Been a quiet week here, huh? I promised a special announcement for Monday and… I still can’t confirm it. It’s going to happen, but I’m still working out a few details.
But I do have a different announcement: I’m officially, 100% writing a book this year. Just not the one I was planning on.
I had intended to put together a piece of fiction this year and publish it – but that has to be relegated to the back burner. Friends of mine have a very unique story that they want to share with the world. So I’ll be ghostwriting their book!
I’m very excited to see where this goes, and if nothing else, I hope I can help get their story out to the masses. Announcement #2 will be coming soon, but stay tuned…
On Monday, I’ll be sharing some information with you that is very important to me – and hopefully, it will be important to you too.
The almost-silent pitter-patter of my feet kissing the sidewalk.
The collective “GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY” chirp-chirp-chirping of the bird community rising for the day.
The occasional vrrrrrooooooommmmm of a commuter driving past on their way to work.
I’m a runner – for the most part. While I don’t have the dedication of some of those on my Facebook news feed, I enjoy heading out for a run. There’s just something about dialing up a sweat without needing a piece of equipment that appeals to me (which might be why I like yoga as well).
This morning, I pulled myself out of bed at 5:00am, hopped into the running clothes I had set out next to my alarm clock, strapped on my Vibram FiveFingers and headed out the door to greet the sunrise on a daybreak mile.
I haven’t run regularly in months. Winter really locked me down this year – which happens sometimes. Can’t say I was all that motivated to head out in 11-12 degree weather anyway. But now that temperatures are hitting the 70s and even the 80s already, I’m out catching some fresh air while building up my endurance and leg muscles for another running season.
Being forced to disconnect…
Usually, before every run, I grab my phone, switch on the GPS signal, and open up RunKeeper. I like RunKeeper because it’s always been quick and easy to track my running. For those who don’t know, RunKeeper will use my GPS to tell me how far I’m going, how fast I’m going, and how long I’ve been running. It plots out my run on a map and I even have it set up to update me every half mile so that I don’t have to turn on my phone’s screen and look at it all the time.
It’s the system I used to run a half marathon a year ago. And it’s wonderful… when it works.
A couple days ago, when I was about to head out for a run, I tried to connect to RunKeeper and… nothing. It sat at “Searching…” for a few minutes while I paced at the end of my driveway. Once I connected and started running, it initially told me I was running at a pace of about 30 seconds/mile (“Somebody call Guinness – I’m about to set a world record!”).
After disconnecting and reconnecting to “correct” the error, it told me I was running at a pace of 71 minutes/mile. Which means I’m basically crawling on my stomach. Backward. Blindfolded. With a broken leg.
So I had to just say “SCREW IT” and not use the phone.
This morning, while trying to connect, my phone instead decided to just reboot.
So I left it on my doorstep.
It’s a different world…
Sometimes, especially on long runs, I have to bring some stuff with me – the ol’ phone, headphones, and dual-running apps for tracking my workout and pumping music into my ears.
But this morning, for the first time in, like, forever, I wasn’t carrying a phone. I didn’t have headphones. I wasn’t even wearing a watch. I was just… out there.
When you’re not busy trying to distract yourself, or huddled over your phone, you can learn to appreciate the world and environment around you. I know this (again) sounds like Crotchety Old Man talking, but you don’t realize how dependent we are on our phones and gadgets until you put a little distance between you and them.
It takes a few minutes to adjust, but suddenly, your brain switches on. Your senses kick in. You can hear and see the critters of the world going about their day. Your brain starts working to help you process information and thoughts that bounce around in your head. You can hear your body sending you information and different signals.
It’s actually pretty wonderful.
Can you do it?
Could you go out for a run or a walk without a phone or headphones? How about just to the bathroom? Or down to the mailbox?
We’ve pushed ourselves to be always on and always connected to the cloud, and I can appreciate that. I get it, and I’m certainly one who does this as well. But I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice.
You can roll your eyes if you want, but for thousands of years, human brains have been more than capable of entertaining their owners. In fact, you might have some creativity locked away in the deep recesses of your mind, but you can’t hear it trying to get out because you’re too busy checking Facebook whenever you have to stand or sit in one spot for more than 15-20 seconds.
I’m not saying we should all get rid of our phones. What I am saying is maybe we should start depending on them a little less.
