Entries Tagged 'Personal' ↓

Thanks for Offering to Guest Blog or Advertise, But…

Once again I’m blogging on a topic I’ve previously spent much time covering in email replies. So rather than compose that email reply yet again I’m blogging it for today and for future reference.

TL;DR

Thanks for offering to guest blog or advertise; forgive me though but I’ll have to decline.

Or, If You Want to Know Why:

First, thanks for offering to write a guest post here on my blog, or to pay me to advertise here. I’m honored. But pursuing either of those opportunies is not consistent with my purpose for this blog.

I Blog for Myself

While I do obviously blog, I don’t consider myself an active blogger and I intend for all posts on MikeSchinkel.com to be written by me. My blog is for:

  1. My opinions when I get inspired to attempt to persude on a topic,
  2. To write posts about information I want to remember or refer back to later, or
  3. As in the case of this post, to refer people to read instead of writing the same email reply repeatedly.

I’m Not Interesting in More Blog Traffic

I don’t add content to this blog with a goal of generating more traffic, except for when I’m trying to persude and then only from those I’m trying to persude.

I’d Prefer to Have Fewer Comments to Answer

Plus I’d prefer to get fewer comments rather than more because each comment I get generates a “todo” which if I’m going to answer should be answered in a timely fashion. Even though a guest post wouldn’t require writing on my part, I would have a follow-up obligation to answer comments on the post should the author not, since it’s my blog. These would all become “urgent” todos even though they would almost certainly not be important in the grand scheme, they would still compete for time with my “important” todos that I constantly struggle to find time for (see urgent vs. important.)

For Me, Integrity Trumps Ad Revenue

As for advertising, if I started including advertising then people would immediately assume my goals for this blog are to generate revenue and that might call into question any position I might take on the blog; i.e. was I being paid for my opinion? Since my integrity is far more important to me than any small amount of income I might get in ad revenue I say no to any and all advertising on the blog portion of MikeSchinkel.com.

Including One Means Others Will Expect It Too

Let’s say I allowed one person to guest post or allowed one advertisement on my blog. As soon as I did I’d open myself up to be asked constantly to allow it to happen again, and then I have to craft a personal reply explaining why I said “yes” before but “no” to them. Better to just always say “no” and then nobody’s feeling gets hurt and I don’t have to spend time explaining.

Guest Blogging Begets Confusion

Although this may not apply to other blogs, my blog doesn’t have a design that would make it clear that a guest post wasn’t written by me and people might assume I wrote it. Worse, if the guest post was controversial people think I wrote it could result in a negative fallout for me. But the most obvious thing likely to happen is simply that people will start contacting me in comments, on Twitter or via email for clarification or to offer more guest posts, and that would all translate into more unwanted “todos.”

Bottom Line: I Appreciate the Offer, But No Thanks

And yes I know I’ve had this domain for over a decade and yes it’s probably got traffic and Google visibility that a site launched on a new domain today would covet, and some people see that as a waste of opportunity. But it’s my blog and that gives me the option to choose what gets published here. And I’ve decided I want to keep it non-commercial and only include posts written by me.

I thank you in advance for your understanding.

Who Do You Recommend to Design a WordPress Website?

Here’s an email I got a few days ago from someone I met at a Meetup about 6 months ago:

Hi Mike,

I have a friend looking for setting up a non-profit website and they want to use WordPress. I was wondering if you’d be able to help with this, or if not if you know of someone you can recommend who does WordPress website design? My friend needs mostly graphics work, but also need help setting up their WordPress site. They already have the logo and the content. Their budget for this is around US$1000.

- Thanks!

Déjà Vu

I get an email similar to the above about once a week on average. It seems I’ve become branded in the eyes of many people in Atlanta as "The WordPress Guy" even though I don’t do what most people think of when they think of "People who do WordPress"; i.e. I don’t design nor do I build WordPress-based websites[1].

<sigh> :)

Pay it Forward

But when someone asks for help I really do want to help.

I’d never fault anyone for not knowing that I’m the wrong person to ask. And I also wouldn’t fault someone who doesn’t know how much it costs to hire a WordPress specialist; if someone is not a immersed in the web world how could they know?

No More 1-off Emails

Still, I’ve written a response to this type of email more times than I care to count. Speaking of, a few days ago a blog post by Eric Mann inspired me to stop replying long form to emails and to start writing blog posts instead.

