Unplugging To Recharge & Restructure

Red, Unplugged, Trinity-of-One, Flickr

A couple of days ago I was having trouble sleeping so I got up, lit a candle in the living room, and start jotting down some of the thoughts and frustrations flying through my head. Two words kept flowing through my mind, “natural” and “flow”. Therefore after jotting down a pageful of notes, here are two of the most important things I realized.

I design when I see and feel a natural connection or flow to things. If I don’t see this and I’m “forced” then things seem “unnnatural”.

The act of relaying my thoughts and feelings feels natural. How they are structured is what feels unnatural.

With this in mind, I’ve decide to unplug a bit. Yes to recharge (since I usually come back revitalized with a bucketful of ideas) but more importantly to figure out this “structure” thing. Those who’ve been following my blog know that this has been something that has been bothering me for a long time, as I’ve always hated the default blog structure and format. Hopefully with the time away to live life (thus following my own advice at the end of my last post), I’ll receive inspiration when I least likely expect it (which is usually how it works for me).

Till I return, feel free to dig through my archives if you haven’t had the chance to peruse some of my older entries. I’d recommend starting from the bottom, through the earliest entries, and checking out the titles that peak your interest.

Oh and I’ve unplugged my journal comments as well for the time being. You can still give me a shout via my contact page if you like though.

Catch ya laters!

William Gibson talks about going on media fasts, which is no information for five days, just going away — no phone, no TV, no radio, just your own stuff. People. It’s really weird. Try it. Try to stop watching television, listening to the radio, reading the newspaper, and go on an information fast. Do you know what happens to you? It’s like when you go away on a holiday and you’re out of touch: you relax. And you find out there are other things that are inside of you that are quite important.

Being Real

While reading the "Twitter Debates" last week, something struck a chord in me that seemed to be of a greater issue but I wasn’t quite sure what it was at the time. Two quotes that jumped out at me though, one from Tara Hunt and the other from Kathy Sierra, both seemed to be focal points for what I was trying to uncover.

By not having enough time to post my blog, I was "losing" much of my thinking along the way. As my blog became more and more ‘professionally focused’, I was losing the personal things that matter to me.

I don’t want to be that connected. And I also have a huge appreciation for the art of keeping the mystery alive. I don’t want to know that much about so many people, and I sure don’t want people to know that much about me… mundane or otherwise.

Now it wasn’t until today that I remembered an Oct 2005 post from Keith Robinson entitled When I Make Something and when I did, all of the connections I was looking for started falling into place. Keith’s post was about what he goes through internally when he creates something.

  • I care what you think.
  • I enjoy myself.
  • I stress myself.
  • I wonder if my mom will find typos.
  • I feel self-conscious.
  • I lose my head.
  • I try too hard.
  • I want it to be cool (!!!!)
  • I cringe.
  • I start out honest but end up a liar.
  • I listen to music. Mostly cheesy music.
  • I ignore e-mails.
  • I try to think positive.
  • I have a love/hate feeling about criticism.
  • I wanna be adored.
  • I second-guess myself. Three times.
  • I ask myself where the period should go.
  • I estimate errors.
  • I want to help.
  • I’m begging for attention.
  • I want to impress my wife.
  • I obsess over pixel placement.
  • I demand a second opinion.
  • I compete.
  • I press “save” or “submit” with much more than a second thought.
  • I avoid regret.
  • I …

As you can see from the list above, Keith probably isn’t alone in feeling this way, as I’m sure all of us can check off more than a few of the items on that list when we do something. Now what I remember more particularly about this post though is what I asked Keith in the comments afterwards.

Now how many of these things do you think about when you are just having a conversations with someone that you bump into on the street (i.e. friend, aquaintence, family, etc)? Don’t you wish you could just be yourself on your blog without having to think about all of this stuff?

Of course Keith replied "Yes." And in rereading that answer, everything I had been tossing around in my head for the past week finally came together and connected like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle revealing the greater issue I had been looking for. That being, why is it that when we do something work related (i.e. "professional"), we seem to want to "detach" our real selves from it? And yet at the same time, all I seem to hear from customers these days is that they’d like to learn more about the people behind the company, so that they can see there are real people there who are just like them.

