In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 8 different topics from the value of side projects to the single best purchase I’ve made for my online business.
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You can also listen to the episode online by clicking the play button on the player right below this. (If you don’t see the player, click here.) It’s about 23 minutes long.
DPP009: Side Projects, The Best Purchase I’ve Ever Made, When to Quit, and 5 More Topics
Welcome to episode 9 of the Digital Publishing Podcast, which you can find online at digitalpublishingpodcast.com. The Digital Publishing Podcast is an extension of TheBacklight.com.
I’m Tristan Higbee, and this show is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to membership sites and more. Also covered are things related to internet business and online marketing. Stick around till the end of the podcast and I’ll mention my picks for featured podcast and featured digital publishing tool of the week.
I’m recording today in lovely Cancun, Mexico. This will be my last time recording in Cancun because I’m leaving tomorrow, but I will be in someplace very cool next week, and someplace else equally cool after that. So stay tuned.
I’d like to give huge thanks to the people that have gone into iTunes and left reviews and rated the show, and since the podcast is so new, I’d REALLY appreciate it if you would do the same.
Ok! I’ve got 8 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
Topic #1: A news map
Here’s something I saw recently that I thought was pretty neat. I was looking at a blog about China-related news and saw a link to what they were calling the China 2012 news map. It was a Google map that was embedded on the site, and there were those pin things on the map that showed where the most important China-related news stories occurred. You click on a pin and a box appears that includes the headline, a brief summary, and links to the relevant article.
This would work great for other news websites, travel websites, or any other type of website that is about things that are spread over a geographical area.
Topic #2: The best Facebook Like button
There are three different kinds of Facebook likes. One is the Facebook page like, another is the regular page like, and the third is the Facebook photo or status update like. That third one is uncomplicated, self-explanatory, and not something I’m going to talk about.
The Facebook page like is when you like a brand page that’s on Facebook, like facebook.com/cocacola. When you do this, when you like a brand’s Facebook page, updates from that Facebook page will start appearing in your Facebook timeline. In other words, you’ll see some of those Coca Cola Facebook page updates when you log into your Facebook account. That page will also appear in the “Likes” section of your personal Facebook profile.
And then there’s the other kind of Facebook like. These are for off-Facebook liking. It’s when you like a blog or a page or a blog post. That you liked it will appear in your “Recent Activity” box on your Facebook profile and in your friends’ little news ticker thing, but not in the “Likes” section of your profile. And you won’t receive new updates or anything from that blog that you liked. It’s a one-time thing.
This is not what most of us want for our websites. We want the people that like our stuff to receive those updates, and not just broadcast to their friends one time that they liked our page. There are a few ways to do this.
The first is to have people go to your Facebook page on Facebook and like it there. Pretty simple. The downside of this, though, is that it sends people away from your site. That’s bad.
And then there’s the second way. A lot of bloggers have one of those “Like my site on Facebook” boxes in their blog’s sidebar. I’m sure you’ve seen this. It’s that large-ish box that shows the faces of the people who liked the site and the number of likes it’s gotten. But all of those people haven’t liked the blog itself (so in other words, they didn’t like CocaCola.com), but they like that blog’s page on Facebook (facebook.com/cocacola).
I’m getting around to my main point here, so bear with me. If you don’t want one of those big (and I think ugly) Facebook page boxes taking up real estate in your sidebar but still want people to be able to “Like” your actual Facebook page so that they can get your Facebook page updates in their feed, there’s something you can do.
First, do a Google search for “Facebook like button” and click on the first result, which should be the official Facebook developers’ page for the like button. You can then make and customize a button by entering the URL you want people to like, adjusting the font sizes, etc. And here’s the main point: Put the URL of your Facebook page (that is your facebook.com/cocacola or whatever page) in as the URL you want people to like. Don’t put the URL of your blog there. Then copy the code and put it in your sidebar or some other area on your site or blog. The visible result is one of those small like buttons with the little counter saying how many people have liked the page. And when people click the button to like it, it’s like they’re liking and “subscribing” to your Facebook page. Those people will now receive your Facebook page’s updates in their news feed, they didn’t have to leave your site to do it, and you didn’t have to put one of those big, ugly Facebook page boxes in your sidebar.
