It’s been an interesting week.
It’s been one of those periods where it’s been necessary to take a step back, re-assess the current situation and re-double my efforts. Admittedly, not much has really been done this last week. Not for the lack of trying. Or the lack of enthusiasm. Sometimes the universe just delivers a whole heap of junk mail and you just got to sort out the essentials from the spam.
It’s time to start re-focusing on what really matters. And what really matters right now is Excellence…
To kick off tonight’s show, I’d like to start with another little clip from Bill Hicks… (Get used to it people, he’s a major influence and you really got to listen to what this chain-smoking, dead guy is saying!).
So anyway… what has been happening on the quiet front that is KC? Did I lose my voice? Far from it folks… I’ve not been busy as such. Things have just been a bit weird.
Well, as some of you regular reaaers may know, I recently wrote a tip on how to create Semi-Static Homepages in WordPress. Some of you might also have seen Lorelle’s on WordPress’ reaction to my tip. That made me feel well chuffed. What can I say to top that? A compliment like that it just makes you know you’re moving in the right direction. And you know what? I’m only just getting started…
Watch out for an update to the Semi-Static Homepage update later this week. Me and John (from Urban Giraffe – the one with the excellent plugins you should download and give donations to!) have been discussing the whole Sniplets thing and guess what? He’s updated it to be even better. That’s right folks – you thought the Semi-Static thing was cool? How much better could it possibly get?
Well, how’s about the ability to stack multiple sniplets in a certain postion?
Okay, that didn’t make much sense. Imagine this – you have several Sniplets (let’s use the products example and say they’re different products) pulled into one position on your homepage. You can now have the ability control all of your products from a single point *and* also have a completely controlable Semi-Static WordPress homepage – just by adding a function call to your template. Cool as a cucumber! Not tested it just yet but when I do, then I’ll do a step-by-step guide so you can all do the same on your own sites.
So why did we feel the need to get Sniplets upgraded? Well… and here’s another excellent compliment I’ve had this week – Dan Thies (the SEO Coach, some of you in Internet Marketing circles may know the name – so be impressed, go on ) on the StomperNet forum commented on another forum post that I put up earlier in the week.
What did he say? And what was it about?
Well, it was just a little case study I did on using (again) Sniplets to save time and effort for creating products from your 1Shopping cart account to be controlled on your WordPress pages. The example I used was of some products I’d recently put up on a site, used in multiple pages but controlled from only 1 source. Yup… that’s right – 1 tweak and multiple instances change across your site. Are you getting to see how useful John’s Sniplets are now?
Dan’s comment? “Awesome stuff, Zain! You just saved me a bunch of time.” Do you know how much it means to me knowing that in just 1 week, I’ve managed to impress 2 people who I seriously respect? You can only imagine…
So anyway, as usual, with my loud mouth I recommend John’s other products to Dan and guess what? Dan’s only gone and emailed John about the plugin and making some suggestions. Understandably, I was over the moon at this. John on the other hand was like, “Dan Who? Never heard of him… and if you don’t mind, I’ve got a plugin to build and to go out and need to go out and get some pizza later…”.
What do you expect? John’s not an Internet Marketer. If the top Internet Marketers were to turn up at his front door, he’d be like “Moving the free line? I’ve been doing that for 3 years and not made a single cent just yet… but if you want to talk to me about making money from extortion by using pictures of kittens, well come on in!“.
Okay… so my conversation with John wasn’t exactly like that. Or even *anything* like that. But Dan Thies *did* email him and the “Awesome stuff, Zain!” line *is* completely true. No word of a lie. Cross my heart and hope to work for a living…
So, spurred on with both those compliments from Dan and Lorelle, I set about working on a new theme this week. Not just any old theme. A proper, *proper*, fully-SEO’d- source-ordered- 3-column-center-content-layout- accessibility-friendly-with-skip-links- css2-and-xhtml-strict-compliant- semi-static-homepage-theme-for-wordpress- *with*-product-listings.
