Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Year of 2014 for Ryan

My 2014 was better than my 2013. Here are some reasons:

Take This Job and Love It
I began 2014 gunning for a full-time job, but to repurpose Hemingway’s quote about bankruptcy, I decided to go freelance gradually, then suddenly. I was a freelance journalist for about a decade, and by the end of that cycle I was exhausted with the lack of money, the solitude, the irregular hours and extremely irregular payment schedule.

Content strategy consulting is a much different beast. There are client meetings, office visits, collaboration sessions and other social elements. And when I need to concentrate, I have the flexibility to work from home. From January to June I was gradually busy, followed by a sudden whoosh of projects and presentations. By the end of it all I was tired, but also a bit smarter and a bit richer.

Along with doing, I was able to augment my brain by reading:

* Why We Fail (Victor Lombardi)
* Service Design (Andy Polaine)
* Exposing the Magic of Design (Jon Kolko)
* The New York Times Innovation Report
* UXPin Guide to Minimum Viable Products

I also attended UX Thursday, the best $100 I’ve ever spent on a conference.

Adventures in Mid-Fi
In June I found a bass player for my indiepalooza cover band. Shortly thereafter I found a drummer. And by November we were sounding pretty darn okay. More importantly, we’d agreed on a name (SubPox). But then we had to switch drummers (amicably) and the mad rush of December happened. But I feel 99% confident we will play live in the spring of 2015.

Along the way I bought a life-changing reverb pedal and a life-affirming delay pedal. Together they cover most of my guitar noodling requirements. Which means I’m only two more pedals away from not buying any more pedals for a very long time.

All The Pretty Pictures (and Pixels too)
* Hearing Richard Turley, Erik Spiekermann and Andrew Zolty talk at Design Thinkers in early November.
* Enjoying Pulse Room by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in a nearly empty Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal in July.
* Playing all the indie games at the AGO’s Fancy Videogame Party in February.
* Admiring all the kickass KAWS at This is Not a Toy exhibit (Design Exchange).
* Seeing the work of Tori Foster at Pari Nadimi.
* Experiencing Jacqueries on a warn August evening.
* Nuit Blanche-ing with Between Doors plus Everything and Nothing.
* Touching a bunch of fun stuff at digiPlaySpace in the TIFF Lightbox.
* Loving and not loving the Douglas Coupland exhibit in equal measures at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Word Nerd
* I was Handling Editor for an RRJ feature that won third place from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in the “Specialized Business Press Article” category.
* On June 16 I shared embarrassing moments from my Grade 5 diary at Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids in front of many people at The Garrison. In August my performance was broadcast on CBC radio.
* I wrote about hidden gem Black Mirror for Hazlitt.
* My byline appeared in Applied Arts and Report on Business.
* I volunteered a few times at Story Planet, but it wasn’t until I took part in an Alpha Workshop that I really felt useful. Twenty kids collectively develop a story up to the crisis point and then each writes their own ending. The whole thing takes two hours and somehow it works.
* I went to see Guillaume Morissette read at The Ossington and I’m glad I did.

This Content Isn’t Going to Strategize Itself
As I’m fond of mentioning ad nauseam (because I have SEO-whore tendencies just like everybody else), I organize the Toronto content strategy meetup. This year we were able to get Karen McGrane to give a guest talk. She was very generous with her time and insights and I’m grateful I was able to have dinner with her beforehand.


The Other Stuff
* My friends Graeme and Nadine had a second child in February.
* My friends Adam and Bri got engaged in December.
* My friend Chris threw a delightful house party in January.
* I went to the RC Harris Filtration plant during the February long weekend for an ice-tastic walk.
* I had the “SuperBeautys 2” breakfast special during a 28-hour trip to Montreal in July. It isn’t a great year without one of those.
* I quit Facebook on October 11. I thought it would be a three month absence, but I now think I’ll never return to big blue.
* On April 11 I reached peak Galaga at Get Well with a score of 150,650.
* I finally bought a super-slim Bellroy wallet and it was worth every penny.
* I’m now the sort of person who owns a wheelbarrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Negotiating by the word

Last week I received an email from an editor of a glossy magazine based in the U.S. Not the A-list, but not the C-list either.

The editor wanted me to write a feature, about 1,800 words, a company profile. The fee was half of what I normally receive for magazine work. So I told the editor what my normal rate was, and that I would lose money writing the feature at the fee offered. (I do a lot of consulting and copywriting these days, so I’ve developed a nasty habit of calculating projects at an hourly rate.)

In my email, I asked the editor if there was room to negotiate. Instead of emailing me back with a counter-offer, the editor asked “What number would work for you?”

My answer was double the fee I was offered.

The editor then emailed back to say my fee was too steep and explained that the magazine is “a very small family-run indie magazine … that carries very little advertising.”

What’s curious to me is why the editor didn’t say that earlier in the process. Perhaps the editor was hoping my counter-offer would be within their budget. Perhaps the editor is bad at negotiating. But what if the editor had responded to my overtures to negotiate with the following:

“Hi Ryan. The most I can offer is $HighNumberThanFirstNumber. I’d like to offer more, but we’re a small indie magazine without a lot of advertising. Let me know if you can make that number work.”

I’m willing to bet that kind of transparency would have made me far more likely to say yes.
 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Scare me once, shame on you

I voted out of fear in the recent Ontario provincial election. I’m not proud of this decision, but it was clear that Hudak was willing to destroy the public sector to win some kind of ideological bet he made with Mike Harris. Since Toronto barely survived the last Conservative government, I voted Liberal. The fact that Andrea Horwath ran a terrible and pandering campaign made this decision a little easier, even though Jonah Schein is clearly a good dude who deserved better.

