New Year, New Rules

Well, we did it: we made it to 2019!¬†ūüéȬ†ūü•ā

And with the big change of the calendars comes that yearly opportunity to set goals and challenges whilst just generally realigning personal direction. I’m not one to believe that the New Year is necessarily the best time, nor certainly the only time, when you should take a pause to evaluate priorities, but it does have a nice feel to it.

More importantly, after just over six months living relatively consistent lives, I think we’re finally sure enough of our surroundings to begin forcing them into a more rounded shape. Drumming is one clear area we’ve managed to create consistency, but¬†there’s plenty of¬†room to ensure that what we want to do and what we’re doing aligns as closely as possible.

Personally, that means reevaluating my goals. Yes, I absolutely want the experiences to keep on flowing, which is good because we already have a whisky evening booked, two gigs sorted, a climbing experience to work out and the previously discussed Zoo membership to make full use of. But it also means finding ways to refocus on hobbies and make our London life more, well, self-centred.

The Year That Was

Two years ago I gave myself a Big Challenge to write one article a week, minimum, for an entire year. Last year I shied away from making any big, bold, public claims; with an impending move across the country and loss of a job,¬†long term commitments needed to be chosen wisely. Which isn’t to say the New 52 Challenge was frivolous ‚Äď it likely played a significant role in my career change over the course of 2018 ‚Äď but that type of thing would have become a distraction.

That said, I did write down a list of goals that I still wanted to accomplish over the past year, so that became a good place to start thinking about ideas for 2019. I’ll preface this by saying my 2018 To Do list didn’t exactly have a great strike rate, but nevertheless, here it is:

  1. Find a new job¬†‚úĒÔłŹ
  2. Read 12 books¬†‚úĒÔłŹ
  3. Finish all outstanding MiMs¬†‚ĚĆ (hah!)
  4. Migrate CMS¬†‚ĚĆ (though I have at least had a good play with Directus and Grav)
  5. Create better review system¬†‚ĚĆ
  6. Add social streams to theAdhocracy¬†‚ĚĆ
  7. Start making better use of Twitter¬†‚úĒÔłŹ
  8. Upload 4 videos¬†‚≠ē (1/4 definitively, but also a few more ‚Äď not what I’d intended but not awful)
  9. Sort out hard drives¬†‚≠ē (I’m in a much better place but still only about 50% done)
  10. Find a better organisational tool set¬†‚úĒÔłŹ

I think it’s most interesting, when looking back, that photography factored so little in my plans, despite it being a pretty central hobby. That’s more of a shame because I did manage to hit some good milestones in terms of rate of turnaround, uploading and even (finally) printing out/framing some of my shots for the new flat, and it would be nice to have been able to get some more¬†‚úĒÔłŹ in there, but oh well.

Onwards and upwards!

When looking at what the next 12 months could hold, and what it needs to be, there are two main standouts. The first is to find more time for personal projects and creativity; the second is to begin planning for 2020. That might seem a little odd ‚Äď to make the goal of one year to focus on the next right from day one ‚Äď but 2020 is going to be a¬†big one. It’s a new decade, so for fellow children of 1990 that means a new leading number on the age dropdown. Turning 30 really doesn’t bother me, but it does offer a good opportunity and excuse, so it’s fair to say that it would be wise to begin planning ASAP.

Starting a new decade also has an even greater feeling of a changing of the guard, so as 2019 becomes the last year of the… teenies (what do we call this decade?)… it seems like a good excuse to focus inwards and generally get things in order.

With that all said, I’m not planning any big overarching projects or challenges for 2019, but I do want¬†my to do list to be public, hence this article. So without any further ponderings, these are my big goals for 2019:

Photography

  1. Finalise all photos taken in 2018 by the end of March
  2. Upload at least 52 photographs to portfolio channels (500px/Instagram)
  3. Print out and hang more photos
  4. Get my Quiraing shot framed
  5. Go on at least two specifically photography related day trips with friends/solo

General Life

  1. Finally finish sorting out my hard drives
  2. Create a process for organising video files
  3. Finish digitising my magazine backlog
  4. Plan the big 3-0 trip
  5. Visit the zoo at least 6 times

theAdhocracy

  1. Create a personal logotype and logomark
  2. Migrate CMS!!!
  3. Create a better review system
  4. Add social streams/focus on homesteading
  5. Publish at least 12 articles

So those are my goals. Some are “borrowed” from 2018 in the hopes that they may actually happen, some hark back to years long past, whilst others are brand new. The overarching themes are to drill down into photography and flesh out what theAdhocracy should be, which is a digital playground and home base, somewhere that’s just mine. I want to move away from trying to branch out or diversify hobbies and, instead, spend 12 months really getting to grips with what I know I already enjoy.

