A simple guide to sharing and using Creative Commons pictures

Creative Commons licences are supposedly a simple way to share your creative works, or use those created by others. But the whole thing has become Byzantine in its complexity.

The Creative Commons website says the aim of project is this:

Use Creative Commons tools to help share your work. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give your permission to share and use your creative work— on conditions of your choice.

Note those words: “simple, standardized”. Yeah right. Continue reading

What are Google alerts – and why do you need them?

Google has been with us for decades now (yes, really – it was founded in 1998, according to Wikipedia) and it is now so much part of the fabric of our lives that it has become almost invisible.

As a company if is of course far from invisible – it is the one of the big five tech companies globally, and is in the news all the time for all sorts of reasons, both good and controversial. Continue reading

Twitter lists – a little-known work of wonder

I do love a list – so it’s no surprise that I love Twitter lists.

The fundamental problem with Twitter is that there is too much of it – and it can be toxic. Lists are a way to cut through the clutter and the awfulness.

Essentially, a Twitter list enables you to make a group of Twitter accounts and then see all the tweets from those accounts – without having to follow them and therefore create an increasingly unwieldy timeline. And the list will be people you chose to see – meaning you can create little bubbles that are personally useful to you, free of generalised nastiness.

Consider this scenario: you are a political journalist who needs to know what politicians are saying on Twitter. But if you follow all of them, you then have a Twitter timeline filled to the brim with political grandstanding. (And also if you follow them, are you endorsing their often ridiculous or dubious views?)

Or you might be a keen cook and gardener who wants to use Twitter for ideas in both areas. Solution: a list for celebrity chefs and another list for gardening sites and writers.

Or you might be a writer who needs sources of ideas. Make a list of places where you find inspiration!

You can also subscribe to other people’s lists – meaning you can take advantage of other people’s Twitter curation capabilities.

How to make a Twitter list (steps as of October 2020):

1. Decide on a category – for the purposes of this example we will use the example of celebrity chefs.

2. Find one celebrity chef you know you want to follow. Let’s say it might be Nigella Lawson. Locate the three red dots under their profile picture and click on them.
Twitter lists pic one
3. Click on add/remove from lists.

twitter lists pic two


4. Click on create new list (in this screenshot, and subsequent ones, you are seeing my own lists).

Twitter lists three


5. Give the list a name (you don’t have to fill in the description field).

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6. You’ll get a pop-up window allowing you to add Nigella – and Twitter will suggest some other people. Take a look – there will probably be someone you want on your list!

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7. Unhelpfully, the box disappears. Where to see your list? Go to the more button on the left of your screen, and then click on lists.

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8. There they all are! Click on a list if you want to see the result of your work. The list you have just made will now update all the time with the tweets of the people you have selected.


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How to subscribe to someone else’s lists

Using this post, I identified a person with a list I want to follow: Alejandra Ramos (@alwaysalejandra) has a Food Bloggers list (staying with the food theme).

1. Again, click on the three dots – but this time select View Lists.

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2. In the resulting screen click on the list you want.

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3. Click on follow.

4. Go back to your own list and there, now, is the one you followed.

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How to maintain lists

You then build your list incrementally – every time you see another celebrity chef you like, just add them to your list. And when you want your Twitter food fix, just go to your list and scroll!

In that process, you might find someone on your list you want to remove.

1. Find that person’s profile, click again on add/remove from lists (I am not removing the esteemed Raymond Blanc – just using him as an example!)

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2. You’ll see a tick next to the list they are on – click to remove the tick and hit save.

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And that’s it. If you would like to look at my own lists, they’re here, reflecting my personal interests and work pursuits. One last use of a list to observe: I have an Eskom list which has just two members, enabling me to find tweets about loadshedding quickly and efficiently.

And that’s really what Twitter lists do: save time.

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your organisational or communication needs (coaching, editing, writing, social media). And you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Main photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash, sourced using the Unsplash plugin.

Three ways to save time by getting things done faster

We talk of saving time, as if it is money (which we also say). But what do we mean really? Often, what we mean is spending less time on things we don’t like or that are unimportant, so that we can spend more time on things we do like, or that are important.

In the bigger picture, that means thinking thinking systematically, and doing things systematically. There needs to be an understanding of what is important, and what isn’t, and a plan for working through those things. I wrote about my system for getting things done in 2018 – and the fundamentals of that are still in use today.

Working at speed

You can save time by looking at the big picture but the small picture matters too.

If you can take less time to (say) copy and paste text when you are working on a document, then you will finish that document a little more quickly than you otherwise might have.

I spent a large part of my corporate working life in the high-speed world of Internet journalism, and I can say without any doubt that saving a minute of two on repetitive tasks adds up, and cumulatively means you get through more work in any given period of time.

I am always looking for ways to get things done faster – and have made some joyous discoveries in the last couple of months.

