Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo.

A true mensch

Greg Storey has left the building.

Last month he stepped down from his position at Happy Cog, thereby ending nearly a decade as an agency owner. I was fortunate—truly fortunate—to be tapped as his first hire back in 2006. He’s the best example of generosity and kindness with time and resources (and with me, probably patience, too). There are people who would line up to work with him again. I know I would.

Blogosphere

David Weinberger on the quiet re-emergence of blogging:

Blogs are — or at least were — different. They are an individual’s place for speaking out loud, but the relationships that form around them were based on links among posts, not social networks that link among people. I’m all for social networks, but we also need networks of ideas.

Things I Like: Podcasts

I have a weird history with podcasts. I was “part of” the first wave of podcasting back in the mid 2000s. I went to the podcast conferences, unconferences, and other gatherings. I co-wrote a book on podcasting, I ran a podcasting website (with very little success!), and I had a couple of my own podcasts. The first one I had was a weird mix of music and stories. Then I did a podcast on ExpressionEngine, with Dan Benjamin as my co-host.

But then I got out of podcasting when my agency work took over and I started writing and recording screencasts.

And now it’s, like, huge.

So, anyway, I like podcasts.

It’s a wonderful medium that is easy to enter as a content producer. It’s only slightly easier to enter today as it was in 2005 but still pretty easy to turn on a mic and talk.

Podcasting highlights voices and ideas that you’d never otherwise hear. It brings attention to topics and opinions you would miss because not everyone has the time or inclination to write it down and post online to share.

Podcasting is great because it captures what we all do best: talking.

As part of my Things I Like series (of which this is the first post), here are my favorite podcasts. I post these to show gratitude to the people who create them, and the stories they cover.

  • Systematic – Brett Terpstra’s weekly show where he talks to interesting people and technology. Brett is routinely giving a platform to people who are outside of the normal Apple/podcasting/tech circles. Listen to the episode with his wife and her animal rescue work, the one sub-zero bartending, or the show with veterinarian who works at a turtle conservancy, or the most recent show (as of this writing) about the challenges of software development for medical devices. They all gravitate to technology at some point but the stories and people are interesting.
  • Serial – From This American Life, it’s a weekly series about a Baltimore murder case. This podcast is addictive and, like This American Life, really well done. It’s becoming a bit of an online sensation.
  • Slate’s Political Gabfest – I don’t listen to any other political podcasts and I prefer not to read a lot on politics. But this podcast is good. Two of the hosts are working journalists with beats and they are calm in their opinions. It’s an enjoyable way to hear about the bullshit that is our American political existence.
  • CodePen Radio – The podcast by the three guys behind CodePen. Each episode is a new topic on their experience building a web app and a business. An honest take on what they’ve learned, what they do and don’t know, and how they work. It’s not pushy “do it like us” business talk. I like that.
  • Slate’s Amicus – I tweeted about this new podcast recently. Dahlia Lithwick has guests on about Supreme Court cases for conversation deep enough to be informative but not so deep that only law geeks would understand. She also edits in recorded audio from the court proceedings so you can hear the justices give their rulings.
  • 99% Invisible – The darling podcast of the last couple years. This is a successful indie spin-off from public radio and always, always a great listen. It is presumably about architecture and design but it appeals to everyone. Interesting fact: Roman Mars said his close mic technique (you can almost hear the saliva smacking around in his mouth) is on purpose to give a more intimate feel to the show.

A Mysterious Ad

A similar help wanted ad has been floating around offline and online for more than decade.

Thursday is the Only Holiday

Two songs for Thursday.

The first one is from The Features. I’ve known this band (and two of the original members still in the band) for almost 20 years. They were in the college dormitory next to mine. Later, after we all dropped out of college, I did FOH sound for them for a while. I met my wife while working one of their shows. I traveled with them to SXSW 1997 (I think they opened for Spoon), did some road gigs, and spent time recording in Jackson, MS.

One of their classic songs—and one recorded during that stay in Mississippi—is “Thursday.” Back in the day they closed shows with a raucous version of this song. When I saw them last week here in Austin they closed with it again. Never gets old, always great.

If you ever wonder why Thursday is my favorite day, this is why.

And a song with which, I’m sure, you are much more familiar.

You’re Mac

An honest glimpse into how OS X users are still treated in many enterprise and corporate environments. Many companies have begrudgingly accepted the iPhone (but only because the executives wanted them, too) but, as David shows, there’s still some lingering stink of Apple hardware being somehow incompatible with the rest of the world.

Behind Learning SVG

A couple weeks ago I released a new course, Up and Running with SVG, over at Mijingo.

I also did something for the first time: I put together a website with a lot of the course material and made it free.

SVGTutorial.com, the website that accompanies the video course, has a lot of the content that is in the course but in written form. On each page, I politely ask people who get value from the content to purchase the full course so they can get everything and the better experience of watching the video. And, of course, support me and my work.

Creating the website wasn’t a lot of extra work. It only took a few hours—mostly to tweak the Octopress theme I am using—to go from nothing to a published site.

While researching and preparing to record Up and Running with SVG, I wrote out the entire course in a Markdown document, including code examples. This is a new way I’ve begun preparing courses because I’ve found that writing it all down helps me better structure and evaluate the content.

As a nice byproduct I get written content that I can then use on a website or to include with the course as a PDF handbook.

Since all of the writing was already in Markdown—and I use Markdown for the website—I only had to copy content from one document and paste it in another. Fast and simple.

Putting the site together was a lot of fun and I’m planning to do the same for some other courses.