You’re not that important…
Okay, you are. You’re important in the sense that every human life is important. Congratulations.
But the world won’t screech to a halt because you didn’t answer an email within 45 seconds. Society won’t crumble because you didn’t reply to that Facebook comment or “like” your “friend’s” photo of their cat. Your friends and family won’t abandon you just because you let a call go to voicemail.
Find time to switch off and get away from it. It could be as little as going into the other room and leaving your phone behind. Or fighting the urge to pull it out and check it when you are standing in line.
Just disconnect. And then… pause.
Take a breath. Listen to it. Feel it fill your lungs with good ol’, life-giving oxygen. Get engrossed in that conversation with the person you are talking with. Appreciate them. Listen to whatever goofball ideas your brain is firing back at you.
It’s kind of hard to explain. But I promise, if you make the effort, you’ll like it. And you might even get something out of it.
Let the text message sit. Turn off your email and Facebook notifications. Schedule time to do those things. None of these tools are bad for you, but they can be if you let them control your life. Take better control of yours. Live with intent. You’ll be surprised at the results.
Last week, I talked about self-hosting apps on your own domain. Many of you, undoubtedly, switched off into Nerd Retaliation Mode, where you say things like, “I don’t know anything about this!” or “This is too much to remember!” And that’s cool – it’s a slightly nerdy topic.
But within those layers of nerdity is a useful tool. As I learned more and more about this, I figured out how to find a photo sharing setup that I’m pleased with, and today I’m going to show you how to do it.
Before we look at the how, I want to talk to you about the why: what’s the point of going through all these steps if you can just grab Instagram and share your photos that way?
I’ve got a few reasons…
Instagram, like most apps, is closed. It’s a system that is shut off from the world. So if you don’t like something about it, tough noogies.
I’m a huge advocate for control over the apps and services that you use. That’s why I went into self-hosting apps in the first place: they offer me more control over what I’m doing.
I’ve considered switching to a Windows computer, or even a Mac, but those are ecosystems that are designed to keep me from digging in and making it work the way I want it to work. We all have things we don’t like about our computers – but only Linux (and in my case, Ubuntu) gives me the opportunity to figure out how to fix it and make it work even better.
You don’t like the interface on Instagram? Lump it. You don’t want Instagram to use your photos in advertisements? Hey, if they want to, they will. Sure, they changed the terms of service back again, but what’s going to stop them from doing it again? They’ll find a way – clearly it’s on their minds.
Since I’ve rolled my own photo stream, I have control over how it looks, how it acts, where the photos go, and who can see them. I can close off the whole thing if I want, or I can open it up for the world to see. But because it’s on my website that I pay for, I own those pictures 100%. I like that.
Do you really NEED another social network?
I’ll admit that I liked Instagram’s social network. Pure photo goodness in one stream? Crazy-awesome!
But once I took a step back, I realized something: what do I need this for? I’m on Twitter. I’m on Facebook. Pretty much everyone who is on Instagram that you might be interested in is already automatically sharing their photos on these social networks. I don’t need to “heart” or comment on a picture on Instagram. I can “like” it. I can retweet it. I can comment or @reply elsewhere.
It sounds like Crotchety Old Man talking, but seriously – what’s the point of THREE social networks? I use Twitter mainly for connecting with fellow entrepreneurial folks and you wonderful, wonderful readers, but that’s it. I use Facebook to mainly connect with friends and family that might be farther away, and that’s it. I used Instagram for… well, kind of a mashup of the other two.
If you can’t summarize in one sentence why you’re on Instagram, then maybe you don’t really need it.
How to set up your own photo stream
So let’s lay it out, step-by-step…
- Get a domain and hosting. I use HostGator, and if I ever have a problem, I can email them for help. They have a great FAQ section to guide me throughout the process, even if I don’t know anything about it. Remember: a domain is the “www.whatever.com” name that you buy, and hosting makes it available. Total cost will probably be around $100 for a year. Don’t have $100? HostGator will let you pay monthly for a few bucks. Seriously, it’s worth having your name on a .com.
- Already have a domain? Set up a sub-domain. Sub-domains have been covered in my last article on domains. I’ll show you what I used for mine in a minute.
