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Experimenting with my chai production

Instead of brewing up only enough for the individual days I made up enough to last me all week at work and brought it in at the beginning of the week.

Experimentig with my chai production

It wasn't actually all that much effort to make up the extra tea.  I already make quite a bit, and just one batch with the little bit I had extra was enough to fill up three bottles, which is enough to last me throughout the week at work.  I also took the time to pick up lunches for the full week and brought all of them in at the same time on Monday.

It made the commute in to work today quite a bit nicer, I was able to ride the road bike in without having to also carry my lunch and a bottle of chai on my back the whole way.  I think I'm going to try to keep doing this over the next few months just to make things easier on me.  It's a little worse having to haul in everything on that Monday but that's OK too, I need more practice riding with fully loaded panniers to get myself in shape for bike camping this summer.

I haven't really started planning any trips yet, I think I'm waiting to be done with all of my outside projects before I let myself take any time off from work.  I'm getting a lot closer on all of them.  Last night I got through the members list on Greaser Rag, so all that's left there is making it so the administrators can edit any post in the blog editor and doing a sidebar featured posts widget.  So that should be wrapped up this weekend and then next weekend we can do training and content import and go live.  That will be pretty huge, I've been working on this one since around October.

The Occupy site is coming closer too.  I tried to get onto the agenda for last night's meeting to discuss some of the stuff that I need to finish up the site but we ran out of time.  I still need a domain name so I can install social login and google analytics and the share this tools.  I also need to know how to set up the forums, should they be just one forum for each neighborhood and then a section of the site that is 'forums' with other topic-specific things, or should it be a set of forum categories underneath each neighborhood page that are topic specific and location specific.  A small distinction but important.  I also need to know what we are going to do for actual categories in the forums once we know how they are going to be arranged, I'm assuming we'd do one for foreclosures and one for student loan debt and one for corporate influence in elections, stuff like that.  The last thing that I need is introductory text for the individual neighborhood pages.  After that it should be a matter of making up some training videos on how to publish blog posts, forum posts, and how to log in to the site and then it should be ready to go live too.

Work has been steady to busy the last few weeks which is good, today I'm kind of between stuff - just wrapped up most of the programming on two sites over the last two weeks and I'm waiting on files for several others.  There were a lot of interesting things on the last two sites.

One of them is a real estate site that is integrated in with a service that does the actual listings, it was honestly really easy to integrate.  You basically just specify a URL for header and footer, then it puts it's content in between.  We use redirect blocks on the pages that point at the service for the pages that are hosted outside so that they appear in the navigation properly.  To get the header and footer file we're using two pages with the paths '/only-header' and '/only_footer' and then  do processing in the default.php file in our theme to check for these page paths and output the HTML differently then.  It works really well.  I didn't figure out how to do the integration, that was done on a previous site by one of our other programmers, I just took what he did and applied it to the new theme with the new service broker.  I imagine that we will be seeing several more sites with this same basic functionality coming from this designer as he sells the package to more realtors. 

The other is a pretty involved site with a lot of different kinds of content.  It's for a company that does lots of work on nutrition and dietary wellness for people, so they have lots of articles and recipes that they needed to be able to create quickly and easily.  The composer tool in concrete 5 really helped us out on this one a lot, there are composer page types for several different types of content.  We also used composer to make a podcasting solution.  They do radio shows now which are hosted with a service called PodBean.  I made a composer page type that had just description, title, date public and mp3 link, then set it to publish under any page of type "Radio Show Archive."   The archive page has a few custom methods on it, each one of which pulls up a page list of the "Radio Show Detail" pages underneath the archive page.  The archive page has two drop down menus (actually they are javascript replacements for the dropdowns to match the styles in the PSD) that allow for filtering.  One of them is a list of months that have shows and the other is a list of categories available.  Changing the selection on either one will reload the page with the page list filtered down to just the option chosen from the drop down.  I'm using jplayer to display the mp3 in a nice way so that people can listen to it. 

You never actually navigate to the actual mp3 pages, they just exist so that you can get data from them.  If I was taking more time with it and trying to make a podcasting solution for the marketplace I would probably be trying to do it with simply database items instead of pages, or make it so that you could drill down to a detail page for each mp3.  I might actually look into doing something like this for the marketplace in the future, it looks like there aren't a lot of solutions for doing podcasts right now.  Of course, that's like any of my ideas for concrete 5, it would be great if I had the time to work on it but I doubt that I will have much time to work on something that I don't know if it will sell or not.

