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from Great Things Written

THE SEALED PORTION, REVEALED

Artistic depiction of the Urim and Thummim (a.k.a. the two stones, the interpreters)


17 And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites.

18 And he ministered unto him even as he ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God, because of the many great works which the Lord had showed unto him.

19 And because of the knowledge of this man he could not be kept from beholding within the veil; and he saw the finger of Jesus, which, when he saw, he fell with fear; for he knew that it was the finger of the Lord; and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting.

20 Wherefore, having this perfect knowledge of God, he could not be kept from within the veil; therefore he saw Jesus; and he did minister unto him.

21 And it came to pass that the Lord said unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt not suffer these things which ye have seen and heard to go forth unto the world, until the time cometh that I shall glorify my name in the flesh; wherefore, ye shall treasure up the things which ye have seen and heard, and show it to no man.

22 And behold, when ye shall come unto me, ye shall write them and shall seal them up, that no one can interpret them; for ye shall write them in a language that they cannot be read.

23 And behold, these two stones will I give unto thee, and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write.

24 For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded; wherefore I will cause in my own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.

25 And when the Lord had said these words, he showed unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth.

26 For he had said unto him in times before, that if he would believe in him that he could show unto him all things—it should be shown unto him; therefore the Lord could not withhold anything from him, for he knew that the Lord could show him all things.

27 And the Lord said unto him: Write these things [that you have just seen] and seal them up; and I will show them in mine own due time unto the children of men.

28 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded him that he should seal up the two stones which he had received, and show them not, until the Lord should show them unto the children of men.

Chapter 4 of The Book of Ether

1 And the Lord commanded [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people.

2 And after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people he commanded that they should be made manifest.

3 And now, after that, they have all dwindled in unbelief; and there is none save it be the Lamanites, and they have rejected the gospel of Christ; therefore I am commanded that I should hide them up again in the earth.

4 Behold, I [Moroni] have written upon these plates the very things which [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared.

5 Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord.

6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.

7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

8 And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh.

9 And at my command the heavens are opened and are shut; and at my word the earth shall shake; and at my command the inhabitants thereof shall pass away, even so as by fire.

10 And he that believeth not my words believeth not my disciples; and if it so be that I do not speak, judge ye; for ye shall know that it is I that speaketh, at the last day.

11 But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good.

12 And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world.

13 Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.

14 Come unto me, O ye house of Israel, and it shall be made manifest unto you how great things the Father hath laid up for you, from the foundation of the world; and it hath not come unto you, because of unbelief.

15 Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.

16 And then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John [Son of Zebedee] be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed.

17 Therefore, when ye shall receive this record ye may know that the work of the Father has commenced upon all the face of the land.

Editors note: Obviously, we have received this record, this sealed portion of the plates, because you are reading them now. They were interpreted by Joseph Smith by the power of God using the same Urim and Thummim that Mahonri Moriancumer had. The last days as described by John and Nephi are being fulfilled right before your eyes!

18 Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name.

19 And blessed is he that is found faithful unto my name at the last day, for he shall be lifted up to dwell in the kingdom prepared for him from the foundation of the world. And behold it is I that hath spoken it. Amen.

To be continued... Read previous entry


Great Things Written is the #blogging of the Book of Mormon in chronological order, by Jason S. Comely. Thanks for reading.

 
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from Great Things Written

THE MORIANCUMER METHOD

Art by Robert T.

“Brother of Jared Sees the Finger of the Lord” by Robert T. Barrett


16 And the Lord said: Go to work and build, after the manner of barges which ye have hitherto built. And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared did go to work, and also his brethren, and built barges after the manner which they had built, according to the instructions of the Lord. And they were small, and they were light upon the water, even like unto the lightness of a fowl upon the water.

17 And they were built after a manner that they were exceedingly tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the bottom thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree; and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish.

18 And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.

19 And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish.

20 And the Lord said unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.

21 And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared did so, according as the Lord had commanded.

22 And he cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?

23 And the Lord said unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.

24 For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.

Editor's note: “winds have gone forth out of my mouth” reminds me of when the prophet Enoch bore record of God weeping, and shedding forth tears as the rain upon the mountains.

25 And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?

Chapter 3 of The Book of Ether

1 And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass;

Editor's note: Interesting article on what was meant by “windows” and when glass might have been invented.

and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:

2 O Lord, thou hast said that we must be encompassed about by the floods. Now behold, O Lord, and do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee; for we know that thou art holy and dwellest in the heavens, and that we are unworthy before thee; because of the fall our natures have become evil continually; nevertheless, O Lord, thou hast given us a commandment that we must call upon thee, that from thee we may receive according to our desires.

3 Behold, O Lord, thou hast smitten us because of our iniquity, and hast driven us forth, and for these many years we have been in the wilderness; nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.

4 And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.

5 Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.

6 And it came to pass that when [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger.

Editor's note: Mahonri Moriancumer devises a plan, does the work, then reverently presents his solution to the Lord for His blessing. I call it the Moriancumer Method. Oftentimes it's the other way around – we expect the Lord to come up with a solution for us.

And the veil was taken from off the eyes of [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear.

7 And the Lord saw that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared had fallen to the earth; and the Lord said unto him: Arise, why hast thou fallen?

8 And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood.

9 And the Lord said unto him: Because of thy faith thou hast seen that I shall take upon me flesh and blood; and never has man come before me with such exceeding faith as thou hast; for were it not so ye could not have seen my finger. Sawest thou more than this?

10 And he answered: Nay; Lord, show thyself unto me.

11 And the Lord said unto him: Believest thou the words which I shall speak?

12 And he answered: Yea, Lord, I know that thou speakest the truth, for thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie.

13 And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.

14 Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters.

Editor's note: Here's an explaination of how Christ is both the Father and the Son.

15 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image.

16 Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.

To be continued... Read previous entry


Great Things Written is the #blogging of the Book of Mormon in chronological order, by Jason S. Comely. Thanks for reading.

 
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from Great Things Written

AT THE TOWER OF BABEL (circa Around 2200 B.C.)

“The Tower of Babel” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1563


6 And on this wise do I [Moroni, son of Mormon] give the account. He that wrote this record was Ether, and he was a descendant of Coriantor.

