Posts From November 2007
Right now I am downstairs in my living room listening to Christmas music — which seems to sneak onto the radio a little bit earlier every year. As if the station that plays Manheim Steamroller first, wins? Next year they’ll be jingle belling right after the 4th, and by ’09 “All I Want For Christmas Is You” will be the #1 song for Valentine’s Day.
There is something about the holidays that always puts a thought into my head to just quit everything I do that involves a computer and get a job as a carpenter or bank teller. I like to muse on what my life would be like if I worked a normal 9-5 and only got half a dozen emails a week. What if I canceled my cell phone and got a land line with a tape-recorder answering machine?
Well, none of that is happening any time soon, but still, I thought about it. And that thought led to another, as thoughts usually do. And I thought about what things were like before I began to pursue a part-time job as a freelance designer. And that led me to thinking about my life before I owned a Mac, and that led me to thinking about what I was doing four years ago… I was a professional drummer. Seriously. I played drums for a living. (Technically I still do, but it’s different now than it used to be.)
Four years ago my band and I were finishing up our first studio album, and for some reason I needed a hi-res JPEG of the cover art. And that led to the first interaction I ever had with a professional freelance print designer.
This guy and I connected right off the bat. And after I got my Mac and began to learn design he was a mentor to me. He happily endured the wretched looking CD covers I thought were so awesome as he picked out exactly what I had done wrong. He helped me see why my design looked like an 8 year old had done it…in Word…during an earthquake.
Today my friend is still a freelance designer/phtographer, and he is still incredible at what he does. We hang out often and he continually has new work to show me. His designs are always clean and spotless, and his photo shoots are consistently stunning. But, like so many other freelancers, he is struggling for business.
I’ve asked him a few times if he’s ever considered blogging but he gives me the “nah…” with the hand wave. It’s not really for him he says.
Though I certainly don’t know everything about how life and business and self-employment work, I do have a fairly confident opinion about the worth of weblogs.
Blogging has virtually nothing to do with being old fashion or not, and everything to do with selling yourself to artists, musicians, corporations and everyone else who may need a designer living on every continent on the planet.
In an interview with Michael Lopp, Brent Simmons says –
The main thing is: if you donâ€™t have a weblog, I probably donâ€™t know you, and I donâ€™t have an easy way to get to know you. If you have a weblog, Iâ€™m either reading it already or I can read it and look in the archives a bit to get a sense of who you are. Itâ€™s kind of like if we all lived in the same small town. The people who have weblogs are like the people who make a point of going to Main Street at least a few times a week. They go to the barber shop, the grocerâ€™s, the lunch counter â€” they get out and talk to people. If you donâ€™t have a weblog, itâ€™s like you live on the outskirts of town and have all your food delivered and you even have people come mow your lawn so you donâ€™t have to go outside. No matter how big the web gets, it will always be a small town because thatâ€™s how you interact with it. You canâ€™t help but make your own small town out of it. As your body is to your physical presence, your weblog is to your web presence.
As a freelancer you can’t afford not to publish a weblog. Here’s why:
Step outside your office from the comfort of your own home
Publishing a weblog is a way to meet new people who know things you don’t.
When I started publishing my first site a few years ago I was totally blown away by how deep some communities went. I was shocked to find people blogging in all sorts of niches and focuses. By writing my own articles about various nerdy topics I quickly met others who were like minded and who had input and ideas into things I had no idea about.
By connecting with others and reading other sites within the online design community I am constantly encouraged, inspired, mentored, and strengthened as a designer. I’ve learnt things I never would have otherwise, and I’ve avoided mistakes and blunders that I totally would have fallen head-long into.
Oh so much more than business cards
Publishing a weblog is like putting your business card and resume into the hands of ever person in the world who uses the internet to find a designer.
This is word of mouth on a global scale.
The possibilities are endless. There are many people looking for a designer. And even though they don’t know you, if they find you through the referral of someone they trust, they are pretty likely to at least contact you, and who knows if they won’t hire you?
A weblog is different from a static website
Continuing in Brent’s analogy that publishing a weblog is like showing up on main street and hanging out with others. You shake their hands and ask how their kids are doing. You become a familiar face.
