At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Category: Tech in the News

Why I Continue to Blog Weekly after 10 Years

Posting fresh content to this blog every week has not been easy. Here’s why I continue to challenge myself to maintain my writing pace.

I started blogging At Home with Tech over 10 years ago as a way to channel some of my creative energies. At the time, home tech was a simpler product category and yet simultaneously confusing for so many people. Many of the basics weren’t well understood. I thought I could help readers by sharing my own experiences as I tried to figure out my own finicky technology.

I was the tech nerd who supposedly knew what he was doing, and even I had my gear challenges. That was the set up. So I invited my readers to join me on my journeys of discovery.

My topics broadened over time to other related areas… my photography, video time lapses, movie reviews, science fiction, goofy poetry, family mishaps with technology and well… just about anything that was on my mind. I know that’s hardly a strategic content strategy to build an audience.

But..

Building my Personal Brand
Beyond my tech-challenge-of-the-week structure, these 500 plus blog posts have provided insight into who I am and what I’ve been up to over these years. There’s often a story that leads off each post. And I’ve been mindful to ensure every post supports my individual brand.

Yes, of course I pay attention to marketing myself to the greater universe. While my posts are usually focused on my personal life as a husband and father, the topics are aligned with my professional brand as a video storyteller and leader of creative teams.

If you should Google my name, my blog shows up under my LinkedIn and other social media profiles. So, if you want to learn more about me, it’s there for you.

That’s not a terrible marketing plan.

My Organic Reach
That said, my organic distribution strategy does have limitations in finding a large audience. I track my metrics. They’re stable though not especially impressive. It’s fair to say my weekly blog maintains something of a niche audience.

Yes, some of my ‘how to’ topics have caught on and maintain a healthy number of clicks over months and sometimes years.

And yes, a number of my social media connections do click on my posts after I share them.

So I do maintain a readership.

But blogging weekly takes a fair amount of effort. And I recognize that blogs in general certainly aren’t as cooI as they once were. I could certainly redirect the time to other creative pursuits. So, what brings me back to the keyboard to push out a new post every Sunday at 8pm?

The Benefits of Blogging
First off, At Home with Tech has made me a better writer. While my style here is a bit loose, I know my weekly exercise serves me well.

Second, I must admit I get something of an endorphin hit each time I’m finished with a blog post and press that final ‘click’ to schedule it. Sharing my weekly thoughts with the world is like that first taste of your favorite birthday cake. I know I’m feeding my creative self.

Third, as I mentioned earlier, I intentionally use the topics in my blog to build my brand.

But perhaps most of all, I thrive on the feedback I receive. It’s so great to hear from strangers who’ve been impacted by my words. And it’s really nice when family and friends pop up in the feed.

Then, there are the ‘lost’ connections from my past who occasionally reach out to ‘like’ or make a comment on one of my posts.

In some ways, it’s this feedback I treasure most. I see that I haven’t entirely lost touch with these individuals. I’ve done a terrible job staying in contact with parts of my past… with people who used to be my friends and close colleagues. I regret that and often think about how to repair these lost connections.

And when I see that my blog is actually an instrument of connection to this group, and that they’ve read something I’ve written and then commented back… I’m absolutely blown away with gratitude.

Who knew that his blog could help me stay connected with people I thought I’ve entirely lost touch with?

I’ve not forgotten them, and my blog shows me that I am not forgotten either.

I am Here!
And then there’s the unknowable. Could my blog also be reaching others from my past who choose not to comment on a post? I’d like to think so.

In a sense, my blog is a beacon. So, of course I’d want to keep it lit.

Sometimes I feel a bit like one of those residents of Who-ville calling out in Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who.”

“I am here. I am here. I am here. I am here…!”

Isn’t that exactly what many of us want to yell out from time to time?

Yes, At Home with Tech helps me do that.

Another 10 Years?
My blog is my therapy. My blog is my podium. My blog is my teacher.

It is both a time machine that helps me reach back and a totem that centers me in my present.

All of this is why I continue to write my blog.

Thank you for being a reader of At Home with Tech. I really do appreciate it.

Why Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is So Good

Another “Star Trek” series? Yep! And this is the one we’ve been waiting for. Here’s my review…

I’ve been a “Star Trek” fan since I was a kid, when I watched reruns of the original series. (My mom would often organize dinner with my dad around me watching Kirk, Spock and Bones at 6pm on WPIX.)

I’ve stuck with the entire Trek universe across all of these decades, and I’ve generally enjoyed every iteration.

Born from “Discovery”
“Star Trek: Discovery” has been the main “Trek” property over the past few years. It’s felt heavy at times and has gone through narrative course corrections in each of its seasons.

Honestly, it’s been a bit too dark and stiff for me. Universal destruction is always just around the corner. Yes, the writers keep adding lines about how the crew is family and how much they love each other. Yes, there’s a lot of hugging and tears. But, I just don’t feel it. Not really.

When a younger Starship Enterprise showed up in season 2 with Captain Christopher Pike, played by Anson Mount, the positive change in energy was dramatic. Sure, it was a gamble giving us another Spock, played by Ethan Peck, but it worked. Plus, we saw Pike’s bold Number One, played by Rebecca Romijn. And instantly, I wanted the storytelling to stay with this younger pre-Kirk Enterprise.

And clearly, I was not alone.

Hit It
Now, we’ve got “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” a new series on Paramount+, which follows the voyages of the Enterprise in the decade before Kirk took over. If you’re a Trekkie, you know that Captain Pike and his crew were introduced in “The Cage,” the first pilot for “Star Trek” way back in 1965. (That footage was eventually repurposed in the two-part “Star Trek” episode “The Menagerie.”)