7 Coriantor was the son of Moron. 8 And Moron was the son of Ethem. 9 And Ethem was the son of Ahah. 10 And Ahah was the son of Seth. 11 And Seth was the son of Shiblon. 12 And Shiblon was the son of Com. 13 And Com was the son of Coriantum. 14 And Coriantum was the son of Amnigaddah. 15 And Amnigaddah was the son of Aaron. 16 And Aaron was a descendant of Heth, who was the son of Hearthom. 17 And Hearthom was the son of Lib. 18 And Lib was the son of Kish. 19 And Kish was the son of Corom. 20 And Corom was the son of Levi. 21 And Levi was the son of Kim. 22 And Kim was the son of Morianton. 23 And Morianton was a descendant of Riplakish. 24 And Riplakish was the son of Shez. 25 And Shez was the son of Heth. 26 And Heth was the son of Com. 27 And Com was the son of Coriantum. 28 And Coriantum was the son of Emer. 29 And Emer was the son of Omer. 30 And Omer was the son of Shule. 31 And Shule was the son of Kib. 32 And Kib was the son of Orihah, who was the son of Jared;

33 Which Jared came forth with his brother and their families, with some others and their families, from the great tower [of Babel], at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, and swore in his wrath that they should be scattered upon all the face of the earth; and according to the word of the Lord the people were scattered.

34 And [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.

35 And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded.

36 Then Jared said unto his brother: Cry again unto the Lord, and it may be that he will turn away his anger from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language.

37 And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded.

38 And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.

39 And it came to pass that [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord according to that which had been spoken by the mouth of Jared.

40 And it came to pass that the Lord did hear [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared, and had compassion upon him, and said unto him: 41 Go to and gather together thy flocks, both male and female, of every kind; and also of the seed of the earth of every kind; and thy families; and also Jared thy brother and his family; and also thy friends and their families, and the friends of Jared and their families.

42 And when thou hast done this thou shalt go at the head of them down into the valley which is northward. And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth. 43 And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth.

And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.

Chapter 2 of The Book of Ether

1 And it came to pass that Jared and his brother, and their families, and also the friends of Jared and his brother and their families, went down into the valley which was northward, (and the name of the valley was Nimrod, being called after the mighty hunter) with their flocks which they had gathered together, male and female, of every kind. 2 And they did also lay snares and catch fowls of the air; and they did also prepare a vessel, in which they did carry with them the fish of the waters.

3 And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind.

Photo by Karunakar Rayker

4 And it came to pass that when they had come down into the valley of Nimrod the Lord came down and talked with [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared; and he was in a cloud, and [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared saw him not.

5 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.

6 And it came to pass that they did travel in the wilderness, and did build barges, in which they did cross many waters, being directed continually by the hand of the Lord.

7 And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people. 8 And he had sworn in his wrath unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.

9 And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity. 10 For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.

11 And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done. 12 Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.

13 And now I proceed with my record; for behold, it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.

14 And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.

Editor's note: It seems that once Jared and his brethren arrived at the sea, they took a four year break, and even stopped inquiring of the Lord. Of course, like all stories in the holy scriptures, we are to liken them unto ourselves.

15 And [Mahonri Moriancumer] the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done, and did call upon the name of the Lord for his brethren who were with him. And the Lord said unto him: I will forgive thee and thy brethren of their sins; but thou shalt not sin any more, for ye shall remember that my Spirit will not always strive with man; wherefore, if ye will sin until ye are fully ripe ye shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

And these are my thoughts upon the land which I shall give you for your inheritance; for it shall be a land choice above all other lands.

To be continued... Read previous entry


Great Things Written is the #blogging of the Book of Mormon in chronological order, by Jason S. Comely. Thanks for reading.

 
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from Great Things Written

ENTER THE JAREDITES (circa A.D. 401 to 420)

Art by Arnold Friberg

“Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation” by Arnold Friberg


Chapter 9 of The Book of Mormon

30 Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words.

Editor's note: I thought this would be a great place to start, with Moroni, son of Mormon talking directly to you, the reader.

31 Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.

32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. 33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.

34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof [by use of the Urim and Thummim].

35 And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.

36 And behold, these things which we have desired concerning our brethren, yea, even their restoration to the knowledge of Christ, are according to the prayers of all the saints who have dwelt in the land. 37 And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Book of Ether

Editor's note: The first part of the twenty-four plates of Ether start at the creation of the world and the days of Adam up to when the Tower of Babel was being built. For this “full account” of Ether, I recommend reading the Book Of Moses chapters 1-8 from The Pearl of Great Price next, then Genesis 6:13-11:1-9 of the Holy Bible.

Once you're finished, return here to continue for the rest of the Jaredite story as recorded by Moroni.

Chapter 1 of The Book of Ether

1 And now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord upon the face of this north country. 2 And I take mine account from the twenty and four plates which were found by the people of Limhi, which is called the Book of Ether.

3 And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower [of Babel], and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—

4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account.

Editor's note: Engraving volumes of characters on metal plates would be laborious and time consuming work. It's understandable why Moroni didn't copy over the entire 24 plates of Ether when he knew the records were elsewhere.

5 But behold, I give not the full account, but a part of the account I give, from the tower down until they were destroyed.

To be continued...


Great Things Written is the #blogging of the Book of Mormon in chronological order, by Jason S. Comely. Thanks for reading.

 
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from Ian's Comment

On the previous platform that hosted my writing, Silvrback, comments were available by linking a Disqus account.

I've now moved over to write.as, and just about the only feature I was using on Silvrback that they don't have here is commenting (at least, not yet). As I was considering the switch, this initially gave me pause, but as I thought about it more I realized that, firstly, considering the very infrequent posting and thus tiny readership that I had commenting was in any case pretty much moot; and, secondly, in order to reduce spam, comment systems need to present some kind of barriers to commenting, all of which are an annoyance either to the commenter, the blog owner, or both.

Furthermore, as anyone who's read just about any comment forum anywhere on the web can attest, another big problem with commenting is the very small signal/noise ratio. Low-quality comments are easy and therefore ubiquitous, a problem that increases in direct proportion to a website's popularity. Genuinely high-quality, original and insightful comments, that actually add value to a discussion, are much more difficult, and thus far less common.

Done properly, comments could and should be a great addition to any weblog; the promise of the web has always been not only to give everyone a voice, but also to foster discussion and the exchange of ideas. Having everyone's writing contained within silos clearly doesn't realize the second part of this promise, but previous attempts at solutions have all tended to fail due to the problems outlined above.

Other than a traditional blog comment system, one solution would be for write.as to have a dedicated comment forum, where each of the blogs they host would have their own categorized space for readers and authors to interact, but separate from the blog itself. Maybe remark.as will turn out to be something like this? And maybe it will fix the problems I've discussed here, but to do so it would require heavy moderation, either from dedicated moderators or (more likely) from blog owners.

In the meantime, I've decided that the simplest solution for me right now is to put up my email address to give the ability for readers to submit any comments or feedback. This will work like a letters page in a newspaper or magazine, and I'll act as editor and filter out anything that needs to be filtered, and publish (and respond to) anything that merits being seen.

It doesn't seem like composing and sending an email should be too onerous for anyone who actually has something worthwhile to say, but maybe even this small amount of friction (along with Gmail's algorithms) will eliminate most of the spam.

