your internet home

do you really need a website? do you really need a twitter account?

it really depends.

we all know that the internet allows you to reach a worldwide audience. what’s funny is that not everyone needs a worldwide audience (for example, talented designers). all you need is to be able to reach the people who need to hear from you. if you’re an artist, fame and notoriety helps, along with ease of access. once you get into finance, design, and certain other fields, sometimes the harder you are to find, the better.

a week ago i met a person who makes a living building out websites for clients. they didn’t have any kind of social media presence. “how do you get clients?” i asked. all through word of mouth, they told me.

this was frustrating, because at times it feels like i am running a media company – i update my twitter, i write on my blog, and i share interviews on my youtube channel and via podcast. it’s full time work, and my hope is that one day it will get me more clients. but here is someone who reduced the amount of work they had to do – they are credible in their circles and gain employment from those spheres.

there are no hard and fast rules. finding the people you want to work with is an art form. every platform offers its opportunities, as do your real world experiences. but, it is helpful to remember that twitter, facebook, squarespace and (shudder) wix are not necessary for success if your audience doesn’t need to find you there.

recap: registration day at xoxo

ahoy there.

good morning. yesterday (thursday, september 5th, 2019) i arrived in portland for xoxo. i am staying with my friend josh and melissa, who have a son who is in fourth grade and cat who is two years old.

this is nimbus and i love him.

josh (@stickwithjosh on twitter) is a programmer-turned-videographer whose ultimate goal is to shoot feature films out of his backpack. he may have been the first people to get me interested in programming as well. as a computer-y person, he also was instrumental in introducing me to xoxo. when i was on the fence about buying my ticket earlier this year, josh told me that the online message board alone was worth the price of admission. and lo, here we are today.

my badge for the festival!

yesterday i got all registered for the weekend. swag included the badge pictured above, a t-shirt (extra small for moi), a calendar of events, notebooks, and pronoun pins to let others know my preferred identifiers (he/him). once i checked in, i spent the rest of the day doing portland-y things (hanging out in cafes, going to powell’s, etc.). it is so nice here! i texted cheyenne throughout the day to let her know that i was having a consistently good time and that i was very, very relaxed. vacation = two thumbs up.

then, in the evening was the opening party, a late-night mixer with drinks and food. i met a bunch of folks and it feels a bit exhausting to recap the interactions with all of them. this weekend will be filled with a lot of meeting new people, and once i get my bearings you will definitely hear more about it. [sips coffee] oof, yeah, the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet.

today is a “social day” so there are many different meetups happening around the main venue, revolution hall. i’m definitely going to the glitch “appy hour”, i’m going to try and attend a mixer with volunteer lawyers to discuss copyright law, and if time allows i’ll also make it to two other meetups, about patreon and twitter bots respectively.

that’s all i have in me for now – coffee (read more coffee) and breakfast are my current short-term goals, and i’ll be posting on instagram and twitter if ya’ll wanna see more of the festivities. onwards, upwards.

heading to portland tomorrow for xoxo fest

xoxo fest (link) is a conference for people who work and live online. a handful of people i follow on twitter went in 2018, which sparked my interest in going this year. i am very excited to be surrounded by artists and web developers that generally inspire me.

i often try to think about how we can use computers for good, as in creating positive change for individuals and communities. we know the risks (as showed to us in fictions like “black mirror”) but now we are trying to prevent a dystopian future by creating an open, accessible, and inclusive internet.

for me, i want to know what the future of work looks like. i am sick of 9-5, i am sick of navigating a broken healthcare system, and i am sick of the gaps in public knowledge when it comes to technology and its capabilities. my attendance at xoxo is a step towards a future that i would like to live in, under the banner of tabletop games, youtube videos, and coffee.

slowing down on the sidewalk

i once hear that some sidewalks are designed to encourage the walker to slow down and to enjoy the shops, sights and diversions of their walks. similarly, i find that certain cafes also encourage their patrons to cozy up with a good book so that they can really savor their beverage in a pleasant atmosphere.

where are these places online?

many websites i visit are all about speed (maybe i’m just spending my time in all the wrong places). google returns search results quickly, twitter is rapid fire of news, opinions, and images. facebook is, well, garbage. but, funnily enough i don’t spend that much time on medium either. even though it is supposedly designed to be that breath of fresh air on the internet, there is very little vetting for the quality of the content i am reading. more often than not, i feel like everyone is selling something, so i trust nothing.

now, i am in a cafe with a book, and i don’t feel like anyone is trying to fuck with me or mine me for information. where are these places on the internet where you can simply pass the time?

youtube comes to mind. youtube! an endless sea of content with varying degrees of intensity and engagement. i have the option to turn on lo fi hip hop beats, or open a video of someone making pastries in japan. this might be exactly what i needed in the first place. however, i do not enjoy watching youtube in a coffee shop – for some reason i need it to be a more private experience.

youtube is also passive, in contrast to reading, which takes active effort for decoding symbols into ideas. reading a book in a cafe is doing something, while watching youtube is letting something happen to you.

i don’t really know they answer, but i am always looking for ways to slow down and enrich my experience on the internet. i am biased towards books (one of my first and longest standing loves) but i hope there are places on the internet where i can get the same kind of peace and engagement that i do with a good book. maybe it is games – video games along with the games of organizing my documents or making websites or learning to code.

