The Art of Disconnecting

We are living through some interesting times right now. Of course I believe people should be aware of what is going on around them. What is really easy to do is cross the very thin line between awareness and obsession. Losing your job, having no money and losing your house are all real fears that everyone has. One sure way to make them all come true is to obsess over them to the point that you fail to do your job, focus on what makes you money and keep yourself moving towards your goals.
The Art of Disconnecting
Recently I have walked into stores where sales people are huddled together talking about who got layed off or if the store will shutdown. I must have stood waiting for them to notice me for at least five minutes until I said “I hate to interrupt but I would like to buy xyz product”. To my surprise instead of getting the usual sales service where I would get walked over to the product and got the old up sell speech to a better product they simply pointed me over to corner of the store and told me to go get it. I even had to wait again just to be able to pay for the product!

Here are very simple methods I use to avoid getting caught up in the daily barrage of negative news.

Turn off messaging and emails!
I borrowed this from the Four Hour Work Week, great book and I highly recommend it. I got the audio book version and it has made a tremendous impact on my productivity.

Set your Blackberry to phone only and if you really must stay on top of emails check them at the top of the hour. You will be amazed how much more work you get done when you don’t check your phone every two seconds due to it chirping or vibrating.

While you are at it turn off Instant Messenger, Twitter Client and anything else that will bring a distracting screen or blinking icon that requires your attention. If people need to get a hold of you they will call.

Change your browser homepage!
Seems simple right? I used to have Yahoo! and at times Google News set to my homepage. The problem is that habitually I would hit the home button on my browser and then immediately be distracted by some major news or new viral story. I would say this habit alone is responsible for hours of lost productivity.

So the answer? I changed my homepage to the project or site that required my attention right now! If I tend to fall victim to my adult attention deficit disorder and go off chasing some news story, I just hit the home button that would usually keep me in la la land and I am now immediately taken back to what I should be giving my attention to.

Do not answer your phone!
Here is the real test that most people fail as they are conditioned to answer the phone when they hear a ring. Most people out of habit will stop what they are doing and get up to answer a phone without much thought. Stop doing this! Let your answering machine pickup and screen your calls. 99.9% of all calls are from Telemarketers or people who just want to chat for while. The goal is to stop talking to telemarketers or discussing the worlds problems with your friends and family.

Some of you may have to answer the phone for specific people like your boss, significant other etc… Use caller id and have those numbers clearly marked somewhere so that you know to answer only those calls. Everyone else goes directly into the message machine for screening.

Building your empire takes focus!
Times are tuff no doubt about that and if you do not have the ability to delegate work to others then its all on you to deliver. Staying focused will keep you working while others are losing work, jobs, money and homes. Times call for going the extra mile, keeping a clear head and getting your work done. Even when it seems everything is tumbling down you need to keep moving forward.

Black Board Friday: Internet Micro Economy

Internet Micro EconomyWhile the US economy is nose diving and taking much of the world along with it, its time to start paying attention to the internet where a micro economy has not only been doing well all along but exploding recently.

I wish I could take credit for this saying as it holds true especially now “Some people wake up in the morning and make things happen, others watch things happen and some wonder what just happened?”. Its time to snap free for a moment from all the news and realize that if you have skills its time to put them to work and make some money online!

So how exactly do you make money? In a nutshell take inventory of your skills, a true hard look at what you can do and start getting creative with your online marketing of those skills. For example I am always in need of new content, so finding writers who can generate fresh new content is something I scour the internet for on a daily basis. In my experience with hiring content writers I have been privileged to work with and hire some of the most credentialed Ivy League graduates to hard working stay at home moms who need to make ends meet. Some of the writers already have day jobs that may not be their ideal job but they are not sitting around holding out for that corner office. Instead they take on side work to make up the difference and sometimes make more than they expected.

So what is the catch? I completely expect you to wonder what the catch is, here it is. Think MICRO! For example content writers may charge anywhere from $10 to $40 per article for the type of content I am looking for. Now this may be well below what you hoped you could charge for a well researched non-plagiarized article but do not get caught up in the price just yet. In my experience when ordering articles it usually an order of 3 to 5 articles at a time every week or every other week. So let’s do the math:

3 articles per week x $25 per article = $75 in your pocket or $300 per month

Now I know you can’t live off of $75 or roughly $300 per month, so let’s start scaling this out because you are one of those people that make things happen!

3 Clients
9 articles per week x $25 per article = $225 in your pocket or $900 per month

5 Clients
15 articles per week x $25 per article = $375 in your pocket or $1500 per month

Now the great thing about this Internet Micro Economy is the un-written rules that apply to it in a street smart way that provides a quick checks and balance system. Basically if you burn somebody, you’re done! Let’s take a look at a few:

– All work requires a deposit of minimum 50% unless you have a great reputation and require full payment up front.

