Things are hard for people who make their living creating. Especially now. I write this on Thursday, April 29, 2020. The entire world is being affected by COVID-19. It doesn’t care where you’re from, what you look like, or what you do for a living. Here in America it’s showing us the disparity of those who have empathy for others, and those who do not. Hopefully some good social and health care changes can come from this.
Those who work creating and performing are impacted pretty hard with many public spaces closing to “Flatten the Curve”. It’s hard to express yourself without the space to do so.
The internet does provide a space for self expression, but the technical and cost barriers to entry are still pretty high for most people. There are many great user-friendly and relatively affordable products and services that allow anyone to get online. Understanding how to use them is the second problem, however. The first problem is finding them.
Now, more than ever we need human connectivity. Through art, performance, and conversation. Humans evolved from tribal connectivity and we still need that, so very much. We need your stories, in your voice.
I’m not a programmer, or designer. I’ve worked with, for, and inbetween some very good ones, and I love to tinker with art, design, and technology. I’ve been doing this for twenty years. My strengths are:
Empathy … I can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations
Developer … I recognize and cultivate the potential in others. I can spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.
Individualization … I am intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. I have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively.
Relator … I enjoy close relationships with others. They find deep satisfaction in working hard with friends to achieve a goal.
Futuristic … inspired by the future and what could be. I can inspire others with my visions of the future.
Those are from the Strengths Finder book and survey and they really resonated with me personally. More than any other self assessment that thing out there (I’ve tried many).
Professionally my makeup leads me to positions of project, and personal management, and coaching of creative people. I’ve worked in the Animation, Video Games, Design, and Software development fields. This isn’t my resume so I wont bore you with the details.
So those are my qualifications for bringing you this info. I just like all this stuff. I’ve spent hours tinkering, and I want to share. I recognize that I’ve been afforded opportunities to have this time and tech to tinker. Maybe I can pay that forward a bit with what I’m writing.
I’m an aspiring minimalist. I enjoy figuring out what is the simplest way to a solutuion or process. I’m exploring mindfulness, stoicism and improvised performance as the overlap of these concepts really speaks to me.
I believe in the indieweb. I believe in privacy. I don’t like using products or systems that track my or others peoples moves.
When I talk about setting up websites, and blogs, etc, I believe in POSSE. Posting on your Own Site, Syndicating Eslewhere. This is a main mantra of the Indieweb community. You own your content, and can put it anywhere. Even move it from place to place. Things like Twitter, Instagram, and FaceBook own your content and make it very difficult to take your creations elsewhere. The more people they have, and longer they stay the more revenue they can generate. You are the product, and your data is sold for a company’s profit.
I have a twitter account, and FaceBook as well. It’s hard just leaving that all behind. That’s where everyone is, after all.
My recommendations will skew towards POSSE and Indieweb but I recognize that not everyone will care as much about this stuff as I and others do. To each their own. The point of all this remains to help people get online and speaking in their voice.
There’s a ton of info, courses, advice and what-not about how to build an online audience. Some of it is better than others, just like anything. Some of it focuses on techniques that are shady at best. SEO is an area I do not know much about at all. That’s Search Engine Optimization. Basically, it’s techniques to arrange and broadcast your content so that it rises to the top of search results. Most people just look at the top three results in a google search, after all.
There are good people doing honest work in SEO. It’s an interesting mix of writing and preparing content so that it helps humans discover it. That’s a noble cause. I’m concerned about the content farming and other nastier aspects of it. But again, I’m not a go-to resource on this at all.
I write the above to get us to this point, which is what I believe in. Building an audience takes time. Frequent posting things of value, so that you make connections is how to build an audience. Simple, but not easy.
Seth Godin is a marketer, author and blogger. He posts on his blog every single day. He’s been doing this for years and years. He just recently updated the technology that ran his blog, after many years. He made a technical choice, stuck with it, and wrote every day.
A while ago, I asked myself “How does he write every single day” and the answer I provided to myself seemed obvious, even silly. That answer was just that “_he writes every single day_”. Not every post will resonate with every one of his readers. Consisentcy is his key.