We'll see how this works. If I end up being as prolific as I plan to, comments may even start becoming a regular thing! So, please, if you'd like to respond to anything I write — especially if you disagree with me — please do so and if what you say provides insight I'll add it directly below the relevant post.


As an addendum, my impressions of write.as so far are fantastic. It's fast, clean and easy to use, with a great selection of features available for what I think is a very good price. Consider that an endorsement!


#blogging

 
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from DLKR.blog

Photo by RawPixel on Unsplash

Lessons learned from a decade trying multiple blogging platforms, failing as an online publisher, and refining my direction as a creator and solopreneur.


Blogger: The Starting Point

February 2008 marked my eleventh year living in Tokyo (I'm originally from Australia), and I had obtained permanent residence status. In the summer of that year, I graduated from yoga teacher training and started on Google’s Blogger service to provide information about my first classes. It was easy to use, but eventually, I found it too limiting, so searched for options.

WordPress.com: More Features & Possibilities

By the time 2009 started, I had moved to WordPress.com. It gave me a lot more possibilities and served my needs for around eight months or so.

Meanwhile, I had started using the blog to help spread the word about yoga workshops and events in Tokyo. I then branched out into interviews. Eventually, I created a crudely implemented studio and teacher directory. Since there was already a lot of local sites giving information, I decided to focus on providing information in English about classes, workshops, and events offered in English.

A girlfriend came up with the name, HelloYoga. Working through an intermediary hired on Elance, I managed to secure the .com domain name from a Chinese entrepreneur. I also got a freelancer to design a logo.

WordPress.org Attempt I

Wanting to offer my yoga class students an easy way to check my teaching schedule and sign up for classes, I looked around for options.

Facebook had an events feature, but the social network was only just starting to gain traction in Japan, and so not all my students were on it. Furthermore, its event reservation system was a bit lacking. People would click to join the event but not show up. Others would show up without having made a reservation. Facebook wasn't it.

There was no suitable web-based service available at the time, and WordPress.com didn’t allow plugins, so I migrated to WordPress.org and hired a series of Indian developers via Elance (now Upwork) to build the features I needed.

We found a plugin that was the closest possible to what I wanted and had the developers modify it. It was incredibly buggy and never quite worked. Whenever the WordPress core was updated, it would break the site. We had constant problems with the plugins too. On top of that, I kept having new ideas and changing the scope of the developers. The project was a bloated mess, and nobody was happy.

WordPress.org Attempt II

I made friends with a small creative agency, Pikkles, and worked with them on refining the site's concept. We worked out an arrangement to fit my shoestring budget. They moved the site to their servers, gave it a slick new design, and continued working on the scheduling system.

I established a company in Spring 2010 as a vehicle on which to build the business and found a local accountant to do my annual tax filings. This, I hoped, would help me do business with brands and perhaps serve well if I wanted to sell the operation later.

The scheduling system never did quite work out – I hadn’t realized what a massive undertaking it would be. Today, there are WordPress themes and plugins that would have reduced the development work to just minor customization, but it was the only course of action at the time.

I attempted to work with a series of interns to work on the site, especially the scheduling system. However, despite their valiant efforts, the result was a growing pile of spaghetti code, and each intern eventually moved on to a real job, leaving me in the lurch. Finally, I reached the reluctant decision to throw in the towel and just make the site an online magazine with a directory of teachers and studios.

Trying to Go Bilingual

Discovering the site’s visitors were mainly Japanese, I recruited volunteers to translate the site’s content into Japanese. We got mixed results. Since I’m not a native speaker, I couldn’t judge the quality or accuracy. Some Japanese told me that, while several translations were incredibly well done, most were average, and several were quite poorly done.

I adapted and added another layer of volunteers so that for each article or profile, it would be translated into Japanese, and then another would check and edit it. However, even this failed to produce consistent results, and we ended up with a variety of writing styles and tone across the Japanese side of the site.

I ended up ditching the attempt at making the site bilingual. To do it properly would have required a huge budget to hire professionals, which was not feasible. Another lesson learned the hard way.

WordPress.org Attempt III

By the time we entered 2012 smartphones had proliferated to the point where it was becoming embarrassing not to have a responsive website. HelloYoga.com had been limping along with an old custom theme that would break whenever the WordPress core or plugins were updated.

By this time, the content of the site had lost focus, and there were multiple genres and categories. It was a mess, and I needed to do a full renewal. I took the site offline and just put up a “Coming Soon” page. Meanwhile, I worked with Adam T. Perry, who drafted a stunning new design in Photoshop.

In 2013, I moved to a new WordPress-specialized host that took care of all layers below the core CMS. That took care of many of the technical issues, but a few months later, the host went down for an extended time, so I decided to leave them and move to WP Engine, one of the top hosts in the business.

In 2014, I worked to separate the content into several genres and categories. It made sense to split into different blogs to sever the different audiences. I worked with a Serbian-based agency to build my new family of blogs, including adding a new schedule system based on recently released plugins and themes. Finally, I was set to achieve my dreams!

Unfortunately, due to my lack of experience, knowledge, and constant revising of the scope, the project went in circles, and I burned a ton of money again. Frustrated, I decided to wait for a while.

Migrating to Medium

In 2016, Medium began presenting itself as a free, easy-to-use CMS that serious publishers could use. To prove their worth, they had worked out deals with several independent publishers and migrated them to their platform. These were powerful case studies.

It was an incredible offering. I could walk away from the smoldering wreckage of my WordPress mess and migrate to a platform that was minimalist, clean, free to use, and unlimited in scope. No more WordPress, no trying to customize it, and no hosting or development costs.

It was a lot of work to migrate, but I was able to do it myself without developers. Once it was done and I got into a rhythm with the content production workflow, I fell in love with Medium. After wrestling with WordPress for so long, it was such a pleasure to use. My legacy content never looked better, and they even had a slick mobile app.

Medium had announced that various ways for monetizing publications would be forthcoming, and I, along with many other online publishers patiently waited. We enjoyed the effortless publishing experience and focused on our content until potential income means such as subscriptions, advertising, and donations were released. Meanwhile, nothing was stopping us from using affiliate links in our posts. I found Skimlinks to be a particularly convenient system for this.

Medium Pivots Multiple Times

In early 2017, Medium famously pivoted again. They dumped their advertising options and continued delaying allowing publications to offer subscriptions.

Over time, Medium shifted away from serving publishers' interests. The monetization tools never came, and they discontinued support for adding custom domains. There was an exodus of publishers, many of whom went back to WordPress and other self-hosted CMS.

Uncertain of what to do, I persisted for a while but failed to find ways to monetize my portfolio of publications. I naively thought that if I just built up a big enough audience then avenues for monetization would eventually present themselves and everything would work itself out. But, that never happened.

