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January Round Up

January 27, 2006

There’s a whole host of things I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, and I’ve not been able to put them each into a full post. Rather than try to write a full entry on each, here is the executive summary version of what’s been going on recently and what’s coming up:

Business and Blogging

In the final quarter of 2005, I discovered that I was getting a few clients (or at least prospective ones) via my blog. That was new to me for two reasons:

  1. I never intended for that to happen – I don’t really promote my services here. Instead I simply link to my company website:
  2. It showed me that clients actually read my blog. This had some interesting effects:
    • It became difficult to post on the blog. How could I justify it when I had client work that had not been completed?
    • it changed the way that I view my blog, and how I need to integrate it into the company site, or at least do more to cross-promote them than I have currently done
    • it made me think more about the kinds of things I should be posting and not posting (not that my site is particularly personal or raunchy or anything)

It has also made me think about how the readers of this blog see me. Over the past year or so several people have used their blogs to announce that they’re “going freelance” or “going out on their own.” I’ve always struggled with this because I’ve been an incorporated company for almost 6 years now and did business as a sole proprietorship before that. I have never been able to create any of that “mystique” or “momentum” that you get when you announce stuff like that. Plus being a Canadian, I’m so unaggressive when it comes to business, I’d just rather “let things happen.” Bah. That’s just silly. Time for some changes there.

Reading Blogs

About 6 months ago, I stopped reading blogs. The culprit? I got a Mac. When it became my main machine, my habits changed dramatically for a number of reasons:

  1. No matter what anyone says, keyboard access for the Mac sucks. Its not that you don’t have the options to “enable full keyboard access” at the OS level. Its not that you can’t fix up Firefox’s configuration to allow full keyboard access to all form elements and everything else in the page. From where I sit, its that keyboard access has never been a fundamental feature of the OS so software developers don’t build full keyboard access into their software. I’ll share a few examples from some typical Mac software in some other posts.
  2. I couldn’t find a news reader I liked. Many people I trusted all used different things, and everything I tried had some limitation or other that made me not want to use it. I’ve settled on NewsFire (recommended by Jon Hicks) for now, but I’m definitely not 100% happy with it.
  3. As a consequence of not reading blogs, it became very easy to not write. Blogs weren’t part of my daily routine any more. If you’re not paying attention to what has been going on with other people’s blogs, there’s less chance to read something that gets your mind going and helps formulate your own posts.

9rules as Feedreader

As a drastic measure, I deleted every feed from NewsFire and I started fresh. Recategorizing and resubscribing to a number of blogs and adding new ones that I had come across via others. I’ll be honest with you – I could very easily have just saved money by not buying NewsFire, set as my homepage and be done with it.

Seriously. They have added so many blogs to the network and they cover so much ground, why not? If I had the ability to have my own custom section added to the 9rules home page where I could add in feeds that I wanted to subscribe to (from friends, mostly) then I’d have everything I’d need.

Writing, speaking and my choice of specialty

Speaking of 9rules – I was recently reminded of an IM conversation I had with Scrivs a while ago. We were talking about SXSW and whether or not I was going to be speaking there. “Of course,” I said. His reply was something along the lines of “What boring stuff are you going to talk about now?” (I didn’t take offense to this – I’ve known Scrivs online for a lot longer than many of you likely do, so don’t get all uppity saying “Oh I can’t believe he said that to you” or anything ok?) My answer to Scrivs was this:

Its only boring if you aren’t interested in it

I know, I know, it sounds like a Yogi Berra quote, but its true. There are a lot of people that are interested in standards and accessibility, and there are people that probably aren’t. The point is, its something that I consider to be my specialty and I am interested in it and I enjoy speaking about it, teaching it to other people, and writing about it. I can’t, however, expect everyone to be interested despite the fact that I would like them to be.

Point taken though – having been in business since 1998 when I started as a sole proprietor, I have a thing or two to share about my experiences as a business owner, and I’m hoping to address some of these things soon:

  • Financial tips for small business/freelancers
  • How to beat out the big dogs
  • Positioning yourself as an expert
  • Walking softly and carrying a big stick

Maybe that post will be boring too. But only if you don’t find it interesting.

11 Responses

Comment by Scrivs — Jan 27 2006 @ 11:17 am

Man that conversation seems like years ago. So what boring things are you talking about this year again?

Comment by Derek Featherstone — Jan 27 2006 @ 11:35 am

Scrivs: should have known you’d come back with something like that…

For what its worth I’ll be talking about Web 2.0 and working to make AJAX applications more accessible to everyone. I know, I know, you probably still find it boring. I’m ok with that.

Comment by Jon Hicks — Jan 27 2006 @ 11:40 am

“I could very easily have just saved money by not buying NewsFire, set as my homepage and be done with it.”


Comment by Derek Featherstone — Jan 27 2006 @ 11:50 am


Jon: just because I said I could doesn’t mean I have any intention of doing it ;)

Comment by Jesse — Jan 27 2006 @ 1:38 pm

NetNewsWire Lite.. it rules.

Comment by Small Paul — Jan 27 2006 @ 7:23 pm

On boring: quite right. A teacher said that to us in high school and it stuck. Nothing’s boring inherently. And bored people are often those who can’t be bothered to seek out things of interest to them (or spend the time to get interested).

Um, yup.

Comment by Greg — Jan 28 2006 @ 12:55 am

Looking forward to checking out your upcoming posts. Only in the past few months have I become a sole proprietor so I’m interested in the advice and tips you have to impart. Cheers!

Comment by Richard Browne — Jan 28 2006 @ 6:10 am

I’m really interested in reading that post about the business side of things; sounds like my cup of tea. Can’t wait! :)

Comment by Vicki — Jan 29 2006 @ 3:21 am

Derek, regarding newsreaders, have you tried NetNewsWire on the Mac? Vienna comes close NNW has the edge and given that I’ve paid for it, I appreciate the extra convenience…

Would absolutely love to be at SxSW. Your topics are anything but boring to me. :-(

Comment by Kevin from Canada — Jan 29 2006 @ 5:51 pm

Hi Derek. I for one am very interested in how you position yourself as an expert in accessibility. As far as I know, there isn’t any governing body or accreditation you can receive in “accessibility”. Aside from simply proclaiming yourself as one, what can you do to prove this to a potential client?

Comment by Ben Buchanan — Feb 02 2006 @ 1:09 am

Not only do we tend to talk about things that are interesting to us; we (geeks particularly) tend to talk in another language when doing so. My fiancee occasionally talks acadmic admin at me, then when I look blank she smiles and tells me that’s what my conversations with friends sound like to her ;)

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see your thoughts on small business and so on. I actually worked freelance for a while after I graduated from uni; I tired of having to chase people to pay bills.

I actually had one client that rang up with a rush job one day when they were stonewalling paying the previous bill. I told them the last bill should be paid before I did the next job; amazing how a call from the boss put a bomb under the accounts section.