Michael Musgrove in Deep Disguise

2014: The Year of The Beard

Chances are, if you’re a male that can grow facial hair, you’ve tried to grow something on your face this year. For some reason, every man I see lately seems to have a beard, including the one even in the mirror.

I grew a natty beard last year (because my wife pretty much made me, truth be told) I hated it because I’d never had one before, and didn’t know how to groom it. It was getting in my mouth, growing all funny, and uneven, and I looked like a hobo.

Will Code For Food.

The industry I work in not only coined the term “neckbeard” but is littered with hipsters. And the ones who aren’t those are just part of another large group of web developers that prefer beards. And the web designers have retro, “designed” facial hair. So I see it a lot, and at first just thought it was my imagination.

hipster kit

But my friends on Facebook suddenly began posting pics of themselves sporting manliness. Guys that I would have never pegged for abandoning the razor. I guess that’s what made this officially a trend. But look around–beards everywhere.

derby city chop shop
A sign I made for the guys at DCCS, where I get my hairs cut.

Once my second attempt at a beard came in, I went to my new barbershop in Louisville, and had the guy shape this one up for me, so I’d have a baseline to work with. The guys at the barbershop all have epic beards. And tattoos and large circular earlobes, etc..and I’m pretty sure they skateboard to work. Although that describes most of the men in this part of the country(except the skateboard part), I’ve noticed. I’m not a native to Louisville, so I’m always looking for differences and comparisons to South Carolina. There are very few similarities, which I guess is why I was surprised to see all my buddies in SC growing beards.

2014 seems to be the renaissance of the beard. When our great-grandchildren look at our ancient iPhone selfies, it will be like looking back at turn-of-the-century photos and earlier, when a man wasn’t a man without a beard or stache. History indeed seems to be repeating itself, at least with that small bit of style. Next trend: men’s spats. (The monocle has already reappeared.)

web design pop

2014 winter

Waxing Political on Climate Change

This website has been chugging along since 2010, although the more astute among you may notice the archives only go back to February 2013. That’s because I decided to nuke it and start from scratch after much deliberation. Even a personal website needs to have focus, and after 3 years I had accumulated an absolute mess of thought and detritus which served no singular purpose, other than learning how to set up and run a website. Even I wasn’t inclined to go back and read any of my super-important ramblings, and after that amount of time, I had gotten the hang of how to manage a website, conduct SEO, and push buttons and pull levers much more effectively. So I scraped it, photos, writings and all. I try to keep on the design and development path here, and keep my personal ramblings elsewhere — a lot on my Facebook reel, but certainly not exclusively. My Facebook account is walled off to a degree, and that’s because most of my friends(not all) are active there, and if they want to engage or find me, they know to do so there. I don’t want the general public to start getting into my grill. There’s plenty of opportunity to do that elsewhere if they want. I doubt any of my closest friends visit this website on purpose or frequently. I know my wife doesn’t. But one of them who I often debate with left a comment on Facebook that I thought I’d post a response to here, versus there, for several reasons.

It involves politics, belief systems, and other personal things that, collectively, form domestic, economic, social, technological and international policy, movements, cultures, and larger items that transcend my little group of Facebook friends and family. Most of them know where I stand politically, and I know where they do as well. I enjoy a good debate, but playing mental ping-pong with them gets tiresome after a while, when I know where they’re headed every time. I also knew this would be a longer response than what I’d want to put on Facebook, just for everyone’s sake.

Some quick background. Politically, I probably land in Libertarian-land. I follow the tired description of being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But not exclusively. It all depends on the specific issue at the specific moment in history. A lot of the people I’m friends with are FAR right and FAR left on everything. Which is fine–as a libertarian, I don’t care what they do, as long as it doesn’t infringe on my personal rights, liberty and “space.” I respect their beliefs and leanings, and tolerate, as much as I can, their rants and raves about current events, politics, religion, or all the other generally off-limit topics. Most of the time they have some decent foundations for their beliefs, and are literate enough to explain them on a level that could be called discourse and it’s fun and in good spirit. And, as long as they’re well-formed ideas and not superficial, hard-lined nonsense, I’ll listen and consider their stance. I’m no expert on everything, and not everything is black and white. I try to be open-minded, but I have very strong principles upon which I try to maintain a very strong footing and live my life by.