The Epiphany Phase

I had been paying guest writers, many of whom submitted shoddy work. In most cases, I would spend vast amounts of time editing, and sometimes wholly rewriting their work. I would also edit their photos and supplement them with stock images. Once their work was published, I would promote it via social media, including paid Facebook post “boosts.”

Looking at all the work I was doing for these guest writers; it just didn’t make sense. The affiliate income I was generating was negligible, and I had no other revenue streams.

The irony was that I had become a lean and mean content machine. I was doing better than the marketing departments of many companies. A yoga brand should have bought me out or brought me onboard. However, the content was too grassroots and non-commercial. It wouldn't have worked well to market yoga products well.

Bowing Out

In Autumn 2018, this project which had started with a humble blog back in 2008 ended. As much as I enjoyed the many aspects of the work, it just wasn’t a sustainable venture. I had sacrificed vast amounts of time and money over the years without ROI.

Many motivational speakers will tell you never to give up, but, if, after ten years you still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you need to ask yourself if it is worthwhile continuing. I felt shattered, disappointed, and embarrassed at my failure. But, at the same time, there was also some relief in there and the knowledge that I was opening myself up to new opportunities which would be built on what I had learned from this failure.

New Beginnings

I decided to start again from scratch. Sometimes it’s better that way because there is no legacy structure holding you back. It took me a while to figure out what to do next, but I had come up with several conditions on which to base my next venture.

  1. No Development: While I can understand the concepts, I am not a coder or engineer, so prefer to use SaaS that I can just sign up for.
  2. No Collaboration: Guest writers cost time and money while demanding full creative control over the final product. Interviewees can be hard to get a hold of to review drafts. After the interview is approved, they may come back later, after having a change of heart, and ask for it to be pulled. I’d rather just make my own original content and have full creative freedom.
  3. No Outsourcing: I have blown obscene amounts of money on developers, writers, designers, and artists over the years with nothing to show for it. Better to focus on my strengths instead of trying to fill in the gaps with hires. That said, I will still do it when absolutely necessary. For example, I use an accountant for my company.
  4. No Deadlines: One key to becoming a successful content creator is publishing regularly. That said, if you raise the frequency too high and put yourself under too much pressure, you suffer burnout. Furthermore, for the time being, I’ll have to prioritize earning money to pay my bills before my creative ventures.
  5. Privacy: I prefer to keep my name and face offline. This wasn’t the case even five years ago, but now I know the risks associated with it. I’m not good looking or charismatic, so building a personal brand isn’t going to work for me.
  6. Integrity: If you put something online, you need to be prepared to have it be discovered and come back to you. Not only content but also little comments you leave on different sites. You wouldn’t believe the technologies and techniques that experts can use – and, AI will make this even more possible. So, unlike some anonymous content creators that I know, I’ll be assuming that everyone can figure out who I am and trace anything I do online back to me – and behave accordingly online.
  7. Minimalism: I want to remain lean and mobile, so won’t be renting an office or hiring staff. I don’t want an office/studio full of equipment, so I will be using only mobile devices and accessories.
  8. Mobility: It’s not easy to just up and move to a new place, but I want to simplify my life and shift towards working remotely so that I can be location independent as much as possible. I live in Tokyo, but the city is overdue for a massive earthquake, and you never know when tensions with China or North Korea might erupt. I may need to get the heck out of here fast one day.

New Brand, New Ventures

  • Brand Name: I chose the initials of my full legal name, DLKR, as my brand name. I do use my real name in a few places, but have greatly minimized it compared to before and aim to phase it out altogether eventually.
  • Company: I renamed it to DLKR, Inc.
  • Logo: Whereas I’ll use my profile picture for my personal brand, for my business, I’ll use a simple logo of why initials.
  • Profile Picture: As for profile pictures, I’ll still use my face, but it will be manipulated and obscured to be unrecognizable.

Reinventing My Business

I thought back over my career to remember what exactly it was that (i) I knew I could do well, and (ii) people appreciated. While I’ve become known as a “marketer” over the past decade, marketing is a broad field, and I’m only good at certain things.

Based on much reflection, I put together a menu of services that I often get contacted for out of the blue by people who know me. These were obviously things I did well and people valued. You could loosely fit them all under the category of “content marketing.”

My experiences have taught me that I prefer to work with SMEs that are financially stable, open to new ideas, lack a dedicated marketing department, and have few decision makers.

Strikingly

I needed a simple landing page showcasing my content services. After reviewing various options, I chose Strikingly, a website builder best known for its simplicity and reasonable pricing.

It was initially created to specialize in one-page websites and landing pages. However, as with many online services of its kind, had built in many additional features based on customer requests.

After finalizing my landing page, I duplicated it and translated the copy into Japanese. I then made one more copy and reworked it to appeal to companies located outside of Tokyo that I might work remotely with.

However, I was soon about to have a change of heart and start looking at Strikingly in a very different way.

Principles: Free Speech

Until I reached my forties, I didn’t have much interest in politics. Perhaps it was my getting older and developing more of a broader perspective, or maybe it was the 2016 US presidential election. Either way, I have gradually shifted towards following a number of commentators to try and become more aware and educate myself.

I’ve developed a fondness for edgy commentators. Following them on various social media became a form of entertainment and escapism. Over the past few years, several have gotten themselves banned from multiple platforms. This introduced me to the issues surrounding free speech, censorship, and where lines should be drawn.

Most platforms claim to support freedom of expression but within certain guidelines. The problem with this is it gets into a subjective territory and is open to abuse and corruption.

The commentators I follow started joining platforms where they wouldn’t get censored. These free speech platforms only remove content that breaks US law. The logic is that the solution to bad speech and wrong ideas is more discussion and communication.

We should let ideas compete in the open marketplace. If they lack merit, then their shortfalls will soon be shown up. Conversely, if you censor, repress, and ban, then it has the opposite effect. It can lead to extremism. When you tell somebody they aren't allowed to see something they are more likely to want to see it. This is known as the Streisand effect.

This introduced me to the alt-tech (alternative technology) movement, which is building free-speech alternatives to the mainstream social media.

Principles: FOSS & Privacy

FOSS stands for free and open source software. I had known of high profile examples such as Linux, WordPress, and Gimp.

The CEO of one of the free speech social media platforms, Minds, explained in several interviews about the benefits of open source. One of these is transparency. Since they make their entire platform open source, anybody can inspect its code and make sure that it is only doing what they say it does. You can also use it to set up your own independent instance of Minds.

Another benefit of FOSS is that there is no vendor lock-in. Google and Apple have built convenient and comfortable walled gardens that are almost impossible to leave if you want to function in modern society. The FOSS community is working to produce alternatives to these closed offerings.

Surveillance capitalism, the business model of companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and others has alarmed many. We are being tracked. Our data is being stored, spread to multiple companies around the world, and analyzed. FOSS alternatives provide alternatives that respect privacy.