So here goes.

A Custom Website Design for US$1000?

Let’s talk about that US$1000 budget. In the Atlanta area we have over ten (10) Fortune 500 companies and as a result we probably have over 100 digital agencies, all directly or indirectly serving those large companies as well most of the midsize companies in the area. Good graphic designers are in high demand here, and they are used to being very well paid. I’m not sure, but I expect the same is true in most major US cities as well.

For US$1000 it might be reasonable to expect to three (3) design comps for your future website’s home page. But it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a quality designer to generate a custom design for an entire site, encode the design into HTML+CSS, convert the code it into a WordPress theme, install WordPress at a hosting company, research, select and then install the various WordPress plugins needed for the features desired, and finally configure everything, all the while taking input from a client who is likely to constantly question aspects of the implementation. All for only US$1000.

And the previous paragraph assumes you can even find someone with the skill to do all those things rather than needing to find a team or to assemble a team of different skills to build the site.

Of course you might get really lucky and find a student from SCAD, Creative Circus, Art Institute, or Portfolio Center who would be willing to build your website for US$1000, assuming your student has already worked extensively with WordPress as a hobby.

So like I said, you might get really lucky…

What Should My Website Cost?

But what price is reasonable to expect?

Those who build WordPress websites know the "How Much?" question can be a landmine. Quoting a price too early can get a WordPress sitebuilder into hot water. I’ve seen WordPress websites cost between free – self-serve at WordPress.com – and US$500k or more. How can a site builder know how to price a website prior to fully understanding its requirements?

Price really depends on both what the client needs as well as what the client wants/expects. And the latter is rarely consistent with the former. For example, does a divorce attorney’s website really need a Flash-based header showing storm clouds, and lightning strikes on hover?!? (yes, that is an actual client request, no demand, that I heard from one of my friends who is a sitebuilder.)

WHICH IS WHY I LOVE this website price calculator:

It was built by Erik Wolf who runs ZeroG Creative. It walks a wannabe website client through a series of questions that help the prospect understand some of the things can affect price and by what magnitude.

Here are some of the questions:

  • "Are you planning on hiring a designer/firm?"
  • "How many people will be involved in the decision-making process?",
  • "Will your website require eCommerce?",
  • "Will your site require social media integration?", and
  • "Will you need a dynamic photo gallery that you can update yourself?".

Depending on the options selected Erik’s price calculator generates prices between US$500 and US$16,500, where for $500 you basically get a site and theme installed, nothing more. And for small business websites I’d say that’s pretty close although frankly I’d expect more like US$1000 and US$25,000.

What About Non-US People?

Note those prices above are for US-based WordPress developers.

And yes, you can pay significantly less to have a WordPress site built by someone outside the USA. But it’s also possible that you will pick the wrong person and that person will either not deliver or will deliver something that doesn’t match your expectation after your entire budget has been spent.

Offshoring can work great for certain type of projects if you have the luxury to pay to try numerous people to find the one that really meets your needs. But if you have only enough budget to try one person, your taking a big risk with your money. And you’ll have no recourse if they fail you.

So caveat emptor if you hire your web developer off Elance.

Agency Projects for Large Companies

By the way, if you are trying to determine the cost of a WordPress website for your Fortune 500 employer expect that your site will cost between US$100k and US$500k.

Why the huge difference in price between small business websites and large business websites? In a word, "Expectations."

More specifically, because of their collective need to see exhaustive design variations, their need to allow your numerous stakeholders to control and approve every detail, their insistence that unrealistic deadlines be met, their expectation that every aspect is perfect upon first preview of features, their desire for constantly scheduling unnecessary and unproductive meetings, and their IT department’s insistence upon using a hosting company that has no expertise in WordPress and no desire to learn it.

But I digress.

But Do You Really Need a Designer?

Considering the budget of US$1000, maybe a "Website Designer for graphics work" is not really what is needed. Maybe what they need is a what I like to call a "Site Builder."

A Site Builder is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, with respect to WordPress. This is someone who can setup a web host, install and configure WordPress, select an off-the-shelf theme and tweak it to incorporate the logo, and finally add and configure various plugins to add functionality such as email signup forms, social media integration and optimization for SEO.

