Goodbye 2011

2011 can’t get me down no more. In fact, in a year that I was planning on being pretty awesome turned out to be one of the worst years of my life. I don’t mean that in a doom and gloom way, but just a matter of fact way of thinking about this past year. Here is a quick list of the big stuff:

  1. laid off The Art Institute of Pittsburgh
  2. Ford Ranger trouble to the tune of $2500
  3. new computer crashes constantly
  4. laid off again from Loud Mountain
  5. decided to leave my church and step away from a 10 year commitment
  6. financial setbacks
  7. iPhone stolen
  8. death in the family
  9. other minor annoyances

 

Getting laid off, twice, has taught me a few things. Early in the year I was freaking out, kicking it into high gear to find a new job. When in fact I wish that I would have relaxed and taken more time to find the right position. After my layoff in June I did just that. I made a lot of major changes in my life, including leaving my church. The second half of 2011 was about rebuilding, growing, and getting myself in a new frame of mind.

As the year unfolded I didn’t say whoa is me everyday, rather I thought “of course this is happening” at every turn. Because that is the kind of year it was. As I reflect on the negative I have to consider the positive. In fact the good that came in 2011 is really what inspired this post. Because with the downs came the ups.

  1. computer was replaced – runs perfectly
  2. truck repaired
  3. in a new job and surrounded by good people
  4. I made a lot of new friends this year
  5. getting to know a new church
  6. learning a lot about myself, personal growth
  7. iOS 5 and Lion
  8. Skyrim

 

2012 will be better because I’m growing my hair out again. Enough of this clean cut nonsense. While I was laid off I decided I wanted to have a clean and professional look. Right now I can say I’ve tried it and want to get back to long hair and beard. I’m a flip flopper on that topic so I could renege at any moment.

Really I am the most thankful that my computer was replaced. I’ve said to a few people that it is wonderful to be able to trust my computer again. Before it was like walking on thin ice never know when it would crash. In my new job I am excited and optimistic that we will grow to new levels in 2012. There are already plans in place and working with Rebecca has been a great new experience for me.

I can honestly say I don’t have any regrets in 2011, I don’t know what I would have done differently except maybe chill more in February and March. The year happened as it did and I’m the wiser for it.

Happy Belated Christmas

Whenever I go home for any reason I always think I’m going to get more done than I think I can. I’m an optimist. In that vein I’m looking forward to writing down my new years resolutions, or at least a list of things I’d like to do this year. I’m trying to become a better planner (schedule wise) so starting with my personal goals seems like a good place to start. But I digress.

I hope that everyone had a Happy Christmas. My family was almost all together and we had a great time and no one got into a fight! My mom dug out old cassette tapes that she and my father made when I was just born. Hearing me make baby sounds wasn’t that big of a deal, however I was fascinated with how they chose to go about capturing me to send to the family. Since two and a half month old kids don’t talk my parents had to wait until I was making noise, mainly right after feeding before pooping. Spellbinding.

Seriously though, hearing my mother’s young voice speaking my name was a rare and special treat. My father who was probably manning the recording equipment didn’t say anything. We only listened to about 10 minutes worth. I don’t know if they filled up a whole cassette with me blubbering. They did have another tape that was like an audio diary of their travel to Montana (where I was born). This one as far as I can tell is just my dad rambling on in a very monotone voice. I really wanted to hear that but the family vetoed.

Now I’m looking for a reasonable way to convert cassette tapes to mp3 files. Does anyone have a box that will do this? I don’t like the idea of playing tapes and recording through a speaker. My audio capturing devices don’t extend to tapes. I found this after a quick search anyone have experience?

Around the Block

1. Boredom Buster Winter Break – On iTwixie we are celebrating the holidays with another Boredom Buster event. I had some fun making this logo for the event.

2. Rex is Back – Sorta. A few weeks ago we started talking with AiP to do a series of email messages from Rex to the students. The idea was to freshen up boring college communication over the holidays. We did eight messages from Rex last week and it was a lot of fun bringing him back to life. Still the best project I’ve ever worked on.

3. A Night Before Christmas – A Huelsman Family tradition is that my father recites A Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve before everyone goes to bed. It’s cute because he doesn’t prep in advance of the performance and my mom sits with the book and helps him remember the poem. This year I captured him reciting the poem but it didn’t sound as good as it looked with my mom helping. So I had him record it studio style. I wanted to be able to share it with our niece and nephew in Iowa.

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4. Words with Family – I just started playing Words with Friends this year (MrDirby if you want to challenge me). When I was home all of my brothers and sisters started playing games with each other. Naturally I am crushing everyone. It was pretty funny at some moments everyone in the room was just staring at their phones, this is what the world has come to.

That’s all for now. Working through this rainy trying to snow week before new years.

Favorite Website of 2011: Band Camp

Band Camp is the greatest site I’ve discovered this year. Hands down you’ve probably seen me tweet it. I’ve even got a secret Facebook group with friends I grew up with to share musical tastes. I post a lot from band camp.

Why is Band Camp Magical for Me?

