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Andy Merrett: Family Man

Written by Andy Merrett on October 30, 2009

andy-merrett-rules

Andy is a new member of 9rules, with his Family Relationships Magazine blog, but has been blogging since 2004 on a variety of subjects both on his own sites and for the likes of Shiny Media and Splashpress Media.

Here, Darice de Cuba interviews him.

How did you come with the idea to start a weblog on family relationships?

In mid-2005, after I’d been running my personal blog for a year or so, I decided that I wanted to write on a couple of topics I’m passionate about and, having followed the advice of probloggers like Darren Rowse, registered the domain names and started two niche blogs — Family Relationships blog and Piano & Synth blog.

Where do you get your knowledge on the subject?

I can’t claim to be an expert with bags of personal experience in relationships and family issues, but I am passionate about the subject and I read a lot around subjects such as marriage, divorce, raising children, education, health and so on, as well as keeping tabs on current news, particularly as it affects British families.

I also subscribe to a number of mom/dad blogs and live vicariously through their experiences.

What approach do you take when deciding what issue to blog about?

I take into account several factors when looking at what subjects to blog about:

  • Will it be of interest to parents or other family members?
  • Do I have any personal experience of the subject?
  • Has this subject worked well in the past?
  • Is the topic current (either in the news or seasonal)?

So, for example, I know that news about upcoming British children’s TV seems to do quite well, as do issues surrounding fertility, family bonding, and use of technology.

That doesn’t mean I’ll exclude what I think is a good story if the subject hasn’t proved itself in the past.

What’s your favourite time/place/surroundings to blog?

At the moment, partly from necessity but also choice, I’m doing most of my blogging from a cosy armchair in my living room. I get loads of natural light during the day, it’s warm, and I can see life passing by outside.

As I’m a full-time blogger, I have to work quite a number of hours each day, but I must admit to enjoying very early mornings or very late evenings — mainly because it’s quiet and if I suddenly get inspiration I can write uninterrupted for several hours.

In the warmer months, I’ll take my laptop out into the garden and blog there.

What do you hope to reach in your weblogging career?

I think, like you, it’s hard to answer exactly. If I’m being totally honest, I’d like to be able to reach a point where I have enough residual income (either from blogging or elsewhere) that I can write purely out of passion and not out of needing to make money.

I’d like to have more influence in certain niches. I guess there’s probably some ego in there somewhere, though I also like helping people out and being a place where they can turn for advice.

There are a couple of niche areas where I think that’s achievable. It will certainly be interesting to see how that pans out over the next couple of years.

What is your opinion on the current state of weblogging with Tumblr getting popular?

Sites like Tumblr and Posterous are definitely lowering the barrier to almost nothing in allowing people to blog whenever and wherever they choose.

Along with popular services like Facebook, it’s definitely encouraging people to share their lives online. In some ways, it brings blogging back to what it was five or six years ago — personal blogging, at least.

As that’s going on, professional bloggers (those looking to make a living from their blogs) are developing sites that are increasingly like mainstream news sites, only built with blogging software.

There’s the gap, but I don’t think it’s a problem. At the end of the day, blogging is just a means to an end: simply publishing information.

How do you keep up with so many subjects for your different weblogging gigs?

I’m subscribed to a huge number of RSS feeds and email newsletters, and I also have a decent number of PR contacts thanks to working for a large British new media company for several years.

I try to keep organised notes and topic ideas for the niches I cover, as well as looking for stories that could be used several times (written from different angles, naturally).

After a while writing about any subject, you build up a good background knowledge and you remember what you’ve written about in the past (good for interlinking posts). You also end up with a decent set of news sources for each niche. The flow of incoming information never subsides, but hopefully you get better at filtering it and finding the good stuff.

Darice de Cuba: blogging about everything

Written by Andy Merrett on October 30, 2009

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In the second of our interview pairs, I pose some questions to Darice de Cuba, who has been blogging at Darice.org since 2003, and has been a member of 9rules since 2005.

Darice blogs about food, books, photography, coding, technology and more. Definitely “a weblog about everything”.

What made you start blogging?

Back in college in 2003 I used to spend late hours learning Adobe Photoshop and during one of my searches for tutorials I came across a weblog that talked about tableless websites, web standards and had a link to Jeffrey Zeldmans weblog. So it was more my thirst to learn anything about web standards that let me to find those niche weblogs. And from there on I got hooked on weblogs and off course web standards.

What blogging software did you use when you started blogging and how has that changed over time?

