Packing to go offline

I’m getting ready to head up to the family cottage for 10 days of eating, drinking, and making merry. We don’t actually head up for a couple of days, but I’ve already started packing. Not my clothes (note to self: laundry!), but information.

The cottage is offline. Ten days with no email, no search, and no feeds. Ten days without access to the information that has become an integral part of my life. I’m planning on using much of my time to brush up on my php and learn a little javascript. At home of at the office, that would entail reading a bunch of blogs, downloading various bits of code, trying out new editors, and following tutorials. But offline it’s a whole different matter.

This exercise of loading up my laptop with weeks worth of content brings into focus just how caught in the net I’ve become. The web has become an extension of my brain. I no longer remember facts, but rather I track their source. I don’t keep client notes on my machine, but on a hosted web service. I don’t buy magazines anymore, instead I get the info straight from the source.

I hadn’t noticed just how dependent on the net I’d become. Interesting, and a bit scary.

Suffice it to say that things will be a bit quiet over here for a bit. I wish all of you the very best. Here’s to you and yours!

Pre-planning my resolutions

Having made the commitment to be more conscious of my habits, I see a number of areas in my life that I’d like to change. What with it being year end and all, it’s a perfect opportunity to resolve to do away with old modes of behavior, and to consciously create new ones.

In no particular order then, my 2006 revamp includes the following:

* continue to get up early – this has been a life changer. It’s ridiculously easy, and hugely beneficial.
* set daily goals – use that extra time in the morning before opening Mail to review my task lists and set short term goals.
* get off my fat ass. I’ve gained _way_ too much weight the past 2 years. The scary thing is, I’m getting used to it. Either I take it off now, or it gets much harder to take off later.
* play my guitar and piano

What about you? Anything life changing planned?

Daily Links – 12/19/05

Normally these would go on the daily links section, but what with delicious being down and all…

“Audrey Kawasaki”:http://www.audrey-kawasaki.com/paint.htm paints incredibly weird and pretty girls. Check out the studies section to see how masterfully she handles light. I’ve been wanting to get back into figure drawing for ages, and this site just gave me the impetus I’ve been needing. _Via “Drawn”:http://www.drawn.com_

My fellow 9rulers and all around smart guys at “Particle Tree”:http://particletree.com/features/a-guide-to-starting-your-business/ have posted a thoughtful, detailed piece titled _A Guide to Starting Your Business_. Lots of helpful information, especially for my American friends.

Darren Rowse has posted an article about one of my favorite topics: “Making money from your blog vs making money because of your blog”:http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/12/17/making-money-because-of-your-blog-as-opposed-to-making-money-directly-from-your-blog/

AAHHHhhhhh!

I’ve just run across a design that look *exactly* like a design I’m working on. I’m talking down to the same colours – different arrangement, but same pallet.

This is incredibly frustrating! This has never happened to me before, and I’m annoyed. The thing is, the design is very fresh – not derivative. I _thought_ I was doing new, original work. Ha!

Goes to show there’s no such thing as an original thought. Just a bunch of ideas floating out there waiting to be grabbed…

Update from The Blog Studio

Big changes afoot in The Blog Studio land. My last missive to you on this topic was about my decision to grow the company. That decision was based in part on desperation: I was way too busy, and didn’t have the capacity (both mental and physical) to deal with the stress single handedly. Living as I do in Toronto, with two little kids and a good sized mortgage, scaling back wasn’t really a viable option. So, with my long-proven history of total disregard for the consequences, I hired. And hired. And hired again.

It’s been a month now that all four of us been working away in my increasingly office-looking basement. And I can report that at this early stage, the experiment has been a complete and total success. We are producing some really great work, and doing it in an organized, efficient way.

I can take no credit for the organization. All of that goes to Lucia Mancuso, our Project and Business Manager. Lucia brings years of experience helping manage small businesses through frightening growth curves. Bringing her in house may be the smartest thing I’ve done in a very, very long time.

I’m able to once again concentrate on what I do well: design and business development. And to coin a phrase, I’m lovin’ it.

In addition to Lucia’s tireless work, both Mike Caputo and Richard Thomas are doing some really amazing work. Both these guys have shown remarkable growth in their abilities in a very short time. I can only look forward to working with them with excitement and anticipation.

We’re finally in a position where we can pop our heads up and take a look around. So much has been learned over the past few months. Now we get to apply those lessons and prepare for the future. We’ve got some very exciting projects slated to launch in early 2006, and are stoked for what the coming year offers.

Turning off auto break in WP2.0?