- Install WordPress (*Note: holy cow, this will be easy.*). If you use a big-time hosting company like HostGator (or one of many others), there is virtually a 100% chance you’ll find a section called “One-Click Installs”. Find WordPress in the list, click “Install” and set it to whatever domain or subdomain you want. It will literally take 30 seconds. Then you’ll get an email with how to log in to your new WordPress site.
- Set up a pretty theme if you want. Here’s where it gets fun. You can mess around with the WordPress settings all you want – and you should – but go to “Appearance” – > “Themes” to search for a new theme to install. Easy tip: search for “photoblog”. That’ll give you plenty of pretty, free themes that will make your site look like a professional stream of photos. Again, one-click install and activate.
- Set up IFTTT. Go to IFTTT, create an account, and activate the following channels: Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress. You’ll have to punch in your login details across the board. Then, create a recipe that says if a new post on WordPress is tagged with the word “photo”, then it will automatically post with the image on Twitter. Set up a second recipe with Facebook. (*Note: This will set up the photos to automatically share with both networks. If you want to pick and choose, you can set up different tags for each recipe.*)
- Install the WordPress app on your phone. Enter the information and login to attach your new site to your phone.
- Use it! Now, you can either take a picture on your phone and edit it in your phone’s photo app, then open your WordPress app and click the “camera” icon in a new post to add the photo to your stream, or you can just start in the WordPress app, click the same icon, and click “Take a new photo”. Either one will work. Pop the picture in the post, add a comment underneath it, tag it “Photo” and select the post type to “Image”. If you set up a shortcut on your home screen to create a new WordPress post with one click, then it takes much longer to explain this than actually do it.
You’re all set up. Like I said, it sounds much more complicated than it is. I find that the WordPress app moves much faster than any other sharing app I’ve used, including Instagram and Flickr. I’m really happy with how this turned out.
Want to see the finished product? You can see my Twitter stream to check out how the pictures are added to my Twitter stream, but you can click over here to see my homemade photo stream site. Pretty slick, hey?
Any questions? Tips? Adjustments? Opinions? Let’s hear them…
Self-control may be developed in precisely the same manner as we tone up a weak muscle,—by little exercises day by day. Let us each day do, as mere exercises of discipline in moral gymnastics, a few acts that are disagreeable to us, the doing of which will help us in instant action in our hour of need. The exercises may be very simple—dropping for a time an intensely interesting book at the most thrilling page of the story; jumping out of bed at the first moment of waking; walking home when one is perfectly able to do so, but when the temptation is to take a car; talking to some disagreeable person and trying to make the conversation pleasant. These daily exercises in moral discipline will have a wondrous tonic effect on man’s whole moral nature. - William George Jordan, Self control, its Kingship and Majesty
Found here – Manvotional: The Kingship of Self-Control
The death of Google Reader came at an interesting time for me.
Over the past few years, I’ve been scanning and making digital copies of my parents’ and grandmother’s photos. See, when I lived with my parents for 10 months right before my wedding, I lived in the basement. There I found a few old boxes with thousands of photographs that were not organized into albums, nor were they organized into boxes. We’re talking just piles of photographs in old cardboard boxes.
All it would take is one flood or one fire, and all those memories would be gone. As I dove deeper into the boxes, the photos became older and older. I watched myself transform into a child, a toddler, a baby. So did my brothers. So did my parents.
And, remarkably, so did my grandmother.
With photos dating back to 1917 (the earliest photo I’ve found as of this writing), I made it my personal mission to back up these memories for future generations. Each photo file was organized into a folder, and then burned onto DVDs as each box was completed. I organized each photo into decades.
In addition to that, I wanted to create an easily-accessible, searchable online database for friends and family members to look up photos quickly.
That way, instead of trying to convince everybody in the house to huddle around the kitchen table and go through thousands of photos (over 8,000 scanned in as of today), we could bring them up on a computer, phone, or even the TV, so that everyone could see them, and we could browse and search for specific photos or events.
After much searching years ago, I decided to use Google’s Picasa online photo storage service. With Picasa, I could tag faces, creating collections of photos for each member of the family. Then I would tag the photos different events and types, and you could cross-reference your way to any kind of collection you wanted. I also bought tons of storage for $5 a year to ensure I had plenty of room. It was pretty great.
