Blog #2–Tell an Unforgettable Story

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”. This powerful quote by Rudyard Kipling has never been truer than in the age of blogging. A good blog cannot just be a retelling of facts. It must also tell a great story in such a way that the readers form their own ideas from it and want to share it.

Photo courtesy of Pexel

Storytelling

Mitch Joel (2012) recognized that media channels were moving from content based on “fact” to content based on “opinion” and that opinion is the new news. Great content, therefore, should come from a great story, not from facts alone. He further argues that the writing should be from the heart (emotional), honest, and well presented.

Communication Styles

Moreover, to be a good storyteller, the content writer must write clearly and concisely in an organized way that accommodates the reader. According to the article, How to Read, by Brian Clark (2008), there are different levels of reading a piece of writing. For example, the reader can skim through it (Inspectional phase), analyze it (Analytical phase), and form their own ideas from it (Syntopical phase). These audience reading levels should be taken into consideration when writing a reader-oriented blog.

Photo courtesy of Pexel

Encouraging Interaction with your audience

In addition to writing with their readers in mind, a content writer needs to know how to create a piece of writing that their readers may want to share. Chris Brogan (2008), in his article, 23 essential elements of sharable blog posts, lists his ideas on the subject, including getting the reader’s attention; specific topic advice; sharing your post; and how to end your post.

Ultimately, to be unforgettable, the blogger should tell their story in an organized and thoughtful way, and their readers will naturally want to interact and share their post.

What was the last post you shared? What made you want to share it?

Blog #1: A COBOL Programmer’s Pandemic Vacation To-Do List

Before I tell you about my 2020, pandemic vacation, let me tell you a bit about myself. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging (INTJ) person. Being logical, methodical, and conceptual makes me ideally suited for my profession as a computer programmer,  which is a suggested career for the INTJ personality type.

Since the pandemic lockdown started six months ago, I have been spending most days continuously at home on my computer doing coding, analysis, system testing, mentoring, or attending meetings in this new virtual work world. No more breaks for water cooler gossip or work kitchen chats. No long commute to psych myself up at the beginning of the day or wind down at the end.

By the summer, I badly needed a vacation break. As usual, in keeping with my scheduled, systematic nature and the list-making preferences of my personality type, I wrote down all of the things I wanted to do on my time off.

This summer, at the top of my list, was a family get-away vacation to a cottage on Otter Lake in Quebec. With limited travel allowed between provinces this year, we booked it ahead, sight unseen, with very few pictures. It was a risk, but in the end, it was a beautiful peaceful, waterfront location about a half-mile from the main road. We had rented it for two weeks at the end of July. It was gorgeous weather and very relaxing.

Otter Lake View from our Cottage

Another thing on my list of things to do on my vacation was to give my daughter some practice driving. She just passed the written test at the beginning of the year and driving school classes and in-car lessons immediately shut down in mid March.

It was very awkward being in the car with her over the summer. As a teenager, she was sure everything I told her was wrong. Ultimately, we made it through driving sessions and online practice tests together. It was a valuable bonding experience, but I was relieved when a driving instructor took over in September.  

My Daughter at the Wheel

My vacation to-do list would not have been complete without having a computer-related item on it somewhere. With no end in sight for remote programming work, I took some time to set up my own separate home office space with a desk, monitor, new chair, and treadmill.

I faced my desk to the window, put up a bird feeder outside, and found I had some work-at-home buddies. My cat, Oreo, loves to lie on my desk and look out the window, watching the birds eat. Of course, once I had my new office in place, I also had to take a sneak peek at the work emails I was getting during vacation.

Oreo on my Desk
A Finch on my bird feeder

In the end, I did not get everything on my vacation list done, but overall, it was a relaxing, successful, semi-productive time off.

Take some time to look at where you fall on the Myers-Briggs scale.

Did you find that your career choices, as well as your list-making tendencies, correspond to your personality type?

