Bless me blogreaders, for I have sinned. It’s been 3 months since my last post.
I’ve been a genuinely very busy guy lately, so I won’t apologize, but I hate to neglect this space. I aim to spend more time here in the coming months as I get back to more personal writing again. I left off on that novel draft just shy of 50,000 words back in February. So close to crossing the big milestone set by NaNoWriMo. And yet…so far.
So what’s been happening? Well, today is officially my last day as Director of Community Relations for the Society for Technical Communication. It’d be 3 years on the job this November, and it’s been a fascinating ride. I’ve learned a lot, spent a lot of time developing my skills in relationships management, corporate communications, marketing, design, and diplomacy, among other things.
I’m a better man for it. No doubt about it. But it was time to move on.
In early 2012, I convinced my wife Jamie to leave Long & Foster real estate and go solo. She had already obtained her Real Estate Broker’s License in Arizona and Virginia, and I couldn’t see any reason for her not to capitalize on that. When you work for a big brokerage, you pay out lots of money on commission splits and desk & marketing fees, and when you’re already working on commission only, that’s a tough row to hoe. If you have a broker’s license, far better to do it your own way and bring home 100% of the split.
What started as a part-time job for extra income has quickly grown to the point where Jamie couldn’t manage it alone. This year, Jamie’s income as a real estate broker has outpaced my own, and she needed help. The juggling of both our schedules was getting out of hand. She was teaching all-day homebuyer classes two Saturdays a month, heading out to show houses the minute I got home from work, or trying to cram as many home inspections, closings, and business meetings into my work-from-home-Fridays as she could. It was getting to be too much.
Since I’d already been doing a lot of graphic & marketing work for STC, I took that experience and had been putting it straight back into the development of logo, branding, and marketing pieces for Home Source. It’s a great time to be in business for yourself, especially when between social media and self-publishing options you can put out materials every bit as good as the guys with multi-million dollar budgets, as long as you have the chops for it.
So when the time came where we knew it was time to go all in, we held our breath and took the plunge into our family business. Tomorrow, I will make my official as the Vice President of Communications & Marketing for Home Source Realty. (Yes, on Saturday. Welcome to real estate.) In addition to web, marketing, graphics, PR, and vendor relations, I’ll also be getting my real estate license in the coming months. Oh, and helping out as a co-stay-at-home-parent, a new faculty member in our ongoing homeschool project, and adjunct chef and house-cleaner-upper.
It’s going to be a wild ride, but I’m really excited to build something of our own. Are there risks? Sure. Is this a great time to be in real estate in the DC area? Best it’s been in a while, yes.
Will I have time to write fiction, finish those novels I’ve been yammering about, and win a Hugo award? I’ll make time. It just may take a bit longer than I’d hoped. So be it. The adventure begins, and adventure is what every writer needs.
New features abound at WordPress, and the 2012 blogging report is no exception. According to my report:
- I had 25,000 views in 2012
- Only 59 posts – I will be writing more in 2013.
- Hands down, my biggest post was Is Wheat Bad For You?, which had over 10,000 pageviews on its own for 2012.
- Second biggest post was Why Facebook is Evil, with 1,710.
I’d add to this report that I spent way too much time talking about Social Media strategy and platforms last year. I’ve grown bored of talking about it (I’ve been involved in Social Media professionally since 2006) but it’s a big part of what I do for work, and it was on my mind. I’m going to be moving away from that this year, and back to talking about whatever interests me. Spin the wheel, baby – that can be a lot of different things.
Just a quick note – I had some major site trouble over the past 24 hours, but it appears things have been restored to normalcy.
Waaaaay back in 2010 (can you even remember that far into the past?) my site got hacked by some Saudi Arabian cyberpunk. No, really. I’m not kidding.
Well, I wasn’t exactly employing heavy password security back in those days, and I was stupid enough to use the same password for every website. (I also remember the days when I didn’t have to lock the door at night, and could leave my car open…nevermind.)
Once I got the hack resolved and the website restored, I thought things were fine. I upgraded my password security. I was ready to move on.
Then a month or two ago my hosting account got suspended for spamming. I was puzzled by this, but sure enough, when I logged into my webmail for my steveskojec.com domain, I had THOUSANDS of bouncebacks for emails that had been sent from my account.
So I got my account re-instated, changed the email password to something even stronger, and went on my merry way. All done, right?
Nope. Not a chance.
Yesterday afternoon, after spending the morning in meetings, I checked my email only to find that it’s happened again. Hack. Email. Spam. Account Suspended. None of words are words I want to see together in a sentence.