Early 2000 Movable Type was the most popular weblog system and used by most of the weblogs I frequented. But I was just getting into PHP/mySQL that I decided to code my own. Very basic: publish, edit, delete entries and comments and a RSS feed. And the interface design was my first coded in HTMl/CSS without tables. Through the WayBackMachine you can still see my first weblog version, only the background pattern is missing.

Then in 2007 Ruby on Rails was starting to get popular I dabled in the code making simple stuff. Then Simplelog a Ruby on Rails weblog system was released and I switched to it. I used it for about a year when development on it was stopped and it started to break with each new Rails update.

Having more skills with PHP I switched to Chyrp but it was unstable due to heavy development. And right about that time WordPress finally updated their admin interface and since then I switched to WordPress and couldn?t be happier.

You have an interesting mix of topics on your blog. Do you have a favourite?

I don?t have a favorite I just like writing about what keeps me busy at the moment, may it be a book, a photo I took, something I cooked or anything tech/web. If I feel like sharing my thoughts on it I will write it on my weblog. Before I used to write a lot of personal commentary and I actually want to go back to that. But the pressure of knowing that employers or clients can read it somehow makes me hold back and think twice about what I write. But my goal for the weblog is to write more personal observations.

What’s your favourite time/place/surroundings to blog?

I always blog from my desk at home, mostly I write in the evening after I have done my work and there is nothing distracting me. I have a Hakingtosh netbook I got for the purpose of working away from home but I get very self conscious going to a food or coffee place to work or blog. Although I?m trying to get pass that because it does get boring working from home. I did find a coffee shop with lots of people working there but their coffee sucks :)

What’s the best blog post you’ve written, and why?

I guess I don?t have a best one but if I have to choose it would be 11 things about websites, because even though it was written four years ago it still applies today. I got a lot of comments from people with the same feelings about this topic. It is an ongoing issue in the web industry.

Where do you see your blogging in five years’ time?

I have no idea, I don?t focus on the future. I do my best to live in the present time and try to not think where I?ll be or what I?ll be doing in the future. I don?t like long term plans or anything. I even do my traveling within one month after deciding to travel.

Finally… how do you manage to get such good pictures from the iPhone camera?

First I try to stick to some rules:

  • Don?t frame a busy subject with lots of things going on on the background.
  • Try to get as close to the subject as possible.
  • Light is the key, especially since the iPhone doesn?t has a flash built-in.

And then I use only iPhone apps for editing, I have Best Camera, Camerabag and ShakeItPhoto. Sometimes I edit the image in more then one program to get the desired result.

The Irony of Hynes Developments

Written by Jayvee Fernandez on October 25, 2009

hynes_developments

Hynes Developments (http://www.hynesdevelopments.com) really loves our logo. The irony, from their mission page:

Our approach focuses first and foremost on the social and environmental impact of our developments. We strongly believe that as both individuals and groups our behaviour is greatly influenced by our surrounding physical environment. We seek to understand the social consequences of built form, functional organization and patterns of use, ownership and governance.

No link love for you.

This is another copyright infringement of the 9rules logo. We had another one a few days ago. Boy, we really do get around, eh.

David Seah: Creative Arrangement

Written by Jayvee Fernandez on October 20, 2009

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David was an obvious first choice for bringing onto the front page. His avatar is littered across the 9rules forums and his presence is almost omniscient. David is most famous for his printable CEO series and overall “go to” guy for getting life organized.

An interview with David Seah, as told to Jayvee Fernandez

Do you have a hard time explaining to family what exactly you do for a living?
I have a hard time explaining what I do for a living to MYSELF :-) It is easy to rattle off the aspects that are must understandable: I’m a graphic designer, an interactive designer, a community enabler, a creative consultant, a writer, and a sounding board. I also sometimes call myself an “investigative designer”, which describes my approach to design. Some people get it, others don’t. Lately, though, I have come to think of what I do as creating tools and materials to help get started in a number of endeavors. So maybe “tool designer for creative thinkers” is what I do now. I’ll have to run it by the family and see if they get it.

Do you live by the paradigm that it doesn’t matter if the room is messy, what matters is that you can find stuff? So is getting organized relative?
I think I do live by that. Organization is a means toward an end, so it can be evaluated relative to that. It gets tricky when determining just who is doing the evaluation. If it’s yourself, then you might be OK with a mess, unless there is some part of you that feels guilty about not being more organized or feeling it is a reflection of poor character. Or, it might be someone else who’s setting the standard of organization, and it’s your job to adhere to it. In my case, I largely freelance, so it’s up to me to determine the level of organization I need. In general, though, I am pretty messy.