To further illustrate the difference between a Designer and a Site Builder I roughly categorize WordPress skills as one of these where many people having more than one (1), but rarely more than two or three:

  • User/Author (Content writer)
  • Layout/Graphic Designer (Photoshop)
  • HTML Coder (HTML+CSS)
  • Themer (WordPress Themes)
  • Front-End Developer (Javascript/AJAX Developer)
  • Back-End Developer (PHP/MySQL/Plugin Developer) <– This is me
  • and finally Site Builder (Installs/Configures/Adds a Theme and Plugins)

So for a US$1000 budget I think it’s realistic to find a US-based consultant who can deliver a basic website, assuming the client understands the limitations of using off-the-shelf themes and plugins, i.e. but no custom design and custom PHP or Javascript code. It’s a lot like buying a car; you might not like the wood-trim dash but if you chose a model that only comes with a wood-trim dash, that’s what you get.

Other WordPress Specialties?

I tend to want to make my lists exhaustive, so in that vein I might as well list these specialties too, for the record:

  • eCommerce Specialist - Expertise in online retail and payment processing
  • SEO Specialist - Optimizes for search engines
  • Security Specialist - Reviews code for security holes
  • Performance Specialist - Helps developer improve performance
  • Hosting Specialist - Configures servers for high scalability

What are Off-the-Shelf Themes?

Yeah, I threw that bit of jargon in there when I mentioned Off-The-Shelf Themes. If you are not familiar with this term it refers to packages of design and code that you can purchase from 3rd party vendors that, once installed will update the look and feel of your WordPress-based website.

In it’s 10 years WordPress has spawned a large number of commercial theme vendors, more than 100, although the vast majority of themes are probably sold by 10 or fewer vendors.

Look for an Existing Theme.

If you need a website and your budget is small I’d recommend you surf the main theme vendors websites to find a theme you could envision your future site using. If you can find one that meets all your needs, your low budget website might just be able to be reality.

The following list are the theme vendors I know the best, in alpha order (if you are a fan of another theme vendor feel free to list in the comments.):

But Don’t Expect Significant Changes

Please do realize though it is very difficult for a Site Builder, Graphic Designer or even HTML Coder to make more than trivial changes to the look-and-feel of an off-the-shelf theme without a huge expense. Themes can be very complex beasts and it often takes as long for someone to learn how to modify someone else’s theme than it does to create one from scratch.

So please don’t put your Site Builder in the position of having to explain to you why your "simple change" is really a very time-consuming and labor intensive task (that they will have to bill you for, if they will even agree to do it.) Instead, have them explain to you what is easy and what is hard and then only ask them to do the easy (and inexpensive) things. Your willingness to appreciate their efforts will keep them wanting to service you in the future when you need additional support.

Finally, Who Do I Recommend?

So who do I recommend to build your WordPress-based small business website here in Atlanta? Frankly in good faith I can’t recommend anyone. Why? Because I’ve never worked on a team building a small business website before so any recommendations I would make would really just be me telling you who I know.

That said, I can tell you who I know that specializes in building WordPress websites, in the Atlanta area. Here they are, listed in order of how well I know them (note: I believe all of these have minimum fees higher than US$1000):

There are a lot of others I know outside of Atlanta, but most of the requests I get are from people in Atlanta and thus I’m listing those I know who serve my local area.

And yes I know, it’s a potential faux pas for me to create this list as I’ve most certainly forgotten someone; if it was you who I have forgotten please accept my profuse apology and leave a comment with your contact information below.

Friends, Family or DIY?

Finally, if you or your friend cannot find a WordPress specialist to build your website within your budget, maybe you can find a friend or family member who can help? WordPress powers almost 20% of the web so that means you probably already know a friend of a friend at least who has set up their own WordPress website and can help you get your site going. Ask on Facebook, maybe?

If you are a non-profit, as above, maybe you can find someone passionate about your non-profit’s mission who knows how to set up a WordPress site; they might be willing to work for significantly below market rates.

And if all else fails, do it yourself. It really is possible for a reasonably intelligent person with moderate computer skills to install and configure WordPress; it just takes a bit of stick-to-it-iveness and lots of Google searches to figure out how to do it and launch it yourself.

Anyway, hope this helps.