personal & professional

here’s a problem with the future of work: we’re all brands now. at least on social media, i think about my brand and how i present myself in the same way i think about business marketing. sometimes when i am advising clients, they ask me how to brand themselves properly on the internet.

this makes me think about my favorite people online – some of the folks that i love the most are authentic. this means that their content feels personal, and i feel a special connection because they are being genuine with the amount of personal and professional content that they can comfortably share online.

authentic doesn’t mean constantly available. i follow an instagram account in which an unseen user makes bubble tea against a white background. this user is more or less anonymous, and i don’t have any kind of emotional dialogue with this person, but the interaction still feels authentic: “here is something i like that i am comfortable sharing with you”.

i get sad – a lot. sometimes it is very difficult to manage, and for a while it was difficult to maintain an internet presence when i had intense, intermittent sadness. in order to be transparent with my engagement online, sometimes i’ll just let people know that i am sad. it gives some context as to my online habits, and it has become part of my brand. “connor is professional and creative, and sometimes he is very sad.”

a brand communicates to your audience “here’s what you can expect from me”. so, why make a brand that is too expansive for what you can give? for companies, branding connects products to specific people
“if you are x type of person, you might be into product y.” since we all engage in mini-forms of sharing on the internet, clarifying your brand can help manage expectations from the people you share with.

ultimately, we are human beings, not brands. however, when we step out into the world, we are always communicating – what we wear, how we carry ourselves, where we spend our time – all of this communicates something about our values and alignments. being on the internet, in a sense, is a form of being out in the world. and if we choose to participate, we can be focused about the way we style and brand our presence.

further, as human beings, we also have the capacity to grow. your brand is not a cage – if anything, it should help you move from one goal to the next. if you need to change your brand, you can (and should). of course, you have no obligation to change, or to explain your change to anyone. being online (being a human) is hard, and finding your truth and your level of comfort with being authentic online allows you to gracefully mediate your inner and outer lives.

post-mortem: my presentation at impact hub

a portion of my tech-savvy friends give talks. software developers get together for show-and-tell sessions that serve as networking and hiring opportunities (the events that i have attended have been very casual). some friends give their talks at conferences (e.g. deconstruct conf), and others at meetups (like donut.js). one of the best talks i’ve seen was one in which the speaker showed us how they used code to create the most dissonant music possible. they were followed by a woman (a banker by day) who used code to sort through produce plu codes.

so talks are happening and they’re useful and cool – i wanted to get in on the hype. so i put together my presentation using what i had learned from interviewing folks on ‘the orbit’. i asked my contact at impact hub if they could fit me into the calendar, and they said yes. easy peasy.

the hard part was making / rehearsing the presentation. i really had no idea who would show up, which meant that i didn’t know if my talk about seem stupid or inaccessible. i figured it would be best to not overthink it, and just focus on the things i liked and thought were useful.

i outlined the presentation in notion several times, then put together a google slides document. i went through three drafts before i settled on the one i was going to give. i practiced out loud in front of my girlfriend, and then video’d myself and sent it to lito who has a lot of experience with giving talks. both of them gave me meaningful and constructive feedback, which helped me further tune in the talk.

eight people showed up (less than i expected but still good). this meant that i could get to know my audience deeply and learn about their businesses and what they were hoping to get out of my presentation. my favorite bit was hearing about their projects. i find that many folks are embarking on really interesting, individual projects and i am always happy to see ways i can help (usually it is recommending a tool or a book).

if i were to do this again, i would really want to lean into the data more. i want to show hard and true facts that will illustrate my point: the future of work is coming, and its for everyone. if we figure out how to adjust to sustainable work structures, we’ll be well positioned to have meaningful careers that are fueled by our individual interests, passions, and talents.

my friends inspire me

perry is a co-worker of mine. he’s in his twenties, and makes a living doing cafe maintenance. i asked him what he does for fun and he told me, “well, i’m building a boat.”

“what? how?”

perry laughed. “you can pretty much learn anything on the internet these days. sure, if i was formally trained i could probably do a better job and make less mistakes. but you can learn a lot of the basics on youtube.”

next, i talked to nelson, a friend who likes to talk about philosophy. “i know a lot of philosophy isn’t immediately useful, but i like learning about it because it’s stimulating.” nelson picks up dense philosophy books from the bookstore, and uses youtube and google to further research terms and concepts that he wants to know more about.

lastly, my friend nat tells me that they are so impressed by how much their friends know. “it seems like everyone knows so much stuff about random subjects. i want to be one of those people, but i don’t know where to get started.”

more and more, when i ask friends how they got good at their hobbies or work, they’ll tell me “youtube” or “google”. this is super exciting to me, and also checks out with how i’ve been learning to program. i embark on a project, get stuck, then google my problem. i look at other people’s code, watch people on youtube, then try again. soon, i am better than i was before without having to set foot in a physical classroom.

the people i want to help are the people like nat – they know they can learn anything but need someone to help them figure out their interests. cultivating curiosity, building your own curriculum, these things don’t necessarily come naturally to folks who are used to sitting in a classroom and having a teacher tell them what they need to learn. i am lucky to know so many interest-driven learners, and i am currently inspired to lend a hand to those who want to become one.