While I can’t help but marvel at what Big Tech has built, these issues kept nagging at me and I’ve decided to start working on transitioning towards using FOSS wherever possible. It’s a big undertaking, but I believe in supporting this mission.

Online privacy is a fascinating and broad topic. The average person has no idea just how much these companies know about them.

Privacy enthusiasts include a broad range of people. On one side, you have characters such as the concerned parent who wants to protect his kids to journalists who are putting their lives at risk by revealing truths. On the other side, you have people engaging in illegal activities who want to be untraceable. It’s quite fascinating.

To start with, I adopted a few of the easier choices:

  • Search: DuckDuckGo is a privacy-respecting alternative to Google
  • Browser: Brave is an open source and privacy-oriented alternative to Google Chrome that lets you use the same extensions
  • VPN: Virtual Shield is a virtual private network service which provides some privacy protection

However, these only slightly reduce what privacy experts call your “attack surface.” I have a long way to go and have compiled a list of other Google alternatives and other tools/services that I’m planning on transitioning to.

Why I Had to Leave Strikingly

As much as I enjoyed the convenience and ease of use that Strikingly provided, they had several glaring issues for me:

  1. Closed Source: If they decide to shut down the service, there is no alternative. I can’t just export my content and migrate to another company who uses the same platform. It’s a lock-in situation.
  2. Small Company: Small companies are usually run by one or two individuals. This isn't such a problem if the project is open source because it can live on after the founders or company that originated it disappear. However, if a company operating a closed platform implodes, then their tech goes with them.
  3. A Chinese Company: China is ruled by a totalitarian government. Any Chinese company operating an online platform has to comply with the government’s surveillance requirements, or they cannot operate. Since Strikingly is run by a Chinese company, this makes me wary of using it. Nothing against the good people of China, but I have my principles.
  4. Prohibiting “Hate Speech:” Being against hate speech sounds like a good thing at face value. The problem is that it is vague and subjective. Who gets to decide what constitutes hate speech? What if I published a post that politely and logically argued against their political beliefs and they choose to delete my blog/site without warning?

Open Source Website Platform Options

There is a surprising number of open source blogging platforms, CMS, and website builders. Many require you to have your own server, set it up, and maintain all the various layers of software involved. That wasn’t an option for me because I want to focus on the content. So, I had to limit myself to SaaS offerings.

I came down to three that I liked.

1. WordPress.com

I didn’t want to come back to WordPress because of its complexity, but it is open source, and the organization behind it claims to be committed to free speech. The platform is mature, stable, and its hosted service is significantly more straightforward than the self-hosted version. They have strong user support and very reasonable pricing.

I re-visited the service and spent a day trying to get set up. The next day, I woke up and realized that I just couldn't go on like this. If you're TechCrunch, then sure, use WordPress, but for a one-person operation, it's overkill.

2. Ghost

The hosted offering of Ghost seemed like an ideal match for what I wanted. It is open source, committed to privacy, and pro free speech. Usability and simplicity is their big sales point. The creators realized that WordPress was too complicated for most people. But, they didn’t strip it down too far to the bone. It’s just right.

However, at $29 per site, it was out of my budget since I need nine sites! I looked around at alternative Ghost hosting providers, but a certain degree of technical skill was required to set up and maintain Ghost on their platforms. Sigh… I really wanted to use Ghost…

3. Write.as

Write.as is a minimalistic and thoughtfully crafted platform designed to let you just focus on writing. It ticks many of the boxes on my list of wants including being open source, committed to user privacy, and reasonable pricing.

While I don't see a clear commitment to free speech, their business model of being funded by their writer users means that they will likely be much more lenient than companies reliant on advertising or venture capital.

What I really wanted was something like Medium, but Write.as is a different animal.

  • Editor: Medium is super easy to use thanks to its beautifully designed minimalist WYSIWYG editor. With Write.as, you need to use markdown for formatting. Markdown isn't hard but takes a while to get used to.
  • Customization: Unlike Medium, Write.as lets you customize your blog's appearance, but you will need to use CSS and JavaScript to do it. The upside of this is that, if you need to set up multiple blogs with the same styling, you can just drop the code into each one, which is much faster than having to click around the various nooks and crannies of WordPress settings.
  • Images: You can't just drop images into posts as you can with Medium. They do have a sister service for image hosting, Snap.as, but you need to do a bit of messing around to get images into your posts.

I'm hoping that the usability issues will be improved over time. For now, it is excellent value for money, and I can see that I'll quickly get used to it.

What I've Set Up on Write.as

Blogs for My Business

I migrated the landing pages mentioned above to Write.as, adapting them to fit the blog format in the process.

  1. DLKR.co: Targeting SMEs outside of Tokyo, including overseas, that might be open to working with me remotely. Here, I'll write about marketing and business topics that are global.
  2. DLKR.tokyo: Targeting SMEs in Tokyo. While most people here have limited English, there is a substantial expatriate presence, and sometimes they prefer to work with English-speaking service providers. Plus, I can use my specialty, which is being able to provide content marketing services in English – a relatively rare skill set here. On this blog, I'll write about marketing and business topics that are relevant to Japan.
  3. DLKR.jp: A Japanese translation of #2. I can write Japanese, but only poorly, so I hired native speakers via Gengo and Fiverr to help. I have a client that operates an AI-based translation system. It's a secure alternative to Google Translate. I'll be using this to provide translations of my articles from the above two blogs and providing a link to my client's service, thereby showcasing their service's capabilities while generating content in the local language. It won't be as good as a human translator, but it will be a point of interest.

Blogs for My Creative Pursuits

My services are just to pay the bills while I build up my income as a creator to the point where it can support me full-time. This is because (i) at nearly 45, I’m already too old to be employable in the eyes of many companies, and, (ii) my creative work is what I really want to do.

I’ve had the privilege to know a few creators, including one who is able to live off his work full-time. I’ve also been following and studying several creators over the past five years to learn how they do things.

Here’s what I’ll be working on in terms of creative pursuits:

  • DLKR.photos: Over the years, I’ve taken a few photos that were flukes. I had no idea what I was doing but was at the right time and right place. I’ll be building on this to develop my skills and document the process.
  • DLKR.art: I’ve had a long love of digital art since my university days. Even before then, I was trying to learn how to create images using analog paper, pens, paint, and pencils. I’ll be using various manipulation techniques and filters to create artistic versions of selections from my photo collection.
  • DLKR.video: Building on my photography skills, I’ll be shooting video clips and learning to edit them together into montages.

I’ll have several ways of monetizing these:

  • Patronage: I’ll be offering options for people to contribute one-time or recurring donations. Patreon has been exposed for being censorious and they're really just a middleman. Most platforms either have or are in the process of building in ways to allow fans to support their favorite creators.
  • Print-on-Demand (POD): I’ll use POD sites such as RedBubble and Society6 to let people buy prints of my photos and art.
  • Affiliate Links: I’ll continue using Skimlinks to monetize any links to online merchants.