With that mostly unnecessary preface out of the way, something that’s compelling me to stray from the formula and address here on this blog is the topic of climate change. Because it’s a topic that’s obviously not going away, and is an awfully divisive issue, that I don’t think most people are giving enough time to consider, or else we would have drawn some meaningful conclusions as a whole by now. One of many things like that, really, but I don’t have the time or see the point in trying to go over all of them. I’m not going to change anyone’s mind that I personally think needs changing, and more than likely will only alienate myself further from those that don’t play political midfield like I tend to. As someone who has, for several decades now, sprawled himself all over the political and social prism, I’ve noticed some things about the extremes of each group. I don’t tend to dwell in the middle of anything in life, for both good and bad consequence, and don’t understand indecision, so I’m constantly skating the halfpipe, spending little time in the middle of the political parabola, and performing my tricks and research at the extremes, where I find it most fun and interesting. I may write a post about that one day, but in general, my observations probably won’t gain me any new friends. Being bipolar socially and politically tends to make you a misfit, rather than loved by all. It reminds me of a line from a movie by someone who learns they have one black parent and one white parent naively and happily declaring that now they’ll be accepted by both racial groups! That’s not how it comes to work in reality, unfortunately. You’re more likely to be shunned by both.

2014 winter
Winter 2014

The actual cause that sparked this post was this Facebook post by me on March 28, 2014:

A press release from the White House today: Agriculture: In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the USDA, EPA and DOE will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap” outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.

Translation: Our government is now in the business of regulating cow flatulence. I’m thinking our country, just maybe, has a government that’s out of control. Maybe.

And the response by my friend:

It’s actually an ENORMOUS problem. In fact, it’s one of the major contributors to Climate Change.

If you arm yourself with facts, you might start realizing what a massive problem we have on our hands.

“Agriculture. Domestic livestock such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels produce large amounts of CH4 as part of their normal digestive process. Also, when animals’ manure is stored or managed in lagoons or holding tanks, CH4 is produced. Because humans raise these animals for food, the emissions are considered human-related. Globally, the Agriculture sector is the primary source of CH4 emissions. For more information, see the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks Agriculture chapter.”

http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/ch4.html

It’s pretty easy to see that my friend is “progressive,” and the problem to him is so enormous, its very term warrants capitalization. And even though we disagree on many political topics, I don’t care where he stands when evaluating these things. As in, it doesn’t influence how I approach my research one way or another. I respect him enough to acknowledge that it’s his world he’s living in, and he’s come to see things his way from his life experiences and research, just as I have, and he’s a great guy in any case. But there are some things about this post that, I feel, merit dissection and how it may be interpreted as it relates to the topic of “climate change” as it’s come to now be called, and what’s going on with such a poignant issue in American society as a whole, as well as globally. And that’s where the real meat of this post begins. Nearly 1100 words in. Count this as one of my “long-form” pieces that supposedly are becoming so popular with blogging.

What About Climate Change?

Before I announce where I stand on this whole thing, I’d like to present the bigger bullet points that I think should be considered and explored a little further, outside the sucking vacuum of politics and money, if that’s ever even possible at this stage.

Some things that stuck out to me in my friends response:

  • That I should “arm” myself with facts. Already we’re in an “us vs. them” battle mentality. When there exists a problem so dire facing all of humanity, as he seems to believe, it also seems like we could agree upon it as such by all rather quickly. Just a thought. The “facts” people suggest I should arm myself with typically don’t come from non-partisan, objective, widely-accepted scientific equations and methods with detailed analysis of any sort. They are delivered by politicians, teams of often questionable scientists funded by groups known to have agendas, and filtered through rhetoric, social media and other pollutants. I have to ask myself why that is the case.
  • The US was covered in buffalo and deer and the Earth in wild animals outnumbering those we have now, before man wiped them out not too long ago and domesticated the tastier ones. If the amount of methane gas is so much more voluminous now, maybe it’s the feed we’re giving the animals, not the sheer numbers. If it were the numbers of dairy cows, it seems the rapidly growing number of humans consuming their by-products (and them, I suppose) would be an even greater source. Maybe? In any case, I haven’t ever seen anything to convince me this is something we, as Americans, are responsible for, and need to form even more governmental agencies to oversee and regulate. A related thought I have is “When does that ever reach a stopping, exactly?”
  • Animal manure isn’t commonly stored in lagoons or holding tanks, at least in the US by Americans, where it could enter the water supply and emit enough C4 to create greenhouse gases and then alter the entire planet’s atmosphere. If it is, then where? By whom? Why? Simple questions that should have simple and easily-remedied solutions, and not involve such feet-dragging and arguing and require more governmental agencies and money. That couldn’t have happened overnight.
  • The “facts” he states and has “armed” himself with aren’t consistent with the very source he cites. Most people aren’t going to take the time to look at it and read it, or much of anything like that, carefully, as well as the sources that material cites. I do and did. What he stated is out of context with what it states and presents a slightly inaccurate picture. That creates misinformation and, I think understandably, skepticism. It also has a tendency to compound itself over time and make matters seem more extreme than they perhaps may be. This is a widespread problem with many issues that aren’t immediately Boolean, such as simple bigotry and prejudice versus flat-out racism. There has to be a difference between the two, and by not clarifying it or intentionally trying to make something seem what it isn’t often produces the opposite results of what is desired.