– All work requires that you provide a guaranteed turn around time.

– If you mess up or fail to deliver and can’t work it out with your client, your client will in most cases let everyone know how you messed up and not recommend you. Basically you are toast.

– Be flexible with your pricing as in most cases you will be undercutting someone else so expect to be undercut.

– Go the extra mile! Do not just deliver what is expected; go above and beyond so that you stand out from the crowd. This usually leads to good recommendations and more work!

If you are not a writer, don’t worry there are so many opportunities to work. Writing is just one small part of what is in demand. Here are a few other examples of work:

– Landing page designers

– PSD to HTML

– PHP scripts

– WordPress Plugins

– Social Media

– Link Builders

Ready to get started? Where can you post your skills and start getting work you ask? I like your attitude, the rule of thumb is go to the watering hole or virtual water cooler like forums. Here are few great places to get started:

WickedFire Forum (Not for easily offended)
http://www.wickedfire.com/sell-buy-trade/

Digital Point
http://forums.digitalpoint.com/forumdisplay.php?f=24

SitePoint
http://marketplace.sitepoint.com/categories/looking-to-hire

ProBlogger Job Board
http://jobs.problogger.net/

StuntDubl Job Board
http://www.stuntdubl.com/jobs

Its time to shake off the gloom and doom attitude! Go out there and market your skills and although you will not be getting the big money that you are used to making you will in some cases be able to make more collectively.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART! You need to give back! What makes the Internet Micro Economy work is people who recognize that they do not need to do everything themselves and realize they make more money by hiring out work as they can move towards completing goals faster. Do not hoard up all your work and do it all yourself! If you need a PSD converted to HTML and it’s not your thing hire someone from the same place you get work. If you need a design for you new site don’t waste time trying to figure out Photoshop and hire someone who can crank out a great design for you.

The economy is not great right now, that’s a fact. If you have skills you can survive and thrive despite what is going on around you. Be conscious of what is on in the world but do not let it keep you from putting food on the table and paying your bills!

Black Board Friday – Altering Search Status

Black Board Friday - Rabbit out of the hat!Lets dive into an old WordPress Plugin that I wrote about a year ago that rubbed a couple of people the wrong way called “No Pinko”. What this plugin did at the time was find out if the visiting users browser was using Search Status on a FireFox browser and altering it, well at least altering the NoFollow highlighting. Here is how it worked.

First you need to have installed a great developer plugin called Source Chart if you don’t have it, go get it! What Source Chart does is display everything as its rendered in the FireFox browser including any fingerprints/signatures that other plugins such as Search Status might leave. Turns out Search Status left a pretty big signature just above the closing head tag in the HTML. It’s been a while but if I remember correctly it looked a bit like this:

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”chrome://??/search-status.css” id=”searchstatus-nofollow” />

At this point if you are good dev you can easily see how it was pretty easy to alter. For the non-dev people Search Status left behind a nice “id” property that was easily accessible with a Javascript window.onLoad event like this:

function nopinko(){
var pinko = document.getElementById("searchstatus-nofollow");
if (pinko)
{
pinko.href='';
}
}
window.onload = nopinko;

By removing the path to the CSS that defined how the NoFollow links should be highlighted with the line pinko.href=’’ all links appeared as normal. No css, No pink.

Just like that no more pink highlights! Needless to say some people got pretty upset about this and had some not so nice comments:

Wait… you’re actively breaking the plugin?

People are installing this plugin *specifically* to see (among other SEO-related info) what links are no-follow. You’re basically saying “I know that’s what you want… but I’m overriding your preference because I don’t like the way it looks.”

I wholly disagree with the idea that the ultimate word in how the site displays should belong to the site owner. Are you going to try to break *all* plugins that modify a site’s presentation?

Remember, we’re not talking about normal browser behavior for normal users. These are people who sought out and installed a plugin because they wanted to see this extra information.

Once they install it, they’re going to see pink links everywhere, including the MSNBC homepage, Wikipedia homepage, etc. etc.. Is there any chance that they will stumble on your blog for the first time instead, and think you designed it with pink links? I don’t think so — they’ll know it’s the plugin functioning normally.

So instead, when you break the plugin, they’ll just think (wrongly) that your site doesn’t use nofollow.

You are targeting users of a specific plugin for a specfic browser because you don’t like how your site looks while being viewed with a plugin designed to change the look of a site and undoubtedly a plugin the user has installed for a reason. If a site did this to a plugin that I use, I would boycott the site.

