'm working on it. But someone does really need to look closely at the tax and support structure and make sure it no longer penalizes those in the poverty trap. Also, the actual cost of living for a metro area needs to be taken into account.

Go read the original post from an Obama administration economic official to see your government policy makers in action.

November 13, 2009

Signs of life in Orlando's Tech Scene

Voxeo, an Orlando firm that works in VOIP and mobile internet technology area, is reportedly ready to expand their presence in Central Florida. That's a good sign for the Orlando Tech Scene which has been understandably a bit stagnant during the recession. The Orlando Sentinel and Tech Crunch both covered the deal.

November 10, 2009

WordCamp Orlando December 5th 2009

WordCamp Orlando is rolling up in less than a month. For just $15 you get a master's course in furthering your business, blog, or CMS website using the wordpress software.

My personal blogs are evenly split between Blogger and Wordpress (self-hosted). I'll be using what I learn at WordCamp Orlando to move this blog over to Wordpress and to set up a few websites using Wordpress as a CMS.

If anyone wants to ask about my experiences moving The Disney Blog from Typepad to Wordpress or my experience with BBpress for The Disney Blog's Townsquare forums, I'm happy to chat. 

See you on the 15th, meanwhile be sure to follow WordCamp Orlando on twitter.

November 5, 2009

Twitter rolls out new ReTweet feature(?)

There has been a lot of angst in the Twitter community about the new retweet feature ever since Twitter rolled out the specs to its developer community. Many people didn't even see the need for a feature that can be so easily subverted. But Twitter obviously saw a demand for verifiable retweets.

This brings us to today when Twitter in their fallible wisdom decided to make me (specifically the @TheDisneyBlog account) an early adopter. I wonder if I got this honor because I previously spoke out against the idea.

In any event, here are a few screen shots of how it all works.

This is what you see when you log in after you've been selected to use the new feature.

When you rest your cursor over the Retweet link or icon this bubble now pops up.

The other thing that has been added is a new 'Retweet' option in the right column

Clicking it takes you to a new page with three tabs. Retweets by others appears to be popular retweets from other users that you may or may not be following. Retweets by you is self-explanatory. As is, I assume, Your tweets, retweeted.

I did notice that one of the retweets I tried appeared in my tweetstream, while the other one didn't. Not sure if that is a feature or a bug.

Now that I've tried the feature, I want to take back my earlier comments. I like it. You can take it or leave it as a user; but if you do use it, I think it will become immensely powerful for finding new people to follow as well as knowing what you're reading is an authentic retweet. If you have to comment on a person's tweet, you can still retweet the old fashioned way, excerpt it, shorten it, whatever.

One shortcoming I see is that like lists this takes the user off the main page of twitter into a new page. So they're missing out on the primary stream while these secondary streams run past them. It would be nice if there was some way it could all track on one page. But I suspect some developer will figure that out shortly.

I suspect this is going to kick up the volume of retweets as authenticity will add to their currency. Someone who is retweeted a lot will gain more followers even faster. And your original content, if worthy, can travel a lot farther via the Retweets by others tab. 

November 3, 2009

Strategies for Continuing Your Education

If there is one thing that's true about the modern day workforce, its that technology is changing so fast that you have to be continually learning to keep up with it. This is not so much a strategy for what to do while one is between jobs, although it definitely applies, as it is a life strategy. The traditional strategy for this has been to enroll in classes and attend conferences where new products and visions are discussed. But what do you do if you can't afford to enroll in those expensive seminars (which are probably teaching last year's skills anyway) or travel to that hot conference? Welcome to the world of GoogleU.

These days, I meet more young people, those who are high school or college age, who tell me for some subjects they never even crack open their text books. Instead they do most of their learning online. If they can do it so can you.

For instance, I'm working on my PHP skills in order to be a better Wordpress blogger. A quick search on Google almost always finds me the answer I need. If not, there is likely a forum with a helpful soul, or even better, someone who has already asked the same question. This is how I learned CSS as well. Call it situational learning.

The other big segment in online learning is video/presentation recordings. If you're taking art history at Podunk University, shouldn't you also be watching the Harvard Art History Professor's lectures on the same thing online? You can, and they're free. Checkout Education Portal as a great starting point to find more lectures.

Can't make it to that important industry conference? There's a good chance that someone either live blogged the session you're interested, a video of it was posted on YouTube or Vimeo, the slides are on slideshare, the author posted their notes on their blog, or even all over the above. I've been taking a crash course on Affiliate Marketing and found some great lectures from a conference I didn't even know existed two weeks ago. Now, I'm much more likely to attend in person in the future if I find work as an affiliate manager.

So what are the take aways here? If you're not yet in the workforce, the most important thing you can learn is how to learn. This will set you up for a lifetime of continued learning as the world changes around you. If you are in the work force, maybe you can talk your boss into devoting a few hours a week to this sort of virtual learning. If not, it's quite simple to do at home. If you're between jobs, devote some time each week to keeping up with the skills you use in your career, and learn as much about that job you are interviewing for, sometimes based on lectures from the very company you're hiring into.

Chris Brogan offers free ebook on using Social Media to find a job

Chris Brogan has put together a 19 page pamphlet, to borrow a revolutionary era term, on using Social Media to find a job. Which is a lot of what I've been discussing around here recently. I respect Chris and he's definitely someone who walks the talk. So I thought I'd take a look.

The first portion of the booklet focuses on LinkedIn, a tool I discussed previously. Chris is concerned more with the strategy of using LinkedIn for networking. That is definitely one of LinkedIn's many strengths. He also makes the very interesting point that the work experience section of your LinkedIn profile does not necessarily have to match that of your resume. Instead, you could craft it to focus on the skills, achievements, and experiences that will take you to that position you're searching for.

The second section goes into even more strategy on how to form a modern social network that you can then apply to your job search. He suggests building a small, but powerful, network focused on helping you achieve your goals, while you help others achieve theirs. To me this is the essence of social media, removing mediation between goals and just helping each other achieve them. Whether your goal is pushing for adoption of solar panels or finding a new position, the networking skills are the same.

There's plenty more to chew on and great actions you can take immediately to help in your job search in the rest of the ebook. I hope you'll go check it out.