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Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson
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One of the lures of the online/social media world is that you have the opportunity to get to know people in multiple contexts without ever actually meeting them.

Good?  Maybe.

Between my different activities, I spend a great deal of time reading online.  I usually am looking for a level of real information, but personality always shines through.

Below are five people who I’ve come to admire through my readings and online interactions with them.  I suggest that as your time permits, following them in some way, website, blogs or twitter will be a rewarding experience.  To me, they’re all changing the world for the better through their writing.

By the way, though a technology fan-boy, I have trouble actually finding people that I think deserve my real admiration  mak9ng this list all the more special.

In no particular order:

Gretchen Rubin – If you read this site very much you already know of my admiration for Gretchen’s work.  She is writing a book called the Happiness Project.  For the book she’s investigating the techniques advised through the ages for living a good life.    You can catch her at her happiness project blog, her columns on the The HuffingtonPost and now on the website.  While you’re at her site, read her own Twelve Commandments.

Here’s what Gretchen Rubin says about her pursuit of happiness:

Some people think that wanting to be happier is a selfish, self-absorbed goal—but I disagree. Robert Louis Stevenson got it right: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy,” he wrote. Research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in the problems of others, friendlier, and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues, and citizens. And maybe betters bloggers, too.

I admire Gretchen’s work because she writes with intelligence and wit and shares of herself along the journey.

Laura Fitton@Pistachio – Laura Fitton first  became most familiar to me as @pistachio, her Twitter username.  Besides being a prolific tweeter (22,173 updates as of this second),  she’s also helping figure out the role microsharing and social media will eventually occupy in the business world through her consulting business, Pistachio Consulting.

Laura Fitton on “Twitter as her village”:

For me, connecting on Twitter with someone I’ve just met in person is inviting them to live in “my village.” Follow-up won’t be limited to the “nice meeting you” email cul-de-sac. On Twitter, we’ll cross paths incidentally and without pressure. I may bump into them “around town” for maybe a word or two at the “coffee shop” or “post office.” Over time we may discover common interests (aka social objects) in each others’ tweets, and connect more deeply as neighbors or friends.

For a contrived, weird and techy way to communicate, Twitter’s “passive conversation” fosters very natural, gradual relationship-building. I explained about the village to Dan Bricklin, who immediately connected it to the chapter on “taming” and the Fox in The Little Prince.

Watching and reading Laura makes makes me realize how important it is to take hold of new ideas and concepts and try to see how they can be used in a greater context and, as in Twitter, to improve communication — something always in short-supply.

Tim O’Reilly – Tim is the founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, the publishing company without whose technical books, the development of the web might not have happened, at least as quickly.  Tim also writes a blog on O’Reilly’s Radar where he discusses topics such as working on stuff that matters and a definition of Web 2.0 that goes beyond “the superficial graphic look and feel”.

Here is an excerpt from Tim O’Reilly on working on stuff that matters.

I spent a lot of last year urging people to work on stuff that matters. This led to many questions about what that “stuff” might be. I’ve been a bit reluctant to answer those questions, because the list is different for everyone. I thought I’d do better to start the new year with some ideas about how to think about this for yourself.

First off, though, I want to make clear that “work on stuff that matters” does not mean focusing on non-profit work, “causes, or any other form of “do-goodism.” Non-profit projects often do matter a great deal, and people with tech skills can make important contributions, but it’s essential to get beyond that narrow box. I’m a strong believer in the social value of business done right. We need to build an economy in which the important things are paid for in self-sustaining ways rather than as charities to be funded out of the goodness of our hearts.

Tim makes a difference to me because besides his outstanding media company, he writes about how technology and business are not inconsistent with building a better world.

Leo Babauta – Leo is a writer and blogger living on Guam in the western Pacific. He has changed his life by simplifying it and putting first things first.  He writes Zen Habits, a blog that became a top-100 blog in a year where he shares the techniques he has used to change his life and Write to Done, a blog for writers.  Here’s about a half-list of his accomplishments since 2005 when he started making changes in his life including  quitting smoking, becoming a runner, running a marathon, began waking early, began eating healthy, became a vegan, doubled his income, wrote a novel — look — here’s the rest of his list.

Leo Babauta on Leo’s goals:

My goal is pretty simple, actually,  to help people learn some of the principles I’ve learned that have changed my life and my work. It’s been such an exciting time for me, learning to change my habits, become more effective while leading a simpler and happier life … I just want to help others learn the same things! And when people tell me that I’ve helped them make positive changes in their lives, I’m incredibly gratified.

Leo’s work inspires me because as he says “All I am is a regular guy, a father of six kids, a husband, a worker, and a free-lance writer” which means these changes are presumably possible for all of us.

Merlin Mann – Merlin Mann is a writer, blogger, speaker and a web raconteur.  He can be very funny and very profane.  He’s a great speaker on subjects like “Inbox Zero“, keeping your email inbox empty by effectively processing every email message you receive.  His most famous online effort is which he now describes as “focused on an arc about how to improve the quality of your career and life by managing your attention in a way that allows you to work your ass off on the creative projects that matter most to you.”  He has recently moved away from his former postings on 43Folders to concentrate on his other projects.  He has had a strong presence also on Twitter but isn’t posting at the moment, there either.  On Twitter his tweets tend to be street theater.  Start with 43Folders to read Mann on productivity and then when you’re hooked on his slightly off humor, watch his videos and read his other sites.  More about where to find Merlin.

What Merlin Mann says about the 43Folders site:

We hope very much that you find things here that will help you do and make the things that matter to you, but 43 Folders is no replacement for actual work. Please do not use 43 Folders as an excuse to procrastinate. That would be so ironically unwholesome as to stagger the mind.

Don’t let us catch you dicking around here all day, okay? Okay, then.

I admire Merlin Mann for his intelligence, seemingly boundless energy and very much for his humor.

Okay, that’s my first five, there are, as you can imagine, more.

Do you have anyone you have anyone you find that you admire  in the online world?  Post them in your comments or email them to me under the veil of secrecy.

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