Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working with a real-life graphic designer to develop a logo (and eventually a new layout) for Get Rich Slowly. She provided me with a sheet of possible logos based on my vision for the site. Many were great, but I loved none more than this, which I think was only an afterthought on her part:

Something about the tortoise just grabbed me. He’s so damn cute! I told my designer that I wanted my site to be serious and classy (and classic), but also whimsical. I want it to have a sense of humor. I think this captures that very well. Plus I can’t help but think of the different ways the tortoise (who needs a name) could be used around the site. It’s branding!

I suggested that it might be fun to see a variation with the tortoise standing on top of the site name:

I like this version best of the two, but it’s less practical. For the web — and for print — the wide aspect-ratio is necessary. Still, I think the tortoise on top represents success. I may end up using this variation in certain circumstances (coffee mugs?).

This morning, my designer sent me variations of both logos, but with a spot of color. Kris likes the green better than the black. What do you think?

Finally, here’s the proposed business card. It would be two-sided. The first side would contain the logo and the contact information. The second side would contain a handful of provocative questions and the URL.

There you go. My first steps toward “branding”. I’d love to hear some feedback. Do you prefer the stacked version or the wide version? Black or green? (Or some combination?) Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent? I’m unlikely to change things substantially at this point because I like the tortoise motif a lot, but I’d love to hear constructive criticism on what works and what doesn’t.

Tags: Blogging · Odds and Ends  → 13 Comments

19 November 2008 — Leaving My Comfort Zone (8)

As many of you know, I’ve begun to push myself in new directions. My personal finance blog has been wildly successful, and because of this I’ve been presented with new opportunities.

Public speaking
For one, I’ve been offered some speaking engagements. I spoke to graduating students at Western Oregon University last spring, and last weekend I gave a talk at the Multnomah County Library. Though I was one course shy of a speech communication minor, making presentations to groups right now scares the hell out of me. It’s tough.

I console myself with the knowledge that I will get better with practice. It used to be that I was very nervous when I met “imaginary friends” for coffee or lunch or dinner. (”Imaginary friends” being Paul J.’s term for internet-only friends, a term that has found common usage in our house.) But now I’m very comfortable meeting these folks, and even look forward to it.

Might it be possible that I’ll eventually feel the same way about speaking to groups?

Media appearances
Even more intimidating than public speaking are the occasional media appearances I make. Since my disastrous first live radio interview, I’ve had a couple of other television and radio appearances. These have been of mixed quality. In all cases, I was tense tense tense tense tense. And in one case — the series of interviews being broadcast this week on KPTV-12 — I really think I did a poor job. (It makes me sick to watch these.) But, in general, I think I’m improving.

The real test will come tonight. I’m scheduled to appear on KGW-8’s “Live at 7″ program to speak about frugal Christmas gifts. Once again, I am tense tense tense tense tense. After speaking with friends and family, though, I have some goals. Paul H. suggested that I try to speak more slowly, and so I will. I’m also going to try to take a moment to compose my thoughts before answering questions.

Again, I’m hoping that by continuing to do these things that I hate, I’ll actually get better at them.

Book deal!
Okay, so that subheading is premature. I don’t have a book deal. I haven’t even completed a proposal. However, I have agreed to work with an agent from Waxman Literary Agency. Next up: a book proposal, which we hope to have done in a couple of months. Then, assuming it gets picked up, an actual book. Who woulda thunk it?

This, too, is scary, but in a better way than the previous two things I listed. I know how to write. I feel confident in my abilities. I’m not worried about my ability to create a quality book.

However, each of those first two things I listed — public speaking and media appearances — will be critical to the success of my book. I’ll need to be able to present myself in a variety of situations if I want to promote the book and encourage its success.

Building confidence, destroying fear
It seems strange to me that little foldedspace has led me to so much more. I know that many of you long for the days when I wrote about comic books and cats and computers. I miss those days, too. But I’m not sure that they’ll ever return.

In the meantime, the seeds I planted here have grown into something amazing, something that has let me climb higher than I thought possible. I’m well on the way to achieving my dreams.