-Mike Schinkel
WordPress Platform Architect

Footnotes:

  1. Instead of designing and building small business websites I architect and build products based on WordPress for software companies and agencies. I call myself a "WordPress Platform Architect." My focus is very narrow and as such I don’t develop the experience needed to build websites for small businesses. I can’t help select a theme and I don’t know which plugins work best. And I’m as far from being a designer as any web person has the potential to be. But if you want to use WordPress to implement a complex site and need a specialist to architect if for your team to then perfect, I’m your guy.

25 Best Practices for Meetup Organizers

Meetup.com LogoI’ve been organzing meetups in the Atlanta area since January 2007.  Over that time I’ve organized over 50 meetup events, they’ve typically achieved average ratings of 4.5 of 5 or better, they’ve typically had 50 or more people attend, I’ve helped at least five (5) other people launch their meetup groups, and the member list for my original meetup group has grown to having more members than all but one other business-focused meetup group in the Atlanta area. During that time I’ve learned a bit about what it takes to be a good meetup organizer.

Recently someone asked me yet again for advice on how to grow their meetup so I decided this time to blog about it. Let me give the caveat that this is what has worked for me and for my type of meetup but it might not be perfect for yours. My groups have been focused on web/startup/marketing/tech and so I don’t know what works best for a mom’s meetup, for a hiking group or a singles club. Still, people are people and I’m sure anyone organizing a meetup can find something of value here. Here they are, in no particular order (some I fail to do consistently though I know I should; sometimes life just gets in the way):

  1. New organizers always try "to get input from everyone." From experience I’ve found that to be a waste of time. Find two (2) other people and form a planning team. Map out 5-6 topics, possibly starting with a "101" meetup and build from there.
  2. Meet quarterly with your planning team to plan so you always have 3 events on the calendar, more if possible.
  3. Do listen to feedback, but don’t wait for feedback before moving forward. Most people just want to attend meetings, few actually are willing to contribute a significant effort on a consistent basis even if they say or think they will. If people promise to contribute expect they will not follow through until they have proven otherwise.
  4. As much as possible be the catalyst and facilitator, not the featured speaker at every meeting (people will get tired of you if you do.)
  5. Schedule 3 to 6 presenters for a monthly meetup (more than 6 works if it’s a workshop and they are there to provide expertise.) It gives multiple perspectives and it keeps you from having failed meetings from building anticipation for a meeting, having lots of people show up and then only to learn that your featured presenter’s "kid got sick" so they decided to cancel.
  6. Do your best to get people from outside the people who usually attend your meetings to present. There’s the old saw "Familiarity breeds Contempt" (i.e. "I don’t need to attend to hear them talk; I know them already and can talk to them whenever I want.") Bringing in outsiders also makes people aware of your group that might not normally seek it out or attend. If they have an influence base such as on Twitter they will promote your group because it promotes them.
  7. Only ever schedule a person to present to the group once per year. If you frequently schedule the same people to present your members will think "I’ve already seen them, I don’t need to see them again." That means be sure to get them to talk on the topic where they are the best sui have the most bang for the buck since a lot of people will jump at any chance to present and you really want to get them where they will shine.
  8. Post a meetup page for each meetup event that includes links about the people who will be presenting including their Twitter account and a short bio. I like to link to their LinkedIn page for consistency, and also link to their company. Be sure to include an evening agenda so people can see when it starts and when it ends. Here’s an example meetup page that has all these things.
  9. Set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page. Always tweet and post about your events in advance and to thank your presenters/participants afterwards. 
  10. Set up a Twitter hashtag for your meetup group (i.e. @StartupAtlanta and #OnStage.)  Give people a handout at each meetup with the account, the hashtag and all the presenter’s/participants Twitter accounts and ask your members to tweet about the event.
  11. Send out emails in advance of your meetups that are hand formatted to look different from the one’s send out automatically by meetup as people tend not to read those. Here’s an example notification email.
  12. Send an email out about the most recently meeting and reminding them about the next meeting and thank the people who participated/presented.
  13. For my groups I have focus mostly on featuring local people for our regular meetings but when nationally known people are presented I make them special events. Some organizers always try to get one national calibre "rock star" for their events, and that works for them. Pick what works for your group.
  14. Keep vendor influence to a minimum; keep it about the people attending.
  15. Run a meetup only if you really want to help people and/or build a solid community and not if you’ve just got the idea "Hey I can sell my services to this group." The latter can be a serendipitous result but it’s painfully clear to practically everyone who might attend that if your motivations are to sell them (almost) nobody will want to attend.
  16. Pay it forward, focus on what’s good for the group and the community you envision building, not what’s you are hoping to get out of organizing
  17. Shake up the format. Have presentations, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, etc. The topic should make the format obvious. For workshops, recruit lots of helpers. Don’t over worry about format, try a bunch of them, communication will happen ad-hoc (suggest Twitter or make a Google group), and let the topics you pick determine the level of competency. The more detailed your topic announcement the more likely you’ll get the right people.
  18. Don’t be afraid to ask anybody to present. I’ve never once been turned down except for people simply not being available at the given time.
  19. Look for ways to hold joint meetups with other groups that have cross-over. (Beg meetup on their forums to more easily enable shared meetups.) If possible take the lead in these joint meetups and get people to RSVP at your meetup group’s page (if possible, and at least until meetup enables shared events.) If you do these frequently you’ll all get lots of benefit and you’ll grow your group.
  20. Charge for meetings, $5 to $10, starting with your 3rd meeting (assuming you are gaining momentum.) If you don’t charge more than half of your RSVPs will be no-shows. If you charge, only between 10-30% will be no-shows.
  21. Be aware that many of the people who attend your meeting early on will start attending only sporatically as their lives evolve. That’s normal and don’t take it personally.
  22. Don’t try to do too many different groups. Unless you are able to make a living from organizing meetups, which is a potential but a really hard way to make a living, it’s really hard to do more than one well, two at the max. I’ve made that mistake and I’ve recently pared back to two with a potential to phase out of one of them in the near future assuming I can find the right people to take over.
  23. Find a good place to have meetings, not a restaurant unless its set up for meetings in a special room. This is the hardest part. Look for a local coworking space like Ignition Alley. A college or university may also be very open to hosting community meetings as Georgia Tech has been for some of my meetups. 
  24. As for location, you’ll need to decide what works here. In Atlanta you’ll find a bulk of in-town people and a bulk of "up 400" people, and then everyone else is scattered. Pick one and let someone else do the other (you can’t please everyone, so don’t try.)
  25. Finally, set a consistent date, time, and location. Always have it there so people can get used to it, and if at all possible, never cancel a planned meetup or many people will loose faith in your ability and stop RSVPing for your events.

