Category Archives: Technology

Microsoft Exchange Server, Lync, unified communications (UC), and any other technology-related topics.

Colorado Gold 2014: Great Conference But What the Tech?

Earlier this month, I attended RMFW’s Colorado Gold Conference. Wow, what a whirlwind weekend, packed with informative sessions on fiction writing and the writing business and so many great people to meet. Every day felt like two days because they managed to cram in so much great content. Although the sessions and keynotes were excellent, that’s not really the aspect of the conference I’d like to address.

One of my primary goals for the conference was networking, meeting other writers and sharing stories and experiences, and in that regard the weekend was a great success. I’m not usually a hugely outgoing person, so often in large groups such as this I find myself on the outside. However, as I mentioned in my previous post, the RMFW anthology Crossing Colfax, in which I have a short story, debuted at this conference, which certainly helped.

My conference badge included an “Anthology” ribbon so some attendees would see that and ask about my story. I also got to meet and chat with most of the other included authors—generally easy to spot because they also had the “Anthology” ribbon. The anthology has fifteen stories, and all but one of the authors were at the conference. Even before the conference, I’d begun following many of the authors on social media, so the conference was a nice opportunity to meet in person.

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker at RMFW Colorado Gold 2014

Keynote speaker Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, speaking during one of his sessions at Colorado Gold 2014.

In case I’ve not made this clear before, I’m a big believer in the power of social media. A conference such as Colorado Gold is a perfect chance to meet people face to face—but social media still can play a part. So, as I said, I planned ahead, following people’s blogs and Twitter handles who I wanted or expected to meet. In the days leading up to the conference, I began watching Twitter for the conference hashtag, #RMFW2014, to find other attendees to follow and engage with. And during the conference sessions, I tweeted out key points and quotes from speakers as they occurred, or retweeted what others had to say about sessions I didn’t attend.

This social media approach to conferences is something I learned when I attended technology conferences as a journalist. At those conferences, the IT pros in attendance frequently had two or three different mobile devices, all needing a connection, because in some cases they might need to be on call for remote assistance back at the office—therefore, a strong, reliable WiFi signal throughout all areas of the conference floor, including session rooms, was a must. At Colorado Gold, having no WiFi in the session rooms was a bit of a shock.

This technological omission caused me to evaluate how others at the conference appeared to use technology overall. So, as I sat in session rooms, taking notes with OneNote on my laptop and ready to tweet on my smartphone, I’d look around and see what others were doing. I was really rather surprised to see that most people, if they took notes, were doing so by hand: pen to paper. How very old school! Although I didn’t do any firm counts, I’d estimate that probably no more than 15 or 20 percent of attendees used a laptop or tablet for note-taking.

Long ago, I abandoned taking notes longhand because, one, I know I won’t go back and re-read them, and two, I probably couldn’t read my own writing if I did. Of course I know plenty of people feel there are benefits of using a physical pen and paper in helping you remember what you’re writing. My counter to that would be that I don’t need to remember—well, no more than a keyword, anyway. If I have some idea what someone talked about or who said it, I can search for a keyword—I don’t have to remember how long ago it was or what physical notebook it was in—and I can pull up the material. As long as I’m using something like OneNote on cloud storage, I can pull up that information not just on my PC/laptop but also on a phone or tablet—anytime, anywhere access.

Twitter also serves as a repository of notes: Whatever I tweet during a session or keynote remains in my tweet stream for later access as well. As mentioned previously, using the conference hashtag also makes tweets available to other conference attendees who might have missed that particular session. Additionally, when you get a lot of people tweeting from the same conference, it creates a sort of buzz around the event for those not in attendance—and quite possibly making them want to attend the next time.

During the conference, I had a conversation with three of the founding members of RMFW, Kay Bergstrom, Carol Caverly, and Jasmine Cresswell, about the early days of the organization. At some point, the discussion turned to writers’ use of technology, and Kay Bergstrom remarked that in the 1980s, writers in her circle were all early adopters of PCs and related technology because they saw how it made the business of writing easier. To my mind, writers today should take advantage of social media, cloud storage, and other current technologies for the same reason.

I always look for the technology solution. Whether it’s attending sessions at a writing conference or sitting alone at my computer to do some writing, I’m pretty sure there’s some trick, some procedure, that can help the day go a little smoother. But I recognize—and glancing around those session rooms at Colorado Gold was a great reminder in this—that not everyone, certainly not every writer, has the same approach to technology or the same abilities.

For the writers out there, I’d be interested to hear what role technology plays in your writing life. Do you struggle with social media and creating an online presence? Or do you navigate the online world with ease? Do you worry about how to handle backups of your digital assets (i.e., writing)? Do you wonder what the best program or application for writing is? Or do you have recommendations about any of these topics to help your fellow writers? Are you committed to writing longhand at least part of the time? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Other posts on RMFW Colorado Gold 2014:

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins

Bad Writing & the Effect of Bad Marketing

I was asked recently what super power I would choose if I could have one. Because I couldn’t choose invisibility (someone else already had that one), I said I would want to be able to instantly fix everyone’s grammar in order to rid the world of bad and unclear communications. Sure, I’m a word nerd—maybe that could be my super hero name. So it’s no wonder I get annoyed when I see marketing and advertising copy that appears to be written by uninspired third graders.