Celebrating Women in Computing–Past, Present and Future

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The Importance of Women in Computer History

Women have been widely recognized as being important in the history of computer programming. Two examples of women technical pioneers are:

  • Ada Lovelace (1815 to 1852) was believed to be the first computer programmer.
  • Grace Hopper (1906 to 1992) was a computer programmer who helped pave the way for the COBOL programming language by developing a compiler, which translated mathematical code into machine readable code.

Image of Grace Hopper courtesy of Pixabay

Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing

Today, women continue to celebrate their place in technology. This year is the fourth annual CAN-CWIC (Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing) conference, which is taking place in the International Center in Mississauga, Ontario on November 8th and 9th 2019. There are 20+ sessions planned for 700+ attendees and 40+ expected exhibitors. Sessions include such topics as social media branding, technologies for people with disabilities, cyber security, gaming and others.

Image of courtesy of Pixabay

Some Stats on Women in Technology

Some promising stats compiled on women in technology for 2018.

Canadian Contribution to the Future of Women in Computing

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To invest in the future of women in Technology, the Canadian Government has launched a $2 billion Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) to double the number of women owned businesses in Canada by 2025 by increasing access to finance, networks and advice. As a part of WES, there is a $20 million Women Entrepreneurship Fund which funds women-led companies. Also, involved in the WES initiative is a $200 million Women in Technology (WIT) venture fund that supports women in building their businesses.

What would you consider to be one of the biggest hurdles of being a woman in technology?

Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of Women in Computing. https://bit.ly/2p5VPt9

 

Women in Computing—Past, Present and Future. #CAN-CWIC #womenintechnology #fundingforwomen. https://bit.ly/2p5VPt9

The Job Search–Then and Now

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The 1990’s Perspective

I’m fortunate, or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it, to have been part of the workforce searching for an Information Technology Programming job in the latter part of the last century. It was a different world back then:  there was more face to face contact and telephone interaction, and the postal service was still a popular way of sending job applications. In fact, I sent approximately 60 job applications by “snail-mail” to get my first programming job.

Finding a Job Without Many Online Resources

To find a job in the pre-online world, you had to use your own initiative to search for jobs offered. The difference today is that the jobs are mostly advertised online, so there isn’t much difficulty in finding available jobs. However, this leaves the onus on the applicants to find ways to stand out and be selected from the many applicants who have access to the online employer postings.

Without access to an electronic pool of jobs in the 1990’s, you had to find creative ways to look for job opportunities. The five methods below are just some of those that were used then and can still be found in use today but may not be as popular.

#1:     One of the standard places to visit when unemployed was the Government Employment Center. Unemployed job hunters would visit the centers frequently in person to view new job postings on boards or online through special dedicated terminals at the center.

#2     Another activity of job hunters was to call the human resource contacts at potential employers directly to find out if there were appropriate jobs available. Contacts were often advertised as a pre-screening method to deter job seekers from sending a resume by post if there wasn’t a good job fit or if there wasn’t a job available.

#3     A third job hunting exercise was to attend job fairs or “wine and cheese” events with prospective employers to find out what jobs they had to offer. These types of activities allowed face-to-face meetings to acquire leads, and they sometimes even resulted in instant hiring.

#4     A fourth popular job-hunting method in the 1990’s was through newspaper advertisements. Employers would frequently advertise jobs in the Classified Ads sections of newspapers, providing job descriptions and contact information for the job hunters to follow up on. Programming jobs especially were quite often advertised in this way.

#5     Lastly the job hunter could find potential jobs through a third party by registering with an Employment Agency. The agency would do the reference checks and match the applicant with a job that they felt was a good fit.