I have to say… it’s *not* gone well at all. Admittedly, I got stumped as there was an issues with the 1.0.3 version of Sniplets as well as restricted functionality as the new features hadn’t been built yet.
Well, I get to working on this theme and I knew exactly what I wanted to achieve with it. The basic source ordered layout-ness of the theme is fine. The CSS is fine too. XHTML not a problem. The issue was on the product placements. Since multiple stacked sniplets weren’t yet an option at that point, I started fiddling about with various ways of achieving this result. The best one I had was to use the_excerpt() function in WordPress as a placeholder where I could load up multiple Sniplets in the Semi-Static Homepage layout on my theme. It worked a treat. No, seriously. Mental as it seems, it actually worked. I was right there – outside of “the box” and gift wrapping it – *that’s* how much I love coming up with solutions to things!
It was bloomin’ marvellous. Except for one thing… Excerpts in WordPress don’t frickin’ work in WordPress “PAGES” do they?!?! Aaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh…
Well, with tail between my legs, admitting defeat in the face of adversity and (as usual) using as many cliche’s as I could muster, I have a chat with John about this crazy idea about taking the concept of the Semi-Static Homepages for WordPress One Step Beyond. Breaking out into Madness and going into exquisite detail about how chuffed I was at the solution I’d found, John was like “I haven’t a [censored] clue what the [censored] you’re on about, mate. Kindly leave me alone or I shall be forced to call the local constabulary and have you arrested, you [censored] nutter!“. Fairynuff.
Okay… so that’s not really what he said. The general gist of it was more like “Do what? You’re barking. However, instead of trying to understand what you’re trying to achieve, I’ll politely say that your idea was pants and I’ve built something better than you need it to be anyway!“.That’s what I love about sending ideas over to John – he never fails to impress. I’d recommend to anyone setting up their own business that they should find high calibre people to work with – it adds a different dimension to your thought processes and helps to build things that are so much better than you’d ever imagine…
Anyway… where was I?
Oh yes. This post was (and still is) about Excellence. Well, apart from the whole Sniplet’s thing that John’s built, he’s also managed to knock up the first versions of *FAQ-Tastic Pro* this week. Stay tuned. If you’re an Internet Marketer or into SEO, you’re going to love this one. Man, did I completely overspec’ this one. You can tell when something’s going to be fantastic when a out of a 4 page list of “moon-on-a-stick” functionality only gets 4 turned down by the Developer. And if you really thought FAQ-Tastic was good, then this version is just going to blow you away.
But I’m not here to talk about that right now. You’ll get to know more about it in time. After the Alpha and Beta tests… Stay tuned for more on FAQ-Tastic Pro very shortly.
And then there was this whole deal with the Druid workshop on Saturday (hey… it’s a Brighton thing!). One of my clients that I deal with also holds a regular session on the origins and meanings of certain myths, legends and religions. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s excellent stuff if you’re into that type of thing. The presenter went into a whole heap of connections between ancient and modern religions and cultures; described the roots and went into the “true meaning” of certain ideas and it was all linked up with linguistics, astrologoy and even physics. However, for me, I’m a little skeptical and probably didn’t get much out of it.
The reason why I was there in the first place was to do with a site I’ll be helping out with that my client wants me to build for him – about Druids. So really, for me, it was about getting a sense of the type of things that they discuss and understanding the types of semiotics at play and structures that the site should have.
