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Thoughts on Turning 100

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh boy. Can you believe it? 100 posts, 100 newsletters (although probably more since I changed the name a bunch of times…). I’ve been writing and sharing my experiences in the TouchDesigner and interactive industry on elburz.io for a long time now, and since this is the 100th post and newsletter I thought I’d do a bit of self-reflection on blogging, some of my favourite posts, and some future plans that I can put into motion soon! Let’s dive in.

Slight History

If you’re new to elburz.io you’ve probably only seen the site look like this and the newsletter that looks the way it does now, but it’s actually had a bunch of iterations, not only in design, but also in concept. Starting from present and going backwards, these are roughly the iterations of the website:

  • Current Elburz.io website (late 2018 – present) – modern, clean, focus on content. It’s a bit more of a “straight ahead” theme, which means it’s easier for me to link to different things like the Learn TD HQ or have header bars, separate different parts of the home page for different topics (which I haven’t done yet) and just generally be a more straight forward experience on desktop and on mobile. It’s not perfect and I’ve been meaning to change things like the link colours are a bit hard to see, and etc etc.
  • Previous Elburz.io website (December 4, 2015 – late 2018) – very “WordPress portfolio” vibe. You can click here and see the theme (if you didn’t see elburz.io before) Served it’s purpose for quite a while as it was nice, clean, had big images, and decent type layout options. As mentioned above, the reason we changed it up was because I needed more flexibility with moving things around on the page and having things like header bars and such, and the old layout was pretty much “this way or no way.” It was probably the most efficient 50$ I ever spent though!!!

Elburz.io has been running since December 4th, 2015 (or for 1297 days), and in that time it’s made 100 posts, so a little bit of math works out that the average time between blog posts is 12.97 days. This is because back in the older days, I’d blog once a month or twice a month. Since mid-last year though, I’ve been able to increase output to weekly posts so this average will probably continue to drop over time, but 12.97 days between posts over 4 years is not terrible!!

Mailing list and newsletter though….that’s a different story. There’s been many iterations over the years. Starting from current and going backwards (including screenshots!!):

Current newsletter rationale is to just focus on the blog post, it’s big, there’s an image. Below that if you keep scrolling are some jobs posted on InteractiveJobs.io recently (more on that soon). Pretty minimal and to the point each week. At this point I imagine if you’re signing up for the newsletter you want to hear what I’m saying:

Before that we had similar layout but less image focus and little more barebones. This would have been the running Immersive Monday for a lonngggg time. We upgraded to the new look mainly just to shake things up and to make the newsletter look a bit nicer in general. Also less scrolling in the new version.

Now we have a bigger change going backwards. This would have been in 2017 when we had a layout that was split focused between posts I write and just general industry news aggregation. What you’ll notice is that it’s a wordy email. LOTSSSSssss of words. This was before InteractiveJobs.io launched, so no jobs here, just my post and news. One of the reasons we moved away from this was that it was honestly taking too much time for me to aggregate news and throw them into the post. I would generally overthink it, and I know you’re thinking I could get someone else to do it, but back then blogging was still just a thing I did on the side for myself, so there wasn’t any financial backing or monetization of educational content happening then. I didn’t want to pay out of pocket to have someone grab links from other sites and toss them in my newsletter. That led to me eventually cutting the who news side of things. Also, you all probably can find those links easily, it’s not like I was adding some special take on them.

Then before that we actually had a handful of email blasts of something called “REC.” I’m not sure how I thought that was cool, but I was young and I did… REC was short for read/examine/create and it also was like REC which is short for record. I thought this was the pinnacle of cleverness…These were really long because I would first write a quick blurb at the top that didn’t really serve a purpose, then I’d post 3 news links, and for each one I’d get a nice quote from inside the article, then I’d write a short paragraph about it. Some of these newsletters didn’t even have a blog post from me, if I recall correctly. REC would come out on random days, usually Monday – Wednesday though. It was short lived because I got some advice from a marketing friend who told me to make it consistent and give it an easy to remember and clear name, and thus Immersive Mondays were born!