Obviously I still have other goals, some loftier (it would be great to learn React, for instance) and some less serious (I really wanted to add both “Play archery tag at least once” and “Minimum one full, extended LOTR marathon” to the lists), but those will remain nice-to-haves rather than focused goals.

Hopefully in twelve months time I’ll be able to write-up a success story, but even if the hit rate is as low as 2018 (or lower) I think simply putting these plans out there¬†and having somewhere to refer back to will be a useful tool. So here’s to an exciting, progressive, focused, and fun-filled 2019!¬†ūüćĽ

2018: The Year of London

It’s that odd time of year, the bit between Christmas and New Year where time doesn’t really flow like you expect it to. No one knows what day of the week it is and everything seems to be simultaneously coming to an end and sizing up the starting blocks again. For a lot of people, it’s a time without clear purpose that’s bookended by very distinctive cultural markers themed on rebirth, which makes it pretty ideal for reflection.

It’s also the time of year when no one really wants to be working, and end of year lists/reviews/summations become ideal brainless exercises requiring little creative input and almost no resources!

So here we are, on the edge of a new dawn and taking a moment to pause and reflect on the year that was. A lot of people are regarding 2018 as the calendar equivalent of a dumpster fire, but personally it’s been a pretty big and progressive twelve months… albeit ones where a lot of good habits (*cough* blogging *cough*) fell by the wayside.

Which isn’t to say that writing has been completely absent; the first half of the year had a decent number of posts (8 total) spanning a range of topics. In a way, they quite neatly sum up my own interests, covering technology, superheroes, palaeontology, design/futurism, world building/sci-fi, photography, problem solving, and the beauty of nature. It may not be much, but it’s a fine spread, plus there’s probably something¬†I could be arguing about quality over quantity (maybe).

As ever, there are also plenty of drafts that never quite saw the light of day. I’ve put together some musings on the problems that RSS feeds have when their owners don’t let you know they’re moving URLs; some of the influential voices I turn to, both online and off; a few scattered notes on Excel, VBA and the Grav CMS; and about half a dozen MiMs (remember those!).

On which note, it’s worth mentioning that whilst my published presence has been mediocre-to-none-existent over the course of 2018, I have been at least vaguely tracking my thoughts, reviews and ideas via more private channels. Workflowy continues to be a cornerstone of my productivity, as is Lightroom where I’m pleased to report my photo editing has continued relatively consistently. I’ve also been getting increasingly drawn in to Trello¬†as a way to track to-do lists and ideas in general, in no small part to our complete reliance on the app at work.

Work. That’s been a pretty big, overarching theme of 2018 for me. I handed in my notice at Synertec not long into the year and left fully in March; by April we had settled in Fulham, and in early May I started my new role as Copywriter (now Content Manager ‚Äď how time flies!) with Talent Point, which was a pretty big shift from working as a developer. In that sense my actual published work has accelerated, with a full 20 posts appearing on the company website since I started. I didn’t write all of them, but (with one exception) I was heavily involved each week from the start of June ‚Äď so my actual writing output this year hasn’t been too shabby at all!

Writing for a living has definitely been a major part of why this blog has gone almost entirely unloved since July, as I struggle to find time or motivation. Back in Taunton, during the New 52 era, I’d spend most lunch breaks at work writing or editing drafts, but now that’s my job lunchtimes have become a lot less personally productive! On top of which, living in London means much longer commutes and longer hours, so by the time I’m home my focus is on finding food and being brain dead, not personal projects. It’s something both Alison and I need to start getting better at, so hopefully it won’t be quite as quiet in the months to come (though where have we heard that before, before, before…).