I know that probably sounds more complicated and convoluted than it needs to, but hopefully it makes sense. If you want to see this in action, I use this on a couple of my sites, including fkb.me and freezombiebooks.com.
Topic #3: When to quit something
I quit things all the time, and the reason is that I start new things all the time. I’m only one person and only have so much time, so I need to quit something else every time I start something new.
A couple episodes ago here on the Digital Publishing Podcast, I talked about an ebook I was starting to write about free things to see and do in Cancun. Well, I decided a few days ago to not continue with that project, and I chose to do that for a few reasons.
The main reason, and the most important one as far as I’m concerned, is that I wasn’t enjoying it. When I don’t enjoy working on something, I don’t work on it very much. The results are 1) that I feel guilty for not working on it, and 2) that the project doesn’t progress very far or very fast.
The second reason I quit working on it is that I was running out of time. I had less than a week left here in Cancun, and I already had other things planned for several of those days. I have most of the information I need to write the book, but I do need to go spend a couple days out “in the field,” so to speak, taking notes and pictures and stuff. While I have no problem doing that, I just don’t have the time anymore.
A third reason I quit the project is that it didn’t fit in with the bigger picture of things I want to do in the future. I think that a whole series of these “free things to see and do in wherever” books would be fun to write, but I don’t think the places I’ll be in the foreseeable future would lend themselves well to this kind of book. After Cancun, I’ll spend another month and a half or so here in Mexico before heading to Belize, Guatemala, and the rest of Central America. I don’t think too many people are Googling “free things to see and do in Antigua, Guatemala”. This kind of series would lend itself best to big cities like New York, Rome, and Tokyo, but I don’t think it’s worth doing for the smaller cities in Central America. I think that my time and efforts can be better spent doing things that will result in a better financial return.
And finally, though I had no problems with spending some time and taking notes out in the field, I don’t like the feeling of being forced to go and do things. If there’s a free museum that I should probably include in the book, I felt obligated to go there and check it out, even if I wouldn’t otherwise have gone to that particular museum. That idea of feeling like you should go and see something even when you don’t want to is the fastest way to become tired of traveling.
So those are the reasons I won’t be continuing with the free things to see and do in Cancun book. I know it’s the right decision because now it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I’m free to do other things that interest me more and will provide a greater return.
Hopefully that’s helpful to anyone out there who is also thinking about quitting things. Sometimes the best course of action is to quit things.
Topic #4: The big picture
With the new year starting, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in 2012 and how I plan to accomplish those things. I talked in the previous episode of the podcast about a few of my goals, including writing one Kindle book a month and launching a membership site sometime around mid-year. One thing that I haven’t been very good at in the past is focusing on these bigger goals, or the big picture stuff.
Let’s say you have a website that you’d like to make money from. Little picture stuff includes sending emails and replying to blog posts and posting things to Twitter. Big picture stuff includes creating a product you can sell.
But there’s another aspect to big picture stuff, and this one applies more to me in my current situation. I have a serious problem of always wanting to start something new right when the idea comes to me. Last week, for example, I listened to a Niche Pursuits podcast episode about a guy who made a niche site that is all about Glacier National Park, and the site is doing well. The guy makes a good chunk of his income through that site.
That got me thinking. I thought, “I know a ton about Arches National Park. I should make a niche site about that.” And for about an hour I had this burning desire to start writing articles about Arches National Park. I was looking at available domain names and making lists of keywords that would make for great articles, and all that good stuff. But then I realized that a niche site does NOT fit anywhere in my big picture. My big picture involves making a great living from my ebooks, a few blogs I already run, and the membership site I want to create. There is no room there for niche sites. And on top of that, I’ve tried working on niche sites in the past and they’ve never done it for me from a financial or fulfillment perspective. The last thing I need to be doing right now is straying away from what I already do and enjoy and what I know already works.