And just before that were a few issues of Examine All the Things. Another one of my brilliant naming schemes, clearly. This was basically the same deal as REC, some blog posts at the top, then some news at the bottom. The news section also had a hilariously lofty name “Decode Infinity”, whewwwwww! That’s a mouthful. Glad that got cut!

What’s the moral of the story here with the history? Focus on the content that is unique. What you’ll notice if you start from here and scroll up is that:

  • the newsletters become shorter because there are less stacks and stacks of crap
  • they’re generally cleaner (at least I think so, but it’s not perfect yet by any stretch)
  • the call to actions in the buttons are much more obvious
  • branding has improved, especially with our recent logo upgrades
  • the information is generally of value (jobs are harder to learn about compared to just reading the interactive news somewhere)

Keep those lessons close to heart, took me too many years to learn them and I’m still refining the process over time.

Highlight posts

I’ve written about a lot of topics over the years. When picking topics weekly, I am:

  • Usually in a scramble because it’s last minute
  • Being pestered by other things trying to get my attention, so I usually only have about an hour to blast as many words onto paper as possible
  • Always at a loss for topics…Ask any of my friends and colleagues how many times I ask them on a Friday – “Hey, I need a blog topic, start giving me topics”

Something interesting that has happened is over time I’ve got better at the process and whereas before the hour and change I’d spend on the blog post would get you about 400-600 words. And now we’re generally in the 1000 – 1400 word range per post. This means I’m usually getting deeper on topics as time goes on without spending extra time doing it. Everyone wins. Practice is a good thing!

With that said, I try to mix up my topics and I bounce between technical topics, business topics, industry topics, processes, write ups from my experiences, and other odds and ends. Here are a bunch of posts I think are great reads if you haven’t caught them yet.

AMA’s

If you haven’t checked any of my AMA’s, you’re missing out. This is a relatively new series of posts where I talk to a colleague or friend or fellow TD expert about a specific topic that you should know more about. This can range from working on big projects and traveling, running your own company, all the way to how to eat healthy so you can perform your best. These are great and highly recommended:

https://www.elburz.io/category/ama/

Debugging

Debugging isn’t easy or usually taught to artists or creative developers. It’s a process and state of mind and I think this blog post brings some of that to the forefront for my readers.

Development cycles

Some folks are all about buildings tools for themselves that are re-usable. Some clients are all about “building a platform.” But I’m all about throwing everything out and starting from scratch. This post talks about why and the benefits it’s given me.

Running a company

Running a company is hard. In fact, most of the time it sucks. Sometimes you get an epic victory, but most of the time you’re in the trenches and you definitely have trenchfoot. In this post from the very beginning of the blog talks about some of my experiences, both positive and negative when it comes to running a company.

Buy-in

A magic phrase you’ve probably heard in client meetings but never knew how to take control of. In this post, I talk about that magical buy-in concept and some approaches for how you can and should get buy-in at different stages in a project.

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Future plans

There’s always plans and cool ideas in the brain. Some will happen, some might happen, and some are just pipe dreams. Here’s some things on my brain currently:

Will / might happen

  • Blog posts in audio format (whether read by yours truly or some kind of high quality 2019 computer voice)
  • More AMA’s – although these take more time than regular blog posts, they’re great and more are coming soon. I’m working on one right now that will be spicy!
  • Some kind of offline easier-to-coordinate podcast-y type thing with fellow industry members
  • More design tweaks and updates to make things even cleaner and more straight forward – easy experiences are good experiences, I always say

Pipe dreams

  • Regular live streaming podcast with fellow industry members (would be so fun but this is so time consuming to do well!!)
  • Some type of video productions
  • Having longer series (something like the original set of posts I did trying to explain immersive design) running in parallel to weekly one-off posts, but longer running series are really time consuming…

Wrap up

100 posts over 1297 days, many design tweaks, format tweaks, hilarious name changes, and here we are with issue #100 of Immersive Monday. Thanks for reading, if I didn’t have folks reading, I probably would not continue to write regularly. I hope we can continue the trend and keep Immersive Monday’s going for even longer and that my revisiting of our history has been somewhat insightful for you. Enjoy!