Tumblr Theme Development

Going to be doing a little bit of front-end development of Tumblr themes, so I thought I should probably resurrect things over here.  Looks like I’ve somehow accumulated a pile of photo posts that I may have to go through and weed out a bit.

Web Directions “North” (Time for a Canadian Solution?)

As a previous attendee of Web Directions North, I received an e-mail today about what’s happening in that conference series:

Over the last year or so, we’ve been looking for a location that will be home to the sort of event we really want Web Directions to be – an event that brings together folks from all over North America, and indeed the world, and showcases the latest technologies and techniques, the latest know-how.

We’ve been looking for a city that’s easily accessible from just about anywhere in North America. A city that doesn’t necessarily get the attention, and events, that some other cities get. A city with a thriving, exciting web scene, and a city that’s got a lot on offer over and above our event.

In Atlanta, we really believe we’ve found that city. Midtown Atlanta, where the event is held, is a thriving, diverse community, of restaurants, cafes, nightlife, and more, and home to Georgia Tech, one of the world’s leading technology focussed schools. Loews Hotel, the venue for the conference is brand spanking new, only opening in April this year. And with the busiest airport in the world, Atlanta is a direct, affordable flight from almost anywhere in North America (and beyond).

To capture the essence of this new home, Web Directions North is now Web Directions USA.

When Web Directions North (WDN) was first announced, it was a major thing.  Prior to WDN, there were no general web conferences in Western Canada.  There are WordCamps, and Drupal-specific things — but nothing that focuses on the basics, and remains platform agnostic.  It’s been a while since I looked at it, but there were a few tech conferences in Eastern Canada, and definitely a ton of stuff going on in the eastern US.  There’s SWSWi in Texas, and the odd thing or two down in California.

There’s An Event Apart in Seattle now (I don’t *think* it existed then), which is probably as close as we’re going to get to a Northwestern conference.

So what?

Why does it matter where a conference takes place?  Who cares if it’s in Vancouver, Denver (as it was last year), or Atlanta, Georgia?  The speaker lineup is what matters, right?

Ultimately, it doesn’t.  If budget is a concern, look for conferences closer to home.  The thing that made Web Directions special, though, was that it was in the Pacific Northwest.  The fact that it was north of the border was nice too, it’s nice to not have to deal with the random security measures at the US border.  Even Americans visiting Canada have an easier time of it than anyone having to cross into the US.

There is a huge tech community north of California.  Portland, Seattle, the Microsoft stronghold and Vancouver are a hotbed of tech/web.  Why would you leave that?  I was disappointed when they moved to Denver because we lost the Canadian “magic”.  I thought it was probably the hassles of the Olympics that drove WDN out of Vancouver in 2009.  I guess I was wrong.  I briefly lamented the additional travel costs, but would have made it work for the right speaker lineup.

Maybe it’s time…

A year or two before Web Directions North was announced, there was some conversation amongst Canadian designers and developers about growing our own web conference.  Maybe the time has come for that again.

Let’s get a little show of hands if there’s any interest in bringing the tech back to Vancouver (or an alternate city?)

Slowed momentum

Man it’s hard to keep going on projects sometimes.  I’m still waiting on approval of my merchant account (of course they don’t work weekends).  Does it honestly take two weeks to approve and set up a payment gateway and merchant account?

The most frustrating part is that I’m operating at a loss on a couple of services, even though they could be break even or even profitable – I just can’t get paid for them.  It bleeds over into other services though; I just started working on Brainfile, which I’ve been putting off for years.  I won’t be able to launch it to the public for free though: the operating costs would just be too high (bandwidth and storage).

I realize that’s a bit cryptic.  The idea behind Brainfile is that it is “micro version control” for collaborating with others.  Subversion, Git, Mercurial are all pretty technical, and not necessarily something you want to set up and learn just to be able to collaborate on that research paper, or work with your assistant on those quarterly financials.

Slowly trying to get things together

It’s not that things have been in shambles, but things haven’t been as optimal as they could be.  Similar to how I work on projects, I’ve been trying to progressively enhance other aspects of life/work.