A thousand true fans is the way to build an audience. I like to re-read that on occasion :)
Thanks for reading along so far. I’m opinionated and if you disagree with me, or have further questions please email me.
Tomorrow, I’ll send an email about design. Design of the way you want to represent yourself and/or your products and services as well as specifics on visual design.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe.
Continue to Part two …
Welcome back. Hope you’re well. Today I wanted to talk about design. In two aspects. How you present yourself and your products or services, and how your website looks. As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions.
Oh, that sounds so gross. You are not a brand, you’re a person! Putting yourself online is putting out a version of yourself, arguably. Why not take a while to figure out what you want to say, and how you want to say it? That’s all I mean when you read “Brand” in these posts.
First, the hard part.
Here’s one technique for organizations to help them understand themselves. It’s a called a Three Hour Brand Sprint, and the term the authors use for “brand” is similar to what I’m referring too. It’s put together by some designers formerly at Google, who wrote a neat book called Make Time, and have a blog and courses over at Time Dorks.
It’s intended for Starups, but I think the exercises are useful for individuals and small teams as well. Maybe not all of them, but the first four of the six, in particular.
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. It shouldn’t take a single person or small team three hours. Always remember:
Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.
Bruce Lee said that, and he was a badass. You are too!
If you go through with the exercises, I’d be really curious to what your Why is. Let me know.
I am by no means a visual designer, but I’ve picked up a couple tips and tricks from 20 years working with really talented folks. These are boiled down and simple steps, not fully explored design mantras. Professional designers may disagree with the choices I advocate. Let me know if so.
See Design for Hackers for more detailed info on these topics too.
My thought process is to make small decisions that remove more thought process. If you want 10 colors or fonts, you have to balance each with the other. That’s a matrix of decision making that can cause you much frustration. Go smaller. Avoid friction. Have less.
No more than two is good (headline and body). Using just one is even better, as it keeps it simple and reduces load times. As for sizing, make each size down 75% of the larger size. So if your Headline (aka H1) font size is 3, your body size should be 2.25, for example.
Font choice is a huge topic. Grab something you like from fonts.google.com. You can paste in your bio or any other content into the google fonts site to see how it looks.
Serif fonts (fonts with feet) are harder to read with a lot of text that sans-serif fonts (without feet). In other words, a wall of cursive text is hard to read. The tool I’ll recommend to you tomorrow will help with all this Font mumbo-jumbo. Hang in there.
Finding colors to represent yourself or company can be a challenge. A good rule of thumb is to pick three colors and a gray, maximum.
If you aren’t sure about colors schemes, these are great resources.
Color.adobe.com is an interactive color wheel. Try picking one color you love, and looking at the Color Rules to find great combos. The little triangle in the bottom of the color swatch indicates the primary color. You can toggle other colors as primary to explore.
Get design advice via crowdsourcing at Color Lovers. That link shows the most loved color palletes this week. The community at Color Lovers submits and votes on their favorite color combos. Pick one you like and play. Note: That site has gotten really spammy recently. I’ll look for alternatives.
PS - I know as much about color theory as an ant understands an airplane, so you might want to do some research as to what emotions the colors of your website will invoke in your visitors.
PPS - Every color is represented by a hex value aka internet color. White is #FFFFFF and Black is #000000, for example. You’ll need to remember this value for your “branding”. You can find it in both the sites I mentioned above. Again, the tool I’ll recommend tomorrow will help with this. Don’t stress, we will get there.
Unsplash is a great resource for high quality images. Resize and compress the images and always give credit. You don’t need photoshop or other heavy photo manipulation software. Ask a friend or look at online tools.
If you have a Mac, and are friendly with the terminal (or want to be) check out the
sips command. Or don’t if that’s too technical for you! It’s all good.
SustainableUX is an online conference, and has some nice articles on how designers can reduce their carbon footprint and improve the user experience of a website. I worked with a couple of the cofounders, and they’re some of the best and smartest people I know. By having less, you increase the positive experience your website visitors have, and decrease the amount of energy it takes to run your online stuff. Win, win.
