"Do something interesting first and only then write about it!" is one of the best, if often also hardest to follow, pieces of advice for blogging.
Today, I am happy to say that I am following the advice, so much that maybe it will be enough to break this long period of silence and get this blog up to speed once again!
So, what's going on?
Last weekend, I launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The campaign will run until the end of the year with the goal of collecting enough money ($8,000) to fund the printing of the first issue of my magazine, Bread, next year.
Yes, I am trying to take the magazine to the next level: (limited edition) high quality print, supported by a strong digital presence.
If this sounds interesting, check out the project, buy one of my pre-sale packages (The project is now 29% funded but there are still some very nice perks left for you to choose from. I did sell my one and only notebook already, though!), and spread the word!
But what I think will be most interesting for you is what follows...
In the coming days and weeks until the end of the Indiegogo campaign, be it a big success or a sad failure, I am going to post updates on running this campaign: what's going on, what I am learning, anything that I believe could be useful for someone planning to do something similar in the future. I hope my successes and failures can give you a better understanding on how crowdfunding works and we can learn together.
Topics included (but definitely not limited to):
Why I created the campaign on Indiegogo instead of Kickstarter?
How I approached writing the campaign page? Text, images, video (with some cut scenes from my countless failed takes)
Marketing efforts as they happen (what worked, what didn't work...)
And if the campaign is successful, delivering the magazine and perks to everyone who participated
Tomorrow, I'll start by talking about creating the campaign and the thinking behind it. But first, check out the campaign so you'll know we are talking about!
I'm happy to invite you on this adventure with me.
In my previous post, I wrote about trying to find the "sound of art" in your work. Those small, surprising details that catch you off guard and create a positive emotion inside you -- like a smile, for example.
Here's an example outside music that I saw today when installing a new version of RubyMine, a programming environment for the Ruby language. The beauty here is in how this installer has been designed with no one but the Ruby developer in mind. For someone not used to how the Mac works or how to read and write Ruby (most of the world), this is nonsense. And therefore probably not funny.
For the rest of us, it's simply brilliant.
Do you know the feeling when listening to a song, the drums enter at just the right moment, surprising you off guard? Or when all of the sudden, you hear a perfectly timed, unexpected bleep of a synthesizer and you can't help but smile a small, appreciative smile?
It seems the most natural place to see this in action is in music. But I don't think it's something only music can do. It's a result of very focused attention to detail, which sometimes means spending hours on polishing a song, and sometimes just allowing your creativity flow freely.
How do you do this in your art? Your writing? Your publishing efforts?
For me, Christianity is a wrestle.
From the ethics to the existence of God, I seem to wrestle every bit of the tradition. At times, I end up agreeing, at times, not so much. Although I must admit there is something about the wrestle I love and enjoy, I have often asked myself if it would in fact be better to not pass this heritage on to my children.
Today, my family and I were walking next to a river that flows near our home. It was a beautiful spring day: little green leaves peeking from the trees, first flowers popping from the ground, and water flowing nearby.
My older son, soon six years old, said to us: "Hey, we could thank God for this water!"
In that sacred moment, he and his three-year-old brother kneeled down on the river bank, crossed their fingers, and said a little prayer: "Thank you for this beautiful river. Amen."
And then, off they went to continue with their adventures.
This moment reminded me something about the beauty of faith at its best. That is, when all the excess has been stripped away. Faith without the burden that comes from theological issues such as salvation, original sin, or atonement is still pure. And it's mostly about thankfulness.
No, you don't need religion of faith to be thankful.
But religion gives tools that help when speaking about abstract things that are hard to talk about. Thankfulness is a good example: when we experience something beautiful, even if it is not the doing of human hands, we still feel thankful and want to thank someone for it. God is language for expressing this emotion, actually thanking someone for the good we have been blessed with.
I could go on and on about what God means, whether or not you can talk to God, and many related topics. But that's something for another time and another blog post. All I want to say today is: We have been blessed with a life full of beauty. Let's be thankful!
When you think of Gaza, what are the first thoughts that come to mind?
Violence, fear, lack of resources, maybe the rockets fired by both Hamas and the Israeli army. Destruction. Even without taking sides in the peace negotiations, it's clear that life in Gaza is tough.
With youth unemployment rates at 66% or higher depending on how you define youth (see this page for full statistics), there is a big group of young men without anything to do. They could become militants or terrorists, and some probably do.
A group of young men who call themselves Gaza Parkour Team have decided to take a different route and started practicing Parkour instead. I'm a big fan of parkour videos in general, but the setting these guys come from adds to their videos a new layer of awesomeness.
Hope is not something that either is there or isn't. Hope is something you choose to have.
Two days ago, Google announced that they are closing Google Reader in July.
In the blog post, they wrote:
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
When I started my journey in the blogosphere, I spent a lot of time in Google Reader every day. Now, I check my feeds a few times a week. Based on the quote above, I am guessing this is the case with much more people than I had thought.
But what does it mean? Is RSS history? How are people following blogs these days? RSS was never the most intuitive solution but I am going to miss Google Reader when it is gone.
...but that's not why you should watch this TED talk. You need to watch the talk for its message: a powerful message of how much has already been achieved in ending extreme poverty and how much more can still be achieved.
It only takes 13 minutes. Do it now.
"Where do you want to be tomorrow? Where do you want to be in a week from now? A year?"
"What goals do you have?"
"What are your big dreams?"
These are all good questions. But if we let them rule our world (as happens too often), they make us lose sight of joy.
Joy is in the little things that are already around us: children's games, good food, reading a good book, just sitting quietly, baking a loaf of bread, listening to your favorite song. Joy is not found in the future but in the present.
Following dreams can bring us joy, but it does it through the process: when you immerse yourself in work that feels meaningful to you, you can feel joy. Reaching the goal rarely has the same effect.
So, today, take a minute and enjoy the life you already have. Look around you. Listen to the sounds of your home.
See if you can feel joy.
I have written a lot about reading, and urged you to start to a habit of putting your mind in reading something every day. To me, reading is the most natural thing in the world.
Today, I bumped into one of the many "count your blessings" type images circulating on the web. This one was really well done and had many great points about how you (or I -- as the person looking at the picture) are healthier, wealthier and generally better off than most of the world's population. I read it, nodding my head in agreement, until I made it to the end, where it said:
If you can read this message, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read it at all.
That stopped me on my tracks, and I couldn't just move on to read the next inspirational thought of the day. I felt that this is something that should touch me, of all people. If I believe reading is close to the greatest thing out there, and want to help people live a good life, this fact should be important to me.
Luckily, the facts in the posted are not quite right. In 2012, according to the CIA fact book, there were only 793 million illiterate adults in the world. That's still almost a billion.
Think about it: 793 million people who can't read this blog post (or anything at all). The number of people who don't have access to the post because of a lack of internet connectivity or savvy is a lot bigger than that.
How different would the world be if those numbers were close to zero?
It's no news to anyone that the world is in big trouble. According to the news today, we have already reached the highest average temperature in all the thousands of years since the last ice age --- and the speed of climate change keeps increasing.
Still, we don't take action. Why is that?
I believe one of the reasons is that we are not proposing enough solutions. Whereas threats scare us and make us defensive, solutions inspire.
I'm not saying that the following idea will change everything, but I challenge you to watch it and not be inspired. Could stopping desertification be a big solution in stopping climate change as well?