Categories
Interviews

Creator Interview With David Thorpe

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David has been a good friend and I’ve always enjoyed the content he’s published. He’s a man of many talents and now has a focus on taking control over digital anxiety. He has also started a podcast called “The Average Dev” with very insightful information, I recommend you give it a listen to after reading this great interview.

Hello Dave, for those that don’t know, please introduce yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

Hey Michael,

I’m a software engineer, and I’ve been in the game for over 10 years now. I primarily work with startups and other companies wanting to build internal products. Recently I’ve moved to more leadership roles, and I want to communicate great career advice and confidence in other developers.

You recently decided to teach others digital wellness. What made you decide this change in direction?

I used to find myself overusing my iPhone. I’d browse and browse, refresh all the feeds and it was horrible. It made my head feel spaced out all the time. I had to make a change and get away from screens when I wasn’t working since I was also spending 8+ hours a day on them coding. I’m militant about how I use technology now. It’s the most important thing to me with regards to tech that I control how I use it and not the other way around.

This has allowed me the focus to work on the things that matter to me, and that is communicating my story and learnt lessons from 8 years of self-employment to other people who are looking to start out. This has been hugely rewarding.

You also have a podcast called “The Average Dev”. What are your thoughts behind the name, and what made you decide to create it?

The name clicked for me because we, as developers, are always exposed to people in our industry doing incredible things. Releasing the next CSS framework, launching a video course, making millions from it etc. It’s the Instagram of the dev world. It’s really easy to believe that this is what we’re all expected to do, but I fundamentally reject that idea since it is unhealthy and isn’t actually a realistic goal for everyone.

The Average Dev name just communicates that. I am just an average dev, but I’m one who wants to talk about my experiences.

Where can my audience find you?

I tweet about tips I’ve found and updates to my content output at @davzie, and you can sign up for email alerts or view my content at davidthorpe.dev

Thanks for having me, Michael!!

Categories
General

Writing and selling an ebook during COVID-19 lockdown

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Coming up with the idea

Two years ago, I decided I wanted to write my first ebook and sell it to the public. That ebook was all about writing your first ebook (very meta).

I started writing and got so far, then suddenly stopped. I’m not sure what happened, it could have been a decline in confidence or an overwhelming sensation of anxiety and depression, but I didn’t go back to the idea until this year during the lockdown.

Fits-and-starts

During the beginning of quarantine, I didn’t have any thought or motivation in writing a book. However, I did have a lot of inspiration for reading books, and this year is the most I’ve ever read.

It then got to a point where I felt motivated to work on personal projects again, and I started getting social on my Twitter, invited all my friends to my Facebook page, and, most importantly, began where I left off with my ebook.

I went from worrying about what people might think about my work, to not giving a flying f*ck what people might think.

It wasn’t exactly a straight and narrow road, some days, I would spend an hour or two writing and other days, it would be 5 or 10 minutes. I did whatever I could to muster up the motivation and courage to keep on writing. The most important thing that changed is my mindset. I went from worrying about what people might think about my work, to not giving a flying f*ck what people might think.

That change in mindset ultimately helped me get to the finish line and release my work to the public. Once it was complete, I uploaded a PDF version to PayHip and a docx version to Draft2Digital. So far, I have made four sales totaling £7.96, and my ebook is still being published to the Amazon marketplace. Once it hits the Amazon marketplace, I think I can make a couple more sales, but I won’t be taking much of an income from that, so I’ll try and persuade people to buy with PayHip instead.

Marketing my ebook

What did I do to market my book? Well, I’m glad you asked because I haven’t done anything special.

I went to Twitter, where I have ~3,000 followers. This is a handful, but nowhere near the amount of the greats. I started off writing a thread on how to make and sell an ebook, and then posted that thread to Hacker News for more exposure. Which I’m not sure even worked. I then waited until the evening and posted an update to that thread announcing the release of my book.

