Archive for February, 2010

The Benefits of Doing Daily Photos With ShutterCal

For the past month or so, I’ve been using ShutterCal to upload a daily photo. ShutterCal then displays photos in an actual calendar format making it easy to look back over the past month of photos. As a person who works from home, I discovered some really neat advantages to doing this that I hadn’t thought of prior to using it:

  • It forces me to get out of my PJs and into “real” clothes every day as well as comb my hair. Well, maybe not comb my hair. But I can look back and figure out when I last had a haircut. No more going two months between cuts.
  • It acts as a daily journal. I can go back and look at past days and look at the context of the photo for an idea of what I did that day.
  • It gets my creative juices flowing…easily. Most of the time I shoot my daily photo simply using the webcam on my MacBook. Easy, but creatively challenging to make each photo different somehow.
  • It gets me out and about. Looking back over a monthly calendar of photos, it’s easy to spot trends. If too many photos in a row are me sitting in my house, then it’s time to get out.

These are all great things for someone working from home. If you decide to join me on ShutterCal, you’ll find my calendar here. Let’s be friends! :)

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The Masterpiece of a Job Well Done

Last week my wife went cross-country skiing down on the lake by our house. When we made it to the far end of the lake, we stopped for a breather and I noticed an area on the shore where a beaver had been hard at work. There were a few trees down and I decided to take a closer look at its handiwork. I snapped the above photo as I explored.

Looking at this photo, I realize how much of an artist a beaver is. From huts and dams right down to the pattern of teeth marks on a downed tree, the evidence of the beaver’s hard work is beautiful. Beavers were made for chewing and building. They excel at that, and thus their job-well-done becomes a work of art.

I love experiencing the final result of people doing what they do best. Something as simple as the pancakes made by the top cook at the local cafe to the skyscraper designed by a famous architect to the simple but powerful WordPress plugin developed by a tinkering high-school student. Experiencing excellence, whether simple or complex, never gets old.

People (and animals) doing what they do best results in a masterpiece.

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Out and About With The XShot

The awesome folks at XShot recently sent me one of their “XShot 2.0″ hand-held video/photo accessories. It allows you to place a smaller camera or flip-style camcorder on the end and extend it out a few feet in front of you, thus eliminating the need to hold your arm out when trying to do a self portrait. It actually extends further than your arm would allow (unless you’re Manute Bol), thus allowing for a very natural shot.

In today’s video, I take it out for a test session. This thing is going to be great for upcoming AnywhereMan vids, not to mention outings with my wife when we want to snap a pic of the two of us together.

For another review of the XShot, check out Phil Montero’s video on He gives a nice description of how the XShot functions.

If you’re interested in buying one, just visit the XShot website and you can purchase it directly from them.

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Everything Is Amazing

Did you ever see the clip of comedian Louis CK talking to Conan O’Brien about how everything is amazing, yet nobody’s happy? If you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes to watch it before reading the rest of this post. First of all, it’s hilarious, and second, it’s 100% true.

Two nights ago I realized how amazing things are. Specifically, I realized how amazing it is that I can do what I do and interact with the people I do.

I was sitting in our local Caribou Coffee getting some extra work done for the day. Okay, first amazing thing: I was getting work done from the place that serves my favorite coffee. Caribou is awesome, and the only thing more amazing that being able to get work done there would be for them to give me my own dedicated Dave-only table that I could use all-day every day. I think I’m pushing my luck, so I’ll continue…

The second amazing thing was that I was having a few conversations on the side using Twitter. Just think about that: I am able to have casual conversations with folks, most of whom I’ve never met, who are hundreds and thousands of miles away. Twitter is an amazing tool. I’ve met many new friends and clients using the platform, and I’ll say it again: it really is the world’s largest water cooler.

Okay let’s continue down the social media path for a second. Not only is Twitter amazing, but the social media concept in general is amazing. It’s so flippin’ easy to find folks with the same interests, hobbies, career, and concerns as you. It’s so easy to keep in touch with people you haven’t seen in years. Personally, there are a ton of past friends I interact with on Facebook that I might never have talked to again just because of geography and losing touch. It’s amazing!