Three ways to speed up your work

COPYING AND PASTING TEXT: This is a function everyone who works on a computer performs, all the time. I have watched with impatience as colleagues laboriously use drop-down menus to move text around. Keyboard shortcuts are better, I say. If you learn no other shortcuts, learn these, I say:

highlight text and hit control-c to copy text, or control-x to cut text
move cursor to where you want the text – control-v to paste text

(Note these apply to the Windows universe).

I recently discovered a little tool in this area that has made this time-saver even better. It’s called Pure Text (see cautionary note at the bottom of this post though) and it removes all text formatting from text that you copy to your clipboard. You then paste the clean text where you need it, without any need to reformat – no more Arial 10pt when what you wanted was Calibri 11pt.
I can thank Avinash Kaushlik for this – I owe him big time.

BROWSING: I run two computers that used to be Windows 7, and which have been upgraded to Windows 10. They are trustworthy but not speedy. I installed new RAM in both of them – but still something was making my Chrome browser glacially slow. Enter – again – Avinash with his recommendation of the Vivaldi browser. It’s based on Chrome, so it’s easy to understand – but it is zippy. It has revolutionised my web experience.

ORGANISING: I stumbled on Tiage Forte in one of my many “how to do things better” Google searches. He’s a productivity guru (though that is an oversimplification of everything he does). His PARA system proposes a radical approach to the way you organise your digital work, which I found just too much of a departure from the way I do things now.

But one principle has made a huge difference. He suggests having the same file structure across all platforms. I didn’t follow his suggested structure, but I implemented exactly the same set of folders and files in OneDrive, Google Drive and in OneNote. And boy has it made a difference! I am not spending time hunting for things because the logic is the same everywhere. It took a little time to reorganise all those platforms, but it has paid off.

So there you have it – three things that probably won’t change your life, but will save time, I promise.

Note about Pure Text
For Windows 10 users – the app is available in the Microsoft Store but you will find that when you install it, you see irritating error messages. Just keep saying ok to them – the app does eventually install itself and does work. I think that the best path might be to ignore the Windows store, and just do the manual installation, which worked fine the first time I used it.

Main picture: Fabrizio Verrecchia, Unsplash

Contact me if you would like to chat about how I can help with all your organisational or communication needs (coaching, editing, writing, social media).

Also read:
Filter, filter, filter – the key to email organisation
A tip for working with multiple tabs in a browser

Copyright: What it is, why it is important

Advert for my coaching businessOne of the trickiest things in online publishing is the question of copyright – especially with regard to photographs and other kinds of illustrations.

Collins Dictionary’s learner section has a simple way of defining copyright:

If someone has copyright on a piece of writing or music, it is illegal to reproduce or perform it without their permission.

Oxford (a premium version but here is the link) is a bit more complex:

The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.

In other words: someone, a real human being or beings, made something. It belongs to them and they have a right to be paid if you use it. Continue reading

Project management for beginners

A long time ago I did a four-day project management course at the Graduate School of Business in Cape Town. At the time I was on the staff at a large news website, and working with technical teams in various aspects of changing or launching websites. Project management was happening all around me.

These days, I am project managing the production of a book for a local publisher, and glad of the skills I have gained over the years.

Some projects are obviously much more complicated than others: the construction of an office block is a lot more work than the construction of a small garden shed. But the same principles underpin all of them.

Project management is a big field, and I absolutely do not pretend to be an expert. However, there are some fundamentals that might be a useful starting point for anyone who is about to take on project management for the first time


1. There are three key strands in any project: time, money and scope (the size of the project, and how many features it has). They all add up to quality (or lack of it). A project manager needs to keep an eye on all three elements, and understand which of them takes priority in any given project. If it doesn’t matter when the garden shed is finished and ready for occupation by the wheelbarrows, then you can take a relaxed view when the client decides they want the garden shed to be a double-storey. If budget is the most important factor, then you must keep the scope rigidly in check so as not to increase the cost. Project management is essentially a balancing act aimed at an end result that is a quality-driven as possible.

2. Relationships are key. Conflict or poor communication can derail a project faster than any other factor, so the project manager needs to make sure that all parties are equally respected, valued and kept informed of all the things that affect them. The person who is expected to lay the foundation for the garden shed needs to know what day it must happen – and should feel that they are an integral part of creating the whole.

3. Keeping track of all the elements is next on the list. Whether it’s a complex spreadsheet or a battered notebook, there must be one central place where all the strands are held together, and a calendar (physical or digital) with all the milestones noted. All this documentation needs to be maintained and changed as things go along.

4. Understand that something will go wrong. Add in time to allow for things going wrong. If you think it will take two weeks, assume that it will actually take three weeks. Seriously – there is no getting around this. Unexpected things will happen, and your plan will change.