This is why I read Chris Lema

chrislemaIf you asked me a year ago who Chris Lema was, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. My experience up to that point was a brief mention by my friend Josh at Event Espresso that his was a blog worth reading. Chris tweets a lot — one of my biggest turn-offs when I am looking at people to follow on Twitter — and his blogged looked like business, marketing and strategy stuff. At the time, I didn’t look any closer than that. Sure, it seemed like he was Kind of A Big Deal, and lots of WordPress-types followed him, but that’s not really my bag, baby, so I moved on.

Then Chris was on the DradCast and later spoke at WordCamp Miami (which was livestreamed), and it was there that he blew my mind in his description of his hiring process and setting up a situation where your applicant is going to fail, and deciding whether to hire them based on how they failed. It was a process that mirrored my experience with the Automattic interview and trial process that I’d gone through not too long ago. (Yes, I interviewed and trialed for Automattic. Suffice to say, if I had gotten the gig, I would have blogged up to high heaven about it. Instead, I think of that as the first attempt of however many it takes. And now that I know the rules of engagement, I can be better prepared for next time.)

So, I started following Chris on Twitter. I still don’t RSS his blog because, honestly, I rarely look at my RSS feeds anyway except to see if there’s a new XKCD. But I have a couple services that suggest stuff for me to read based on who I follow or what other stuff I read, and that’s how I came across his post on the best tools for your website.

The man knows how to tell a story

In college, I was in a storytelling seminar. Partially I enrolled because storytelling, to me — especially at the time — was code for role-playing, and I knew the person leading the seminar — a former student — used to role play. But he was also an amazing storyteller. We had pseudo-tribal bonfire gatherings where we started a bonfire, played drums and danced, and told stories in the traditional Native American sense. We had our own oral tradition, tall tales of the Tree of Many Things and the White Buffalo. (Our war cry/chant was “BUFFALO!” — you really need to hear the story to understand. And even then, it’s pretty random. Just go with it.) And when Ben told the stories, people listened. He was easily the best storyteller in the community.

I say this, because — despite the fact that my Storytelling class had nothing to do with role playing — I know a thing or two about crafting a story, about building the plot and engaging your audience. The class was largely about storytelling in the oral sense, but the same rules apply to writing — at least if you’re writing in a certain style.

Chris is a storyteller. Rather than writing a dry blog post about tools, he opens the post with a story about paintballing. The common theme is being prepared (or unprepared), and the actual tools he talks about, don’t come in until the tail end of the post — a brief top 10 list with no real elaborate description behind any of them.

THAT, my friends, is why I read Chris’ blog. Because it’s the exact opposite of what I thought his blog would be when I first went to his site a year ago. It’s not dry, marketing and business school stuff (I mean, I’m sure there’s some of that stuff in there, too), it’s stories. I went paintballing once, too. I was the same age as the 10-16 year olds he described and it was in a big, converted warehouse, with forts to climb on and hide in and walls to hide behind. It was the paramilitary wet dream of a 10-16 year old who grew up watching G.I. Joe cartoons and it was awesome. Anytime anyone talks about paintballing, it grabs my attention, and the metaphor he uses to tie it into starting a blog works.

Go read Chris’ blog. Read his post about the best tools for your site (which is secretly just a post about paintballing). Do it now. You can thank me in the comments.

Polkadot Princess

Polkadot Princess uses real textures and photos scrapped together to create a sweet and fun look for your little princess’ blog or digital album. Not only will you love looking at pictures of her on this pretty theme, but she will love looking at the butterfly, polkadots, and flowers decorating her space. And, if you love purple, this is full of beautiful purple patterns! Polkadot Princess uses Cufón to embed a cross-browser compatible custom font in your site title, so your blog will look just like the screenshot above.

If you like this and have a little guy who needs his blog dressed up, check out our Polkadot Prince template.

Buy Polkadot Princess — $5
Buy Polkadot Princess with Polkadot Prince — $8

You might also be interested in these:

  1. Polkadot Prince
  2. Last Bit of Summer
  3. Let it Snow

Polkadot Prince

Polkadot Prince uses real textures and photos scrapped together to create a handsome backdrop for your sweet little man. You’ll treasure showing off your little guy’s greatest moments with this theme and he’ll adore the robot, paper airplanes and toy cars decorating his space. We know, because our little guy checked it over for quality assurance!  Polkadot Prince uses Cufón to embed a cross-browser compatible custom font in your site title, so your blog will look just like the screenshot above.