I responded to the rep at Site5. Usually they’re very quick. Nothing. I ping them on Twitter. They apologize. Still nothing. I beat the drum on my ticket. I can’t even log in to my admin panel to fix things because I’m locked out. Guilty until proven innocent, I guess, when spam is coming from your site. I hit them up on Twitter again. Despite the fact that I’m the one who got hacked, I had to wait, oh, 18 hours or so before they responded to my repeated requests to deal with the problem. And this only after I emailed them four times and mentioned them on Twitter another three times.
Finally able to log in, I change my FTP password and upgrade a non-public-facing copy of WordPress I have sitting in a root directory. Which proceeds to overwrite my custom index.html page in that directory, so I spend even more time chasing down a copy of that to restore. Only I can’t find it. So I go to the Wayback Machine, download their copy, and strip the HTML down and fix the links. Finally, more than 24 hours after the initial incident, I’m back in business.
This is obviously hugely inconvenient, but that happens. What could make life better, though, would be some real responsiveness from the support team at the hosting company. I have been with Site5 since 2008, and I haven’t had a single complaint (other than no privacy registration for domains) in four years with them. But having been met with the great wall of silence for such a long period of time while my site was MIA did not make me happy. Luckily, I’m not using the site for my livelihood. Yet.
On the flip side, I’ve been dealing with slow server times for WEEKS with FatCow, which provides hosting for my wife’s website. And when I say slow, I mean REALLY slow. Regardless of domain forwarding. And their customer service is abysmal. It takes DAYS to get back to us sometimes.
I get that hosting on the cheap relies on aggregate business to provide residual income streams that add up to real profits. Paying 5 to 8 bucks a month for hosting isn’t exactly going to get me Nordstrom-esque service. But at the same time, that’s the business model in play. Just because you’ve priced a service to move doesn’t mean a customer shouldn’t expect to get issues taken care of promptly. Too many of us have income on the line to have to worry about reliable hosting or support. I’m not a chronic complainer about bad service. I get it – things go wrong, stuff falls through the cracks, the power goes out. I am not the guy who sends back a steak because it’s medium rare and I ordered rare. But suspended accounts and slow websites kill traffic, and traffic is the stuff of life on the web.
I’m seriously considering finding a new host for me. I know I’ll be moving Jamie’s site soon. I’ve heard that for sites that primarily run on WordPress, Bluehost is good. Any other recommendations?
Just a quick note – my Akismet spam filter for the blog is set to “kill” despite the fact that I have deployed fairly light comment moderation requirements in the site settings. I just pulled two real comments out of over 140 spam comments left in the last 24 hours.
If your comment doesn’t appear right away, let me know. I go fishing for them every day, but I don’t want to miss any. You can email me at steve (at) steveskojec (dot) com. I’ll throw a comment form on the site later today to make this easier.
Hey there. I see that my visitor stats dropped from about 5 per day down to about 1 per day over the last day or so, so I just wanted to say something to calm the masses. My site got taken down, MMA style, by my web hosting company, because some asshole hacked my steveskojec.com email account and was sending out SPAM about uncomfortable Mongolian sex positions, or something like that. It’s hard to remember, because I had A FREAKING THOUSAND bounced emails in my inbox. A real laugh a minute.
Anyway, I assuaged the hosting company by certifying that I do not have access to pharmaceutical grade genital enhancement chemicals or a kindly Nigerian uncle with AIDS and a bank account problem, so I’m back online.
Yay me! I bet I hit 10 site visits today because of my comeback moment.
When I dusted this thing back off a few months ago, I swore to myself that I’d keep writing. I want to keep writing. But for the love of heaven I just can’t seem to make it happen.
To say that I’m pressed for time would be an understatement. Most days, I’m up at 5:30AM and running, and I don’t get to relax until about 9 or 9:30PM. Work, which was supposed to slip into low gear for a few months after our national conference in May, actually ramped up, and I’m busier than ever.
I also added a sizable commute to a good Catholic school for our oldest every other morning of the week (sizable = 70 miles from home to school to work) and Jamie does that every day in the afternoon, when there’s no carpool. 3 hours for me, 3 hours for Jamie (give or take) added to an already full day. Worth it? Absolutely. But we’ll be moving closer as soon as we can, because it would make things a good deal easier.
There are other big developments afoot that are eating up time and attention, but these shall remain nameless until I have something more definitive to speak of. Prayers, if you’re up for that sort of thing, would be appreciated. I will update on these as time permits.