Tags: Blogging · Introspection · Personal History  → 8 Comments

29 August 2008 — One Small Step for a Man… (1)

Last night, I made what may be an important move in my attempt to get my electronic life under control. I separated my work e-mail from my personal e-mail.

I’ve complained for months that I’m overwhelmed by my e-mail load. I’m also overwhelmed by my browser tabs and my text documents. Things are out of control. I’ve been paying Michael and Lisa to help me at Get Rich Slowly, but I’ve done a poor job of giving them assignments because I’m buried by all the stuff. I don’t know what they should be doing!

Worse, I’ve turned into a terrible correspondent with my friends. It’s one thing to be slow with my GRS e-mail, but it’s a shame when messages from Dave or Andrew or you get lost in the swamp that is my inbox.

So, in an effort to take control, I’ve told my desktop computer to stop checking foldedspace e-mail. I’ve told my laptop to only check foldedspace e-mail. What’s more, after two years of having a zillion open browser tabs, the laptop now has none. The browser is in its default state, ready for me to poke around. If I use it for work, I’ll try to work on one task at a time, and try to finish that task before moving on.

I don’t have all the text documents closed on the laptop yet, but I think I can get there over the weekend. I may just zip them up and e-mail them to the work machine. What’s another ten text documents when I already have nearly 100 open?

Anyhow, what I’m trying to say is: I’ve begun to compartmentalize my work life and my social life. I’m hoping this leads to a revitalization of the latter. Work has been my whole life for too long…

Tags: Blogging · Computers · Daily Life · Geekiness  → 1 Comment

27 June 2008 — A Good Idea (4)

We had dinner last night at Pok Pok with Lisa and Craig. Warm summer evening. Good friends. Good food. Yum. The only thing that would have made it better? If I could have eaten more chicken wings for dessert.

During our conversation, we discussed the present state of foldedspace. I’m trying to put stuff up here, but it’s sporadic, I know. Craig pointed out the readers of foldespace may not actually read Get Fit Slowly or Get Rich Slowly. He suggested that I could reuse stories from those other sites here.

He has a great point.

For example, have I mentioned that we just had the knob-and-tube wiring replaced at Rosings Park? I don’t think so. Have I obsessed about running? I don’t think so. Have I discussed how I’m hiring contract employees for blogging? Nope.

So, based on feedback from my dinner companions, I’m going to try to extract the best bits from the other blogs and repurpose them here, as well as posting funny cat stories and favorite music videos. Those of you who read the other sites might get some repeats, but everyone else will get a little more to read.

Tags: Blogging  → 4 Comments

12 June 2008 — In the News (18)

Yesterday morning a crew from KGW (Portland’s channel 8 ) stopped by Rosings Park to interview me about my personal finance blog, Get Rich Slowly. Both Amy Troy (the reporter) and Rod Stevens (the cameraman) were awesome. They were interesting and fun to talk to. Most of all, they were very understanding when I explained how irrationally nervous I become when dealing with radio or television. They did their best to put me at ease.

The strange thing was that I was perfectly relaxed when I knew the camera wasn’t on. I could chat and carry on a normal conversation. But as soon as I knew Rod was filming, I became self-conscious. I could feel myself trying to analyze my words as I spoke them, could feel myself garbling what I wanted to say. But I was powerless to stop it! Craziness.

Amy and Rod were at our house for 90 minutes to produce a 90 second segment for the evening news. About 20 of those minutes were spent doing a formal interview on the couch in the parlor. The rest of the time was spent in my office and in the yard.

The final cut of the interview that aired is okay, though I wince at some portions. I think I look like a big dork. “No you don’t,” Kris told me. “I thought it was nice.” I do think it’s hilarious that they kept my ad-libbed pea-munching. I was just goofing around.

The KGW web site also has a couple minutes of me in my office talking with Amy about money saving tips. This part is less successful. Kris doesn’t like it. I had cleaned my desk before the crew arrived, but Rod said, “Don’t you have anything you can put up there? Stuff to make it look like you’re working?” I laughed and pointed at the stacks of paper on the floor. “Yeah,” he said, smiling. “That’s more like it.”

