Textpattern v4 now available

What happened to versions 1 through 3 is beyond me. All I care is that it’s finally out of beta, and ready to rock.

Odd that I’d get so emotionally attached to piece of software.

Having used MT in its newer versions, WP 1.5, and “Textpattern”:http://www.textpattern.com, I can say with some confidence that TXP offers me the ideal mix of customization, flexibility, and ease of use.

The fact that there are hundreds of plugins available doesn’t hurt. Nor does it hurt that I can run a php script from anywhere in the site – on a page template, on a reusable form, or even from an article itself.

The upgrade from RC3 to 4 took all of about 2 minutes.

Wow. What else can I say?

Diva Marketing blog design goes live

Let the party begin! The new “Diva Marketing Blog”:http://www.divamarketingblog.com site is up and live to the world.

There are still a couple of niggly things to fix, but the main functionality is there. Still to come are a podcasts list, randomly loading quotes on the sidebar, and RSS subscription info.

As a side note, allow me to say that developing a site for TypePad is a *pain in the rear*. Their help system is very slow, republishing every time one makes a change is ridiculously slow, and when TypePad runs into an error, it doesn’t tell you what it is – it just says “sorry, leave a message so we can get back to you”.

When the help dept _does_ eventually get back to you (48 hour response time?!?), they provide the content of the error message. Their system is generating the error report, why can’t they show it to me? Launch of the Diva site was delayed by about a week while we waited for responses. In every case, it was a simple fix that I could have resolved in a matter of minutes instead of waiting for days to receive the content of the error message. *FRUSTRATING*.

But that’s all in the past. Or more accurately, mostly in the past. We’re still waiting to find out why the category pages aren’t displaying properly…

Business Blog Basics

The first bit of news I want to share with your is about a course I’m offering in conjunction with the fabulous Andy Wibbels of “Easy Bake Weblogs”:http://www.easybakeweblogs.com and “Andymatic”:http://www.andymatic.com fame. Our 3 session live phone-in course is designed to give the business person interested in blogging a good basic understanding of the terms, tools, and techniques of blogging for business.

The 3 hour course is ridiculously well priced, and a tremendous value. If you know anyone who’s contemplating this whole business blogging game, please let them know this thing is coming up soon. Details are available at “www.businessblogbasics.com”:http://businessblogbasics.com/

Mr. Robinson's Neighbourhood

A great big shout of “CONGRATS” to Keith Robinson on his weekend wedding.

While Keith is relaxing in Mexico for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be filling in at “To-Done”:http://www.to-done.com

I’m also going to try to finish a couple of the half written articles I’ve got waiting to go live here. I have another couple of ideas I want to share, and quite a bit of exciting news on “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com front. It’s been a wild couple of weeks, and it looks like the ride is just getting started!

Let's talk about estimating.

How do you do it? What tools to you use? Do you track your efficiency?

I’ve been using “Omni Outliner”:http://www.omnigroup.com/applications/omnioutliner to manage my estimates. I quickly list the steps required and the time I estimate they’ll take. It’s a pretty good tool. It’s light, super easy to use, and is able to perform addition.

But that’s it. Only addition, no multiplication. Which has me considering the move to excel. I’m a excel wizard. I can make a spreadsheet sing. But the software is soooo heavy. Even on my dual 1.8 g5 it takes *forever* to load.

What tools do you use? Leave a note in the comments, or create a link back to your own site if you write something up.

Applications I'd like to see

Ok code warriors, this one’s for you.

Seems that I have an idea for a new application or publication at least once a day. Some of them suck. But some don’t. I’ve been collecting a list of someday-maybe projects for a while now. Looking over them, I realize that there is *no chance* that I’m going to be able to make some of them happen.

I’m a pretty strong believer in the philosophy of helping others make money. In fact, that’s the keystone in my approach to life: help others achieve their goals, and riches (material, spiritual, physical…) will be yours. In that spirit, I’m going to start sharing these ideas here. There’s no catch. If by some freak occurrence I inspire you to tackle one of these projects, send me some link love. That’s it. Of course, you can always hire me to design the front end…

h2. So, first project is a relational mind map.

Are you familiar with mind mapping? It’s a technique for brainstorming that begins with a single word or concept, then branches out.

Here’s my super quick mind map for *cheese*.

Mind maps are very quick, very effective ways to explore a subject. There’s lots of software out there that can help you (in case you, you know, don’t know how to work a pencil). All the software that I’ve seen though lacks one major function: *group participation and meta maps*.

Imagine a web based app that allowed you to create and store mind maps. Now imagine that every word you put on your map becomes clickable. Clicking on a word will bring up a number of options: lookup in dictionary, lookup in thesaurus, lookup in google, and *lookup in the app itself*.

Looking back at my example, imagine you clicked the word England. Suddenly, a meta mind map, encompassing every other iteration of the word England *based on other user’s public maps* is available. What an incredible tool!

Additionally, one could search the mind map database to directly pull up previous mentions of a term. That term could then be used to create a meta map directly.