Sales of Attributes Slider have been going OK.  Not quite as many as I would like to sell but selling one every few days or every other day.   If sales stay on track like this or get a little bit better I'd be looking at close to 5K/year in sales from this add on alone.  That's pretty huge.  Another couple of add ons like that and I could almost start living on the proceeds.  So far there haven't been any support requests so I'm guessing that the code is good.  I think I might want to update it to allow you to specify opening links in a new window but that's about it that I think is left as far as programming. Actually right after I first published this post I had someone leave a great review of the add on and then send me a private message asking for a developer license, they offered 10x the normal license fee to have an unlimited license to use it on their client sites.  I agreed, it seemed like a pretty good deal to me.  Maybe I could make more by selling it to them one license at a time or even five at a time but this is a larger chunk of change in one shot and there are no fees taken out by the marketplace.  Hopefully there will be more people that contact me about developer licenses, if there's a market for it I might raise the price a bit and go with it.  I don't want to lose out on recurring sales but selling higher dollar licenses does make a lot of sense.

I was contacted by the concrete 5 core team as potentially being a person they could send support work to.  They are stopping doing a lot of work that they used to do and need people to take up the slack.  It sounded interesting but very sporadic and I'm not sure that I'd be able to do everything that they need.  I'm going to check back in with them in a few months once I've finished up my volunteer projects and am in a little better place to take on outside work and see if there's something that we can work out.  They should know by then about how much work they will actually be sending out so I can better plan out how to set my life up around the new work.  I felt pretty good about being on the list of people they contacted about potentially becoming partners, it must mean that I kind of know what I'm doing when it comes to concrete 5, and shows that they know that I know what I'm doing.  That felt pretty huge to me.

Other than that not a whole lot is new around here.  I've been doing better with the insomnia, though only up to a point.  I don't know why but I just really can't shut my brain off when I go to bed.  My head is full of stuff and just won't empty and relax.  Typically it's filled with thoughts that are pretty negative, the thing that I think of the most when I crawl into bed alone is the fact that I'm alone and it doesn't appear like anything is going to change that anytime soon.  I know I'm just going to keep in the same patterns while I'm alone and that they hurt my chances with anyone but I can't seem to change.  There's just no point.

Instead the last week or two it hasn't been these thoughts that have filled my head.  It's been thoughts of bikelove.org and how to actually create what I want to build.  I have a few ideas about what to do but I don't know if they will work or not.

The first is to simply start a blog on the main bikelove.org website and start talking about what I want to build and why.  Lots of really good posts and hopefully lots of posts about general bicycling stories to try and get people following the project and interested in it.  I think this is probably the best thing that I can do to try and bring awareness to the project and find people that might be interested in either helping or donating.  I'm really not sure what to make the website look like, that's really been kind of holding me back.  I can't even envision it in my head how I want it to look, I haven't even thought of color scheme.  If it's like most of my projects though it will probably be monochrome.  I've tried looking for themes a little bit but haven't found anything that I really like.

After making the blog the next plan will be to start making task pages for everything that has to happen for the site to work.  So there would be a task page for creating the theme framework and then a task for creating the original theme.  A task for creating bicycle friendly business pages.  A task for an accountant to keep track of things.  A task for servers noting how many servers are needed per site.  A task for just about everything.  Each one of these tasks would have an assigned hour / dollar combination and a way for people to either donate and flag it for that section of the project or for people to volunteer and to get them involved in helping to code the project.  I'm not sure if this is the best way to do it, but it will help with simply organizing the project and figuring out how much time and money it will actually take.

I've also thought about starting up the project website and letting it go for a few months until it's getting a lot of hits and then making a kickstarter or similar to do the crowd-sourcing on the funding but I'm not sure if that's the best way.  Most of them have a time limit that you have to raise the money in so if I don't find the funding quickly it wouldn't work.  I like the idea of writing my own forms that process the payment much better.  It would mean that I'd have to set up an authorize.net account I think, I wouldn't want to potentially be taking thousands of dollars of donations and paying paypal fees on it.  That would be quite a bit more complicated to set up but I think it will be worth it.