If you like this and have a little girl who needs her blog dressed up, look for our Polkadot Princess template.

Buy Polkadot Prince — $5
Buy Polkadot Prince with Polkadot Princess — $8

You might also be interested in these:

  1. Polkadot Princess
  2. Last Bit of Summer
  3. Let it Snow

jazzsequence.com redesign

i’ve been thinking of redesigning jazzsequence.com.  i love this design, i do, and it was a huge project to design, since much of it was written by hand, but i’ve been thinking of ways to monetize the site, if possible, and this layout isn’t very conducive to that.  it’s a good blog layout, and if i just wanted to do a small strip of ads down the side i could do that (and sacrifice the ridiculous widgets i have now), but i don’t really want to do that.  plus, i’ve been really into magazine-style layouts recently, and i came across this theme a while ago and i think it’s awesome and want to do something somewhat related.

so i started a list of things that i want the new theme/layout to have:

  • adspace
  • asides section
  • latest post
  • magazine style?
  • tag cloud
  • flickr stream
  • social networking/sharing links (on posts and in block)
  • gravatar-ready
  • twitter
  • rather than lifestream page, link directly to profilactic

i really like what The Morning After does for the asides section, and matt mullenweg styles his links/asides different from his regular posts as well.  i am using twitter tools to feed notifications of new blog posts to twitter, but it could go the other way, too, if i enabled it, and the asides section (as seen in something similar to the TMA theme) would be a perfect place for those.

so that’s what i’m thinking right now.  i’m also working on a website for a pair of designers who want to have a design blog, and my other thought is that i might use something similar to one of the designs that doesn’t get used for their site.  or something based on that.  their layouts are very grid-based, with room for 260px square ads and 125px square ads along the sidebar, with a magazine style and a big featured post area with lots of room for the post body (~700px).  having just discovered blueprintCSS, grid-based design is another thing that’s been on my mind and, while i like dirty, the clean simplicity of the layout would be a good compliment to a dirty/grungy style like the design that the site has now.

anyway, i’m sure as i get closer to actually doing the redesign, that i’ll post more musings on it later.  right now, gavin needs my help with The Magic Schoolbus: Volcano Adventure.

musings on effective branding

i passed by a billboard this morning on the way to whole foods that said something about build your brand and it made me think about effective branding and what that really means.

“branding” is the new buzz-term in internet marketing lingo.  it applies just as much to your corporate identity as it does to your personal online identity.  effectively branding your business or online identity means that people know what you are and what you’re about based on your presentation.  (marketers, correct me if i’m wrong here…)  so this “build your brand” thing made me think about arcane palette and how i can better build the AP brand and i started thinking about a blog i read regularly, upstart blogger.

i had gotten this sense that this guy knows what he’s talking about, he’s well-respected, he’s a big-wig. even if none of those things are true, they felt true to me, and gave his posts more creedence.

i started reading upstart blogger because the site was referenced over and over across the twittersphere (well, a specific region of the twittersphere, anyway).  eventually someone linked to a post; i read; i liked; i added to my rss reader.  the important point here is that when i started following upstart blogger, i had already gotten this sense that this guy knows what he’s talking about, he’s well-respected, he’s a big-wig.  even if none of those things are true, they felt true to me, and gave his posts more creedence.  

upstart blogger is a blog about blogging, specifically, making money with your blog, which is a subject i’m not all that interested in, generally.  still, i enjoy his posts and have this impression that he’s an authority on the subject, so if there’s only one of these types of blogs that i read, well, this is the one.  and i have learned a lot and started thinking more about things since reading it, and i have started taking some of his points into consideration when i do things.

it’s the perception that means everything because that’s what drives my clicks to his site

this is an example of effective branding.  before subscribing to his blog, all i knew of upstart blogger was from the way people referred to the blog, headlines, and maybe reading a post.  i don’t know how he got to be the authority (well, after reading his blog, i actually have a few ideas), but it’s the perception that means everything because that’s what drives my clicks to his site.

so the challenge for the next year is going to be how to create a similar rep and effective “brand” for arcane palette.  we’ll see what happens…