Through the process of writing out the entire course longform (as opposed to just a detailed outline like I used to do), I have re-discovered the joy I get from teaching with my writing. It’s something I enjoyed so much back in the late aughts when I wrote my ExpressionEngine book.

Here’s the teaser for the course:

Do you want to get started with SVG? I know a site that can help you.

Keeping Our Experiences

Every morning I launch an app called Timehop. It shows me stuff that I’ve posted to social media over the last seven years or so. It is the only reliable and simple way I can get a glimpse of my activities, thoughts, and photos, from today three years ago or today seven years ago (a sad reality for many of us, I’m afraid). Because social media services like Facebook and Twitter make it so difficult to explore your past contributions to their networks, services like Timehop have become required to really collect our thoughts that we willingly spread across all these different services.

Manton Reece recently posted that we should consider not spreading our content around all these different services and then have our content “sliced up and interspersed with ads on someone else’s platform.”

Manton notes that these common every day activities that we so casually document on social media services is, in essence, our life.

Those common everyday activities that don’t seem noteworthy today? That’s our life. One after another, strung together for days and then years until we die. It’s the culture of the 21st century scattered among millions of micro posts. And it’ll be lost to time if we don’t curate it.

It is a digital scrapbook. It is our digital journal. If you’re like me and don’t have a history of journaling, the online services are where we keep notes about our lives, our experiences, and even our fears.

Not long ago, I quipped on Twitter:

This tweet came out of reacquainting myself with DayOne, which is an app that allows you to diary or journal your day-to-day activities. I purchased DayOne for OS X and iOS a while ago. But I wasn’t actually using it.

Looking at Timehop one morning I realized that my information is strewn about all over the place. I decided to centralize. I wanted it in a futureproof format that allowed me to easily archive it, search it, retrieve it, reformat it, or do whatever I wanted to it at any time I wanted to.

The opposite of what Twitter or Facebook offer.

I set up DayOne with a tool by Brett Terpstra called Slogger. Slogger automatically slurps up all of my social media data and stores it in DayOne. Whatever I post on social services is safely saved in my journal.

I also needed a behavior change.

DayOne is now a main app on both my laptop and my iPhone. On my phone I put it in the place where the Twitter app used to be, so that it is what I launched when I have a thought to record or a smart-ass comment to make. DayOne makes it really easy to share your diary entries out to the social services, so why not have it there to begin with?

I am still sharing on social services like Twitter, but now I’m maintaining control of what I write because everything is always either sourced from or archived to DayOne. For me, this means perhaps one day collecting all of this information from my journal and giving it to my family as a record of the experiences I had.

The thoughts you have, the moments you experience, the photos you take, the videos you record, put together is—as Manton points out—your life_. While I am not a very sentimental person, we learn from our own past. We have the technology to document it on our own terms. It is important that we do so.

Building a Puzzle

Apple CEO Tim Cook in his recent Charlie Rose interview:

If you’re a CEO, the most important thing is to pick people around you that aren’t like you—that compliment you—because you want to build a puzzle; you don’t want to stack chiclets up and have everyone be the same. I believe in diversity with a capital D. And that’s diversity in thought.

60 Days Mijingo Check-in

It’s been a bit more than two full calendar months since I left my position at Happy Cog and went out on my own to focus on Mijingo and see where I can take the world.

Most days over the last two months I’ve filled with two martini business lunches (three would be excessive), single origin espressos to fuel the afternoon grind, and late night caviar dinners followed by a single barrel nightcap.

Lift Off

Nothing like that all.

Working for myself has been almost exactly what I thought it would be. Long days, some nights, and a lot of simple, hard work.

Going indie was described to me by one person as a freefall; you don’t really know what will work when you first start, so you just try stuff and see how it goes (hoping to land on your feet). Someone else instructed me to not freak out if the money takes some time to catch up with the effort.

Both are true.

It’s Work

Most of what I’ve done isn’t even public yet. I’ve revamped a couple courses, created a brand new course (JavaScript Task Runners), worked on some marketing videos (here’s one), did some consulting (with more to come), and quite a bit of back-end work on Mijingo.com.

I fixed the account page where you access your course library. It’s now much easier to see what you purchased (but far from perfect), and the code behind it makes more sense and doesn’t have quick-fix conditionals with hardcoded values.

There is now more robust support for course bundles. I have already published two of those: CMS Learning Pack and ExpressionEngine Mastery. Bundles are just products that are collections of other products. Not very difficult to do within ExpressionEngine but, like most things, I just needed the time to do it right.

I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about ways of giving my students more with each course. For example, there are some free additional resources that I’m adding to the courses. I’m also experimenting with taking my research and notes from the course prep and turning it into an ebook for students. I just did that for my JavaScript Task Runners course.

I do this because I want the experience with Mijingo courses to be so good that it’s the first place web designer and developers go when it’s time to learn something new. For me, this means over-delivering and making it easy to learn again with Mijingo.

Choosing What to Do

Finally, the ever-present, nagging, dull pain of the two months has been the constant worry that I’m working on the wrong thing at that time.

These thoughts run through my head:

I should be spending my time creating that course instead of improving my email marketing.

I should spend more time fixing the website design instead of take an hour to just sit and think.

I should be spending my time editing that course instead of recording a podcast episode.

A clear idea of what my short term goals are has helped a lot. I work only on stuff that brings me closer to meeting the goals. Obvious stuff when I think about it.

I have two goals right now and each is written on an index card. The cards are taped to my desk. I look at them every day and now I’m better about knowing whether what I’m doing is the right thing, right now.

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