A Novel Resolution for 2014: Make Your Own Criteria for Success

With 2013 coming to a close, many of us can’t help but think about making some big changes for the new year. But is the way we go about setting goals actually what makes us feel unsuccessful in meeting them?

A video from Marie Forleo showed up on my YouTube feed today in which she interviews Danielle LaPorte, who’s essentially a self-help guru for business-oriented folk. This isn’t something I’d usually be interested in – and I did find some of it grating – but LaPorte did bring up some very compelling ideas.

LaPorte says that it’s important to figure out how we want to feel rather than looking for outside validation when making goals. Instead of a goal like getting a promotion or making your first million, she says you might be more content working towards feeling good. 

Before you start draping yourself in velvet from head to toe

What she means is that it’s not about the goal. It’s about how you’re going to feel when you get there.

Sure, these external validations help us cope with creeping anxiety and insecurity, and some of these feeling help us get out of bed and do the things we need to do to live. But this frantic pursuit for outside validation often leaves one without the feeling of accomplishment because they’re not helping us feel what we were hoping to feel. 

LaPorte brings up a conversation she had with a Buddhist about the need to balance acceptance of how the world is, and striving to change what we can. Realizing we’re not entirely in control of our own destinies is an important thing for people to realize, but also that we ought to reign in other peoples’ control over our destinies. For instance, don’t tell me when I’ve had enough – I know when I’ve had enough.

You can’t always choose what happens in your life, but we you can choose how you feel and react to it.

I’m actually a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I think self-reflection is important and if the new year spurs people to think how things can be better, then so be it. (And you could probably use some improvement yourself. Just sayin’.)

But it’s also important that people believe that they’re entitled to what they’re personally after – to feel good about themselves, not just have the outward symbols of success. The feelings could be security, happiness, connection, importance, and love. And it’s up to us to figure out how much these feelings mean to us.

Perhaps the best resolution we can make is allow ourselves to feel worthy to make the changes we need to make, and base them on our own criteria.

“Our way of working meant that the hugely talented writers we partnered with were only in a position to contribute content—not concept. They wrote copy, but we missed the opportunity to tap into the thinking behind it…Writers and designers are better together.”

– “What Does a Writer Know About Design?” by Ben Steele

Great writers don’t just put someone else’s vision into words, but help shape and refine that vision through language. -DH

With great power comes great…need for governance: Why the web hosting industry needs solid direction


Companies that provide web hosting services play a huge role in how free and open the Internet is. For how much a web host does to provide a platform for websites and media, it could also be providing your customer information to government bodies without you knowing…and without them being able to tell you. This is just one of the reasons web hosts need to have their concerns to be heard.

Read more about why and how to give voice to web hosts and their diverse issues and concerns in my latest article for the WHIR:  http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/giving-the-web-hosting-industry-a-voice

On Being Raw and Vulnerable Online


Many people I follow on blogs and on Twitter consistently produce witty and clever posts that fit into what’s acceptable of the form. They’re quick hits of delightful smartness that I can absorb, then move onto something else. This is the norm.

But not everything I find online is as clear-cut and pleasant as this, nor should it be.

In a recent Thought Catalog piece, writer Ryan O’Connell talks about the tendency and the danger of a nullifying uniformity among our online communications. Many of us are afraid of putting ourselves out there online and becoming a target for trolls. We’re rather fit into someone else’s notion of how we should behave and think rather than be raw and vulnerable.

O’Connell writes: “People hide behind their phones, they carefully curate their communication with other people, which makes honest moments few and far between.”

A fleeting tweet that satisfied our expectations reaffirms our sense of the world. It lets us move on. But it’s really these honest moments, the ones whose meaning isn’t obvious, that generally stick with us.

As I see it, writing about our lives and our world is basically an exercise in observation in which one draws attention to connections between people, places, ideas, and so on. We observe something, analyze it, then produce a report on our findings.

Comedy writer Hallie Cantor wrote a beautiful blog post on experiencing things without having to make them a joke

It’s easier to agree that something is funny than to agree that December feels like being in a concrete building that’s the highest point in a tiny state and daydreaming about some boy and listening to Charlie Parker. But when I can convince myself to remember that other people’s stories are interesting, I wish it didn’t have to be funny. I wish it were enough to just look.

Going “off-script” is not as easy for people to process as a neat, self-contained joke.

Many would assume that digital media is making our generation too narcissistic and/or soporific to make an eloquent and irreverent statement like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Ginsberg wasn’t afraid to go to dark places, and be real in a time of great conformity.

Perhaps, though, our battles are more specific and nuanced to the point where no single voice can speak for a generation. Our blog posts and tweets might seemingly be “a dumping ground for every non-thought that crawls through their brain” and often falling short of a rally cry. But do we really need to compel action from people? It seems to me that it’s often enough just to be honest about what we’re thinking about and to show others our experiences and how we live our lives – even if that means posts about your mundane and unfulfilled life.

Rather than “build our brands,” we can be part of an internet that moves beyond what’s deemed acceptable or rational or appropriate. We need to fight our need to come across as calm, cool and collected (or simply put: normal). Otherwise, we’ll have an online world that conforms to what is expected, and never delivers what is needed.

“Writing in scenes represents the difference between showing and telling. The lazy, uninspired writer will Itell Ithe reader about a subject, place, or personality, but the creative nonfiction writer will show that subject, place, or personality, vividly, memorably – and in action. In scenes.”

– Lee Gutkind, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up.

Blog Like a Journalist (presentation slides from WordCamp Montreal)

When we step back and think about it, we live in an era where so many different stories and experiences are made available through the Internet. And blogs are been a venue for expressing more voices than ever before. But while we’re oftne more likely to find our news on blogs than on our evening TV news or morning paper, the principles of journalism still apply to the new media.

