As our tools and formats age, managing our digital lives becomes more and more difficult. Over time, our personal pile of bits goes stale.
This leads to one of two outcomes: lost bits or upkeep. We’ve got to convert formats, move files, backup. Or we lose it.
I have had several versions of my personal website, the second-most recent version being a custom CodeIgniter (yikes) app. I pay $20 a month to keep it hosted at MediaTemple because I don’t want the links and history to die, and I can’t imagine spending the time to preserve it while losing the technical dependency. Lost bits or upkeep.
Those mp3s you ripped in the early aughts? I bet they’re low-bit rate and probably on their 3rd or 4th hard drive. If you’re extra-modern, it’s probably in the Apple or Amazon cloud service. You may have even moved on to the enlightened world of streaming music services, but I’d bet dollars to cents your entire library isn’t covered there. Live recordings, special editions, limited releases, eclectic artists, something is missing. Lost bits or upkeep.
Another example: blogging software and URLs. If you’ve ever switched blogging platforms, I pretty much guarantee you’ve lost URLs and converted URL formats. It’s a first-order principle of the internet that links die. Worse, when your design changes, does old content suffer? Shouldn’t your old content look like it did when you made it? Good luck making that happen, especially without losing the URLs. Upkeep or lost bits.
I can think of a dozen more examples.
You might say “well, most of that probably doesn’t need to be preserved. Why bother?” And you’d probably be right, excepting that a primary value proposition of digital everything is that bits aren’t susceptible to the forces of decay in meatspace. Or at least, that’s what we’ve been told. It’s only recently occurred to me that there analogous forces of decay in bitspace.
Note: this is more for me than for you. It’s a signpost for future review and a means to help me organize my thoughts, made public because why not. It’s decidedly not cursory, so feel free to ignore it.
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I think there a few things necessary and sufficient to be wildly successful in a creative endeavor. They are: skill, willingness to do the work, taste, vision, and luck. Most people can directly affect the first 2 and maybe the second 2. The last is something that can only be planned and hoped for.
Let’s take a closer look:
Skill is a known quantity. You can find countless tools to help develop skill, and it’s entirely specific to the project at hand. So let’s ignore that.
You have no control over luck. You can be ready for it (mostly by focusing on the other 4 things in the list), but it’s really all about outside inputs. So let’s ignore that one too.
That leaves the middle three. Willingness to do the work (or: passion and perseverance), taste, and vision. The order is important. The whole list is in order, in fact. It’s ordered by how much you can effect them. That is, how much you can develop and influence that axis. Skill is the most straightforward, luck nearly impossible.
I would challenge anyone to find an example of a successful creative endeavor (most anything can be pursued as a creative endeavor) that hasn’t had at least 3 of those. You can find examples that lack taste, vision, even luck. But I posit that if you dig deep enough, you’ll find at least 3 in any success story.
So the question becomes: which 3 do you want to rely on?
Seth Godin says:
Projects are fun to start, but part of the deal is that they don’t last forever
I treat everything as a project because nothing lasts forever. Any company, job, product or service is, in some sense, a project. Even if something lasts longer than me, it just becomes someone else’s project.
This isn’t just a semantic distinction. It’s important because it keeps me aware of one thing: there’s always the next one. I don’t know about you, but that frees me. It frees me from worrying about failure, it keeps me from obsessing too much about perfection (as I am wont to do.)
That’s not an excuse, though. It’s not an excuse to ship crap or miss dates, and it’s not an excuse to stop just because something goes well. It’s simply a recognition that, no matter what happens, you’ll get ‘em next time. And no matter what happens, you can’t stop or rest. Whether you crash and burn or you hit this one out of the park, there’s always the next one.
tl;dr: GoDaddy auctions are designed to steal your money, but if you want to make sure you get a GoDaddy-registered domain that’s expiring, you have to participate. It’s an unethical attempt to force you to be their customer, but there’s not much you can do.
From what I can tell, GoDaddy Auctions is mostly focused on people who regularly buy and sell domains. You pay $4.99 a year to list or bid on domains. It’s clearly not designed for the one-time buyer. It’s for domain day-traders. That’s not my kind of thing, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
Here’s where things get wonky. If you register a domain with GoDaddy and that domain expires, GoDaddy automatically lists your domain in this auction service 25 days after the expiration date. You have no way to opt out (save for renewing the domain), nor are you notified. And, of course, you also don’t get the proceeds from the auction. That’s for GoDaddy. Note that you are still the registrant of the domain, and still have the option to renew, but they’re running an auction for it on their own behalf.
