Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo.

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.


David Allen:

Complaining is a sign that someone isn’t willing to risk moving on a changeable situation, or won’t consider the immutable circumstance in his or her plans. This is temporary and hollow form of self-validation.

Taken from his book Getting Things Done.

Preamble to a Guest Blog Post

I wrote a guest blog post for EllisLab about my Mijingo courses on ExpressionEngine. Here’s the introduction that I cut from the guest post.

Almost 20 years ago I landed in Germany on a one-way ticket with two duffle bags stuffed with almost everything I owned. I didn’t speak the language, I didn’t know anyone except a few people. I was a college drop-out and I didn’t have a job.

I learned German through an intensive, immersive course that used real world contexts and scenarios. There was no rote memorization of words or verb conjugations. I learned as I acted out daily life scenarios, like buying groceries, asking the bus driver for help, or going to the doctor because of an illness. It’s the kind of stuff that would be critical to know once I left the comfortable confines of the classroom.

I became fluent in German in less than a year because this was such an effective teaching approach. It stuck with me. As a graduate student, I later taught students German using the same methodology.

Today, I don’t teach foreign languages anymore but I do teach people how to use the tools that help them build the web. My students learn through these same principles in my courses at Mijingo.

Read the guest post on the EllisLab blog.

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