Twenty Topics

  • Posted on: 22 April 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

I had a great meeting last week with Joe Girard (http://joegirard.ca/) who is in the middle of a 90-day exercise of blogging every day. That’s really admirable. I look at what he’s trying to do and I think: I wish I could blog every day. In the last few years, blogging for me has been harder and harder to accomplish.

Why You No Blog?

I used to blog with some frequency. A number of things happened:

I got desperate.

Four years ago, I left rocky employment situations for self-employment situations. In the ‘oughts, I worked for one employer who ran their web design business like an accounting office. Their project managers were glorified sales staff. When I tried to enforce project management techniques (planning, speccing, change management) they threw tantrums.

I left there and worked for a really great place that was connected to a really weird industry. I am going to be purposefully vague, but let’s just say that there is a LOT of money in the field of poverty relief. My beef with the place was that I was forced to deploy bad solutions and then justify my decisions when the solutions went South.

I moved from there to a start-up where the salesman / president always said ‘yes.’ -- Is our software used in remote controls? Yes. Is it used to monitor heart attacks? Yes. Did the UN buy our software? Yes. I couldn’t take him writing cheques on the back on what he expected me to do. He considered the programming and design to be technicalities that could just be radically adjusted. I was fed up with the place. They were broke. When my cousin died, I took a breath and thought, “There is all the time in the world to grieve, but little time allowed to enjoy life.” I didn’t want to be lowered into the ground in 10 years after hearing people say, “he sat at his desk and coded until he died.”

I left there to open Those DeWolfes Creative-- or “re-open” as it is were with the ThoseDeWolfes.com idea having preceded the partnership by a few years. “Be your own boss” is a refrain I hear from people about to fail at their own business. When you step out on your own, every client is your boss. Each client makes his own rules and enforces them upon you with some success. Working for yourself is a pre-Magna Carta dynamic: slaves get fed, but entrepreneurs get no such promises.

I came into Those DeWolfes with the idea of getting my own products going. That collided with the reality: I need to earn a living while building a future. I have done 18 years of web development so I altered my plans to incorporate web design for hire. I’m living it, but I’m not loving it. As a solopeneur, selling interrupts design and vice-versa. The answer is to not sell, but sub-contract. I tried to align myself with places that got in too much work and needed people who could take on the designs. That cooks into a really disagreeable dynamic. You discount your work to allow for the parent to profit, but you have a rolling game of telephone going between the end client and yourself. An employer will pay you routinely and they will mask their financial woes. A parent contractor will get your discounted work and collect the money on a schedule you cannot control, then pay you. When I have contractors working for me, I expect a discount, but I keep a float and I pay them as soon as possible, often days to weeks in advance of when I see the clients’ money. That’s fair. What I got instead was a litany of experiences from people unready for business. At one place, the contractor wanted me to work on site. “On site” was amazing in its third-world qualities: no heat, intermittent plumbing, random electricity, dirt roads, occasional rats and a generous supply of alcohol. I didn’t drink on the job: that last piece would have masked all of the previous defects. Also: getting paid was a full time task of its own, The hunt-and-peck for income was so painful that I felt a lot of animosity and I brought that into the workplace. He broomed me at the end of last Summer and I was happy to see that end-- when I tried to quit, it didn’t take, so he had to pull the plug. That contractor, I believe, is effectively out of business. In the last seven months where I was not involved at all, he has entirely rattled apart in every regard.

After that, I worked for another business where the owner collected problems as a boat collected barnacles. He would fill up on surprise problems, then he passed the excess to others. I was often told, “I’m not getting anything to help this client, but could you take a look at it?” which implied I wouldn’t be paid either. In one month I was on continual speed dial that sucked down 300 hours of my time but only generated a discounted 96-hours of billables. If you try to smash 300 hours into 31 calendar days, you get an idea of what my month was like. Even then, when I submitted bills at the close of my work, I got a “whoa-- what’s this for?” --it was for the work I did and the bill is for what we agreed to, not for the massive amount of time wasting you piled on top.

As more of these dodgy prospects got onto my plate, I jettisoned what I could from my day: exercise, hobbies, relationships, blogging. They’re all mostly gone because I needed to keep money coming in. I am trying to achieve a balance: non-discounted billables combined with business building. Sob stories, dog chasing and barnacle accretion go on the clock. That is, I intend for there to be no sob stories, dog chasing or barnacles-- but should they occur, I am not paying for them.

I got positive (no, really).

A year ago, I kicked Mike DeWolfe to the curb. It was an uncomfortable meat suit to wear, so I did as much as I could to ditch and move on. Have you ever used a software application that just failed to work? Have you scratched that itch, uninstalled it and replaced it with something excellent? Largely, that's happened last year: same hardware, same data, better software. People still call me 'Mike' and that's my first name, so be it. Some people still call Russia 'the Soviet Union' -- habits are hard to break. The upshot is that I now try to address problems as soon as is practical. No more angst. I have made the resolution to be positive or pull the plug. I cannot say if it’s really empirically better, but it is more linear. One writer asked Cheryl to alter one of her reviews so that she didn’t hurt his ebook sales. She didn’t, so drama ensued. I weighed in and I made a funny t-shirt. He called that passive-aggressive (pro-tip: don’t use the phrase “passive-aggressive”-- just punch me or shut up). As soon as he was winging for a better review, he was done. I lost sight of the idea of “positive or null” for a while, but when I regained my senses, I cropped the relationship. I don’t want to hold a spot open for hatred and animosity, but I can put people and problems into null space.