So I put some stuff on my desk, including the notebook I’d taken with me to England and Ireland last summer. While Rod began filming, I flipped through the book and randomly stumbled upon a page listing a bunch of money-saving ideas that I’d brainstormed while on a train out of Dublin. I read them aloud to Amy. I knew Rod was filming, but I never imagined the footage would appear uncut on the web site!

There’s nothing really wrong with it, I suppose. I just look like an even bigger dork. Heh. My friend Stephen comforted me via e-mail: “I often thought I was a dork on television interviews until I got used to em.”

Anyhow, I’m glad I did it. And I’m glad that Amy and Rod were the crew dispatched to film me. The best part of the experience was spending time talking with each of them about their own experiences with money. It’s those sorts of interactions that make what I do exciting.

“If you really do get nervous, you should join Toastmasters,” Kris said after we watched the interview.

“I want to do the Dale Carnegie course,” I said.

“Yeah. But why spend thousands of dollars when Toastmasters is free?” she asked. She has a good point. Time to talk with Dave about Toastmasters again, I think.

Tags: Blogging · Daily Life · Personal History · Television  → 18 Comments

In February, I posted subscriber counts for all the sites I run. At that time, my most-read site had 6784 regular readers. Today that numbers is over 40,000. While I’m pleased with this, it also gives me a severe case of stage-fright. It’s one thing to be writing for a few hundred people, but to be writing for a small city? It makes me nervous.

This list is based on the FeedBurner survey of my RSS feeds. This isn’t a count of actual direct traffic to the sites, but of the number of people who have subscribed. In parentheses, I’ll list the number of subscribers in February and the number of subscribers now. I’ll also write a little about my plans for each site.

I’ve ordered the list based on how important the sites are to me. I consider the first four to be “active”, and it’s my goal to maintain each of them as best I can.

Get Rich Slowly (6784 readers in Feb, 40808 today) — Yes, GRS really is read by over 40,000 daily subscribers right now. (And 4,000 people subscribe via e-mail.) I try not to think about it. I love writing this site and I love interacting with the GRS community. I’m earning enough from writing about personal finance to transition to a full-time writer.

foldedspace.org (330 readers in Feb, 302 today) — Foldedspace has suffered over the past two years. My attentions have turned elsewhere. We used to have a small but vibrant community here, but I fear I’ve lost many of the old readers. Still, I’ve been working to post here more often lately, and I’ve managed to move my old MT template to WordPress. All that’s left is to move over the archives.

Get Fit Slowly (new blog — 373 readers today) — Get Rich Slowly helped me turn my finances around. I’m hoping Get Fit Slowly can do the same with my health. Mac and I are writing this blog together, and so far I’ve been quite pleased with the experience. We’re both relaxed but serious about this. We’re not letting it become a chore, yet we’re dedicated to make this site a success. Our posts here are sporadic, but should become more regular (and higher quality) with time.

Animal Intelligence (23 readers in Feb, 98 readers now) — This number actually rises to about 120 or so on the days I post an entry. Unfortunately, I don’t post entries as often as I’d like. This is one blog that will benefit from my move to full-time. I’ll be able to spend a couple hours writing posts each week. This blog will never go away. I love the subject.

Money Hacks (93 readers in Feb, 847 today) — This GRS companion site was basically stillborn. I kept at it for a few weeks, and in that time grew the subscriber base to 1,000 people, but I couldn’t maintain the site. I didn’t have time. I still hope to revive it someday, but for now it’s dormant. (And, in reality, the Money Hacks feed is an abridged GRS feed at the moment.)

Vintage Pop (3 readers in Feb, 1 reader now, and that’s me) — Ah, Vintage Pop. How I love the idea. I’m not going to say this site is dead forever, but I have no plans to work on it in the next year or so. I do think it could be huge if I were to devote time and effort to it, and I think it could be a lot of fun. We’ll see…

Four Color Comics (31 readers in Feb, 39 readers today) — Ah, my comic book site. This site is dead, dead, dead. Though I’d love to have time to write about this aspect of my life, I don’t. I’ll maintain the domain, but I have no plans to return to this blog in the foreseeable future.