London also means an active social life, which is another drain on project/blog time, but not one I’m complaining about! We’ve become members of the V&A, Kew Gardens and (most recently and excitedly) ZSL! Plus, we now actually live somewhere with¬†culture, which for me has meant getting to see/attend (in no particular order and probably incomplete):

  • The Book of Mormon (musical)
  • Goldfish (gig)
  • Harry Potter Experience inc. Behind the Seams (talk/experience/museum)
  • Todd Terje (gig/street party)
  • Swan Lake by Matthew Bourne (ballet)
  • Emancipator Ensemble (gig)
  • An Evening with Dougal Dixon & Darren Naish for the relaunch of After Man (talk)
  • Goldfish (gig ‚Äď yes twice, yes worth it!)
  • Dinosaurs in the Wild (experience… hard to explain but awesome!)
  • Parcels (gig)
  • Biopsy of an App (UX/UI) with RED Academy (talk)

Without mentioning the countless museum exhibitions, listed buildings, parks, or general history. We’ve watched the sun set from the Walkie Talkie¬†Sky Garden, eaten at Lima, gone on a 12 Pubs of Xmas crawl, taken a boat trip around the Thames, learnt how to drum and then performed at Walthamstow Garden Party and as part of a demonstration with over 700,000 people, walked most of Regent’s Canal and a good stretch of the Thames, discovered countless amazing pubs, restaurants or just interesting places, and¬†now live somewhere with both parakeets and close friends in easy walking distance. One of those is very new; the other had been over half a decade!

But of course our life hasn’t been completely lived within the capital (or the moving van before that). We’ve had some excellent outings this year, some just for fun and others to celebrate huge milestones with our friends and family. The annual trip to Polzeath was shifted to coincide with a family commitment ceremony, taking place on the beach in stunning conditions and creating a thoroughly joyous occasion. We’ve also been back up to my home grounds of Cumbria to see one of my oldest friends tie the knot at our secondary school (a real trip down memory lane!) and to Sheffield for the first of the Uni group to exchange rings.

Individual outings, such as to the blogged about Vyne estate, have been a little less common, largely because we’ve tended to focus on London rather than travelling out, but we’ve still managed a good variety. Particularly memorable outings include a day spent at the Hawk Conservancy Trust with Al’s family and a trip to Oxford for the excellent (and now touring) Making of Middle Earth exhibition, both of which deserve their own full posts (much like most of what’s being covered in this one!).

Oh, and of course, we had a brief outing to South Africa for my Gran’s 90th birthday. It was great to see most of the extended family,¬†and the celebration went down well, but it also provided opportunities to explore some new areas. We spent the first few days actually staying in Cape Town, something I’ve never done before, which meant seeing a whole new side to the city. Then, for our second week, we went on a short but incredibly varied road trip with my parents up through the Cederberg, visiting the stunning wildflower meadows (we got the timing pretty perfect for the first superbloom in years!) and kokerboom trees, before looping back to the Cape down the West Coast. It was a beautiful, relaxing and incredibly fun trip, even if our wallets are still recovering!

All of which is to say that London has been a very good move, our flat has become a real home and our jobs have settled in extremely nicely. For us, at least, 2018 has been a year of big and positive change, and a chance to really begin defining our lives moving forward. It’s been a stressful year at times, but that’s all happily behind us, paving the way for a very exciting 2019 and beyond!

 

Welcome Home [#22]

Busy, busy, busy. Life is far too busy right now. I only got back from the Hebrides on Monday and we’re already packing for the next trip! Not that I’m complaining about being on the move, it’s definitely my preferred state, but I barely feel like I’ve touched base with the rest of my life.

It also means I haven’t been reading very much. A few articles, here and there, but nothing worth writing about (not quite, anyway). I’m now two months behind on my MiMs (shame!) and don’t foresee that getting fixed any time soon. A have thousands of photographs to process from the last few weeks and another few hundred still queued from before that. On top of which, work is stacked up as well, so lunches have been eaten into as I catch up on various projects. The long and the short of it is that I’ve not got anything to write about and only another 30 minutes to write…

Except, that’s complete nonsense. If anything, I actually have too much to write about! The Hebrides (both Outer and Inner) were stunning, the highlands were fascinating, we met some really interesting people and I’ve had time to try out a bunch of creative techniques and start up several new projects. The problem, really, isn’t lack of content, it’s lack of time to do the content justice. Still, sometimes you just have to put proverbial pen-to-paper and push forward, so here we are.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I’ll get some more rounded, fleshed out thoughts written on our latest trip to the Western Isles (maybe even with accompanying imagery – wouldn’t that be a shock!). I definitely want to write up a checklist of the species we saw, places we went and food we ate. But, that can all wait for now, because first of all I want to talk about a minor revelation (or even revolution) that I had whilst on the Isle of¬†Skye. Specifically, a revelation about theAdhocracy and what it has come to mean.