Personally, I found some of the connections a little tenuous but then again, I ascribe to the idea that there is no meaning or purpose in life other than the ones that you choose to create for yourself. Yes, it’s a bit barking but it does mean that you’d create your own destiny and future. Ultimate responsibility is in your own hands and can’t be palmed off or shifted to a deity. Regardless of the outcome, the successes and failures (and even accidents in life) will ultimately be due to the choices I make for myself. It’s pretty hardcore in terms of an idea – not many people could face being ultimately responsible for the situations that they find themselves in. Imagine what would happen if we all did? That’s insurance companies out the window for a start! Just an idea… I’m just planting the seeds (to paraphrase old Bill!)…
Well, then this Druid guy starts talking about Saturn being in Virgo right now and messing things up for everyone right now. Basically, things that need to be attended to will reveal their true form and need to be sorted out. For people who are pro-active, it essentially means a way of helping to get rid of the junk in their lives now to provide a better foundation in the future. For other’s things will just look really grim. An example they gave would be of relationships between companies – if it’s not working out, apparently you should look to breaking the relationship as it’s manifesting for a particular purpose (i.e. telling you to move on).
So guess what?
Well, earlier this week, the same client had an issue with their hosting company. The very next day after the Druid session… yup, their site goes down and is suspended apparently due to excessive usage or some such nonsense. Well, talking about the universe moving in mysterious ways… Or the big G, if you’re more religiously inclined.
To be fair, my client had not really been given any warning or any help or support about the issues they were experiencing by the hosting company. Being particularly un-technical, it was weird that the hosting company didn’t even bother to offer him *any* support regardless of all the efforts that were made to try and rectify the usage issues. After all, they were the ones that provided the platform for his site to work and they even supply the scripts to set up the site. The analogy that hosting comapnies like to give is like “We rent apartments. What you do in it is up to you“. Okay fair point. To an extent. Personally, I’d say a better analogy would be more like “Here’s some explosives that we’re going to give you. We’re not giving you any basic training whatsoever and if you kill yourself because you don’t know what you’re doing, then tough luck!“. The bottom line is, scripts don’t kill sites – lack of understanding does. A hosting company that doesn’t even try to help the user understand the issues or even give them some basic pointers, I think, is being very short-sighted. This will ultimately mean more work for them to manage in the long run. Educating users and helping them to optimize their sites can actually be seen as 1) pro-active support which users will love and 2) good for the server as it’s the users doing the real work, not the company. Anyway… go figure – their loss I suppose!
This whole situation is then taken as a sign and interpreted as “the time has come” for moving away and breaking from the hosting company. If it does mean a better relationship between mmy client and a new hosting provider then, well great! Everything will turn out right in the end, I suppose.
I did tell you that things were a little weird last week. In a funny kind of way, the whole hosting/Druid event thing did start making me think about server issues. Particularly, “what would happen if your site got suspended half way through the Product Launch Formula?“. Man… now that’s not even going to be funny if you’re midway through a successful campaign and your site gets dumped on. Anyone got any good suggestions of excellent web hosting with a technical support team that are willing to “help” their customers through their issues? Answers on a postcard please (or you could just make a comment below!).
I suppose this whole post has been more than just looking at excellence. The notion of excellence, for me, comes down to one thing: intention. Bound up with the right intention (to do the best possible job) is also the idea of “integrity” and never over or underselling the product. It’s really just about being honest.
From pushing the boundaries as far as they can go or going that one extra mile; being passionate about what you do, realising dreams and giving birth to new and exciting products – these are the types of things that will separate the mediocre from the exceptional. Not only that, but the constant reminder of looking at and examining the relationships in life – both in business and personally – will help to bring about the positive forces that move things forward.
I think Bill said it best when he said “Play from the fuckin’ heart, man!“. That’s the truth. I’d rather my kids were learning lessons about people with integrity, passion and the right intentions rather than being constantly bombarded with mediocrity and banality.
Anyway, I’m going to leave you all with Greg Patillo – he’s a flautist (or flutist to you guys over the pond) that also does beatbox while performing. The reason why I include this following clip instead of the one more commonly shown on YouTube (i.e. the Inspector Gadget theme) is that 1) I love Peter and the Wolf and more importantly 2) Greg’s rendition of it not only demonstrates that he’s a very accomplished musician but that he’s able to push the boundaries further and plays with some real passion.