Finally, I have realized just how much damage microwriting (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) has done to my desire to blog. It’s just so much easier and more efficient to share information in small, measured bursts. Not nearly as satisfying in most respects, but convenience is something many of us crave, and I’m no exception. Need to get my big boy writer pants on again soon. With that in mind, I’m going to take a stab at NaNoWriMo. I expect to crash and burn in a blaze of self-defeating excuses, but I’m going to at least give it the old college try. Whatever that means.
Well, does it?
I haven’t posted in almost 8 months. That’s got to be a record, even for me.
Where have I been? New job. New kid. New car. New house hunting (as yet unsuccessful). New perspectives. Writers’ block. Facebook and Twitter killed the blogosphere star. Those kind of things. But I’ve been thinking about it lately, and as much as sharing 140 characters of information at a time is appealing to me (so I don’t have to provide thoughtful commentary) it lacks something. Longer form writing has a purpose, and I’ve been neglecting it.
Consider this marination. Rumination? Some sort of nation. I am thinking about writing again, and this is the closest I’ve come to actually doing so in the better part of year. So much for building my “personal brand.” Here’s to second chances. (And seventeenth.)
Here’s to new beginnings!
We’ve been back in Northern Virginia now for nearly two weeks, and in that time I’ve given the site a full re-design from pretty much the ground up, incorporating some custom design work, an existing WordPress theme, a standalone photo-management tool, and my own patchwork of CSS and HTML to bring it all together. In the past, I’d struggled with trying to make the site work cohesively for all my creative endeavors, but one day it dawned on me that the solution was simple: subdomains. Yes, I know. Tech-savvy(ish) guy that I am, I should have thought of it sooner, but I’d never had need of them despite having access to them all along. So I re-worked the site appropriately, filled in the content, and got my blog-space back, which I’d come to miss having of late.
I expect my blogging topics to vary somewhat, ranging from my professional observations on emerging social media trends and practices to personal thoughts on the usual topics of interest, including creative pursuits, cultural curiosities, the occasional political note, and possibly a religious reference or two. I remain a columnist and blogger for Inside Catholic, so I expect that any larger ruminations on the state of the Church and associated themes will continue to go there, though I may cross-reference them here for convenience. (For example, my latest column on raising children to be critical consumers of media was published today. It’s so nice when I can illustrate a point using a constructive form of self-promotion!)
Something that I’ve continued to struggle with as I developed the concept for how I wanted to proceed here are the complications resulting from the near-total transparency of the digital age. As a professional, I often find myself in work environments that are not particularly compatible, on religious and political grounds, with my own beliefs. That I am now and have always been very open about these beliefs on the web can at times present a dilemma, inasmuch as the possibility exists that it will limit my opportunities or create hostilities in the workplace.
But as a professional working in social media, I’ve always preached honesty and authenticity. Be who you are, because that’s the voice with passion, and the one that will be listened to. When we try to sanitize our online selves for our own protection, we wind up diminishing the very thing that makes us interesting in the first place.
These blurring lines will likely be a theme I continue to explore here. There’s no hiding who we are. Probably best that we just embrace it.
Which brings me back to the varied fields of interest that my site encompasses. One thing I’ve realized over the years is that when it comes to work, I can’t honestly pigeonhole myself as just one thing. I identify myself first as a writer, but I’m also an artist and designer. At the moment, I haven’t crossed the divide from “enthusiastic amateur” photographer to “professional” yet (ie., I’ve not been paid for any work so far) but I intend to remedy that. And perhaps all these interests together explain why I’ve focused my career development on the emerging field of social media. Thanks to the Internet, we are all, to some extent or another, content producers. I happen to be a multimedia producer, and I’d feel entirely too limited if I had to stick to just one thing. It’d be like only using one of my feet, or one of my eyes. I communicate in a variety of ways, and I’m passionate about the process as much as the product. Social media integrates these differing interests and pursuits in a way that allows us all to communicate differently. More holistically. And that’s a space I want to play in.
A final note about the site: there will be bugs. I’m using a free photo viewing application for the “Photos” page, and it takes a little while to load and has an annoying watermark on my pictures where my logo usually goes. It also utilizes an HTML/CSS structure that’s made complete integration with the other pages of the site a bit tricky. I’ll keep working on it, but for now, it is what it is, and you can’t click through to any of the other page sections from that page. C’est la vie. The “Design” section also needs work, but it’s going to take some time. I need to figure out how I want to lay it out, and which gallery options I want to use. Until then, the links on the main page will take you only to a “Coming Soon” page. I didn’t think that section of the site was worth holding up the rest.
If you notice any other bugs, please let me know. Thanks for stopping by.