I haven't really gotten much further than that, but I think it's a good start.  I've been thinking a lot about what the actual tasks are and what I need to figure out and how 'ready' I have to have everything before we can start going live with sites across the world.

I'm also wondering a bit about how integrated the sites should be.  In the past when I was planning this I thought that the websites would be very tightly integrated and customized versions of concrete 5 with a suite of add ons optimized for running a website dedicated to bicycle advocacy and community.  I still really like this idea, I've even been trying to think of ways to set up shared cores so that the installs are all easy to update and share the member database so that your log in on chicago.bikelove.org works just the same as sanfrancisco.bikelove.org.

But on the other hand I might be doing too much there.  Maybe it's neccessary that each city has it's on unique way of setting everything up.  How detailed should the 'base' package be for each one of these community websites?  How much leeway should be given to the site administrators to add or remove features? Should it be mostly just a concrete 5 website and some training or should each chapter be part of the same non-profit and subject to any set of conduct rules?  Should they function independently or as arms of the larger group?

I'm a little worried too thinking about getting back into this project.  Even working from a much stabler position now I could see myself getting totally consumed by this and it affecting other aspects of my life.  On the other hand, I've decided that my life is utterly empty and devoid of meaning without a cause or purpose like this - if I'm not doing bikelove then what am I doing?  The Occupy stuff is good but it's less likely to actually bring about the kind of change I want to see in the world than the platform I want to build would be.  They want to change people by getting them politically and socially active, I want them to simply start reacting with the world they live in on a different scale and with a different transportation paradigm.  To  change the world by making people change without realizing they've actually done something huge, instead making it seem like the most natural and 'right' decision they could make.  I want bicycling to be the most sensible and enjoyable option for people everywhere.

Even if things go well with my idea on how to get people involved and interested and crowdsource funding I think it's months or years before I really have enough momentum to dig into it full time.  Unless I can figure out some different way to make money to keep myself afloat that's not happening while I have a full time job.  Maybe over the next few months as Attributes Slider gets picked up by more shops who end up wanting to use it over and over again maybe I can get to the point that I could actually dive into it full time.  I want to.  I want something that consumes me and gives me purpose and reason again.  I want to do something that I think can change the world for hundreds of thousands of people or even eventually millions of people.

It's almost better that I don't have any viable options for romantic interests, I'm going to have a lot of time free for working on stuff like this over the summer.  I could spend the time going out and having fun with my friends, riding bikes and camping and going to parties and whatnot but I think it's probably better that I do something constructive with myself.  And there's no other idea that I've ever had that gives me the same sense of hope that I could do something great and do it well.  I could focus on drumming up freelance business and more marketplace add ons to work on becoming more self sufficient but that seems like it will just be empty too.  I'm not really after money, though I think that once it is up and running bikelove.org will generate a lot of money.  I want fulfillment and satisfaction and a world where people first think of their bicycle when they want to make a trip somewhere.  All of the rest of it is just gravy. 

So yeah, that's where I'm at these days.  Plugging away at my remaining volunteer sites so that I can move on to working on bikelove.  And the working on bikelove won't even be coding working, it will be trying to network socially and get people excited about the project so that I can find other people to help me with the actual coding part, either as paid employees or contractors or volunteers.  I also need to find people that are going to be able to sit on the board of the non-profit that will run the actual sites and be in charge of deciding where to expand and stuff like that.  I've been thinking a lot about how the legal structure of the group should look as well, I have a few ideas on that but nothing coherent.  It's the type of thing that I need the input of others on.

One nice thing about Occupy is that it's shown me a lot of different things about how meetings should be run.  I wonder how well I'll do at facilitating once it's my own meetings that I'm going to be organizing.  If I end up having meetings.  For all I know this could just backfire on me, I'll start up the blog and write and write and write but nobody will listen and nobody will share links to my posts.  That's what scares me the most, thinking about what I will do if I can't find support for this idea.  Will this be like Bikedate, where everyone tells me it's a great idea but then somehow in the execution it gets lost?  Will people take to the crowd-sourcing idea for the individual tasks and actually donate, or will I be spending hours and hours and hours coding up something and then pay for merchant fees month after month without getting any donations? 

I don't know the answers.  I just know that I want to get started on it, and started soon.  It's feeling really great to be close to finished with everything that I've been working on for these last several months, knowing that I can get back to doing what I really want to be doing after that.

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