Then, of course, Google+ came along.
In my opinion, Google+ is starting to ruin what Google had going for itself. Because Google is trying to force users into the social network that most people, frankly, don’t want to be a part of, Picasa began automatically redirecting to Google+ Photos. Hey, that’s fine. I don’t mind the Google+ interface one bit.
But suddenly, tagging faces couldn’t be done so easily. Now the people in the photos had to have a Google+ account to be tagged (like Facebook). Hmm. Well, my grandmother who died in 1998, or my grandfather who died in 1989, or the long list of relatives no longer with us in these pictures don’t have Google+ accounts, and I’d be hard pressed to convince them to at this point.
The process stalled. I still was uploading pictures to Picasa (there’s a link at the top of Google+ Photos to go back to the old Picasa, but you have to click it EVERY TIME YOU TRY TO GO TO PICASA), but I stopped tagging faces and photos. I knew a new solution needed to be found, but I hadn’t taken the time to look.
Then, Google announced they were killing off Reader.
Suddenly, my photos didn’t feel so safe anymore. Sure, they were backed up, but it was a punch to the face to realize, Hey, I’m putting literally 100 years of family memories in the hands of one company. They could easily just decide not to do it anymore!
That’s when, after migrating over to Feedly, I decided to start looking into other options for photo storage. But there are lots of options, and you’re never quite sure how long any of them will be around, really.
Then it dawned on me: why not on my own website?
Unlimited, flexible, customizable photo storage for free (well, for me anyway)
I already have web hosting – I pay for it once a year to run this site (though I’ve signed up for a couple years of service upfront). As Lifehacker explains, owning your name online is really useful, so I intend to own this for as long as I live.
I thought about adding a new website to my hosting plan. Maybe “meitnerphotos.com” or something. But after reading a bit, I realized that I can have unlimited sub-domains on my site for free!
What’s a sub-domain? It’s a completely-separate website you can use underneath your domain name. So my domain name is “tommeitner.com”. A sub-domain for, say, an online notebook would be “notes.tommeitner.com”, instead of “www.tommeitner.com”.
Knowing my way around WordPress, I found a WordPress photo album that is endlessly customizable, set up a new sub-domain for pictures, and installed WordPress, along with this plugin. Then I downloaded all 8K photos off of Picasa and uploaded them into the new website.
So why is this better?
If you’re not crazy about using a free service because of privacy issues, this one’s for you. Self-hosting allows you to password-protect your whole album, if you want, and you can choose to not let your site be searchable by Google (which I did).
It’s flexible, and I can make the albums look however I want, with new themes and configurations. And there’s nobody to go out of business – I hold complete control over these albums. As long as I want them there (and pay the hosting and domain fees, which amount to under $100/year), they’ll stay there.
Your free options run by someone else will be full of ads, or they will use your information to sell to ad agencies. Also, it’s cheaper than paying for a “premium service” that would provide the same thing (see Pancake below).
And because you’re running it yourself, you’re essentially immune to the company’s failures. Pancake runs my invoices now. If they go out of business, I still have all the files on my sub-domain, so I can keep using the program as long as I want. I won’t have the support of the company to answer my questions, but I won’t have to rush to find an alternative.
What else can you self host?
Short answer: almost anything. There is a service called ownCloud that lets you turn a sub-domain into a Dropbox-style service. I installed Pancake to a sub-domain to run all my invoicing for my business. The Pancake files were a one-time fee of $49, which offer everything I need, including online payments and recurring invoicing, along with unlimited clients. My Freshbooks account limited me to 25 clients and cost me over $200 a year. See how the math plays out?
You can self host an RSS reader, like Google Reader. You can self host your own email (something I’m tempted to do at some point). Or a web-based calendar. Or a project management tool. Or video streaming. Or, most recently, a streaming music service. A quick Google search can help you find a lot of stuff.
It takes a little bit of technical know-how, but virtually everything that you want to set up will come with support. And you learn by doing. I didn’t know anything about how to set up a website, FTP files over to a server, or set up a MySQL database. But your hosting company (HostGator for me) usually will provide great step-by-step instruction.
Is it worth it to you? I can’t answer that. But to have complete digital backups of my family’s memories, unlimited invoicing without recurring fees, and a wealth of other opportunities all rolled into one payment of $100/year? Yeah, that’s worth it to me. Especially since I’m already using it.