Something I realized about myself recently is that I am a huge consumer of music. Meaning I’m constantly listening to tracks and I basically walk around with earbuds engaged. I’m not trying to fool anyone, I always knew this about myself, however over the past few years I’ve hit a plateau in musical exploration. I really haven’t purchased many new cds or had many recommendations. I know sharing tools are out there but, like I said I’ve just drifted away.

So the magic of Band Camp is like walking into a record store and pointing to an album and listening to it. If the artist has more than one release its there. I’ve discovered a lot of great new music, mostly electronic. But when my tastes shift all the other genres are there.

The fact that Band Camp is an international community really strengthens its library. A user can drill down by region but I typically just go to the tags page and browse. When I started using the site I waned more browsing options, and was surprised by the simple interface. So I think there could be some improvement there, but I really have come to like just browsing the way I do.

Music Player and Music

I also love the music player, it works great in mobile safari and can even be controlled by your earbud remote. Unfortunately not true on the desktop. I wish there was a plugin that displayed tracks in a collection for wordpress. If there is on let me know.

Anyway here are some of my favorite finds:

Thinking Out Loud

Recently I’ve been working on my ability to be brilliant and grow iTwixie. It’s putting me outside of my comfort zone and teaching me to be flexible and learn new skills. The journey is both extremely exciting and frightening. However I’m aware that I’m going through a personal growth spurt and that feels good even thought he pace is slower than I’m used to.

The largest hurdle is time. In a small company where every idea is great we are easily overtaxed with improving our service to users and seeking new clients. As time is our most valuable resource I’ve noticed that little things have fallen by the wayside. Like keeping up with Twitter, Facebook or Google Reader. I just don’t look at those profiles as much as I used to, and I feel noticeably disconnected from everyone outside of my IRL interactions.

Recently I’ve had conversations with @cynthiacloskey about what it takes to be successful. Even though we haven’t discussed this particular point I think that being able to manage these mundane attributes of day-to-day operations are what clearly define a success. At a larger company these expectations were clearly defined and outlined. While working at a start-up these expectations are open-ended as everyone wears all hats.

One other unique challenge for me has come in creating content for our users. Designing fun graphics and taking existing content has come naturally to me. But we’ve done a few projects that have again forced me out of my MrDirby mind and into the life of a tween. It seems my thoughts on attention span a randomness need tweaked. However I am constantly surprised at the creativity of these children. Which is pretty awesome.

Finally one aspect of working on iTwixie that I didn’t expect, is the fact that I’m getting to know the users. Personally I am an anonymous admin character who doesn’t have a real name or face. However our users are very expressive and in need of attention. So they put a lot of themselves into poems, pictures, games, quizzes, roll play, and other interactions. So if you are someone who works with this age group regularly you are probably thinking duh, but for me this is new ground.

 

December Roundup

1. There are three websites that I’ve been working on. The are soo close to being ready to discuss. I know I’ve teased it for a while but when they aren’t bread and butter jobs that is what happens. They will be brilliant blogs do you worry.

2. I want to plan an evening with PodCamp in January. Who is down for a little PCPGH reunion. Looking for a good project to interview.

3. I just read Justin Kownacki’s post about taking a week off. Much of his thinking is an echo of what is going on in my head. I think that I am realizing I need to do a better job of planning my schedule, implementing deadlines, and creating a better work zone at home. I also have taken on too many personal projects at the moment. My idealistic nature thinks I can do all things at the same time, but I think it is actually just breaking my focus.

4. Earlier today I created a list of a lot of items I’ve meant to blog about. As related to number three planning, lets give it a go.

5. I started this post called December roundup. But I realized I don’t have anything to roundup. So just ramblings and getting things off the top of my head so I can publish this blog post and feel accomplished today.

PYP Social Media Round Table Recap

Last night I participated in a social media round table hosted by Pittsburgh Young Professionals. First off I want to thank Jen Houtz for asking me to take part. I was honored to be among the panel. It was great to be able to talk shop, because when we are hosting a PodCamp I’m usually running around and don’t get to participate in the conversation.

I felt the panel did a good job of answering questions and providing a lot of great information. The panel consisted of a diverse professional background from Deanna Ferrari’s agency experience, Jackie Quinn’s corporate viewpoint to Don and my start-up/small business view-point we had all the bases covered. After the discussion I had a few thoughts stick with me.

Get your hands dirty

Most people in new media/social media had to figure it out for themselves. Literally these tools have been created in the past few years. This industry is far from mature and those who can be the most creative can achieve the most. You can be the most valuable to your clients by being the innovator.

Make A Baby

Create something of your own and make it your baby. I’ve had a few of these projects, a personal podcast and Creation Rex. By creating a project that is your baby it gives you the passion to dig in and make your social media experiment the best it can be. Also when you make a baby, just like in real life, find a partner. A team effort will make you accountable to the project and your partner. Another great feature of a team effort is when you are creatively exhausted your partner can help you keep it fresh.

A creative project that is all your own keeps you inspired and engaged with what is happening in the social media world. It gives you a sandbox to experiment and lifts normal restrictions that you may face in a more professional environment. So go make a baby.

Still have questions or want to continue the conversation. Just leave a comment or feel free to contact me.