Also, posting to my Facebook business and personal pages but didn’t receive any sales from there. I had a few likes and comments, but nothing too exciting. The same also goes for LinkedIn; actually, many people have had quite a bit of luck with LinkedIn, but I’m yet to see any positives from there just yet.

Once I received my first sale, which I believe was sent from Twitter, I took a screenshot of the graph and posted it to Twitter underneath my sale announcement. This announcement prompted another sale from a close follower, which I was super happy about; she’s always been a very supportive Twitter follower and friend.

This all gave me even more confidence to post on Indie Hackers. Now, I’ve never been very active over there, and that’s definitely on me, but everyone there is super supportive. From now on, I will be far more active on IH and hope to build closer relationships over there. I say this because I had two more sales from posting updates to IH, and there have been so many great, supportive comments which make me want to push further.

Moral of the story

The moral of this story, you need to find your circle of online friends. Be supportive to those you are personally attracted to, and they will support you back. That support will then grow further to new people where the reach and positivity can grow. Nurture and love your followers, friends, and family, and you will reap the rewards.

Gain confidence early and gain confidence now, because the longer you wait, the worse your fears will grow. There are plenty of books to help with this, and I recommend “How to stop worrying and start living,” “Feel the Fear and do it anyway,” “The Chimp Paradox” and “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

Categories
Reviews

My initial thoughts on Apple’s IOS14

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Initial Thoughts

Last week I installed the IOS14 beta, and overall, I’m impressed with the experience. Android fans will scoff at the idea that Apple has implemented widgets, screaming, “WE’VE HAD THIS SINCE THE BEGINNING OF ANDROID PHONES!”. Or they’ll laugh at the idea that iPhones finally have an app draw (called App Library) and has picture in picture mode (PiP).

The thing is, we all know that Apple takes their time, and when they deliver these improvements, they usually offer it better than most Android implementations.

App Library

The App Library is a smart AI-driven app drawer that cleverly bundles apps together and will bring the apps you use most near the top. You don’t have to think about customising it yourself, and I’ve found myself removing most apps from the main screen in favour of the App library. Also, if you can’t find the app you’re looking for, then the search at the top of the screen is super helpful and lightning-fast. Overall, my impressions of the App library has been very positive. Once in a while, I stare at my screen and wonder where the app I’m looking for is. However, this happens a lot less than when I used Android.

Picture in Picture

It’s nice being able to watch videos while using other apps. I also like the fact you can swipe the video to the side, and the video will still play while showing an arrow to bring the video back.

To be honest, they’re the only two apps I’ve tested for PiP. I’m pretty sure the experience will be very similar to Apple video and other video apps. It’s a fantastic feature which they have implemented well, and I don’t think much can be improved. The only negative is more towards Google and forcing us to subscribe to premium for silly basic features.

Widgets

Widgets have always been great on Android phones and I used to love having a weather and search widget. When moving over to the iPhone, I was a little sad that it wasn’t a feature. Now the feature is here, and I’m happy with their implementation. Especially with the Stack widget that allows you to group widgets together and scroll between them. Apple will also intelligently move across the widgets during your day depending on what it thinks you need at that moment.

The stack widget is so clever that I think it’s the only widget you or I will ever need. It’s currently the only one I have on my screen and I love flicking through my stack.

Siri

Siri no longer takes up your whole screen, and instead, it’s a little icon near the bottom of your screen. Results also appear at the time in a little card that looks a lot cleaner than previous versions. I haven’t used Siri enough to gather whether it’s more or less clever, but the way it works is definitely cleaner and more simple.

Receiving Phone Calls

Receiving phone calls has also had an upgrade. Rather than taking up the screen, it will come in from the top when you’re using your phone, and you can swipe up to dismiss. It’s clean and simple to use.

Bonus: Accessibility

Accessibility may not seem interesting, but there’s one feature that I love. If you go to “Settings > Accessibility > Touch”, you can turn on “Back Tap” which allows you to open apps by tapping the back of your phone. There are two options, one for “Double Tap” and another for “Triple Tap”. Currently, I have my double tap set to open Siri and nothing on my triple tap. However, I would like to be able to open my camera with the triple tap which isn’t currently possible.