What do you think? Ever dabbled into self-hosting? Think it’s great/stupid? Let’s discuss in the comments!
[Note: on the right side of this page, you'll see where you can sign up for a weekly email from me - a little thought or discussion-type piece that comes every Friday. Every once in a while, I'll share one here with you, so you can see what I'm talking about. I wrote this one earlier this morning, and I wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy.]
So I get up at 5am every morning. While I like it, I also love my sleep. My goal every night is to be lights-out at 10pm so that I can get a solid 7 hours in.
If I am woken up by something out of my control before my 5am alarm, I’m cranky as all get-out. And as luck would have it, I have a cat that has no idea how to read a clock.
Every morning at 4:30am, he walks into our bedroom, starts meowing and pawing at the closet door, making a racket. It jerks me from my sleep, and I spend the next half hour getting up every 5-6 minutes to spray him with a water bottle and chase him down the stairs. Drives me NUTS.
This morning, it happened again – as usual. I stumbled downstairs with my yoga mat to get a workout in, alternating between changing positions and flashing him dirty looks. You know, because he can identify with the fact that I’m giving him dirty looks (sarcasm).
It was one of those mornings where I sat around thinking, WHY ME?!? Now, that sounds dramatic – and it is – but at the same time, I’m not getting all the rest I need, and it is next to impossible to get him to leave us alone that early in the morning. It leaves me exhausted for good chunks of the day.
Then, as I sat down at the kitchen table with my protein shake, I opened up Feedly on my tablet and saw the first headline:
“Region on Lockdown as Police Hunt for Second Suspect”
Whoa, I thought, They got one of the bombers!
I kept reading. And I learned of the unprovoked murder of two police officers. The chase through Boston suburbs. The gunfire and the bombs being detonated outside the homes of sleeping families in the wee hours of the night.
I learned that entire suburbs were closed. Families were urged to remain inside, in their basements, away from windows, and to not answer the door. At a time of day when most of us are incredibly vulnerable, these families were shaken from their rest and relaxation to sit in fear while their houses are literally being lit up in the night by bombs exploding outside their doors.
I glanced over at my cat who, after being fed, was finally calmed down and content with life. I stroked him on the chin. Maybe I don’t get a full night’s sleep. But it could be worse. Much worse.
When you are going through stress in your day-to-day activities, and you are tempted to go the WHY ME?!? route, pause for a second.
Think about the lives of those in other countries. Those under oppressive government regimes. Those who live their days in fear. Even those in your own country who are vulnerable.
It’s not a magic pill. Just because you have very little food in your home doesn’t mean you should settle. Thinking about those starving in third-world countries won’t fix your problem. But it will put your problem in perspective. Sometimes, that’s all you need to appreciate what you have, where you are, and who you are.
We have more blessings than we can imagine sometimes. It just takes a pause in our day to appreciate them.
Have a great weekend,
To do the same thing over and over again is not only boredom: it is to be controlled by rather than to control what you do.
“So what’s new?”
We all hate it, yet we fall to it so many times. Hey, that’s okay. Sometimes, you don’t have anything to say. You might notice that I haven’t posted a whole lot in the past couple weeks. Part of that is the time factor (business has been kicking), but another reason is that I haven’t had much to say.
It seems ridiculous – there’s always something to talk about, right? With so much going on in the world, it should be easy to toss out something. And you’re right. It is easy. But when it’s easy like that, what are you really doing?
There’s plenty to complain about: money, work, government, stupid senseless acts of violence. But at some point, you have to stop complaining. Just sitting around talking about what’s bothering you will ruin your mood and the moods of everyone around you. And nothing gets done.
So if you have nothing to say besides ranting, it’s time to do something about it. Here are a few ways you can kickstart your brain back into gear and enable yourself to have a real conversation with someone (or just have something worthwhile to write about):
- Check the news headlines. Normally, this isn’t my go-to, but it’s one of the easiest ones. News headlines are everywhere, and you can come by a headline quickly. Scan them. See what’s going on in the world. See a story you are interested in? Keep reading. However, the reason this isn’t my go-to is that 95% or so of the news happens to be bad news. So this will easily suck you into a vortex of whining. But hey, there might be something good. Or something bad that spurs good conversation, such as sharing memories of a favorite famous person that recently passed away, or something.
