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Roll Your Own TwitPic-like Media Hosting Using Posterous

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Roll Your Own TwitPic-like Media Hosting Using Posterous

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    One of the more useful aspects of Twitter is the ability to quickly broadcast images, videos, and other media to your followers, making it an effective “mo-blogging” (mobile blogging) platform. Twitter doesn’t have this ability built in, though; sending pictures or video clips to Twitter requires using third-party services like TwitPic. Most Twitter clients will automatically upload images to these third-party hosts and add a link to your tweets, making the whole experience rather seamless.

    This is a pretty good solution for casual sharing, but if you’re using Twitter as part of your personal branding efforts, or if you’re serious about the media you’re distributing, you might want more control over how your media is stored and displayed online. TwitPic and the other services don’t offer much in the way of page customization. They also scatter your content over several sites.

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    Then there’s the Twitter API limit, which limits access to only your last 3200 tweets. Assuming you’re sharing things on Twitter that are more important than what you ate for lunch and what cute thing your cat just did, you might worry about losing your online history as you build up past the 3200 mark.

    Having discovered too late Twitter’s API limit (I’m almost to 3700 tweets at the moment), I decided I didn’t want to risk my images and other posted material becoming difficult to access – although much of my Twittering is purely personal, my stream is an important part of my online professional presence, and I want to make sure it’s not only archived but accessible moving forward.

    Enter Posterous. Posterous is a lifestreaming service that sits somewhere between Twitter and a blog in terms of features. It’s not really intended for essay-like blogging, but rather for capturing images, video, web links, and thoughts quickly and easily. What’s important here is that you can post via email or even SMS message, and it can be set up to automatically forward anything you post to Twitter, Facebook, and a number of other services (including your own blog). Using Posterous, I can create a permanent record of the images, videos, audio clips, and other material I post to Twitter, and I can do so in a customizable, brandable space that offers me far more control over my content than I have with services like TwitPic or even Twitter.

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    Here’s how to set up and use Posterous as a home for all your tweetable media.

    Set up a Posterous account

    An unusual thing about Posterous is that you can’t just go to the website and sign up – you create an account by using the service.

    1. Send a photo, video, or just text email to post@posterous.com.
    2. Within a few minutes, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a link to your newly-created site. At the moment, your post is it’s own stand-alone site. Click the link that allows you to change your password.
    3. Posterous assigned you a username based on the username of the email address you sent your first email from (the part before the @ sign). Change that to whatever you want your site’s URL to be (it will be “username.posterous.com” where username is whatever you choose) and enter a password.
    4. Now go to the “Manage” screen and start customizing the site.
    5. Click “Edit this site” to change the name of the site and add a theme under “Theme and customize my site. If you know CSS and HTML, you can create your own theme. Also, you can upload a header image to really brand your site.
    6. If you really want to get fancy, you can set up your Posterous site under your own domain name; follow the instructions on the “Edit” page.
    7. You can also enter your Google Analytics Domain ID to track visitors using Google Analytics. Follow the instructions on the “Edit” page.
    8. Click “Edit my profile” to add personal information and upload a photo of yourself.
    9. From the “Manage” page, click “Manage emails and phone” to add other emails and your cell phone number so you can post from them. I recommend adding your main email address and your phone’s email address (if it’s different from your main email).
    10. “From the “Manage” page, click “Autopost to Everywhere” to add your Twitter account and any other accounts you want to post to via Posterous. You can add Facebook and other social networks, image-hosting sites like Flickr and Picasa, and your own websites, among other services.

    Now you’re set up to post to Posterous and have those posts forwarded automatically to Twitter (and wherever else you choose).

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    Post images, videos, and other media via Posterous

    1. Add an address book entry to your contact manager for Posterous. Add both the main email address, post@posterous.com, and the SMS short code, 41411.
    2. Anything you email to post@posterous.com will be automatically forwarded to all the services you’ve set up under “Autopost”. The subject line will be the title of your post at Posterous and will make up the body of your Tweet, so limit yourself to 130 characters (to leave room for the shortened URL to your post).
    3. Posterous automatically resizes images to fit your theme. If you send multiple images, Posterous will create a very nice gallery so that all of them can be viewed within the main post. Videos are embedded in a Flash player, as are MP3 files you send to Posterous.
    4. If you might only want to post something to Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or elsewhere, add one or more of the following email addresses to your address book entry:
    5. You can post text-only entries through the SMS number. Type “POST” (without the quotes) and enter up to 110 characters.
    6. If your email program adds a signature line or a “Sent via” line, you can make sure that doesn’t get added to your post by typing “#end” (without the quotes) at the end of the text you want in your post.
    7. You can also add a “Share on Posterous” bookmarklet to your browser for one-click posting from the Web. Any text and images you select before clicking will be posted (and you can add your own text as well). If you don’t select text, Posterous will scan the page for likely “excerpts” on the page, which you can scroll through until you find the part you want to post.

    Drawbacks

    While I think there are a lot of benefits to tweeting this way, even for regular text tweets, I have to admit there are also a few drawbacks. The most notable is that you have to remember to limit yourself to 130 characters (or less) in order to accommodate the link to your Posterous page. As if 140 characters wasn’t short enough!

    Another drawback is that you can’t post through your favorite Twitter client – you have to use email or SMS to get your post to Posterous. In effect, Posterous becomes your Twitter client – but only for posting.

    Finally, many Twitter clients offer previews of images on the more popular image- and video-hosting services. Your followers won’t be able to preview your images on Posterous in their Twitter client.

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    Obviously, I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, but you should be aware of them before taking the plunge yourself. If Twitter is not just a pastime for you, but a real part of your business or professional life, this is a way to take a lot more control over the content you post to Twitter.

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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