Less is always more, in my opinion.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about actually building your website!
Continue to Part three …
Hey, thanks for sticking around for part three. We’re going to talk about doing some work today! Let me know if you have questions so far.
Before we talk about a little tech, let’s see what you’ll need to have in-hand before starting.
Are you looking for a page to represent yourself? These are generally called Landing pages. People land here and then dig deeper into your info, any products and services you may provide, and social media, etc.
These tend to be one-page websites, simple and to the point. They’re used for products and services, but also as a new kind of business card for personal use.
To start building these kinds of sites, you first need to know what you need to share. Write down what things you need. If you did some of the Design activities noted in the last post, you might be able to reference that.
Examples could be:
- A bio
- Your resume
- A way for you to offer something you provide, if you do have something like that. Online classes you may offer, schedule for zoom calls, etc.
- A way to contact you, as much as you’re comfortable with of course.
Here’s a pretend website as an example. I’m using a fictional character from my favorite novels for the example here. Locke Lamora is the main character from The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence by the author Scott Lynch. If you like fantasy novels with great adventure and characters, check it out.
Building something like this (and adding advanced features) is easy with Carrd. The first image is on a desktop, the second is from a phone. No extra work needed to make the site look good on multiple devices. Carrd does that for you…
The features of that website are:
- An image. This is fan art of the fictional character by the artist Keja Blank (such amazing work!)
- Bio - I wrote this up based on the character from the book. Some of those words are gibberish if you haven’t read the books of course. Garrista means boss of a group of criminals, The Nameless Thirteenth is a God in the fictional universe (although the other 12 Gods might have something to say about that) and I won’t spoil that last bit. Read the book to find out more :)
- Links to social account (these all link to my websites)
I built it in about 10 minutes with Carrd. Let me walk you through how to use Carrd. There’s a video walk through below. But first some front-matter on the service. I don’t work for carrd, I don’t get a cut if you sign up. I just love it.
For the free plan, you can build up to 3 sites. The Pro plan allows you to do more, of course. There’s a free 7 day trial of the Pro plan. That Pro plan starts at $9 USD a year. Not per month, per year. It’s a great deal and the service is run by one indie developer, not a Silicon Valley startup looking to turn it’s users into profit.
So I’d do the free plan, try things out and upgrade to the Pro plan, if you want to.
Each of these templates will look good on computers, tablets, and phones. That hard work has been done for us. Experiment with different templates to see which is closest to what you have imagined in your head. There’s a little demo button on each template that you can use to open the template in a new tab, so you can check it out.
Explore and play. Find the one you like most. Also, if you’re really into it, you could start from a blank template. I don’t recommend this for first time users, but it’s a great way to make something unconventional or super customized.
You can tinker and simply delete sites you make if you want to start over.
Once you create the site, Carrd should show you a layover with all the functionality the system provides.
Take a few minutes to read through this, it’s really concise and to the point. Further help is available as well, if you want to dig deeper.
Carrd works with these building blocks. At the most fundamental layer is the background, then page, and sections, containers, and elements. Tinker away to get the feel, undo is your friend.
So, if you tinker and get something you like, you have three options to save your work, under the Publish button, which looks like a typical save icon.
I’ll walk you through how to do this build out here in the video. I kept very close to the original template. I didn’t manipulate the containers, or add sections. I clicked on the elements, and replaced the text. I did use the color wheel on the “bio” to find a color close to what was in the illustration.
Lastly I added some links to give credit and adjusted the buttons on the bottom to link to my personal sites.
Grab the trial, play and experiment. If it’s not for you, that’s cool too. Remember Bruce’s wise words…
Adapt what is useful, ignore what is not, and make it uniquely your own.
You may be familiar with git and gitHub if you’re a coder of any kind. There’s a neat, but not well known feature of gitHub that allows you to host a personal page. See this tutorial.
You’ll still need to point the GitHub page to another domain, if you want that level of customization. Again, hang in until day 5 for that info.
I came across this fun site generator recently. It’s easy to use to generate the content, and could suit your needs if your looking for something “text heavy” or “brutalist” in design terms. But you do have to host the code somewhere like if you own your own server, or use the gitHub technique. It’s called Temper. It’s free and kinda fun.