After watching the first two episodes of “Strange New Worlds,” I’m happy to say that this series perfectly captures the energy and fun of the original show.

Yes, fun.
Saving the galaxy used to be fun, right?

There are lots of complementary elements that are helping this new series to hum at warp.

The Strong Cast
Though Pike is now (minor spoiler alert) burdened by knowing his future, Anson Mount continues to give us a compelling Starfleet captain who’s collaborative, funny and also a tad irreverent.

The writers are quickly focusing on exploring the supporting cast. We’ve already got a nice sense of Nurse Chapel played by Jess Bush, and the second episode focuses on Cadet Uhura played by Celia Rose Gooding.

The producers have taken some creative license to update these younger versions of these famous characters, and it’s all for the better. I’m not going to hold the producers to perfectly reflect every detail of the original “Star Trek.”

Better Special Effects
The same goes for the Enterprise. Yes, it’s the same ship, but there are subtle differences on the outside and major enhancements on the bridge. And thanks to modern CGI effects, this ship can really fly. And I cannot tell you (Geek alert!) how much fun it is to watch the Enterprise in action.

The more advanced special effects are a welcome improvement.

Back to the Future
“Strange New Worlds” also benefits from a healthy dose of nostalgia. Sure, there’s a lot of runway for the missions of this previously unexplored crew, but everything feels so familiar and immediately comfortable. The communicators, the tricorders, the transporter beams, and all of those techie sounds… you know all of them!

“Star Trek” series have spent decades trying to differentiate themselves from the original show. “Strange New Worlds” doesn’t need to. These are actually the first chapters of the same Enterprise story.

It’s refreshing that we again get to see the Federation during its peak years, when everything seemed possible.

No More F-Bombs
And I am so happy that this is again TV-PG Star Trek, void of all that unnecessary bad language and occasional F-bombs that have plagued “Discovery” and “Picard.”

“Star Trek” doesn’t need to be so dark and “edgy” to connect with it’s 2022 audience. I think especially these days, we need a reminder that being bright and optimistic is achievable.

I’m looking forward to inviting my 12-year-old son to watch “Strange New Worlds” with me. (He’s not yet connected with “Star Trek” the way he has with Marvel and “Star Wars.”)

Time to Enjoy
No, it’s not groundbreaking “Trek,” but it’s not trying to be. “Strange New Worlds” still succeeds on many levels. It firmly represents “Star Trek’s” core, gives us a great Captain Pike (Thank you, Anson Mount), and most of all… it’s simply refreshing.

And fun.

It’s exactly what we need.

5 Easy Ways to Upgrade your Zoom Video

If you want to look and sound better during your next Zoom meeting, don’t forget these simple best practices to present yourself in the best possible light.

It’s been over two years since Zoom saved us from pandemic isolation. Sort of. Yes, Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have been lifelines to our outside world over these many months. As life is evolving to a new normal, ‘hybrid’ is now clearly a part of that equation. That means the need to Zoom isn’t going away.

As remarkable as Zoom has been, I think everyone is exhausted. We’re cranky. We may know how to do a good Zoom. But we don’t want to. No. We don’t want to make that extra effort. Not anymore.

If you can hear my voice on Zoom, that’s enough. You don’t need to see me. And if for some reason I forget to turn off my camera, don’t expect much. If only half of my head is in the shot, that’s more than enough. If my bright window is dominating the image and obscuring my face, get used to it. It’s still me. Besides what I have to say is all that matters.

Is this perspective resonating right now? If so, I get it. You’re sick of having to show up for your close up. You didn’t sign up for this.

I know.

But let me offer this gentle reminder…

Zoom can Help You Stay Connected
Practicing good Zoom etiquette is worth it. If you want to show up in your life, then you do want to show up for your close up. It matters. If you want a seat at the table, then you’ve got to show up at the virtual table.

Turn on your webcam and follow these five best practices:

1.
Illuminate your Face
You should be facing the window… not the other way around. Please want to actually see you. Not your silhouette.

2.
Turn Off your Ceiling Light
You may think your ceiling light fixture is helping. It probably isn’t. Not if it’s directly over your head. That’s because it’s shining light down on top of you instead of in front of your face. That creates incredibly unflattering shadows. I don’t think you’re trying to audition for the next zombie movie. So turn off that ceiling light and flick on your desk lamp instead.

3.
Elevate your Webcam
Your webcam should never look up at your chin. If your shot features your ceiling, you need to raise your camera to a more perpendicular angle with your face. Simply elevate your laptop with a few books.

4.
Reduce the Headroom in your Shot
Headroom is the amount of space between the top of your head and the top of your Zoom box. I can almost guarantee that you’ve got too much headroom. There should only be a little gap. Please, tilt down your webcam. Your viewers want to see more of you, not more of your wall.

5.
Wear your Headset or Earbuds
Sure, your computer’s onboard microphone will work, but it’s too far away from your mouth to provide crisp audio. Instead, the audio has that far-away feel. That’s because the microphone is far away. Your headset mic sounds so much better. Please wear it. If you’re concerned about how your headset looks on you, then wear your earbuds or AirPods. The audio sounds that much better. Really.

Don’t Forget to Smile
Life presents unexpected twists and turns. It can be really rough. The headlines are getting any easier to consume. I know it’s sometimes hard to pull it together. But your Zooms don’t have to reflect the imbalance you may feel.

If you take a little extra effort to follow these video-conference best practices, you can better present your best self.

And if you’re doing that, I expect you’ll feel better too.

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