Who are you to decide how much money I make and how I should spend it?

I normally relegate my political posts to my politics blog or the popular Douche of the Day, but this is something I had to share with everybody.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have been going on for about a month now. To me, the protestors symbolize much of my generation who don't want to put in the necessary effort to achieve success. They'd rather take handouts than work hard to succeed.

Today I shared a link on Facebook to the story about Peter Schiff, a CEO who protestors dub as part of the "1%." Schiff visited a protest to have an honest conversation about their demands. (I suggest watching this video before continuing.)

After I shared the link to the post, a friend of mine from college wrote a comment saying what the protests mean to him (emphasis mine):

It's not that he needs to pay more in taxes; he just needs to make less money. More of the money made by whatever company he is CEO for, needs to donate more and put more back into the lesser paid employees. Why does the person who cleans the toilets for a company like his make barely enough, when he himself stacks more money in a year than he or his dependents could even spend? That's all I really disagree with. Corporations are corrupt in the sense that their business practices in such a manner that does not coincide with the CEO's belief in the value of life. Being CEO, he has the power to change that, I will protest with OCCUPY for that change.

I'm sorry, but who are you to decide how much money a CEO is allowed to make? Who says you should decide how profit should be spent?

The leaders of companies spend long days for years to achieve the success they have. They miss time with their families to see their businesses succeed. People are motivated by making money, so if people who start companies aren't incentivized by a big payday for becoming successful, what's the point in even trying at all?

On top of that, many of the protestors are protesting against the bailouts that banks and financial instutions received over the past few years. However, it's surprising to me that none of them seem to realize that the bailouts were institued by the guy they voted in as president, Mr. Barack Obama. Why do they continue to go after the institutions who were the beneficiaries of the bailouts rather than the guy who handed them out in the first place?

To those older than me, I'd just like to apologize for my generation. We are a generation raised under the belief that we should be handed success rather than achieving it on our own. We would rather complain about not being able to find a job than to actually go out and make ourselves marketable. But I maintain that success is achievable; it just has to be pursued.

In college, I took on a handful of internships, then began several entreprenurial projects of my own in addition to having a fulltime job. I want to be successful, but I realize it's not something that is going to be handed to me. If I want to be successful, I have to make it on my own. I wish more people my age understood this concept, rather than making fools of themselves complaining about the unjustness of society.

Success is achievable. People should spend more time pursuing it than asking the successful to share their success with them.

The worst mistake you can make as a user experience designer

There is nothing worse than navigating your mouse to click a link, only to find out the link was actually a dropdown menu. But it's too late, because you already clicked the link, so you're already being taken to a new page.

Example:

The problem? There is no indication this is a dropdown menu. It just looks like a link to a regular page.

So how should it work? If it's a hoverable area, the area shouldn't be clickable because you don't want to take the user to a different page if they click it. I wish more UX designers understood this basic concept. I cannot begin to explain the spout of frustration I just dealt with internally as I just ran into this on Verizon's website.

I am a terrible person

Nine years ago, my next door neighbors next door moved in. Today they are moving out.

And today as I left my house and drove by theirs, I watched as they loaded boxes into their SUVs and realized that I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually talked to them. In fact, I can count the number of interactions on one finger.

Time flies, but I never realized they had been there for nine whole years.

My justification for never getting to know them is because of their unique family situation, and the fact that they aren't the type of people I would normally spend time with. But my "justification" of the situation doesn't make it right.

I often complain that America is becoming less and less like the America that my parents grew up in. People aren't as kind to each other anymore. People look out for each other less. That's why I'm a fan of Texas. It's the last bastion of hope for American tradition and values. But today made me realize that maybe I'm just as much of the problem as anybody.

So here's a challenge for you today: reach out to someone you don't know - maybe someone you've seen for years but have never taken a moment to talk to. Take the initiative to be friendly. We were made to live in community with one another. Don't make it to the point that I have where I've realized I've wasted almost a decade to reach out and be a friend to the people who live right next door.

Apple loves to make incomparable comparisons

If there's one thing Apple likes to do, it's to tell everyone how awesome they are. At the beginning of every iPhone announcement, you can bet on them to give stats and metrics for at least a half hour about how they're killing the competition. But today, they used a metric that bears absolutely no validity, and thus required me ranting about it.

While Tim Cook was sharing that over 300 million iPods have been sold to date, he went on to make this comparison:

"It took Sony 30 years to sell 220,000 Walkman casette players."

Yeah. Okay. Thanks Tim. Good for you.

In other news, I've made more money in the past 5 years than I did in the previous 100 years combined.