For example, why did Tara stop posting more personal things on her blog (especially considering she has a business blog at Citizen Agency) and why does Kathy dislike revealing these personal things online? I mean everything I’ve read about Kathy seems like she’s loves human contact and interaction, particularly face to face. And yet when you’re face to face, that’s when people can see all of your peculiarities and nuances, things that we may see as being negative about ourselves, but what others see as making you a real person. Therefore, that which Kathy dislikes revealing online, I’m guessing she probably enjoys revealing face to face with others and it’s probably one of the main reasons people do want to meet her in person (such as myself but I can never afford to go to any of these cool events).

afterward, whatnot, Flickr

So why is it that we’re fine with revealing who we truly are when we’re face to face with someone (even a stranger), yet we’re uncomfortable doing this online (particularly when it relates to our work)? I mean isn’t that one of the things that everyone raves about regarding blogs, especially when looking to hire someone, is that we can get a good grasp of the person before hiring them so as to ensure they’re a good fit with our existing team from a personality perspective?

Also why are we so focused on trying to appear perfect all the time? I mean aren’t blogs a place where we can be more of ourselves and not have to worry about protocol so much. If so, why are we always worried about perfecting our posts before publishing them (i.e. taking days to structure and format them) instead of posting small pieces first that we join afterwards. I mean no wonder Tara finds Twitter so liberating, since there’s nothing stopping her thought flow when posting these small pieces of her life. Yet does Twitter have a patent on being liberating? What’s stopping people from being this liberating and real on their blogs?

That to me is what the real mystery of life is all about. It’s not so much not wanting to know about things but more that not everything can be explained or figured out, so don’t continually worry about it. In other words, stop spending so muc
h time trying to figure out life by putting it into neat little boxes and spend more time living it and sharing it with others. And yes, I’m not perfect either. I need to follow my own advice.  🙂

Update: Ok, I guess I understand now Kathy not wanting to reveal even general day to day info about her life when you have wackos out there posting stuff like this about her. Hmm, almost makes you want to start a community like The WELL of yesterday, where new members are recommended by those already within it instead of it being open to everyone (and "anything" which is how I’ll describe those who wrote the sick and twisted stuff about her).

Half-Life ‘Game Of The Year’ Nostalgia

I was just reminded of a Half-Life teaser site I did for Sierra back in 1999. I remember when I made it, I wanted to create a centerpiece that look somewhat like an Oscar award, so I made the base using Caligari Truespace and fooled around with Photoshop to get an image of Gordon Freeman to look like he’d been touched by Goldfinger. Getting a bit nostalgic thinking about this, I decided to see if I could find it in the Internet Archive. Sure enough, I discovered the archive for the site shown below.


Solving Real Problems For Real People

David Greiner of Freshview, the company behind the great email newsletter service Campaign Monitor, has posted up his thoughts regarding building a business around paid software/services after a lot of people at the Sydney Barcamp felt it was impossible to charge anymore.

People were giving examples of Flickr and YouTube, saying that everything had either been done already, was free or wasn’t worth paying for. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

The primary problem he noted was that so many of these people and startup companies were focused more on money or technology than on solving real problems for real people.

The web and software development community has a nasty habit of looking in on itself and forgetting about the other 99% of the online population. While everyone else out there is building for the early adopter crowd and going to bed dreaming of getting TechCrunched, why not look outside this circle and try to solve a real problem that real people are having.

Too many people I speak to are focused on technology instead of a solution. “It’s gonna be really cool, we’ve got RSS feeds, a neat tagging system and the whole thing runs on 3 lines of Rails code”. Now take a deep breath, and realise that none of that means a thing to your customers. They want to leave work 5 minutes early, they want it to take 2 steps instead of 5. They don’t want a tag cloud.

Of course all this focus on money and technology creates this drive to create something BIG, when in fact the opposite approach is the better path to take.

Instead of trying to build the next video sharing or social networking site, why not narrow your focus a little more. There are loads of simple problems out there that are waiting to be solved online.

And then he provides four recommendations on how to solve a specific problem for a specific group of people which in turn will create something useful that people will pay good money for.

BTW a beneficial side effect of focusing on real problems is that it helps to build a great culture for your company, as it shows you honestly care about the people you’re trying to help instead of focused on the almighty dollar. Yes, businesses need money to survive but they need a soul (or mojo) to thrive.