My Poor Neglected Blog (not)

It's probably quite clear that I haven't spent a whole lot of time fussing with this site. I don't write regularly, and as for its "design", well, let's just say that I know it's got some issues. Those things are slowly getting fixed, but they haven't been priorities.
 
Pretty strange, all things considered. But hey, I'm a computer guy, not a graphic designer. I like following other people's direction when it comes to building their sites. There are too many cool designs out there, and I have a hard time pinning anything down. So you get to see a mishmash of ideas, and directions. The fact that it's a little rough around the edges is just fine with me. In fact, it's working out pretty well.
 
  • Not because I get organic search traffic for keywords I don't optimize for. (and I still subscribe to ScribeSEO for when the time comes...)
  • Not because it's a brilliant exhibition of brilliant web "design" (ahem).
  • Not because it shows off my technical and computer skills.
Nope.
 
But I don't care about such things at the moment! I don't care because I'm doing other stuff that I consider much more important. If you have a "Neglected Blog", maybe you are in the same boat. Maybe you're doing more immediate things that are paying dividends that perfecting your blog may can't touch.
 
As much as this might sound like an excuse, I can assure you that it's not.
 
I have a wonderful graphic designer working on a new logo and color palette. When's the last time you heard that a client was the one holding up a project?
 
I have a laundry list of additions to make to the site.  Some of these are visual issues, some are functional.  For the time being, they are all minor to me, and I don't have the traffic to imagine otherwise.
 
There are links coming from a few great friends on the net. Having these is the closest thing I have to pressure in getting everything sorted out quicker than my current pace.  But still, I continue with other things.
 
Let's just say that there are other ways to monetize a blog than regular posts, a consistent interface, and lots of content.  Those ways are not always easy to spot, but they are extremely effective.  In my case, the blog isn't the focus, it's actually a supporting player.  Almost a brochure, with functional perks.
 
Here's what I've been doing.
 
  • I've been talking to people, online and off.
  • I let them know what I'm good at and offer to help out if I can help.
  • I follow up as best I can.  If I let something slide, and realize it, I do what I can to rekindle the communication.
  • If I talk to someone who is somehow a great match to someone else I talked to, I hook them up.  As long as I see a win-win for them, it could be a win-win-win for me someday.
  • I try new things to expand my reach.  In the past month I've been intereviewed about Computer Troubleshooting, and did an almost 3 hour private webinar on building website for local/offline clinets.  Both of which came about simply by putting myself out there via forums and email.  They weren't even my ideas!
  • I've kept in touch with prospects who have been on the fence for months, as well as those that may have decided to work with someone else.
  • I've done things for free or super cheap to gain more experience in certain areas.
  • I've posted the occational comment on other blogs, and on Twitter.
  • I've helped spread the word on Twitter about people I want to see do well becaue they are great at what they do, and deserve it.
  • One of my off-the-radar email chats has led me to creating a service which could help hundreds of bloggers stay a few steps ahead of hackers always looking to ruin someone's day.  This has been my focus the past week.  The sooner I can get everything in place, the more people I can help.  In this case, the blog will also act as an ordering center, and data collection tool.
  • When I get a referral, I point them to the blog so they can read a little background information about me.  I'll often also point them to a link or a related service that is similar in nature to what they are looking to do.  This saves me from one of my least favorite things: talking about how much an investment in my services will cost.   It's not always a one-to-one corespondence, but it's usually close--with various options.
In all honesty, this post is a mess and I know it.  Every time I try and write because I "have to write" something, it turns out this way.  Time pressure and content guidelines are not my idea of relaxed and fun blogging.  And still I experiment with opportunities that arise, both in terms of pushing myself to new things, and the posibility of meeting some awesome new people.  
 
Not sure if I'll get in under the wire for Cori and Joella's blog carnival (deadline=now), but I've seen the power of these traffic tools in the past, and it's one more grand experiment and challenge on my ever fluid path.
 