Well that’s about it for today. I’m sure I missed a few of my own "best practices" and I’m sure there are a ton of other’s I have yet to uncovered but these should get you started.

If anybody has other suggestions please give your best practices in the comments. Be sure to mention your group(s) and how long you’ve been organizing,  and include links to their pages on Meetup.com.

WordPress, Finally!

It’s been a really long time since I last blogged, and it’s all because I got totally fed up with my old blog software and vowed never again to blog until I replaced it with WordPress. Well as you can guess getting around to replacing it took far longer than I planned, but now it is finally here! I’ve still have other non-blog related things that were housed at my domain I still need to fix such as this but now that the domain is switched over to WordPress I’ll have a bit more urgency to get those fixed. I look forward to rejoining to ranks of the blogging community. 

What’s more, a lot has happened since I last blogged so I have lots of things to blog about in the coming weeks and months. Of course I have plenty of billable work that needs to get done so for all those of you who are waiting with baited breath for me to blog (LOL!), future blog posts won’t be coming as fast and furious as I’d like but at least with the new blog they can start to trickle out.

About me and Xtras, Inc.

Logo for Xtras.Net
Logo for VBxtras
Logo for Xtras, Inc.

A little history about me. In March 1994 I launched Xtras, Inc. as VBxtras, Inc. VBxtras was a catalog/mail-order reseller of 3rd party components and tools for developers using Visual Basic versions 3.0 through 6.0. I later changed our brand’s name to "Xtras.Net" as an Internet reseller of 3rd party components and tools for .NET developers, especially VB.NET and C#. During the time I ran Xtras it was recognized in 1999 as #123 on the Inc 500 which is Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the USA. That is a recognition for which I am still very proud.

NOTE: I wrote this blog post because I want a URL I can reference in the future whenever I want to mention Xtras and provide some background about it but without constantly repeating myself! I may also update this post from time to time if I realize I need to add and/or clarify something about what I wrote.