No matter what you believe, I think it’s safe to claim the following as true, and really considered carefully within the context presented by all sides:

  • That the climate of the planet Earth, as well as other planets in this solar system, have been changing over the course of time. There would be some undisputed and sudden trouble if we didn’t have climate change and it remained constant. As in apocalyptic. So, what is the proposed remedy? Eliminate climate change altogether? That’s obviously not going to work, and not even possible. So what’s the actual, measurable goal here?
  • The temperature of the Sun changes, and always will. Humans haven’t had an effect on that.
  • As humans, we’ve only been keeping climate records for a little around 100 years. Those records aren’t what many credible scientists would call consistently accurate, whatsoever.
  • In order to really claim anything as “science,” it needs to be able to be reproduced in a controlled environment, consistently and repeatedly.
  • The planet Earth is around 5 billion years old. Give or take millions of years.
  • Climate scientists (which is a vague label for a small, diverse group of people and used largely carefree) have a poor track record in the sciences related to weather and climate. Predictions have consistently been barely, if any, better than guesses in any area.
  • Some data from climate scientists that was used to argue for “climate change” have admitted the data was not only poor, but deliberately skewed to prove what they wanted it to by politicians and activist groups, who try to still use that same data at times.
  • Bad data is worse than no data.
  • China is one of the worst offenders of global pollution and isn’t really hopping on this bandwagon. (Their pollution also happens to drift eastward to the US)
  • Most people don’t take the time to fully research one political side of the issue these days, much less objectively look at all sides of an issue. They accept sound bites from media they like to read/watch/follow that fits their belief system and go with it.

With that in mind, I also have to consider the following:

  • For the most part, hard-line liberals and idealists argue that climate change is a problem. And the more liberal, the larger and more immediate that problem becomes in their minds.
  • The term “climate change” used to recently be called “global warming” until that was an obviously inappropriate/inaccurate term. We just had one of the coldest and longest winters in the US on record, for example, so now any anomalous activity is able to be vaguely labeled as “climate change,” but still fit the cause. The terminology here seems to be constructed controlled by liberals, or progressives as they recently preferred to be recognized as, to me, and semantics should be taken seriously and not waved off on a whim. Changing the term to fit whatever scenario you want is dubious to me as an English major and person. I’ve also recognized this as not an isolated case of this phenomenon which, just by stating that very fact or similar, can cause certain people to freak out. That doesn’t help fortify any case.
  • There is a large activist movement behind it all, led by liberal groups. I’m not saying that as good or bad; just as an observation. “Deniers,” as they’ve been coined, by liberals, are largely conservatives. But will include anyone not fully on-board with the entire thought.
  • Typically, or at least less and less, no delineation is made between “man-made” climate change/global warming, and just “climate-change”/”global warming” and the context is omitted and the terms are being used synonymously. This is a big, pivotal point that I think should ALWAYS be made if this is ever going to be discussed successfully. It matters. A lot. At least if you want to make a legitimate case for a specific problem. Words should be used deliberately, and I think are in some cases, but not to attain neutrality in every case. Usually to create a perception than to clearly define or illustrate a concept.
  • Where there is success and profit to be had addressing actual pain points, especially lucrative ones, the private sector goes. Few private companies will venture where the climate-changer groups insist on needing a solution that haven’t already been tried at great public expense, and failed.