Yet if all you have is a website with some java-script to display your portfolio it’s like nailing flyers up on the light poles and then waiting at home by your phone.
Flyers are helpful but they are much less effective than actually being in a conversation with the local florist where you discover she needs a new logo and are able to offer your services.
Publishing a weblog is like having a resume with personality.
Those flyers may be on fancy card stock with fantastic typography, but they will never beat a smile and a good joke. By publishing a weblog where you share your experiences, obstacles and victories in design you are opening up your personality to those who may want to hire you. Having a weblog makes you a real person. And real people get hired every day.
Location is less and less important these days
What with the internet and all.
Consider your time spent setting up and then publishing your blog as part of your global advertising campaign.
Possible names for your Leopard Time Machine backup drive other than, though not necessarily better than, “Time Machine” –
- “H.G. Wells”
- “Imemay Achinetay”
- “The Wardrobe”
- “Wyld Stallyns”
- “My Own Personal Way Back Machine”
If you’re looking for some new websites which are hand picked and recommended by yours truly, then look no further.
I thought I’d share the RSS love by saving 22 feeds from my subscription list into an OPML file. Some are long-time favorites and some are newer to me, but look promising. I didn’t export all my feeds; I left out a few of the obvious ones.
And feel free to send me some of your favorites.
Once you qualify for Rapid Rewardsâ€™ A-List, you are entitled to reserved boarding privileges for 12 months, which means that Southwest Airlines will automatically reserve a boarding pass for you 36 hours prior to each of your confirmed Southwest Airlines flights to ensure you will receive the best available boarding pass prior to the start of regular checkin.
I fly southwest about once a month (which unfortunately is not enough to qualify), and getting onto the “A” boarding group is becoming a competitive sport.
I don’t remember the last time I clicked on an “Ad by Google”. Or any ad for that matter. I just glance over them, not even considering them as part of the website. Maybe one day I’ll sell some ad space on here, but that’s not my point.
I noticed that I have also become similarly desensitized to RSS feeds. I used to subscribe to every site I came across that even looked remotely interesting. I found out I start getting headaches at 85 and then my brain just explodes somewhere around 100 feeds. Now — in fear of brain damage — I am weary to subscribe to a new feed.
A good rule of thumb for RSS subscriptions is that when you sign up for a new one another has to go. I mean seriously, what’s the point of having five-million subscriptions if all you’re going to do mark all as read and move on? Unless that’s the only way you have to feel like you’re doing anything; “I hit spacebar five-million times today. Proud of me?” No.
What you need to do is be honest. Assess how many feeds you can handle without feeling overwhelmed and being able to enjoy what’s being written. Subscription numbers are not like weights in gym class. You don’t look cooler when your you’ve got a lot.
My perfect number is right around 65. (Feeds, not pounds.)
Much more than that and I start skipping people. Much less and I feel like I’m missing out on something. Also, 60 is a good number because 50 of those blogs don’t update every day. They only update a few times a week.
Let’s do some math: 50 sties, with new content every other day = 25 new articles a dayâ€”assuming they alternate perfectly (which they do). However, several of those sites only write a couple times a week. So … carry the one …. I have about 30 sites presenting new content each day. 10 of those are news/links that I scan to see make sure California didn’t fall into the ocean. Which leaves me 20 sites to read. Only 10 of which I am most likely to find something good on. Now let me explain some more…
When I subscribe to a new article it goes on the bottom of my sites list. My sites list is always changing. When I find myself reading a blog more frequently I’ll bring it up a bit in the list. Then up, and up until eventually — if I never deleted anything — my favorite site would be on top with my least favorite on bottom.
Right now I have it divided into two groups: 1st and 2nd. It would take a lot to remove the 24 blogs in my “1st” list. I’ve been reading these guys for a while and find that the ration of “worth reading” to “meh” is above average.
The bottom sites (currently at 26) are being tried out. I usually keep a subscription for at least a month or two. Wanting to give a good oportunity to connect with the writer. If they update waaaaay to much then I’ll probably drop them. If I find myself regularly skipping their articles then I’ll drop them.
On an aside: I hardly every drop a subscription because of lack of posting. I would prefer that you wait until you have the time and energy to write something good and funky than write lots of bland nothings.