Bibliophilic (11 readers in Feb, 19 readers now) — My book site, which is dead dead dead. Again, this is a nice idea, but I just don’t have the time. I once thought I’d repost all my book reviews here, but rumor has it Google frowns on “duplicate content”, so I’m not willing to jeopardize all my other sites just to keep this one alive.

These are not the only domains I own, but they’re the only ones where I’ve actually created active sites. (They’re not all active now, of course…) Other domains that may see future activity include:

  • Cougar Tracks — A site meant for alumni of Canby Union High School.
  • Oak Grove Crossing — For information about my local community. This is a slow-to-get-started project with John C. I’m also hoping Lane will chip in. (And maybe Amy Jo, since she’s in the area now.)
  • Spiral Bound — My notebook blog. Believe it or not, this site has some underground support. I’ve never posted a thing here, but I think it could have a cult following if I did. I’m dead serious.
  • Success Daily — This one is set up and ready to go. I just don’t have the time. David Hatch will be disappointed to hear that I’m now thinking a January 2009 start date at the earliest.
  • Taking the Scenic Route — Actually, though I own the domain, this is a placeholder for a future Amy Jo project.
  • Too Much Cat and Too Much Dog — Ah, yes. I actually have entrepreneurship plans for these sites. I may make them a case study for GRS at some point.

There are other ideas kicking around inside my head, but I have to stop somewhere. The truth is, nothing else really matters to me right now but Get Rich Slowly. That is my top priority. If anyone out there wants to help with any of these, let me know. I’m open to possible collaborations.

Tags: Blogging · Geekiness  → 4 Comments

24 November 2007 — The Six Million Dollar Blog (1)

Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic blog. Foldedspace will be that blog. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster.

Wow. Amazing what a burst of productivity can do. Almost everything is in place with the template. Thanks to everyone who offered tips. I appreciate it. All of the old functionality has returned except for archives and search. Actually, I think WordPress is automagically taking care of some of that. So, the template is finished.

That leaves content. I imported the most recent MT content last night just for fun. But when John and I have actually recovered all of the old data, I’ll probably wipe WordPress and start from scratch. I’ll still end up with a bunch of duplicate entries, but I have the patience to sit down and sort things out. I’m excited to do so, actually! Bring it on!

Tags: Blogging  → 1 Comment

8 November 2007 — State of the Blogs (4)

For some reason it gives me a bigger thrill to know that I have 34 e-mail subscribers at Animal Intelligence than to know that I have 3400 e-mail subscribers at Get Rich Slowly. Why is that?

I think part of it is that I put very little effort into Animal Intelligence. It’s a topic about which I am very passionate (and let me tell you: I heartily appreciate all the links you folks send me, especially Dave and Nicole), but that blog has become marginalized since GRS took off. (All my blogs have, really.)

Yet despite the fact that I neglect AI, the readership has slowly grown. It’s tiny — about 100 RSS readers (including the 34 e-mail subscribers I mentioned earlier) — and maybe 4,000 visitors a month, but that’s fine. The site isn’t meant to have a huge audience. You should have seen me beam at earning $17.73 from AI last month. That meant more to me than the fact that GRS can now support me for a living.

Anyhow, as the day approaches that I’m going to officially cut back at Custom Box (instead of my current unofficial cutback), I’ll begin focusing more on my ancillary sites, including this one. I know it seems like I abandon foldedspace from time-to-time, but I never do in my mind. I love this place, and I love the fact that you guys have stuck with me for so long. I hope to reward your patience in the future. I just need to figure out how to make the transition to full-time professional blogger, you know?

As I was saying: I’m starting to pay more attention to my non-GRS sites. Animal Intelligence is going to get a quick face lift today. I’ve installed Visual Basic on my Mac and will work to write a script that can parse the old foldedspace files and convert them into something that WordPress can import. (I’m referring to the really old foldedspace files, the ones from before the crash.) Kris has also convinced me to attempt to convert my old foldedspace template — the one you all know and love — into a WordPress theme. This will take a little work, and I’m not going to return to a “one post on the front page” format, but I think it can be done.

Anyhow — stay tuned. With any luck, you’ll start to see more interesting stuff around here again. And lots more of my cats.