Narrate one life changing experience that made you who you are today.
After getting a masters degree in Electrical Engineering, I decided that I wasn’t cut out for engineering. I’d been making graphics for shareware computer games and was a computer graphics forum consultant on America Online’s Apple II and PC Graphics forum, so I thought maybe I could get some education in art and round myself out as a technical/artistic person. So I applied to an art school, eventually earning a masters degree in Fine Art Computer Graphics Design back in the mid 90s. That was a big switch, and it took years for me even afterwards for me to feel that I even understood what it meant to be an artist. But having made that transition, I’m able to see both the artistic and technical side of a given problem. Since then, I’ve been conscious of opportunities that could round my capabilities further.

What do you think of Bob Dylan?
I don’t really identify with music or bands. I attribute this to not being able to hear lyrics; for some reason, my language processing center shuts down and I hear the human voice primarily as an instrument. So, I miss out on a lot of great songwriting and instead tend to notice the musical arrangement. So what do I think of Bob Dylan? I have no opinion, other than recognizing that he is a renowned singer/songwriter, and he apparently once dated Mavis Staples.

If everything you had was washed away, how would you start over? Would you be doing the exact same thing?The friends and family network would come into play. I probably would crash with a friend and then start hawking the skills I have now. I would likely write about the experience on my blog, describing the steps I’m going through to rebuild from scratch, presuming that I can get access to a computer (perhaps the library). I probably would be looking for some kind of job, which is different from what I have now, in another city.

What’s the best blogging snack? (I personally like Cheetos)
I like those cracker nuts, pistachios, and peanut m&ms. They have lasting snacking power and make noise, are relatively clean, and can be savored longer as you type.

Jayvee Fernandez: Now Less of a Stranger

Written by David Seah on October 20, 2009

I’ve been a member of 9rules for some time, which for me has been a symbol of the power and diversity of great content. When the reins of 9rules was recently passed from the Triumvirate of Scrivs, Mike, and Tyme to SplashPress Media, I wondered what would happen to the tight-knit member community that had developed over the years. In recent times, the member community had lost its sense of camaraderie because we stopped getting to know each other. Jayvee, our new liaison, suggested that we start a series of interviews between members. Community building is best handled one-on-one, and so I heartily agreed. Here’s a little teaser about Jayvee, still a man of much mystery to me, but now less of a stranger. Thanks Jayvee for including me in the initial round of interviews.
David Seah

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Do you feel that you are just as much a part of the “web world” working from the Philippines as you might be from, say, some other place?
I do. We’re a pretty westernized country. I’ve actually thought about this. If I moved to another country I’d still pretty much be doing the same thing as well as probably holding on to a brick and mortar job. So yeah, geographic location does provide context, but the web is the web.

What is your trigger food? That is, a food so delicious/attractive to you that you can not help but eat it when it’s placed in front of you.
Cheetos. The puffy ones. Or Tostitos. The ones with Hint of Lime.

As the world of blogging has transitioned from a niche attraction to mainstream arena, do you think the relationship between bloggers has become more distant in any way?

I remember the good old days in circla 2003 – 2006 when blogging was a vast ocean of adventure where anyone could “claim” his place on the Internet. I guess it took that much time as well for big corporations to develop a business model around the “new” Internet. For what it is worth, I think blogging in general has moved on to become more of an industry than it was a passion from many months ago. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The blogosphere isn’t what it is today but I still feel that no matter what, there are still the same rewards for great content and community.

What do YOU think of Bob Dylan? What am I missing out on?

I think he’s a legend. ;)

What is the reason that makes you continue to blog?

I started blogging because I didn’t like being edited out by my editor. I hate to admit it but that’s the reason why I still do so today. Amidst the passion, blogging started out of a frustration and since then I’ve never looked back.

Do you have a life-career plan? Which ladders are you climbing, if any? Or are you making them yourself? Is it essential to have such a plan?

Given that I’m doing something related to the Internet, it is very hard to give very specific answers as the face of the web changes. All things taken into consideration, I do however have a career in publishing whether it be in print or on the web. And for the past 7 years the industry has been very good to me. I’ve worn many hats in the past but it seems that I will always have a home in the written (or typed) word.

I plot my future by generalizing the things I want to have and build my career around it. For instance, if you want to own a really big dog, you’d need to have a house with a decent sized lawn and the upkeep to provide for its food. So the dictates of your comfort is directly proportional to the type of job you wish for.

[Photo by Jan Acosta]