“Personally I think it should be up to the site owner as to how the site is ultimately rendered.”
I think this attitude is completely outdated.
Web != Print

I still stand by my original statement for testing this plugin out:

“Personally I think it should be up to the site owner as to how the site is ultimately rendered. And lets think of the users! Do we really want the first impression of the site to be a bunch of pink highlighted links?”

If you are like the people above that couldn’t be bothered to view source before paying someone for a link well then this plugin was not your biggest problem.

Search Status has since changed the way they implement the notorious Pink NoFollow Highlight that has saved thousands if not millions from buying NoFollow links while simultaneously causing some really great looking sites to look like crap. I wonder if this plugin had anything to do with that? I guess I will never know… The new style code looks like this:

<style>
a[rel~="nofollow"] { border: thin dashed firebrick ! important; background-color: rgb(255, 200, 200) ! important; }
</style>

Do I think it can still be altered or disabled? Of course, maybe at some point I will revisit this old plugin but for now it will have to stay retired.

If you would like to take a crack at it and know you can disable it feel free to post the code or a link to the code in the comments area.

Blackboard Friday: My Fish! Get your own!

My Fish Get Your Own

So have you heard the old saying “Give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life”? As I get closer to my first year here at Webguerrilla/3 Dog Media I realize how untrue this statement is in this industry.

A while ago I read on Shoemoney.com where Andy Beal posted a comment saying “You (referring to Shoemoney) once said that ‘if you teach a man to fish, he’ll steal all your fish'”. And at that point that statement put into words what I had been experiencing while rolling with Greg and Dax. Writing tons of code and criss crossing America attending conferences has given me a unique perspective on the ins and outs of this industry.

Now before you start thinking that this is a negative post it is actually a post about how I have learned more this last year from Greg, Dax, Shoemoney, Brent, Neil and many others about getting my own fish than I have working for corporate America most of my professional life.

If we take the analogy of that old saying, picture two people on a frozen lake. One has a pole with a hole in the ground and a pile of fish sitting next to him along with a nice little fire with a big fish roasting for all to see. The other is hungry, has no pole and has to make a decision.

Does he:

a) Ask the man for a fish since he has so much even though he already knows that nobody gives up any fish?

b) Realize that he is only going to get hungrier and his best bet is to observe, learn and replicate?

c) Give up, go home, convince himself there are no more fish in the lake and eat saltine crackers.

The correct answer in my opinion is (b), but I will write about that in a bit. Lets now explore why (a) and (c) are going to lead down a path with no results.

If the hungry man chose to go down path (a) the man with plenty of fish would likely not give up much if any. In fact the man with fish worked long hours to perfect his skills in order to be able to catch as many fish as he could with as little effort possible. Plus even though it may be in his nature to help others the man with fish knows that if he gives to this hungry man many more will come to ask for free fish and soon all his fish will be gone.

If the hungry man chose to go down path (c) he would have to give up his dream of eating a good meal day after day and most importantly convince himself that there is no better life available for him other than the one he has set before him. The man with tons of fish to him is lucky like people who win the lottery. He fails to see the opportunity to observe and learn. He believes nobody wants to help him and has fallen defeated destined to eat saltine crackers all his life.

Now lets say that the hungry man has gone down path (b). The hungry man quickly sees the obvious (Hole In The Ground + Fishing Pole = Fish). Oh but if things were only that easy right? The hungry man introduces himself and mentions that he too will be fishing at which point the man with fish introduces himself and wishes the other luck realizing that it was only a matter of time before people would try to fish. After this the hungry man promptly finds himself a good stick for a pole at no cost and starts to dig a hole. Although it is hard work to create a hole in the ice it is somehow gratifying and again cost nothing more than his time and energy.

After some time he has caught no fish and getting frustrated he remembers to observe. At this point the hungry man realizes another missing element to his approach. He sees the man with fish put bait on his line before placing the hook in the water. “Does baiting really work?” the hungry man asks himself and gives it a try. Soon he has his first fish and proudly holds it up for all to see. After some time he learns much more than he could have imagined from the man with fish from observing his methods and quirks for fishing. And after a while the hungry man earns respect from the man with fish and eventually starts exchanging ideas from time to time about how to more efficiently capture fish.

And everyone lived happily ever after. The End.

So the moral of this story is ‘just start fishing’. Like Neil Patel’s earlier post about Walking or Running I believe that if you start fishing sooner rather than later you will find yourself surrounded by others doing the same and be in the best position to exchange ideas and learn as much as possible through close observation.

Personally I have learned that nobody was given anything in this industry. Unlike corporate America MBA’s and PhD’s don’t really amount to much and give you no extra advantage over anyone else. At least everyone that I have met has created there own pile of fish. Lastly there are so many opportunities available to me and everyone else. The difference is now I can see them.