The leaders of the cause:

    Arguing man-made global warming exists:

  • Al Gore: a person who has personally profited greatly from activist causes and, hypocritically, overlooked by the ones siding with him. Also dubious internet claims and sold his media interests to ‘Big-Oil’ Al-Jazeera for a fortune. Glaringly, our current president and his administration and political party are vying for more regulation, and more money to be spent on this topic, and for the US government to be more involved. I would say credibility is an issue here, like it or not.
  • UN leaders and dictators of very corrupt, largely dependent countries jump on board with no second thought. Again this presents a credibility problem, to me.
  • The leaders defending the “problem” believe wealth redistribution is the answer, with no specific technological plans or answers. Carbon offsets, taxes, fees, regulation, grants to liberal-leaning research labs, etc…and just more money and power are their response.

The leaders against the cause:

    None really stick out to me as a “leader.” T. Boone Pickens is often used as an example, but if you read his policies closely, they aren’t “denying” anything, just proposing different solutions about the same problems, but only in the energy sector. Not societal or any of the areas politicians want to involve. Also, his solutions are workable, not fantasy, idealistic, or have already been proven failure-prone.

    A large scientific group has come out against many of the “climate change” assertions however.

The Bottom-Line is: Money and Politics are at play, and BIG money and BIG Power is at stake. I don’t think that can or should be ignored. The people that appear to be the most concerned about this are politicians, who are notorious liars and usually not the smartest people in the room, UN leaders, who typically are mostly interested in power and other people’s money, activist groups with agendas, and the devout followers of those people. I tend not to make life decisions based on what politicians tell me and dictate, much less the rest of that crowd. It’s especially of note to me when the “need to act now” is only being presented by one of two political parties. All of this should raise eyebrows, if not throw up red flags, to anyone that wants to be involved. The data they base their assertions on is fallacious and dubious, as are the people providing it. The theme behind this is exceptionally enormous– the future of all humanity and life as we know it. With that at stake, I’m skeptical because there would be more compelling evidence, less of a unilateral concern, and the foundation upon which the leading arguments are made much stronger and not so intimately held by people with personal agendas.

So, with all that in mind, I haven’t taken the bait on this one yet as some people have, hook, line and sinker. Yes, the planet’s climate is changing. As it always has, and always should. The degree (no pun intended) that man is directly responsible for, and able to control in the future is the real question. And to me, nothing so far is convincing. I shouldn’t be able to shoot holes in all of it so easily. The proponents shouldn’t be politicians, hack bureaucrats, global dictators and their loyal followers. The data should be hard and widely-accepted by credible authorities, with clear explanations available. Actual, detailed technological solutions to identifiable, algorithmic problems should be presented, other than what appears to be a massive wealth redistribution scheme. But until then, none of this is adding up when looking at it with an attempt to use common sense, to me.

What do you think? What have I overlooked?

Fezes are cool

Dr. Who is Coming to Louisville Kentucky

My stepdaughter is a huge Dr. Who fan, and isn’t afraid to call any Whovian posers out. She’s 11, and I’m not sure where she picked up on the show, but she loves it. So I’m taking her to Wizard Comic Con this weekend in Louisville to see the guy that plays Dr. Who (The eleventh doctor, apparently) and a whole bunch of other stuff, that I’m hoping will be great photo-op material for me. I created some Dr. Who designs in Illustrator for her, based on my limited knowledge of the show and what she’s told me:

Dr. Who Tardis

Fezes are cool

sonic screwdriver

Jimmy Cliff

Jimmy Cliff Live in Louisville Kentucky

The legendary Jimmy Cliff performed in Louisville a while back, and I shot the whole thing. My arm was pretty tired at the end, after holding a camera up for over an hour twenty, but it was worth it. My advice to anyone ever wanting to do the same is to invest in a monopod(if the event staffers will let you bring it in-I don’t see why not).

It’s a great performance by a great reggae/ska legend. I can only hope I have half the energy he does when I’m his age.

illustrator cs6 extensions

Adobe Illustrator CS6 Extensions

Adobe Illustrator plays second fiddle to Photoshop, but it really shouldn’t. It’s an awesome tool for working with vectors and type, and while Photoshop handles some tasks better, Illustrator handles some better as well. Used in conjunction with one another, they’re indispensible to a web designer’s workflow. It’s like having both phillips head and regular head screwdrivers in your toolbox.