Features I’m excited for

There are many features that I haven’t yet tried but really excited for. These include, but are not limited to; CarPlay unlock, App Clips, and IOS Smart Home controls. CarPlay unlock could be very handy and would mean I don’t have to carry my car keys with me any more. App clips is also another one I’m excited to try out since I can use club cards and not have to install standalone apps in order to do so.

Should you install IOS14 beta?

The OS itself is very stable. So far, I’ve had very little issues with the OS itself. However, if you rely on your banking apps, then I would stay away. Currently, all banking apps will either crash and exit or notify you that you’re using a jailbroken device.

If you have another phone where you can use your banking apps, then go ahead, otherwise, I would just wait for the official release.

Closing thoughts

IOS14 has some very welcomed features which I hope they can continue to innovate on. Android users may laugh at the fact they’ve had these features since the dawn of time, but Apple manages to go a step further each time.

Have you got the IOS14 beta? If so, what are your thoughts?

If not, what are you looking forward to the most?

If you’re an Android user, what do you think about these features?

Join the discussion here

Categories
General

Redesigning my website

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My initial thoughts

Over the past week, I migrated my website from VuePress to Gridsome. This migration has now given me more freedom of design and development.

Inspired by Jack McDade’s awesome website and I wanted to create something that was more personable to me.

Also, I like funky designs, but I’m always less motivated to design websites for myself. I never know what I want and I’m not sure if what I’m doing is overboard to a point where my viewers will dislike it.

Determined to move past my anxieties

This is in part due to my anxieties and lack of self-confidence, but speaking to other’s about their experiences and gaining inspiration has given me the confidence to push past my own anxieties. I went ahead and created my design using Figma. Once I was happy with my creation, I decided to share it with a Slack group. Those that gave me feedback were very positive which gave me more confidence to share it to a larger audience.

I took a deep breath and posted it on Twitter who generally have more negative thoughts, but the responses were still very positive. It was time to transform my graphic into my actual website.

Designing my website

After about a day, I had most of the design complete and I was super impressed with my work. This is something I’ve never felt confident about. I love developing websites, but designing a website was something I constantly struggled with.

As you can see from the image above (and from looking at my website), I used black as my background colour with yellow as the main colour. The dark blue adds some sort of separation between blocks and my social icons follow the lines like they’re walking along a field at night.

My blog content is still the same white background with black text since it’s easier to read. My “Latest Post” has been moved further to the right and has an angle which follows the angle of the yellow square. This gives my website a little more character and breaks it up quite nicely.

The search is also using a yellow border to help make it stand out, and the results also do the same thing. Hopefully, my results can be read clearly, but if you struggle and have suggestions, then I’m open to feedback.

Closing thoughts

Please explore my newly created website and send me plenty of feedback if you have any. I’m always open to suggestions and would love to hear what works and what doesn’t. You can add your own comments to this post here, or you can @ me on Twitter.

Categories
General

Website migrated from VuePress to Gridsome posting from Forestry

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Yesterday, I published my new website which has been created with Gridsome. I had to reformat my blog posts and add tags to each of them. I have 156 posts, so this was not an easy task, to say the least.

Now I’m writing my first blog post using Forestry, and with any luck, it will post to my repository and deploy to my site with no issues. That’s if I’ve set up the formatting correctly and everything else that comes with it.

I now have a newsletter which you can subscribe to using the form at the bottom of this post. Signing up is easy and it will make sure you never miss an update. However, if you’re more of an RSS person, then I have that too.

There are a few more things I would like to add to my website such as comments that aren’t by Disqus, social card metadata and an auto-generated sitemap. I should probably create a roadmap on my GH repository for you to keep an eye on.

That’s pretty much it for this one, and if you like the new update please let me know on my Twitter page.

Join the discussion here.