Everyone thinks they know how to write, but doing it well requires practice and dedication just like any other endeavor. Marketing departments all too frequently seem to think that a business degree automatically confers “writer” status on its holders. Witness this pitch for a technology conference that landed in my Inbox last week:

[ConferenceName] is just over a month away!
Have you registered yet? You won’t want to miss out on one of the industry’s most diverse and informative technology conferences of the year. With over 180+ in 5 different tracks from speakers that are the best and brightest in their fields, [ConferenceName] has something for everyone. Use can use our promo code, [withheld to protect the innocent], to save off your registration price too! So, why wait? If you haven’t yet, join us today. If you have, see you in September! [link withheld to protect the innocent]

This whole brief paragraph is written poorly; really, it’s not an effective pitch for the event. Continue reading

Backup Day, and an Offer to Solve Your Tech Problems

Yesterday was World Backup Day, intended to raise awareness of the importance of backing up personal and archival data. I hope you won’t mind me sending this reminder a day late. The fact is, it’s never too late to back up your data—until it’s too late. Don’t wait until you have a system crash or data corruption: Back up now!

World Backup Day logoIf you missed it, I wrote a series of blogs on using cloud-based storage solutions to keep your writing and other valuable documents safe. Here are links to those articles just in case you haven’t yet set up your automatic backup sync:

This can’t be stressed too much: Back up now! Whatever storage you choose, whatever method you find practical, just do it—and frankly, one day a year is not enough if your livelihood, or at least your precious creations, are stored as bits of data.  Continue reading

Cloud Backup for Writers, Part 3: Using OneDrive

Several weeks ago, I began a series of articles on how writers, many of whom are not naturally technologically adept, could easily put into practice good backup procedures for their valuable documents by using cloud storage. We know we need to make backup copies of our writing files, but we don’t always know the best way to do it, and we don’t want it to be difficult and time-consuming. Right?

In “Cloud Backup: A Brief Primer for the Practicing Writer,” I explained why I think cloud storage is a safe, reliable backup method that writers can easily put into practice. Next, in “Cloud Backup for Writers, Part 2: Using Dropbox,” I showed how you can set up and use Dropbox as an automated backup system for your important writing files. (As a bonus, I also wrote about “When to Use ‘Backup’ vs. ‘Back Up’” for all the grammar geeks out there.)

Microsoft OneDrive logoUp now is a walkthrough of using Microsoft’s OneDrive for automated backup. The delay in getting to this one is a result of Microsoft’s change in its service from SkyDrive to OneDrive, which was announced just as I started on my series. The service is basically the same with a new name, although I guess there are some new incentives built in for extra free storage. The switch to the new name is mostly less complete at this point.  Continue reading

Cloud Backup for Writers, Part 2: Using Dropbox

If you read my last post, you should understand why I believe writers should use cloud storage to back up their writing. However, even if you’ve signed up for a cloud service, you might not be making use all of its features, either because you don’t know about them or you haven’t figured out how to set them up.

dropboxlogoPerforming file backup can be a tedious and, therefore, often overlooked task, even when you recognize how important it is. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just save your writing on your local computer as you normally do, and then it would automatically back itself up to the cloud? Well, that automatic sync feature is something you can do with Dropbox, provided you set it up correctly.

Let’s take a look at using Dropbox and how to take advantage of some of its best features. For these instructions, I’m using Windows 8.1; if you’re using an older version of Windows or a Mac, you might find the screenshots and some of the steps slightly different for you, but generally the principles should work the same.  Continue reading

Cloud Backup: A Brief Primer for the Practicing Writer

Part 1: Why Should I Use Cloud Backup?

OK, raise your hand if you’ve ever lost a digital copy of something you’ve written. That could mean that the file became corrupt, your computer itself crashed, you lost a thumb drive or disk, or maybe you just forgot where you saved the file. Looks like just about everyone’s hand is up. A bit sad, but to be expected, I suppose.

For writers—that is, people who identify themselves as writers, engaged in the craft of creative writing in whatever form—losing your work can be particularly devastating. Which is why it’s important that you have good backup procedures in place and keep your writing works in multiple locations. Using a cloud backup provider usually lets you set up an automated backup procedure, and the saved files are offsite, so loss or damage of your local computer won’t affect the backup.

With current technologies and the variety of cloud storage options now available, setting up reliable backup has never been easier. But, because I know many writers and other creative people can be somewhat technologically phobic, I’d like the take some time to demonstrate, step by step, the process of setting up a cloud backup strategy that runs automatically to protect your most precious documents. In follow-up posts, I’ll show how you can use Dropbox and SkyDrive to get great protection. First, however, let’s look at what cloud storage actually is and how you can use it safely.  Continue reading

When to Use “Backup” vs. “Back Up”

I’m working on an article about setting up good backup procedures for your writing files. Of course, as soon as you start writing about backup (which is different from back up), the careful writer can get into trouble—although the problem might only be one of confusing yourself or others by alternating the one-word and two-word spellings. I’ve seen plenty of writers, even—perhaps particularly—on technology websites, get this wrong.

However, there is a difference between the two, and there’s an easy way to tell them apart. As one word, backup, it serves as a noun or adjective:

  • My backup of my files is stored in a secure location. (noun)
  • I have backup copies of my writing in multiple locations. (adjective)

However, if you want to use this term as a verb, you need to use the two-word form, back up:

  • Careful writers back up their files frequently. (verb) 

Continue reading