Here’s a quirky option, that might be fun for those in comedy, or those who just Ike fun: Host your site (and get an email address too) on omg.lol. 5$ a year. You’ll have to code it, but its kinda fun. Find me there at chad.omg.lol.
Another super minimal option is txti. It’s also free, and great for getting simple sites focused on text up and running quickly. Again, like the two options above, you need to point it to a hosted domain if you want to control the website name a bit better. Post 5 will go over that in some detail.
There are more ways to do this online as well, these were just the ones I’m most familiar with and provide a range from a UI to more technical options, including some quirky stuff too.
No matter which way you go, you’re going to wind up with a website like locke-lamora.carrd.com or something.github.io. Again, we’ll get to addressing that in day five. First, let’s talk about a blog. See you tomorrow!
As always, email me if you have questions.
Continue to Part four …
Hi, welcome to part 4. Today’s all about the blog. First a bit about blogs, specifically personal blogs. Then I’ll talk about four blogging tools. There are a million tools for blogging, I’ll focus on some popular ones, tell you which ones I chose, and why.
It’s unlinkely that you’ll make serious income even if you start a blog and write awesome things, every single day. There are ways to make money via blogging, and some people are bloggers as their day job. But, I am not advocating that you start a blog to make money. I’m advocating that you start a blog to speak to your interests, and yourself. Maybe you can build up to that idea of 1000 true fans.
So, write to get your words out. Or post silly doodles and bad internet dad jokes like I do on my personal blog. We all need connection.
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic” - Seth Godin
If and when you’re ready to start a blog, here are four options for you. I’m going to detail one of them, micro.blog, as it’s my own choice. It’s 5$ a month, so it’s not free. 10$ a month if you want to add video and/or microcasts (short podcasts).
It’s not free because there are no ads and your data is not sold elsewhere. Like the Carrd site from yesterday, it’s also built and run by a very small team. One person is the inventor, designer and developer. Once he was able to hire staff, his first choice was not to hire another developer. He chose to hire a community manager. The folks at micro.blog are concerned with building a better internet.
Note: there’s currently a free plan for teachers, and a free upgrade to microcasting for any paid account.
Again, I don’t get anything from micro.blog if you start using it. I just love it.
“_The easiest way to blog_” so says micro.blog. While the foundation that the platform is built on is highly technical, you do not need those details. You can dig in and change the look and feel of your site aka Templates, and you can get in a rearrange the plumbing and how things work and integrate with many other things. But you don’t need to.
This service is two things at once. One, it’s a blog hosting platform. You pay the fee and your blog is hosted via micro.blog. Just like Wordpress or tumblr or any of the other hosting services.
Secondly, micro.blog is a social network. It’s purpose built to avoid the problems of the other social networks, however. No tracking, and strong community guidelines are the backbone. To keep out the spam, hate, and bad crap. But there’s more:
These features avoid the popularity contests and the feeling of people only presenting their “best selves” online. That false sense of reality. But these features drive conversations via replies as well. These replies live in micro.blog Timeline and you can choose to have them on your website, or not.
If you want to skip the community aspect altogether, or on a per-post basis, there’s a way to set that up too. This way you can post your thoughts but not have people be able to discuss via commenting in the Timeline. Let me know if you want the details on that.
There’s a lot of flexibility, if you need it.
One of the indieWeb mantras is owning your own site. POSSE - Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere. This means you own your words, photos, videos, microcasts, etc and choose where else to put them. You can crosspost from your micro.blog to Twitter, Medium and LinkedIn. Facebook changed their rules so you can only cross post to a Facebook page, not your own account. It’s tricky to set up but can be done. That’s a pain and is an example of exactly why you want control over your own content. So Facebook (or whichever large silo) can’t limit your options for their financial gain.
Much like we discussed with Carrd, your micro.blog will have a micro.blog url, and you can point that to a website you own. We’ll do that in the next post, but I wanted to talk about it again as it’s an important concept to keep in the back of you mind if you being a micro.blog journey.