THAT is what I mean by the big picture. I don’t see myself making a full-time living from niche sites, so why even try going down that road, you know?
Topic #5: A different kind of video review
I just mentioned the Niche Pursuits podcast episode that I listened to. I went to another one of the interviewee’s sites, called OutdoorEquipment.com. I love rock climbing, so when I went to the site and saw that there were climbing gear reviews, I clicked through. I’m an experienced climber, so I can easily tell when people talk about climbing if they really know what they’re talking about or if they’re a total noob.
But then I saw something interesting on the climbing gear review page, and this is what the site owner says:
While we own a ton of climbing shoes and a few harnesses, in no way could we just write reviews on the climbing gear we own and call it a day. Instead, we take our HD video camcorder climbing with us and interview climbers about the gear they’re using. This makes the climbing gear reviews & testimonials on this website the most authentic, unbiased and objective reviews on the Internet.
This is pretty smart for a bunch of reasons. First and foremost, it’s a great way to get reviews of something you don’t know much about. Second, it’s a great way to get reviews of things that you can’t afford to get. Rock climbing shoes are generally at least a hundred dollars for a pair, so buying and testing out a ton of them wouldn’t be very economically viable. But going out and interviewing people who own those shoes is free, and it arguably provides a more balanced review anyway.
I think that this interview/review hybrid video is something a lot of us could do in our respective niches.
Topic #6: Qualifications
Today I saw a Kindle book for skydivers. The book was all about how to pack your parachute. I looked in the book’s description to see what it said about the author. Nothing. I clicked on the author’s name next to the book title at the top of the page there on Amazon, but he didn’t have an author page.
Now I don’t know about you, but I definitely wouldn’t buy a book about something as serious as parachute packing from any old random person. I’d want to make sure the author know his stuff. How long has he been skydiving for? How many jumps has he done? What certifications does he have?
To a less serious extent, we need to do this with all of the things we create. I have an ebook about rock climbing and on the book’s Amazon page I talk about how I’ve been climbing for more than 16 years, have done thousands of climbs, and have been in Climbing magazine twice. Again, would you want to buy a rock climbing book from someone who didn’t know what they were talking about? No way.
People’s lives won’t usually depend on the quality and accuracy of your content, but you still need to give your qualifications. It will boost people’s confidence in your product and make them more inclined to listen or buy or whatever you want them to do.
There are so many business blogs out there by people who have no business experience (and no, installing WordPress and having a PayPal account does not make you qualified to give people business advice). How many of those horrible internet marketing blogs that tell people how to do internet marketing are run by people who have never made any significant amount of many from anything that isn’t related to internet marketing?
When you’re creating something, you need to put your qualifications out there and tell people why they should listen to you. If you’re hesitant to do that, maybe you’re not in a position to give people advice. And if you’re listening to someone else, poke around and see what qualifications that person has. You definitely don’t want to learn how to pack a parachute from someone who has never skydived before.
Topic #7: The best purchase I’ve made
I’ve bought way too many themes and plugins over the years, and far more courses and ebooks than I should have. (Though I am a lot better at buying things now than I used to be.) The single best purchase I’ve ever made (that relates to my online stuff) is the Thesis theme, which is a premium theme for WordPress.
Now let me say here that I’m not an affiliate for Thesis (or any of the other stuff I talk about, since affiliate marketing isn’t something I’m too interested in). I don’t care if you buy Thesis and I don’t necessarily recommend that you do (and I especially dislike version 2.0 of the theme). But the reason that it is the best purchase I’ve made is that I’ve put in the hours of work to figure out how to customize it to get it to look how I want it to look and work how I want it to work. I’m not a php or css programmer by any means, but I know which bits of code to paste in and where to paste them if I want to put the navigation menu below the header instead of above, or if I want to change the letter spacing in the headers of the sidebar widgets.