I can see the position that if you’ve let it expire, you probably don’t care. Fine. But here’s the problem: as an interested buyer of an expiring domain registered with GoDaddy, you basically have no choice but to participate. It’s the first option you have to get an expiring domain, and if you really want that domain, you have to become a GoDaddy customer.
Here are 2 things GoDaddy doesn’t tell you as a potential bidder:
- The winning bid doesn’t include domain registration. You’re essentially negotiating how much to pay GoDaddy for the right to pay them later to register the domain.
- When you win the auction, the original domain registrant has 7 days to renew the domain. If they do, you don’t get the domain. You get your money back, of course. But you can bet it’s pretty hard to cancel that $4.99/yr subscription.
I went through this process recently. Here’s the worst part: I didn’t know about the last one until after I’d won the auction. This is listed in their Universal Terms of Service of course, but it’s not explained anywhere I can find in the bidding process. So, they took my money before letting me know that I may not, in fact, get the domain.
Nice play, GoDaddy. Nice unethical play.
Whether or not you realize it, every decision you make is based on a few principles. The trick is that most people probably don’t live by the principles they think they do.
Here are a few of the ones I think (or hope) I live by:
- The purpose of our lives is to be happy
- Money is a tool, not a goal
- Experiences over things
- Make amazing things
- Don’t hurt people
- Be nice
- Absolutes and extremes are rarely helpful, and often harmful. Compromise is good.
If I’m being honest, here’s what I probably actually live by:
- Be happy, unless it’s hard.
- Collect as many tools as you can!
- I need all the things.
- Make amazing things, but only as long as it’s inspiring.
- Don’t hurt people, unless they hurt me first. In that case, it could be a good idea to hurt them. Investigate.
- Be nice to people that are nice. Also, ridicule ignorance.
- Sometimes I will absolutely not compromise.
To my mind, making the lists align is one of the great challenges of life.
One of the things I drill into my students is Tony’s Scale of Awesomeness™. It’s a scale by which they should measure their work. It’s come out of my time working with students, clients, and friends. It’s a codification of how I subconsciously assess my work (and the work of others.) Here’s the scale:
- Does it work?
- Does it work well?
- Could it work better?
- Could it work elsewhere?
This phrasing is focused at a student doing project work, so let me put these into more professional terms.
- Does it meet functional requirements?
- Is the user experience acceptable?
- Can the code be refactored?
- Can this be packaged and shared (plugin, gem, package, etc)?
I make this really explicit in the student case by tying it what they’re focused on: grades, jobs, and graduation.
- You’ll probably pass the class
- You’ll get a good grade in the class, probably graduate
- You’ll probably get a job
- You’ll get a job, probably the best job
It should be pretty easy to rephrase that list towards contracting, career management, etc.
The Scale of Awesomeness is a specific thing, but it’s really about communicating something not so specific: craft, care, and a focus on always getting better.
A thought: dystopian fiction usually presents a future who’s disturbing attributes aren’t really inherently disturbing…just dissonant. That is, it’s usually (and intentionally) disturbing to the reader, but that’s only because it’s so different from the worldview of the reader.
Put another way, the characters in dystopian fiction are often unaware of just how dystopian their world is. Indeed, the journey to understand that is often the basis for the story.
I’m not sure where that thought leads, though. Except of course to this question: what’s dystopian about your world, and why don’t you recognize it?
Based on our current understanding of the cosmos, the universe is expanding. This is the outcome of the Big Bang. You probably know that. What you might not know is what we think that means for the future. There are many theorized possible outcomes, but the 2 primary ones are:
- If the universe has more than a certain threshold of matter (known as critical density), at some point the Universe will collapse in on itself, into a Big Crunch. All matter and energy collapses into a single, tiny black hole. And perhaps another Big Bang occurs.
- If the universe has less than the critical density, it expands forever. All stars die, matter spreads out, and no more energy exists to sustain motion or life.
So either the entirety of everything destroys itself and starts again, or it atrophies into an infinite sea of motionless nothingness.
Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?
It’s graduation season. Time for finals and caps and gowns and interviews. Seeing the pictures and posts on Facebook makes me think: Education (in the US, at least) trains us to focus on endings. We cram for finals, we slog through the shit classes with our eye towards the finish line: summer, graduation, moving on.
But real life isn’t really like that. At least, I don’t think it should be. A life spent seeking endings is a life spent disregarding the other parts: the beginning and the middle.
To be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have goals or work towards them. Rather, I’m saying that maybe we shouldn’t seek so many endings. Perhaps, instead, we should focus on the middle. And I think the best way to do that is to focus on showing up and doing the work.