Lately I’ve been making it a point to use Skype a lot more. It’s been much easier on my MacBook than it ever was on my PC, for some reason. Skype is amazing. I feel like I’m almost in the same room as the person I’m talking to. It blows my mind! Tuesday night I was on Skype with a friend (from Twitter, whom I’ve never met in person) and he was on the road for his job. He jokingly said that if I was the AnywhereMan, he was the EverywhereMan. Having Skype allows him to interact with his wife and son in a way that’s a lot more personal than just an audio-only phone call. It’s not a replacement for actually being there, but it sure helps.

Any plain old chat application is amazing. When I was sitting at Caribou on Wednesday night, a chat message from my wife popped up in Google Talk. “Did you unhook the computer from the TV?” she asked. Being able to ask that question with just a quick little message versus a disruptive phone call is pretty slick. And yes, we’ve got an old Dell PC hooked to our TV and we watch our Hulu shows on it each week. That is also amazing.

Finally, the Work Anywhere concept is blow-my-mind amazing. I sit in the basement office of my small house in Grand Rapids and shape and mold the interwebs for clients who are mostly NOT in Grand Rapids. In fact, the largest concentration of Lift Development clients is actually in California. I’m in my shorts right now prepping to do some work for a bunch of them, my kids are upstairs playing, my wife is making coffee, and that is just plain amazing to me.

While there are always plenty of things to bum us out, focus on the little amazing things you might have never taken notice of in the past.

What’s amazing in your life?

Even if you don’t have a Work Anywhere career, there are still plenty of amazing things if you just look around. If I still had to commute these days, I guarantee being able to automatically download podcasts to my iPod Touch on a daily basis and listen to them during the drive would be among my list of amazing-ness. In fact, I kind of miss that…just a little bit.

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How I Started a New Business on a Saturday – Part Two

Here is part two of my first “Startup Saturday” in which I built and launched a new business/site in a day. That site is

Please note that some of the steps in this process are simple enough for anybody who has the ability to place orders online to complete, i.e. ordering a domain, ordering a hosting account, etc. You’ll see me flash a link in the video, but here’s a link to my exact steps for launching a theme-based WordPress website fast.

Amazing enough, I just publicized this launch for the first time yesterday and I’ve already gotten an overwhelmingly positive response and some potential business.

What kind of business are you thinking of launching? Would the ability to get it off the ground on a single Saturday motivate you to pursuit it?

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How I Started a New Business on a Saturday – Part One

I love throwing new business ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks.This mentality has led me to practice something I call “Startup Saturday” where I essentially launch new web business ventures in a day. Here’s part one of the vlog for my latest launch: is a WordPress theme customization service. I’ve customized quite a few WP themes in the past, so the service itself is nothing new. However, lately I’ve felt that it’s important to package certain skills into “products” and give them their own website. Sometimes listing everything I do (design, ASP.NET programming, video, SQL design, etc) on a single site results in a watered-down offering. Maybe I should just focus on one of those skills altogether, but that’s another story…

I spent a Saturday a few weeks ago putting the site, plan, and content together. To further complicate my life, while working on the TweakMyTheme site I also came up with two more startup-in-a-day ideas, so I’m already looking for the next free Saturday to launch another one. It’s a lot of fun and I’m getting good practice, if nothing else.

Am I off my rocker? Is it better to launch a lot of “small” businesses and see what works, or do you think one well-planned venture is more powerful?

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Documentary Makes Lemonade From Layoffs

“It’s not a pink slip. It’s a blank page”

Last night I finally sat down and watched “Lemonade,” a documentary about several different advertising professionals who were laid off by their respective agencies and used the opportunity to focus on turning their passions into careers. The 35-minute film itself was produced by one of the professionals in the film.

If you have any entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever (which I think many of you do), you need to see this film. Whether or not you have a job with an employer, the spirit and passion that these people used to turn a seemingly negative situation into motivation to succeed at their own venture is incredibly inspirational.

It’s a quick film (35 minutes), but it packs a lot of punch. It’s almost like watching a film version of Gary Vaynerchuk‘s “Crush It,” which is a short book but really pumps you up to chase your passions. I think there are so many different stories in the film that you’re bound to relate to at least one of the featured individuals. The guy who created the film itself started a blog/job board for laid-off advertising pros called Please Feed the Animals, and I found myself really relating to him. Now, I haven’t been laid off before, but I am passionate about blogging and video.