The main broad point here is that the value of something goes up exponentially when you know how to use it properly. But the narrower main point I wanted to make is that now that I know how to customize the theme to get it to look exactly how I want, I can get new sites up and running really fast. The biggest upside to this is that I now never have to spend any time worrying about what theme I’m going to use, and then trying to figure out how to customize each theme individually. I’ve invested the time to figure it all out and now I don’t have to spend even more time poring through the WordPress theme directory. I don’t have to keep spending money for other premium themes. Every single blog and website I currently run is build with Thesis, and I love it.
So. Find a theme you like and figure out how to customize it. The reason I like Thesis so much is that there is a ridiculous amount of support information and documentation out there for it. There are tons of entire forums, blogs, and YouTube channels dedicated solely to Thesis customizations. But there are lots of other popular themes out there that have plenty of support and documentation. Spend the time learning theme customization now and it will definitely pay off in the long run.
Topic #8: Side projects
A side project as something you do in your free time that you don’t necessarily expect a lot from. I recently saw a couple people posting to Hacker News about the side projects they had in 2012, and it was really cool. It’s always fun to see what people create when they don’t need to create anything, when they create things mainly for themselves.
I think that having side projects is very much a healthy thing. For me, they’re ways to de-stress while also learning new things and building something I want or need. Right now, for example, I’m creating a website where you can find news for any and every country in the world. You pick a country from the dropdown menu and you’ll go to a page that has the latest news about that country, drawn from at least 3 different feeds. I built it because I travel a lot and found that it was too hard to find news specifically for individual countries.
The site is still in progress so I’m not going to share it here (though you can go and sign up for my newsletter at TheBacklight.com if you want to know when it’s done), but I will probably never make a cent from it. Very few people will ever see it. But I don’t care. It’s fun to make and it’s really helpful for me.
I’ve created ebooks as side projects, too. I’ve written a couple children’s books for the Kindle, including one about zombies and one about a vegetarian tyrannosaurus rex. I sell relatively few of these, and I don’t think I sold any of the t-rex one last month. But that doesn’t matter. I had a lot of fun writing it and one of my best friends illustrated it. Really, there are no downsides.
It’s ok to have side projects. You should have side projects! All work and no play is no good. Allow yourself to be creative and do what you want. It will make your life better, I promise, and you’ll be able to work harder on your more important “work” projects without thinking about all the crap you’d rather be doing. Just make sure that those side projects do take up only a fractional amount of time when compared to your main projects.
And now it’s time for this episode’s featured podcast and featured digital publishing tool. My pick for this episode’s featured podcast is Documentary of the Week [link], and it’s put out by BBC Radio 4. Each audio documentary is about 20 minutes long, and the topics range from things like affirmative action in the US to little league soccer in England to the roots Greece, the musical. The audio quality is great, and all of the episodes are really interesting, even when I wouldn’t have chosen to learn more about the topic otherwise. There is only one episode available at a time, and each episode is only available for a week, so you can’t let a bunch of them queue up before listening to them all.
My pick for this episode’s featured tool for digital publishers is called iDoneThis. This is a really great tool to know about as we start the new year. You go to iDoneThis.com and sign up for the free service. You’ll then get an email from iDoneThis every day, and each email asks what you got done that day. I have it set to email me every day at 10 pm. All you have to do is hit reply and type in what you did or what you accomplished. Then hit send and iDoneThis logs it away. You can go back to iDoneThis.com at any time to look back at what you wrote for any given day. You can also export all of your information as a CSV document, which you can then open in Excel or a text editor or Word.
I essentially use the service as a journal. I started using it on February 1, 2012, and have not missed a single day since (and I’m recording this on January 2, 2013). You can use it as a personal journal, a work-related journal, a record of how much you spend every day, or a combination of those and other things. I think it’s one of the single best services/tools I use.
Well, that’s all for this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for show notes and links and additional blog posts there at TheBacklight.com that go beyond what I talk about on the podcast. This week’s blog post on The Backlight was titled 12 Aspects of Your Digital Life to Clean Up Before the New Year. It will still be helpful anytime you look at it, even if it’s not at the new year.
You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. Since this podcast is so new, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed it. Thanks for listening, and let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you out.
As always, I’m on Twitter.