The downside of positive: I was very comfortable being a grumpy old man. I would bitch and rail against so many things. Post-Mike-DeWolfe, I wanted this blog to be more positive. If I don’t have time, and if I don’t want to be negative, I end up with much less to blog about. The problem with problems: they still exist. I cannot go ahead ignoring problems, but I do want to proceed with a problems only if I can tack on a solid solution. If I cannot research a solid solution, I will not talk about the problem. Too many problems come without solutions and we wring our hands. I am refuse to make any problem bigger through my actions.

I got busy.

I spent two years working on i4, a property management software product. The sales have been tepid, so I have had to find other stuff to generate income. I started the car site, where-can-I-buy-a-car-online.com because I wanted to get something going and something I could control (no dog chasing). I was asked to help with a political campaign to help get a city councilor elected as mayor of Victoria. I was asked to help with the IFCon convention in 2015. I also wanted to write Wordpress Plugins. I have gotten so busy that I don’t have time to blog. I have so much to talk about and no time to talk.

I got Facebook.

I bet I have a capacity for 10,000 words (ie. a word is 5 characters plus one space) per day. Divide that between emails, chat windows, sassy Facebook comments and coding (aka my job). That takes all of the gas out of the tank when it comes time to blog. I don’t really like Facebook, so it’s easy to do much less with Facebook.

Can You Do The Blog Thing?

Can I blog? Even if i am resolute, life gets in the way. Clients will walk in catastrophes. I will get busy. I may get sucked in by Facebook. My challenge will be two fold: push back obstacles that get in the way of my daily commitment; and prepare 90 pieces for daily consumption. The fact that I cannot complete a novel, or do a daily exercise routine, or another routine speaks to me being susceptible to distractions. Let’s say that’s a problem that I cannot fix. What I can do: I can use technology. I have Drupal dialed in and subservient to my will. I am going to binge write. I am going to commit to creating eight posts per week. If I keep up to that goal more than 10 times in 13 weeks, then I will be able to generate daily blogs. I will write more than one blog post per day and push them into a queue of scheduled posts. If I end up falling behind on one week, I have a rolling inventory that will allow catch-up.

Joe Girard worked out a formula of how much time he needed to devote: 15 hours per week to prepare and research his pieces. Fifteen hours of a work week-- that’s a deal killer, so I’m not considering this to be 15 hours of my work week. I work on a blended life schedule, so it’s not 15 out of 40 hours, it’s 15 out of 98 hours. That’s an okay ratio.

What You Blogging ‘Bout, Willis?

I have no shortage of topics to blog about. My problem is that this wealth of topic material is what is keeping me away from blogging. What would I cover in 90 days? First I would cover topics in keeping with some simple rules:
  • it has to be positive
  • it has to be something that is interesting to me
  • it has to be interesting to others (one or more people)
  • it has to be something I can cover with some authority (innate knowledge or loaned opinion)

Topic areas:
  • Victoria politics (voter registration; how to vote; why you should vote; Lisa Helps and her run to the mayor’s seat).
  • Victoria issues (sewage, housing, affordability, transportation)
  • Programming (generalist stuff)
  • Wordpress
  • Drupal
  • TOGAF (we’re using the method in a project, so I might as well dish on my thoughts). What's TOGAF? Come on back.
  • Writing (about writing as a profession; about the writing projects I have on the go).
  • E-publishing (Kindle, Smashwords, self-publishing, etc.).
  • IFCon (what’s up with the convention set for October 31st, 2015).
  • Internet based business (Those DeWolfes, i4, Where Can I Buy A Car Online, other local businesses).
  • Using the Internet for publicity (Social media, smart sharing, inbound marketing ideas)
  • IndieGogo (I’m going to run an IndieGogo campaign for IFCon and then maybe do it for other projects).
  • Internet finds (yeah… I’m online too much…)
  • My weird projects (craft projects, DIY projects, woodworking, upcycling).
  • 3D Printing (I am going to crack that nut, eventually).
  • Cooking (I do like to cook).
  • Day trips (I can take photos when I take off to Nanaimo, Duncan, Vancouver, etc..).
  • Nerd life (TV series, movies, geek discoveries).
  • My life (The regeneration stuff, dieting, time management, living the blended life).
  • My cool friends (I have many cool friends-- do you want to be interviewed?)

Twenty topics with their various sub-topics means that if I write about five pieces on each topic, I can keep active for 90 days. I should have 90 pieces in me, right?

When Will This Start?

The answer is “now.” This is the first of the 90-days. Between now and July 21st, I intend to blog every day and publish something based on the medley of topics that I want to talk about. This exercise will get me re-acquainted with putting stuff "out there"-- thinking about topics and formulating ideas. The topics will be about ‘me’ -- but I am an aggregate. I’m a nerd. I’m an angry local. I’m philosophical. I’m business oriented. I’m disruptive. I’m a foodie. I’m a man in perpetual transition. From a perspective of concision, I’m all over the place. I have considered mixing and matching what I post and where I post it. One strategy was that I would post on my niche sites. If I’m trying to boil the pot, The niche site approach steps ten pots to 80 degrees instead of one pot to 300. So here’s the deal: I will publish here on my blog first, then I may republish what I have to say on one of the niche blogs. Maybe this will be the final draft of the first blog post, but I may take a topic, expand on it and put it somewhere else.

Will 90-days of that random shuffle be interesting? Who knows? You can be rest assured that I will blog about it.
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Last updated date

Saturday, May 10, 2014 - 14:30