Developers offer third party plugins that can be installed to extend their functionality even more. One of the problems I’ve found is that over the years, with each new iteration of Adobe Illustrator, previous versions of these plugins become outdated or at least less-maintained. What worked with CS3, for example, may not perform using CS6. And when you go looking for newer plugins, you come across all sorts of older ones that are just obsolete, all lumped in with one another. And regrettably, there just aren’t that many out there for Adobe Illustrator CS6. Believe me, I’ve looked.

So, in the name of saving you time, I’m listing the ones I use and have installed here for convenience’s sake. I personally use Adobe Illustrator CS6 and am happy enough with it that I haven’t seen a reason to make the jump to the subscription-based Creative Cloud version yet. I have to watch my costs, after all.

The way to install these extensions is through the Adobe Extension Manager. You just download the file, and then install it via the manager, which is nearly effortless. You’ll have to restart Illustrator if you have it open while doing this to complete the installation. There’s also the plugin I’ve included below that ‘ll help you locate and install them as well.

  • Blend Me In
    Search thousands of assets, including popular icon packs, without leaving Illustrator.
  • Draw Script
    It generates graphics code from vector shapes in realtime.
  • Mesh Tormentor
    Complete Guide to Mesh Tormentor
  • Adobe Exchange
    The new way to discover and install plug-ins, extensions, and other content for Creative products.

Are there any awesome plugins you know of that I’ve missed? Please let me know in the comments and I’ll happily add them!

focus on your competencies

What Are Your Core Competencies?

Today 37Signals, the company that offers the collaboration software Basecamp, announced that it would do two things:

  1. Drop 37Signals as its brand/moniker to only be known as “Basecamp”
  2. Lose extraneous involvement in everything other than the Basecamp product

Some people may see this as gutsy, but it’s a very smart and well-advised move. If you’re familiar with the Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule, it’s what they’re taking into consideration. Drop the 20 percent of business that isn’t producing as well, but using up valuable resources. Their core competency is Basecamp, and with that realization, the owners have wisely made THAT the core business. I believe they will be rewarded for that decision, which may have been more difficult for them than it should have been to make. It’s hard to sink costs and set dreams aside.

We often find ourselves in a similar situation as individuals. Almost as a matter of course I explain just how I got into web design and development when I meet people, considering my background. I’m slightly a few years older than the median web-dork, so I’ve had some time to gain some additional experience, doing a variety of seemingly non-related things which I feel merits a quick backstory. And I keep a stalking pretty close eye on a lot of the people I, at least, consider to be the top quintile of developers, designers and general WordPress movers and shakers. And as I also began to ponder their backgrounds, as it relates to what web-work they do and how they got to where they are, it became clear they aren’t distracted by the superfluous.

Interestingly, for the most-part those that move and shake the web design, development and WordPress scene don’t have a formal background in computer science. After all, it’s not as though you can major in WordPress (yet), SEO or the myriad other facets of such a career. I would wager most stumbled into it. I noticed even a marketing path and/or masters in marketing in most universities doesn’t even touch on social media, the digital world, or provide any help there whatsoever. A sad fact that illustrates the gulf between higher ed and the actual skills needed by employers. I taught a marketing management course and although many of my students were interested in marketing their web apps, getting into social media, and had an obviously technical skew, our textbook and course material as prescribed by the university ignored it all completely. (For the record, I was more than glad to amend the original syllabus and happily head in that direction for everyone’s sake.)

Web development is a field in which you can NEVER stop learning, and obviously the more you know, the better you’ll be. Web design trends come and go and aren’t hard to integrate. Web design, and most design for that matter, is something you either have an eye for or not. Yes, anyone can learn the fundamentals, but to be at the top, you have to have an innate knack, I believe. Athletes work hard to train and strengthen, and nearly anyone can eventually become very good, but the absolutely best were born with attributes that set them apart.

Although several developers that are, and should be, considered thought-leaders have formal computer science training, most have unrelated degrees in humanities like English, such as yours truly(Disclaimer: I do not consider myself a “thought-leader,” incidentally), liberal arts degrees, social welfare, neuroscience or something equally crazy, or no degrees at all, which of course is (usually) fine. Chris Coyier, a relatively big name in the space, studied design, I believe. Nothing directly to do with computers, really, at all, yet he runs CodePen and CSS-Tricks, plus he builds web apps and tools. Matt Madeiros sold cars. Brian Krogsgard, has an undergrad degree in Engineering from Auburn. If there’s one thing that does seem to be a common trait is that everyone is very smart, which makes sustaining what becomes a obsession even easier. It would be pretty lame to me to be involved in a community of idiots. And believe me, they’re out there. It’s why I would fail out of sheer frustration in the entertainment industry or in politics.