Because I expect to re-read this post in the morning and correct all sorts of typos (and add appropriate links to deserving destinations), I hope that anyone who actually reads it before then forgive me for now.  I can only blame a little wine, a little pressure, and a whole lot of my waiting until the last second for the inevitable hard to read bits.
 
What do you do "off the radar" with your blog's help?  I'd love to know!
 
-Tim

Simple Approach to Troubleshooting Computer Problems

I recently did a quick interview on troubleshooting website/computer problems with LaVonne Ellis of The Complete Flake (she's not).

It's definitely much easier for me to *do* the troubleshooting than explain the exact process.  Partly because each situation is unique.  There are some commonalities, but it's a challenge coming up with things that work in all cases.

General Approach to Debugging Computer Problems

  1. Gather info
    • Did this *ever* work?  When?  What's changed since then (no matter how minor it seems)
    • Program version numbers, product details, etc...
    • Operating System, web host name, etc..
    • Login details
  2. Eliminate "interference" (narrow down problem location) if exact problem location unknown
    • If anything's been changed, undo the change if possible
    • Disable or remove potentially related devices, plugins, and other software
    • Verify any related configuration settings (volume/mute controls, userid's and passwords, etc).  Surprisingly often you'll be able to fix things during this step.
    • If it works elsewhere, see if settings differ, and note any other differences between the machines
  3. Search for others having similar problems
    • Use as many keywords as you can to narrow the results (you want the results that are as close to your problem as possible)
    • Include any error messages and numbers
    • Exclude anything that may relate specifically to your computer/website... Don't include your domain, etc in any of the keywords
    • Experiment with variations on keywords if you aren't getting useful results (eg, "account", "userid", "user", "login")
    • When clicking on a search result, do a Right-Click and open it in a new window or tab.  You will often need to visit a fair number of sites to find the answers you seek.  Being able to go back to your search results list and continue can come in handy.  I often open up the top 3 or 4 promising results first, then go and view them.
  4. Keep experimenting and trying things until the issue is solved.  This is the real "secret" to solving your computer problems.  I can't tell you how many people have told me how patient I am in dealing with this stuff.  Seriously, if I gave up early, I'd have far fewer positive results.  The more success you have, the quicker it will be next time.  Your  new knowledge builds to help each time you have a new problem.

The Computer Troubleshooting Interview has a few other tips sprinkled in, and as LaVonne points out, I blurted out something at the end, for her listeners which can help get you a real head start.  The offer may disappear once I've gathered the variety of case-studies I need to take things to the next step.

I know the list above isn't complete by a long shot, but it's a good start.

What other ideas and tools have you found to help you solve a computer or website problem?

-Tim

Work and Play #1

This is the first of many super quick posts on work and play.

Karen, over at Effa Diet, passed this quote to me yesterday "because it made me think of you and your mission."   

“Too much of our work amounts to the drudgery of arranging means toward ends, mechanically placing the right foot in front of the left and the left in front of the right, moving down narrow corridors toward narrow goals. Play widens the halls. Work will always be with us, and many works are worthy. But the worthiest works of all often reflect an artful creativity that looks more like play than work.”
— James Ogilvy

One way I'm doing it is by allowing things to be in a state of flux as I experiment with ideas.  This website is currently a perfect example of this.  On any given day you may see new colors, graphics, menus, functionality or goofs.

I know there is "work" to be done in cleaning up how certain pages look, and I will get to all of those.  However if I waited for everything to settle down and be nearly perfect, there would  be no site to see.  By playing with my ideas I can try them on to see how they fit.  I'm flexible, and can get quick feedback.

I'm well aware of the adage "You never have a second chance to make a good first impression." and in many cases it makes sense.  But what's worse... Making no impression at all, or making some impression and having a chance that it will resonate with your right people?

Your turn.

How could you use play in your work to "widen the halls"?

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