Tags: Blogging  → 4 Comments

16 September 2007 — The Lost Weekend (1)

“Let’s go on a date this weekend,” Kris said during the middle of last week.

“Sounds good,” I said. We haven’t spent much time together lately. I’ve been absorbed in my world, and Kris has been…well, Kris has been watching me be absorbed in my world. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“Either the art museum or IKEA,” she said. “Your choice.” I chose IKEA. I’ve never been to an IKEA before, and I’ve been to plenty of art museums recently. My feet hurt just thinking about it.

On Friday afternoon, we stopped for lunch at Sully’s Cafe in Milwaukie. The menu was limited, but I contented myself with a ham-and-cheese sandwich and a cup of clam chowder. We were impressed that Sully’s seemed to use quality ingredients. Not what we’d expected. (Note that the quality ingredients in my meal were cheese and milk, though.)

After lunch, we drove to IKEA to have a look around. Jeff had warned me that the store is set up like a maze, and indeed it is. We wandered through looking at all the stuff. I was enamored with the shelving units, of course. Kris spent far too much time looking at the kitchenware. As we wandered through the showroom, I began to complain that I didn’t feel good. “My stomach feels gross,” I said. “I feel like I’m going to explode.” Kris just shook her head. “I’m serious,” I said.

We hurried through and finally reached the self-service area where we could pick up the shelves, etc. we had decided to purchase. “Where’s that basket?” Kris asked.

“Which basket?” I said.

“The one I liked,” she said, but she hadn’t written down the bin number, so there was no way to find it. We had to go back to the start of the maze/store. Along the way, I made Kris stop at the in-store cafe.

“You wait here,” I said. And I went off to explode. You see, I’ve come to realize that I just might be lactose intolerant. I realize this is a rather gross subject for public discussion, but it really spoiled my Friday afternoon. When I’d pulled myself back together, Kris and went through the entire store maze once more.

We headed home.

Meanwhile, I had agreed to purchase a server at National Net, and to move Get Rich Slowly there. While Kris and I were off on our IKEA date, the NatNet elves were setting things up. When we arrived home, I spent some time verifying their work.

“I feel sick,” I told Kris later in the evening.

“Not again,” she said.

“No, not that way,” I said. “I mean that I feel sick. My stomach is upset. My sinuses are plugged. I think I have a sore throat.” To prove my point, I began to sneeze.

That night, we watched a strange French film from a Polish director. My head felt like a balloon. I could barely sleep.

“I couldn’t sleep,” I told Kris on Saturday morning.

“Neither could I!” she said. “I lay there for hours.”

“Me too,” I said. I checked my server progress, and things were good. At 1am, NatNet had sent me a message indicating that we only needed to do some final checks, and then I could switch the server over. I did the final checks and e-mailed support. Meanwhile, I discovered that while at IKEA on Friday, we’d been billed for ten yards of fabric, though we’d only purchased one.

We drove back to the store. The return process was hampered by the fact that I had developed itchy, watery eyes and an uncontrollable sneezing compulsion. I felt awful. We waited for half an hour, got credit for the overcharge, and left.

Back home, nothing had been done on my server. “Can you give me an update?” I e-mailed the tech.

“We’re waiting for you,” he said.

“I told you to go ahead,” I said.

“I can’t,” he said. “I need more info.” I sent him the info. I waited. Nothing happened. Mid-afternoon, I pinged him again. “It’s not enough info,” he said.

“It’s the same info I gave the other guy yesterday,” I said.

“I need more,” he said. So I gave him more. Meanwhile, Kris and I watched a strange documentary about a German man who came to the U.S., enlisted in the Navy, got shot down over Laos, escaped from his captors, and now has gone back to revisit the scene.

I was supposed to help Kris pick grapes and make grape juice, but I felt sick. “I feel sick,” I said. Fortunately, Tiffany was able to come help. I moped. I slept. I knew that I should write, but I didn’t have the gumption.

I e-mailed NatNet again. “Any progress?” I asked.

“I’m still waiting for you,” the guy told me, and I about blew a gasket. Fortunately, the guy from the day before came on shift, and he seemed to be able to take care of things just fine. “We’re ready,” he said.