This would change brainstorming forever.

The data would become quite cumbersome, so some kind of relationship regarding frequency would have to be shown. Kind of like that fabulous site that showed the relationships between bands (I can’t for the life of me find it at the moment).

The business model could be either subscription based, ad based, or some combination of each.

I’m leaning on my “97th monkey”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/?id=73 status here. I think this could be quite big. I could be wrong. But I have a pretty strong hunch about this one.

The current blogging advice is wrong

Darren at ProBlogger”:http://www.problogger.net is running a series on blogger apathy. I think I may have helped inspire him (I don’t know, because he hasn’t mentioned it. I think he’s getting back at me for not linking to him in a “post”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/?id=153 he inspired a while back. )

The comments are where the action is at ProBlogger these days – which is not a swipe at Darren by any means. In fact its to his credit that he draws some bright people, that he puts a subject on the table, then gets out the way to let his audience flesh it out.

A recent comment on “this”:http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/08/04/declaring-war-on-blogger-apathy/ post (no comment permalinks, so I can’t link to it) hits on something I’ve been thinking about lately: blogging schedules. In particular business blogging schedules

The mantra for some time has been ‘post at least three times a week’. *I think that’s wrong.* Here’s why:

* It doesn’t take a site’s goals into considerations *at all*
* It inevitably produces burn-out
* The pressure to post can produce guilt and stress
* It can lead to posting for posting’s sake (ie crappy posts)
* It can water-down the value of your blog
* It can seriously scare potential bloggers off getting started

I want to look at this last point for a moment. Let’s assume that your regular readers are subscribed to your newsfeed (a safe assumption?). I put it out there that new readers landing on a series of weak filler posts are less likely to stick around and subscribe to your site than if they were to land on a strong post.

I’m taking the stance that your regular readers will continue to be your regular readers whether you post once a week or once a day. They read you for the quality of the content, not the quantity.

I think the quantity game is a dangerous one for a business blogger.

Now, if your business *is* blogging, it’s a different scenario. Your goals will be to get maximum total exposure. A blog talking to an established or niche customer base (say, like a designer talking to potential customers) will be less concerned with adsense click through rates and more concerned with earning and keeping happy clients.

More to come on this.

9rules.ca

We canucks seem to be taking over 9rules. Many of us always suspected our take over of the US would be via our highly superior beer. Now it seems there might be another way…

Not that I’m keeping score or anything, but Canadians on 9rules include

* “Lisa McMillan”:http://www.lisamcmillan.com
* “Jonathan Snook”:http://www.snook.ca
* “Sara”:http://blog.splashdesigngroup.com/
* Me

They might be able to keep our beef out, but they’re powerless against our mighty blogs! HA HA HA ha ha.

Looking for SEO service – with a catch

_Updated Thurs Aug 4: Thanks to everyone who’s emailed me. It looks like this need has been taken care of, once again thanks to the ridiculous effectiveness of the blog world._

Anybody know of an SEO firm or SEO practitioner who’d be willing to exchange services?

“The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com is in dire needs of a little google love, and I’m up to my eyeballs.

If you know anyone who may fit the bill, please send me an “email”:mailto:peter@flashlightdesign.com or leave a note in the comments.

Thanks!

Entrepreneurs R US

I’ve been having an ongoing discussion with a couple of folks regarding how hard it is to make a living as a freelancer. Sure, there’s money to be made. Lots of it in fact. But with rare exceptions, as a freelance worker, you need to be sitting at your desk in order to be earning.

This is hardly revolutionary news to anyone who’s ever worked for themselves.

Just about everyone I talk to is fast turning into an entrepreneur. We’ve got web 2.0 programs in development, new services on the whiteboards, books to write… Looks like need really is the mother of invention!

This outpouring of creativity is just so inspiring to be around. It warms the cockles of my heart to see my fellow web-o-naughts exploring the boundaries of our craft in an attempt to free ourselves from the shackles of ours desks (ahhh, the dream).

I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire, and I bet you do too. Which leads me to wonder about the business of design. Or more specifically, the business of web based businesses.

When I was in business school a decade or so ago, there wasn’t any talk of web based business. There _wasn’t_ any web-based business. No doubt I could go back and take a course or two (note to self: not a bad idea). But what with the 14 hour work days and all, it’s kind of tough.

Other learning options include good old fashioned books. A google search for “web based business” book (quotations used in the search) returns 74,800 matches.

Seminars are valuable too. I’ll certainly be attending my share – just as soon as I’m not so desperately house-poor. Note to readers: when your contractor says “Thirty to forty thousand”, laugh out loud and double it. See “this”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/index.php?id=23 post for more reno tips.

I’m betting there’s a bunch of designers/developpers out there who would read and find value in a site devoted to running a design or application related business. I’m talking about the nuts and bolts of paying taxes, finding a merchant account, comparing banks, etc.

What do you think? Is there value in this idea? What kind of information would you like to see? What format (blog, wiki, regular site, etc)? Does this kind of site already exist?