Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blogging is a full time job

When I was writing my post about the updates last week, I was privately referring to that post as the "Vegan Girl Launch Party". I was excited about making it look so nice, but I had not planned on doing much with the site beyond that. I'm busy with another project right now and didn't have any interest in maintaining another website.

But I did plan to eventually start posting some articles to see what kind of traffic I could get. I thought I'd start with some small goals - maybe 100 unique visitors a day and $1/day in ad revenue. Previously, I was getting maybe 10-15 visitors per day. So last week, I pressed the "post" button, and didn't give it much more thought.

When I checked my stats the next morning, I was absolutely shocked to find that I'd had 153 unique visitors! Thank you, High Tech Survivor readers, for taking the time to follow the link to new site! Yeah right!!! Exactly 4 people came from this blog last week on "opening day". So how on Earth did all of my visitors find my site?

I'm not pointing any fingers, but someone (Aunt Kathie) posted a link to my site on something called StumbleUpon. I've been a member for a few days now and I can't figure out what the hell the site does or how to use it. But apparently, it is very popular.

So, I figured, what the hell. I guess I may as well throw a new post out there and see if I can keep this momentum up. I wrote an article about Ron Paul, which "The Ron Paul Girl" promptly posted on her site. Blamo! 179 visitors. And the traffic kept coming for a few days from that one. I posted another article that got on - 202 unique visitors.

So on the one hand, my goal of 100 visitors/day turned out to be way too easy. On the other hand, this damn vegangirl blog is taking over my life! Now I feel obliged to write a new post every couple of days so that people will come back and not forget about me. And that promise I made to you all a few weeks ago about not checking statistics more than 2 times per day? Forget that. I now check my stats more often than I blink.

So far this past week, I've been getting an average of 50 cents a day from AdSense on vegangirl. Not too shabby. I'm spending an absurd amount of time learning about all of this new-fangled technology that I should probably have already know about. And of course I am still tweaking the WordPress layout and features. So, all-in-all, I'm getting paid about $.04/hour.

I truly hope that my daily life is focused around something else by next week.

Raw recipe of the week - Yeah Right

Oh, who knows when I will get around to making food again. I'm very busy!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WordPress brings VeganGirl back to life

old vegangirl site
Way, way back in 1999, I registered my very first domain name, This was back in the days when everyone used tables for page layouts. Back when everyone decorated their pages with spinning orbs, gaudy backgrounds, and blinking text. There were no blogs and no cascading style sheets. Just a bunch of amateurs throwing crap up on a website and waiting for the world to find them. was never really a site about veganism. It was just a personal website, intented to keep my family and friends updated about my life. It ended up being about 90% photos of dogs and cats. Despite my fondness for it's tagline, "A terrible waste of a great domain name," I always did want to fix up the site and do something interesting with it. But I am no web designer, and the task always seemed rather daunting. Sucked in by blogger's pre-made templates and easy content management, I abandoned vegangirl completely in favor of chronicling my life on hightechsurvivor.

A few weeks ago, I decided to try out some search engine optimization tricks on vegangirl, and put up a few pages with actual useful content about veganism, but it still looked like crap. From Google Analytics, I could see that plenty of people were now finding the site via search engines, but abandoning it immediately, probably because it looked so amateurish.

Ever on the forefront of modern technology, I finally decided this past weekend to check out WordPress, a four-year-old personal publishing platform. It was a one-click install with my hosting service, then about an hour of slogging through some truly horrible WordPress templates, a little cutting and pasting of content into the WordPress content management system, and just like that, VeganGirl had a major face lift. My entire website was literally transformed in a day.

WordPress is written in PHP, which I've spent the last several months learning, so fortunately (or unfortunately), I've been able to do a lot of custom work to get the layout and functionality just how I want it. Who knows what it will look like tomorrow or next week.

But don't worry, I still have a link on there to all the old content, for those of you who just can't live without all those old pictures of the dogs and cats. You know who you are (Aunt Kathie). OK, I'll admit it, I can't bear to get rid of those old pages either.

Raw food dish of the week - Donuts

Oh my goodness, these taste like donuts! OK, maybe it's just been a while since I've had donuts. But these are delicious! I will definitely be making these again.

I strayed from the recipe just a bit. I couldn't find banana squash, but the produce guy at Green Life Groceries said butternut squash is pretty similar. So I took his word for it. The recipe also says to put these in the freezer, but I chose to dehydrate them instead, for a drier, more crumbly texture.

Ingredients: raw almonds, dates, shredded butternut squash, shredded coconut, olive oil, vanilla, nutmeg, Celtic sea salt.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I'm a quitter!

Sure, who hasn't quit a job? But I've quit two jobs within less than a year of each other. This last one only lasted 4 1/2 months. That's called a pattern. The shorter time between hating my job and leaving it has shrunk significantly, which means my quitting skills are improving.

Of course, considering the fact that this job pays about 30% of what my last job paid, with no vacation time or other benefits, some might say it is easier to give up. On the other hand, my last job didn't have random adorable dogs running around the "office" (it's actually just a shit load of computers crammed into the owner's house). On the other other hand, my last job also didn't have random adorable dogs peeing on the furniture. I guess every job has it's pluses and minuses.

When I took this job, I thought it would be different. Somehow, working for chump change seemed synonymous with meaningful job. And I thought the flexible schedule, easy-going atmosphere, and hourly pay, meant that I could spend less time working and more time living. But with such a low pay rate, I can't afford to work fewer hours or do anything fun, and all I do is obsess about money.