So I threw the DNS switch, moving the server.

This morning, I was happy to see that many of my readers were able to see the new server, even though I was not. I was also happy that I felt a little better, if not physically, then at least mentally. “I’m going to write today,” I told Kris. I managed to get a couple of entries done before noon.

I took some time off to relax and run a couple errands. Then I came back and wrote some more. More and more readers wrote to tell me that they’d found the new site. I still couldn’t see it.

In the late afternoon, my sneezing fits returned. My throat felt raw. “I’m sick,” I told Kris.

“I don’t feel well either,” she said. “I want McDonald’s. And brownies.” I drove to McDonald’s to get her some comfort food. She baked some brownies. We ate poorly, but enjoyed it.

In the evening, I wrote some more. I was just posting tomorrow morning’s entry when all of a sudden my new server froze up. “What the hell?” I wondered. I phoned tech support. “Something’s wrong,” I said.

They took a look at the problem, and then e-mailed me back. “Something’s wrong,” they said. “We don’t know what. We have to replace the hard drive. It might take a while.”

Ugh.

So basically this was a lost weekend. I got very little done. My new server is no nearer being ready than it was on Friday. I’ve even lost some data, I’m sure, because I made changes to the server since they moved things over. I’ll have to reconstruct the changes I made, which will take time. Precious time. Meanwhile, I wrote very little, didn’t chip any branches, didn’t read the book group book, didn’t do anything.

Plus, I still feel sick.

Tags: Blogging · Daily Life  → 1 Comment

13 September 2007 — The Business of Blogging (5)

I woke up one morning recently and discovered that Get Rich Slowly had become a business. That’s funny — last I checked, it was meant to be a hobby.

What do I mean that GRS has become a business? I mean that I spend most of my time working on the site, both writing articles and taking care of things behind the scenes. I mean that about 50% of my personal income is now derived from the site. I mean that the e-mail flow has become so large that I cannot cope with it. I mean that I’ve seriously considered paying somebody — Kris? Mac? — to help me take care of things.

I also mean that there are all sort of business-like decisions to be made. I just joined two blog networks, for example. They’re both interested in working together to enhance advertising opportunities for members. This means negotiations of the type I’ve shirked before. (I get business/ad proposals all the time, but basically ignore them. Now I feel obligated to represent my blog networks, even if I don’t want a particular ad.)

I’ve also got people pitching book deals to me. I’ve been ignoring them, too, and I feel bad about that. I should at least respond to let them know that I don’t have the time right now, and that I’d rather self-publish my first book unless I can get a huge publisher to take me on.

Or how about this: in a week or two, I’ll join a new MSN project. In theory, this will drive huge quantities of traffic to the site, thus increasing its current readership. This is great, but terrifying. Dreamhost is barely able to cope with current GRS readership. My account begins to flake out at the 1000/visits per hour mark. Even a bump from a moderate-sized site pushes me over sometimes, and then the site becomes unreachable, which is not the image I want to portray. (And sometimes, like this morning, the site is just completely unreachable for reasons that I cannot fathom.) So what do I do?

Well, I move from $100/year hosting to $2500/year hosting, that’s what. Yes, it’s true. I’m going to pay $200/month for a company to host Get Rich Slowly. It hurts me to type that. It hurts me every time I think about it. Yet it must be done. And the reality is, this is only about 5% of my current income from the site, so it’s really not that big a deal. Yet it feels scary — $200/month for something that I’ve been getting for a fraction of the price?

Meanwhile, the key to Get Rich Slowly is the content. This week I’ve worked very little on content. Why? Because I pre-wrote everything last week, which was nice. It gave me a chance to take a break. But I didn’t realize that I’d be swamped with administrative tasks. It’s noon on Thursday. I took a vacation day today so that I could work on GRS. I’ve spent five hours doing nothing but behind-the-scenes stuff. I haven’t written anything besides the entry you’re reading now. I have nothing written for next week. I’d rather not go back into “day before” mode, so I need to get cracking.

But first I have some more business to take care of…

Tags: Blogging  → 5 Comments