It’s in this landscape that I frame my presentation from Montreal WordCamp 2013, “Blog Like a Journalist”.

Contrary to many naysayers, I think opening up media production via blogs bodes well for journalism, but we need to maintain the good journalistic practices that have served the public well for so many years.

Journalism isn’t about the medium, it can be thought of as a combination of practices, ethics, and philosophy. It’s about conveying information in a rigorous, responsible and accountable manner, paying attention to detail, accuracy, and high standards, and striving for balance and objectivity.

This all makes what you write more truthful to what you’re presenting and readers will find it more trustworthy.

In this presentation, I explain how a writer can maintain a high commitment to journalism, while also employing storytelling styles which are more compatible with blogs and their audiences.

Closet culture goes virtual with Pinterest

Pinterest takes our desire to collect things, make lists, and share what we love, and lets us express that in a sleek and intensely visual experience.
Launched in March 2010 and still in beta, Pinterest is an online community where members can post things to a virtual wall that they find interesting, and connect with people who share tastes and interests.

Putting up photos and posters of your interests has been going on in teenagers’ bedrooms and locker doors for decades. Pinterest extends this concept into the digital age.

The visual appeal is key to understanding Pinterest. Twitter is extremely text heavy, and, while Facebook certainly has visual appeal, it’s not as clean and sleek. Tumblr can be configured as a photo sharing site, and, indeed, some of the most successful Tumblrs do this.

I’m not entirely sold on the concept of Pinterest, but I do think its nascent success speaks volumes about the power of images.

The logos of many social media sites

Social media isn’t just window dressing

The logos of many social media sites
When the New York Times decided to can their social media position, they explained: “Social media can’t belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone’s job…It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process”

I have to agree with the Times. If you’re responsible for social media at your company, find out what to Tweet out by actually talking with your colleagues, and encouraging them to send you messages they want posted. Engage them in a debate and publish the outcome.

A lot of people think of social media as being an outward facing marketing effort, but the way I see it is that it should be something that permeates the organization, and that everyone’s involved in. Social media should be used to make a more social organization, and marketers cannot fake this.

Creative Portfolio Communities: Do designers need to be on them?

Four creative portfolio communities

A discussion on the social network Quora had me thinking about whether or not having a standalone website is that best way to promote yourself as a graphic or Web designer. Having a portfolio website used to be and still is a common way to promote your design skills online. But now there are more options available, and they’re gradually being taken more seriously. 

It’s within the realm of possibility that a business would promote themselves using only a Facebook page. While it would have been unheard of years ago, networks like Facebook are now legitimate options for those who want an online presence without necessarily having a webpage.

Designers now have “creative portfolio communities”, which are sites that provide them personal profiles and portfolio pages. The top CPC sites are Coroflot, Behance, Cargo, and Dribble.

These sites take care of all the technical aspects of your portfolio such as hosting, as well as much of the design. While you give up some creative control and having your own domain, these sites offer a uniform place to display your services to potential clients.

Also, because CPCs offer a community, they have a social layer that most websites lack. The social layer involves letting users interact with your page often with comments, questions, and reviews. Because these sites socialize your brand, they help people get to know you and your business better, and people like to do business with people they know.

And because CPCs are designed to be communities, someone can go to these sites to find an individual who meets their particular needs, and it won’t necessarily be the first designer they stumble upon. Rather than browse dozens of individual vendor websites, you have access to the portfolios of hundreds of individuals in similar wrapping. It’s sort of like the difference between authors sending their books to bookstores and selling them on street corners.

It’s important to go where your audience expects you to be. So, right away, CPCs have an advantage because lots of people go to a site like Behance with the goal of seeking out great design and/or finding a great designer for their project.

But with creative portfolio communities, you want to make sure that it’s not only other graphic designers who are visiting your profile. Also, there isn’t one network to rule them all. For bands, Myspace is a site that people recognize as a place to find new music. If there’s a band worth listening to, chances are they have a Myspace page. There currently isn’t a Myspace for design.

While the Justin Biebers don’t necessarily compete with little-known indie bands for different fan segments, there is a tendency for CPCs to create competition between various creatives. Because of ranking systems, star designers will be over represented, giving them more prestige and burying middle-of-the-pack designers and those new to the site.

Is it worth competing? In my opinion, you should have a standalone website and use CPCs to promote yourself, and lead people back to your site. Just like Facebook fan pages, CPCs are yet another tool you can use to help people find you online. At least for now, CPCs aren’t mainstream enough for the typical non-designer to rely upon them solely. People often find their designers through their friends, work colleagues, and Google searches.

Give people lots of ways to find you online that point back to your website. I recommend getting on these networks because they’ll increase your visibility, let you see how you stack up against competitors, and you’ll be part of a design-centric, online community. CPCs are something that have come a long way in a few years, and, as they grow in prominence, they’ll surely be another venue for finding new jobs, and even some inspiration.

The Curator (video)

Spotlight is a short film series I created for Toronto’s 24-hour blogging festival that features the interesting and notable people responsible for Toronto’s many blogs. In this video I talked to Toronto historian Jamie Bradburn, who writes JB’s Warehouse and Curio Emporium, and contributes to The Torontoist as one of the blog’s “Historicists”.

I’ve always had an active interest in history, which I also sensed in Jamie. One of the especially interesting things about Jamie is that he finds interesting stories from seemingly banal things. For instance, old newspaper and magazine ads can form the basis for a long piece chronicling an industry, or changing social norms. Even something as obscure as heated competition between rival Jamaica patty joints can become a compelling story. And since all these stories have an effect on the present, they’re given even greater weight.