A rant about established musicians who use Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a great platform for funding creative projects. There are a lot of creative ideas that wouldn't get traditional funding but now have a chance thanks to Kickstarter. I've supported several projects.

But I'm seeing way too many well-established musicians and bands turn to Kickstarter to get their 2nd, 3rd or 4th album funded. I sour on this use of Kickstarter for several reasons.

Why are musicians asking fans to foot the bill before the product is made? If a record is good, people will pay for it. It's as simple as that. But asking fans to pay for something that isn't even made yet is like just like getting a business loan from a bank.

Musicians who use Kickstarter are going to make a new record anyway, regardless of the outcome of their funding project. So they're basically asking for handouts. They'll take what they can get but it's not going to affect their decision on whether or not to make a record. In the real world, if your company doesn't get funding from traditional investors, there's a chance it's because what you're offering isn't something people actually want.

It's lame when signed bands use Kickstarter. I find it pathetic when bands signed to record labels turn to Kickstarter for support. If they were good enough to get signed in the first place, shouldn't their label be doing their job of getting the music out there to fans who will buy the band's existing music (in the form of promotion, tours, etc.), which in turn will fund their new record?

There obvious counter-argument to my opinion is that Kickstarter lets fans invest in bands they believe in, which in turn reaps rewards when the record is done.

I just think that if a band is good enough to get an album or two or three on the market, they should depend on forward motion from previous albums and tours, and support THEMSELVES if their music career is something they really believe in, rather than asking for a loan from their fans.

    Buick tries to 1-up Lexus on a problem Lexus doesn't have

    This Buick commercial shows that if you lock your keys in your car, you can unlock your doors with their iPhone app. While it might be a nice feature, the commercial infers that the Lexus owner locked his keys in his car. But it's actually impossible to lock your keys in a Lexus. Details below...

    Every Lexus comes standard with their SmartAccess keys. These keys don't ever have to leave your pocket, and more importantly, don't let you lock the car when the key is inside. I find it humorous that the makers of this commercial would choose to compare the Buick to a Lexus ES for this specific feature, full while knowing their whole point is moot. Hey Buick, if you're going to target buyers of the Lexus ES, at least point out a problem Lexus actually has, not one you make up.

    Introducing my new home office: The Barn!

    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...

    • Wall artwork is by the talented photographer Cole Rise (still need to hang the last piece on the bare wall).
    • You might notice that around the double-doors is writing on the walls. I turned to IdeaPaint, a special type of paint that dries into a slick white board surface. Pretty awesome stuff. Cleans better than an actual white board!
    • My track lighting is all LED lighting, greatly reducing power consumption and heat produced.
    • To keep the tunes going all day long, I went with SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers and a BIC subwoofer. The sound is insanely awesome.

    Before

    "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.)

    I employed the help of 2/3 of my nephews to get the junk out. (It's not breaking child labor laws if they're related to you, right?)

    And then my dad helped loosen the tightly packed soil so we could level for the floor.

     

    Construction

    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).

    Side note: did you know that handling wire (used to hold insulation up off the ground) with bare hands can make you change colors?

    Now that we had a floor, it was time to frame in the ceiling.

    Once the ceiling was framed, I noticed that my favorite local coffee shop (Kean Coffee) had an awesome recessed ceiling for their chandelier.

    So of course, I decided I wanted a recessed ceiling too, to make the room feel bigger. (This would eliminate the exposed wooden beams I had drawn into my plans.) So we chopped a hole in the framing we just built and made a recessed section.

    Then came insulation and wiring. I'm pretty sure we used several miles of wiring.

    Among the things being wired up were:

    • Wiring for 5 speakers
    • Independently controlled track lighting
    • HDMI ports
    • Between the office and recording room, a DVI plug, USB connections, XLR inputs and 1/4" returns
    • Way to many ethernet ports and power receptacles

    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.)

    And the last pieces before the finishing.

     

    The Finishing Touches

    Naturally, the most fun of the whole project was wiring it up.

    Here's where the interior started going Tuscan. Yes, the walls have a faux finish (texture). That was a lot of fun to apply (note: texturing is hard work).

    And then came the final pieces like my four speakers. This stuff could power a mid-sized rock concert.

    Eventually it all came together. I did go a bit over the top, pre-wiring for a wall-mounted projector (HDMI and power) and a motorized projector screen, just in case I ever want to add them later. Oh, and don't forget the keypad door locks. Just like with cars, physical keys are a thing of the past!

     

    Post-Construction Uses

    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.

    How to charge clients: flat fee vs. hourly rate?

    credit

    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.