Documenting the Journey

I set up DLKR.blog to talk about the overall journey for all of the above. Gary Vaynerchuk advises to document rather than creating. So, for all of the above, I’ll be taking more of that approach.

This may seem like an insane number of blogs, but another key to being a successful content creator is to cater to specific audiences. Somebody who reads my business articles is not going to be interested in my art. People who enjoy my video montages may not like reading about my overall journey, etc.

Peace Out

I was just using this post to organize my thoughts and do some reflecting. Thank you for reading, and I hope it gave you some ideas for your own endeavors.

One of my favorite YouTubers rants and raves for as long as he likes each video. When he has finally run out of steam, he abruptly ends with, “Oh, well, that's about all for now. Peace out!” So, it feels appropriate to end this long and rambling post with the same words.

Peace Out!


  • Cover photo: RawPixel on Unsplash
  • Tags: #blogger #blogging #CMS #creator #failure #Medium #monetization #OnlinePublishing #platforms #solopreneur #WordPress #WriteAs
 
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from I Am A Camera

In Which Your Humble Narrator Stumbles Ass-Backwards Into The Newest Thing On The Internet, Which Might Turn Out To Be A Big New Thing, But Might...Um, Not

#writeas #blogging #cms #framework #decision #opensource #free #anonymous #journal #journaling #mastodon #federation #socialnetwork #fediverse #FEDIVERSE!!! #markdown #GratuitousGenerationXReference #52weekphotographychallenge #2019photographychallenge #52week #photography #challenge #week1 #dramatic #shadow

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Ha ho, my gents and laddies! Greetings from the newest member of THE FEDIVERSE!!! The newest thing on the internet to predict itself to be the next big hot thing on the internet! Will it convert? Well...

This all started because I got motivated to finally get off my ass this year and move my personal journal off Medium.com, where it's been since 2015, after Medium moved to a paid-access business model and suddenly tons of people wouldn't have access to my blog unless paying money. Over New Year's, the online publication Tedium published an article challenging its readers to move off social media and into owning their own intellectual property by running their own blog or publication-style newsletter/podcast, and recommended the minimalist publishing platform Write.as as a great destination; and that finally got me up and going as far as moving my personal journal off of Medium and onto https://write.as/jasonpettus. Or, not off Medium, but no longer exclusively on it; one of the nice things about Write.as is that it taps into Medium's public API and will repost your blog entries there if you ask it to.

Where I'm composing my essays, though, is now over at Write.as, and it's merely sending a copy over to Medium. No third party is dictating who can and can't see it at Write.as, and it has a public RSS feed too. I actually kind of like composing essays there in Markdown a little more than the WYSIWIG dashboard at Medium — it's faster and cleaner for someone like me, who isn't a great coder but a good enough one that Markdown comes easily. But one of the biggest new benefits, I'm coming to discover, is that Write.as is broadcasting my feed in a way so that a Mastodon-built server, any of them, can add me as either a “friend” in a social network or a “feed to follow” in a news reader. In other words, it's not one central social network like Twitter or Facebook, but a bunch of social networks that all run off the same shared free public API, so that any member at any of them can follow or friend any other member at any other of them, just like being able to directly dial any other phone on the planet just by knowing its number. It's a federation of different, competing social networks, just with one communications protocol to Rule Them All. It's a... FEEEDIIVEEERSSSE! [echo] [echo]

And I'm like, okay, sure, I believe in supporting your hippie vision, I do. But I also lived through the birth and death of THE BLOGOSPHERE!!! twenty years ago. I was on Geocities and then I was on LiveJournal, then was on TypePad and then MovableType, then Blogger and then Blogspot, then was on a gay porn server space being provided to me for free by one of my fans, and eventually all of them failed me in one way or another, so forgive me if I'm not a dyed-in-the-wool believer just quite yet. Still, it's an admirable system, and really the next generation of how the social web online is going to work. Ironically, the technology for it's been around for awhile, but it's just now with the big major social networks having ethical meltdowns that it's suddenly become a hot thing that a bunch of people are interested in at once. It'd be a beautiful way of opening up Twitter-like benefits (the immediacy, the rapid scope) but without anyone ever again having to worry about the random whims and badly enforced censorship of any one large corporation like Twitter; you simply all share a core code base for exchanging information with each other, just how like how 100 percent of email clients now share a core protocol for communicating.

So we'll see whether it catches on or not; but for now, you can add this blog to any account at any Mastodon server anywhere with @jasonpettus@write.as . And, sigh, yes, I suppose I will sign up for an account myself at some Mastodon server somewhere just to see if the hype is earned. Now fetch me my Mondo 2000 and a cyberpunk movie on videotape, my Nine-Inch-Nails-listening Generation-X Blogosphere Comrade!


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Here's the image I chose as the best at the end of week #1 of my new 52 Week Photography Challenge of 2019, the theme this week being “dramatic shadows.” Four other finalists from a nighttime shoot are below. As always, check out more at my Instagram or Flickr accounts. They were all taken in the Buena Park neighborhood of Chicago where I live. Next week, some thoughts on joining Spotify last week for the first time ever, and the windowless room full of nerd slaves they must undoubtedly have somewhere in order to make their recommendation algorithms work so well. Talk with you then again.

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from I Am A Camera

Unlike seemingly most people, 2018 was actually a pretty great year for me — today, a look at how it went, and my plans to build on it in 2019

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Greetings, users! Like most other Twitter members, I’ve been seeing an alarming amount of tweets this week from all my friends about what a shitty 2018 it was for them, and how they can’t wait for it to be over and how they’re desperately hoping 2019 will be better. Unlike them, though, 2018 actually went pretty well for me, so I thought I’d get a journal entry up here on a quiet New Year’s Eve and review why, as well as look at my plans for building on these successes in 2019.

The main reason, of course, is that for the first time in 15 years, I actually generated revenue in my life during every single month of 2018; and that’s because, for the first time since attending a coding bootcamp three years ago, I finally gave up on the idea of trying to get a full-time job in the tech industry, and decided instead to try to make a living for the first time as a full-time freelancer. The simple fact is that, although I learned a lot of lessons about myself and about soft skills by attending DevBootcamp* in 2015, trying to get a job because of it turned out to be kind of an unmitigated disaster, for a variety of interrelated reasons — partly I was discriminated against for being in my late forties while apply for entry-level positions; partly I was old enough that I could see all the red flags at the various companies that did interview me; partly I was ethically disgusted with most of the positions I had even the tiniest chance of getting; partly those various positions started drying up a couple years after my bootcamp experience, as more and more tech companies started realizing that hiring bootcamp graduates was turning out to cause more trouble than help.