At the moment, I happen to have some headroom in my subscriptions. And while I like to think that I’m open to new sites, the truth is I’ve got this darn stigma about RSS. I glaze over it like a text link ad.
Something I love to do that is incredible dorky is watch a small website’s feed stats go ape after their site hit the Digg homepage. The day before they got traffic there was 24 subscribers. The next day there will be 450. By the end of the week it’s down to 38. But lately, I’ve seen the trend change: now it only goes from 24 to 57. That’s 393 new people that are desensitized to RSS like me. Who knows how many more there are.
But RSS is Really Simple. You can subscribe and then un-subscribe any time you want.
So hey — I’m willing to subscribe to a few new sites and give them a try. Why don’t you? Heck, you can start with mine…
P.S. Ultimately, I wish more people would dive off deep and start to write their hearts out. I want them to turn on their computer, log in to the internet and start writing about something they love. Telling stories and opening up their view of life and why the world is beautiful. They don’t have to be artsy-fartsy with their words while useing fancy-pantsy lingo and sounding all cutesy-wootsy. If they would just let ‘er rip, I know there’d be some quality content. And that is precisely what I would subscribe to.
Rands’ article, “The Nerd Handbook”, was the talk of the web over the weekend. And rightly so. Thousands of nerds were completely wierded out at how well they were pegged by Rands while laughed their heads off at how well they were pegged by Rands.
No doubt many of you are new to Rands in Repose, and you may not realize that he’s been writing fantastic articles for years. Well, here are a few suggested readings by Rands from me for you to enjoy before Monday starts:
I weblog all the time. When Iâ€™m not at the keyboard, Iâ€™m sitting in the car bouncing ideas around. When Iâ€™m stuck in a meeting, Iâ€™m taking the primal commute ideas and crafting them into outlines of articles. I weblog all day. You should to.
In Mac OS X, you vote with your Dock. Currently, other than internal applications necessary to get my job done, the only application in my Dock that Iâ€™ve chosen to put there is NetNewsWire.
My Cave is my intellectual home. My kitchen is where I eat, my bed is where I sleep, and my Cave is where I think. Everyone has some sort of Cave; just follow them around their house. It might be a garage full of tools or a kitchen full of cookware, but there is a Cave stashed somewhere in the house.
I did a clean install of Leopard on my Mac Pro and my PowerBook. On the Mac Pro I did erase and install, wanting to do a clean port-by-hand of all my data and clean installations of my apps. On the PowerBook I put in a bigger, faster HDD and so I had no choice but to do a clean install.
The outcome: No blue screens, but all my passwords were blank. Keychain Access deleted all of them (passwords only, not the login names) after I ported my old Library Prefrences. Additionally, Keychain refuses to remember them. They stay blank.
I have been entering the same passwords over and over every time I want to connect to my home wireless, check my email or news feeds. Even my ftp favorites in Transmit.
I discovered Jason was having the same problem, and his solution was pretty basic: delete the login keychain and start over. A good start, but I have way too many needed passwords to just start over.
I basically took Jason’s advice and added one more shortcut at the end. Here’s what I did:
- In my user’s ~Library/Keychains folder I dragged “login.keychain” onto the desktop. Removing it from the original folder, while keeping a backup just in case.
- Opened the Keychain Access app and created a new keychain (File > New Keychain) called “login”.
- Opened up my pre-Leopard backup, and went to ~Library/Keychains and copied “login.keychain”.
- Went back to Leopard’s ~Library/Keychains folder and pasted the “login.keychain” file from the pre-Leopard backup.
On my PowerBook all password were restored. Interestingly though, on my Mac Pro everything but Transmit’s ftp Favorites were restored. A simple “Export” from my PowerBook and “Import” on my Mac Pro solved that.
UPDATE: Obviously my workaround is a bit funny. Before you go deleting things, and if you’re getting a “Keychain “name” cannot be found to store “sampleitem”” message read this workaround from Apple. (Thanks Mike!)
