It's one thing to have resolutions for the new year. I, for example, plan to lose weight, learn Python and design the perfect handbag. But since nothing satisfies like the quick achievement of a short-term goal, here are eight things every good nerd needs to to before the ball drops later this week.
These tasks comprise a quick to-do list that will leave you feeling competent and prepared for the decade that approaches. Also, you can play the condescension chip and start chiding friends who haven't checked off these items yet.
1. Edit your privacy settings and friendships.
Facebook's maelstrom-causing privacy changes have given quite a few of us a head-scratching good time trying to figure out just how much of our private lives are to be made public. Before the new year begins, take a look at your settings on sites such as Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, LiveJournal and any other places you might be sharing personal content to make sure what you display is consistent with the public image you want to project. As more recruiters and employers hit the Web in search of info on individuals, it's becoming ever more important to monitor and control our own identities. If you look back to the origin dates of some of your accounts, you might be surprised at what you thought was appropriate to share online in 2005.
Also, while considering what's private and public, take time to evaluate what a "friend," "contact" or "follower" means to you and what types of information you share with different groups.
2. Change your passwords.
Safety first, friends. Social web security threats in 2009 were sweeping and surprised more than a few users with spam DMs, hacked accounts and malware of all kinds. Check out the password management tools recommended by a recently high-profile hacker (scroll to the last few paragraphs); for free or cheap, they'll help you generate strong, random passwords and manage them from your computer.
3. Own your name.
I've conducted many a web search on many a professional geek this year, and I've been disappointed by how few of us have staked a meaningful claim to our online identities. If you haven't already, buy a URL - preferably one that relates to the name you use professionally - and make friends with Google. If you don't show up in the first results when you search for your name, get a crash course in SEO and ask friends to link to you. It's good for your social life and your career if you seize the opportunity to tell the searching world about yourself rather than relegating that responsibility to LinkedIn, Facebook or some weirdo with the same name as you.
4. Prune your feeds.
When going through your RSS feeds, do you find yourself impatiently scrolling more than you're intently skimming? Is your list of unread items becoming unmanagable? The end of the year is a perfect time to get rid of the content you're not reading and group the stuff you are. Take some time this week to organize, delete and add feeds, thereby optimizing your feed-reading experience. Try tools such as NetNewsWire's "dinosaurs" and "least attention" features that weed out unread or dormant feeds, and consider implementing tools such as Lazyfeed or Guzzle.it that can bring relevant results from fresh sources. And make sure the feeds you own are easy for others to find, too.
5. Find a better mobile.
If you don't have a smartphone already, chances are you'll desperately need one next year. And if you already have one, think long and hard about whether you're happy with your service, network and interface.
While you might not be able to run out and buy your dream device before 2010 rolls around, visit a few retailers, read some reviews and have your eye on a good mobile to purchase next year. Mobile tech keeps on booming, and you'll want to ensure a frustration-free year as new apps and OSes roll out.
6. Update copyright notices on your website.
Here's a simple, obvious and necessary reminder. Does your website currently claim a copyright year of 2007? While it doesn't put you on the foul side of the law, it does look a bit silly as we head into a new decade. The Next Web has a good bit of dynamic code for site owners.
7. Revisit your blog.
That poor, neglected old beast might be long overdue for a design facelift, a blogroll refresh or even just a few new posts. While you're at it, why not set automatic reminders to periodically bug you about posting in the new year? On a more mission-critical note, you'll also want to make sure you're using the most updated version of your CMS; not doing so can can lead to problems from broken plugins to getting hacked. And while you're at it, the year's end might also be a good time to consider switching up your CMS service altogether.
8. Back up your data.
Hacks and hardware failures happen. Before 2010, make sure as much of your data as possible is protected. From calendars and contacts to blog posts and work projects, more and more of us are relying on networks of servers and startups to keep us running. So, now might be a good time to download and back up files of LinkedIn contacts and WordPress posts - anything that's valuable to you and portable. Think of it this way: You - or at least parts of you - live in the Internet. If the Internet caught on fire, what would you grab to carry with you out of the blaze?
We hope this list helps you all get a few housekeeping items squared away in time for a great New Year's Eve filled with peace of mind and a smug sense of superiority over your fellow nerds. If you can think of any must-do year-end tasks, please let us know in the comments!