Here’s how to begin:
Head over to micro.blog. Check out the info on that page to learn more about the service. When your ready, click the Get started now button. The signup is fast and easy. There’s a 10 day free trial.
You can post from the website, or official apps in the Apple platforms. MacOS, iOS and iPad. As it’s an open standards system, developers are making their own micro.blog apps. One is Gluon, it is cross platform (iOS and Android).
There are other official micro.blog apps for iOS. Sunlit is for posting and commenting on photos specifically. It is an Instagram like experience running on micro.blog. Another is Wavelength designed for microcasting (aka short podcasts). It’s an easy way to make your voice heard on micro.blog and offers the ability to get your personal podcast out to all the usual places people listen to podcasts.
The micro.blog website is where all your account info is. You can’t control everything from the apps, those are meant for posting and replying mostly. Account settings and such are done on the web. You can post and reply from the web too, if you prefer that experience over an app.
Regardless of what app you’re using, when you post it’s worth noting that you’ll likely encounter a neat feature. If you write a longer post over 280 characters, the UI will present you with a title bar. You do not need titles for your short posts, or the long ones, even. But once you go over that amount of words, you can optionally add a title.
Because of the features, or lack there of mentioned above, conversations are key on micro.blog. I’ve found it to be a very positive and rewarding experience. The community is largely Male, Caucasian, American, and Technology savvy. But it’s diversifying every day.
It’s a warm welcoming place. People disagree on things but do not participate in attacking each other. It’s not a zero-sum game. People are respectful of others. Rare these days online, sadly.
Here’s a breif video that shows how to use the micro.blog service.
This screencastsonline video looks pretty thorough! The preview video is free, and covers the basics of micro.blog. To view the rest of the series, you’ll need to subscribe to the service. There is a free 7 day trial too.
This post you are reading is hosted with the Blot platform. It’s about $30 a year to host a site with Blot. Again, not free but may be worth it for you for two reasons.
I love Blot for writing longer posts like this.
Wordpress claims “_36% of the web is built on WordPress_”. A third of all the websites in the world. It’s popular! It’s free, but has ads. Wordpress is a blog, and a system to let you build sites and stores (sell your products and services). It can scale up to be very large, and large companies use it.
$4 a month gets you the ability to have your own domain, and no ads. The service tiers up to 45$ a month if you’re running store at scale.
WordPress is open source, and aligns to an IndieWeb stance. It’s a good option, however I prefer micro.blog as it’s easier to use, purposefully has less features (therefore overhead and friction).
Recently acquired by Wordpress, Tumblr is a blog platform with a social component. You can follow people and reblog their posts. One of the cooler features of Tumblr is the post types. You can post and categorize your posts based on if they are audio, video, image, etc.
It’s free so you may want to give it a try. Open comments can lead to bad behavior ala twitter and YouTube comments.
For even more options, check out squarespace, wix, and 1999. Each have pros and cons of course.
Squarespace seems overly complicated and I don’t care for the UX of the site builder. But there’s a community of helpful people out there too.
Wix has made a lot of improvements over the last several years, and a lot of people are moving to it. I don’t see how it differs from WordPress, but that might just be me.
1999 - people love the ease of use of posting, but you have to host this yourself. In other words start and run your own server. I’m not 100% sure on the amount of effort here, but it’s harder to setup than any of the other options. If you don’t know (or want to learn) what
git clone is, you’ll want another option.
Whichever system you choose, send me the link to your blog. I’d love to read your thoughts and stories. Pick one option and start, you can move things later if you need to because you’ll own the words you write.
Continue to Part five
Hey. Welcome back. Today, Part 5 of 5, we talk about a couple things. First how to point a website you’ve made with a service like I’ve mentioned to something you control. Then I’ll leave you with some thoughts on reading blogs and sites in efficient ways. Lastly, we’ll talk about robots!
If you’ve built a site or blog with one of the services I’ve mentioned, or something you’ve found outside of these posts (tell me what it is!), you’ll have a site name like something.service.com. For example, Locke-Lamora.carrd.com or yourUserName.micro.blog. Here’s how to truly own your content.