It hasn’t been that long since I last wondered aloud what the purpose of this website is. Then, as with previous times, I slightly dodged the bullet, declaring it:

equal parts scrap book and playground.

Except, that was a bit of a lie. Sure, that’s what I use theAdhocracy for, but it was never the core purpose for its existence. I didn’t mention it then because it’s a little, well, embarrassing. I was ashamed of the actual answer because¬†theAdhocracy is, in some ways, a triumph, but it is also a very large failure.

I have a website because I want to be a website designer. It’s that simple. I’ve always enjoyed mucking around with HTML, CSS and all the other bits and pieces that make up the internet. There was even a time when, with the help of a talented and much more artistic friend, I used to make websites for money. We didn’t make very many, we didn’t make them particularly well (my fault –¬†not his), but it made me realise that the web was something I enjoyed working with.

That was a decade ago (shudder) and I’ve never gone back. I went to university to study computer science specifically to become a web developer, but chose my course poorly and ended up graduating as a geologist (long story). Now, I work in programming, but not with websites. That, truthfully, is why theAdhocracy exists. It was meant to be somewhere for me to relearn how the web works, to play around with new technologies and experiment with developing standards. But more than that, this website was meant to be a jumping off platform for a career.

theAdhocracy was supposed to be my portfolio. It was supposed to be somewhere I could point potential clients to, somewhere to create freelancing opportunities through. The first time I devised a logo (still haven’t made it) and registered the domain was actually before making my first (and only) freelance pitch. It was meant to be a relatively easy, sure-think put together by a friend. It was actually a massively embarrassing failure where I talked excitedly to someone who had no idea who I was, why I was there or what was happening and never contacted me again. It was a grounding experience and threw me a little, so after I graduated and¬†decided to try again I made the decision not to pitch until I had a portfolio. Which is a bit of a paradox. And another failure.

But I’m not writing this to moan or ask for sympathy. I’m writing this because, whilst on the Isle of Skye, I realised I’ve changed my mind. I’m still interested in working on the web, but it’s no longer the only end game. There are a huge number of careers I’d like to try, with web developer still amongst them, but no longer at the top of the stack. Plus, even if I did go down the freelance route, it wouldn’t be as theAdhocracy. The name has a convoluted and personal history; it still makes me smile and I wouldn’t change it if you paid me (well… how much are we talking?). But it isn’t a customer-facing name. It doesn’t make enough sense.

So that’s that. This website isn’t going anywhere, but I’m officially shrugging off this weight of guilt and frustration that has built up over how I’m using (or not using)¬†it. Maybe, some day, I’ll design another website – it may even be to replace this one. But from now on, theAdhocracy has one purpose only: to be a place I keep stuff I want to keep. Reviews, articles, links, photographs, videos… whatever! Somewhere to be creative, without worrying about how it will affect a ‘brand’ that doesn’t exist. This has been my digital home for several years, but I haven’t been able to think of it like that because I wanted it to be my digital storefront. Well, not any more. That ends today.¬†Welcome home.

Scrobbling Movies [#2]

I find it slightly bizarre how popular Last.fm has become over time. I understand that the service now offers a plethora of features, including some powerful music discovery tools, yet at the core Last.fm is just an overly detailed extension of the play count found in every media player since Windows XP. It tracks what music you listen to; that’s it, the whole of their USP.

To be clear, I may find it bizarre but I am not surprised at the service’s popularity. Personally, I love Last.fm and thoroughly enjoy digging into my monthly/annual listening habits, seeking out new artists or rediscovering ones I had forgotten. It’s continued popularity proves that I am not alone and that, bells and whistles aside, being able to analyse your musical tastes and use them to inform future experiences is something that a decent number of people see value in.

So I find it all the more irritating that there doesn’t appear to be a similar service available for film/TV. There are services like Letterboxd that let me manually track what I watch, but I already do that. There’s nothing extra on offer and they are particularly lacking a¬†visual media analogue to scrobbling. When they launched, scrobbling was a seriously weird idea, but it solved the single largest issue that Last.fm had: apathy. When I’m listening to music, I don’t want to have to pause every few minutes, break out of ‘the zone’ and write down what I’ve just heard. No, Last.fm had to find a way to make the data gathering automatic, ensuring¬†their datasets are as complete as possible.

