It Happened to Me

The Ocho (or: Eight Years of Blogging)

8 years ago My home office, late 2001.

It Began With an “About” Box

(The scene: October 2001, in a bland building in a bland office park on a bland street named after a large insurance company in a bland corner of Accordion City.)

“We’ve decided to re-assign you,” said the VP of R&D at the startup where I worked. “The new team will take over for your interface work. You will be in charge of the installer and the ‘About’ box.”

By “installer”, he meant the “setup” program that you would run to install our software onto your computer. As for the “About” box, that’s the little window that pops up when you click the “About this Application…” item under the “Help” menu (or the Apple menu on Macs). They look like this:

windows live writer about box

“Um…would I be doing anything else?” I asked.

“No, that’s it for now, but I expect that we’ll find more for you to do.”

If my new assignment seemed inconsequential to you, you’re right. On a particularly busy day, the task of making sure that the installer was running and that the “About” box has the correct copyright notices would take up a good ten minutes, leaving me a solid seven hours and fifty minutes of nothing to do.

kicking back at the office Me at the office, late 2001.

The change in job responsibilities has drastically changed my daily routine. Once you factored in some time for me to answer email, my actual responsibilities had been taken core of by 9:20 a.m.. A workday that was once busy and challenging had been transformed into a vast desert of idle time.

I had the sinking feeling that as one of the last original employees of the startup who was still there amongst a rising tide of new hires hand-picked by the new boss, my days were numbered. Still, I tolerated the hour’s commute each way to my go-nowhere-do-nothing role to keep my cash flow going while I set up my next opportunity.

I spent a lot of my free time at work learning the PHP programming language and chasing down potential clients. I chatted on IRC with friends who were either working at startups or whose startups had just imploded. I read and occasionally, just for kicks, I’d help the sysadmins do things like tie up ethernet cable or inventory wifi cards.

I also started a blog.

It needed a name, and at the time I couldn’t think of one that I felt was any good. On a whim, I simply decided to call it The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century. It was dumb, and I planned on changing it as soon as I thought of a good one.

Having an outlet like Accordion Guy kept me sane during those last, tedious, will-you-fire-me-already days at the startup. It also kept me sane during those oh-God-oh-God-I need-to-get-clients days after getting sacked and during those long nights when I put in a lot of programming time for those clients later on.

It also had some unexpected benefits. My log entry about the time my deadbeat ex-housemate let a con man into the house for a second time got covered on Boing Boing, and suddenly my readership went from tens to the low hundreds. Getting laid off gave me a fair bit of time to have some adventures, and thus my much-linked-to stories from those early days got more attention through the blogosphere:

The Girl Who Cried Webmaster was a turning point for the Accordion Guy blog: it impressed the powers that be at Tucows, and played a key role in my becoming their Technical Community Development Coordinator (an incredibly wordy way of saying “developer evangelist”). The blog had saved my bacon and landed me a job – and now I was getting paid to blog!

8 minutes ago

Eight Years Later

Today is my eighth blogging anniversary. I’m still blogging happily here at Accordion Guy as well as at Global Nerdy and Microsoft Canada’s Canadian Developer Connection. There’s a chance that I’m Microsoft Canada’s most active blogger, whether blogging personally or in an official capacity. I suppose I can go look that up once my work schedule calms down a little.

Blogging has made my life better. From the more tangible things like the network of friends, acquaintances and contacts I’ve built to the less-tangible “making your life worth living by examining it” effect that blogging often has, it’s become one of the two life-changing hobbies I took up around the turn of the millennium (I’m sure you can guess what the other one is). I can’t imagine not doing it for at least another eight years.

To you, my readers, I’d like to say thank you. I hope to keep entertaining, informing – and yes, occasionally annoying – you for years to come. Thanks for reading.

Geek Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

The Empire’s Coming to WordCamp Toronto 2009!

Darth Vader in the lineup for Wordcamp 2009

WordCamp Toronto 2009, the Accordion City-based conference dedicated to the WordPress blogging platform (which this blog runs on), takes place next weekend, May 8th through 10th. It’s a three-day, three-track conference with offerings for WordPress users of all types, from those just getting started with blogging to hardcore developers and designers plumbing deep into WordPress’ internals.

This year, a couple of guys from The Empire – whom you might know as Microsoft — will be presenting at WordCamp Toronto. We’ll be giving away all sorts of prizes, too!

Paul Laberge

On Day 1 at 11:00 a.m. – that’s Friday, May 8th – my coworker Paul Laberge will make his presentation, titled Customizing Your Blog on Your Local Windows Box, in which he talks about using Microsoft tools like the Web Platform Installer and Expression Web on your home computer to make the most of your WordPress blog. Here’s his abstract:

Your blog represents your online personality and as such you spend a lot of time making sure the look and feel reflects who you are. While the blog platforms available (such as WordPress) provide you with much of the plumbing for your blog, you still need to tweak it until it looks just right for you. In this session, we’ll show you how you can customize your blog on Windows using the Web Platform Installer and Microsoft’s web design tool called Expression Web, all from your local machine. Oh, and we have giveaways, too.

Day 2 – that’s Saturday, May 9th – Yours Truly will be on at 2:00 p.m. giving my presentation, Better Living Through Blogging, where I suggest that blogging is more than just personal publishing or self-expression; it’s a means to a better life. Here’s my abstract:

I took up blogging at the suggestion of my friend Cory Doctorow when my job responsibilities had been whittled down to five minutes of actual work per day. What started as a way to break out of boredom turned out to be a life-changer: I made many new friends, got a couple of TV appearances, landed a couple of jobs, met my wife and even dodged a bullet. In this presentation, I’ll regale you with stories about how I made my life better through blogging, share what I’ve learned over the past seven years and give you some tips and tricks that I’ve found useful. And yes, there will be prizes and a rock and roll accordion performance, too!

WordCamp Toronto 2009 will be held at The Oasi Restaurant, which bills itself as “Toronto’s new centre of creative gravity.” It’s located at 99 Sudbury Street, a hop skip and a jump away from the Queen/Beaconsfield neighbourhood of the Gladstone and Drake Hotels. Registration is pretty cheap: just CDN$50 for the whole conference; it’s CDN$35 if you’re a student. For more details about WordCamp Toronto 2009, visit their site. I hope to see you there!

Geek It Happened to Me

Talking About Blogging at Tonight’s Nature Network Pub Night in Toronto

A glass of beer and a book
Beer and science have always gone together!

This article was originally published in Global Nerdy.

nature-networkI’m going to speaking at tonight’s Nature Network Pub Night here in Toronto on the topic of blogs, how they’ve helped me both do and find work, and how people in the sciences can make use of them.

The pub night is being held at Fionn MacCool’s at University and Adelaide (the full address is 181 University). People will start assembling there for dinner, drinks and conversation at 6:00 p.m. with the presentations starting at 7:00 p.m..

If you’re interested in getting to know your fellow science-types in town or want to catch up with me and talk about blogging, programming, science, accordion playing or anything else, please drop by tonight!



Emily Gould

How’d I miss this? Here’s an article – Exposed — from the May 25th, 2008 edition of the New York Times Magazine about one blogger’s experiences and the lines that you can cross while writing blogging, both personally and professionally. It covers some issues to keep in mind when writing in a forum that can be accessed far and wide.

[This article was also posted to my tech blog, Global Nerdy.]