Because I took this (not even looking) out the window of my car on the 101 freeway...
Because I took this (not even looking) out the window of my car on the 101 freeway...
Men socialize by insulting each other, but they don't really mean it.
Women socialize by complimenting each other, and they don't really mean it either.
A couple months ago, I finished building my home office in the shell of a barn. It started as a old horse barn with a dirt floor and no ceiling and over the course of a few months, turned into my new creative space (with a small recording studio) where I now spend most of my time. Here are some shots of the final product. (Scroll down if you want to see some progress shots of how it all came together.)
A Few Things to Note...
"The Barn" as it has been so originally named used to be a horse barn in the 70's, but has been nothing more than a storage unit for yard tools and a place for junk since then. (First pic is now the office, second pic is now the recording room.)
And then my dad helped loosen the tightly packed soil so we could level for the floor.
Here's all I came up with in terms of plans. I'm thankful that our handyman was willing to run with just this.
Got a large delivery of "real life lego pieces" from Lowe's and proceeded to carry it 100 yards from the street and down 60 steps:
Once the junk and rat poison were out, we were ready to frame the floor (handyman Brian on the left).
Now that we had a floor, it was time to frame in the ceiling.
Among the things being wired up were:
Oh, and we had to install a subpanel for power, so we got to run lots more wire underground to get to the barn. In the pic below, you'll notice my ingenious solution of getting all the wires we needed to automatically feed to us as we pulled them underground. (That's our handyman you see in the later pics.)
The Finishing Touches
Naturally, the most fun of the whole project was wiring it up.
The Barn has even been turned into a full-on video production studio!
The Barn has really become my home away from home (by about 30 yards) and I've been able to focus in this creation like nowhere before. It was well worth the high price and the hard work that went into it.
Having been back in the freelance world for a while now, I once again have to deal with quoting my clients an hourly rate for long-term contract work on an ongoing basis. I've been able to raise my rate several times in recent years, and now it's to the point where most people balk when I give them the figure.
But in reality, the amount of work I can do in an hour is the equivelant to what might take a less experienced person twice as long (or longer). In addition, more experienced people can cut down on potential revision time and avoid costly problems in the future by utilizing the knowledge they've built up of their work. And in general, if you've performed the same skill for a while, you're going to have all the tools you need and be much more comfortable doing it. So one hour of my time can easily be equivelant to four hours of a less experienced person's time.
Unfortunately the average client doesn't see it like this. They just see a high number and look to the next person. That's why hourly rates are hard to use, especially on long-term, open-ended contracts.
A designer named Clay Butler wrote about this problem. He also points out that hourly rates actually punish good designers:
Another problem with charging by the hour is that it punishes for getting get better and faster. To keep up with your increasing speed and skills your hourly fee must keep rising. With an hourly rate you can paint yourself into a corner because at a certain point an hourly rate will just sound ridiculous, where the same total fee, when presented as a flat fee, sounds reasonable because it focuses on value received and not the commodity (hours).
Clay Butler's opinion is that a flat fee works for both the contractor and the client. But rather than calling it a flat fee, he calls it a "value-based fee."
His suggestions are good, but I'm not so sure they work for me, given the fact I mostly do long-term contract work rather than one-off, short-term projects.
The challenge I face is to try to avoid the sticker shock that potential new clients might feel. The best clients understand the high rate and everything factored into it, but many others don't. So I don't know if I've found the solution for this problem yet. If you have a solution to this, I'd love to hear it.
Normally when I mention Major League Baseball umpires on my blog, it's to rant about a bad call (like here and here). This time, however, the ump got one right. And this call was big, because it was the 19th inning (for those not familiar with baseball, games usally go for 9 innings unless there's a tie, and games can't end on a tie) and this play ended the game.
It's funny how, even when things are black and white, people still see all sorts of colors. It's pretty clear (based on the replay in the clip above starting at 2:08) that the tag was never applied (simple contact between players doesn't matter - the catcher has to touch the player with his glove or the ball directly). It's just about as close as a play can get, but umpire Jerry Meals made the right call because that contact wasn't made, yet he's getting tons of flak for it. I just don't understand how people don't see that the runner wasn't tagged.
Here's the clip from the Braves' broadcast, if you want to see it from some slightly different angles.
I'm seriously thinking I need to start a blog that only highlights bad design. There's certainly enough content for it.
Today's episode features the instructions provided at McDonalds to connect to their free wifi. (But I'm kind of thinking if you can't connect to the wifi on your on, I'm not so sure this pamphlet will help...)
Connecting to a WiFi network with a PC is the equivalent of a hostage negotiation.
I previously wrote about the design disconnect at Microsoft here.
Google has been known to continually improve upon the look and feel of their search site, but I just came across some changes that are a bit more substantial than a traditional Google refresh or improvement. This "redesign" includes a blue search button, eliminating the Google Search and I'm Feeling Lucky buttons and more changes on the results page.
The homepage now includes a voice search feature that will automatically use a built-in microphone or one attached to a webcam (thanks to HTML5).
They also seem to be trying a completely new color scheme in the left rail of the search results page, as well as a gray bar across the top.
There's a good chance many of these changes will never go live. A couple years ago, Facebook redesigned and tested their signup process but it didn't last long.
Netvibes is my favorite news reader and I've used it for years. It's the best way I've found so far to digest news delivered by RSS feeds on the desktop. But when Netvibes released their premium service last year, I was pretty disappointed to see what it offered:
And for this, they want $39 a year. I'm sorry, but I'm just not a fan of prioritizing support for paid users when it's basically your only benefit of upgrading. And it's certainly not a convincing enough reason to shell out $39.
Here's where I disagree with the Netvibes philosophy: Support is not a feature. Keeping users happy is a core part of running an internet business and should be top priority. I shouldn't have to pay to get help if I run into a problem that I shouldn't have in the first place.
What's worse is that I've noticed a significantly longer support response time since they released their premium service (average response time used to be 1-2 days; lately it's been 4 days).
And the fact that Netvibes wants to charge for access to beta tests is downright boneheaded. Usually beta tests are given away for free since it's prone to more bugs and can be less stable than a final product.
I should point out that I am more than willing to give $39 to Netvibes for some advanced features I could use. Heck, I'd give them $100 a year. But not for something that should be a "customer right". I would happily pay for an advanced featureset (known as the freemium model, where a subset of users pay for features that not everyone wants or needs). Ya know, like embeddable widgets of news stories I'm reading - like a feed, advanced formatting of feeds, heck, maybe even iPad support (although this was rumored to be coming a year ago). But I would more than likely do it just to support a service I've used for free for many years.
I hope Netvibes continues to innovate and create a better news-reading experience online, rather than relying on users to pay for support to supplement their revenue from enterprise accounts. As good as their experience is at presenting the news, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Netvibes: if you need some ideas, see Flipboard for iPad.
Netvibes needs to continue evolving their product to stay on top. And maybe come up with some features that users will pay for, rather than charging for something that should be free.