I will not make the same mistake on October 27. It’s clear that no matter how many times I vote, Olivia Chow will not be our next mayor. But I’m still going to vote for her. Doug Ford is a bully. We should have stood up to him four years ago, but for a variety of complicated reasons, we were unable or unwilling.

I’m not afraid of big brother. Nor should you. Fear of Doug Ford is not a good enough reason to vote for John Tory. Doug will be lucky if he gets more than 25% of the vote.* I doubt he has the machinery required to mobilize supporters and get them to the polls.

John Stuart Mill believed that humans try to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Voting for Tory is about minimizing pain. Our shattered city will gain no pleasure from four years of Tory.

It’s a shame that an absence of pain is the best Toronto can do.


--
*Fair warning: I pulled this number out of a magical hat in the back of my closet. But I’m going to stick with it regardless

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Leaked list of upcoming BlogTO brunch posts

Through some daring and complex espionage, I secured a top secret list of BlogTO's upcoming brunch posts. Highlights include:

* The top 10 underwater brunch spots in Toronto

* 5 Toronto brunch spots that even Shawn Micallef could love

* Toronto top best 10 10 brunch best best brunch brunch brunch Toronto 2015 1947 1867 2002

* The top 10 late evening brunch restaurants in Toronto

* The top 10 brunch places in that area south of the Junction but west of the Junction Triangle, I think the neighbourhood is called Junc-Tri-High but I'm not entirely sure and at this point I'm ruining our SEO which means I'm fired, aren't I, even though I don't technically get paid for these articles in the first place, sigh

* The top 10 tattoo parlours that serve brunch in Toronto

* Best brunch lineup in Toronto

* 10 Instagram photos of screaming Toronto infants in oversized strollers ruining brunch for everyone

* The best shitty brunch servers with attitude in Toronto

* The top 10 Liechtenstein brunch spots in Toronto

* Black History Month brunch in Toronto 2015







Monday, October 06, 2014

Karen McGrane visits the Toronto content strategy meetup in November

I’m super-mega-uber excited to announce that Karen McGrane, author of Content Strategy for Mobile, will be giving a guest talk at the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup on November 4. She’ll reflect on what she’s learned since writing her fantastic book and share her thoughts about the future of adaptive content.

This event is a pretty big deal. Anyone who cares about content strategy should attend. Please check out the Toronto Content Strategy Meetup page for more information.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

The Doug Ford Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce had the right idea. Please feel free to modify, build upon or otherwise run with the idea I’ve started here...

Disingenuous: Any anti-Ford argument supported by factual information.

Elite: An eloquent person who disagrees with Doug Ford

Folks: Synonym for taxpayer.

Hell: The place where autistic children and their parents deserve to live.

Ignorant: An ordinary person who disagrees with Doug Ford.

Socialist: A person who believes infrastructure costs money.

Taxpayer: A person who shares the same worldview as Doug Ford.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Political narratives: Toronto edition

As anyone with a Twitter account is aware, many things happened very quickly in Toronto on Friday September 12.

I was doing client work on Friday afternoon and took a Twitter break every hour or so. And I kept waiting for a response to Doug Ford running for mayor that was narrative-based. John Tory was quick to point out that Doug is an angry man who is rude to those with autism (and therefore is unfit for office). It took until Saturday for Olivia Chow to point out that Doug and Rob are one and the same (minus the drug problems).


But because I have no love for Doug, what I really want is someone to spin a story that links together his actions over the past four years. A negative story that will stick to him over the next six weeks. Angry Doug and Doug-equals-Rob are both character-based attacks. Neither of them tell much of a story about Doug.

The federal Conservatives did a good job of leveraging narrative with the “just visiting” ads aimed at Ignatieff. They told a story about a man who left Canada and returned only because of political ambitions. That narrative seemed to stick.

It might be a coincidence, but the “in over his head” attacks on Justin Trudeau are character based. (This man doesn’t have the experience and depth required to govern Canada). And they’re not working.

I’m sure there’s a subtle difference about framing versus narrative to be had, but I’ll leave that to someone more versed in politics than myself. I also have every confidence that there are plenty of examples of successful character-based political attacks.

Narrative have been top of mind for me lately, so this could just be a story hammer seeing everything as a story nail problem. But I would love to listen to a brainstorming session where Doug narratives are tossed around:

- Doug only cares about power, not Torontonians
- Doug wanted to leave city politics for good – until Rob forced him to run for mayor
- In four years, Doug’s only attempt at city building involved a monorail. Now he wants the keys to the mayor’s office.
- As campaign manager, Doug couldn’t keep track of his brother’s substance abuse. How is Doug going to keep track of important issues at city hall?
- The only reason Doug was elected to council was because he hung onto the coattails of his little brother.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

RyanBigge.com is the new BiggeWorld

Hey everyone. I totally screwed up and failed to renew biggeworld.com. So after 14 years, it is dead. Or, to be more accurate, it has been replaced:

I could point out that I didn't receive a renewal notice from Dotster, but this isn't the time to quibble. The old site was pretty terrible and this is the nudge I was waiting for. In the next few weeks I'm going to work on RyanBigge.com

Look for more SEO inspired blog posts in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I'm on the radio as part of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids

Do you have a radio? Want to hear me embarrass myself? Then tomorrow is your lucky day. On Wednesday August 13 at 9:30am eastern time listen to CBC radio. I’ll be reading from my grade 5 diary as part of Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids (GRTTWaK)


Here’s a teaser:

April 18
Today I got seven wrong on a decimals exercise sheet. I got some speeches from mom.

There’s also a podcast version of GRTTWaK. Not sure when the animated series is set to debut.