With movies and TV there are further obstacles, chiefly that the methods of consumption are not quite so intricately linked with the internet or computers in general. But with the rise and rise of streaming services such as Netflix combined with the increasing trend of buying media digitally should result in these roadblocks slowly eroding away. Hopefully, soon, someone will pop up to start taking advantage of that process.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue looking for options and pondering my own. I would love to be able to put something together here, just a quick notes section that I could easily type up and submit to directly from my phone. Perhaps I could get it running, but in reality it will likely remain as a Todoist task for months. We’ll just have to wait and see.

The New 52: A Challenge [#1]

Well it’s a new year and that means a new challenge: The New 52!

First of all, no I am not challenging myself to read the entirety of DC’s New 52 range of comics, nor am I going to eat my way through 52 varieties of Heinz. Instead, this challenge can be considered a spiritual successor to the 100×100 challenge that effectively caused theAdhocracy to exist.

I’ve (hopefully)¬†learnt from my mistakes, however, so the ‘New 52’ is going to be a little looser and a lot more lenient. The aim is to publish one article a week, every week, until December 31st. No daily or (really) weekly¬†commitments and¬†no punishments; articles can be queued up months in advance or left pending until I actively need them. There are no restrictions on content, so an article can be ten words or ten thousand long and it doesn’t matter a jot. Similarly, articles that I already intended to write count just as much as utterly unique posts, so hopefully my Month in Media series (behind yet again!) will fill up 12 of the respective slots straight away.

The hope is to craft a challenge with low stress levels but just enough incentive to actually push me to write when my reptile brain is screaming “why bother!”. I’m aware that it’s not the biggest challenge but, ultimately, it’s something I’ve never actually¬†done. I published 23 articles last year, including MiMs, so managing 52 in 2017 would be over a 100% increase, which would be pretty awesome to be able to achieve.

So, with that said, welcome to article #1 of 52. I’ll be interested to see what the others stack up to be.

It’s Been A While; Plus Thoughts on Pluses

So… it’s been a while.

It’s been a while since I last posted an article. Part of that has been due to a month of incredible busyness where even the planned “down time” became frantic research time for car insurance, holiday planning, present purchasing etc. The rest has been Pok√©mon Go!, which has eaten free time like nothing else in recent history.

It’s been a while since I reviewed a movie. Sort of. The reality is, I’ve actually managed to keep on top of those over the last week or so, but I have a couple annoyingly outstanding from a time BPg (Before Pok√©mon Go!) and I’m not 100% happy with the current state of some of the¬†others. July’s MiM is coming, with some interesting new ‘features’, but it may be a week or so late.

It’s been a while since I spent any time working on this website. Again, in a time BPg (historians will catch on, I’m sure of it) I was getting close to making some pretty big, radical changes to the backend here. They hit a slight¬†snag which morphed into¬†a major roadblock simply¬†because I still haven’t really sat down to mull it over. Still, plans are slowly creeping forward!

It’s been a while since I did any photo editing. Despite weekend after weekend of major events in the past month, which have produced¬†hundreds of photos I’m genuinely proud of, I haven’t posted to Flickr in¬†coughmumblemumble… I’m not proud of that, but again, plans may finally be moving forward.

It’s been a while since I saw something truly exemplary online. There have been some great videos and some new passions, but nothing that’s made me sit up and go: yes! I agree! Let’s think about/act on that right now! Luckily, this waiting period¬†has actually ended¬†thanks to the ever inspiring Vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green. I don’t want to go too deep into my thoughts right now because, well, this post has ballooned into something else which I quite like, but lets just say they’ve struck a nerve.

In a handful of recent Youtube videos, they both¬†touched upon a worrying trend online, specifically that angry voices, ranting and outrage are becoming increasingly prevalent. In some ways, that’s totally okay, but the ubiquity and degree of rage is getting out of control. Between the two videos they discussed why anger leads to poor conversations, why it builds so much traction online, why that may provoke certain elements to create and foster this emotion above others and, most importantly, presented one method for potentially combating this trend. In terms of the “whys”, rather than regurgitate their words I’d urge you to just watch the videos. If the virality of anger is something that interests you, I’d also thoroughly recommend this analysis by CGPGrey.