- Go DO something. Anything. If you don’t have anything to talk about, that means you’re not having a life. Get out the door. Take up an exercise routine. Start DIYing something around the house. Pick up an instrument. Hey, it doesn’t have to be an expensive pursuit. Just take action. Start writing. Anything. Come on, you can do this one.
- Read some blogs. You know, like this one. While many people still hang onto the flawed notion that blogs are a waste of time, or that they don’t have time for blogs, reading them does not have to be a major time commitment, and there are plenty out there that offer great advice, how-to’s, interesting and thought-provoking tidbits, and other productive and intelligent conversation. Sign up for a Feedly account and keep yourself informed regularly.
- Discover new blogs. Search “[insert topic that interests you] blogs” and go to town. There’s something new to read wherever you look.
- Read a book. Load up that Kindle, go to the library, or just grab a book or two from Amazon. If you have a bookstore in the area, go walk around in it. Start reading the free classics on Amazon or Gutenberg. Expand your mind with some solid reading.
- Start watching TED and TEDx videos. TED is a very exclusive and expensive conference that intellectual and industry elites have attended for years. But in the last decade, TED has posted their lectures and presentations online. This is great stuff. Most of them are 18 minutes or less (or shorter than a sitcom episode). Tons of them are under 5-10 minutes. TEDx is an independently-run version of the conference that can be put on in any region of the world. Yesterday, I carved out time to watch this presentation from a TEDx conference that fascinated me and expanded my horizons. Plus, it gave me a great talking point for an interesting conversation about how your body handles stress and productivity.
- Carry a notebook around. I don’t mean under your arm. Spend a couple bucks and get a 3-pack of these bad boys. Shove one in your pocket, along with a pen, and jot down things that come to your mind as they come to you. You already know that I carry a pocket notebook and love it, and it’s a great way to keep ideas fresh in your mind, just by writing them down.
What do you do when you have nothing to say? Do you just veg out watching television, or do you take a more proactive approach?
[Y]ou must take the view that instead of following your heart, you are choosing to lead it. The world says to follow your heart, but if you are not leading it, then someone or something else is. - Stephen & Alex Kendrick, The Love Dare (aff. link)
A couple months ago, I kicked off “Adventures in Book Writing” as a way for me to publicly update my book writing process as I went along. I haven’t updated in a while because I’ve had nothing to say.
And that’s a big problem.
I haven’t made any progress. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Goose egg. Nothing.
I haven’t developed characters. I haven’t even named them. I am no closer than when I wrote the first update. That’s why I’m writing this post – I’m confessing the truth, and it is a genuine update on the progress of my book.
Why am I admitting this?
You know the old saying: “The first step in fixing a problem is admitting that you have one.”
I’ve fallen into the old Blame Game trap repeatedly in my head:
- “You keep running out of time.”
- “Your brain just isn’t working that early in the morning.”
- “This copywriting work is keeping me too darn busy.”
And so on. I haven’t been harsh with myself. I’ve just been treading water in hopes that some day I will just wake up and want to write this book.
Except I know it’s not going to happen that way. The work isn’t going to find me. I need to go out and get it.
How I’m going to fix it
I get up at 5:00am every day now. I stumble downstairs, tell my cats to shut up (they don’t get fed until 5:30am), and eat breakfast. I read a bit (when I should be studying copy first and foremost), then go upstairs to shower and get ready for the day.
If I want this book to be done, I need to build some momentum and come out of the gate swinging. From now on, my wake-up routine is going to look like this:
- Get up at 5:00am.
- Stumble downstairs, binder in hand, and tell cats to shut up.
- Make breakfast.
- Open binder, study copy. No tablets, no phones, no Kindles. Just studying.
- Go upstairs and shower/change.
- Sit down for one hour and do absolutely nothing except work on the book.
If I stick to that schedule, I’ll be done with two of the more challenging parts of my day (studying copy and working on the book) by 7:30am. It’s all part of eating that lousy frog.
I’ll check back here in a few weeks to update my progress and see if it works or not. But I need to start prioritizing the act of showing up.
Are there areas in your life where you’ve been absent? How are you going to start showing up?