[*It’s also worth noting that DevBootcamp is now out of business, one of the half-dozen such organizations that bit the dust during The Great Coding Bootcamp Purge of 2018. It was kind of an open secret within these bootcamps, in fact, that the clock was already ticking as far as your window to get anything useful out of the experience; although the official line was that “There Will Be Endless Coding Jobs In Our Glorious STEM Future For Everyone!,” it was clear even in 2015 that the industry was soon going to reach a point of unsustainable critical mass, and this was even before the bloom fell off the rose of tech companies actually hiring bootcamp graduates, and realizing that most of them weren’t getting nearly the kind of education they needed to be decent ongoing employees.]

At first I decided to combat this by switching my job search to front-end developer positions, instead of the full-stack positions that DevBootcamp prepared its graduates for, since I’m already a veteran of graphic design, HTML and CSS; but it turns out that you can’t get a front-end dev job unless you’re competent at modern front-end Javascript webapp frameworks like React, Angular, Ember, VUE and others, which I’m not. Then after starting to meet people in the tech industry that were doing this, I decided to switch my focus again now to product management, since I already had self-taught experience in my life at helping creatives and tech people communicate with each other, the main thing that people in that position do; but unlike coding positions, no one wants to hire product managers based on them having a bit of self-taught experience, which meant I was going to have to go back to school yet all over again if I wanted any chance of getting even an entry-level position. And I had already spent $12,000 to attend DevBootcamp, so wasn’t thrilled by the idea of spending yet another $12,000 with still no guarantee of a job.

So out of desperation more than anything else, I decided back in January to sign up for some of these third-party freelancing websites, like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com, just to see if I could pick up some quick easy work doing my old pre-bootcamp jobs like personal assistant, copy-editing, proofreading, data entry, document layout and the like. And that’s when I discovered something interesting that I would’ve never guessed — that the eclectic set of random skills I’ve happened to pick up over the years because of my own personal interests (graphic design, website development, manuscript editing, marketing, mailing lists, managing people, high-level strategy, ebook creation, podcast production, etc etc) just happens to be the perfect combination of skills to bring to full-time entrepreneurs who are usually hiring half a dozen different people to fulfill these roles in their lives.

I’ve had a policy for many years not to mention online the people and companies I work for (people who get pissed off at me online tend to retaliate by trying to get me fired from my jobs, and I don’t need the headache anymore); but basically the kinds of people I’ve been picking up this year as ongoing freelance clients are what are typically called “thought leaders,” with Malcolm Gladwell probably being the most famous example — people who write bestselling books about the intersection of business and intellectualism, then use the books’ popularity to speak at events like TED and SXSW, then use the popularity of the events to get paid gigs consulting for C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies, then use those consulting connections to interview famous CEOs for their next bestselling book, thus starting the cycle over again once very couple of years. Despite all the successes, these people are essentially just doing what I’ve been doing over the years, going it solo and working from home and with no office peers to fall back on when it comes to things like maintaining their newsletter subscription lists, their personal websites, their booking calendar, their Google Adwords, their podcast, their blog, etc; and I’ve been finding a lot of surprise success at getting hired by such people to basically do all those things for them, a job category I would’ve never realized even existed if I hadn’t stumbled ass-backwards into it this year.

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I also decided this year to up my game over at my rare-book dealership at eBay, with more success than I was expecting. I’ve been collecting rare books since 2011, mostly as a personal hobby, and over the years have had maybe 20 to 40 of my books for sale online at any time; but this year I’ve been making a concentrated effort to get all of them finally photographed and listed, a daunting prospect since it takes around three hours to do each and every listing (that is, to do it correctly, with a dozen high-dozen photos and deep research on the book’s history, significance and previous sales records). As of today, though, I finally have almost 200 of my 300 books now listed; and more importantly, sales for 2018 is going to top just about $2,000 by the end of the year, about twice as much as the thousand bucks I was aiming for. For someone like me who lives off just $25,000 a year, that’s a significant amount of money, and way more interesting than $2,000 worth of secretarial work, a positive experience I’m hoping to build off of in 2019.

And what else? Well, it was a good year for spending a significant amount of quality time with my friend Carrie’s twin sons, including one of them coming and living at my place full-time for two and a half weeks, which was a much better and more fun experience than I was expecting, despite the sudden preponderance of way more Kanye West in my life than I ever wanted to have. This is important to me right now, because the boys were 15 this year, which means there’s only a few years left before they’re off to college and will never live full-time in Chicago as kids again. That makes me want to spend as much time with them as I can these days, which directly clashes with most teens’ wishes to spend as little time around the adults in their lives as humanly fucking possible; so I’m glad that I got to have the experiences I had, learning about the videogames now in their teenage lives and the friends now in their teenage lives and the music now in their teenage lives, without having to pull any teeth to get the information.

And other than these things, you can generally say that 2018 was a good year simply because of maintaining the status quo in many respects of my life, which always counts as a positive merely from not slipping into a worser position. I didn’t get any fatter this year, for example, although I also didn’t really get any thinner (still hovering between 185 and 190 pounds, when the goal for years has been 175); I still got in my Fitbit step count and bicycling goals most days, although I didn’t come close to my weightlifting or swimming goals; I meditated a few days per week, although not the seven days a week I would like to achieve in a perfect world; I generally ate healthily, but not as healthily as I could; I got to travel a bit, but not as much as I wanted; I maintained an even keel with my elderly parents, and finally convinced them to take their first Uber ride as a hopeful first step towards the day soon when they’ll no longer be able to drive, although I failed at convincing them to let my brother and me make their home more elderly-friendly. And perhaps most importantly, I maintained another year of strong filters and bans on all my online destinations so that I didn’t receive a single bit of news about Donald Trump and his latest crazy antics, which I suspect is the number-one reason why so many of my friends at Twitter keep proclaiming that 2018 Was The Worst, Just The Fucking Worst. All these things count as positive experiences merely because I deliberately worked on them, regardless of how successful they were.

So what’s on tap for 2019? Well, as always, instead of New Year’s resolutions, I actually created an entire year-long three-page detailed plan for myself, so let me just run down it right now and share the highlights with you…

—A one-year pause on all web development. For years now I’ve been paying $115 every single month in order to have a series of Wordpress builds through the hosting service WPEngine, but then haven’t built out any of the actual sites; so I’ve decided this year to get rid of the account and put all my development plans into deep freeze for the time being, especially since I no longer plan on using these as portfolio pieces in trying to get a full-time dev job. That’s why, for example, my personal journal is still appearing here at Medium.com, when I promised in my last update that it’d be switched over to a dedicated Wordpress site by now. (Obviously if you're seeing this, you know that I've recently started trying the federation-friendly minimalist blogging platform Write.as; but more on this in another post soon.) Also, hardcore fans will notice that the website for my old arts center, the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, is now entirely offline, since I hadn’t updated it in years and it was essentially serving as an extremely expensive parking space for the 25 or so books that CCLaP still has for sale up at Amazon.