Running/fitness has been going pretty well.  I seem to be able to stick to a once every couple of days schedule, but have slipped a couple of times when the weather has been particularly bad.  I was supposed to run this morning, but I had a really poor sleep last night and I’ve been feeling a bit off all day.

I’ve moved most of my blogs and such over to Tumblr.  It’s not that I dislike WordPress, in fact I miss it on occasion, but I just can’t be bothered to maintain the installs and migrate my old data.  Flyingtroll.com has been live for several years (I seem to think I started in 2003, but it might have even been before that).  The earliest entries I’ve got kicking around are from when my oldest son was born.

I need to put something a little more solid up for Industry Interactive, but I just haven’t been satisfied with any of my efforts so far.  I may take another swing at it soon.

Let’s get longer

Hey, long time no “actual post”!

The downside to piping my twitter account into here is that I feel less of an urge to actually write a post.  Here goes though!

There’s no single thing that’s really noteworthy these days.  I’ve been quire busy with client work, and slowly moving Mailmanagr along.  The feedback I’ve been getting is great, and there really doesn’t seem to be any opposition to introducing a freemium type of plan.

I’m hoping that I’ll have some other exciting business-related stuff to report on soon, but it’s too early to talk about that yet.

I saw my first daffodil out on Edith Point when running this morning, so spring is in the air.  I’m really looking forward to getting out kayaking, and doing some of the longer hikes with the kids this summer.

Victoria/Gulf Islands Co-working

So after searching in vain for a year for any sort of co-working opportunities this side of the Straight, one of my friends on the island asked me today if I was interested in the idea.  From what I gather, Victoria just doesn’t have any good space for this kind of an idea.  I thought that the idea would be impossible here too, but said friend pointed out a great possibility.

There’s a few folks on Mayne Island, probably enough to make this work, but are there folks in Victoria and area that would consider hopping a ferry to come co-work with us on occasion?  Ferry costs are about $20 round-trip for an adult with a car (you don’t pay for the Mayne to Victoria leg, only the trip over here), even less if you’re on a bike/walking on.  The location on Mayne is walking distance from the ferry terminal; probably about 20 minutes (10 if you’re on a bike).  It’s located right in the townsite, close to the bakery and the pub (for refreshments).  We’re also looking at doing an onsite cafe for your caffeinated needs.

Monday to Friday, there are six ferries daily from Swartz Bay, and five return ferries to Swartz Bay. So it’s entirely possible to put in a full day of work, and hop a boat home.

Obviously there are other factors at work, like what it would cost (which we haven’t worked out yet), but assuming it was fairly reasonable, is there any interest from Victoria people to come co-work on Mayne Island?  Hit me up at jonathan dot lane at gmail dot com if it sounds like something you’d do occasionally.

Of course, don’t mean to exclude other Gulf Islanders, or Vancouverites – by all means if you want to join us too, give me a shout.

Being flexible for clients

I’ve been looking at ways of expanding operations, and moving into a few different lines of business lately.  It’s probably my undergraduate degree in Biology at work, but I think that the healthiest companies are those with a range of products and services (as well as clients).

So, with that in mind, one of the local areas I’ve been looking at is real estate (not becoming a Mayne Island land baron, but rather doing some work for Realtors).  The with this area is that there is no denying that the real estate market is hurting nationally right now, and so Realtors aren’t as flush with cash as they used to be.

So how do you pitch doing work for someone that is feeling very risk-averse?  It’s easy really, deliver a quality product, and be flexible on payment.  In the case of Realtors, they don’t get paid for their work until a sale is finalized, so it’s risky for them to invest large amounts of money in marketing a property when it’s coming out of their own pocket.

Enter your flexibility.  I am definitely not a proponent of doing work on spec.  But in this case, I don’t think that doing work any other way would be appropriate.  Why not offer Realtors a “no money upfront, just a percentage of your commission” arrangement?  Sure, you’re shouldering some risk: if the listing gets pulled, or some other catastrophe happens, you haven’t been paid yet, but if you spread your risk over a range of listings, I just don’t see it as being that bad.

I’m working on something along these lines now, I’ll keep updating as things progress.  The initial reception has been good, next comes the pitch.  More to come.