Categories
General

2020 – New Year – New Decade – New Goals

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Looking back at 2019

Last year has been yet another big rollercoaster. I wanted to stay working at Lightfoot for another year, but it didn’t quite turn out as well as I had hoped. I started my own business to become a contractor, and my wife is still using pet-sitting as a side hustle.

Lightfoot, unfortunately, had money issues after missing out on sales targets. This left them with the horrible misfortune of letting employees go. I was one of them, but I managed to bounce back almost straight away. I started my own limited company and began contracting with the University of Exeter.

It’s been a scary, but eye-opening jump and I’m glad to be finally giving it a go after all my indecision over the years. I seem to be very much in profit and able to pay my taxes which is definitely a great step in the right direction.

My goals from last year

There were two goals I managed to meet last year and that was Be happier and have 0 panic attacks and Post more on my blog. Despite being made redundant last year, I managed to stay calm and not panic about my impending job loss. I did, however, have a feeling it was going to happen, and I think this is what helped me overcome any anxieties I may have had.

In January of last year, I decided to post every day for the month. I ended up surpassing this and posted for a good 3 – 4 months before slowing down. If I posted just every day in January, then I would have beaten my goal to post more. I won’t be doing the same again this year, but I will try to post as much as I can.

Here’s my list from last year…

  • Clear my £10k credit card debt
  • Go abroad for the first time ever
  • Raise more money for cancer and mental health
  • Stop being last in Crossfit competitions
  • Be happier and have 0 panic attacks
  • Help create an incredible business for my wife
  • Save for a house
  • Post more on my blog

Something unexpected happened

Partway through January, I decided I wanted to try and go vegan for economical reasons. I told my wife and she said she didn’t want to do it which was fine with me. After creating a few vegan meals and sharing some of them with her, she decided that it wasn’t all that bad and she wanted to join me on this journey.

We now cook vegan-based meals and we only ever eat meat/dairy if we go to a place that doesn’t offer any alternatives. I would like to be 100% vegan by the end of this year and that means cutting out all restaurants that don’t offer vegan alternatives.

Goals for this year

This year, I’ve chosen to have more actionable goals by putting a number on everything I do. That way I’ll know when I have achieved and even surpassed my goal. Last year, I wanted to pay off my £10k debt and due to things breaking and losing my job, I didn’t manage to get close. I now have just less than £7k left to clear which down by a decent 30%. I have also set aside £1,000 as an emergency fund in case anything breaks or I need something for work. This way, I won’t be dipping back into my credit cards.

  • Clear £7k debt
  • Save at least £1,000 for a house
  • Gain 100 subs on YouTube
  • Have at least 1 “date night” a month
  • Create at least 12 videos for my YouTube channels
  • Finish my course on Laravel
Categories
General

A year review 2018

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After reading Tim Ferriss’ year review, I decided to do something similar. I couldn’t go through my calendar as I never use one for events (maybe I should start next year).

You can see below my results below.

It’s shows both positive and negative events for the year. Hopefully I can learn from this for next year.

Positive

  • Created WODemocracy
  • New car
  • Helped Tiff start pet sitting business
  • 2 years at work
  • Met Dmitry and Valery
  • Cut down debt by half
  • More consistent at CrossFit and entered three competitions
  • Twitter/blogging is more consistent
  • Made new connections
  • Got my first passport

Negative

  • Worry about job loss
  • Yogi Bear (cat) passing away
  • 3 panic attacks

Overall, I’ve had more positive events than negative ones, hopefully this carries on for next year.

Categories
ActivityPub

ActivityPub Test

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This is a test for the ActivityPub plugin, I’ll write more about this later.

Categories
Crossfit

Fitness for Mental Health a CrossFit event to help raise money for mental health

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The information below was taken from my Just Giving page. If you would like to donate then please head over to this link where your donation will be hugely appreciated. Also, if you would like to buy some “Fitness for Mental Health” merch, head over to here. 90% of all profits will be doanted to Mind Charity.