A New Blog of Mine: Thoughts on Salesforce.com

Last week I mentioned I had several new projects on the burner, and one of them is my blog about Salesforce.com:

Thoughts on Salesforce.com

Starting a New Chapter in Life…

Those of you who follow my blog are aware it has been a long time since I’ve last posted. Some of you already know what has been going on in my life, but most of you don’t. For those of you who do not as well as the rest of you it’s time for me to fill you in. 

But let me start with some background. Back in 1994 I founded Xtras, Inc. (then as VBxtras, Inc.) and I proceeded to grow it like mad. Then in 1999 Inc. Magazine honored us with their award for fast growth, placing us as #123 out of 500 on their Inc 500 list. It was a wild ride and I loved almost every minute of it!

Probably the best part were the people who honored me by working for Xtras during that period. I’m going to name a just few of them; the ones who contributed something so critical that Xtras would possibly have never succeeded had each of them not been involved (I’ve linked to their website or blog if I was able to find one):

Without each and every one of them, Xtras would never have reached the levels of success that it did. They helped me fulfill a dream; I thank them so muchl.  But there were also many other fabulous people who worked for Xtras from 1994 on, and I value every last one of them too. So if you dear reader are any one of them, please accept my thanks and forgive me for not mentioning you personally; you were very much appreciated.

In addition, there are also many fabulous vendors/catalog advertisers that Xtras dealt with during the VB3/4/6 heyday (1994..1998) when there was so much energy surrounding the Visual Basic industry. There was an almost all-for-one-and-one-for-all kind of feeling in the industry during those early days, which unfortunately does not exist in the Microsoft add-on vendor community now. To find something similar, sadly you have to go to the Web 2.0/Ruby on Rails crowd to get the same vibe.

Back then it was the people that made it so great, back before everyone started guarding their vested interests, back when it was Sheridan Software and Crystal Reports, not Infragistics and Business Objects, for example. Back when we were all about building an industry together. So I’m going to name the names of the people I remember, but there’s a good chance I’ll screw up and forget somebody because there were so many more people involved back then. So here goes, with links to their current blog if I could find one, including their company at the time (and the company it became if applicable), with links to whatever companies still exists. In no particular order, of course.  And anyone that’s forgotten, I apologize in advance:

Anyway, about the same time Xtras’ growth spurt peaked (around 1998/99; Xtras having been underfunded, I might add), the dotcoms boomed and, as I’m sure everyone remembers, VCs threw far too much money at companies without business models, none of them having being Xtras. This led to Xtras’ stasis; our inability to grow Xtras’ business and for the next six, we just operated pretty much doing the same thing over and over, day in and day out. Of course I wanted us to try new things, but we someone never managed to have the resources, and/or I could never manage to rally the troups.

So in May 2006, I left Xtras. I left to decompress and to clear my head. After a little over twelve (12) years of running Xtras I made a deal with one of my shareholders to buy my stake in the business and now Bill Kaylor has taken my place as president of Xtras. I wish them luck, but at this point I have no involvement and absolutely no financial interest left in Xtras. Of those twelve years, the first five (5) were some of the best years of my life, and last seven (7) were some of the worst. Be that as it may, plenty of fodder for future "lessons learned" blog posts. Although I have been working a little since May, I’ve mostly been catching up on things I neglected for so long, including renewing old friendships and cultivating new ones.

But now that I’ve had a short breather, I’m ready to leverage both my 19 years of business and marketing experience and my 21 years of technical/developer experience to pursue exciting new ideas and to once again work with the bright, enthusiastic and highly motivated people that make work so much fun. But you might ask why leaving Xtras will allow me that? 

The plain fact is a reseller like Xtras has a high number of customer transactions, is capital intensive, runs on low margins, and is held in pretty low esteme within the industry. In the early days we published a printed catalog which was the guide for the industry, but the Internet and Google replaced the need for that, so we devolving into being "just a reseller." After many years of metaphorically banging my head against the wall I realized it was virtual impossible for me to devote the time, find the funding, and/or gain interest from the people needed to form the loosely-coupled business relationships.that work so well to pursue the incredible Web 2.0 opportunities that are presenting themselves today. So it was better for me to just leave Xtras in other’s hands and start anew.