Quicksilver build 5300 doesn’t play well with Leopard. The icon stays in the dock and in the tabbed-through-apps list. Also the auto update doesn’t work. And quicksilver.blacktree.com is down. Sooooo…. if you’re having trouble with Quicksilver in Leopard go to the blacktree homepage and download the latest version right from there, and replace your old version.
On a similar note, Spotlight and Finder are definately much faster, but after about 5 minutes I knew there was no way Spotlight could replace Quicksilver. There are too many “learned” shortcuts and custom key commands.
Before I left for Canada two weeks ago I began an article about my workspace. Literally entitled “The Elements of Style”. A book that has put me to sleep on more than one occasion. Probably because I read it when I’m tired – not because it’s borring. Interestingly enough I came back home to find two articles with the same title. I say this partly to qualify my title as original, and mostly to say that great minds think alike.
I have no intention to list the common elements in my design because, honestly, I don’t think I could list 5.
Instead I want to share how I’ve set up my home office.
Having my office setup in a way that helps me relax, think and work has taken a while to figure out. My home office is my favorite room. It is so much more than just “where I work”. It’s my room. My wife gets the rest of the house – I get the office. And I’m content with this arrangement.
I think that when people work at a desk in an office all day every day they become very acute to how others set up their desk and manage their workspace. Especially when those working are designers, writers and developers – who by nature of their chosen profession greatly appreciate detail and excellence.
For the first 21 years of my life I can count on one hand the times I had a clean room and a clean desk for longer than a week. My room was always dirty growing up and through college. Even when I finally would clean I wasn’t actually cleaning. I was more or less stuffing things into drawers and under the bed. (I know you know what I’m talking about.)
But over the years I’ve changed and now there are few things that delight me as much as a tidy room. So after several years of saving and thinking I finally transformed my home office into a place I look forward to spending time in. A new computer. New desk. New floors. New paint. And a great big new smile when I walk in the door.
And now to the point … there are three main elements that make up the personality of my office and the style of my workspace –
- A Working Inbox/File System and a Place for Everything
- A Clean Desk
- A Good Computer
A Place For Everything
They say with a good filing system you should be able to find any piece of paper within 10 seconds. I doubt that. But I’m confident I can find something within 2 minutes.
It’s not just paper that needs a place to go – everything does. and that is surely the reason things pile up and don’t get dealt with. Back when I didn’t know where to put things they ended up just anywhere. I was too indecisive to just put a system in place. But no siree. Not anymore. A few years ago I realized it was time to just put things somewhere and keep to the pattern. It was easier than I thought and makes all the difference in the whole world to keeping a clean work space.
For me, finding a place for everything to be kept was basically a “I guess I’ll do it like this” decision. But then comes the follow through. It takes about an extra minute or two when I come home and an extra minute or two at the end of my day to make sure everything has been put away. That is very little effort I think for the huge benefit of having things out of the way and in a location that I can find them easily. And it sure beats the things-are-so-dirty-I’m-about-to-pull-my-hair-out-so-now-I’m-putting-everything-on-hold-until-I-clean-this-ginormous-mess approach.
For filing incoming papers and mail and receipts I have three inboxes above my desk. The top one is for urgent paperwork – such as bills, letters to read, and the like. Second is an inbox for not-so-urgent paperwork, and the third is a temporary storage space for current design projects I’m working on.
(See crummy picture below.)
A Clean Desk
This is the desk I had pictured in my mind all along but never knew existed. I seriously (though not literally) stumbled into it at IKEA when I was visiting Minneapolis one weekend.
What I absolutely love about this desk is the way it’s laid out. With the corner spot to hold my monitor and keyboard there is a nice empty work space on the left for me to read, write or use my PowerBook. With my old desk I had to move the keyboard and mouse over and out of the way to have space to work on anything else. Now I just swivel to the left.
Keeping my desk clean and free from clutter is a must. I have an extremely difficult time concentrating when there is unnecessary paperwork sitting around. And by keeping a clean desk it’s always ready for big projects that need to be spread out.
A Good Computer
Buying the Mac Pro as my primary work machine was a fantastic decision. Not only does this machine blow every computer I’ve ever used right out of the water, but it makes my time on the clock so much more productive. I spend about one third the time waiting on the beach ball as I used to.