What really made me sit up and take note, though, was their suggestion to combat saltiness and flame wars on Youtube: “+” comments. Because Youtube ranks comments based on the number of Likes and Comments they get, but comments are weighted higher than likes, angry/flamebait comments tend to rise to the top, causing a circle jerk of ever increasing rage. Hank Green, instead, suggested that people should leave a comment with a simple “+” symbol on any comments they felt worthy of praise, discussion or both. In doing so, they’ve hacked their own Youtube comments section into one where bile and trolling isn’t rewarded and genuine discussion/ideas are. It’s by no means perfect, but I thoroughly agree with both brothers when they say that it is as much the community’s job to police themselves and maintain order as it is the platform’s.

Personally, I’m a big fan of “+” comments. It may be that Youtube eventually begins to remove them or negate their importance, but in the meantime they seem to be a power for good. In particular, I feel they may be much more effective than reporting negative/trolling/abusive comments. I’m a firm believer that a carrot will¬†be more likely to provoke change than a stick (plus, over reliance on the stick reduces it’s power/thorniness).

theAdhocracy Mark II: The Rehosting

CSS? Fonts? Italics? Sidebars? What witchcraft is this? Is this not theAdhocracy, the home of plain HTML and nothing more (despite the clear problems associated with that)? Well: yes! But at the same time: No! Technicalities! Either way, welcome to theAdhocracy Mark II (no purchase required)!

There’s nothing too fancy about this change. Updated visuals are provided courtesy of the 2016 default WordPress theme, not my own endeavours. And yes, that means the backend remains WordPress (for now). The host, however is entirely new! I haven’t had the best experience with iPage, what with the multiple outages, lacklustre support, terrible interface and the many, many other headaches I’ve had over the past year. So when I received a frankly extortionate renewal invoice edging towards ¬£200, the the final nail was struck into the coffin.

Since that email I’ve been steadily shopping around and I have to say: woah! The hosting market in the UK has really stepped it up a notch. Prices have plummeted, monthly contracts (rather than annual) are now far more common and generally high quality, well trusted hosting has become affordable. Last year’s runner up was 123-Reg, which would be a simple switch for me as¬†I already host all of my domains with them.¬†However, in the end (and this still amazes me), despite some great offers¬†they just weren’t competitive enough.

Instead, I’ve thrown in my lot with SmartHosting (.co.uk, not .com, there appears to be a difference). It was a close call between several new options, but SmartHosting’s immensely positive reviews and clear web design swayed me; their price wasn’t too big of a problem either! So far the switch has been wonderful. It is such a pleasure to be using a modern, up to date version of cPanel again (I really don’t think I can stress that enough)!¬†Installing WordPress was quick and easy and allowed me to simply Export/Import my databases. Domain pointing is much simpler and I can already tell that it will be less of a headache to host several websites (i.e. possible) than with iPage.

It hasn’t all been butterflies and rainbows, though largely due to my own errors. I had become “used” to iPage’s archaic folder structure, so¬†just assumed all web content had to¬†reside in the “public_html” folder. As a result, I tried installing two separate websites there and pointed my various domains at the relevant subfolders. Unfortunately, because my “main domain” (this one) seemingly had to be pointed at “public_html” rather than a subfolder, a little bit of URL manipulation allowed you to navigate from this site to any of my others. I was confused and a little frustrated, even if this behaviour made sense to me, because I couldn’t “repoint” this domain.

In the end I opened a support ticket. The reply was disheartening, but frighteningly prompt (I’m used to iPage response times, measured in hours or days) arriving in less than five minutes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t change where the “main” domain pointed; however, I could point my other domains at folders outside of “public_html”. That’s right, the support staff actually offered a constructive solution that served my needs far better than the one I had proposed! This is how support tickets should work and definitely reinforced the smug feeling that I’d made the right decision.

iPage, on the other hand, have had a hit’n’miss final few days. Initial efforts to disable “auto renewal” were rendered moot as the system refused to save/update my preferences. Irritating, but by that point I had already¬†migrated¬†and was happy to just cancel my account. Searching how to cancel, however, requested that I disable auto renewal… a dead end. Instead I¬†attempted to “chat”¬†with their support and was greeted by a five minute count down. It was the weekend, so this seemed fair, but after 10 minutes of “We’ll answer any moment now!” I caved, refreshed and started the count down again. Three attempts (and almost an hour) later I gave up completely¬†and just¬†rang them.