No matter what the background, what has led all these folks to rise, or be rising, to the top of their particular game is that they recognized their core competencies and have built a a career around them. They’ve found a nexus of where their competencies and their interests lie. This focus is what we shouldn’t lose sight of, and if we haven’t identified them yet, that recognition should be a prime objective of ours. It requires some deep introspection for some, but the payoff can be very fulfilling. It’s easy to get swept up in the latest trends or exciting wave of technology, but at our core, we’re all fundamentally best at something. If we just concentrate on those strengths, they will grow and organically evolve to encompass what’s needed for eventual success.

focus on your competencies

Start straight for business

Thinking of Getting into The WordPress Products Business? I Urge You to Look Before You Leap.

If you’ve spent any time in the world of WordPress, you have probably seen certain names appearing frequently. There are subsets, cliques, if you want, that are comprised of developers, marketers, designers, hanger-ons, podcasters, and mutants that span several of those simultaneously. The people arrive at their notoriety by different means. For some it’s pure drive and skill that’s been compounded over time. For others it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. For others, it was hard work and simply knowing how to play the social media game. And believe me, there’s a game in it all. If you’re unfamiliar with who these people are, you can just look at who I follow on Twitter for an idea. And I actually don’t follow some of the biggest WordPress “celebrities,” but you may already know who they are.

Over the past several years, I’ve been an outsider to it all, observing all the players, participating humbly when and where I can as I level up all the skill and knowledge I can muster in the given time I have. I haven’t slept much over the past few years.

And in that time, during all the observation and interaction, I’ve seen some interesting things happen with WordPress, and the space in which it competes. The changes and evolution of not just the software itself, but the people involved with it and marketplace that rely on it is always changing and, not surprisingly, rapidly. It’s huge and dynamic because of all the people involved-both creators and users. One thing that has remained constant, however, is that it’s all been growing, a lot. And that noticeable growth, as with any enterprise, seems to have gotten a lot of people thinking about how to capitalize on it. For all the open-sourceness and good will that exists in the “WordPress community,” which is generally a global circus of sorts, there are over 20,000+ people, at last count, that make some sort of living from WordPress. Point is, there’s money to be made.

So, how do people make money around software that’s free? The most common ways are through selling premium themes, plugins, and consulting. Even extensions on free themes and plugins is a cottage industry, and there’s no shortage of people that blog about WordPress and sell advertising on their popular websites, and eBooks about how to do something or another with WordPress. Usually, make money like they’re doing. Past results don’t guarantee future success, it should be clearly noted for those impressed by these impresarios. For many, it was simply the aforementioned “right place, right time,” and replicating that success may very well be futile at such a later date, no matter the amount of perseverance.

I’ve watched all this from outside but quite up close, because I myself run a business that does a lot of work using WordPress and it behooves me to stick as close as I can to the action. I also think I have a somewhat unique perspective on it all because, to my knowledge, there isn’t anyone around with my background in the industry. If there is, they’re very quiet. I don’t consider myself all that quiet online, but I do try to remain as humble as possible with my interjections, knowing the impressive development talent that’s out there which I gratefully teach myself from, and I pay attention to as many details about the people as I can to make sure I learn from the best. It’s really amazing how much generosity there is by some very talented developers and designers.

My background is in business, specifically marketing and strategy, with no small amount of humanities tossed in for good measure in the form of writing, editing, design and, a term I’ll just use wholesale: “art.” That all paints a relatively broad stroke, but the colors are strikingly deep and luminescent, no pun intended. All in that list are endeavors that I’ve spent decades upon decades day-in and day-out using, honing, studying, and improving upon. I have a masters degree in business, just for example. I package these skills and knowledge and have built a competitive business around them, in fact.

“So what?” you were probably already wearily asking a few paragraphs back. So, this:

Just because you can develop doesn’t mean you should start, what amounts to unsurprisingly, a business. And if you DO decide to start a business, put the same amount of work and forethought into it as you did becoming a competent developer. Of course, this assumes you plan to have a sustainable business. If you have bothered planning at all.