And the 23″ Apple Cinema Display is awesome. In a cluttered office I could have gotten by with a cheaper, less beautiful monitor because it would have blended right in with the other random items. But on a clean desk the ACD looks amazing. Worth every penny. And we all know that a larger monitor means better productivity…
[I wrote a much more comprehensive write-up on the Mac Pro back in July when I first got it.]
- The Walls: This was my biggest decorating challenge. To each his own – and for me, finding the balance of artwork, shelving, and empty space was a massive task. Some people thought my wife did all the decorating, but no. It was me. I think it came out pretty well. When first painting I was weary of the color. But my sister made a good point. She said a new color of paint is like a new haircut. You’ve got to look at it for a few days before you know if you like it or not. So I went ahead and painted and the color came out great. Warm enough to make the room feel comfortable. Light enough to make the room feel bigger. And neutral enough to not interfere with my design-work. Something else I love are the dual wall-mounted shelves above my desk. I made sure to bolt them in there real good to avoid any renegade shelfs trying to body slam my monitor. The only thing I would do differently is lower that top shelf by about 3 inches. I’m only 5’8″ and it’s a bit too high of a reach for me to comfortably get things from up there.
- Lighting: A room with good lighting is a good room. I have a window. A ceiling fan and a desk lamp. One of my favorite times to work in my office is at night with nothing but the desk lamp on. It’s naturally inspiring for reading and writing.
- Comic Book Collection: I was a pretty avid collector growing up. And I still keep them available in a wooden crate.
Austin Heller’s Interview with Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater Software and MarsEdit – the desktop blogging software that is blowing Ecto out of the water. There are some fantastic questions from Austin. Conducting a good interview over email is a lot harder than it may seem.
As a writer and a designer the biggest challenge I face is to create something of substance. The issue isn’t so much what I’m writing about or advertising, but what I’m actually saying.
For instance, suppose I’m designing a poster for a conference: In a few months that conference will be over, but the printed poster will still be around, and (hopefully) the imprint it left on those who saw it will be too. I have an opportunity to impact those who see the poster.
And of course the same goes for an article I may write.
It’s not that every project I design or every article I write will, or should be, impactful and moving. Sometimes you’ve just got to get information across or you just want to write something off-the-cuff, or you just want to design something cool. But when I am trying to create something substantial in design or through writing I want to touch the hearts of people. That part of them which wants to love, live and succeed in life. If I can somehow give people courage to pursue those things — even a little bit — then to me, I’ve created something substantial.
Glenn Wolsey on Supporting Developers (Namely the Iconfactory Developers) –
I donâ€™t have a problem paying for an application to support the developers, regardless of if it was originally released freely or not.
I remember when I switched to Mac. It was primarily for professional reasons: I was getting into graphic design and audio production. I realized that freeware often just doesn’t cut it in the professional world. Programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Ableton Live and Pro-Tools are worth the money.
And developers that offer programs like Twitteriffic which help you avoid what you’re supposed to be doing on those expensive programs are worthy of being supported.
My wife and I have been in Canada for the past week. We are with a group of 16 from the International House of Prayer doing the final regional conferences for 2007.
We were all in Winnipeg last weekend and we are now in Calgary.
Internet has been very limited and my iPhone has gotten the week off. AT&T international service prices are a joke. All my friends on Verizon paid about $9 and got their national plan turned into an international plan for the month. I would have had to pay $4 to get a slight discount on the per-minute charge. So instead, I just turned it to airplane mode and have greatly enjoyed being disconnected.
Something I have always teased my Canadian friends about is the “eh”s. But being here for the past week I’ve actually come accustomed to the phrase. It’s a freindly conversational word that invites feedback when talking.
We watched the Calgary Flames lose to the Red Wings last night at my first live NHL game. Quite a different experience from the Broncos games I grew up going to. NHL hosts a quiet and relatively un-enthusiastic crowd.
Something else that has been great about this trip is spending Canadian money. Everyone here will be happy to tell you that the Canadian dollar is now worth more than the American dollar. But spending Canadian cash feels like I’m not really spending money. It has this you’ll actually take this and give me something in return? feel.
And of course I have to mention Tim Hortons. Timmys. Timmy Hos…. A Double Double on the double please.