Postal Mail Applications Versus Email

Typically, after the name and address of a potential employer was obtained by one of the above activities, the job seeker would then prepare a cover letter, either by typing it out manually on a typewriter or typing it into a computer word processing software. A hardcopy of the cover letter and the resume were then mailed by post to the address given. Even though there was limited access to email in the 1990’s, it was common back then for employers to ask that resumes be mailed instead of emailed. After all the effort to find the lead and apply for the job, the applicant was left to wait for a reply. Sometimes the job advertisement specified that the company “will respond only if interested”, leaving the applicant unsure if their resume had even been delivered successfully.

Current Online Job Hunting

By contrast, job hunting in today’s online-dependent world, looks much different than what it looked like twenty-five years ago. The article, “Top 10 Strategies for a Successful Job Search”, outlines some of the current popular job search strategies. Instead of spending significant effort finding job leads, current job hunters focus on how to get the potential employers to come to them.

For example, these are some of the strategies discussed in the article that illustrate the shift in job search strategy from 25 years ago to now:

  1. Getting noticed by your dream company, by showing that you stand out from the crowd and should be chosen for an interview.
  2. Customize your resume and cover letter, so the hiring manager will be able to see how you are qualified.
  3. Create profiles on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites, so prospective employers can find you online.
  4. Job search where companies are looking for applicants, so you increase the chance of getting found by the hiring manager
  5. Make sure companies can find you easily online by using methods such as those discussed in the article, “How to Ensure Employers Can FindYou.                                                                                                               

To illustrate how easy it is to find a job lead now, the screenshot below shows the results of a Google search of Computer Programming jobs in Ottawa. There are at least 100 results to sift through.

Once the job hunter has found a lead and wants to apply, the current method of submitting the information electronically is very easy, relative to the “snail-mail” used in the 1990’s.

What will the job search look like in the next 25 years?

With online Social Media sites such as LinkedIn and many other online job locations where employers with job openings can quickly connect to potential employees, it’s not inconceivable to think that, in 25 years, the job market will be fully online. Employees should be able to connect with their ideal employer immediately through a few key-word searches as described in the article, “How Google’s AI Powered Job Search Will Impact Companies and Job Seekers”.

There may be no need to advertise jobs at all, only to advertise that the applicant is available to be hired and the employers will make the connection. We can only imagine what the next shift will bring.

Try to think of the last time that you read a classified ad in a newspaper or used a typewriter instead of a computer keyboard. What year was it? What were you doing at that time?

 The job search 25 years ago and now—what a difference. https://bit.ly/31iwZ6n

 How did the job search change? 1990s versus now. #ajobsearch #searchingforleads #employerslookingforyou. https://bit.ly/31iwZ6n

Social Media–Professionally Speaking

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The Programming Professional on Social Media

When you think of the various Social Media Networks, LinkedIn is the first one that comes to mind as the main Professional Social Media resource. Professionals looking for, and providing, information in their field would tend to look there first. What’s often missed, are the sometimes-hidden gems of information garnered through Facebook pages and groups, Twitter tweets, or Pinterest pins. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to use the example of “COBOL Programming” to illustrate that there is information to be found for Programming Professionals on each of these Social Media Networks.

Facebook as a Programming Resource

After doing a search for the word “COBOL” on my Facebook account and scrolling through the results, I can see that there are several types of information that are available and useful to both the new and experienced COBOL Programmer. Of course, given the volume, you would need to take time to filter through each type and determine if it is current, valid, and useful to your context. On a cursory first glance though, in the list of pages to “like” and groups to join, one group that stands out is “COBOL Programmers”, which currently has 10,775 members and has daily activity. Members frequently post interesting information and other members ask related questions. With almost 11,000 experts at your fingertips, how could it not be a useful resource? The COBOL Facebook search result also came up with PDF links for COBOL tutorials, programmer guides, and professional blogs (such as the Micro Focus Company blog). If they were to be cited as professional sources of information, these documents would have to be verified as reliable resources. The article, How Can I tell if a Website is Credible, provides some helpful ideas for what to look for in determining the credibility of a source.