—New revenue opportunities. Inspired by my successes at “piecemeal revenue” in 2018, I’ve decided to push and expand in this direction even more in 2019. Specifically, I’ve decided to invent a new type of handmade bullet journal to sell at my Etsy store; although there’s a growing amount of mass-made notebooks for this suddenly hotter and hotter form of organizational system (which has gotten a big boost in recent months because of the inventor finally publishing his first full-length book on the subject), I’ve noticed that there are almost no cool crafty handmade versions, which I’m hoping will bring some new notice and new sales over at my Etsy store.

And I’m re-opening my personal chef service from my early thirties, “The Slacker Chef!” This was a little experiment I was convinced to try during one of my periods of unemployment when younger, basically cooking for other people’s dinner parties; the money was fantastic, but my heart wasn’t into it at the time because I wasn’t into all the work of going out and hunting up new clients every day. But now that I am in the habit of trawling for new clients every day, I’ve decided to revisit this idea for the first time in twenty years, and see if it can’t generate another couple thousands of dollars in revenue just like my rare books are doing. The more things I can do in my life that will make a thousand or two or three a year, the less I have to worry about freelancing in order to pay all my bills.

And speaking of which, I’m also going to try doing my first-ever physical live events as a rare book seller in 2019; specifically, I’ve decided to get a tax ID and join the Midwestern Antiquarian Booksellers Association, so that I can get a table at this coming year’s Chicago Book and Paper Fair and the Printers Row Lit Fest. I don’t have the slightest idea how much money events like these might bring in; but just to throw out a random number, if I could make a thousand dollars at each of these, that would effectively double my money next year from rare-book sales, from $2,000 to $4,000. That would be exciting, because collecting and selling rare books is easily the most fun thing I do for money these days, and I’d like to be doing a lot more of it if I could.

—New third-party tools to put it all together. Specifically, I’m signing up for a Shopify.com account in 2019, as a central place for selling everything I just mentioned; and I’ve already set up a weekly newsletter called “I Love You Robot” for disseminating new announcements regarding it all, since my activities are going to be spread out across so many different online and physical destinations next year. You can sign up for the newsletter right now at bit.ly/ILoveYouRobot, which on top of everything else will include the most fascinating 10 or 15 news items I linked to at Twitter that week. (It will also announce new journal entries here at my blog, if you’re not a person who uses RSS.)

—The #JPCHI25 Project. Next year will be my 25th anniversary of moving to Chicago! To celebrate, I recently put together a list of 100 “core things” that everyone should do in Chicago at least once before they die, a mix between a bunch of touristy things I haven’t done in decades (go to the top of the Sears Tower; eat at the Billy Goat; ride the Navy Pier ferris wheel; attend the Chicago Blues Festival), semi-touristy stuff that even locals tend to enjoy doing regularly (attend late-night shows at the Green Mill and Buddy Guy’s; eat at the Walnut Room; walk the entirety of the Art Institute; watch a Cubs game from a next-door rooftop bar), a shopping list of various famous but semi-obscure locations to visit (the Driehaus Museum; the Lincoln Square pedestrian mall; Garfield Park Conservatory; the Robie House; Nelson Algren Fountain), and a bunch of weirdo unique things that are fun to say you’ve done at least once (visit the last Chicago street still paved with wood bricks; stop by the Obama Kissing Rock in Hyde Park; attend the turtle races at Big Joe’s; bowl at the vintage hand-set Southport Lanes; see a movie at Facets; have a Malort at Old Town Ale House). I’ll be taking copious pictures at each destination, and tagging them all at Twitter, Instagram and Flickr with #JPCHI25, so I hope you’ll get to follow along all year. And speaking of which…

—My first-ever 52 Week Photography Challenge. For those who don’t know, I received my first-ever DSLR camera as an early Christmas present this year, my first high-end camera since I was a photography major in college thirty years ago; so I plan on throwing myself heavily into this new hobby in 2019, including participating in my first-ever 52 Week Photography Challenge. There will be much more about this at Instagram and Flickr throughout the next year, so I encourage you to follow along at those places for it all.

—New wellness goals. I’ve decided to try a year of tai chi instead of yoga in 2019, which I’m looking forward to; I’m planning on buying my first electric bicycle, which will hopefully let me bike more often and for longer distances now that I’ll be turning 50; I’m going to take my first class in American Sign Language, which it’s just time for now that my hearing is continuing to get worse and worse each other; and perhaps most significantly, I’m getting a driver’s license again for the first time since 1989, almost exclusively so that I can drive around in my parents’ suburban-scrawl community during my increasingly frequent trips down there, but also so that I’ll have access to a car-share program in Chicago, for the rare times I need a car here like the book fairs I’ll be participating in. As always, more on all these things here in this journal as 2019 continues.

—And a new computing system in my life, both in equipment and attitude. Another thing that’s happened recently is that my ten-year-old Macintosh desktop finally died, which is sad but actually lasted longer than I was expecting it to. Even low-end Macs are now just so ridiculously fucking expensive that I’ve decided to try something brand-new for 2019 instead, which is to switch full-time to Linux and start moving more and more of my computing life to cloud services. That will involve buying one of those Windows laptops with a touchscreen monitor that can be flipped backwards to “convert” it to a tablet; erasing Windows and installing Ubuntu; buying a 4K television during Amazon Prime Day next summer to serve as a new home monitor; installing open-source versions of my usual Adobe Creative Suite software, the main thing I’m currently missing by using my cheap little Chromebook right now instead of my broken Mac; buying an external solid state hard drive as a central portable location for all my daily files; and moving my workflow for documents more and more to my Google Drive, and for music to Spotify instead of downloaded MP3s and iTunes. (I actually did this part last week, and am really blown away already by how amazing Spotify’s recommendation service works; this will likely be the subject of my new journal entry here.) Will this finally let me wean myself off the increasingly sour teats of Apple, Microsoft and Adobe? Well, it won’t fucking hurt!

So that’s pretty much it for now; although I should mention that another part of this plan is to start updating this journal a lot more often, now that I’m not sitting around endlessly waiting for a Wordpress conversion that will never come, so I hope you’ll have a chance to come by on a regular basis during 2019 for more. As always, I can be reached at ilikejason@gmail.com, and would love to hear from you about advice or invitations regarding any of these projects. Here’s hoping 2019 will be a chance to build on the successes I had this year, and that your own goes better than apparently the shitty 2018 most of you had!

#personal #journal #2018 #yearinreview #chicago #codingbootcamp #freelancing #upwork #thoughtleaders #rarebooks #blogging #platforms #bulletjournal #shopify #newsletter #photography #challenge #52week #JPCHI25 #taichi #linux #spotify

 
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