I fear this sounds condescending, but I’m saying this in a friendly manner as someone who knows learning developing, and doing it well, is very hard. Successfully starting and growing a legitimate business is even harder. Creative problem-solving aside, there aren’t many transferable skills between the two. Developers surely think quantitatively, but that doesn’t mean creating a workable financial model and accurate spreadsheet with a 5 and 10 year sales forecast is innate. Knowing just how to craft a workable marketing plan, and business plan(they aren’t identical), then executing them proficiently takes a lot of time to just learn how to do, not to mention actually doing. And to state the obvious, implementation and execution are extremely important. As important as the front-end work of planning and researching before pulling the trigger. I hate to think of people going willy-nilly into business, placing their incomes and future at stake, because it seems like what they should be doing for an arbitrary reason. And there is becoming a lot more persuasion and celebration from the WordPress fanboys about doing just that.

Articles like this one start out of the gate with poor presumptions. This author believes that since this developer is going to release a product, he’s going to have MORE TIME to develop. Seriously? Who’s going to support this product? Who’s going to handle the marketing, the taxes, the budgeting, the insurance, the daily administrative tasks associated with just 1 single plugin? And the train of thought seems to be that because people in the limited WordPress fan club know who he is, he’s going to be wildly successful. Based on what? Who’s the target market? Why did he release it at 10:30 on a Friday night, with no promotion at all? What support is in place? I don’t know, but I hope he does. I contacted the company and asked a question about the product. I got no response. I asked on Twitter, where most of the introductory parade seems to be, and my ping was hidden. That’s worrisome as a potential customer.

I don’t mean to single out this product and “company” (I assume it’s registered as such–no way to tell) but it’s the latest example of what I mean and what prompted me to write this post. Core competencies shouldn’t be set to the side. And be careful of what is really involved by turning all the stones over and making sure the numbers work. What you believe you’re selling — a “product” may turn out to be actually just a service — support of said product. And that may burst your bubble if dealing with support tickets and complaints all day wasn’t part of your business plan. And if you had no workable marketing and business plan, the reality may quickly become a nightmare.

design marketing strategy sweet spot

The Design and Marketing Relationship

When most people think of marketing, they think of sales and advertising. The thanks for this is in no small part due to employers and agencies that lump sales and advertising under “marketing,” and advertise for positions within their companies as such. Just look at Craigslist or Monster.com or any want-ads under marketing jobs, and lots of people obviously want “sales” to mean marketing. But it’s not; it’s only a factor of it, and moderate at that.

But marketing management isn’t the topic today. It’s what design and marketing have to do with each other, which increasingly with time is a lot.

We used to wax philosophical in graduate school about where the next great (and possibly last) frontier lies in business. And more specifically, within the realm of marketing and marketing strategy.

Supply chain and logistics were always mentioned, and that view was supported by the business school, by including logistics and supply chain courses as part of the marketing strategy concentration. Whatever.

But I always argued, and still do, that it’s design that’s the last frontier. Whether that’s the design of a physical product or how you handle your services, both internal and external, it’s what differentiates the industry leaders and losers. And as technology improves as do the margins and customer service that can be enhanced with better logistics, the competitive edge will get thinner and thinner.

I believe design will be what sets businesses apart. We already see a huge number of startups that simply improve on OLD, BAD design, and have no trouble gaining significant market share quickly. We’re also in the middle of a giant rush for everyone to “disrupt” everyone else, which pressures innovation. One thing that will always need to be considered, as markets and consumers tastes evolve, is the design of the products and services. The design is ultimately innate to the business.

If you think design is secondary in marketing, tell that to Apple. The resources devoted to design are large, for every aspect of the company. From the store layouts, to the service, to the website design, to the app store and icons, to the products themselves, to the company campus layout, and more. Then look at Blackberry. Blackberry’s have very similar basic technologies as Apple’s products. But where they got left in the dust was design. In fact, Apple is a marketing company, and what they market is well-designed products. And they’re very good at it.

It’s easy to market good design though. Design is what’s hard. There are few marketers alive that wouldn’t want to work on marketing Tesla motorcars, for example. Just look at their design, and how the company is designed. I assure you the marketers and designers for Tesla are very integrated.

As someone who has a pretty strong background in marketing, design is a natural fit and they complement one another perfectly. But it’s hard to see that on the surface because good design should be invisible. Good marketing, of course, is not.

tesla model s interior design

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