Professionalism in Twitter Tweets

A search for COBOL on Twitter revealed a smaller presence than on Facebook. However, there are some Twitter COBOL-related profiles that are recently active and have tweets with interesting links. One of note is “COBOL60” that celebrates the 60th birthday of COBOL in a professional manner. The tweets on this profile typically contain links to courses or related websites. Again, some time would be necessary to thoroughly filter through the information for credibility.

Below is a screenshot of my COBOL search result on Twitter. As well as several COBOL-related “People”, there is also Professional noteworthy information under the “Photos” and “Videos” sections from such companies as Micro Focus, Red Hat, Raincode and others. As you can see, COBOL Programming information for the professional is also present on Twitter.

Pinterest for Computer Professionals

Pinterest is a Social Media, online service, that allows users to organize and share images and videos. A search on COBOL in Pinterest resulted in many, many pins. From a Professional perspective, several of the pins are for COBOL courses and tutorials of varying levels, debugging tools, and related programming information. To be honest, I hadn’t considered Pinterest as a resource for job-related information before. After this first look, I can see that there could be a whole separate discussion on the programming information and categories available on Pinterest. I can’t wait to revisit and start organizing and filtering some of the useful information I’ve seen.

The future of Professionalism on Social Media

With Social Media advancing at such a fast rate, it’s hard to predict its future.  A recent article, What Will Social Media Look Like in the Future, discusses possible future trends such as:

  1. More privacy and security
  2. More video
  3. Less personal content
  4. Premium services and fewer ads
  5. Mobile focused experience
  6. Less typing, and more visuals

Only time will tell if the future will find Social Media moving more toward the informal or more toward the formal.

If you haven’t already done this exercise, think of your own work-related topic and try to research it on Social Media. You might be surprised by the wealth of information you find.

There is a Professional side to Social Media. You just need to look for it. https://bit.ly/2nq0R2J

Social Media for Professionals. There is more there than recipes and pet pictures. #aprofessionalside #professionallyspeaking https://bit.ly/2nq0R2J

The First Computer Bug Ever—Literally

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What is a Computer Bug

In the modern information age, most of us take for granted the terms “computer bug” and “debugging”. Computer literate people are probably very familiar with the alternate meaning for bug as an “error in a software program or hardware system”. There is, in fact, an interesting story behind the adoption of the computer bug reference.

Admiral Grace Hopper

The tale begins with Rear Admiral Grace Brewster Murray Hopper. Born in 1906, Admiral Hopper was a gifted mathematician. She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard, Mark I computer. One of her other many claims to fame is that she was responsible for the development of the COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) computer programming language. COBOL is still widely used today in software programs that power banks, insurance companies and governments. In 1952, she also invented a compiler that converted instructions written in English language into computer code.

The First Computer Bug

For many years the term “bug” was used by engineers to refer to anomalies in their designs. However, according to history, the world’s first computer bug was found on September 9th , 1947 by Grace Hopper in the Harvard, Mark II computer. The story goes that a computer at Harvard wasn’t functioning properly. When it was opened, a dead moth was found in the relays. The crew taped the bug to their log book entry and wrote “First actual case of bug being found”. The log update is widely thought to have been done by Grace Hopper, and it is known as Grace Hopper’s bug. The bug and the page it’s attached to are on exhibit in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. This YouTube video from Biography is a summary of Grace Hopper’s accomplishments as a computer scientist and military leader.

The Future of Computer Bugs

With Artificial Intelligence becoming increasingly popular, it’s hard to predict how software bugs will evolve in the future. Maybe in a few years, a common “bug” will be the fact that our electronic assistant doesn’t remember our favorite restaurant or theater.

What’s the worst computer “bug” (software or hardware glitch) you’ve ever had?

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The first computer bug has an interesting story attached to it, and it may not be quite what you think. https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/algonquincollegesocialmedia.wordpress.com/81580

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Have you heard the story of the first computer bug? #firstbug #gracehopper #literallyabug. https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/algonquincollegesocialmedia.wordpress.com/81580