My Response

One thing my wife and I discussed after viewing this: People with a marketing background definitely have a leg-up when it comes to starting their own venture and making it known to the world. Many of them are web-savy and know how people respond to various approaches of advertising. Many times the business ideas are the easy part. It’s getting the ideas/products out to the general public that takes the most creative muscle.

With that in mind, one of the things I’ve recently started doing in my spare time is starting “mini-businesses.” These are basically products/services for which I can create an entire web presence in a day or less. I’m also looking at offering this type of service to clients (especially startups like the folks in this film, but not necessarily advertising pros) through yet another mini-business.

I’ve been doing some video documentation on this process, so be sure to come back soon for details on how I’ve been starting these mini-businesses in a rapid deployment manner. I’m a big proponent of throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. This is my attempt at forcing myself to do it on a regular basis.

Two Thumbs Up

I definitely recommend seeing this short film. In fact, you can watch in right now, right here! Here’s an embed of the full-film from Hulu:

Take the time to watch this film, be inspired, and then report back with your thoughts. If you’ve seen it already, what did you think?

SPOILER ALERT: One featured individual used his layoff as an opportunity to turn himself into a woman, but I’m guessing most of you won’t go down that path.

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Relationships, Consumerism, and the Throw-Away Mentality

In honor of Valentine’s Day, this video is about relationships. Okay I wasn’t really thinking about Valentine’s Day at all when I set out to record this, but it’s fitting nonetheless. The meat of this video is in the first three minutes, but keep watching if you’d like to see some of the ways we’re trying to overcome a throw-away mentality in our household.

We live in a period when everything is disposable. If something breaks, we just throw it away and get a new one. With regards to things like the environment, this is obviously a bad thing. However, it’s even worse if we apply this mentality to people and relationships.

People are valuable. We are all unique, each with our own strengths and weaknesses. Though it may not seem like someone is of value to you right now, you just never know when your paths may cross again and on what terms. Not that it matters if you ever cross paths again: just be nice.

Also, I think we give up to easily on people a lot of times. Great relationships take time and effort. Commitment in the long run takes a “fix-it” attitude  where you’re willing to do what it takes to make it work. This is the type of attitude clients and employers like to see. It can be a big key to networking as well.

Failing at fixing “stuff” can be tolerated, but let’s make sure we’re committed to doing the work when it comes to relationships. The good news is that I see a lot of people on a regular basis with this type of attitude.

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I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night…And All Day Too

One of the things I love about working in front of a computer most of the day is the ability to listen to lots of music. I’m a fan of too many artists and styles to even list, and having access to an enormous amount of music is important to me.

Today I give you my three favorite apps for listening to music. None of these will probably surprise you, but hey you might learn something.

And yes, that is a John Denver album shown in iTunes. LEGEND!

What are your favorite apps for listening to your music? Where do you find new music?

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It’s a Snow Day Every Day

There is a lot of talk today about all the snow out east. I live in Minnesota so I know what it’s like. I used to absolutely hate getting a big dose of snow. Nowadays, I say BRING IT ON.

Let me first just say that the past two winters I’ve finally had the luxury of owning a snow blower…it makes a huge difference in how I view snowstorms. I don’t dread shoveling…and shoveling…and shoveling. Now I view snow as an excuse to see how far I can possibly launch it. I can hit my neighbor’s yard with it, no problem.

The second reason I don’t mind them as much anymore is that I work at home. Back when I commuted, a snowstorm meant driving under very stressful conditions for a period of 2-3 times the normal length of time it would normally take to get to work. I absolutely hated that. Also, after a long day of working/commuting, I’d arrive home to…you guessed it…shoveling snow. I’ll also mention that it would be dark when I left in the morning, and dark when I got home. What is the point of this, people?!

Once again, working from home is awesome. I’ll get up, head down to my office with fresh coffee, work for a while, and if the snow has let up, I’ll go out and fire up the John Deere whenever I feel like it. I’ll take the time to marvel at the beauty of the snow in the trees, maybe snap a few pictures, and maybe even play with my daughters and build a snowman. Then, back to work and back to remembering yet another reason that I love what I do and where I do it.

Working from Anywhere is great, and yet not having to go anywhere else has it’s advantages too.

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