Ok gang, I need you help (again)! How the hell do I turn off the auto line break “feature” in WP2.0? If you glance at the code for the past couple of posts, you’ll find that there is a < /br > tag after each < /p > tag. I’m using the textile plugin (v2.6), and cannot do without it. For one, all the formatting on the past year’s posts breaks without it. I also am not a fan of the WP formatting toolbar, seeing as how it doesn’t work in my browser of choice and all.

I’ve found quite a few instructions on how to turn breaks off in wp 1.5, but the instructions produce nada effect in 2.0. So… anyone know?

Habit forming

The past three months have been amongst the most difficult days of my life. I’ve learned a lot – most of it the hard way. Mistakes were made, often out of exhaustion and good intentions gone awry. I’ve reached a point in my life and career though where I can look at my actions with a measure of objectivity. What I see when I look back is that I was totally unprepared for the onslaught that my company and I were about to go through.

Unprepared is a broad term. Not knowing the future, it’s impossible to be prepared for all situations (insert collective duh here). Even knowing the future, one may not possess the resources (financial or otherwise) to prepare adequately. That being said, I could have better handled the stress and pressure had I developed certain habits prior to opening the floodgates.

Habits are incredibly important, especially during periods of high stress. Habits come naturally – one needn’t think about a behavior that’s become habit – that’s what they’re all about. That being said, habits can be consciously set. Do something, anything, with regularity over a long enough period, and it becomes an ingrained behavior.

So what behaviors would I set in place, if I had the ability to go back 120 days? There are three in particular that stand out. All are incredibly easy, and incredibly helpful.

1. Write a journal entry every day. I initially developed this behavior years ago, after reading “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”:http://www.drawright.com/. Writing for 20 minutes to half an hour every day is possibly the single most powerful tool I have ever encountered. How’s that for a statement? I write with nothing other than the love of the *action* of writing in mind. My rules are these: I write with the specific intent that no one would ever read my words (ie there is no need for proper grammar, spelling, or even legibility), and I start each entry with no particular topic or direction. I just write what comes. And what comes is ultimately whatever is most important to me at that moment. Writing my thoughts as they occur, watching the stream of words flow from my fingers gives me perspective on the issues that doesn’t exist when the thoughts exist only in my head. I’ll write more about this in the next couple of days.

2. Wake up early. As my work load increased, I stayed up later and later, and woke later and later. Until it became a habit to wake at 9am and go to sleep around 2am. Just last week I made the decision to change this habit, and the effect has been pronounced. I’m getting up at 7 now, and my productivity and sense of well being has soared. I’m blogging again. And thinking again. I have a couple of hours to myself every morning to meditate, read, and set the tone for my day. After only a couple of days, I’m finding that 7 isn’t early enough. I’ll be setting the alarm for 6 tomorrow. It’s early, and I am *so loving it*.

3. Read. Go to “change this”:http://www.changethis.com. Print any one of the manifestos. Read a couple of pages before bed. Feel empowered. Rinse. Repeat.

These three changes are barely a week old, yet their impact cannot be overstated. Be aware that your behavior is mostly a series of habits. Know that you can change your habits by simply deciding to do so. And do it. More on this to come.

2006: Local blogs

My wife is a technophobe. Maybe that’s a bit too strong a word. She’s not _scared_ of technoloogy. She just doesn’t use it all that much. Until recently, she did her banking online and not much else. Now though, she’s branching out, starting to use the web to research topics of interest. And discovering blogs.

(Yes, I know the irony.)

The point is that her interests are mainly local – she’s a real estate and interior design nut, and is constantly researching the market. The *local* market.

Over at “Naked Conversations”:http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2005/11/predictions_for.html, Shel Israel has just posted his predicitions for 2006. His third prediction reads

After a few major metropolitan newspapers die, dailies will begin to understand that blogs are part of their solution, and will start incorporating neighborhood bloggers into their system.  These microchannels of news will be well-supported by local advertisers who will be thrilled to support these effrots over Google Local or static Yellow Pages. Why? Because these newspaper bloggers will be comprised of local people talking to their neighbors. What better way to reach such a community?

I couldn’t agree more. My wife is typical (well, hardly – but in this rare occasion she is). The point is that she doesn’t care what format the information is is: blog site, web site, print, or radio. What she cares about is getting _relevant_, _topical content when she wants to find it_.

It strikes me that one might be wise to investigate ways to aggregate local content. Off the top of my head I can see a couple of ways to leverage existing technology to create effective, profitable portals.  While it may be beneficial to partner with a local community newspaper in order to use their sales team and local marketing reach, I’m not convinced it’s a requirement for success. Their entrenched culture may make the concept of citizen journalists reporting on screen difficult to grasp.

Hmmmmm… Investors?