Category Archives: Personal

Gift a story for Christmas

I have a friend that is very hard to shop for. One day, for his birthday, I tried to make a list of everything he likes. After an hour, I had this:

He likes to tell stories

He’s one of the more prolific and interesting story tellers I know. So, from then on, it was a lot easier to think of ideas — I just tried to find a way for us to spend a few hours doing something weird. Fencing lesson, new restaurant (with food he hasn’t tried), kayak to an eagle’s nest — every one of these things has made it into his story repertoire (enhanced for the listener’s pleasure, of course).

Probably, there’s a story-teller in your life to help with a new experience. Really, though, couldn’t we all use that?

Planning out a Blog

As I mentioned last week, I am participating in National Personal Project Month (NaPerProMo) along with Plan B Nation and others.

My plan is to write every day, but publish on a once or twice a week schedule. This will help me build up a backlog of posts, so I have something to post even if I don’t have time to write. I also post about once per week on my work blog at Atalasoft, and I’ll probably use those posts as jumping off points.

To help me get started, I spent the last two weeks planning out what I want this blog to be about. In the past, I have had a hard time coming up with anything to write about. I had focused on programming (specifically iPhone programming), but I do most of my writing about that in StackOverflow answers, and my posts were just elaborations on common questions.

I came up with this plan:

  1. Pick five categories that I can write about.
  2. Brainstorm 10-20 topics in each category. If I can’t think of that many, throw out or alter the category.
  3. For categories that don’t pan out, try to find a spin on the topics I generated for it, so that they fit in one of the better categories.
  4. Pick a week’s worth of topics and put them in a queue.
  5. Each day write the next one, and put another in the bottom of the queue.

The topics that I ended up with are:

  • Software Business: This is obvious, since this is what I spend the bulk of every day thinking about
  • Programming: I have been programming for a long time, I have some personal projects that I want to open-source, and it also naturally fits into what I know and think about. I intend to get away from the more technical posts that I typically write, and focus on high-level ideas and follow my projects’ progress.
  • Programmer’s Job Market: Ever since I became a member of my local Regional Employment Board, I’ve been thinking more about the labor market and how it’s changing for programmers.
  • Reviews (books, apps, etc): I read a lot about marketing, business, and other non-fiction topics. I don’t read nearly enough for book reviews to be a category, so I expanded it to apps and other things that I use.
  • Riffs: Tweets, Hacker News, other blogs, my own past blogs — these are all fertile ground for topic ideas. It gives me an opportunity to link to others, and make this blog part of a larger conversation.

Some categories didn’t work out. For example, I am a CrossFitter, and recently joined my gym’s Paleo club. I feel like I have interesting things to say about that, but they are neither my expertise, nor are they similar to other topics I will blog about. I will still be able to fit it in somewhat, because one of my programming projects is related to this.

I recently switched over to Trello for managing personal information, here’s what my plan looks like in it:

The first column is the queue of upcoming posts, and the next five are the five categories I identified with a list of topics. I color-coded each category, so that the queue would show that I was mixing between the categories. The final column is a list of finished posts.

I am obscuring the topics because I don’t want to commit to these just yet, and since I generated more than 50 ideas, I know that some of them will never be done. I saved a full snapshot to possibly discuss later.

I also decided to turn on comments as an experiment. I’ve been using Disqus elsewhere on this site, and the latest RapidWeaver supports it for blogs, so I turned it on for now.

December is Plan B Nation NaPerProMo

A few years ago, to get myself ready for Rich Hickey’s Northampton Clojure talk, I decided to do an intense 20 Days of Clojure series, where I learned one new thing and blogged about it each day in March 2008, leading up to the talk. It was a great experience and probably the most popular content on my site.

Today, Amy Gutman, on her new Plan B Nation blog, is suggesting working every day in December on moving a personal project forward, or NaPerProMo (National Personal Project Month — a take on National Novel Writing Month).

I’m in.

My personal project will be to write 31 entries in this blog, although, like Amy, I will probably only publish a couple per week and save up the others.

In a comment on her blog, I offered participants a free copy of Habits, my iPhone app for forming habits, to all participants (until I run out of promo codes). If you want a copy, make some kind of public commitment to NaPerProMo (tweet, blog, comment on Amy’s site), and then let me know about it by using my contact page.


InnovateHolyoke is the online hub for information about the High Performance Computing Center that is set to open up in Holyoke in 2011.

The GHPCC planned for Holyoke will not only provide an invaluable increase in the computing capacity that would bring all these benefits to the partnering institutions. It would also serve as a showcase of green energy use and green facilities design, be scalable to meet the needs of additional partners and computational demands, and serve as a catalyst for economic, educational, and workforce development in Holyoke and the region.MIT had developed plans in 2007 to locate a high performance computing center in Holyoke due to the region’s quality access to the internet, affordable land, and availability of low-cost and renewable energy. The impact of the global economic recession led MIT to suspend their plans and subsequently reach out to leaders at the University of Massachusetts to jointly address capacity needs for high performance computing.

This is an important development for the region and will help to establish a technology hub in Western MA. I have been appointed to the education/training subcommittee as a member of the Regional Employment Board and will hopefully have more to share as we start the work of the committee.


A couple of friends and members of the Western MA Developers Group have started a PodCast called FounderCast that’s worth a listen if you are interested in software entrepreneurship.

The format is a roundtable of technology three company founders (@dougmartin@cemerick, and @paulhake). In the first three episodes they have discussed the tools they use (development and sales), how they got their first customer, customer service and other topics. The pilot is unedited and rough, so don’t judge it on that one — by the third episode it got significantly better. You can also follow @foundercast on twitter.

Business of Software Pecha Kucha

Had a lot of fun with my Business of Software Pecha Kucha. My topic was Engineering the Evaluation Funnel, or how companies that have downloaded evaluations can still track usage with being creepy and sending back information from the application.

I’m going to be recording a version of my presentation and posting it soon.

Django, WebFaction, RapidWeaver and Christmas

Atalasoft closes for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so I have time to catch up on some things I’ve been wanting to do — namely move this site to WebFaction. I chose WebFaction once I decided that I wanted to learn Django (after reading this great comparison of Django and Rails). Following along the forums, there were more than a few good mentions of WebFaction as a good Django host.

A couple of weeks into Django and a couple of days into WebFaction, so far, I’m pretty happy. It’s Christmas today, so even though I had some questions for WebFaction, I really didn’t expect them to get back to me — so I was pretty happy that they do — I guess I should expect 365 24×7 from an ISP, but I hadn’t been getting it before.

In addition to new hosting and a new webapp framework — I’ve also settled on RapidWeaver for content management. I moved to Mac for home a couple of years ago, and I still hadn’t found a good desktop CMS that was as good as CityDesk on the PC. RapidWeaver has beautiful themes built in, and a lot of the features that I’ve gotten used to. The built-in blog is nice (would be nicer with an import from RSS), but it didn’t take too long to transfer everything over.

All of this work is to get this site going again.