We will be performing a Crossfit workout named Becky on the 12th of October. Anyone can participate and all donations will be greatly appreciated. If you do perform the workout, a video of your performance will also be greatly appreciated too, in order to help spread and raise awareness for mental health. You can use the hashtag #FitnessForMentalHealth on all your favourite social networks to help spread awareness.

I’m doing this because my wife and I have both suffered from severe mental health. I’ve had major anxieties due to work, to a point where I would throw up constantly if I took a day off work. My wife has had severe depression because of struggles within her life. We also know so many people who either suffer or have had suffered from mental health in one way or another.

I want to give something back to everyone who suffers through life and doesn’t want to wake up in the morning for work or to see friends. This is why I’m fundraising and all donations received will be going to Mind Charity because they do some amazing work for those that suffer from mental health.

The workout is as follows…

For Time

  • 800 meter Run
  • 30 Squat Snatches (95/65 lb)
  • 400 meter Run
  • 30 Hang Cleans (95/65 lb)
  • 200 meter Run
  • 30 Back Squats (95/65 lb)
  • 400 meter Run
  • 30 Push-Ups
  • 800 meter Run
  • 30 Pull-Ups

A little background behind the Crossfit workout called Becky…

“Becky” Rebecca Sefscik, a coach at Crossfit The Tracks (Erlanger, KY) and US military veteran, created this workout herself in 2012. Becky Sefscik took her own life on August 31, 2015, after a battle with PTSD.

Her box’s website posted that the workout “was tough, just like Becky…She was one of our favourite trainers, best friends and she’s missed every day. She was not only an amazing coach, but she was one of the strongest people we all knew, mentally and physically.”

In 2015, starting with a CrossFit The Tracks fundraising event on September 7, over 100 gyms and thousands of CrossFitters worldwide did this WOD in a celebration of Becky’s life and supporting 22 Until Valhalla for veterans and families affected by suicide and PTSD.

Categories
Wordpress

Top 5 plugins for WordPress

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These are my top 5 plugins which I think most people should have, especially if you’re a blogger looking to make connections and/or your site as fast as possible.

5. Smush

Smush is a fantastic plugin which can help speed up your website by compressing images. You can bulk ‘Smush’ as they say which will compress images with a single click. If you’re on the free version, you can Smush up to 50 images at a time. However, if you pay to upgrade, then you can Smush as many images you like. Both versions will allow you to auto-Smush any future uploaded images.

People say you should install this asap to avoid tons of images needing to be compressed. This way, all images are compressed the minute you decide to upload them.

4. AMP (Accelerated Mobile Project)

AMP is so good, WordPress themselves decided to help maintain and support it. Google asks that any news site uses AMP, this way your site won’t load any unneeded CSS and/or JavaScript when showing in Google search. Google may also give you a slightly higher ranking because AMP shows your site is faster than those that aren’t using it.

3. Super Progressive Web Apps

Progressive Web Apps (or PWA for short) allows users to install your blog onto their desktop/tablet/mobile devices. This gives them easier access to your website and it’s much better than bookmarks which are never to be seen again. Users will even be able to see your blog offline due to caching, just like a native app on your phone. And best of all, you don’t need to submit your blog to any app store, it works straight from any browser which supports PWA. – Download plugin

2. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is another great package, even if you don’t use it for the SEO part. Then the readability section is great for general blogging. I love getting a little green smile telling me posts are readable. The SEO section is also a very good indicator if you have keywords you would like to hit.

1. JetPack by WordPress.com

Finally, JetPack by WordPress.com is my most important plugin for bloggers. Especially if you’re looking to connect with a much wider audience. Think about how Medium connects all their readers to a Medium Blog. Now think about hosting that one your own site while still having that audience, and then you have the JetPack plugin.

There are of course many other benefits, such as lazy loading images for faster pages. Automatically share your posts across all your different social networks. If you wanted to, you could also pay extra to enable backups, advanced built-in search and malware protection.

The easiest way to install any of these plugins is through your site’s admin panel. You can copy and paste any of the above plugins to find what you need.

Have you got any other plugins you could recommend?

Sound of in the comments below…