As it turns out, there is a reason the job doesn't pay well: the company pours all of its money into projects that have no value. There is no market research, no project management, no product planning, and no forward-thinking technical vision. What takes a "real company" 4 months to build, takes this place over 2 years, and when it's "done", half the features don't work and the other half are stupid.

People in this company generally fall into two basic camps - the believers and the freeloaders.

The believers have tremendous enthusiasm for the noble mission of the company - to create a MySpace-facebook-Rhapsody-
[insert-already-existing-and-wildly-popular-website-here] online network on a Googlesque scale that will save the world and make billions of dollars. The believers also have a very naive view of the company's current place in this space. They believe they are competitive. They believe that their competitors know or care that this company exists. They believe that all they need to do is fix a few little things, and they will take the internet by storm. Their understanding of the internet is stuck in about 1999. This group accounts for approximately 10% of the company.

The other 90%, the freeloaders, are not bad people. They moved to Asheville, were excited to get a job - any job, as Asheville has so few of them - and genuinely thought this would be a pretty cool place to work. When they realized that the company was more of a summer camp for wayward souls than an actual company, they either started searching for better jobs (some have been looking for months), or they settled in for the free ride. They show up well after noon and leave before 4 PM. They "work from home" an awful lot. They sometimes skip Mondays entirely - sometimes sending an email to let others know, sometimes not.

The owner of the company finds this "frustrating". Phrases commonly uttered are "Does anyone know if [-----] is coming in today?" and "It's really hard to get everyone into a meeting when you're never all here at the same time." Does he not understand that he is in charge? Actually, he's terrified that these freeloading good-for-nothings will quit if he lays down the law. And then how will his dreams come true?

I went through a few phases in my time here that I think are fairly common:
  1. Enthusiasm - I came on board, found all kinds of ways that the development process was broken, and endeavored to fix it. I even made some improvements, like putting together internal code documentation, and engaging in some actual project management.

  2. Frustration - I worked hard to get a good project completed while other team members didn't show up or do any work and others were constantly moved around from my "critically important" project to some other "critically important" project. I finished the project almost entirely on my own and was reasonably proud of how it turned out.

  3. Acceptance - Once I no longer had that initial project to focus on, I had time to look around and really assess the situation. I had LOTS of time because there was no one to tell me what I should be doing. It didn't take long to see that this was not a real company (don't tell the believers, they really hate that phrase). It is, in fact, a tragic waste of money, time, and human potential. So when asked to do some work, I did it, but I stopped wasting any time taking initiative to try to polish this turd.

  4. Annoyance - It was fine when little was being asked of me. Having some money coming in was nice. And while it was boring as hell to be here, it was easy and fairly stress-free. But when the boss suddenly started to demand that progress be made on his latest boondoggle, I knew it was time for me to go. Any progress that gets made here is guaranteed to be progress in the wrong direction. Not a good use of my energy. So I gave my notice. Today is my last day.

Lesson learned: If I work for someone else, I work for money - as much money as possible for as little work as possible. Meaning can be found in other areas of my life.

So what will I do now? I'm lucky enough to have 2 things going for me; 1) a savings account and 2) a very supportive and loving partner who doesn't mind paying most of the bills for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I'm going to be finishing up some personal web projects that I think will make money and be useful and meaningful to people. Because one thing I now know for sure: it just isn't that hard to keep a company afloat.

Raw food dish of the week - Sea Vegetable Crackers

I seem to have a hankering for seaweed lately. These crackers are soooo good.

Ingredients: Sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, Celtic sea salt, and fresh ginger, blended in the food processor. Herbamare seasoning and dulse flakes sprinkled on top. Dehydrated at 105 degrees for about 15 hours.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Statistics Addiction

Some people get up and grab a cup of coffee first thing. I grab my laptop. In fact, I grab my laptop before I even get up, as I keep it next to my bed. It's the last thing I look at before I turn my lights off at night, and it's waiting for me first thing in the morning.

I used to be hooked on email, but now that I've moved to a new town and don't get so many emails anymore, my compulsion has expanded into other, more statistical areas. I check stock prices, how much campaign money Ron Paul has raised, whether anyone has clicked on my AdSense ads, which search engines have crawled my websites and when, how my search engine optimizations have affected my google rankings, etc etc etc. And I do this many many times a day. OK, I'll be honest: many times an hour. Sometimes, if I run out of things to check, I even check the statistics of other people's websites. I can't seem to stop myself.

What's worse is that there are so many free online tools that help feed my addiction to statistics. Tools to see not just how many people visited my site, but how long they stayed, how many pages they visited, what countries and cities they are from, how they found my site, whether they've ever visited before, and probably data I have yet to discover.

While my addiction to statistics checking might make me an excellent candidate for geeky internet work, it makes for a pretty dull daily life. This is not why I moved to Asheville. I was supposed to be divorcing myself from chronic computer use. I was supposed to be working less and living more. I was supposed to be making the most of every single day.

So here is my promise, to myself and to all 16 of you who visit my blog (spending an average of 30 seconds, viewing an average of 1.5 pages, 56% coming from referring sites, 5 returning visitors, and hello to you guys in Belgium and New Zealand!): from now on, I will only check online statistics 2X per day: once in the morning and once at night. about 10 minutes from now.

Raw food dish of the week - Sea Vegetable Soup
I've finally, after several disastrous tries, succeeded at making a tasty raw soup! This recipe is from Eating Without Heating, by the Boutenko family. If you have the book and want to try the recipe, cut it in half first. I have enough to feed an army.

Ingredients: Almonds, water, olive oil, lemon juice, agave nectar, bay leaves, Celtic sea salt, cayenne pepper, blended well. Arame, wakame, and dulse flakes stirred in.