In day 2, I talked about design, specifically designing the online representation of yourself, or your services, and products. Maybe you went though that and landed on a name for yourself or small company. It would be wise to look into obtaining the website name. This is called a “domain”. There are a ton of services that let you buy a domain. I like hover and I hear Name is good too.
Regardless of which company you use to buy the domain, you’ll run into a challenge. All the good names are gone. You may have to get creative with hyphens or look at alternatives to .com and .net. I’ve had chadmoore.net for around 20 years. But it’s .net because there already was a chadmoore.com.
One of the reasons I like hover so much is because they have search that offers you options that are close to what you are seeking.
For example if you are an Actor named John Smith, you can type those words into the hover search, and they’ll list some options for you.
Maybe try the searching for the “what, how, why” and/or the “top three values” from the Brand Sprint exercise? Or the why and your name? Explore!
Keep in mind that the price you see listed is per year, so be mindful of costs. Also, some domain extensions are typically reserved for specific things. .org is for non-profits, .io is for startups, and .xxx is for pornography. Feel free to break the rules, just be aware.
So finding the domain, and purchasing it is the hard part. Next you’ll have to tell your blog or site to point to your domain. Here’s how to do it in Carrd, and Micro.blog, and blot.im
It’s also worth noting that micro.blog has an integration with name.com. When you sign up for micro.blog, you can search for, and buy a domain via name.com inside micro.blog. It’s a conveinence thing. More on that here: help.micro.blog/2019/doma…
So you’d sign up for micro.blog, go to the blog settings to buy the domain, then point the blog to the domain. It’s a one stop shop, really.
DNS / Domains / A and Cname records can be confusing. I’ve done this a bunch and it still puzzles me. Check out the instructions above, they can be helpful. Also, any good service will support users (you!) with this stuff. Use the support if you need to.
You may be entering a whole new world, just from your own explorations. You may be finding awesome sites, and personal blogs from people all across the world. How do you read all the things? You can’t. You’ll miss stuff. Deny FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and embrace JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). After all, these blogs will be around. The act of slow discovery is wonderful. You’ll come across an interesting post, go to the authors site, and check out the other posts and ideas that the author has shared. It’s more mindful than just scrolling endlessly through a timeline of best-self presentations, adds and distractions.
OK, so I’ll get off my soapbox. You may have a tactical consideration. You may not be able to bounce around the web to all these great sites you’ve been collecting. Sure, you could bookmark them and spend sometime going to them all. But there’s a way to bring them to you.
An RSS feed is something most websites have. You can subscribe to the feed in a reader, and when that site has a new post, your reader will know. You bring the sites to you. Remember google reader? That was the best. But google shut it down. Many other services are out there that do this kind of thing.
Feedbin is a neat RSS subscription website. It does what I described above very well. It also allows you to subscribe to newsletters, and even twitter feeds (you don’t have to go to twitter, it comes to you). It’s $50 a year or $5 a month.
I hear the app NetNewsWire is good, it’s Mac and iOS only, I beleive. I’ve never used it, but it has a strong following. Free and Open Source.
Last topic of the day is Robots. Not awesome sci-fi ones, ones that work on websites. There’s momentum building in the “no code” movement. If you go deeper into using websites and web services to help run your business, you can use services to help automate what you do. I’m not a web marketer, those folks specialize in this kind of thing. I’ve just found cool stuff along my travels as an internet weirdo.
Let’s say you would like a way for people to buy a digital book you have written. Here’s a tutorial on how to set this up with carrd and gumroad.
There are so many tools and services out there to enable automation, build communities, book online meetings, and so much more.
If your interested in this kind of thing, the first stop is zapier. It’s a tool that connects all the other things. Need a way for people to fill out a form on your website so they can book your services? Want a way to save tweets to a google doc? Zapier will enable these kinds of things. It’s great if you’re selling anything online.
That’s the end of the series. It’s good for me to get this all out of my head, in a way that might help someone. If you have any questions, let me know. Thanks for reading!
Go make something awesome! Let me know what you come up with.