In what areas do I want to focus? I want to improve the world! I want to make things and life better, faster, cheaper, easier! Heck, if I could devote my life to world peace with 100% certainty, I would do that!  I have several projects in mind, some are for profit and some I have absolutely no profit motive whatsoever. For the latter I want to be a catalyst just to see them happen as I believe my doing so will improve some aspect of an industry or of life in general, depending on the project. And for almost all of these projects I want to work collaboratively with partners, anywhere from a loose open-source collaboration to jointly-owned companies.  And I will be able to be far more open and share my ideas on my blog unlike the past five-plus (5+) years as I won’t have the constraints on me that I was under while president, CEO, and fiduciary of Xtras.

So I am idealistic, but I am also pragmatic. This time I want to make sure my ventures are cumulatively far more profitable than Xtras was during my tenure. I’m not twelve years more experienced, and hopefully twelve years wiser. I want to accomplish my idealistic goals, not just dream about them. But I’ve learned the world does follow "The Golden Rule," just not the one they taught about in Sunday school. I’ve learned it is far better to be the one holding the gold otherwise you get stuck following someone else’s rules. :-)

For those of you who are interested, stay tuned to my RSS feed. I’ll be posting more about my upcoming adventures shortly.

As Rip Van Winkle Re-Awakens…

Okay, so you may have noticed that my prior blog post was a really, really long time ago.  Why?  Well….

We hosted my blog on a server here in the office. I made the mistake of not mirroring the hard drive on that server.  My net admin made the mistake of thinking that server wasn’t important enough to back up.  Hard disk crashed.  You get the picture….

So I paid $1500 to recover the data (that server had other websites on it too), and my blog sat there on CD until just earlier today when I thought I really should resurrect it.

Why didn’t I do it sooner?  Well, I kept thinking I would get around to implemented .TEXT and move to it, but every time I tried I couldn’t get the [email protected] thing to work.  I’m a developer, not a net admin who understands security contexts (I don’t.) 

Then today, I spent over 1/2 the day trying to get it dasBlog to allow me to post, even upgrading to the newest version.  What was the problem?   "NETWORK SERVICE" hadn’t been given rights on the directory.  Grrrrrrr!

So there.  That’s why it’s been down so long.

Hopefully it won’t happen again. :-)

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The Wonders of a Stress Free Lunch

I just finished blogging about my mini-vacation weekend riding motorcycles in the north Georgia mountains with my father, but I decided to split it in to because this was logically seperate.

After we left Suches, Georgia on Sunday around 1pm, we traveled south to Dahlonega, Georgia to meet Kathleen Dollard who had scheduled to have lunch with me after she arrived in the Atlanta airport. Luck would have it that she wanted to go hiking in Clayton, Georgia for a short time as she had spent time there when she was younger, and you can get to Clayton by driving in the direction of Dahlonega from Atlanta. After that, she was headed to South Carolina for a consulting gig.

Whenever I’ve seen Kathleen in the past it has always been at conferences where she was speaking, and I have typically been running a trade show booth which meant we were both always stressed.

On Sunday when my dad and I met up with Kathleen, I wasn’t stressed at all (I had just had an awesome weekend) and she didn’t appear to be either. We had a great long lunch, discussing things that interested all three of us, and I got to know here even better.

Kathleen is a great and brilliant lady, and I am honored to count her as a friend. If you don’t already follow her blog, consider subscribing.

Getting into the Zone

1989 Honda NT 650 Hawk I don’t blog too much about my personal life but this weekend was too great to stay silent.

My dad is an avid motorcyclist. At 65, he still rides one of his several motorcycles whenever it’s not raining. Though he has a newer one, his favorite is his 1989 Honda NT650 Hawk, a V-twin.

Growing up with a father that loved motorcycles, I naturally gravitated towards them, and as a teenager I actually raced motocross for several years. And I have fonder memories of racing and all that went with it than of almost anything else in my past.