To their credit, this part of the process was swift and painless. I had feared a nightmarish entanglement of prompts and options followed by a fight and multiple offers. Luckily, I received a clear option path to the cancellation team followed by a courteous staff member who only offered his deepest regrets (rather than discount vouchers etc.). The whole process took less than ten minutes and two days later the account (and all my details, web files etc.) are deleted, as I had requested.

To be clear, iPage are not an awful company. They have never seriously screwed me over and¬†the few times I have¬†asked for¬†help, I’ve received it (albeit slowly), but they’re also not great. Their software could be better, their website could be better and their support could be better. At the moment, everything is just about passable, but that means they’re increasingly being left behind by the competition. It also means I¬†wouldn’t recommend them.
Currently, SmartHosting are doing a lot better. Only time will tell if that initial warm glow fades away and, if so, by how much.

Time Sinks and Indie Thoughts

I’ve just noticed that it’s been over a week since my last post. In and of itself, that isn’t an issue. There are no schedules here; I have no binding¬†commitments to theAdhocracy. Entire months or years could pass between posts and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid (though, I hope, I would feel a little sad). Instead, the lack of a post is noteworthy because I’ve actually been writing content consistently for the last four days, as well as a couple of days last week. That content isn’t still stuck in draft form, it’s all fully edited and ready to ship (so to speak). In my mind it’s actually finished,¬†archived and filed away as a completed job well done. So the reality that no one else can see these posts genuinely struck me as a little odd. This scenario is not one I had really considered when I started my monthly media roundups, but I guess, in hindsight, it can’t really be avoided. One large post a month may have to substitute for more regular content – right now I don’t have a solution, except to make sure my posted content is more varied.

One clear way to increase the throughput to the visible side of theAdhocracy would be to utilise micropublishing, effectively pulling in any facebook posts, RSS likes, instagram/Flickr photos etc. and cataloguing them all here. But, oh no! Once again I’ve stumbled into the indie web without any preparation. I wrote about my headaches with the learning curve associated with the indie web before. What I didn’t realise then was that the very person I’d “called out” in that post had already created what I was asking for: a more simplified, step-by-step guide to getting started on the indie web. So that’s awesome (and, once again, thank you Jeremy Keith!). Now to just find some time to play around¬†with¬†the suggestions. Oh¬†and get my back end in shape first. Plus, maybe tidy up how my current categories work. I mean I’m not stalling at all…

Monthly Media: Coming Soon

Last month I wrote up a post detailing the films I’d seen in March. When I initially started blogging again last year I had hoped that mini-reviews and similar content would become a mainstay, something I could easily throw together when I was doing the¬†100×100 challenge, setting a precedent to continue once that was over. Simply put, I wanted to (and still hope to) keep a record of the books, graphic novels, films, music and¬†TV shows that¬†I have watched/read/consumed alongside a (hopefully brief) synopsis of my related thoughts. Too often I’ve had conversations where I knew I’d read or watched a particular piece of media, but couldn’t really remember anything more than a vague outline of the story and a simplistic gut reaction: liked, hated, frustrated me etc.

Obviously, this record¬†has not been a massive success. There are simply dozens of examples of all of the above that haven’t ended up with even one line reviews in the interim (indeed, I couldn’t find a single album/music review, despite swearing I’d written a piece on TwentyOne Pilots), so last month I trialled something a little different. Rather than write an individual review for each film I watched, I just added onto a rolling draft post and published at the end of the month (or slightly after, I might have forgotten for a bit…). As a result, I actually wrote reviews. They were quick, often initial impressions that I fleshed out when I came to actually hit publish, allowing me to jot down the key ideas ASAP; they also made me feel a lot better about not writing very much, just the core details I wanted to remember, as the post grew to a decent length through volume anyway.

As a result I’m going to trial a few more months where I expand the content being recorded. Far from just films, a monthly media mashup (title pending) will hopefully mean that there’s always a handful of reviews and that no one area gets forgotten or ignored. It also means that, in months like this one, when I have an influx of one type of media (in this case, deciding to buy a bunch of graphic novels sat on my watch list for a few months) I can fire them all in as quickly as¬†I consume them. So that’s the plan; let’s see how long it sticks for!