But with college and then starting a business I let motorcycles slip away for over 15 years. Then in early 2001 with some massive business uncertainties causing great distraction for me, my father talked me into attending the 2001 Atlanta bike show. There I fell in love with a KTM Duke, which I never purchased because it was too expensive, but I did soon get a Suzuki SV650. I kept the SV650 for a little over a year, then I sold to pay off debt to improve credit scores for a condo mortgage. The following January I went to the 2003 Atlanta bike show to see the new Suzuki SV1000. There instead I fell in love with an Italian; the Aprilia RSV Tuono 1000cc V-twin, which I purchased the next month:

What’s the Tuono like and why did I buy it? For those of you who know bikes, no need to explain. For those of you who don’t, you wouldn’t understand anyway. :-)

Back to my dad’s Honda Hawk: the Hawk is a bit of a "cult" bike, so much so there is (at least) one major Honda Hawk website, several mailing lists for Hawk "Listers," and they have rallies many times a year at different locations across the USA. For the past three years I’ve attended the Fall Eastern Hawk Rally with my dad which has been held at the T.W.O. Campground in Suches, Georgia which is located in the North Georgia mountains. This year’s Fall Eastern Hawk rally ran from Thursday September 23 through Sunday September 26.

The prior two years I had many worries related to my business, and though I went, I was far too keyed up, did not really get to know many people, and did not have the best time. I left late and returned early. Still, I went to spend time with my father. This year was different. I left with my father on Thursday at noon, and that evening we went for a short ride. The next two days we rode what those who attended the rally yet traveled from as far away as Maine and Wisconsin said are "the best motorcycle roads in the country" (meaning the roads in the Georgia/Tennessee/North Carolina triangle.)

The next two days my dad and I went on different rides; I with the faster group and he with the more laid back group. The leader of my group for both days was a road racer, but he is also very smooth and level headed. During those two days, what I learned from him improved my street riding skills immensely!

Did I break any speeding laws? Mums the word…

On Sunday we had breakfast, packed up, and said our goodbyes after the group photo:

As we drove south towards Atlanta, we pondered the question as to why we each enjoyed riding motorcycles. Other than the obvious; shared enjoyment of a common activity, his reason was he enjoyed getting away; it didn’t matter where he was going, just that he was riding.

My reason was very different. When I raced motocross, I did so because I wanted to prove to myself I could accomplish something that was very difficult for me; to win the race. Though I got many 2nd through 5th place trophies over those years, I rarely won. Typically it was because I knew at least one of my competitors could beat me. At every prior race, I had been keenly aware of myself and my limitations. However, on this particular morning after practice my father asked how I thought I would do; I told him that I could beat everyone in my class, and I believed it.

A motocross race is comprised of two "heats" per class where class is usually engine size and skill level (i.e. 125cc A, B, and C; 205cc A, B, and C, etc.) The trophy winner is the one with the lower score. Ties are broken by the better scorer in the second heat. Thus a 3rd and a 1st would loose to a 1st and a 2nd, and a 1st and a 3rd would loose to a 3rd and a 1st.

My first heat on this day had my leaving the starting line 3rd. I slowly passed 2nd, and then 1st, and then I proceeded to add many bike lengths to my lead. I came in 1st that heat.

My second heat someone next to me on the start lost control and almost knocked me over. I entered the first corner with more than 20 racers ahead of me. That point forward until I crossed the finish line was lost to me; immediate after the race I didn’t remember a bit of it. My father had to tell me about that heat after it was over. He said I passed two or three bikes in a corner up until the checkered flag fell, and I was one bike length behind the leader; I came in 2nd that heat. Unfortunately because I started so badly, I didn’t win that heat.

But the winner of the second heat came in third the first heat. That gave me the win; I got the 1st place trophy. I had, for the first time in my life won a motocross race. And it was also the first time in my life I had been "in the zone."

Amateur racing is a community, and though you compete, you gain respect for the others and everyone I knew came up to congratulate me on what a great race I had run. Unlike any other time in my youth when I would have killed to be the center of attention, that day I didn’t need to be. I appreciated they acknowledged me, but it didn’t matter because I was completely at peace with myself. I had won the race, and I had done it with many odds against me given the lousy 2nd heat start.

That was also the first, and (by the way) the last, "perfect" day I have ever had.

So back the question: "Why do I enjoy riding motorcycles?" I ride because I want to get back in the zone. Last weekend in the mountain, after two full days of learning while riding behind a very good rider, I rode State Route 180 at full clip. I was riding at my edge and high on adrenaline, but I never felt out of control. I felt like I was back in the zone.

Well, I wasn’t completely in the zone, but I did get close. It was an awesome weekend.